Who was ever careful with what they wished for?
Perhaps it was different for you, but for some of us, having videogames as a hobby during our school years wasn’t a sure-fire method for becoming the most popular kid. When even the members of the Dungeons & Dragons lunchtime club look down their noses at you, it’s difficult not to ask yourself some questions. What was it about computer games, we wondered, that these people just didn’t get? Looking back now at the state of some of the things we played in the early ’80s, it’s not difficult to appreciate why the entire planet wasn’t quite ready to be hooked just yet, but for a while there it felt like a mystery. The world of comics (not graphic novels – that rephrasing would come later) was similar: who couldn’t be absolutely gripped by the exploits of The Uncanny X-Men? Again, for the time being, turned out it was just us. Change was a long while coming.
As this issue goes to press, the biggest movie at the box office is Free Guy, a film all about a videogame. Prior to that, it was DC’s The Suicide Squad. Before that, Marvel’s Black Widow. No, the fact that Free Guy is a fun way to spend a couple of hours isn’t suddenly going to lift the quality of all movies based on games, and we won’t be holding on for a Black Widow sequel, but you’re seeing the theme here.
The question in 2021 is: has the balance shifted too far in the other direction? Do we need as many superhero-centred movies, TV shows and cartoons as we’re seeing emerge today? Because frankly we have enough difficulty keeping up with the torrent of ‘normal’ television being pumped out nowadays, let alone what feels like a new wave of costumed avengers rocking up every few weeks. But we only have to watch this stuff. Spare a thought for the people at the centre of the creative process, rooting around for the magic in a superhero universe whose nooks and crannies are being explored to the extent that we’ve just seen Polka-Dot Man on the big screen. In this context, that we can be so fired up about Marvel’s Midnight Suns feels like quite the achievement. Our cover story begins on p58.