Taking My Hacks

From Zombies to Super Heroes, It's All About the Characters

Joe Orlando

 

A few years ago, I heard about a new show called The Walking Dead on AMC. When the premise of the show was explained to me, I hate to admit it but I had almost no interest in watching it. Growing up, I was a fan of classic monster movies and the like, but for whatever reason, I was never a fan of zombie movies.

To me, zombies were more annoying than they were scary or interesting. They were slow, plodding creatures that just needed a swift shot to the head with a baseball bat in order to stop them. The zombies in the new movie World War Z seem to defy that stereotype, but those were the kind of zombies I remember from my youth. That said, I decided to try watching the new show. After a few episodes, I was hooked and I almost couldn't explain why at first.

As I watched more and more episodes, it became clear. I wasn't hooked because of the zombie scares or plentiful gore. I was hooked because of the characters, the human stories behind the action-filled horror. The zombies were simply the backdrop. The relationships between the people and the storylines kept me interested each week, not the zombies.

It reminds me a bit of the hit show The Sopranos in the sense that the mob-related content was always present, but the reason the show was so popular was because of the memorable characters and their battle with the human condition. It wasn't about the shootouts, the "hits" or the pasta. Love them or hate them, it was about the personalities.

The same can be said of almost any successful super hero, sci-fi or fantasy production I can think of. The really good ones developed the characters. As a result, the viewers end up caring about the characters and are intrigued by their struggles and triumphs. That was a key difference in the reboot of the Batman movies over the past decade. The Batman movies of the past were, on some level, fun and entertaining, but the character development and depth of the stories brought the new trilogy to an entirely new level of popularity.

These new films weren't campy; they had a serious tone with characters that had real flaws and issues. Even though I am writing this far in advance of the new Man of Steel release, it is obvious that the new film is attempting to use that same formula. The trailers reveal that even Superman himself has human qualities. The movie is not out yet, but the early buzz certainly has been positive because of its earnest effort to highlight the profound complexity of its main character.

Just as moviegoers and fans of this genre are drawn to the characters, so too are collectors to the related material. The collectibles that have real staying power tend to be the ones that are based on strong characters, whether they are real or imagined. That is a key ingredient to long-term popularity. It gives the subject matter an ability to appeal to future generations of people.

The Walking Dead is just one example of how you can take a relatively old subject and reinvigorate it with character development. From the writers to the directors to the actors, it takes a team of people to bring that vision to life, and this group has certainly achieved this feat. Just ask the millions of people watching each week... and the future generations of hobbyists who will want to relive the series through their collectibles.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
Editor In Chief