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The Dark Knight Changes Everything...

Posted On Sunday, July 27, 2008

With all that was going on with Arena Con, I didn't get to see The Dark Knight until the following Monday, an unforgivable three days late of its theatrical release. And while I might want to engage and lament about the performances therein, there's something else that became ever so prevailant to me as the credits wound to a close in that dark theatre; something that has rocked me to my creative foundation, changing the way I view comics and the stories told therein. As I'm sure we all know, the main theme of this particular oveur is "escalation"; how the emergence of the Joker and his manical antics of crime are a response to Batman's own emergence -- an escalation of the established force to fight crime and injustice in Gotham City (that's just the forefront form of the escalation theme and one that has been widely discussed with no sense of spoiling the movie, please see The Dark Knight for more -- it really is a great movie!). And in the aftermath of experiencing this epic, it was the idea of escalation and how it was portrayed in this movie that made me come to this conclusion -- THE DARK KNIGHT COULD BE THE DEATH OF THE AMERICAN COMIC BOOK INDUSTRY!

Big talk, I know, but let me explain. More than anything, The Dark Knight was a great movie. That's understood, but what needs clarity is that it's not a superhero movie. Or specifically, it didn't have a superhero story. Now what I mean by that, as I try to salvage whatever readership I may have obtained that is probably typing in some new url address, is that it doesn't fit the norm that has become the "superhero story." There's a simple formula to those stories -- the most notable trait being that the hero always wins and in most cases never loses. While that may seem like a bumpy contradiction, I assure its got is truths. Sure, the hero may suffer an injury, fail to stop the destruction of a particular building, structure or device. Even in the worse case scenario, someone close to the hero may die -- but these are only partial loses (and in the realm of comics, character deaths are often even less than partial and moreso seasonal) that serve only to strengthen the hero's resolve or position and allow them to ultimately triumph over evil. Its in this that The Dark Knight abandoned the superhero story formula (please see the movie to understand how -- I'm not spoiling anything here!!!) and instead opted to simply tell a fascinating and compelling crime-drama, perhaps the ultimate edition of your favorite Law&Order episode that just happened to have a "superhero" in it. And that's where death is gonna come from.

The American Comic Book industry runs fat on superhero stories. Its a hallmark of the genre where very few titles have ever ventured away from. But it's also a great bane to the industry where stories are no longer about whether or not a hero wins, but how. And with that being the crux of the stories, creators are forced to inflate their characters actions by coming up with wilder and bigger feats to all tell the exact same story...the hero wins, the bad guy loses and you're now out of $3.00 for your troubles. TDK shows us that it doesn't have to be that way. Or rather, its what showed me...but it wasn't the first instance, only the one that made it stick. There are enough story genre-types that "superhero" doesn't have to be one of them, that in fact superhero is a character description and by no means a story definition.

I feel a soapbox coming, so I'll leave it at this: I've been inspired to not tell superhero stories or comic book stories, just good stories, some of which feature folks with powers and capes...

Other notable 'non-superhero stories':

The Dark Knight Returns
Sin City
The Authority vol 1
Kingdom Come

There are many more, but that's a good start.

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