Spent a painful afternoon in the comic shop. Every week I hear worse and worse news about superhero comics (especially DC comics), so I finally went to take a look, courtesy of incompetent electricians disconnecting my computer again again again.
Superhero comics have always been an interesting topic for me, because even though I read them, I was never a tremendous fan.
But dismissing them as "male power fantasies" isn't... well, no, wait. I think they can safely be dismissed as that. However, they have filled a different niche in the past: they told stories of heroes embodying modern culture fighting villains that embodied modern culture.
Superheroes spent a long time competing for space with other paradigms that fought for the same niche: pulp adventure, space opera, noir detective stories. You might claim that superheroes have this fundamental staying power because they express some facet of our culture and ourselves in some particularly good way.
The truth is that superheroes simply outshouted the competition. The only thing superheroes have going for them is versatility: you can put just about any superhero in just about any story, with no real concern for canon or restraint. So that's just what they did. For a century.
Superheroes are a volume product. Marvel's invention of the "mutant" was a brilliant way to mass-produce iconic characters for every kind of story ever.
But, like any aging market, the superhero industry giants have failed to adapt and controlled their products too tightly.
As you will be aware if you've ever actually tried to do anything in the superhero realm, it's basically impossible. Your superheroes, even if you manage to find a name that was never used before (impossible), are probably breaking some kind of trademark regarding their suit or powers.
Moreover, the fundamental idea of the superhero is fading. From a character representing the heroic ideals of a modern culture, it's pretty clearly devolved into a simple power fantasy with fetish elements. Nothing shouts this louder than DC's pathetic reboot. DC's reboot also shouts that the industry is at the edge, out of time.
Some people want to save the superhero. I'd like to let it die. There are many new kinds of heroes waiting in the wings, but they can't come into play until superheroes have stepped down, especially since many of them would be considered superheroes and marginalized by that association if used now.
Superheroes have nothing more to say. They never really had much to say in the first place, although they have been involved in some pretty decent stories, especially when they cover topics such as racism and terror. Still, there are a lot of other heroes waiting to step in, let's go ahead and give the spandex-plus-accidental-superpowers a rest.