Dennis O’Neil: Too Many Superheroes?

by Dennis O’Neil

SuperheroesI’m about to use a word that may be offensive to some, so if you’re one of them, I suggest you leave. You can make a ruckus as you go if you like; we judge here, but we do not blame.

Evolution. That’s the word, and now it’s out there. It may or may not recur as we proceed down the page.

The occasion is an item in Yahoo’s news site over weekend reporting that the moviemakers at Marvel and DC have their superhero schedule figured out for the next five years. Not all the t’s are crossed, but apparently The Big Two know how many superhero flicks they plan to make and when they’ll be putting these entertainments on a screen near you. And they don’t intend to skimp on quantity.

And I’ll probably see many, if not most, of them, so these are not the remarks of a disgruntled septuagenarian who wonders why nobody out there in that Hollywood makes Hopalong Cassidy pictures because, dang it, they were entertaining. But I can’t help wondering if there isn’t such a thing as too much, a saturation point, and if superheroes aren’t fast approaching it. (And in the case of guys like Superman and the Flash, that “fast” is fast!)

Then there’s television. I can think of at least three superhero weekly outings destined for a screen near you – the one in your living room – and my information is probably incomplete.

Bottom line: too many superheroes?

But that wasn’t really the bottom line because, while we’re in wondering mode, we’ll wonder if the superhero situation isn’t a small edge of a much, much larger one.

Consider these facts, culled from a New York Times piece by Daniel J. Levitin: we citizens are exposed to the equivalent of 174 newspapers worth of information on a typical day; over in TV land, the world’s video broadcasters produce 85,000 hours of original programming daily.

If you’re Joe Average, you spent five hours a day watching your living room tv set.

The brain fodder comes at us in the form of cop shows, sitcoms, news, commercials, stuff that’s playing in the background (but is nonetheless seeping into your psyche), and the books you read, and comic books you read and the magazines you page through,, and billboards, and bus ads, and Facebook and what that smart young fella down at work says…

Mr. Levitin tells us that “the processing capacity of the conscious mind is limited.”

Evolution gave us the ability to make narratives – tell stories – so that infants could began to make sense of all that garble by figuring out that effects have causes and grownups could discern patterns that might be useful for survival and construct personal identities and from there stories evolved into myths, drama, songs, campfire tales and commercialscomicbookstelevisionshow…

You can fill in the rest of the blanks.

Mr. Levitin deserves a direct quote: “Every status update you read on Facebook, every tweet or text message … is competing for resources in your brain…”

How about every story you read/hear/see? Any competition for resources there?

As is so often the case, I don’t know. But no harm in asking, is there?

You anti-evolutionists can come back in now.