​You should check out these 2 alternative superhero comics

4 May 2016

Earlier today I went to the cinema for Captain America: Civil War. I had a blast. This latest Marvel Studios output had a host of colourful characters who looked great on screen (when they picked up cars and chucked them at each other, but also when they exchanged casual banter after dodging said cars). It had sincere and effective dramatic moments that moved the audience appropriately. The plot asked relevant and intelligent questions about the super-hero phenomenon. I hope you go see the film. I mean, it probably won’t be the most important movie of the year, but it is very enjoyable, it feels like the filmmakers who worked on it loved the material, and this kind of love resonates well.

If you’ve known me for a while, you might know that I’m a pretty big superhero fan, and I’m glad to see these movies succeed. While some fans are worried whether the superhero blockbuster genre will soon reach its peak and inevitably begin going out of fashion, I am actually kind of looking forward to the day (or year) that the genre peaks. On that day, the superhero idea fully saturates the mainstream audiences’ mindscape, such that everyone knows what every superhero is supposed to look and talk like, and everyone grows tired of the same old tropes. It will be precisely at this time, that the world becomes most prepared to deconstruct the superhero as mythology, to figure out what kind of satisfaction and dissatisfaction the superhero provides for society, to figure out how the superhero refracts and/or reflects the human condition, and perhaps only then, the superhero’s journey into pop culture will be complete.

While the mainstream movie-going audience still needs to ready themselves, superhero comic books have been exploring this theme for decades. Any fan of the medium will recommend you to read Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, and Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come for this very meta-genre meditation. While I hope you eventually read these seminal works, I will also suggest you to check out two more recent stories that don’t require any familiarity with the Marvel or DC mythos. These are superhero stories about superhero stories. They are quite different from each other, but share the characteristic of getting you hooked a few pages in, and after reading still leave you feeling like a hook is stuck in your brain. To entice you to find the books and flip into these first few pages, I can briefly introduce their premise.



The Plutonian, a Superman-like all powerful hero, had turned evil. He blew up his city. He murdered his previous superhero teammates. He’s flying around the world, destroying countries and wiping out everyone as he sees fits. The remaining few super-powered heroes on the planet had to go into hiding while figuring out why the Plutonian had this change of mind, and how they should stop him.



Seaguy is a superhero living in a post-superheroic world. He longs for adventure and excitement, but all evil had already been eliminated in the world, and there is no more jobs left for heroes to do. Depressed and under-satisfied, he watches cartoons all day and hang out his fish sidekick Chubby da Choona. The bizarre world that they live in seems to exist at a cryptic status quo. Everything seems fine, but while Seaguy doesn’t recognize this, the reader could sense that something about this reality had gone terribly wrong.

by Henry Sung

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