Hello again dear reader and welcome to the second installment at an through and potentially controversial look at our favorite mediums of entertainment and storytelling. Last week we talked about how Shonen Anime did more damage to animation as a medium then it did help, this week we are going to talk about an equally touchy topic. How Children’s cartoons are a heck of a lot better at character development and world building then superhero comics despite the latter usually being aimed at a somewhat older audience. May sound silly to some but it’s true and i’ll explain why!
Superhero Comics are a mainstay in American media, and there is a lot and I mean alot to love about them, but there are also many many problems with the genre. One of the most notable seems to be a publisher’s refusal to truly let their characters grow and learn with their audience. Despite any social, political or moral issues a hero may be facing, the character themselves always seem to be set back to default every 5-15 years or so. In the current Tom King run of Batman there was a huge build up to the character’s wedding where he as Bruce Wayne was meant to Marry Selena Kyle, also known as Cat Woman. This would have been a big step in both character’s lives and could have potentially led to a whole new world of stories and development in the same way that Superman and Lois Lane being allowed to have a sun like John Kent has expanded the scope of the Superman books somewhat. However at the last minute it would seem DC chickened out and Catwoman rejected Bruce’s proper wedding proposal claiming it would kill the Batman despite already accepting his engagement proposal. This of course cause much ire amoungst fans *partially because it was leaked early* because it was a potential big move and development for a character once again being denied. This is the inherent problem with Superhero comics, they try to maintain some ridiculous status quo while still trying to stay relevant, which these two things are not always compatible.
This fear of advancement and stagnation of characters is also what keeps superhero comics from being as easy sells as they should. Whether it’s a hero getting married or dealing with their sexuality or sexual identity, adding a new character to a line of legacy heroes, etc, comic books never seem to go as far with their attempts to modernize as they can. Sticking to some ridiculous sense of static quo seems to forever make the golden and silver age heroes part of a constant uphill battle for relevancy as they often face stagnation and even new younger heroes are pushed to the side even if they do connect better with a modern audience then their predecessors.
Now look in comparison to many modern animated series and how it has developed it’s characters and worlds. In relation to weddings, Steven Universe recently had a wedding between Ruby and Sapphire, making it another children cartoons to have a wedding with major characters and one of the first to have an LBGTQ wedding with major characters. In fact Steven Universe has spent its entire run building its characters and worlds through the experiences and interactions the characters partake in. And this isn’t the only example. Shows like Adventure Time, Gravity Falls, Star VS The Forces of Evil, OK KO Let’s Be Heroes and My Little Pony Friendship is Magic/Equestria Girls have all had great moments of character development and world building by exploring the relationship dynamics of the various characters as also making the characters be more introspective about their own feelings and those they have towards others. Shows have covered things like Alzheimer, dealing with the loss of a loved one, puberty, how to use negative emotions constructively, same sex relationships, and the general paradoxically simple complexity of everyday life and interactions. Modern animations are so layered with emotional depth and maturity that so many other forms of media are lacking it is no wonder many consider this decade a golden age of televised animation. These series have also continually expanded their focus during the course of their run. Further developing their mythology, lore and worlds as they progress. It is almost a bit ironic as many modern animations do borrow some structural similarities from the comic book style yet actually take better advantage of it when constructing their story arcs. In short children’s animation isn’t afraid of genuine character and plot developments in the same way a super hero comics are. We are allowed to watch these characters grow, learn and evolve during the runs of their shows, with the closest comparable thing to a reset being when a series is eventually brought back years or decades later after the original ends, and even that isn’t always completely accurate as some revivals are more akin to spin-offs or merely comedic interpretations of other genres.
Again there’s a lot to love about both animation and comics, but as we are now, our favoirte caped crusaders to less to advance as characters as alien gemstones, talking dogs and magic horse girls.
Welp that’s all this time dear reader, so what do you think? What can comics do to improve on character development. And what’s your favorite modern cartoon! Welp until next time and thanks for reading.
Next time we talk about the more about importance of body language and facial expressions in animation!