Ask the Readers: Keeping up with super current events!

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Yesterday’s post about supers and my very personal ideas an advice on the genre have generated some very interesting comments, and got me thinking about other topics. My, Ask the Readers poll is one of them, the other is this. Do I need to read comics to keep up with the latest trends in super heroics? Let me explain…

I’ve been an avid comic book fan for years. Since as far as I can remember I’ve collected comic books, when I was 9 years old I stopped collecting comic books in Spanish (with such characters as Kaliman, Memín and Aguila Solitaria) and began collecting American superhero comics in earnest. When I was in college I worked at a local comic book store and I still visit it regularly and get my comic there. The thing is, I only buy one comic a month Knights of the Dinner Table. I also buy all the Fables trade paperbacks, and on occasion trade paperback collections of events such as Civil War or Infinite Crisis, but about two years ago I stopped buying comics regularly.

I used to get a LOT of comics, and the decision to stop was not easy and had various reasons. I ran out of space to store comics, the stories had become repetitive and derivative (I know this is cyclical and inherent to comics) and the fact that comics kept getting more expensive. I still read comic related news, old habits die hard and all that, and my friend who works at the comic store keeps me posted. But even then, I sometimes feel like I’ve lost touch with the current events of the superhero world.

So I’m asking myself, can I be an effective superhero RPGs GM if I don’t keep up with what’s current in comic books? I have years of reading them and know the concepts and tropes well, but if I sit down with a group of comic readers will I be able to meet their expectations.

I know it’s a philosophical question… The argument may be made that other media have appropriated the superhero and are now exerting a greater influence on how comic book characters are viewed (for example the effect movies such as the Iron Man and Spider Man had on the comic version of the characters), but I still think that comics are the defining medium for the genre.

With the advent of digital comics I may just get back to reading them, the price point seems right, and not having to store a physical comic solves one of the major reasons why I stopped collecting. I don’t have the answer for this. What do you all think?

7 thoughts on “Ask the Readers: Keeping up with super current events!”

  1. I think you just need to keep reading, anything, in order to keep your repertoire sharp as a storyteller. I don't think you need to keep up on current comic story arcs, UNLESS you're running a campaign within those universes.

    If you have your own setting, who cares what Batman or the X-Men are doing right now? Even then, the big publishers have a hard time maintaining continuity and are constantly re-introducing their characters, so it would be hard to present their settings in a vision that everyone agrees with.
    .-= Mad Brew´s last blog ..Cursed Areas and Undead in Shayakand =-.

  2. I think the cyclical nature of the comics market, as you said, makes it fairly easy to stay relevant. I go down to the store and see something like Ultimate Crisis Ultimately and think that mainstream superhero comics have not changed much at all in the last 10-15 years…

  3. Since I enjoy both superhero comic books and running role-playing games, it hasn't been too difficult to keep up with broad developments in both. When I've run superhero campaigns, I often incorporate elements of major events.

    For example, even though players create original characters for my scenarios, there's a slight chance that they'll have to deal with the Metahuman Registration Act (Marvel), the fallout of a few famous vigilantes (and villains) returning from the dead or offworld (DC), and generational turnover in local/national/international teams.

    That way, comic book fans in the group are rewarded with some familiar plot threads and background events, but I don't follow continuity so closely that it's predetermined or strangles character freedom.

  4. It's not necessary to be current, only familiar.

    The genre thrives on tropes that are all too familiar and recurring, and as such all you need is to throw them into an otherwise normal story to make it work.

  5. Thanks for all the feedback!

    GeneD5 do you do your own take on those plots or pull them in to your campaign as they are in the comics?

    One concept I’ve adapted to some of my own campaigns was the notion that the Justice Society of America were harassed by the government as part of the Red Scare. I’ve used the idea on various campaigns.

  6. I've used a broad outline of the comic book plots in my superhero campaigns. For example, in real time, back in the 1990s, I used Marvel's Mutant Registration Act in GURPS "Supers," and in the past few years, the Metahuman Registration Act with D20 "Mutants & Masterminds" 2nd Ed. The debate between civil rights and security has gone back and forth between political parties and administrations (compressed for "game time"), and Player Characters have had to choose between getting governmental approval or remaining vigilantes and sometimes being hunted.

    The idea of the Justice Society or Invaders being forced to disband because of the Red Scare has been used in some DC and Marvel comics, as well as in "Watchmen." In my campaign, something similar happened to Golden Age teams in the 1950s. Many role-players enjoy occasional cameos of "named characters" from comics, but I try to keep the focus on the P.C.s.

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