Deconstructing Superheroes

by clementinepumpernickel

Writers and film-makers had deconstructed superheroes from a number of different angles, from exploring the psyche of damaged individuals who put on costumes, through to looking at the superheroes who just aren’t really suited for the job.

Zack Snyder’s Watchmen is a movie that I can return to again and again, a movie that is an uncomfortable collision between Snyder’s stylistic visual onslaught and Moore/Gibbon’s densely structured graphic novel. I had the misfortune of reading Sam Haimm’s draft of Watchmen in the mid-90s, but unfortunately don’t have it any more, having used it as toilet paper. This movie was not only leagues ahead of the draft I read, but also substantially better than it had any right to be:

This is also genius:

Of course, the excellent first season of Heroes also riffed quite heavily on Watchmen. All together now: Save the Cheerleader

Terry Gilliam, himself attached to the Watchmen movie in the 1990s, declared the Watchmen movie redundant after the release of The Incredibles (2004) from Pixar:

Megamind (2010) also playfully inverted/homaged the Superman/Brainiac mythos, and was under-rated on release:

Indeed, for a while there, everyone was getting in on the ‘super-hero’ angle, including the rom-com industry, and Will Smith:

You can just imagine the pitch, as Smith tries to convince some exec that the best way to make a superhero movie is to make him an alcoholic (‘how the f**k will we sell lunchboxes and toys with that?’):

This idea of ‘making superheroes plausible’ is — for me — the most irritating part of Batman Begins:

I think Grant Morrison sums it up best:

“Kids understand that real crabs don’t sing like the ones in The Little Mermaid. But you give an adult fiction, and the adult starts asking really fucking dumb questions like ‘How does Superman fly? How do those eyebeams work? Who pumps the Batmobile’s tires?’ It’s a fucking made-up story, you idiot! Nobody pumps the tires!”

On the serious-to-the-point-of-morose end of the spectrum, this film sucked out all the life and wonder of being a superhero by trying to make it all low-key and grounded in reality:

Thankfully, at the same time, James Gunn also played with the concept of the superhero, but nicely balanced the humour with a clear love of the genre. The Specials (2000) are like the local part-time football team: not ready for the big leagues, but you support them anyway:

On similar quirky footing, this show was cancelled after ten episodes, but was a gem:

Mystery Men(1999) also had a great roster of characters played by an outstanding cast, but could have done with one tenth of the budget, as it was over-designed and a conceptual mess:

But it was the British TV writers who have done the best job of bringing a ‘Garth Ennis’-style sense of humour to the question of real-life superheroes:

Misfits overshadowed the following show, No Heroics, but the writer of the latter is consoling himself by having landed the writing gig on Iron Man III: