Location, Location, Location (Comic Book Gripe #1)

So I do have  few complaints about comic books, and this one below here is the foremost among them.

Why does it seem that the majority of comic books take place in major cities only, on the East or West coasts of the US?  There’s a hell of a lot of land and people between the coasts, so why aren’t more stories set in the middle?  Not like murders and crime don’t happen there, you know.  You think Batman’s got it rough in Gotham?  What about Captain Motor in Detroit?  You think it’s a cakewalk for that guy?  He’s been laid off from his job at Ford and now spends his nights fighting crime in a suit he can’t afford to repair and often beating up his former coworkers!  There’s got to be some interesting stories in that!  Or Mr. Zulu, dark-skinned defender of Birmingham, Alabama?  That’s a guy who’s beset on all sides, between racist cops, racist criminals, racist government. . .hell, even his sidekick is probably racist!  And while swinging through the air to arrive at a crime scene might look cool, it’s a lot harder to do when there’s nothing but trailer parks for miles around.  (Aside from that, seeing him swinging around gives the locals bad ideas.)

I give a little more credit here to the DC Universe, for at least having more than one major East Coast city stuffed to the gills with superheroes.  Gotham, Metropolis, New York City, Bludhaven (is that one still around?  I can never remember. . .), Washington DC, etc. . .but they also have an overprotected East Coast.  All I know about on the West Coast for DC are the Titans, and I know Aquaman used to be there but I think he’s dead (again).  The Titans spend a lot of their time traveling and fighting each other anyway, so I don’t know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing for the West Coast.  And, last time I read, I think Green Arrow and Black Canary were stationed in Seattle, but it’s been a while since I’ve followed them.  Besides, Seattle is full of potheads and occasional gun-nuts.  It’s an easy city to defend.  If they wanted a real challenge, they’d move to Tacoma.

As for the Marvel Universe, well, ugh.  How is there any crime at all in Marvel’s New York City?  There’s the Avengers, Daredevil, Spider-man, Iron Man, Dr. Strange. . .damn near everybody in the Marvel Universe works out of NYC.  But of course, there is the 50-State Initiative, which put a superhero team in every state, but come on – some of these heroes are so far down the list they’d be laughed out of the Great Lakes Avengers.  Maybe Texas doesn’t deserve better, but the rest of the states do.

All I’m saying, comics writers, is that there’s a whole hell of a lot of country – and therefore a whole hell of a lot of stories – between the coasts.  They don’t have to be backwoods hicks just because they don’t live in a city of over a million people, and frankly, it’s rather insulting that all the heroes ever seem to encounter outside of the big cities are backwoods hicks.

I will admit, it’s a bit more challenging to write and illustrate outside of the big cities, because you don’t have landmarks to go by for setting and you lack instant audience recognition, meaning that the writer and artist have to build a believable world for the characters the hard way, from scratch.

That, however, is the best part.  If you’re not challenging yourself as a writer, then you certainly are not challenging your audience, and without a little challenge and thought-provoking and breaking outside of the big-city box, you end up with, well, boring comics.

And nobody wants that. . .no matter where they live.

VS – 1.12.10

3 Responses to “Location, Location, Location (Comic Book Gripe #1)”

  1. You’ve got a good point. 2006 is the latest census I could quickly locate online; there are numerous states with a higher crime rate per capita than New York and California — Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, to name a few. Where are our superheroes?

  2. vagabondsaint Says:

    According to Wikipedia, Arkansas’s team of heroes for the 50-state Initiative (in the Marvel Universe) consisted of two people: Tigra, a former Avenger whose only power is being a giant bipedal cat, and Razorback, which is a pretty clear case of a writer taking the one thing they know about a state and playing it up as large as they could. (For the record, Razorback at least is an established character and was not created purely to fill out the team ranks. Also for the record, Razorback’s real name was Buford Hollis, his sister is named Bobby Sue, and things just get more ridiculous from there.) On top of the fact that Arkansas only had two team members, the actually somewhat useful one (extremely strong guy who can intuitively drive anything and builds impressive defense systems versus Catwoman-plus-fur-minus-burglary-skills-and-coolness? I’m going with the one who doesn’t require massive purchases of kitty litter) turned out to be an evil shape-shifting Earth-invading alien. The real Razorback eventually returned, though.

    Then again, Razorback, as trite and cliched an Arkansas-based character as he is, is still a damn sight better than Tyson Chicken-Man or Wal-Mart Lad. . .though, to be fair, those two would be far more likely to be villains, fighting against the rights of poultry and/or low-wage workers.

    Maybe that’s why there’s no Arkansas heroes – multinational corporations are way more dangerous villains than minorities with guns and matching jackets.

    And nobody wants to protect Tennessee at all.

  3. […] only place in the world that anyone could have a power-granting accident, and certainly NYC is not the most overused city in comics, movie, TV, and books absolutely fucking ever.  Other than that, it’s a pretty good story of a hero trying to deal […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: