With the saturation of the superhero genre in popular culture, it was only a matter of time before Rick and Morty got in on the action.
“We’re being called to assemble by the Vindicators!”
“I refuse to answer a literal call to adventure, Morty. Let it go to voicemail.”
But mad scientist Rick reluctantly gets talked into answering the call by his grandson, Morty. I really love the callback to my favorite episode from Season 1 (“Meeseeks and Destroy”), where Morty wins a bet that lets him be in charge of every tenth adventure. Thus, Rick is roped into joining a motley crew of heroes that resemble characters from The Avengers and the Justice League to stop Worldender.
But Rick and Morty wasn’t the only TV show on Sunday night that assembled a motley crew of heroes to stop a world-ending threat. On the Game of Thrones episode “Eastwatch,” a group of characters assemble at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea to go beyond The Wall for a mission to stop the Night King and his Army of the Dead. When watching the episode, my friend, Alex, said the group was like the Justice League or The Avengers. I replied that they were going on a suicide mission. He chuckled, “So, they’re more like the Suicide Squad?”
It seems like superhero shows and movies have seeped so far into our social consciousness that now every show or string of movies has to bring a team together. Look at Universal Pictures’ planned Dark Universe, in which they plan to establish classic monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, etc.) in the present day and bring them together into some sort of team. Personally, I like it better when there’s a group assembled to take out one of these classic monsters, preferably in the Victorian Era. Sigh. I wish that Starz would bring back Penny Dreadful.
At any rate, the reboot of The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise, kicked off the shared films of the Dark Universe. Not exactly a dynamite start. But Universal Pictures can always say that their shared universe started with Dracula Untold, a film that made four to five times its budget and was much more widely received. As a bonus, they’d get to have Luke Evans play Dracula in one of the most layered and sympathetic portrayals of the character since Bram Stoker’s Dracula. We even get a glimpse of the count in the present day, at the end of the film. If any actor had the charisma to assemble and lead a cadre of classic creatures, it’s Luke Evans.
But it’s not just television shows and movies that are assembling teams in superhero fashion. The comic book trend is even extending to other comics that don’t normally identify in the superhero vein. Yes, that independent comic that I enjoy, Cavewoman, might even dip its toes into the superhero waters.
During my interview with comic book artist and writer Devon Massey, I got him onto the topic of (Cavewoman) Meriem Cooper’s friend, Carrie Fulton. He let me know that, “She will continue to be Meriem’s friend and occasional sidekick — she will also join Meriem and Mona in a super team, who will battle a group of (three) girls, who work for Ankha in an ongoing storyline.”
Mona Lansing is a scientist in Marshville who developed a super-soldier-type serum that made her as strong as Cavewoman. Initially becoming a rival jungle girl, the two eventually became friends, while Ankha is an evil space alien who is being pursued by members of the Starship Blish (as mentioned in my previous article: Discovering the Star Trek Connection ). After what had happened to Carrie in Cavewoman: Ankha’s Revenge #3, I inquired if she would also get a super-soldier serum of her own and he commented that there might be something in the old underground military lab from the pages of Cavewoman: Labyrinth.
“Meriem gets Mona to use a modified serum on Carrie to toughen her up, so she can survive as Meriem’s sidekick. The Lab in Cavewoman: Labyrinth also features in upcoming issues. Meriem’s new treehouse will be Meriem and company’s new headquarters. It’s gonna be so much fun! Carrie needs a special superhero costume, so I’m gonna have to come up with that!”
I trust that Devon Massey will focus on the relationships between the characters and this will help his comic stand out, even when it wades into the waters of the superhero genre. I personally like it when a medium uses the genre to focus on friendships or sense of family. Maybe this is why I enjoyed watching The Awesomes and why I was sad that Hulu cancelled it. Maybe these themes are why The Flash is the most popular among the CW shows in the Arrowverse. This could also be why my favorite Pixar film is The Incredibles and why I’m overjoyed to finally get a sequel in 2018.
There’s already a bunch of superhero TV shows and movies out there, and we’re only going to get more. Within the next few months, we’ll be getting The Defenders on Netflix, The Tick on Amazon, Cloak & Dagger on Freeform, The Inhumans and The Gifted on television. In theaters, we’re getting Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League in November, with Black Panther arriving early next year. I know we’ll see those themes of friendship and family in Thor and The Tick. I hope we see these positive themes and development of the character’s relationships in the rest of the shows and movies.
It’s not enough to just be in the superhero genre anymore. You gotta have character development.