A dim haze fills the room, glowing intermittently with a deathly pale light. Putrid smoke clotted into desperate lungs racked with stress and pain. Too many ardent screams; not enough restitution. Hero had been here before, backed into this catastrophe far outpacing his abilities. He knew he wasn’t capable of gaining victory, yet he went in anyway. And he failed. Sidekicks? Fallen. Former partners? Deceased. Enemies? Hiding far away. The source of all this misery and chaotic destruction? Disabled. Hero lay broken and bleeding on the floor, barely held alive by the knowledge of her seeming win. But even deeper in her mind, she felt a small tickle. A mocking embrace of recollection almost.
This had all happened before.
As a matter of fact- this is ALL that seemed to happen lately. Hero had slowly gained worthy prominence through a myriad of complex trials, rivaling even the profound exploits of Hercules himself. Hero’s entire legacy rested upon an intertwining saga of deceptively simple fountaining layers. But now…
Now, there’s only monsters.
This, dear reader, is the Monster Theory.
When creative character and story development wanes, lob a monster into the fray to allegedly raise the stakes.
At first this practice was fairly uncommon- or I was just blind to it in my zealous passion for superheroes and mythology. Yet I seem to see it increasing more and more from the mainstream creative outputs. Mind you, these are not legend stories like Lord of the Rings where monsters are par for the course. These are regular, every day superheroes- so called legacy characters that we are all familiar with.
Throwing monsters in randomly.
Let us be clear- I am a hardcore DC Comics fan and love all of their properties. However, it is the execution of said properties which is sometimes cringe worthy.
Currently there is a four way alien cross over event between all of DC’s CW shows: Supergirl, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Arrow. It’s your typical alien invasion, featuring tongue in cheek xenotypes known as The Dominators, that requires the combined efforts of our veritable Justice Society in order to overcome it. It all sounds very well and dandy, but I have just one question…
With a noticeable lapse in storyline cohesion, character portrayal, and overall enchantment with each fantastical world- why monsters? Why is that the go to?
DC also did that in a crossover event via three of their comic book Rebirth titles; Batman, Batman Detective Comics, and Nightwing.
But it’s not just DC.
Marvel has thrown a monster into an underdeveloped plot on multiple occasions.
Once Upon a Time did it too.
Even Star Wars adopted a version of this to sell their film.
Going back to DC Comics for half a second- you know the REAL reason Batman v Superman didn’t do so well? Because they employed the Monster Theory on the very highest levels. It wasn’t a movie about heroes- it was a movie about monsters. Superman a monster, Batman a monster, Lex a monster, Doomsday a monster… blah, blah, blah, everyone’s a monster. Boo.
Nobody wants to see that. The reason that Frank Miller’s graphic novel depiction of this seminal duel between Batman and Superman was such a cult hit is because it was actually about HEROES. It examined heroism on a fundamental level- the elements of monster-ism and who became what, were only a part of the tale. Not the tale itself.
Numerous ranks of mainstream content turn to monsters as the solution to story, but the fact is… without story, monsters are useless. The only reasons monsters work is because they present a threat. The only reason they present a threat, is because there’s something in legitimate danger of being lost. The only reason there’s legitimate danger for loss, is because the story is creatively and strategically woven. But all of this starts with having a good story, well executed. Without story… the monsters are just holograms on main street.
Because it’s not just the characters who depend on the story for survival- it’s the audience too. Telling a story is like strapping a person onto a virtual reality roller coaster. It jerks, it spins, it twirls upside down, but the rider is completely engaged with the scene unfolding before their eyes through the goggles. The activity of the roller coaster only serves to heighten the experience of the virtual reality. Which means that the rider has nearly totally forgotten that they’re riding a roller coaster to begin with.
This isn’t a diss to anybody. This isn’t hate or spiteful vitriol. This isn’t a keyboard warrior fan on a rampage. This is relationship. We love you- all of you. We just want you to do better, to be better, because you ARE better.
Stop throwing us monsters for no reason. We still know we’re on a roller coaster. Tell a better story. Maybe find better writers or editors or even fresh idea generators. Don’t be boxed in by your successes or titles of experts. Don’t be afraid of this fictive world you’re crafting. The reality may only be virtual, but- done properly- it will still be real.
Give us a solid story, well executed…
And the monsters will be more than welcome.