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Willingham: “No more superhero decadence for me”

by  in Comic News Comment
Willingham: “No more superhero decadence for me”

Bill Willingham, creator of Fables and Elementals, and co-writer of the recent politically-themed mini-series DC Universe: Decisions, says he has had enough of “superhero decadence” — a term coined by Journalista‘s Dirk Deppey — in an editorial on the site Big Hollywood:

Folks, we’re smack dab in the midst of the Age of Superhero Decadence. Old fashioned ideals of courage and patriotism, backed by a deep virtue and unshakable code, seem to be… well, old fashioned.

Full disclosure time. I’m at least partially to blame for this steady chipping away of the goodness of our comic book heroes. In my very first comic series Elementals, first published close to thirty years ago, I was eager to update old superhero tropes, making my characters more real, edgier, darker — less heroic and a good deal more vulgar than the (then) current standard. Elementals was one of the first of what was later dubbed the ‘grim and gritty’ movement in comic books. And to complicate my confession, I’m still proud of much of that early work. At least my crass and corrupted Elemental heroes still fought, albeit imperfectly, for the clear good, against the clear evil.

He goes on to say that while he’ll continue to explore “gray areas” in books like Fables, the superhero genre should be “different, better, with higher standards, loftier ideals and a more virtuous — more American — point of view.”


The comments section of the conservative site lights up with agreement:

“I had no idea of your views beforehand, Mr. Willingham, but I applaud you for taking a stand. You give courage to fellow comic creators like myself who remain ‘closeted’ because of fear of backlash in the industry.”

“It all started going downhill when The Avengers were handed over to the U.N. and The Justice League of AMERICA got it’s name shortened. Is it America’s fault Belgium doesn’t produce comic books?” asks another commenter.

(Actually, they do — Tintin, and I hear it’s quite popular. In fact, today’s his birthday.)

“As for the meat of the post, I was buying a lot of TPBs for a few years there, but after DC went around ‘multiculturizing’ much of their characters (Blue Beetle as one example) I just gave up,” says someone else in the comments section.

James Hudnall, a former writer for Marvel and DC, as well as the Eisner-nominated Sinking, also comments:

The things that made Captain America, Batman, Superman popular for so many years isn’t just their abilities. It’s their moral clarity. For the same reason that Rorschach in Watchmen was popular in his own way. He was supposed to be some kind of crazed loon, yet he was the character who was proven right by the story. He was the one who really got what was going on.

People like the idea of characters who know what they are doing and have a purpose that’s positive. Too much of what left wing writers do is based on doubt, self loathing and a loss of faith in anything. No wonder comics sales are down.