Sunday, July 11, 2010

Boring, Boring Violence

It's not exclusively a comics thing, but I am starting to get fed up of what many comics writers seem to think is a realism thing to get specific about all the injuries the characters are suffering.

The first time I noticed it was The Dark Knight Returns, where we get this litany of damage Bats is suffering from as the story progresses, but I've seen it a lot recently. Where the "reality" falls down is where despite being concussed, shot, beaten up, a broken arm, had their powers stolen, shot again, dropped out of a helicopter, and had their leg bitten off by a werewolf, the hero still somehow manages to hold it together for as long as it takes to win the day.

It doesn't take long before the tension created by injuries becomes lost once you realise that it's not actually stopping them from doing anything they need to do, and they will completely recover from it anyway. Lately I've been reading The Dresden Files, and it's reaching the point where I feel like a sucker for feeling any kind of concern for the latest injury Harry is dealt, because, honestly, if the broken leg he got last chapter isn't slowing him down, I don't see how being beaten up again is going to make much of a difference.

I'm not saying that I want to see the lasting effects that such injuries cause someone to recur through the rest of the series, I'm just saying that if they are not going to have real effects then don't have them in the first place.

Is it worse to have a character seriously hurt but somehow act like they haven't been nearly as badly hurt as we've been told, or to not have them hurt that bad in the first place?

Edited to add:
I think I've solved it. It was when it occurred to me that The Dresden Files are written in the first person. It's Harry telling the story. Things never were quite as bad as he tells you; he's bigging up how hurt he is for sympathy and to show how cool he is. Harry Dresden has manflu.


Anonymous said...

Really? I thought Harry's injuries were some of the more realistic (for fiction). The burn on his hand is a great example -- it's taken 10+ years to start really healing up. When he got his nose broken, it kept slowing him down. There are other examples, but I don't know how far you've gotten and don't want to spoil anything.

Marionette said...

I'm near the end of the second book. I just caught myself feeling concerned when he was beaten up by the lycanthrope gang, but realised I'd felt the same when he was nearly passing out from blood loss a few chapters ago after being bitten by the werewolf.

It's like each injury only really causes a problem for a chapter or two. Then he gets shot or beaten up by someone else and he's too busy worrying about the new thing.

I'm enjoying the story and will probably continue the series, but this aspect does lessen the experience for me a little.

Anonymous said...

The series doesn't really find its stride until book 4, Summer Knight. It gets better -- the continuity and repercussions for the choices made are some of the best for any series I've read.

But, I do agree with your base premise, and it's one of the reasons I've all but given up on comics. With the exception of Ennis, Moore, Ellis, etc, the edge of the industry, the mainstream comics just don't have any sort of gravitas to them any more. You know nothing long-lasting can happen.