The Next Best of the Best


The comics industry throughout its history has responded to popular genres in other media and tried to incorporate these genres into their publication lienup.  This for instance led to a heavy science fiction influence in the 1960s, which has influenced most of the most popular characters to this day of the big two publishers.  In the 1970s another genres garnered some interest - the martial arts genre, partially in response to the popularity of action movies from Asian countries.  Was this attempt really successful?  Well not really.  It did create some very popular characters - Iron Fist, Shang Chi, Bronze Tiger, and Richard Dragon - but the main drawback in my opinion is that what made the genre so popular on the silver screen was hard to replicate in comics.  The main issue here is the fight choreography, in that most of the movies have a choreographers, whereas the comics have only a writer and an artist.  There is also the matter of time and pacing as well, a lot of action can be packed into 5 seconds in the movies, but in comics these five seconds would require at least two pages of panels.  That being the case though there are still some comics which have become adept at displaying fight scenes but another drawback is in the characters themselves.  Take actor A versus actor B, they can get put into some plot where they are destined to an enticing battle at the end, and when the movie is over the same two actors can be recycled into a new story with a similar concept of plot without feeling reused.  In comics though this doesn't really function in the same way because of the re-use of the characters themselves.  When Connor Hawke beats the number one martial artist in the world then what is left for him to face next?  The number two fighter?  But he already beat the best?  Of course this leads to some confusion over ranking martial artists anyway, regardless of the plot, any real life martial artist will still have an off day when they are not considered the best.  What it also leads to is a lot of "best fighters in the world" who randomly show up and might feature in a few issues, but then they invariably disappear back into the darkness.  I can think of two cases where this has happened with Nightwing, two with Connor Hawke and one with Bronze Tiger that was a half issue length story, meaning the best in the world showed up on no more than twenty panels.  This lack of credible villains, which is both a problem with the characters and the medium, is really in my opinion why this genre will never be very successful even when the characters are well liked.  The best that can be done is to incorporate the genre into other stories, as stories with Batman and Daredevil have focused from time to time on martial arts, though not exclusively.