Sequential Underground #32 – The Superhero Virus

Sequential Underground

A conversation so

that it can’t be summed up with only a few small words

Tom Scioli joins Shawn Atkins and Nick Marino to discuss indie comics, superheroes, artistic expression, and tons more.

Here’s Tom’s trailer for the American Barbarian print collection:

ALSO: Indie comics vs. superheroes (debunked!), ballpoint pens vs. art teachers (grudge match!), and novels vs. comics vs. movies (0-1-0).

6 Responses to “Sequential Underground #32 – The Superhero Virus”

  1. 1 nick marino

    I didn’t really get around to saying much about this during the episode, but most of my favorite superhero stuff tends to be indie superhero comics. Dynamo 5, TMNT, G-Man, The 99, Shadoweyes… the list goes on and on!

  2. 2 ross


    anyway, awesome episode! i really dug this one. Marcus/Nicholas Almand was saying to me that the Comics Code was a big reason why superheroes took over like they did, i was hoping he'd show up here and comment himself, maybe he still will. anyway just throwing that out there.

    i'm not sure i have anything significant to add to any the stuff you guys talked about. except i'm sort of the opposite of you, Nick, i don't really care for the culture around/in comics, but i like working in the medium and think my stuff is best suited to comics.

    i don't think i can say why superheroes are so pervasive, i think Marcus's Comics Code thing is a good theory but that only covers one possible facet, i feel like it's too big to wrap my head around. i think there's gotta be something about most superhero characters feeling "important" to the readers, like Batman "matters" in some way; it's something about the illusory appeal of doing the right thing or being on the "winning" side even when the reader/fan might not do the right thing or be on the "right" side themselves; something about the superhero having a characterization, both personality and visual, that is easy to latch onto, they all tend to have easily-definable traits, costumes, and codenames that make them specific rather than characters that look like regular people or have regular person names (this can also often apply to Nick's idea of non-superhero "super people" type stuff); something about many superheroes not even being really true characters at all, like Spider-Man or Batman are almost more narrative devices or themes at this point than real characters and there's something about that broadness that i think makes it easy for people to relate to them and insert various personal meanings into them... i don't know. very complex.

    i'm pretty superheroed out right now, personally, but i think it's more burn-out from the usual superhero tropes that most people seem to use than the genre itself. i really like Tom's Superhero Virus idea, that's pretty cool.

  3. 3 Brian John Mitchell

    I think one of the reasons comic books can be more experimental than films or novels is the length of time it takes both to create & consume them. When you invest a lot of time (& in the case of mainstream work, money) into something, you want it to be something folks will enjoy & like (& recoup expenses). I’m a real fan of experimental music, film, & fiction but when any of those start to take more than 30 minutes to consume I start to feel fatigued & lose interest.

  4. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    Nik Furious instrumental music

  5. 4 nick marino

    @Ross: I think you’re right about how characters like Batman and Spider-Man are now more akin to narrative devices or themes as opposed to characters with distinct personalities. Reading some of Steve Ditko’s modern work, I get the feeling that’s part of the reason why he felt the need to separate from the property, because he saw the character as a very distinct type of person whereas Stan saw it as an opportunity to tell the stories he wanted to tell and sometimes that meant making the character more malleable in terms of personality. Maybe I’m reaching by saying that, but it’s my current interpretation of the situation.

    Personally, I don’t see how you couldn’t love the storytelling culture of comics. Granted, the convention culture isn’t necessarily my favorite, and the current meme/fan art explosion is a bit much for me, but I adore the insanity of the storytelling tropes in comics. Weird origins, unexplained events, breakneck storytelling speeds, bizarre character abilities, shocking and challenging situations… the list goes on and on for me. All that type of stuff is highly encouraged in comic book storytelling in a way like no other, except for maybe for animation.

    @Brian: Good point. I agree that it’s much easier to digest an experimental comic than an experimental film. I’ve never read an experimental novel (save for maybe A Scanner Darkly, which wasn’t that experimental in my mind), so I can’t speak to that. But I definitely would rather be an interactive participant who controls the speed of an experimental story rather than become a passive viewer of something experimental.

  6. 5 ross

    @Nick: i don’t know, i don’t find the storytelling tropes in comics, at least superhero comics, all that insane or bizarre, to me it all seems too conventional or even incompetent. maybe i’m just not reading/haven’t read the right ones. it’s interesting in itself that this sort of storytelling is so encouraged in comics, i like that, but the storytelling and techniques themselves i find kind of boring, there’s too much zany for zany’s sake in comics or something that it ends up seeming gimmicky and trite, i don’t know. and i definitely can’t think of a comic i’ve read in a while that has anything shocking or challenging in it…

    i definitely know what you mean, though, something like Ninja Turtles for example never would’ve happened in film or prose, i don’t even know if it would’ve happened in animation if there hadn’t been the comic first. and some of my favorite comics have stuff in them that i couldn’t see appearing in any other medium, but they’re few and far between.

  7. 6 nick marino

    @Ross: I think the zany for zany’s sake thing gets kind of tedious, but I still prefer it over the tropes in film (I don’t know much about the tropes in prose).

    I can’t speak for specifically shocking or challenging stories, but on the whole I find the storytelling in comics much more imaginative and inventive than other mediums, and I find interesting examples almost every time I read a new comic.

  8. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    Dinogeddon webcomics

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