Superhero tropes and cliches you're tired of

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by X Equestris, Feb 16, 2018.

  1. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    The idea that the more power a villain has, the more dangerous they are.

    I hate this because it's just not how real life works. Power does not help in actual fights, it's skill and planning and executing those plans, power has little to do with it. Hell, in a no-hold-barred fight to the death that villains engage in all the time, plans are everything.

    Like, seriously, take Doomsday for example, or Galactus, or literally any endgame villain whose main threat comes from "they're super strong and can crush a mountain with their eyelashes." Okay, that would be pretty hard to fight against, but I would like to direct you to two of, what I consider to be, the most memorable villains in Superhero history: the Joker and Lex "I swear I'm not evil this time" Luthor.

    Okay, fine, tired examples, I know, but they just go to show how much better villains are when they don't rely on raw power to beat their enemies. The Joker excels with manipulating people to do what he wants, and Luthor's intellect is just as dangerous. There's a reason that everyone likes them more than Doomsday or Galactus or whatever, because a smart villain is much harder to defeat than a strong one.

    It's the problem with shounen! Don't get me wrong, I freaking love shounen, but they are shameless in making the next biggest threat of the arc just be really really strong. It just starts to get cheap after a while.

    "Yeah! I've just killed this guys who can wipe out an entire village with one attack!"

    Next week


    "Oh no, this new guy can wipe out an entire continent with one attack!"

    I just, I just really wish a Superhero's villain of the week can try to win with actual plans a little more often, y'know?
     
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  2. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Completely agreed. I've always found the street level villains (and, consequently, the heroes combating them) more interesting than the more cosmic ones. The latter tend to have their massive power as their sole defining characteristic.

    I've only made it through the first four episodes, but I'm really liking Wilson Fisk from Netflix's Daredevil. A competent, relatively grounded villain who's also very human. I think that sort of characterization addresses all the issues various posters in this thread have raised about villains.
     
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  3. MilesTro

    MilesTro Senior Member

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    I bet some guys dream of being rescued by hot women. Lol
     
  4. MilesTro

    MilesTro Senior Member

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    He is the best villain. I hope he gets more showtime and fights Daredevil again.
     
  5. ShannonH

    ShannonH Member Supporter

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    Won't deny it ;)
     
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  6. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Well, there are worse people to be rescued by...
     
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  7. OB1

    OB1 Senior Member

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    A knight in distress and a damsel in shining armour??
     
  8. MusingWordsmith

    MusingWordsmith Shenanigan Master Contributor

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    Have to also agree with 'villains that are evil just because' and 'villains that are dangerous just because POWAH'. Villains in general I think are what irk me most in superhero stories because they are so easily done wrong. A villain is a character too, with their own backstory and thinking about why they are that way. People done just get out of bed and go 'Hey, I'm going to be as evil as possible today!' Why is your guy doing that?!

    I was more irked than I realized. Now that that's off my chest, another trope that annoys me is 'Oh no, the planet/universe/multiverse/dimension is in danger!'. Just. Please stop. Someone mentioned Heroes, the first season is actually a good example of an apocalypse to me. Nuking New York is bad, it'll kill a lot of people, but the majority of the world will continue to go on. I saw a video recently by OverlySarcasticProductions (Trope Talk: Save the World for those interested) that broke it down really well. Basically, the whole world ending means you have to make your hero win. If its just your hero's world, if it's their country, city, or heck even their family, then there's a bit more of a 'oh wait they could actually loose' thing with the audience.
     
  9. cutecat22

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    The amount of backup the villains have and still cannot get near the superhero - but then the superhero gives one punch to a henchman and he comes back for more, and more, and more, and ... when that one punch would likely put them down for good.

    The training montage for a "new" superhero.

    How their powers don't kick in properly until they, or a loved one are hurt in some heinous way.
     
  10. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    With the amount of comments about villains and their motivations in this thread (probably the single most common point), I've been careful to ensure all of my villains/antagonists have logical, often sympathetic motivations. Shades of gray are one of my favorite things to work with, so there's no reason not to port that over into superhero prose.

    Absolutely. I think I mentioned on the first page that smaller scale conflicts and stakes resonate with me more. At a certain point, you've seen almost every way the world can be threatened.
     
  11. soupcannon

    soupcannon Active Member

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    Alternately, what if it is a "save the world" scenario and, halfway through the story, the heroes fail? Perhaps the next part of the story is the hero dealing with not saving the world, guilt and hope to redeem herself, recriminations of the citizens who held her in such high regard, who believed she would save them. There's no reason a standard, boring trope can't be turned on its head.
     
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  12. OB1

    OB1 Senior Member

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    Origin movies where superheroes go from being normal to being really adept with their new found powers in what seems like an hour! I wouldn't know how you'd go about changing this in the time frame where you'd fit it in with the time line but I find it annoying when Spider-Man goes from a bite on the neck to swinging through the city in the matter of what seems like an evening.
     
  13. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    I think you're going to have to define "fail" and "save the world scenario". Because to my mind, if the hero actually fails a true save the world scenario, there's no room for guilt or recrimination. Mainly because the world is destroyed, and presumably the hero with it.
     
  14. soupcannon

    soupcannon Active Member

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    Sure, absolutely a definition would be in order. Honestly, 'Save the World' can mean any number of things on any large scale. But, even if we are talking about maximum-level superheroes, who's to say failing to save the world is the end? Let's take the ultimate superhero, Superman, as an example. What would happen if Clark failed to stop, let's say, Brainiac from destroying the Earth by folding it into time and space, becoming one with the creation event so that it is utterly and irrevocable destroyed, and time-travel to prevent Earth's destruction would nullify creation. So Superman now has to live with the anguish of failure, immortal and indestructible. It's a big universe, and forever is a long time to try and get over such a colossal loss; it would actually be a more interesting story than most superhero punch-ups.
     
  15. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Supporter Contributor

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    The secret identity thing makes me roll my eyes every time. I think it would be far more interesting for everyone to know who the superhero is and have him or her become overwhelmed by too many requests for assistance. The more people who know you know that you can do something well, the more people demand of you, and the more people who want a piece of your time.
     
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  16. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Oh I don't deny there's great dramatic potential there; I just think that the post your were initially branching off of was more about the whole setting our hero can reach being threatened, and that undercutting tensions because the audience knows on some level that the setting can't actually be destroyed.

    You could theoretically get away with a hero failing to save Earth in a cosmic story that has the whole universe to play in, as in your example. But if your entire setting is Earth, your hero is limited to just there, and your villain wants to destroy it for whatever reason, that can't happen. If the setting is actually, truly destroyed, the story is done.
     
  17. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Having finished the first season, I think one of the best things about the show's depiction of Fisk is that, at certain points, you find yourself pulling for him despite the very vile things he has done.

    For me, it depends on whether the normal identity gets enough attention on its own or not. If it doesn't, you could be better served ditching it and having the hero be the mask full time. One thing I've really enjoyed about Telltale's Batman series is that it explores the Bruce Wayne half of the identity more than we usually see. Some conflicts even work out better if approached through your civilian identity. I wish more superhero media would take that route rather than put everything on the hero half.
     
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  18. UnknownZero

    UnknownZero New Member

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    Which is among the reasons I loved the Marvel's Spider-Man game for the PS4. Peter Parker was just as much of an important character as Spider-Man.
     
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  19. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'd love to see a Superhero wrestling with what really hurts us in the real world.

    Giant, faceless conglomerates that take away choice and reduce people to slaving away for inadequate wages, producing goods that we either don't need, or could better be produced closer to home, etc. Folks who manipulate healthcare to where most people can't afford to use it—again, not just one person is responsible for this state of affairs. Mass wilful stupidity in voters, which can't really be dealt with by taking out 'a villain.' Climate change and its various causes.

    I think what bothers me about Superheroes, in addition to the fact that these superpowers don't actually exist, is that the stories seem to reduce the world's problems to a rather mundane formula. Everything is peachy till the Villain appears. Get rid of the Villain, and everthing is peachy again.

    Life is a hell of a lot more complicated than that. And our society's problems are not easily solved.

    Give me a Superhero who deals with these kinds of problems, and you'll get my attention.
     
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  20. Accelerator231

    Accelerator231 Senior Member

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    Yup. This is kinda of a thing.

    Superheroes seem too... apolitical?

    Apologies if I'm wrong, but here's the thing. Superhero stories seem to believe that everyone is, at their base nature, good, except for a few rotten apples. Like, say, the villain is the main cause of the problems. That people actually want to do good. That people actually wish to help their fellow men.

    This is, quite easily, wrong. What happens when a right wing demagogue rises up, and people, they not only allow this, but they actually join him? What would superman do if America invades a country and topples it, making it into a quagmire of misery? What happens when a cop shoots an innocent black man, and then when Superman steps in to arrest him, he is shouted down by boos? What happens when Captain European Union finds several citizens rioting and beating down on a legal migrant, spurred on by xenophobia, and the judge not only pardons them, but punishes the migrant?

    Superhero stories work on the idea that the system works. That there are only a few bad apples. What happens when it comes down to it, the system is corrupt, the people running it are out for themselves, and well, the majority of the country disagrees with them? What then?

    Because they can stop it. I mean, who's going to stop superman?
     
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  21. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    Marvel did this recently.

    The right-wing demagogue was Captain America.
     
  22. Accelerator231

    Accelerator231 Senior Member

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    No!

    Seriously, fuck no!

    Say no to Hydra Captain America!

    I hate that idea...
     
  23. shiba0000

    shiba0000 Member

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    I agree, there's a lot of potential for the genre.

    How would we react to the discovery of metahumans?

    What if the CIA finds superman's pod in the peak of the cold war and uses it to turn the tides of Vietnam, as a weapon and propaganda piece? What if the alien becomes too powerful and forces the US and Soviets to work together to protect the existential interests of humanity?
     
  24. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Much like Science Fiction Land, Super Hero Land is a deeply atheist paradigm. No real churches or actual religion. It's utterly absent.

    How would Religion - as an entire epistemology - engage the advent or appearance of metahumans?
     
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  25. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's it, in a nutshell. If people want to avoid the old superhero tropes, this would be an excellent place to start.
     

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