his 2016 has been an excellent year to be a comic book fan. We had the epic brawl between the Bat and Superman finally hit the big screen, and Civil War was a third Avengers movie mistitled Captain America. Both shared a common theme becoming more and more apparent in today’s more realistic comic scene: the question of SUPERHERO REGISTRATION.
Superheroes working for the government is not a new theme. Alan Moore and Frank Miller touched on the subject in their seminal Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, respectively (nearly 30 years ago!). And while Moore and Miller deconstructed the idea of superheroes in a realistic world, we’ve seen later works, such as Brian Michael Bendis’ Powers and Kurt Busiek’s Astro City, touch on this idea too. Even the forgettable Youngblood touched on the idea.
Is a registration plotline endgame for any superhero story?
More pertinently, should it be?
Today’s comic reader is savvier than the readers of the Golden and Silver Ages. Heck, one of the Comics Code Authority’s first regulations of books in the 60s was that heroes ALWAYS had to win and villains ALWAYS had to lose at the end of the story. Today it’s usually more ambiguous.
Just as Superman’s popularity waned due to his arguably dated morals and the rise of the Marvel-type superhero (men and women with fantastic powers, but also human problems), it seems that some of the more fantastical elements of superhero stories have given way to a more realistic portrayal. Then Marvel-type heroes became passé, and we started seeing even darker heroes and anti-heroes.
Then the pendulum swung too far. We began to see more upbeat tales.
For me, this is where the Dark Age begets the Modern Age of comic books. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment we saw this, but there definitely is a more light-hearted feel to, say, Civil War than the Registration tales of the 80s, while remaining serious. And yet, both stories touch on Superhero Registration.
As I write this, Civil War II is on its second issue. Sales seem strong, no doubt bolstered by the popularity of Captain America: Civil War.
However, part of the reason I originally got into the comics medium is the infinite characters and worlds possible. Knowing that, I’d warn against another registration plotline. Registration, once cutting edge in this genre, is now a trope in itself, and becoming cliché.
If that plot is truly in your heart, go ahead and write it. Don’t let me stop you.
I’m just saying I might not put it on my pull list.