Friday, January 12, 2018

City of Defendors?

Funny that no matter Woody Harrelson's evident talent and his long and very busy career, his lantern jaw doomed him early on to be cast as a redneck, petty thug or other flavor of retard... like a dumb jock superhero. Defendor was just a logical expansion on his general career.

Incidentally, a long time ago, shortly before City of Heroes went under, I complained about its gradual loss of focus on clean heroics:
"It was greatly damaged by later attempts at moral ambiguity, mystery or real drama. There's simply not enough wiggle-room in the very concept of co-op PvE games to allow for that. You team up and beat on some bad guys. Good, clean fun. Morally simplistic as it is, that's golden-age superheroism, and CoH did it well enough at its start."

I seem to be supported in this general view of superheroism by the trend for superhero movies to flop monumentally when attempting to render their protagonists too morally ambiguous.

That background of moral simplicity defined pulp science fiction as well as comics back in the first half of the 20th century, but where SF stagnated and rotted in its "young adult" phase of space operas and planetary romances, comic books flourished, thanks largely to superheroes. Superheroes as avatars of tribal ideals are not expected to question or challenge the status quo the way a SciFi inventor might be. There's no "what if" involved in Superman punching things. He just punches things. Regardless of how admirably Alan Moore's Watchmen dissected the precepts of superheroism, too much of that level of introspection would kill a genre defined by action. Dark he may be, but even Batman's a knight. "Hard" SF revolutionized its industry. Hard superheroes aren't tolerated very long. It's a facile medium and genre.

So don't act shocked that Peter Stebbings and Woody Harrelson portrayed one of the most believable superheroes in movie history... as a retard. Admit it's a retarded concept to begin with. Getting into a superhero story means sending most of your frontal lobe on holiday, not asking how or why anything happens, imagining the character with whom you identify's blessed with perfect intentions and discernment to set upon the best course of action. You can't squeeze that much certainty into any brain cluttered by more than 100 IQ points. Intellect questions itself. Knights in more or less shining armor don't. Suspension of disbelief doesn't begin to cover it. As painful as it is to watch Defendor rehearse his catchphrases in the mirror and sputter them ineptly at incredulous evil-doers, it's quite in keeping with addressing passers-by as "citizen" and spouting lines like "I am the night" or "it's clobberin' time" with utter innocence. Superheroics excuse not only property damage, but overacting. There's an honest appeal in that.

Following City of Heroes' deserved shutdown a few years ago, quite a lot of its playerbase declared their intent to keep the dream alive. The central philosophy of such a project would have to be, as I previously remarked, giving players the creative freedom to define themselves as comic book characters, and this must include the right to dress and act like idiots. While the individual creations of Marvel or DC or whatever may or may not be dignified, a game universe meant only to feed players' own creativity can't take itself too seriously. Its aesthetics must retain a certain... goofiness, a light touch. Campy, farcical, garish, it must allow customers to build on the main appeal of superheroes over other genres. Forget all the big famous caped crusaders. Your customers aren't them. They're wannabes. They're Defendors, and a true spiritual successor to City of Heroes must provide the sort of atmosphere in which Defendor would play out his quest to bring Captain Industry to justice.

A decentralized superhero universe should be seen through Defendor-tinted glasses.

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