Long one today. Be warned.
Occasionally, a new person comes into our game group, or I meet a new gamer, and when Invulnerable RPG comes up, people say, “I don’t like super heroes.”
I understand. Sometimes, I don’t like them either. I like good stories. And while there are a lot of cheesey stories in comics, a lot of creepy ones, and a lot of boring ones, there are a lot of good stories in comics, too. But the medium has traditionally been ignored as “pop art” or “lowbrow entertainment” or … you fill in the blank.
I’m gonna drag out the popular metaphor, here; myths of gods and heroes weren’t written for the elect only, the elite who had refined tastes. They were written for everybody. They entertained us, they enlightened us, they passed on the wisdom of the past in a way we would remember.
I think that most of every genre is crap. There’s a small percentage of works in every genre that’s truly good, and that small percentage is accessible to and enjoyable for anyone that gives them a try. It’s easy for me, as a guy, to make jokes about chick flicks, but there are a few that I’ve enjoyed, for example. I’m not going to seek out lots of similar films, but I can’t say that the genre is all bad.
The super hero genre is interesting to me, too, because it’s more a family of genres, all loosely linked together. There are certain almost-universal tropes; the characters are usually heroes, they often wear costumes, they generally conceal their identities. But you can tell tales of eldritch horrors, sci-fi cautionary tales, tense spy tales, sci-fi tales of wonder, crime dramas, romance stories, cosmological myths, Greek tragedies, … in short, almost any kind of tale can be told with the super hero template. Or to put it a different way, the super hero genre thrives on genre-bending, on crossovers, on radical experimentation.
So even if you don’t visit your local comic store every month, even if you don’t catch the latest episode of the latest super hero ‘toons each week, even if you go for days without thinking ‘What would Captain Freedom do?,’ you owe it to yourself to check out super hero stuff from time to time, on the off-chance it might be one of those hidden treasures.
And if you get invited to a supers roleplaying game, make the hero that will appeal to you. See what works and what doesn’t in the genre, and then make the genre yours. The archetype of the hero belongs to all of us; it is within us all.