Superhero tropes and cliches you're tired of

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

  1. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    I'm not really asking you so much as pondering the question myself. I've never really thought through this kind of scenario.
     
  2. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    @Bone2pick Exactly. That's why I like the way it's handled in Jessica Jones, where the hero actually suffers from alcoholism and several other issues. The entire story world is steeped in these kind of problems, so each character has to deal with them, rather than one hero finding a solution by flying around the world real fast to turn time back or something. And one of the things the creators did so brilliantly was to build the entire character web around abuse, including a villain who is the ultimate abuser—a charismatic but malignantly narcissistic telepath who can control people absolutely and violate their innermost thoughts. So rather than dealing with it externally it's dealt with inwardly in different ways by all the main characters.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2020
  3. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    @Accelerator231 In order to get anywhere on this problem I'd need to write about it a lot, as in think about different possibilities and develop what might result form each. For instance, what if some tyrant took over a country and then a superhero rose up and decided to take it back from him using whatever means are necessary. I can see that putting him and all his cronies in prison would use resources that might be costly and dangerous, and he could still have henchmen outside who would rescue him. Beheading or something similar would be much quicker and more permanent.

    But you have to find that fine line between a hero doing what's necessary and becoming a tyrant himself. That's what makes it interesting, seeing him try things and make the choices—what happens when he goes a little too far, and can he recover status in the eyes of the people who might start to lose faith if he becomes something like a tyrant himself. There's definitely an interesting story idea in there somewhere.
     
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  4. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Conspicuously Conventional Contributor

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    Internal conflicts are certainly compelling, but ultimately it's the external conflicts that are the foundation of the superhero genre. At least as far as I can tell. We don't view characters as superheroes if they're completely occupied with saving themselves. They need to protect and save others, which is an external struggle.
     
  5. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    She has to save many people from Kilgrave. He likes to command random people to for instance slit their throats if he doesn't come back in 3 hours, so this makes it really difficult to do anything to him. In fact, through season 1 a girl he commanded to murder her family is in prison, and Jessica is the only one who knows what really happened. She of course can't convince anybody there's a telepath out there who's making people do things against their will, and all the other heroes just want to destroy Kilgrave, but if they do Jessica knows Hope will commit suicide in prison. So the inner drama is brilliantly played out externally.

    I did a semi-analysis of it on a blog. Look up cinema-nalysis on blogspot if you're interested. Right now it's the only entry.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2020
  6. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Many of the stories featuring more overtly or traditionally heroic characters may function on the idea the system works, but I wouldn't say it's true of all superhero fiction. Street-level heroes are often driven to direct action by the opposite belief: that the system is fundamentally broken and requires serious reform if not outright replacement.
     
  7. Orang-U-Can

    Orang-U-Can Banned

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    My favourite Superhero, who stands head and shoulders above all the others is,
    Bicycle Repair Man. He underlined the futility of creating any others.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 21, 2020
  8. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Supporter Contributor

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    One trope and/or cliché I don't like is the one that prevents superheroes from using guns or killing. Batman won't use guns. Superman won't kill (I think). They seem to have dropped that idea in the Marvel movies, at least, but too often, in the comics, superheroes won't shoot back if someone is shooting at them. They come up with lame reasons for this: Batman said something to the effect that he won't use guns because they become a crutch. That's pretty lame when you've got a squad of bad guys shooting machine guns at you and the civilians you're trying to protect. C'mon, Batdude! This isn't a game. It isn't a martial-arts competition with rules and whatnot. It's life-or-death business and you shouldn't disadvantage yourself by refusing to use the weapons your opponents use freely and gladly.
     
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  9. Orang-U-Can

    Orang-U-Can Banned

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    Actually, it is a game for little kiddies.
     
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  10. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Bicycle Repairman!! He was reverse Superman—everybody was a Superman, and when someone crashed a bike he'd disappear into a phone booth and change into coveralls. Not sure where he kept the toolbox though?
     
  11. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Conspicuously Conventional Contributor

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    I actually like that trope. Not for every superhero mind you – I dig Wolverine, Jason Todd, and similar characters. But I think it's perfect for Batman and Superman. It's great to have some characters (especially the iconic ones) take every measure to prevent themselves from being thought of as judge, jury, and executioner. Not to mention the fact that it's a principle that can be exploited by their villains.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2020
  12. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    I don't mind it if:

    1) The character has a compelling reason not to kill. Daredevil is a devout Catholic; murder is a mortal sin, and Matt fears killing a foe like Kingpin would mean damnation. Batman hates guns because his parents were murdered with one, and he refuses to kill out of a deep-seated fear doing so would make him no different than his enemies.

    2) Authors don't treat a refusal to kill as undeniably being the right answer. After a supervillain escapes from prison and goes on a rampage for the second time in a month, it's not unreasonable for people--be it the general public, a hero's peers, or the hero themself--to question whether they should be allowed to live.

    If those conditions aren't met, no-kill codes and the like can definitely become tiresome.
     
  13. Accelerator231

    Accelerator231 Senior Member

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    I've been annoyed by some shit. Read 'The Boys' by Garth Ennis. Boy, is it cringeworthy. Trenchcoat wearing men who make hard decisions against thinly-veiled expies of other superheroes.

    I dislike the trenchcoat wearing men of the 90's
     
  14. Dasifefe

    Dasifefe New Member

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    I would add a third condition:

    3) The hero does a first kill and realizes that killing is not for them. They regret it and they don't do it anymore.
     
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  15. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    This works, though it could arguably fall under the first condition ("killing is not for them" being the compelling reason, though you'd probably have to explain why they feel it's not for them).
     
  16. PaperandPencil

    PaperandPencil Member

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    Science based powers breaking their own rules.

    Like in antman the suit supposedly makes you smaller by "reducing the distance between atoms". If so it shouldn't be possible to go subatomic...
     
  17. Accelerator231

    Accelerator231 Senior Member

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    I want stuff to change. No more status quo.

    Ok, really? You wanna invent fusion? Sure, go ahead. You're the hero. Middle East just blew up. Russia hates your guts because you gutted their economy. And a dozen or so billionaires have you on their shitlist because they were oil barons. On the good side, lots of nations are thanking you for giving them energy independence, you have a nobel peace prize on the way, and environmentalists are now clamouring that you've fixed shit.

    Sahara is now green? What now? Oh, what, you just fucked up the plans of a dozen companies and re-organised the entire economic sector now that there's a whole new breadbasket in Africa? So there's now a new source of food. How does this change things, shift the bottom line, and alter the demographics in Africa when there's a new food source that was once the world's largest desert?

    Aliens invade! And they're beaten back... thank goodness. What do you mean that the entire planet is now panicking and carrying out rearmament programs? Surely an unprovoked attack from outer space couldn't cause a sudden surge in xenophobia and hysteria as the human race not only realises they're not alone, but they're not alone in a hostile universe? And what do you mean they're now fighting over the spoils?

    You have a cache of technology that's far beyond planet earth's, dignitaries and scholars from another planet, and working cases of technology. Why aren't you giving out this technology to the world? What, are you waiting for the planet to be conquered? Even if you didn't, the antigrav-module you have there can transport literal tons at a fraction of the cost, revamping the entirety of transportation and emergency services. Why not release them?
     
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  18. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Science or magic, ignoring your own rules has to be one of the worst things a spec-fic writer can do. Unless you make it clear that the "rule" was a misunderstanding of the way things actually work.

    Agreed. Perhaps my biggest gripe with canon superhero comics from the big companies is how wedded they are to the status quo, for characters and the world. Seems like major characters get a status quo shift that actually sticks maybe once a decade, and the world changes even less frequently.

    Why is understandable--you don't want to kill your cash cows--but it definitely limits storytelling possibilities. Superhero prose, movies, video games, and AU comics all have more flexibility here.
     
  19. Accelerator231

    Accelerator231 Senior Member

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    Maybe they can even, you know, look at things from different perspectives. There are 7 billion humans on earth. There should be some interesting ways to look at the entire 'superhuman' situation.

    Hell, just do it different ways. One series, the avengers are celebrities with all the bells and whistles that come with it. Another series, they're feared and the government is viewed as the collar around the rabid dog. Another series, they're deified, and cults spring up, clashing with established religions. And in another, they're resistance fighters who all say 'fuck the man!'.
     
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  20. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Conspicuously Conventional Contributor

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    I would bet that if you look around, you'll find existing superhero stories with very similar premises to your examples.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2020
  21. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    I guess one thing that can annoy me a little is an arbitrary devotion to the whole "Nobody can know my secret identity, not even my family!" thing. Though, that has become somewhat less common these days - one thing I found refreshing about the MCU was that most of the heroes didn't bother with secret identities at all. And so far I've seen three different takes on Aunt May actually knowing Peter is Spiderman and being cool with it, and that always makes me a little happy.

    Sure, maybe you don't want to go public with the fact that you have superhuman powers and fight crime - you're not going to tell everyone at work about it or agree to interviews as your civilian identity - but it does make sense to tell your loved ones, assuming they can at least be trusted enough to keep a secret to literally save their lives. That means the hero has to put up with less day-to-day stress and have people who can support and cover for him, and also said loved ones will be aware that they may be targeted by super villains if the secret gets out, which - if nothing else - they're really sorta entitled to. Plus, I sometimes feel it's just a waste of potentially interesting character relationships.

    Another issue for me would be how the archetypal superhero setting - DC and Marvel, pretty much - are kinda... stylistically messy, I guess. Like, you've established that radiation can give you super powers. That's fine. And some people just use science and gadgets in general, like Iron Man or Batman. Sure. But also some characters are aliens with natural biological powers, they just look like humans. And some people are born with powers because something something next step in human evolution! And it turns out magic is totes real and some people have legit supernatural powers. All of these "power origins" are for the most part completely unrelated yet are supposed to coexist in the same setting.

    Now, I understand this is a side-effect of the way those settings formed and grew: The companies employ lots of different approaches, and also acquired characters who were not always intended to exist in the same continuity and then put them all together in the same world. Still, I find it a random and overly convoluted approach to world building that sacrifices consistency for "more stuff." Again, this is something the MCU tried to fix by focusing on scientific powers while severely downplaying any supernatural elements.

    I do have the beginnings of a superhero setting I occasionally work on - more as a casual hobby than serious work - and one thing I wanted to be very clear is that while there are a fairly wide variety of powers, they're all caused by the same phenomenon which ties into the fundamental mythology I had in mind for that universe.
     
  22. Accelerator231

    Accelerator231 Senior Member

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    I actually did.

    It's just that they're goddamned scarce.
     
  23. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Ex-Patriot Supporter Contributor

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    That was one thing I liked about the TV series Powers. People with, well, powers had those abilities regulated by the government, but some of them also had agents and clothing lines and sponsorship deals. Pity it only lasted two seasons and ended on a cliffhanger.
     
  24. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The Secret Cabal that controls time, space, cause & effect, in some franchises. I don't mind the cabal, but unless the aesthetic is some flavor of Ancient World, they have a strong tendency to be temporally and aesthetically stuck in the Mid-Century Modern era.

    It's so often a very Mad Men feel.

    Why?
     
  25. Accelerator231

    Accelerator231 Senior Member

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    Oh yes!

    Wait.

    You mean the tv series, or the set of comic books? Because there's a set of comic books with the same name.
     

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