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Jacob Brogan
When major comics publishers implemented the Comics Code Authority in 1954, they effectively limited the kinds of stories they could tell in the medium, making it harder for them to publish anything other than superhero yarns. /1
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Jacob Brogan Oct 4
Replying to @Jacob_Brogan
Obviously there were still other genres available, but the CCA generally insisted on childish, innocent, and affirmative fables — and superheroes were often the best tool the publishers had for that kind of storytelling given their audience's general predilections at the time. /2
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Jacob Brogan Oct 4
Replying to @Jacob_Brogan
As the audience grew up and started looking for other kinds of stories, though, the publishers were mostly still committed to using that one tool, as were many of the medium's most successful (or, at least acclaimed) creators. /3
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Jacob Brogan Oct 4
Replying to @Jacob_Brogan
They wanted to do other things, though: To that end, superhero narratives started aggressively absorbing other narrative genres: When Frank Miller wanted to tell ninja stories, he did it with Daredevil. Even Gaiman's Sandman was a backdoor superhero reboot at first. /4
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Jacob Brogan Oct 4
Replying to @Jacob_Brogan
There's also a reading of Watchmen where it's basically *about* this problem. (In Alan Moore's alternate timeline, pirate comics fill the role that superhero stories did in our own publishing industry.) /5
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Jacob Brogan Oct 4
Replying to @Jacob_Brogan
Chris Ware also comments obliquely on the issue in "Thrilling Adventure Stories (I Guess)," which crams a narrative of family misery into the speech balloons of a kitschy superhero story. As I've argued elsewhere, he expands on this in "Jimmy Corrigan." /6
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Jacob Brogan Oct 4
Replying to @Jacob_Brogan
At some point — and Ware really exemplifies the trend, though we can't lay it at his feet — this absolute obligation to tell superhero stories, regardless of the kind of story you really *want* to tell, starts to curdle. /7
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Jacob Brogan Oct 4
Replying to @Jacob_Brogan
Much of the ugliness that creeps into superhero stories in the 80s and 90s comes from an effort to break the bars of the prison. On the one hand, it's about performatively smashing out of the Comics Code's confines, but on the other it's about resisting the genre itself. /8
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Jacob Brogan Oct 4
Replying to @Jacob_Brogan
If you're a creator who's sick of superhero stories, there's still really nowhere else to go at that point: Industry pros still feel like they've got to tell superhero stories if they want to get paid. /9
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Jacob Brogan Oct 4
Replying to @Jacob_Brogan
So, they mostly do two things: They keep folding in other genres (often in deeply derivative ways that only seem novel because they're now clad in spandex) and they make things grosser and grimier. /10
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Jacob Brogan Oct 4
Replying to @Jacob_Brogan
I'm thinking about this right now because there are ways in which Joker suggests a similar phenomenon. At a moment when almost all big films are superhero films, we might be starting to see what it looks like when filmmakers try to push at the limits of that framework. /11
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Jacob Brogan Oct 4
Replying to @Jacob_Brogan
With the caveat that I haven't see the film yet (and am not interested in passing judgment on it until I do), I also suspect that we're also already at the point where the resistance turns into something ugly, much as it did for comics long ago. /12
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Jacob Brogan Oct 4
Replying to @Jacob_Brogan
In other words, it's totally possible that Joker will end up representing the future of popular film, but if it does, it'll probably have more to do with a trend it ends up exemplifying than with anything it does particularly well. /13
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