Dean Haspiel (Billy Dogma, The Fox), longtime indie and mainstream comics storyteller, spoke with a childhood friend about superheroes today over at Dan Greenfield's 13th Dimension, and as usual, Haspiel has no problem putting a fine point on the goals and conventions of superhero comics. When the body count piled up in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, he and friend Sean Francisco Yau-Smith reached the following conclusions in Haspiel's article "Life Model Decoy".
Sean Francisco Yau-Smith:
In superhero comics' quest to be "more realistic," have they become less realistic? Namely in body count? After reading some recent Batman and Marvel I ended up thinking, why would anyone work for the Gotham Police Department? Or live in Gotham? Same for S.H.I.E.L.D., they get dropped like flies. Who would sign up? I think the step-up was to be relevant in the post-9/11 era but it's hit the point of infeasibility. Thoughts?
Short answer? DON'T OPEN UP THE CAN OF WORMS. If you start to make superheroes "real" — you open up the can of worms. Superheroes CAN'T be real. They are metaphors and the stuff of gods, monsters, and science fiction. Someone once asked Frank Miller why Batman has a yellow logo on his chest. He said the yellow logo acted as a target for criminals with guns to shoot at his chest where most of his protection (Kevlar?) was. That made a whole lot of sense. The next question was, why is there a teenage boy wearing a bright yellow and red costume bouncing around Batman all the time? DON'T OPEN UP THE CAN OF WORMS. Superheroes aren't realistic and neither is a civil world that has to function around them. In a way, I guess that's why I had a difficult yet pro response towards "Man of Steel." Super people are going to fuck shit up even when they don't mean to. Civilians cannot live safe and sound in a superhero environment. If they did, sanitation workers and mailmen would carry nuclear arms.
You can read their full discussion, which moves on to address the gritty "realism" of The Dark Knight Returns here.
Hannah Means-Shannon is Senior New York Correspondent at Bleeding Cool, writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org, and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress. Find her bio here.