DR #32: How and Why Superhero Teams Work, Pt 1

Dear Reader,

So, of the nine superhero movies that Google says came out/are coming out this year—assuming you count Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which you might as well—only three are NOT team movies.

Even the two that were direct sequels to a solo movie (Civil War and Dawn of Justice) were at least as much about the superhero team as they were about Captain America or Superman, respectively.

So I think it’s high time we took a look at superhero teams, how they work, and why.

Hero Team Pic 1

The trend started back with All-Star comics, one of the prehistoric proto-components of what we now know as DC. What started as an anthology of unrelated stories about unrelated superheroes having solo adventures was, within three issues, having those heroes MEET to have joint adventures (the first of which was sitting down and telling eachother unrelated stories about their solo adventures. I know, groundbreaking stuff). Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman were all in this, though the most important member was of course Wildcat.

This may have started as a cost-cutting idea. This was 1942, and paper and ink were expensive since they were being saved to be thrown at Hitler. It may have been something to keep the stories interesting while keeping the writing effort at a minimum.

Whichever it was, these superhero teams did set a precedent—such that when Stan Lee came along and began the first stage of his decades-long plot to cameo in every movie ever made, he started the Silver Age with team comic books like X-Men and Fantastic Four.

Hero Team Pic 2

Importantly, he did it with team books like X-Men and Fantastic Four that were NOT assembled from pre-existing characters. Each member of the Fantastic Four and the X-Men shares the same essential origin story—being Space Rays and Totally How Genetics Really Work, respectively—and so all of them make their first appearance in the first issue of the team title.

Hero Team Pic 3

This allows you to populate a comic book universe very quickly, in case you’re, I dunno, say, trying to quickly build a viable challenge to what had been the undisputed monopoly in the genre, the DC universe.

The interesting part is how the movies are following this world-building shortcut. We’re skipping solo origin movies for Vision, Scarlet Witch, Black Panther, the new version of Spider-Man, and apparently like half of the Justice League. The Avengers movies played the same role as All-Star Comics by establishing that “Yeah, Superhero Teams are gonna be a Thing, get used to them.”

Once the introductions are out of the way, teams are by far the more efficient form of superhero story. Why have a book about one guy when, for the same price, you can get seven or eight? For an industry with as high a production cost as movies, you want to maximize your return on investment as much as possible.

Then you can take whoever was a fan favorite on the team, and give them a solo title…

Hero Team Pic 4

Right?

Right guys?

Next time, reader, we’ll go over team rosters and what makes a good one.

To Me, My Readers,

-The Guy Who Wrote This.

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