As much as we really love them, like every other form of entertainment, there are plenty of comic book clichés. Here we take a look at some of the most popular cliches that have haunted comic books throughout the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and still today.
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1. The Orphan Origin Story
Ghost Rider, Aquagirl, Aurora, Superman, Batman, Bishop, Cyclops, Captain Marvel, Catwoman and Daredevil all have one thing in common; their parents died and they are orphans. Being orphaned signifies them as different, and it provides a source of pathos to motivate the hero’s story forward. Batman, for example, is continually seeking justice and often reflects back on the death of his parents in order to do the right thing.
2. The Lab Accident
“Bitten by radioactive beebles in a freak algebra accident, young Ricky Robertson discovered he’d gained the ability to harness the awesome power of fractions!” — Magic The Gathering.
It happened to Spider-Man, The Hulk, Joker, Doctor Manhattan, and many others. The unplanned and unrepeatable lab accident turns regular guys into superpowered superheroes or villains. Have a look at the Marvel Universe, and you’ll notice that most of Stan Lee’s creations are formed by lab accidents or experiments.
3. Pained Corpse Gripping
We’ve all seen it. That pose has made its way onto comic book covers around the world. The pained corpse gripping. A hero has died, and another superhero is holding up the corpse and crying in anguish. Oh, the pain. Oh, the sadness. We’ve seen Superman holding Batman’s corpse. We’ve seen Cyclops holding Jean Grey’s corpse. We’ve seen Spider-man holding up Black Cat’s corpse. It’s everywhere in the comic book world.
4. Rooftop Stalking
Why do comic book characters love the top of buildings? Have a look through your collection, and you’ll notice that many of them are lurking on the top of buildings stalking people down in the streets. Of course, I understand that many of them have the ability to swing or fly, but sometimes it has no place whatsoever. They’re just up there all the time for no real reason. You can’t possibly see the whole city from one rooftop.
5. So Many Weapons
Comic book heroes who don’t have special abilities usually have to make do with weapons. A lot of them. But sometimes, they take it too far. Sometimes our heroes are seen carrying dozens upon dozens of weapons – on their backs, waists, legs, and arms. It’s overkill.
Tank: All right, what do you need, besides a miracle?
Neo: Guns. Lots of guns.
6. Final Speech
“Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and, instead of bleeding, he sings.” — Ed Gardner
A major character doesn’t just get killed straight away. Oh, no. They’ve got to deliver a speech before dying. It’s an unfortunate use of storytelling that has crept into comic book media. Why does the bad guy need to tell us the reasons why he did what he did before dying? Why does the hero have to say farewell before entering the light? This is one of the comic book clichés we could do without.
7. The Fight And Become Friends Rules
1. A man and woman who hate each other, or are enemies, must be sexually attracted to each other. For example, Batman and Catwoman.
2. A character in training meets someone who starts out as a rival, then they become friends, then enemies again.
3. Whenever two heroes meet for the first time, they must fight.
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8. Wisecracking During A Fight
I’m not sure about you, but I’ve never seen a fight (with the exception of a Muhammad Ali boxing match) where rivals taunt each other with wisecracking jokes. Spider-man does it. Deadpool does it. And dammit, even Batman does it from time to time. It’s a comic book trope.
9. Taking Up The Mantle
If our hero dies, somebody has to take up the mantle. Usually his son or protégé. That’s the rule. There are no ways around it. Nobody who dies at the hand of an enemy won’t be avenged.
For obvious reasons, when Bruce Banner turns into the Hulk, everything gets torn and ripped apart, except for, you guessed it… his pants. Ah, those magical green pants that stretch with size. Of course, it’s much better than the opposite happening. Can you imagine the Hulk running around naked? Nobody wants to see a giant green…
11. Days Of Our Lives Relationships
She loves me. She loves me, not. Everyone swaps women in the comic book universe. Lois Lane has dated Superman, Batman, Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, Lex Luthor and pretty much everyone else she can. I wonder if Jimmy got a chance with her too? It’s a bit like a bad episode of Days of Our Lives. Why can’t these characters commit, dammit?
12. Break On Through to the Other Side Cover
There is nothing our heroes love more than breaking through a wall. Sometimes this wall is actually the cover itself, with the heroes breaking through it. This is probably one of the most common comic book clichés.
If there are female characters, you can expect to see boobs. Women in comic books haven’t a clue what modesty is. Instead, they slope about in tight skinny outfits to show off their assets.
14. Head-to-Head Cover
Two heads angrily gritting their teeth at each other. They’re so close it looks like they are about to kiss. You’ve seen it in dozens of comics.
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15. Kid Sidekicks
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wanted to have a miniature version of myself that would run around and distract people while I punched them in the face. At least that’s the idea, right, Batman? Somebody call child welfare.
If a major comic book character dies — even if you see the dead body — they will come back. And usually, when they do, they are more glorious than they were before. It’s kinda like a homage to Jesus, really. Good guys never stay dead. Mind you, the bad guys don’t really, either.
17. “I’ll get you next time!”
After being defeated and running off into the distance, the bad guy usually yells out, “I’ll get you next time!” And so he will, except he won’t and he will say the exact same thing next time. And so the villain flees, and five heroes stand there watching. They’re probably saying the same thing, “I’ll get you next time!”
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Tell us, what other comic book clichés are we missing from the list?