I was sketching out ideas for a graphic novel yesterday. I was explaining to the writer that there seems to be a trend nowadays of making comic book characters more normal. While super muscular demi-god types are still the order of the day, there are more books now with normal, everyday characters. Just look at the Walking Dead. I believe that the series is popular not only due to the current recession and its effect on the popularity of zombies in pop culture, but also because the characters are really quite normal, normal people in extraordinary situations doing extraordinary things.
Speaking of making characters more normal, Stan Lee pioneered this by adding flaws to characters in order to make them relatable. Spider Man is really a geek, the members of X-Men have their own little problems, etc. But it was Alan Moore who really ran with it, giving comic books more adult themes and making characters more complex and flawed. Suddenly, it wasn’t just about superheroes fighting nefarious villains, but superheroes battling personal demons. Heroes dealt with personal loss, addictions, different mental conditions, etc. And now the most successful superhero in film has a drinking problem. Back then, the only problem superheroes in film had was keeping a double life.
It makes me wonder though, what about other problems that are less serious but are made worse due to the hero’s super status? Like a character with a super hoarding problem? I guess that’s been done already (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collector_(comics)). But what about a character with a crippling smoking addiction? Not a cool smoking habit that many writers use to indicate manliness (see Wolverine), but a crippling super smoking addiction that not only threatens the characters health but also alienates him from his super friends.