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An Argument for the Importance of Less Popular Superheroes

It is difficult to choose your favorite superhero. Most fans of any universe or mythology will immediately select the one that is the most well known or frequently seen in comparison to those that are perhaps a little less renowned. Nevertheless, despite there being a wide range of awesome superheroes within the pages of comics, it is always refreshing to come across one that, while not nearly as reputable as those in its company, is still brimming with potential, and, if ever given the opportunity to be explored in an entirely new way, can open new doors and offer access that was once left previously unseen.

Thirty years ago readers were treated with the rewards that come from investigating less popular characters when, in the 1980s, a British writer named Alan Moore, along John Totleben and Stephen Bissette, decided to take the character, Swamp Thing, a slightly hidden DC character, and transform him something refreshing and interesting. Sales skyrocketed and the reason for this increase was because of the treatment the character was given, which in the instance of The Swamp Thing, was the inclusion of several important changes made to the character’s origins and mythology. Now, one could go on and on about the things that the creative team did that made the character more extraordinary, but the most prolific of these alterations can only be attributed to the basic principles of deepness as well as the inclusion of mythic concepts that unlocked new secrets and took bolder steps that most readers would not have expected nor predicted.

The main goal when writing and illustrating a comic is to keep the characters featured relevant, interesting, and exciting. It is also to ensure that they stand for the same goals and principles that they did when they were first conceived. Yet, all of these parameters can sometimes be challenging to abide by, but there are certain creators who have managed to find new ways of accomplishing this, sometimes in tumultuous and highly challenging circumstances. Alan Moore and the artists behind Swamp Thing famously accomplished their goals because they were willing to do away with the fear of failure in order to create something that was truly original, and while a valid point of argument can be made that states that not everyone is capable of what Moore, Totleben, and Bissette accomplished, the attitude and outlook can, however, be applied to other heroes lurking in the forgotten pages of superhero encyclopedia. And if a creative team could transform a vegetable, compost heap like Swamp Thing into something beautiful imagine what else could be done with characters that are perhaps more physically enticing.

Imagine what other heroes carry the same levels of intrigue.

Recently I wrote a piece discussing the talent exemplified by the lone superhero, Aquaman. In my article I elaborated on his abilities as well as how he is interpreted now and compared to how he was examined him in the past. Nevertheless the reason why I wrote this essay was not just to express passion and admiration for the character, but also to encourage other people to think about how Aquaman was just one of many heroes and asked readers to search their own minds for the characters that they think are also being overlooked. Now, it is obviously unknown what conclusions people will infer from such a question, but what is known is how the dependence on legacy characters can sometimes allow for other characters to be ignored when they could possess the same potential as those which are given more fame and more focus.

This has become a growing question within the comic industry today.

Readers are aware that the determining factor when making sure a character is given his or her own book is how profitable that character will be. Thus, sales numbers has become an intensely determinant factor when popularizing others. Now, during the launch of the New 52 DC comics decided to give more unseen heroes a shot and released books that included Hawkman, The Blackhawks, Hawk and Dove, and Deathstroke. Some of these titles were brimming with potential, especially Hawkman who, after receiving a fair amount of publicity on The Justice Society episode of Smallville, was given the chance to step into the rogue gallery and see how he added up to other superheroes. And yet despite this, he, along with the rest of the characters featured in new titles, quickly fell by the waist side, with the inevitably burying of these new characters beneath a mountain of disappointment and missed opportunity. However, even in spite of there being a lack of success with these characters, the rising question was what led to the particular failures is quite proponent, which is…is there something inherently wrong with certain characters that disallow them from standing with others greats like Superman and Batman or is it a crisis of leadership, as editors and publishers may not care as much for the little guys as they do about the big ones that are guaranteed to make money? Or is the problem perhaps a question of who is in charge of the characters and what their intentions are when attempting to bring these heroes out of darkness and into light?

The answer to this question is subjective, but an underlying truth when responding to it is by based on the connection it shares with the simple principle that brings all writers and artists into the realm of comics to begin: passion and love.

This is the state of mind and this attitude that should be acquired when scouring the pages of the various encyclopedias for newer characters, and how they ensure their success should be the very same ideology that was exemplified by Alan Moore when he was given the reins of Swamp Thing or by Grant Morrison when he took over Animal Man writing duties back in the early nineties. One must believe with the utmost conviction and introduce new concepts, new ideas, and to never be burdened with the thought of failure, and since the character in hand is one that was once forgotten, finding a way for them to be remembered can only be accomplished through hard work, boldness, and above all else…a sense of fearlessness and pride, because in the end, if such risks are taken more ideas will begin to resurface and more dreams with come to fruition.

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Jarrett Mazza is a writer and teacher living in Canada. He attended Wilfrid Laurier University and received an Honours Bachelor’s Degree in English and Contemporary Studies as well as a Bachelor of Education from the prestigious Schulich School of Education. He is now in the process of earning an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College in Vermont. He has been fascinated by superheroes and stories for as long as he can remember and studied comic book writing and sequential storytelling from industry professionals Ty Templeton and Andy Schmidt. When he is not self-publishing his own comic books, he is working on his thesis novel, submitting short stories to publishers, obsessing about geek fandom, and looking for new things to read and write.

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