The trends over the last decades have been pushing further and further into what authors love to call “realism” — but is more a dark, bleak outlook where there’s no hope. It’s nihilism, but taking “real” parts of what we experience as humans, the worst hardest ones, and shoving those into stories.
It creates heroic, extraordinary people doing ordinary things and it’s inherently boring and dreary — making a reader not want to read at all.
Take for one, this panel of Supergirl from 1996.
She’s screaming about cancer. She’s upset. She’s a wreck. She’s watching people die around her.
It’s not very super.
All it does is remind a reader of the people lost in their own lives to something uncontrollable. That disease exists. That it’s awful — and it is. While it’s “real”, it doesn’t provide the reader an escape, a sense of wonder that science fiction CAN offer, but has refused to for the most part in decades.
Take this panel from 1952:
While this doesn’t have a realism to it at all, with a silly image of going across the earth, sizing and proportions way off for what it would be, it’s awesome. It makes you laugh, it makes you have fun as a reader.
It’s absolutely ridiculous — but it is AWESOME.
This is the difference between realism, dealing with the dark gritty world where everyone eventually dies and we all sense loss, or looking at the world and saying “this is my playground” and throwing out the rules for a good time.
Writers and artists have lost this sense over the last decades, and that’s why both the science fiction and comics mediums are in the pits. If we’re not allowed to simply escape and have fun, then there’s not much point to these genres — cuz at the end of the day, if you want to start thinking about realism, Supergirl CANNOT exist, and the premise is flawed from the start.
All realism does is leave you with cancer.
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