Tortured metaphors

Okay, here’s the thing. Imagine if the novel format was completely dominated by a single genre – say, for example, vampire novels. Ninety percent of the books published and available in bookshops and libraries were about vampires, and whenever most people though about books, they thought “Oh, those are those paper objects which tell stories about vampires.” There were some books that weren’t about vampires, and while these tended to win all the book awards, no-one read them except in France.

Now imagine this situation has been going on since the 1930s. Pretty much all the straightforward stories about vampires have been told. Although there’s a constant influx of young readers discovering vampire stories, they tend to drop them when they get older, and move on to more sophisticated forms of entertainment. The problem creatively is that while you can do a lot of things with vampires, the stories and characters never really progress. The vampires aren’t allowed to have a normal story arc, because their adventures are continual and open-ended. They face the same problems again and again, and may even die once in a while to shake things up – but like characters in Sartre’s No Exit, they always return to the same point.

Once in a while vampires become briefly popular with the general public again, but the interest is always based on hype and financial speculation – either Hollywood has just made an expensive film about a vampire story that people remember from when they were kids, or investors get very excited about trying to sell multiple-copies of the same hologram-covered vampire novel sealed in perspex. Writers will occasionally say “You know, I’d like to write stories that aren’t about vampires, because I’m sure you can do a lot more with 300 pages, the vast richness of the English language, and the infinite possibilities of the human imagination… but for some reason, there just isn’t the demand.”

This is how I feel about superhero comics.

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