Martin Scorsese is onto something. There’s no denying that we are currently experiencing a deluge of superhero fare. With the Marvel and DC Universes churning out content – and raking in revenues – at a furious rate, it’s all beginning to blur. Once you’ve seen one wisecracking hero with a dark past conquer evil trolls or aliens (or evil alien trolls), you’ve seen them all – and no amount of wondrous SFX, Relevant Themes and speechifying can masquerade that fact. Prime examples: films like Deadpool, Thor: Ragnarok, or Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 & 2, which attempt to deviate from (or rather disguise) the formula by being more risqué, breaking the fourth wall, and/or infusing the narrative with self-referential humor. At the end of the day, as inspired as they are, those films still have wise-cracking heroes who still have dark pasts, engaging in final bombastic battles against Evil.
“…three respective works are now challenging the established norms…”
Subverting superhero tropes isn’t a new thing. Superman’s infamous alter ego, the villainous Bizarro who represented a twisted mirror image of the beloved hero, appeared in print as far back as 1958. Since then, multiple talented writers and artists put their spin on well-known staples. The standouts (among many) are Alan Moore (Watchmen), Garth Ennis (The Boys), and Grant Morrison (Doom Patrol). Their three respective works are now challenging the established norms on your TV sets, twisting the very notion of the ideals that superheroes are supposed to represent.
Moore is famously rabidly against his mind-bending, genre-redefying work being adapted for the screen. He recently referred to the aforementioned avalanche of comic book fare as a “cultural stasis,” and even went so far as calling it a “white supremacist dreams of the master race.” No one can deny that the bearded eccentric is a bit of a curmudgeon – just like no one can deny his genius or highly unconventional lifestyle – yet he’s onto something here. Ironically, Damon Lindelof’s “not-quite-adaptation,” pseudo-sequel to Moore’s masterpiece Watchmen, addresses this subject head-on. I believe the grouchy comic wizard would be proud (even if begrudgingly).