Most comics have at least one character more interesting than the heroes. Here's what it would look like if comics were centered on the background characters. DC and Marvel will never be the same.
"Every hero becomes a bore at last." – Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Yes. I'm opening with a quote. But it's a quote by a guy named Waldo, so you can picture him in a striped shirt if you find that pretentious.
There. Does that make it go down smoother? Good.
Besides, it's true. After a certain amount of time, heroes lose their luster. Ethical missteps accumulate, continuity drags, and personality quirks that were once fun are either watered down to blandness or begin to grate on a fan's nerves. Nothing gold can stay, Ponyboy, and that's the truth. (I am piling on the literary allusions today.) The movies, tv shows, books and comics that strip down and re-examine the traditional superhero trope are beginning to outsell the trope itself.
As a reactionary, I say that you will pry my traditional superhero comics out of my cold, dead hands. As a capitulationist, I say please let me offer a few suggestions.
Murders Are Always, Always, Always, Entertaining:
What can you get if you like a good, old-fashioned murder mystery but aren't willing to listen to the legal jargon and watch extended crime scene technician montages? Not a damn thing, which is why the first two characters I'm suggesting would be a success. Slam Bradley is a hard-drinking, rough-living, tough-talking old-timer. Jason Bard is a guy who is basically stuck together with masking tape, both because he's the kind of honorable man who faces danger and the kind of idiot who was shown in at least one comic scratching his own head with the barrel of his loaded gun. Naked. No, I'm not kidding.
They're both private detectives, and neither has much regard for either technology or legality. Together they would star in a comic that's all breaking down doors and inappropriate relations with clients and absolutely no talk about residual heat signatures or torts.
Isn't it time that we, as consumers, stopped anticipating legal complications in our crime investigation and started anticipating good, old-fashioned sleaze? Isn't it time we just heard about the people at the lab doing tests on evidence instead of seeing it done set to a song by The Who? Isn't it time we brought back the old guy in a trench coat saying ‘Oh, one more thing,' before nailing the suspect to the wall? And then hitting him with another suspect?
I think so, my friends. I think so.
My Name Is Andy:
The old saying ‘tragedy is when I cut my finger and comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die,' really comes into play here. When last we saw Marvel Comics' Awesome Andy, the Android, he was feeling like this:
Andy had a bad week, and decided to go off into the world to find himself. He's an android who can absorb the abilities of anyone around him, so finding himself could be a complicated issue. I think of it as more of a marketing opportunity. Emo Andy, Punk Andy, Country-Western Andy, Ironic Jerkbag Andy; this is something that anyone can relate to. This comic would be a mash-up of Dollhouse, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, and My Name Is Earl.
I'm sure some of you are saying, ‘What in the name of god could save such a terrible concept?' This: The main character can do anything, anything at all, except talk. Except talk.
This doesn't just save the comic. This turns it into a potential TV show. Think of all the shows I just mentioned. Now imagine the leads can't talk. I can see the smiles on your faces from here. They're beautiful.
Sex and the Desperate Cougar Housewives Done Right:
If there is one flaw in the current crop of shows marketed to women, and there aren't, there are many, but if there were one, it would be that despite all evidence to the contrary, the characters are still treated as if they are decent human beings.
This new potential comic doesn't have that problem. What it has instead is fantastic crossover potential. Over the years, most of the heroes have picked up their share of floozies. From the banal to the murderous, said floozies have tried to lure the heroes away from their significant others too many times to count. Such stories tend to be uninteresting when told from the point of view of the protagonists. What we need is them told from the POV of the temptresses.
Put Cat Grant, Lana Lang (Would-be Mrs. Kent-Els, both of them.) on a team with Marianne (the ex-homeless, romance-novel-writing, flower-shop-attendant and Green Arrow lover), with Madame Masque (The Tony Terrorizer) and you'd have a pretty dull comic. You need something to spice it up, and I have just the person.
Namor. Admit it, an egomaniacal fish man really puts the spice in that team. The comic would still be irresistible. It would be like a sashimi cupcake. Everyone would know it was bad, but they wouldn't be able to resist. Go ahead. Try not to read. You will fail. This, I promise you.
The Best Office Ever:
Comics can't just be romance and murder. We need some substance to go with all of that flash. And where does America usually get substance? Why, we borrow it from Great Britain, of course. We've ripped off Jane Austen novels and Shakespeare plays, but when even those proved too much for us we moved down the culture ladder to television shows. The Office was a smash hit on two continents, but it lacked something comics could provide: sociopaths. Which brings us to the comic that absolutely, unquestionably, urgently, must be made: Wayne Enterprises Human Resources Department.
There are many rants on the internet saying that Bruce Wayne's money could prevent crime more effectively than Batman's reign of terror. Those ranters clearly choose to ignore what Bruce Wayne does with his money.
By night Batman passes out cards for Wayne Enterprises to prostitutes, junkies, and petty criminals caught in the middle of a suitably sympathetic crime. By day Bruce Wayne roams the halls of the Wayne sky-scraper, handing out college scholarships to anyone who looks like they might have the talent or ambition to contribute meaningfully to the company. But that's just day-to-day stuff for the long-suffering staff of the Wayne Enterprises HR Department.
In both comics and cartoons, Wayne Enterprises has been shown to have a Hire-A-Felon policy in place. These felons can be anything from reformed armed robbers to the guy who likes to carve a puppet out of the nearest available piece of wood, pretend it's his boss, and have it plan diabolical crimes. That's right. The characters in the HR division spend their time throwing going away parties for bright-eyed innocent employees going off to highly marketable places like art school, finding jobs for hookers whose marketable skills include being able to talk, and explaining the sexual harassment policy to a guy who is basically the villain from the Saw movies.
Add Steve Carell to this bunch:
And it's gold. Gold.