Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wonder Woman and Superpower Inflation

I saw the Wonder Woman movie the first week it came out and immediately decided to write this post. However, between life getting in the way and the fact that I’m a procrastinator, I’m only now getting around to it. 

First off, let me say I liked the movie. It was fun and had plenty of action, and, unlike the Superman vs. Batman movie, mostly made sense. But something did bother me about the movie, something that’s been bothering me about superhero movies for a while now. 

Superpower inflation. 

Now I understand the writers need to keep upping the ante in order to keep people flocking to see these kinds of movies, and it’s certainly easier to make the good guys (and of course the bad guys) more powerful than it is to come up with more compelling stories. But for a guy who grew up reading superhero comics back in the day, I find this trend disturbing. 

I don’t want to date myself, but back when I read comics, superheroes had to walk three miles to get to work, uphill—both ways. Back then, Wonder Woman wasn’t a demigod. She wasn’t picking up tanks and throwing them. Being an Amazonian, she was stronger than most people, was good at fighting, and had a strong sense of right and wrong. But other than her magic lasso and invisible plane, that was about it. Now my daughter tells me Wonder Woman has been rebooted so many times that now she’s supposedly almost as strong as Superman. Sigh… Back when I read comics she was basically a female version of Captain America. 

Of course, Captain America has been getting stronger and more invincible with every movie too, so I guess it’s only fair. In the beginning, Cap was great at absorbing punches. In Captain America: Civil War, the characters were surviving 20 to 30 foot falls onto hard metal platforms over and over again with apparently nothing more than a few bruises. Everyone else on the planet would have been dead. 

And it’s not just that everyone’s superpowers are getting bigger, it’s that they’re gaining powers they’re not even supposed to have. In Deadpool, for example, during the final climatic battle, every character started out with different powers, but once the battle began everyone seemed to be pretty much the same, super-strong and super-resistant to damage, even if that had nothing to do with their original abilities. After a while, all the characters became interchangeable. And that’s the real concern. That all the superheroes will eventually morph into the same SUPER superhero.

I could go on, but I’m probably in the minority here. Maybe superpower inflation is necessary to keep the superhero movies coming. And more superhero movies is (probably) a good thing. And to be honest, this inflation has been going on for a long time. Heck, in the first Superman comics (long before I read them), he couldn’t even fly—just jump long distances. I suppose when they finally gave him his flying abilities, the Superman aficionados of the time probably railed against superpower inflation then too.

That’s my two cents. 

What do you think?



  1. I'm not well versed on super hero lore, so I guess I didn't realize this was happening. When Wonder Woman started throwing tanks around, I just figured that was what she was supposed to be able to do.

    I'm not sure it's necessary from a storytelling point of view to keep making superheroes more and more powerful. I think emphasizing a character's weaknesses and vulnerabilities can make for better storytelling.

    1. I hear you about not being well versed on superhero lore. I know much less about the Marvel universe than I do DC, so I don't know too much about Marvel super hero lore either, other than Spiderman, the one Marvel comic I did read.

  2. I grew up on DC and I remember Wonder Woman was always as strong as Superman. She was toned down for cartoons, but she was strong in the comics.

    1. That strength came after one of the reboots, after I'd stopped reading them.

  3. You are not alone. I felt the same. They also changed the mythology of some of the characters and Wonder Woman is one of them. That is the big thing that don't like. The change is interesting but not as powerful as the other IMO. I enjoyed the movies but they do not grip me for those reason.

    I guess it for cinematic effect and special effects that they keep doing that otherwise the booms and bangs would have to be in more normal range.

    I did not like the change to Wonder Woman or Captain America, but I did like watching the movies but I am not nuts about them or gungho with enthusiasm when a new one comes out. I look forward to it but if it doesn't I am not greatly disappointed the way I am about movies I truly love.

    When they first started putting them out I felt that way, now I am just ho-hum, oh good there is another in the franchise, guess I'll check it out.

    So they gain big picture wow, but lose a little love in my opinion for the huge compromise to character, story mythology and some the standards that made that character relatable.

    I think they could tweak the mythology a little for story but they take it too far when they completely change it or twist it.
    Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

  4. I suppose I'm at a disadvantage because I never read any of the comics. Or maybe it's an advantage because I don't have the backstory to see the discrepancies. But I do agree, the mashing of super powers until they all are the same is problematic.

  5. I agree. All these heroes are slowly blobbing into all the same, more or less. At least to me. I never read any of the comics, so... But all the movies look and sound and feel alike, with very little to distinguish one superhero from another. Except Iron Man, and that's all attitude + metal suit.

  6. I fear that superhero of last century comics is now the hero of thriller. Sigh.

  7. I actually have to agree a little. The problem is Hollywood versus Comics. It's bleeding BACK into the comics now (as you mentioned), but originally the comics were there for a story. You needed vulnerability to make a character interesting or relate-able, but for Hollywood it's all about big thrills and big smashes and no real tension. It's definitely something I've noticed and it's also something I'm hoping will dial back some.