Trouble Thinking

March 24, 2010

I Ever Tell You the One About the One Armed Superhero?

Filed under: Comics — Tags: , , , — Chris @ 10:53 pm

So, as a man of radically maladjusted priorities considering my age and economic situation, I have recently found myself, as I oftentimes do, thinking about comic books. Most specifically, I’ve been thinking of a little ditty just recently released by DC Comics, and penned by former “Starman” scribe James Robinson, entitled Justice League: Cry for Justice. Now, I should probably point out that I haven’t actually read Cry for Justice. There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, even if I were interested in it, I only read my comics in trade paperback, which for those who don’t know, is sort of like only seeing a movie when it comes out on DVD: while the last issue of the series was released earlier this month, the collected edition won’t be out until the beginning of June. Secondly, I haven’t read Cry for Justice simply because I have no interest in reading Cry for Justice, mostly owing to the fact that the comic has been met by those who have read it with all the enthusiasm usually reserved someone taking a dump on your lap, and then charging you $3.99 for the pleasure.

One of the developments that has readers all in an uproar is that Robinson took the now grown up, former Green Arrow sidekick Roy Harper (also known as Red Arrow, formerly known as Arsenal, formerly-formerly known as Speedy) and had a supervillain tear one of his arms off, and blow up his five year old daughter—which is, admittedly, kind of a dick move.  Up until this point, poor Roy has been most well known for being a heroin addict for about ten minutes back in the 70s, and since that worked oh so well to develop interest in his character, DC decided that if they really wanted to jumpstart the inevitable Red Arrow revolution, all they had to do was up the tragedy level a bit. And, as I’m sure we all know, the next notch up on the sliding scale of tragedy from “heroin addict” is, of course, “one arm and a dead baby.” Hey, it worked great when they did it with Aquaman.

Well, now DC is ready to capitalize on this newfound storytelling goldmine they’ve created for themselves, with an upcoming Roy-centric miniseries titled “The Rise of Arsenal.” Ignoring that I’m not sure how it can be the “rise” of Arsenal, when he was just calling himself Arsenal three years ago, the solicitations seem to indicate that DC is taking the most devastating part of Roy’s recent travails, and crafting the story of his terrible emotional fall (or I guess, “Rise?” Are they being ironic?) around it. I am, of course, talking about the missing arm. Obviously.

And you know what? If this were a story about a guy named Roy Harper, who lived in the regular world, was an Olympic archer, and then lost his arm in some kind of accident, that could actually make a damn good story. I mean, shit, if you knew a dude who was super into archery, and then something happened where his arm got torn off? You would tell everyone about that. You’d have to. You couldn’t not. That is a good, horrible story. A good, horrible story, however, that just doesn’t work in the DC Universe. It doesn’t work, because if you are a superhero, losing an arm is the coolest fucking thing that could ever happen to you.

Seriously, superheroes lose limbs all the time. Nobody cares. These are worlds where futuristic technology runs rampant. You know what happens if you lose an arm? Sure it hurts for a minute, but then you get a sweet new robot arm that’s a billion times better than your stupid old fleshy one! Now you can punch through walls, shoot lasers out of your finger tips, and maybe even get one of those awesome Bionic Commando style grappling hook hands. I mean, look at Bucky. No one gave a damn about Bucky, but one missing arm later, and now he’s Captain America. How about Cable? Cable dominated comics in the 90s, and has pretty much constantly starred in a series ever since. You know why? Robot arm! It’s not sad, it’s great, and moping about it only makes you look like a dick.

Certain story ideas that would work in other genres just don’t fly in superhero comics, and I think this is something that comic writers need to take into consideration. Suspension of disbelief works both ways, and while we can use it to believe that a guy can successfully save the world using only a bow and arrow, it is also going to interfere with feeling bad for that guy crying about his missing arm, when he’s friends with a dude named Cyborg, who is basically just a torso and half a face, and lives a perfectly amazing life. What DC should try to do, if they’re determined to be all down and dour about this, is maybe focus on a more universal tragedy that everyone could identify with. I don’t know, maybe a story about the death of a loved one or something. It’s too bad they didn’t leave themselves that sort of option to pursue instead.

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