Sunday, March 17, 2019

Through A Superhero Lens

One of the charming (to me) things about Silver Age/Bronze Age comics is that often series with settings and elements of other genres have a superhero veneer. Either the creators though that was what the audience wanted, or that's just the vernacular they were used to expressing themselves in. Define "superhero" elements, you ask? Well, things like code names, secret identities, costumes, costumed villains with themes or motifs, and of course, super-powers. Not all of these are present in every case, of course, and some of the elements were part of the pulp or adventure hero tradition prior to superheroes. By the 60s, though, superheroes were the most conspicuous purveyors of those tropes.

This doesn't just show up in comics. Hanna-Barbera's Mighty Mightor (1967) is just the Captain Marvel (or Shazam for you kids) of the Stone Age. The late 50s and 60s seems to have been the biggest era for this since we got Super-Chief, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and Captain Comet during this era, as well as the cartoon characters Space Ghost and Mightor.

By the 70s and 80s, either writers were getting more sophisticated to their approach to other genres or they thought there audience wanted something different. Still, I would argue that some of the fantasy characters of the era (Warlord, Atlas, and Stalker, perhaps?) have traces of this, as do space operas like the Micronauts, and modern/military action like G.I. Joe. Certainly, Masters of the Universe is other-genre supers in spades.

This genre-bending seems to have been mostly ignored in superhero rpgs. There are a few Legion of Super-Hero-esque science fiction supplements, and there are short, sidebar discussions of other genres in places. Warriors & Warlocks for Mutants & Masterminds touches on this for fantasy. Given the number of superhero games and the popularity of other genres in rpgs like fantasy and science fiction or even Westerns, there have been very few.


Pit said...

I think this kind of fiction would mesh very well with your Weird Adventures. Speaking of which, are you revisiting the 'weird new world' any time soon?

Trey said...

I think about WA from time to time. I would at least like to get out so of the other stuff I have written and maybe do some 5e adaptation, but I've got to get settled in my new job and clear some other projects first.