There is no doubt that, once you create a shared universe, the Comparative Hierarchy exists. It doesn’t even have to be two titles. It can be just one title with more than one character. If you have a book starring, say, a detective, if you then introduce another detective, the question WILL come up in the mind of the reader – who is the better detective? Once you get to the point like the DC or Marvel Universe, it is staggering – as there are SO many characters to be placed within the Comparative Hierarchy. But you know what? I think it’s fun, and shouldn’t really affect stories. Character A can run faster than Character B who can run faster than Character C. Nothing wrong with that. It gives the fans something to talk about.
Where the trouble lies, though, is when the writer of Character C starts to be concerned that Character C is slower than Character A and B.
That way lies madness!!
It doesn’t matter if Bronze Tiger can beat your character up!
I like Bronze Tiger. I think he was used quite nicely by John Ostrander in Suicide Squad. Part of Bronze Tiger’s background is that he was a really good martial artist. Heck, that was pretty much ALL he had going for him in the abilities department. He couldn’t fly or lift a car or whatever. He could just beat people up. It didn’t define him as a character, but it was a pretty notable attribute. The thing is, as soon as Suicide Squad was cancelled, Bronze Tiger suddenly couldn’t beat up a single notable DC character.
And I think that’s just silly. Conner Hawke and Black Canary are both interesting characters. I think they’re both filled with a lot of depth of characterization – really fully realized characters. So why should it matter if Bronze Tiger could beat them up? At the end of the day, they’re still the better, more interesting characters, even if they might lose a fight to a character like Bronze Tiger.
But instead, it has become this status symbol that whoever is currently being featured get pumped up so that they are one of, if not THE best at whatever it is that they’re specialists in. It’s no longer enough to be an interesting character who is really good at a lot of things – he/she has to be categorically better than other characters.
And I think it is unnecessary. Writers should just concern themselves with writing interesting characters – it doesn’t matter where they “rank” or “compare” with other heroes.
Recently, Reginald Hudlin had Black Panther outdo Dr. Doom at building armor!! Building armor!!! What the heck is up with THAT? It just seems so…needy. Not only needy, it seems almost lazy. An example of telling, rather than showing. Like when everyone would talk about how The Ray was the most powerful character in the DC Universe…until Damage was…until Takion was….you get the drift.
So here’s a deal, writers, please just write interesting characters, and leave the Comparative Hierarchy to fan-discussions or message boards.