Shiny, Shiny Superheroes, by Mike Gold

Mike Gold

ComicMix's award-winning and spectacularly shy editor-in-chief Mike Gold also performs the weekly two-hour Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind ass-kicking rock, blues and blather radio show on The Point, and on iNetRadio, (search: Hit Oldies) every Sunday at 7:00 PM Eastern, rebroadcast three times during the week – check above for times and on-demand streaming information.

You may also like...

8 Responses

  1. Rick Taylor says:

    Sure am.Each comvention season I look for the news that be as satisfying and a nice steak or a plate of triple garlic seafood with pasta.Seems like what we get is mor like Hamburger Helper.

  2. Russ Rogers says:

    OK, so the theory is that dark times, especially times that include a large dose of paranoia about some enemy, lead to the creation of enduring Super-Heroes. The original wave of greats was created in the Nazi-era run-up to WWII, while the country was still reeling from the Great Depression. The next great wave of Supers came twenty to twenty five years later during the paranoia of the Red Scare. At the height of the Cold War. And during the back to back wars of Korea and Vietnam. Troubled times give us a need for the escapism and security of Super-Heroes.We are now on the brink of (or already in) the first days of a protracted economic and environmental crisis. We are embroiled in several wars because of our current paranoia: TERRORISM. Yes, terrorism is a real threat. Domestic and foreign. We don't know when some WACKO will decide to play out scenes from a Rodrieguez movie is a Church full of children or mail more Anthrax around for apparently NO reason. But it's paranoia that makes my 77 year old mother take her shoes off at the airport and continually have her artificial knee wanded by security teams.The extrapolation is that we are at a point in history when we need a new wave of heroes. It's a good theory. Unfortunately we are going to be missing one crucial element. Work for hire. A large workforce willing to SELL OUT their work for very little of the VAST monies that are generated by it.Nexus, Badger, GrimJack, Dreadstar, Spawn, Scout, Ms. Tree. There was an explosion of great, new heroes in the 80's and 90's. These heroes and their stories are almost every bit as compelling as Superman or Spider-man. This was brought on by the spark brought in with the inspiration offered by creators given real CONTROL over their creations. Even established creators like Mike Grell and Howard Chaykin were able to really hone into their own vision and voice with their experiments on creator controlled stuff. Grell's Green Arrow is an extension of his experiments with Jon Sable. Chaykin's Shadow grew out of his American Flagg work.Here's the problem with "Creator Controlled:" money, power and a unified universe. It's hard to get the corporate machine (of merchandising, licensing and movies) behind heroes that don't have the FIRM hand of another corporate machine controlling them. It's also hard to create a VAST UNIVERSE of marketable characters from the hodgepodge of various creator controlled visions. Unless some company can get a large force of creators to give away or license away CONTROL of their characters and creations, it will be hard for the CORPORATE MACHINE to consume them and regurgitate them back on the public. I doubt it will be Marvel or DC. The new revolution will be led by a NEW company. Maybe Boom or ComicMix or hmm, Platium?Another thing that the Next Wave of Heroes needs: optimism. What is the biggest success in creator driven comics as far as marketing the concept to the public in movies, tv shows and merchandising? I think we have to say Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. How are the Turtles vastly different from GrimJack, Nexus, Spawn or Barb Wire? Optimism and escapism. The Turtles squabble with each other. They are threatened by Shredder and the Foot. But the Ninja Violence is white-washed by the very silliness in the concept of the main characters. There is something wonderfully goofy and non-threatening about TMNT.Too much of the revolution in comics that came with the 80's and 90's that included "Dark Knight" and "Watchmen" was about putting a new level of "reality" in comics. This usually meant cynicism and violence. "Crisis on Infinate Earths," "Death in the Family," "Killing Joke," "Death of Superman, "Knightfall:" all these stories pointed out that even Super-heroes weren't safe any longer. There could be no security and escape in escapism anymore.It's hard to be nostalgic about bleak cynicism. Again, one of the reasons the Star Trek franchise is so enduring is that the over-arching THEME of the series is one of OPTIMISM. In the future humanity will get beyond the pettiness of racism and sexism and we will be able to join together to search the universe, not for conquest, imperialism or greed, but just for the sheer joy of discovery. That's an amazingly optimistic vision.OK, the theory is that in troubled times people need the escapism and security of Super-Heroes. But there can be no real escapism, no real sense of enduring security without optimism. Maybe optimism is what is really demanded by troubled times.

    • Mike Gold says:

      Actually, I edited a lot of those titles you mentioned — Jon Sable, American Flagg!, GrimJack, Badger, even Ms. Tree. So when you say "creator controlled," you're neglecting the fact that I'm really an asshole. Ask around. But I guess I'm hardly a corporate asshole. I get into problems over that…In truth, I agree with your sentiments. The next big new totally original thing in superheroes is unlikely to come from Marvel or DC; DC hasn't had a next new thing in superheroes since Hitler invaded Poland (Wonder Woman was published by All-American Comics; so there!) and Marvel hasn't since Alan Shepard was a household name. Everything from those camps ever since has been reboots and the ol' "everything you knew last week is wrong this week" shell game for decades and decades. And it will come from inspired creators, as it always has. Marvel taught us it will likely come from inspired creators who know how to play nice with each other.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Man, I hope we are on the brink of a whole new world of comic superheroes. I love the capes and tights adventures more than the fantasy stuff, but GrimmJack was close enough. Good luck!

    • Mike Gold says:

      Actually… we've been working on a superhero project for a bit now. Hope maybe to have it up on ComicMix this fall.

  4. Shane Kelly says:

    Optimism and pride are the two biggest things missing from the modern comic book scene. Don't get me wrong, I love a good depressing tale about the flaws in superheroes as much as the next guy. But it seems to me, that what the industry has been doing, is bringing SUPERHEROES down off of their pedestals. Instead of regular folks aspiring to be like them (as I did as a kid) SUPER and/or HEROES in their own life, they seem to be dragging them down to "regular joe" level. What ever happened to aspiring to be better than what you are? I guess I just don't get that.

  5. Marc Alan Fishman says:

    I think there were glimmers of hope in the Marvel released Ultimate line, way back when (what, 5 years ago?) where a modern age book could be equal parts optimistic and realistic. Books like Spawn, the Authority, and other 90's properties celebrated the morose, and yeah, it sold to kids like me at the time. Superman, Batman, Spiderman… goody-goods-goodnicks who were all chummy and didn't kill people. Snooze! Of course, we wised up (sorta) and a balance has been wrestled with ever since… Do we have civil wars, secret wars, identity crisises on 1 world or 52…. Or do we celebrate our history, and create new heroes from legacy properties (JSA) or stake out new claims in open territory (Invincible). I think there's a GREAT point there about creative control though. Young fellas like me sees Mignola live off of Hellboy Money from here to eternity… and seeing Grell, and Chaykin, Alex Ross, and others all doing "what they want, when they want it" (not always, but hey they each have done books this way)… and it's fantastic. I may be in a minority, and may bury my foot in my mouth (won't be the first time or last time) but I'd rather create a character that will live on forever (or however long it's around in whatever company I created it for) and have made a decent living, then sit around waiting for my cash cow to come in. Stan Lee ain't living in a shanty you know. And at the end of the day, rich or not, he knows who in the lexicon of American Comic Books, he has a right to be in whatever Hall-Of-Fame that may exist. Ultimately, I think we're in a good time right now for some new blood, new stories, new characters… It's just a matter of finding fantastic new ways to identify with a given audience.

  6. Elayne Riggs says:

    Well, I think superheroes are everywhere nowadays — they're just more popular in the movies than in comics.