Is it just me, or is it kinda capitalist that in order to get new superheroes, people kill off or age up the old ones and then put the new heroes in the same role/identity? Like, they killed Peter Parker to have Miles Morales. Bucky Barnes and Falcon/Sam Wilson both became Captain America after the death or age & retirement of Steve Rogers, depending on whether you’re looking at the comics or the MCU. Batman goes through Robins and Batgirls like it’s going out of style (and seriously, why does Dick Grayson let other people be Robin? That was a personal nickname from his birth family, right? Why would he give something so intimate away?). Replacing someone else and living up to their legacy rather than making your own path was a whole plot point/theme in Spider-man: Far From Home!
There are exceptions to this, like X-23 and Wolverine, who have managed to have some form of a father-daughter relationship in the comics (although, if memory serves, I believe he’s been killed in recent comics and she replaced him as Wolverine - though I haven’t read anything recent, so I might be wrong, and in the film Logan they killed him off). And things like Conner/Superboy from Young Justice being created with the idea to replace Superman doesn’t count in the same way because it was a villainous plot and Con didn’t end up following through. And there’s a new Ms. Marvel now that Carol Danvers is Captain Marvel, which is a much better alternative considering that Carol wasn’t using that identity anymore.
The idea I’m trying to get at, if it isn’t clear, is that the costume identity, AKA Spider-man, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc. seems to me the thing that’s given value while the person behind the mask is more recently being treated as expendable/dispensable. Which doesn’t make a ton of sense to me, because the person created the mask, and so much of themselves and who they are and what their goals are drove the reasons behind the creation of the identity and the way they behave in that identity. It’s like being a kid and trying on your parents’ clothes or getting hand-me-downs, even if it fits, you didn’t exactly choose it, and you look different wearing it. And I’m calling this capitalist because it feels like capitalism. If we equate being a superhero to a job, which in many ways it really is, especially if you are employed by an organization to do it like SHIELD, then the value is being placed on the role/job, and not with the labor. Capitalism doesn’t give a shit who’s doing the job and how they’re being treated as long as it’s getting done. Employees in the service/retail industry get treated like shit and don’t get paid enough but that will never change unless people have other options and aren’t desperate enough to accept those conditions and get something better. Recently, with the deaths and/or replacements of superheroes in order to have someone else fill the identity in comics and films, the individuals behind the mask, who are the real source of emotional connection and relatability, not the mask, seem to have become dispensable in the eyes of the creators.
And I do get that it’s a shortcut and an attempt to bring in new audiences by putting more modern characters into recognizable roles. But why does the original character have to *die*?
Yeah, superhero-ism is a dangerous occupation, sure, but doesn’t death seem like the most extreme option? It’s not as if there aren’t other possibilities:
1.Having characters be located somewhere else other than New York City or its fictional equivalent (Metropolis, Gotham, etc). There are other major cities in the US where crime happens, let alone other cities in the world. Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, Dallas, Detroit, Atlanta, Seattle, Philadelphia. Who doesn’t want to imagine a Spider-man or a Batman with a Boston accent? Wouldn’t it be a cool storyline if other Kryptonians not related to Superman escaped Krypton and eventually made it to Earth and moved to different cities and took up mantles and eventually the Kryptonian race could start rebuilding on Earth? Talk about a really interesting and positive way to show a diasporic community. And also, it doesn’t make any sense statistically that the majority of the world’s superheroes are in the US. Put some in Toronto, Paris, London, Cairo, Sydney, Tokyo, Beijing, Moscow, Rome, Athens, Rio, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Seoul, Istanbul, etc. If the Olympics happen there, then there’s probably a lot of people that need saving and crime happening. It’s especially dumb with the alien invasion stories where they show the audience aliens popping up in places other than NYC and suddenly the heroes have to get other there, like unless you got super-speed or teleportation, it’s going to take a while, and how are you even going to communicate with the civilians if there’s a language barrier?
2.Having characters be from other dimensions. Marvel and DC have a history of playing with alternate timelines and multi-verse theory. Into The Spiderverse was a super-popular movie that inspired tons of people to make their own Spidersonas, and the lesson that can be taken from it is that you can take a character and make it still feel unique or individualistic even if you’re using similar themes. Maybe instead of the dimensions having evil versions they have to fight or being fucked up in some other way, make the new version of Wonder Woman or Iron Man or whatever be from an alternate dimension and end up in the main because of science/magic, or a dimension-hopping villain they’re fighting, or an accident, or to get help from other versions of themselves, or even escaping from an apocalypse/doomsday from their own universe. It’s so easy to either send them back to their own universe when you decide you’re done playing with them or keep them around if you want them permanently. Wouldn’t it be fascinating if the Captain America we’re familiar with met a Captain America from an alternate universe where he fought in the American Revolution or for the Union in the Civil War or even in WW1 or Vietnam?
3.Having female characters take on feminine versions of the identity, or vice versa, or non-binary characters find a way to have a gender-neutral version. This has been done with Hulk and She-Hulk, Superman and Supergirl, Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel back when Captain Marvel was a dude, Spider-man’s daughter May was Spider-girl at one point, Batman’s cousin or something is Batwoman. There’s also been some adjacents, such as AntMan and Wasp or Wolverine and X-23. There are definitely ways that you can use a familiar identity to put more female and non-binary superheroes out there. I mean, military titles (the Captains) or even names like Black Panther, Green Lantern, and Flash aren’t even gendered. You can feminize names if you want to, but I’m pretty sure the female Hawkeye is just straight-up Hawkeye. People like Thor I feel differently about because Thor’s an actual mythological character, not something Marvel came up with, but you could just use a different Norse god/goddess? And yeah, Dr. Strange is the man’s actual name so that’s also a little different, but if he had a daughter or a non-binary child who also got their doctorate, they are in fact entitled to call themselves Dr. Strange rather than something lesser. Not to mention, that whole alternate universe versions point I just made? Yeah, these can be characters from gender-bent alternate universes or a universe where humans are androgynous or something.
4.Have multiple characters use the same secret identity. This would be the perfect concept for twins or friends with the same build. The bank’s been robbed but A is on a date? B can totally show up at the scene! B got really hurt in their last fight? A’s got them covered. There’s a bit of risk to it, like if people recognize they have different voices or someone notices them at two different crises happening at the same time, but that’s just what makes the challenge of pretending to be the same person interesting. And it could get even more complex if you had triplets doing it, or four college roommates, or whatever. It’s also a great excuse to be able to write deep interpersonal relationships and identity struggles. Hell, can you imagine how much scarier multiple Batmans would be? They could play even more on the “you never know where he’s going to be next or what shadow he could be hiding in” thing, like, just when the crook thinks he’s lost Batman, another comes out out of nowhere.
And if superhero writers don’t want to do any of this, there’s also the C-List and D-List heroes that maybe got introduced in like the 70′s or 80′s or whatever but didn’t take or ended up being a blip in another character’s backstory. If you want more modern superheros connected to the major ones so you can use them in the same stories, it is totally valid IMO to try revitalizing these obscure concepts. I have a vested interest in seeing if Monica Rambeau shows up as her hero identity Photon in the Captain Marvel sequel. This idea is still using what you have, but it doesn’t capitalize the lives of the characters you have or make them expendable in any way. In fact, it’s also kind of like recycling, or the opposite of capitalism, because you’re trying to use alternative resources or all of your resources instead of very specific ones to the point of over-saturation.
Look, I’m just very tired of superheroes getting killed off to be replaced by someone else using the same identity or because it’s edgy or dark or whatever. Even a debilitating injury that leaves them in a wheelchair or blind or deaf is a hell of a lot more interesting. Once a character’s dead, they’re dead, there’s nowhere else you can take them unless you bring them back to life (which admittedly happens a lot in superhero universe) or have them hang around as a ghost or something. It’s boring, it doesn’t give the audience any closure and just messes with their emotions for shock value, and it promotes toxic capitalism.
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Why Aang SHOULD Have Killed the Fire Lord
Okay. So, this is kind of a response to a thing I keep hearing about from pissy fans complaining about how other fans thought that Aang should have killed the Fire Lord.
And this is my take on the subject.
Aang killing Ozai would have made this show the best show ever made.
Because earlier, Aang contacts the previous Air Nomad Avatar Yang-Chen and asks her how he can avoid killing the Fire Lord. Yang-Chen then tells him:
“Selfless duty calls for you to sacrifice your own spiritual needs and do whatever it takes to protect the world.”
This is important because she is telling Aang that needs to let go of his pride and do what is best for the world at large. And killing the Fire Lord was how he was going to do that and it would have been an amazing end to his character arc where he would realize that sometimes he needed to let go of his pwn principles to protect the world as the avatar, his duty.
Had Aang killed Ozai, it would have made Avatar the best show ever made because it would have showed a mature and fully realized character and arc and showed that sometimes, you can’t just energy bend the bending out of someone. In the real world, you need to take action if you want to prevent people from getting hurt by a bigger threat.
THAT is why people have gotten upset at the idea that Aang didn’t kill the Fire Lord. The moral of “don’t kill, pacifism will solve your all your problems no matter what” is such a dangerous lesson to teach, especially to children. It isn’t only that Aang would have been a mature and realized character, but it has some really scary real world connotations.
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