Friday, July 09, 2010

Plot Devices that Need to Go Away #10

Plot Devices that Need to Go Away #10

The B-List

Also Known as: First Tier/Second Tier, First String/Second string, etc.

What is it?

Have you noticed that superheroes in comics lately actually state their level of status (or that of other characters) in the heirarchy of the superhero communities in the same terms that celebrities do?

Why do Comic companies do it?

Usually they set out at the start of a story that a given character is some low tier member of their community to lower expectations and create a surprise when the character is elevated to a new status (greater) status. The celebrity metaphor is a quick and dirty shorthand for that.

Recent Offenders include but are not limited to:

Luke Cage and Jessica Jones-Cage, Booster Gold, Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) and most of the "JLI" -era characters (Fire, Ice, Rocket Red, Elongated Man, Sue Dibny, etc.), Nova, Darkhawk, etc.

Patient Zero

This is a hard one to pin down, but for me, I'm going to go and put the blame for this one on Identity Crisis and Dr. Light in particular - the whole premise of that story is that Dr. Light is no longer a joke.

Why does it have to go away?

First, I think I've remarked on how little I care for comparing superheroes to celebrities, so that's a start. But the greater danger is not just because of a personal choice, but because the overuse has created a degree of overexposure on the "A-List" to the exclusion of the development of other characters who might actually be better tools to tell a story. It's not always about the "Trinity" (Cap/Thor/Iron man or Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman, take your pick) but about those other characters who get a moment to shine and truly step up to the plate because their stories have been building to this point for years. Remember, Wolverine used to be B-list too.

Angles for Redemption of the Device:

There's two methods in my mind. The first is showcased by what Brian Michael Bendis did with Luke Cage over the years in the Avengers, although that creates another set of problems too. Still, like it or not, I give Bendis credit for taking Luke Cage and taken him from forgotten 70s character to someone compelling enough to be the focus of two ongoing series. The other method is more traditional - simply give characters different focuses on different times in different stories that highlight their own unique and special nature.

1 comment:

TraveLibrarian said...

Thank you. I have to say I completely agree with this. I remember reading your original post on the subject, dealing with Ms. Marvel's quest for recognition. I wanted to like her, I really did, but there was something that kept turning me off the title. You put your finger on it -- she's not a hero, she's a celebrity.

When I think about it, someone like Mother Theresa is a better superhero than a lot of the caped types currently populating the Big Two's books. It's sad, really -- a whole generation of folks growing up with the idea that being a hero means being popular, where your image is more important than your actions.