by Matt Russell - Posted 2 weeks ago
Welcome my CryptoComics Compatriots. Today I wanted to break down some typical backgrounds with comics. Not all comics revolve around superheroes. Those that do, follow some simple troupes of being either from the Gods category, Hero, or a Monster. Today we will break down those archetypes to see what makes each tick.
As a writer, I have spent countless hours doing research on this. I’m presenting a condensed version of this here for you so you don’t have to spend as much time at the library as I did. Hopefully, this will make your writing a little bit better.
Although the perception of comics is that they are “funny books” (made for kids), or superhero books, that isn’t typically the case. According to Forbes only about 10% of comics are actually “superhero” in nature.
This perception is mainly due to mainstream comics (Marvel, DC, Image) being superhero-centered. I personally can’t deny the appeal of stories about Spider-Man learning responsibility, or Superman inspiring a nation, or Batman seeking to protect a city gone bad.
Most of these “superhero” titles fit into 1 of 3 smaller archetypes; Gods, Heroes, & Monsters. Let’s take a deep dive into these types today.
Mythology is the traditional stories from various cultures. They are designed to teach us life lessons and explain some various heavy topics such as “What happens after we die”, “How did the Universe come to be”, or finally “Why are we here”.
We get a real sense of the people from our past. We see the history of mankind. We learn so much from either the stories or learn more about ourselves due to our reactions and what personas we gravitate towards.
Since most early mythology is passed down from person to person through the spoken word, we have lost many of the tiny nuances from the original telling. This is not taking away from those who have dedicated their lives to memorizing and retelling these pivotal stories.
The problem with this is that each story is told through the lens of what would have been modern times for these storytellers. Little changes were made throughout time in order to allow it to relate to their lives.
Now we get to see exactly how all these beings relate to comics!
Warning: this is not a blog post about the validity of God(s) or an exploration into Religion VS Atheism. This is just an article explaining the origin of some characters within this archetype. Nothing more.
There are some that are obvious characters from the mainstream comics such as Thor, and Ares but what about some other heroes?
Typically, these gods come from the various Polytheism groups of gods that have since moved primarily into mythology such as Greek, Roman, or Norse (thanks to Marvel). What about other regions with diverse groups of their own gods?
Several regions such as the American Great Plains, Chinese, Egyptian, Persian, and Indian/Hindu have provided some absolutely amazing characters and mythology of their own.
Not all heroes in this category are gods themselves. Many of these characters are gifted powers and abilities from such gods. This is where it gets a little muddy as we start crossing the line between the god’s realm and the hero category. Due to their divine origins, we can still place them firmly in the gods' stages.
Take a look at the Mike Baron title Offworlder. We get such a great look into the mythology of Ananaki who was the deity from Sumerians and Babylonians. Our main focus is firmly told through the eyes of 7th century Scotland King Henry.
Aided by the Egyptian goddess Sa’Ra, Henry Gunn undergoes a hideous transformation becoming something other than human, able to move through time and space at will, yet unable to save his wife and child. The fate of civilization rests on the shoulders of a troubled demi-god. - Taken from the Offworlder description.
This one seamlessly combines Eqyptian, and Sumerian while also mentioning in Christian as well as an alien invasion. This, of course, is not to be taken as gospel, but as a fun Asgardian-like story.
Now, there are a few comics that look at modern Christian stories as a place to start from, in the same way that Marvel looked at Thor. This is nothing new, even in the mainstream.
We have plenty of heroes and villains coming out of religious texts such as Zauriel (a former member of the Justice League and hero of the city Los Angeles.
Marvel Comics had their own as well in the form of Mitra. Image Comics had Birthright and so on. This is nothing new.
StarCross Comics came out with Tribulation Taskforce. This comic is told through the eyes of Grok and is mentored by the Apostle John (who is still alive in this series). This is a superhero comic told through the lens of religion.
This does not translate directly into a Christian comic where the author is actively preaching from the King James Bible, although it is mentioned. You just have to like superheroes in order to enjoy these books.
As you can see, there is a difference between a Spiritual title and a comic that starts off with a Religious background.
Monsters in comics have a long and rich history. Sadu-Hem from Darkhorse, Morbius the Living Vampire (Marvel Comics) Man-Bat (DC Comics) all got their start on the printed page. One of the original monsters from comics is Fing Fang Foom from Marvel (who will someday appear in a Marvel movie, if we’re lucky).
They were at a time, banned from comics due to the Comic Code Authority. Eventually, new comics bypassing the CCA (Comic Code Authority) such as Man-Thing, Deadman, Spider-Man, & Green Lantern/Green Arrow were able to point out flaws in the CCA logic which led to the eventual downfall of the Government Oversight in comics.
Monsters eventually made a triumphant return to the pages.
One of my absolute favorite comics out there today is from the TV Personality Andrew Shayde titled “Monsters Among Us”. This title is all about the isolation and brutality of the treatment of various monsters such as the Yheti, witches, Mothman, and so on.
These “Monsters” now decide to fight back after escaping from their prison and it is glorious. Action scenes are beautifully drawn by Levy Zimer and inked by Silvio Spotti. Produced by TidalWave Productions, this series is AMAZING!!!
Comics such as Flesh and Spirit (also from TidalWave) perfectly illustrate the fact that just because a character is considered a monster, does not necessarily mean that the main character is considered a “Creature”.
Typically a creature (a subset of monster-type) is a disfigured being of some kind. They can be humanoids (Zombies), trees (Groot), symbionts (Venom), and so on. One of my personal favorites is Etrigan from DC Comics.
One of my personal fav creatures is a toss-up between Dionysis from the Metalcult series, or the more wholesome Sammy the Bean. Oh, but there is also Corn Dog. Damn, it’s so hard to choose. They are all just so fun.
Here is where all the lines truly blur. The typical hero is the main central character of a story. It truly doesn’t matter what their origins are, or if they are perceived as a monster/creature.
For this post, we are mainly going to focus on humanoid superheroes. What makes them extraordinary, what makes them take the hero’s journey?
Let’s first look at MusicMaker. Our hero is Judah Morley, who for lack of a better word, is a drug addict. He must overcome his personal issues in order to save kids from a Serial Killer who kills in broad daylight.
Now, what makes MusicMaker so unique (besides the AMAZING soundtrack and beautifully rendered artwork) is that our hero starts off in the lowest places in life and must rise above. Most Hero's journey begins with the simple call to action, not the pick yourself back up.
Take Luke Skywalker for example; when he was on Tatooine he heard the call to action; Leia’s message for Ben Kenobi, but decided to stay and help his aunt and uncle. This completes the second step “Refusal of the Call.”
It isn’t until he receives the Supernatural Aid from a former Jedi Knight in the form of a LightSaber that he is able to take the next step of Crossing the Threshold by meeting Han & Chewie and taking the Falcon out for a spin.
What would have happened if Luke started out as a drug-fueled musician? It would have been a completely different movie had we first been introduced to Luke in the Cantina as a spice-addicted drummer.
What is so cool about MusicMaker is the fact that it pulls off the redemption so early and seamlessly. You can relate to Judah on some fundamental level. You grow to love this character and root for him.
We start off in Sayonara getting introduced to a very eclectic cast such as Taeru, Naia (ok, she could be qualified as a creature due to the fact that she is a Nenruan), and Edith. Taeru has such a sorrow-filled backstory as opposed to the light-hearted Naia who is addicted to the game Candy Crash.
Everything about this amazing comic draws you into their lives. They become both relatable as well as the hero archetype that is designed to give you something to aspire to.
Beautifully drawn by Chad Hardin, I dare you to zoom in on all the crazy details that he puts into each book. For example, the tattoos on Julius Snider. They get crazy.
As I have alluded to, there are several types of hero archetypes. Let’s break them down one at a time; starting with my personal favorite; the Classical or Romantic Hero. No this doesn’t mean Romance.
These are the everyday people who happen to have a specific talent that best suits them for the job. Think about Harry Potter. Without the mark and his parentage, what sets him apart from the other school children at Hogwarts; nothing other than his ability to play Quidditch.
Victor Frankenstein is another such hero. If it weren’t for his intellect, there would be no story other than a guy who goes around robbing graves. Gross.
This one closely resembles the Classical Hero. This is an ordinary individual which the audience can relate too with no outstanding qualities. When thrown into extraordinary circumstances, they must act accordingly and rise to the occasion. Think about Ash from the Evil Dead series.
This is the ill-fated protagonist who let their flaw consume them, or lead to their downfall. Romeo, Macbeth, and the Devil are all examples of this.
Bruce Wayne is a perfect example of this type of hero. They are heroes of tragedy who possess a sense of justice and heroism. Their fortune is typically brought about by their admired characteristics, although in Bruce’s case, his fortune aids his heroism.
This is when a hero’s motivations or methods more closely resemble the villain of the story. They will try to do right, by any means necessary. They are typically not viewed with admiration but scorn from other heroes, although their stories can be quite compelling.
Comics are littered with these stories and characters ranging from Wolverine & Punisher (Marvel) to the Suicide Squad over in DC Comics. One only needs to take a quick peek over at Kickstarter to see that Indy Comics love a good Anti-Hero. Just check out the aforementioned Flesh and Spirit.
I typically write a bunch of tutorials based on art techniques, so it is refreshing to get back to my roots and write about writing. Expect to see more of these coming your way. This doesn’t mean that I am done writing those tutorials on art, I will just be sprinkling more on writing.
Until next time, chime in with some of your favorite stories and lets see how they fit into these narratives that we mentioned here today. Stay safe and keep writing.