Graphic novels and comics have been enjoyed by young and old for over seventy years. The medium has begun to see substantial changes in the new digital age. The characters have gone from a G. rating to a PG rating and in some cases rated R. The villains tend to be more villainous, the superheroes are more powerful and the relationship between the two has evolved.
Comic book universes became more cohesive as characters moved from one book to another in one sitting the overall story arcs. Ever since the arrival of writer Alan Moore into the comic and graphic novel universe, stories and subplots have become more sophisticated. This new level of sophistication have drawn the attention of Hollywood as more graphic novels are snapped up an adapted for motion pictures. Mainstream society has a voracious appetite when a hero is brought from the pages of comic books to a full length film.
Whether adapted for films, television or radio back in the 40s, comics have always been inadequately translated and recycled for popular consumption. It took time for technology to catch up to reprise the comic book hero. The digital age and a new crop of creative talent raised on comics changed all that; the new breed of movie creators intrinsically understood what was needed to make the transition from their love of comic storytelling. Having worked in the comics field as well as film and television, I was well aware of the boundaries and limitations placed on creative talent but I knew that a great many did not understand what they had.
In today’s world of comics and graphic novels heroes are born and often die in their own series. Heroes are sacrificed for the sake of big comics sales but as in every great fantasy epic, rebirth is always a possibility. Like a good Stephen Spielberg film, these creators know how to tug the right strings that cause you to feel for the characters they’re about to sacrifice. You are frustrated by the injustice of their death Evil may have temporarily triumphed over good in spite of the noble efforts of the survivors. Like any police officer or firefighter, these heroes understood the risk they were undertaking; the writers understood those risks as well and continue to play them out to the bitter end. On occasion you may even feel you were present when the incident occurred. Continuity of storyline also contributed to a sense of realism as characters became ill, got married, had children or lost loved ones.
We began to see subtle changes in costume design; the bright colors began to fade and even the cape began to recede in the background and in many instances were never brought back.
Unlike actors, comic book characters are ageless; they only grow old when it suits the writer. Another factor to consider is why the comic book industry changed the looks of their characters. Perhaps another artist took the reins of the hero or villain. Whether the change takes place to fit the expectations of a new generation or to conform with their cinematic counterparts heroes and villains now easily make the stylistic transition. Many characters have not only changed costumes but even races; they are unrecognizable when faced with their original design.
After many decades, comics and graphic novels have reentered the mainstream consciousness. Updating the look and storylines of comic book characters keeps the industry fresh and exciting while attracting new readers. The comic books in the twenty-first century remind me why I continue to read them. I had been enthralled as a young boy reading comic books in my bed. I read them as an adult and am just as captivated. I admit that the most consistent element in the medium has been the amazing imagination of comic creators and their ability to draw you into their world.