Saturday, August 11, 2018

10 Superhero Tropes and How My Hero Academia Blows Them Out of the Water

First of all, I love superheroes and superhero tropes. Jack Kirby and Joe Simon pioneered these modern superhero stories in the 1940s that have been loved for generations. These tropes are signature for the two big comic heads DC and Marvel, but it’s also refreshing when an author can take such a well-loved concept and make it feel so fresh. That’s what Kōhei Horikoshi did with My Hero Academia. Obviously, this man loves his American comic books because it’s very evident how much western influence is in this anime. He’s done his research and as a result, he’s created a manga and subsequent anime that has made superheroes feel newer than they have in a long time. I understand not everyone is into anime but if you’re writing a superhero story at all, these tropes and twists on tropes are good to be aware of.

1.) Heroes Without Tragic Backstories - Now I'm not one to deny that I like a juicy backstory. Bruce Wayne's parents being murdered in front of him, Superman's entire home planet being destroyed, Tony Stark's parents being killed in a car accident, and Captain America's parents both passing away all pull on the heartstrings, but after a while it starts becoming a pattern then a trope. Thus it is a relief to see a few heroes who grew up in good homes with loving families. In My Hero AcademiaMidorya grew up with a loving single mom, Uraraka grew up with two caring hardworking parents, and Iida grew up with good parents and a wonderful older brother. They had their struggles but they still had pretty normal childhoods with good home lives. 

2.) A Hero Who Wanted to a Be A Superhero Since He Was a Kid- Many a time a hero will get a superpower then go through an initial arc where they don't want this superpower. They wrestle with themselves until finally, they decide to accept it or something makes them accept it such as the Fantastic Four or the Incredible Hulk. But Midorya has wanted to be a superhero his entire life. He thinks it's the coolest thing ever! And he's devastated when he finds out he doesn't have a quirk (superpower), but when All Might gives him some of his power he's elated and takes on being a superhero wholeheartedly. Steve Rogers, T'Challa, and Thor come close to this but they didn't want to be superheroes directly just help people.

Young Midorya. Isn't he the cutest?!
3.) Superhero Training Not Happening in a Quick Montage - Because of the runtime of movies the training for a superhero usually happens in a quick montage where the superhero(s) usually gets the basic ropes by the end of it. It's usually very comical and this has worked especially in the time constraint, but it really added extra power to see all of the time and pain it took for Midorya to make himself strong enough to contain One For All (a superpower that can be passed on). He worked his little butt off and went from a skinny kid to a ripped kid and this didn't take a couple of days or weeks. This took eight months which felt way more realistic for a superhero to be prepared. Now I know not all superheroes have this kind of time, but for someone really preparing this just felt real.

4.) Heroes Who Don't Have Hidden Identities - It makes in our world why superheroes have to hide their identities. They have families to protect and they don't want to go home to the real possibility that a villain may be waiting there. My Hero Academia is set in the future when superheroes have completely integrated into society. They're celebrities and everyone knows who they are and they're protected by the law like the police. This was such a fun element!

5.) Heroes Being More Common Than Those Without Superpowers - Marvel's and DC's superheroes live in a world where they are gods among men but in My Hero Academia 80% of the population has superpowers. They've moved past the initial prejudices of people being different than others such as in X-Men and embraced them into society with superhero schools, internships, sidekick, and hero programs. It makes a really fun dynamic and amazing worldbuilding!

6.) Heroes Who Work Within the Law Instead of Outside of the Law - Celebrity superheroes work with the police (who are often also superpowered) to catch criminals and decrease crime. They'll go on ops together and use each other's strengths for a mutual goal. There isn't animosity between the police force which is common in superhero stories such as Arrow.

7.) Heroes with Potentially Villainous Powers Who Want to Be Heroes - Many supervillains seemed to be destined to be villains just because of their superpowers such as the Green Goblin with his Halloween-themed abilities and Clay Face for his gruesome appearance. But the show pegs this stereotype with characters such as Bakugo (explosions), Tokoyami (a dark shadow), and Shinso (brainwashing). Bakugo and Tokoyami are even targeted by villains at one point because they think they can be manipulated into becoming villains, but the characters refuse. There's an episode that focuses on Shinso and how he wants to be a hero so much and not a villain like his ability could make him out to be. It shows how the power doesn't define the person. It's what the person does with their power. 


8.) Female Heroes Without Sexy Outfits - There's actually a clip of an interview of two superheroes about superhero dress codes which were instated after one of the superheroes interviewed wore a too-risque outfit. I'm so glad this was called out since "sexy" superhero outfits are extremely inconvenient in combat. Marvel and DC have gotten much better with their female superhero outfits, but I just love how My Hero Academia made a point to mention the trope. 

9.) Hero Work Impact on Families - Since a lot of people are superheroes as a career they also have families. It's become a job like serving in the military or as a policeman or firefighter. Because of its dangerous nature heroes have become hurt or killed during their duties. Kota is devastated when his superhero parents are killed during their routes and turns to hating superheroes because he doesn't understand why his parents would abandon him for people he doesn't know. Iida's older brother is grievously injured during his duties and this has a huge impact on the family as their star family member will now never be the same again. 

10.) Heroes Who Endure Permanent Damage - Speaking of permanent injuries, My Hero Academia has a lot of characters that have injuries that can never be healed fully. Many DC and Marvel superheroes have super healing or a character who can heal them up in a jiffy taking away the permanence of extreme injuries. There are a few exceptions including Batman in the Dark Knight Rises, Wolverine in Logan, and Steven Strange in Doctor Strange, but it's not the norm. 

All Might has a severe injury that has left him with hemorrhaging in his lungs when he strains himself, Midorya and Iida get permanent nerve damage in their hands, Aizawa gets a gnarly scar under his eye, and Tensei is paralyzed. There's a superhero named Recovery Girl who can heal, but she can only do so much. This adds more mortality to the fight. They're not just a super healing away. They can really die or never be the same ever again.

Conclusion - Again, I love Marvel and DC and Thor is my bae and I admire Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, and the man comic book artists that have paved this genre, but I also admire people with new ideas who redefine a genre. Don't be afraid to break tropes!

I love this guy.
Who is your favorite superhero? DC or Marvel? Have you ever seen My Hero Academia? 

You may also like:
Writing Lessons from Movies: Doctor Strange
Writing Lessons from Movies: The Incredibles
Writing Lessons from Movies: Iron Man
Why We Should Still Write Good vs. Evil
Keeping Morality in Fiction: Are you sacrificing your role models for character conflict?

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