Why Superheroes?

by David Meadows 12. June 2016 21:14

Funny, 15 years ago this post would have been titled "What are Superheroes?" Now, half the blockbusters coming out of Hollywood are superhero films, and my life-long, slightly strange ("you're a grown man and you still read comics?") hobby has become the a mainstream thing. You all know what superheroes are.

So, why superheroes? Specifically, why have I spent 30 years creating a world full of superheroes which I'm now documenting on this web site?

Comics have been a part of my life ever since I first started reading. (I was reading books too, of course. You're allowed to read and love both, just like you're allowed to love both books and films. They're different things.) The earliest comic I can remember was T.V. 21, a comic that featured television spin-off stories. From there, I went on to all the popular British boys' comics. I read adventure stories, war stories, sport stories, science fiction stories, you name it I read it in comics. I read just as many different genres in comics as I was reading in books.

Plus one extra genre that wasn't in books. When I could get my hands on exotic imported American comics (and that wasn't easy in the 70s, as distribution was spotty and arbitrary), I devoured their stories of superheroes.

You all know what a superhero is: a larger-than-life figure with amazing abilities, who fights villains and saves people. It's not a new idea. Before Superman, Robin Hood was a superhero, so was King Arthur, and obviously so were Heracles and Sinbad the Sailor.

But American superhero comics did something that those old myths didn't do: they built consistent worlds. Huge, massive, self-referential worlds. In American comics, Captain America was best friends with Iron Man and they would pop up in each other's comics to help each other from time-to-time.

And superhero comics had been going for years, and told an ever-unfolding story over those years. Spider-Man started as a high-school student, graduated and went to college, went through several girlfriends (one of whom died, damn you Gerry Conway), and had a massive cast of supporting characters who came into and out of the on-going story. Spider-Man's comic wasn't about a man in a costume who punched other men in costumes, it was a soap-opera about Peter Parker's life.

And one more thing: superhero stories could do anything. Superheroes could go anywhere on Earth. They could visit lost cities in remote jungles. Fly to different planets. Travel through time. Fight aliens, dinosaurs, bank robbers, or evil corporations. They could save the world from meteor strikes, stand up for persecuted minorities, or rescue cats from trees. Superheroes could get their powers from anywhere, so a wizard could fight on the same team as a genius scientist, and neither would think that was odd.

If you want to tell a big story, the superhero genre has all the tools you could ever need to do it with.

That's why I love superhero stories, and have done all my life.

Fast-forward from a boy reading comics in the 70s to an adult (still reading comics) in 1987. I'm thinking about running a new role-playing game for a few friends, and I've found a set of rules for running superhero games. How can I resist?

The problem is, if I'm going to run a superhero game, I'm going to do it properly and make a proper superhero universe. A proper, big, consistent, multi-genre, soap-opera, decades-long, complete universe. So here I am, 30 years later... and here is my universe.

Now, I've just realised I need to write another post explaining what I mean by "role-playing game". Sigh...

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About this blog

The Heroes Universe is an ongoing work of fiction, conceived and chiefly plotted by David Meadows, with help from a group of friends, over a 30-year period.

I am slowly documenting the Universe on this web site.

This blog is a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of that history.

If you're new here, the series of posts listed below will explain what it's all about. I hope...

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