Truly International Superheroes

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Ares
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Truly International Superheroes

Post by Ares » Tue May 19, 2020 5:29 am

So over in Jab's thread the topic of Russian superheroes is currently being discussed, and Grenzer had some interesting things to add to the Russian perspective on superheroes in general

viewtopic.php?f=14&t=8&start=20475#p103981
Grenzer wrote:
Mon May 18, 2020 4:58 am
Ares wrote:
Sun May 17, 2020 6:30 am
Grenzer wrote:
Sun May 17, 2020 3:20 am
Ah, the Russians. This is another group of builds that interests me because of my own knowledge of Russian culture and history.
I'm actually very curious about what non-US nations tend to think of superheroes, or what kind of superheroes they'd create on their own. Sometimes you get examples of it from the source, where Japan gives us Kamen Rider/Super Sentai/Magic Girl type superheroes, along with anime heroes with superheroic qualities and trappings, with My Hero Academia being the most literal case. Conversely, in a lot of European countries you're more likely to find comics about Donald Duck than traditional superheroes. And there's places like the Middle East where they don't really have time to waste on superheroes.

So knowing what actual Russians would think of superheroes and superheroic fiction would actually be useful when it comes to informing my own setting. Generally speaking I try to have the existing types of heroes be the norm, often just with more superhero trappings. So Japan's superhero community would look like a mix of My Hero Academia, Kamen Rider, Power Rangers, Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball, while Mexican superheroes would have more than a few Lucha Libre inspired heroes. I find it's equally important to include some stereotypes while subverting others.

Then again, even as I say that, one of my Russian heroes is basically Ursa Major meets Captain Atom: a metal werebear with crimson skin and radiation powers.
From a 21st century perspective, Russia's view of superheroes is that they are an 'American' genre. This is not meant to be an insult, but rather they associate superheroes with American culture the way anime and its tropes are seen as a product of Japanese culture, and would be hard to copy. This has no doubt hurt the development of a homegrown Russian comic book industry, but there has been some strides in recent years. BUBBLE Comics is the largest publisher of original Russian superhero comics in the country, and the characters there have managed to gain a degree of recognition and acceptance among young readers. BUBBLE is also trying to adapt its characters into live-action films and translate the comics into English to grow a global audience, although how well this will work out is very much in the air. At the end of the day, BUBBLE would be consider rather small by the standards of most American or even other European comic publishers.

http://bubblecomics.com/

And Russian comics in general tend to follow the European trend of being about adventurers and detectives rather than caped crusaders. I should point out though that Red Fury (Krasnaya Furiya), one of BUBBLE's main characters is essentialy Black Widow if she were written by actual Russians.

I could also write a post about certain Russian literary/movie characters from before 2010 who would or sort of could fit the comic book mold to give an idea of what that country's image of heroism is if anyone is interested.

He also added a write-up of what amounts to a Russian Sherlock Holmes:

viewtopic.php?f=14&t=8&start=20490#p104038
Grenzer wrote:
Tue May 19, 2020 4:26 am
Thanks for the positive responses on my last post. I will try to throw in a new profile everyday. Full disclaimer: I am not Russian, and while my knowledge of their media is pretty extensive, it is not exhaustive. I could very easily miss an important character or series and am open to corrections from anyone with additional knowledge.

On that note...

Erast Petrovich Fandorin: Created in 1998 by novelist Boris Akunin (one of the most widely read living authors in modern Russia), Fandorin is a master detective in the mold of Sherlock Holmes, melded with the style and themes of 19th century Russian literature by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. He is easily one of the most popular and important literary characters created in post-Soviet Russia, and a number of his novels have been adapted into theatrical films and TV miniseries.

Fandorin is by birth a nobleman (although his family is poor) and a member of the Russian Imperial Police. He starts out as a rookie detective in the Moscow bureau but quickly becomes a member of the elite Third Section (the real life secret police department of the Russian Empire before 1881), and matures into one of the government's most reliable and respected detectives until he retires in his mid 30's and becomes a private investigator, very much in the model of Holmes. Holmes even shows up in one short story as a rival, both he and Fandorin trying be catch the infamous thief Arsene Lupin. Also like Holmes, Fandorin's career spans many decades and he ends up getting involved in just about every major event in that decades leading up to the Russian Revolution, and even beyond.

In terms of abilities, Fandorin is considered very similar to Holmes. A master detective, he can piece together even the most tangential bits of information to figure out the most complex mysteries. He is a master of disguise, learned ninjutsu when living in Japan, and is more than capable of holding his own in a fight whether it is with fists or swords or firearms. However, violence is something Fandorin abhors and considers the option of last resort. His luck is so incredible it borders on being a superpower, and it apparently is a family trait that skips every other generation. Also like Holmes, he is a rather vain man who is concerned about his appearance and reputation, but his better qualities always outshine his flaws and he is greatly admired among his small circle of loyal friends.

Unlike Holmes, Fandorin is far more openly emotional and keyed into the events of the world around him. He is not under any illusions that the Tsarist government he serves is good, but the detective also knows that the terrorists and criminals he regularly encounters are worst, and so stoically completes his duty for the sake of the national interest and the common rule of law. Fandorin is also somewhat of a ladies' man, but his grief over the murder of his first wife makes it difficult for him to build stable relationships. All in all he is the idealized image of an enlightened and cosmopolitan 19th-century Russian nobleman who uses his natural gifts to benefit the Fatherland in the face of entrenched corruption and general apathy towards a just society. This ideal is something that comes up in the profile of many heroic characters in Russian literature, and will be seen again in future posts.

Read more at
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erast_Fandorin
First off, a thank you to Grenzer for his input, but also leads to an interesting point. Fandorin openly acknowledges that his government is a good organization, but he does what he can to stop criminal elements from making the situation worse. It's similar to how many American superheroes acknowledge that the USA isn't perfect, but it can become better if major threats are dealt with and people have the time to progress. Granted, the USA is leagues above places like Russia and China in terms of civil liberties and individual rights, no matter what some people say.

But this creates an interesting issue for a superhero setting. While the blanket term "superhero" tends to be thrown on anyone who has superpowers, a code name or a costume, I tend to differentiate superpowered beings into several categories.

1) Superheroes: These are the true blue costumed heroes. They do what they do to help people, they usually tend to have some degree of autonomy, the usually have secret identities, and they primarily concern themselves with fighting threats too big for normal people and doing what they can to help regular law enforcement and rescue workers in times of crisis. They are, simply put, good people trying to make the world a better place by giving people the opportunity to be better and lead by example.

2) Vigilantes: These are people who technically fight crime, but rather than try to work within the law as much as possible, they frequently ignore the law and do what they feel is necessary. These are the guys like the Punisher, and this group is populated heavily by anti-heroes. These are the guys who are less concerned with saving people as they are about punishing those they feel deserve it.

3) Government Agents: These are people, usually with powers and costumes, whose priority is to serve the will of the government they work for. While they can often have Superheroic or Vigilante style leanings, their main goal is to do be an arm of their government. A lot of Image groups like Youngblood tended to fall into this camp, and in these cases, how good or evil the group is depends not only on the government, but which sector of the government they work for.

Now, in my own setting, I'd want the vast majority of groups to be superheroes, even internationally. Every major nation on Earth should have an Avengers style government sponsored team, but it'd operate more like the Avengers and less like Youngblood. Most places on Earth should have some superheroes present to protect them, and the superheroes of that land should reflect it's people's thoughts on superheroes.

Some place like Japan has many examples of their own attitudes towards superheroes. They included traditional superheroes (My Hero Academia, One Punch Man) but also include their own flavor of transforming heroes (Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, Magic Girl) and various Shonen style anime heroes (Dragon Ball, JoJo's Bizarre Adventures). So you can easily imagine a Japan where you have legit Superheroes running around.

Woodclaw's given his own perspective on European comics, and from what I can remember most comics are more likely to be Disney style funny animal and Science Fiction books than costumed heroes.

But then you imagine a place like China. While it has a healthy comic industry, the vast majority are martial arts themed books, with the occasional foray into other media. A major problem is the Chinese government, which is basically a human rights nightmare, but since it has almost a billion citizens that can provide cheap labor and consume product, other nations keep sending money its way. On the one hand, however oppressively corrupt the Chinese government might be, the people in that nation have likely the same mix of good and bad as anywhere else. You can imagine that such a populace would produce superheroes. But would that government allow superheroes to exist at all? Would all "heroes" be forced to work as Government Agents, and thus become complicit in the atrocities of said government? Could you give China its own Avengers, or would the government only ever allow a Youngblood?

Basically, in a world where places like Europe and Asia had a similar superhuman population as North America, what would the face of the world look like? How would each culture shape its heroes, and shown by their real world fiction? And what governments make the very idea of superheroes hard to justify?

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Davies
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Re: Truly International Superheroes

Post by Davies » Tue May 19, 2020 7:12 am

Ares wrote:
Tue May 19, 2020 5:29 am
But then you imagine a place like China. While it has a healthy comic industry, the vast majority are martial arts themed books, with the occasional foray into other media. A major problem is the Chinese government, which is basically a human rights nightmare, but since it has almost a billion citizens that can provide cheap labor and consume product, other nations keep sending money its way. On the one hand, however oppressively corrupt the Chinese government might be, the people in that nation have likely the same mix of good and bad as anywhere else. You can imagine that such a populace would produce superheroes. But would that government allow superheroes to exist at all? Would all "heroes" be forced to work as Government Agents, and thus become complicit in the atrocities of said government? Could you give China its own Avengers, or would the government only ever allow a Youngblood?
I suspect China's superheroes would more resemble the X-Men, with a decidedly Water Margin influence, and that its official super-team would more resemble Freedom Force -- people who agree to work with/for the government but decidedly pursuing their own agenda in doing so.

Also, Champions 4/5/6E did rather well in portraying them as having a very large group, the Tiger Squad, who had heroic and villainous members who had to work together.

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Ares
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Re: Truly International Superheroes

Post by Ares » Tue May 19, 2020 6:44 pm

Davies wrote:
Tue May 19, 2020 7:12 am
Ares wrote:
Tue May 19, 2020 5:29 am
But then you imagine a place like China. While it has a healthy comic industry, the vast majority are martial arts themed books, with the occasional foray into other media. A major problem is the Chinese government, which is basically a human rights nightmare, but since it has almost a billion citizens that can provide cheap labor and consume product, other nations keep sending money its way. On the one hand, however oppressively corrupt the Chinese government might be, the people in that nation have likely the same mix of good and bad as anywhere else. You can imagine that such a populace would produce superheroes. But would that government allow superheroes to exist at all? Would all "heroes" be forced to work as Government Agents, and thus become complicit in the atrocities of said government? Could you give China its own Avengers, or would the government only ever allow a Youngblood?
I suspect China's superheroes would more resemble the X-Men, with a decidedly Water Margin influence, and that its official super-team would more resemble Freedom Force -- people who agree to work with/for the government but decidedly pursuing their own agenda in doing so.

Also, Champions 4/5/6E did rather well in portraying them as having a very large group, the Tiger Squad, who had heroic and villainous members who had to work together.
I always liked the 5E Champions setting, though there was some 4E bits that I feel should have been brought over (sue me, I actually LIKE Seeker). The Tiger Squad was always interesting, as the writers went out of their way to make clear that while the Tiger Squad was often adversarial to western superheroes and served a ... I'll be diplomatic and say ... "questionable" government, the Squad themselves were largely heroes who saved the day and helped people.

I could totally see Chinese superheroes being an X-Men like team that does good deeds while having to hide from their own government. It'd be a way for a world without the whole Mutant issue to still have that kind of team. It might even be interesting if the rest of the superhuman community vastly prefers the "X-Men" team because they tend to come off as more competent and generally heroic. To the point that maybe the X-Men-esque team is barely tolerated by the Chinese Government publicly, while still trying to get rid of them behind the scenes.

I could also potentially see things like heroes sticking to Hong Kong and Taiwan, but help China out in times of crisis.

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Re: Truly International Superheroes

Post by Davies » Tue May 19, 2020 8:26 pm

Ares wrote:
Tue May 19, 2020 6:44 pm
I could totally see Chinese superheroes being an X-Men like team that does good deeds while having to hide from their own government. It'd be a way for a world without the whole Mutant issue to still have that kind of team. It might even be interesting if the rest of the superhuman community vastly prefers the "X-Men" team because they tend to come off as more competent and generally heroic. To the point that maybe the X-Men-esque team is barely tolerated by the Chinese Government publicly, while still trying to get rid of them behind the scenes.
Though probably not employing giant robots to do so. That's more a Japanese thing. 8-)

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Re: Truly International Superheroes

Post by Ken » Wed May 20, 2020 12:26 am

In my own setting, the official Chinese "super-team", the People's Liberation Army Para-Force, is actually a branch of the military. The members have ranks and uniforms, not code names and costumes. That kind of individuality draws attention to the individuals. Parahumans are expected (read: forced) to serve the people.

Now, that doesn't preclude the possibility of a Chinese vigilante team of supers, but it does mean such a team is clearly outside the law.

It also means that the Chinese representative to the United Nations Defense Initiative (the U.N.'s team of super-patsies) is actually a well-trained normal, and thus exempt from the army's parahuman branch.
W: Professor Plum, you were once a professor of psychiatry specializing in helping paranoid and homicidal lunatics suffering from delusions of grandeur.

PP: Yes, but now I work for the United Nations.

W: So your work has not changed.

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Re: Truly International Superheroes

Post by saint_matthew » Wed May 20, 2020 3:00 am

Ares wrote:
Tue May 19, 2020 5:29 am
So over in Jab's thread the topic of Russian superheroes is currently being discussed
LOL, irony abound. I just finished doing a Russian superhero thing, writing an event day module for later in the year, set in Siberia, with The Protectorate (my settings equivalent of the Winterguard).

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