This Is Why Comics Are Wonderful

Over the last 80 years, comic books have gone from being a literary joke, to ammunition to beat up nerds like me, right through to being the biggest box office success in the history of film. The journey of the comic book is at its peak right now and surfing that wave of success is cult hero Stan Lee, who penned some of the world's favourite stories. So what makes comic books so popular?

Stan Lee, the godfather of the comics industry, took to the internet yesterday to answer questions about everything from the past, present and future of the comic book industry. He's wise, funny and has about a trillion anecdotal stories tucked behind his eyeballs from the decades of work he's done brining comics to the mainstream.

He was asked by a Reddit user about the future of comic book characters:

As our athletes and movie stars have gotten bigger and stronger, so have our superheroes. Some complain that the sense of vulnerability particularly evident in Marvel heroes has been diminished, and that we are learning to admire power moreso than character.

Do you agree with this? Is there an end in sight or will our heroes just keep getting more muscular and powerful?

Stan Lee, being the classy guy he is, respectfully disagreed with TreeCrab's view of the future, and revealed the secret that the human element must always stay true in a comic book character.

I don't agree, because the one thing we at Marvel have always concentrated on is characterisation. Every one of our characters have a flaw. Everyone has a weakness. Iron Man has his bad heart and so forth. The audience and the readers want them to be strong -- that's the best thing about them, and you will admit, we always try to get villains who are as strong as they are or stronger, because that's what makes it fun.

There's nothing wrong with one strong guy fighting another, as long as it's just not too mindless guys fighting each other, but if you get a good story and you feel that you know what it's all about and you sympathise with the hero and realise there's a lot at stake and want the hero to win, that's all that matters.

So the real secret behind the success of comics and their respective film adaptations is the human element. No matter how super a fictional character gets, it's important that the audience always be able to relate to them. It's inspiring watching these ordinary people receive these amazing gifts, yet still grapple with the same problems that mere mortals struggle with. That's why comics are successful, and Stan Lee has nailed it.

Stan Lee also talked about why paper comic books will never go away:

And revealed his defining moment at Marvel, which came when he was about to quit the company:



    He's the coolest guy in the history of geeks...

    He is a cool dude, thats for sure. I have to admin though, Marvel has never really been my cup of tea. Sure its not as kiddy as it used to be, but compared with what is put out under vertigo, avatar, darkhorse, DC etc etc. It seems like they put out graphic novels, whilst marvel is still making comics. Of course, that is very issue dependent.

    I am no expert though, point me in the direction of something from Marvel that is on a more adult tip and ill lap it up - have no allegiance either way, just a general trend I have noticed.

      Oh, and Image comics of course too... Kirkman is the obviously the man.

      Tb, I genrally agree with you, but if you want a more adult Marvel story, check out The Ulitmates vol. 1 and 2 by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch.

        Thanks for the tip Tim, will look into it!

      I'll not defend Marvel, certainly, increasingly over the years I have moved away from them, becoming utterly bored with the majority of their books that I used to read. But so too other publishers. I have left some much loved Marvel characters by the wayside, because, well, the writing sucked, and nobody ever stays dead, and the editorial team doesn't have the balls to let writers do anything new, or to step outside the same tired old tropes (and no, a token gay marriage does not bloody well count)... blah, blah, blah.
      But most comics publishers are guilty of the same, it's just that a lot of their books seem less plastic/Hollywood/airbrushed than Marvel's do - in the end they're just as shallow though, and they tread the same old hackneyed paths that Marvel does. Of course, every publisher, Marvel included, has noteable exceptions, and they all produce some really quite amazing work.
      On another note though, the use of the term Graphic Novel, to suggest a comic that is somehow more literary,. or more imbued with meaning and maturity, is deeply flawed. If for no other reason than its literal meaning - i.e. a work of greater length, a "novel" as opposed to a short story, or a magazine or something - doesn't mark it as something of any greater quality. Just think of the number of exceptional short stories out there, and the number of really crap novels. And there are plenty of other reasons to stop bandying about "Graphic Novel" like an entitlement to be taken seriously.
      Continuing to try to differentiate between "comic books" and "graphic novels" doesn't do the popular perception of comics (and thus mainstream support of the industry) any favours, as though we, the people who love, read, and even write these things, are agreeing that good old "comic books" are still something that shouldn't be taken seriously by any reasonable adult...

    I've enjoyed reading comics since I was quite young but still the Avengers movie has lots of good CGI, a cliched plot, and quite poor story telling. Overall the movie is ordinary.

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