Down Time

June 2nd, 2009 by | Tags: ,

I’ve noticed that occasionally almost all superhero comics have an occasional issue that shows the characters in it just, hanging out, having fun, doing non-superhero things.  Of course these issues generally throw in a fight or two, but most of the plot is the characters having some down time and talking.

These issues often get a great reaction from fans.  A lot of what’s driving that reaction, of course, is the rarity of such issues.  They’re a break from what we’re used to, and that always gets people talking.

It’s tempting to declare that more of such issues would boost sales.  I enjoy them when they come out, and even look forward to them.  But if they were coming out every month, would I still like them as much?  Would anyone?

Tough to say.  Still, I think I would enjoy seeing day-to-day lives of superheroes or teams, or even minor characters.  Perhaps a book that chose different characters each month, like The Brave and the Bold.  If you had to choose, which character from superhero comics would you like to follow around when they’re out of costume?

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13 comments to “Down Time”

  1. Doom’s Day Off.

  2. Marvel’s Loners was exactly what you describe, but it went from a sell-out #1 to not even breaking even in the space of six issues.
    To be fair, though, it was a poor script married to muddy art, and fans – while enthusiastic about the characters – seemed to pick holes in everything from continuity and poor storyboarding to an oddly unfinished plot. I think fandom expected Peter David or Dan Slott given their past success with writing D-list ensemble casts, but scripting was assigned to a Marvel editor instead (though this makes the poor continuity work seem odd), so it may not be fair to judge the viability of the concept on the failure of one title which even its supporters felt was sub-par in many ways.

    The UK’s ITV1 recently made a superhero comedy series called ‘No Heroics’ which was a reasonable success, and it was about superhero downtime rather than their amazing exploits – there’s a US remake in the works, as far as I know.

  3. It’s called a Slice of Life story and it’s really quite popular in other mediums. Seinfeld for one is an example of it on TV. There is an utterly massive amount of it in manga, Aria being one of the best examples. Personally I would think a Slice of Life book, or just more of it in current books, would go over great.

  4. Whereas conversely, I can recall throngs of angry fans complaining that the early “New Avengers” issues – and some of the recent ones – consist largely of characters sitting around talking.

    I think Warren Ellis managed to create a good kind of balance in some of his Marvel works between “Down” and “Up” times for the main characters. In the latter half of his “Thunderbolts”, Doc Samson and Penance spend most of the time in which everyone else is attempting to murder each other talking and watching a rugby game, and only get involved at the very end. In some parts of “Nextwave”, it seems as if the characters never stop being relaxed, and the battles are just incidental to the main plots.

    I myself would like to see a maybe-out-of-continuity series within the Marvel U called “Bar With No Name”, one which would be sort of like a “House of Secrets/Mystery” series and sort of just having supervillains hanging out and taking off their armour.

  5. Although, now that I think of it, the idea does seem to bloom in other mediums – look at, for instance, Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame”, or “Before Sunrise” & “Before Sunset”.

  6. I’m a huge fan of this. I read Spider-Man almost solely for the interactions of the supporting cast. I love how Deadpool doesn’t really have a clear definition of “up” and “down” time, which suits the character perfectly. I also love every Bendis comic ever for using this storytelling method.

    As for who I want to see more of? Ares.

  7. I recall Bendis in interviews saying that he knew Marvel really trusted him when they allowed him an entire issue of USM featuring nothing but two teenagers sitting on a bed talking about each other.

  8. “I recall Bendis in interviews saying that he knew Marvel really trusted him when they allowed him an entire issue of USM featuring nothing but two teenagers sitting on a bed talking about each other.”

    As opposed to what?

  9. @AlLoggins: Swinging around and quipping at villains, duh.

  10. Huh. Somehow that joke lost something outside of my head.

  11. Thank you all for commenting, but I have to declare jthomasmoore the unequivocal winner of this post. Especially since his answer works for DC *and* Marvel. Congratulations, sir. I salute you.

  12. Kirkman does a great job at maintaining this kind of “work/life” balance in Invincible, and it actually winds up driving a lot of the plot, rather than being tangential to it.

  13. Wally West and his family.