The GeeksverseEscaping the City

Escaping the City
Published on Thursday, October 11, 2012 by

The road has been a key part of the American mythology since the inception of this large country. Traveling works well in a country with as much elbow room as this continent. Not surprisingly it has been a part of comics as well from time to time. In fact, it might work better in comics on TV than trapping heroes in cities. Smallville, Lois & Clark, Birds of Prey, The Flash, and other notable television incarnations have featured comic characters. Each of them had their successes and failures. One of the problems each of these shows struggled against was having their respective heroes trapped in one area. It was an obstacle that needed creative writing to maneuver around.

Despite the small town title Smallville had to eventually leave the small town and head into the neighboring Metropolis to freshen up the story telling and open up options. Only so much could happen in the meteor covered small town before the stories were just absurd. Heading into the neighboring city allowed new characters to be “passing through” rather than just be meteor freaks that all attended the same high school.

Lois & Clark also made use of the large city drawing in people from all over—including outer space. Eventually the duo had to leave town to keep the stories going.

Neither Birds of Prey or Flash found the limits to their respective cities because their programs were so short lived. If the shows had lasted several more seasons each of them would have found the cities implausibly small.

Formulaic but less problematic The Incredible Hulk starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno as the two halves of the titular characters.  That wandering hero made use of the road as part of the formula. Banner could not stay in one place for too long so he was constantly on the move. Eventually he would have to lose control and then leave town. Each episode took place somewhere different. It is a good model and draws from that mythology of travel and exploration that is key to the American experience.

It is also a model that should be explored again. Too many of the comic characters on television have been trapped by the cities that they are supposed to save. Television needs another wandering comic character to be an accessible entry point for new viewers. It is a formula model that just makes sense. NBC’s Heroes used it to help make their set of Heroes global.  That also allowed the problems being faced byt he heroes to be problems on a global scale. It is hard to keep imagining a world wide problem when only one city is being battered episode after episode.

Superheroes need to escape the city.

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