Last year serial do-good-former-criminals was the go-to show. This year it appears that comic book heroes are having yet another hurrah.
Let’s start with the most obvious: right now The CW is putting out a couple DC-related shows, The Flash and the next season of Arrow. The Flash, starring Grant Gustin, has had a rather fun showing for its first season. This is a show that’s squarely aimed at a particular demographic, but it happens to do well. It’s a great watch, worth putting in some viewing time if weekly supervillains, witty writing, and light-hearted with dark rumblings fits your fancy. And Wentworth Miller (Prison Break) guest stars a few times, definitely a highlight when he shows up.
Considering Marvel is still doing their thing with Avengers 2, tying Agents of Shield into it, as well as the earlier-in-the-season Agent Carter (which was fantastic), Marvel is going strong. I heard Stan Lee has given his final official cameo, which is unfortunate but understood considering his age.
Which brings me to an old Spider-man comic I happened across. One of the early ones, in the first couple hundred. Stan Lee had his column in the comics, and I just happened to read this one from the 60s or 70s, where he informs readers he’ll be stepping back from the comic creation side of things to focus more on expanding Marvel. Then he goes on to tell how he wants more Marvel, comics, books, TV shows, movies. And it hits me: this creative man has seen his vision slowly come to life, and then expand more and more. What he outlined many years ago has come about. Sure, there have been times when comics were more popular, and there have been various TV shows and movies over the years. Nothing like the past decade though. It’s impressive, and really impresses on you that Stan Lee has been one of the most influential people in entertainment for a very long time.
So to continue with the comic theme, I found myself looking for Superheroes the past year. I checked through the animated section of Netflix streaming, and while there were the expected too-childish and too-pointless ones, there are some real gems that are worth watching even as an adult.
Young Justice, actually a DC show, combines fantastic writing and a great plot (season one) with teen heroes. Not teen versions of heroes, but sidekicks and other characters. It has excellent plotting and a great story arc, and is not in any way a gag show.
Iron Man: Armored Adventures is aimed at a slightly younger audience, but that doesn’t hinder it. It makes Tony Stark a teen and has a different animation style, but once you get used to both it stands out as having a strong plot and good writing. The characters also develop well. It’s a fun show, especially when there are so many others that try to seem fun, but are just repetitive.
Finally I watched the show, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Talk about a surprise. This at first appears to be more typical, but the writing, the characters, and the plots just make it great. Until the final ten or so episodes of the second season where Man of Action start writing for the show (MoA tend to be too episodic and aimed much more directly at children and weekly shows for my taste), and that’s where the plots stop and the episodic pointlessness begin. There is a follow-up show, Assemble, that isn’t worth watching. But the first season and a half of EMH is fantastic, and a string of interesting plots, characters that interact and develop, and arcs.
There’s something special about superhero shows, whether in animation or acted. They give creative freedom, making plots, arcs, and characters that exist outside the confines of reality. But the ones that are amazing are the ones that have all the fantastical elements on top of great writing, thoughtful storytelling, ultimately real characters, and plots that fill arcs. There aren’t many out there, but I appreciate that the comic book guys are trying harder than ever to make something good. It really is an old guy’s dream come to life. Now to see what this year brings.