Monday, July 22, 2013

Archetype Musings: Beyond Astro City

Way back, I posted about comic book archetypes and remixing them for your supers campaigns.

My inspiration then was Astro City -- which has returned, by the way -- because of the carefully crafted superheroes and villains that seem to have tapped into archetypes from DC, Marvel, and other supers comics but managed to realized them visually and with some measure of seeming historical weight for its unique universe.

I'd still like to continue my tour of the many characters there that have somehow managed some measure of iconic stature without a long history -- but I also realized that there are other sources for remixed archetypes.

One of the most obvious: from the publishers themselves!

DC's Trinity

Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman all have been reinvented throughout their careers, back from the 1940s to the current day. Different looks, different takes and attitudes, slightly different personalities and approaches to crime fighting.

Is there a reason that the central figure is showing her butt
to us, while the more modest outfits are to the sides? Nah.
Couldn't be.
My favorite Wonder Woman to date was the George Perez take on the character, with the wonderful visuals, the mythology of the character strongly tied with the original Greek myth, and the clash of ancient and modern mores.

I'm keeping an eye out on the current Azzarello and Chiang run, as their take on 'gods-in-the-modern-era' is very interesting. The feel is very American Gods meets Scion (the RPG, not the comic), and the dark twists are interesting -- even if I have some grave issues with some of the liberties taken on WW's history and past.

And I really like the take on her in Kingdom Come and in the Injustice video game. True superheroine badassery!

Superman came out as more of a vigilante, or rather, a real pulp-inspired hero. The type that used to say lines like "a fitting end for his kind", and was not above coercing confessions from criminals by hanging them upside down from high places, or taking them on kryptonian roller coaster rides in a single bound. Very different from the 'big blue boy scout' we came to know and respect -- one whose moral indestructibility seems to have become a bit challenged in the modern era (Man of Steel, I'm looking at you as the current culprit, but you were not the first). We'll see if it sticks; we may be seeing a more fundamental change in our views of Superman.

After all, the poster child for 'guns are bad' crimefighting -- Batman -- used to carry a gun in his initial forays.

The trick, apparently, is to somehow retain the core of the character's appeal, while updating it for modern (and sometimes even older) audiences, by bringing some surprising (or perhaps less emphasized) aspect of the character to the fore due to its relevance or impact on our understanding of the character.

Perhaps the archetypes are meant to reflect aspects of humanity that resonate in us; mirrors that need to be shifted once in a while to give us a better view of ourselves and our society.

And perhaps in future posts, I'll be able to deal with those through example instead of via vague theorizing.


  1. I consciously avoid "archetypes" from the comics...I find them rather boring unless a really clever spin is put on it, which is seldom the case. Plus using them tends to make games feel like knockoffs or playing in someone else's backyard.

  2. My remixed archetypes series is something along the lines of the TV Tropes sites approach -- identifying the archetypes and pointing out which re-used ones worked / didn't work for me, and why.


That's my side of things. Let me know what you think, my friend.

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