8 Superhero Tropes Too Silly For Live-Action (and How to Make Them Work)

By Eric Diaz in Comics, Daily Lists
Friday, February 21, 2014 at 6:00 am

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We're fourteen years now into the superhero movie trend that rules Hollywood, restarted in earnest by Bryan Singer's first X-Men movie. Since that humble beginning, we've seen comic book tropes I never thought we'd see make it into the live-action arena, stuff like the way the entire Marvel Cinematic universe has been handled, and soon time-travel in an X-Men film, a part of the mutant mythos I thought they'd never touch.

However, there are still some tried and true classic superhero concepts from the pages of comic books that haven't made it to the big and small screen, mostly because the studios would no doubt be afraid to even try to attempt them, for fear of being "too much" for mainstream audiences. Here are eight classic comic book/superhero tropes Hollywood has avoided as being just one step too far... and how to do them anyway, and make them work.



1. Mischievous, All-Powerful Imps

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Ever since 1944, one of Superman's most noteworthy adversaries has been the imp from the 5th Dimension, Mr. Mxyzptlk. It makes sense from a certain standpoint that DC would create a villain like this for Superman, a character who is constantly referred to as "God-like." Well, he's not so God-like that he can create things and change reality with the snap of a finger, and Mxy can, making him one of the few beings that can give the Man of Steel a challenge. The only way Superman could defeat Mxy was to make his somehow say his name backwards, because omnipotence apparently makes you stupid somehow. Mxy was so popular, DC gave Batman a similar all powerful imp character with Bat-Mite. Yet despite being a key part of DC's stories for most of his publishing history, there is almost no chance Mxy (and especially Bat-Mite) will make it into the live-action films at this point. The notion of floating little people in funny hats and bow ties is just not gonna fly these days.

How You Can Make It Work, and Make It Cool

Everyone just assumes that an all powerful God-like character is totally undefeatable; however the Star Trek franchise has done wonders with the character of Q, the all-powerful cosmic brat played by John deLancie. Q worked well enough they were able to utilize him across three different Trek series. If you make Mxy like Q, then it could work in a modern Superman movie. Ok, maybe not as a little person in bowler hat that floats around in the lotus position, but if you gave the character a total visual overhaul, it could conceivably work, and modern audiences could buy into it.

2. The Evil Doppelgangers

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A tried and true cliche, not just for superhero comic books, but for almost all genre fiction: the evil versions of the good guys. In some cases, it's literal, like Star Trek's good Spock vs. bad Spock from the "mirror universe," who taught us that all our evil counterparts have facial hair, or in the the case of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it's metaphorical, like the "evil Slayer" named Faith. No matter how cliche, fans of this kind of material love seeing their heroes go up against some kind of bad versions of themselves. In comics, the doppelganger tends to almost always be more literal; Superman has Bizarro, Flash has Reverse-Flash, etc.

As little as ten years ago, I would have said this is a classic comic book trope that we'd never see in live action, but I also said we'd never see the crazier time-travel aspects to the X-Men lore, or a full on Avengers movie. Almost anything goes now, possibly even including the good guys fighting evil versions of themselves and not coming off as silly.

How You Can Make It Work, and Make It Cool

Ok, let's say the Justice League movie happens. At this point, we all know it's going to. I imagine the League will face off against Darkseid in their first movie. Which leaves one to wonder..who can top Darkseid in the inevitable sequel? The easy answer is the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3, the evil versions of the Justice League, currently reeking havoc in the DCU in Forever Evil. Using the Syndicate solves so many problems from a storytelling standpoint - how do you top fighting an evil god? You fight yourselves! How do you save money by not having to hire a new A-list actor as the villain? Make the heroes the villains! It's such a no-brainer. Plus, every actor loves to play evil and chew the scenery. Of all the "far-fetched" comic booky stuff on this list, I'd say this one has the best chance of coming to pass.

3. Wonder Woman's Invisible Jet

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It's the one thing people love to make fun of the most when it comes to the character of Wonder Woman, especially people who don't know the character from the comics and only know her from television appearances on the old seventies TV show and Super Friends. And yet, it's a huge part of her iconography that general audiences might expect to see when the character (finally) appears in live-action in the modern era.

The biggest problem with the invisible jet is how it's been portrayed; instead of a plane with, to use Star Trek terminology, a cloaking device, everything in the plane is invisible except the occupant, making it look like a woman floating in the air, just sitting and steering. It looks really stupid, and I'm saying this as someone whose favorite character is Wonder Woman. Because of its reputation as one of the lamer parts of Diana's lore, filmmakers would be tempted to ditch it completely, as has been done in the comics in more recent years.

How You Can Make It Work, and Make It Cool

Despite being mocked on everything from Family Guy to most recently The Lego Movie, the invisible plane is one of Wonder Woman's most well-known pieces of iconography. Warner Brothers might be tempted to use it, because if they did it right, and just made it a kick-ass jet which simply has a cloaking device (making everything invisible, including the people inside, as it should be) it could redeem the entire concept. This isn't really a hard one to fix. I mean, everyone thinks Klingon ships are cool, right?

4. Luke Cage's Costume and Superhero Name

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When Luke Cage first made the scene back in 1972 as Marvel's "Hero For Hire", he became the first African-American hero with his own comic book. His costume, for lack of a better word, was a bright yellow blouse, blue pants, pirate boots, a chain belt, and a silver tiara. In recent years, the notion of Luke Cage having a costume (any costume) has been dropped, making him just wear regular street clothes as to appear more "badass". I think that something was lost when Luke Cage stopped being called by his superhero code-name Power Man and just started going by his real name all the time, and lost the costume.

Despite the fact that Luke Cage went by a superhero name and wore a costume for all that time, for some reason Marvel is now ashamed of it and wants everyone try to forget that their most prominent black superhero once looked and dressed like, well...a superhero. He just wears regular jeans and a t-shirt now, and Wonder Woman-esque bracelets for some reason. With Luke Cage getting his own series on Netflix soon, Marvel is sure to drop all those more classic superhero aspects the character originated with.

How You Can Make It Work, and Make It Cool

Because it's a buff dude in an afro with a silver tiara: who doesn't wanna see that? Seriously, I'm tired of every African-American comic book character having to look "street"- Superman is from Kansas; that doesn't mean his costume is overalls, or that Hal Jordan's look somehow looks like a test pilot's uniform. Luke Cage can still be from the hood, and not have to have a costume that is so on the nose as to be insulting and just looking like your average hip-hop artist. You can be more creative than that. Marvel, if it's not a yellow blouse buttoned all the way down, Power Man can have some kind of costume.

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