Tensions Between Tradition and Innovation in Kingdom Come and The Avengers

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David Rodgers


Our contemporary cultural climate is shaped in large part by superheroes and our interactions and thoughts on superheroes. Joss Whedon’s 2012 film The Avengers is a great example of how one film about superheroes would become one of the highest grossing films of all time. The Avengers is a very clever film in how it deals with and balances the tensions of action spectacle and deeper self-conscious themes. In doing this, the film draws in popularity not only from action fans, but also from people who would otherwise not follow superheroes. However, addressing the tensions between commercial spectacle and deeper thematic elements is not new to superhero narratives. Mark Waid and Alex Ross’s 1996 graphic novel Kingdom Come establishes the binary tensions between superheroes in terms of their commercial appeal, as seen in the materialistic superhero-centric restaurant Planet Krypton, and in terms of the consequentialist aspect of superheroes, evident in the human character Norman McCay. Through an understanding of both works, we can better understand each work and how superheroes have historically played a role – and continue to play a role – in our culture.

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