As exciting as comics are, they can also be incredibly frustrating. Whether it’s confusing storylines, unresolved character arcs, or a lack of depth, comic book publishers are rife with titles that all too often squander the medium’s creative possibilities.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about comics are the tropes that writers return to over and over again. You’d think the limitless possibilities of the medium would result in stories that don’t rely on the tropes of movies and TV, but that’s not the case. Readers are treated to all sorts of cliches that bog down the joy comics have to offer, and critical comic book fans among Reddit users voiced the ones that vexed them the most.
Coined by writer Gail Simone, “frigging” is the process of killing or maiming a female character to motivate a male superhero. The term itself refers to an incident in The Green Lantern #54 when Kyle Rayner walks into his apartment to find his girlfriend has been murdered and stuffed into his fridge.
Even beyond the clearly misogynistic nature of this trope, Reddittor catsails point out that fridging is “just lazy writing.” It’s because of these aspects that the trope has thankfully seen less use in modern comics, though it still reluctantly returns from time to time.
Temporary loss of powers / Returned to normal
While the use of this trope has resulted in great superhero movies like Spiderman 2, its use in the comics has a much less successful track. This is especially true when the power loss comes out of nowhere or is the result of a single power damper.
The use of power dampers in comics is so despised that Redditor Some_Personality8379 started an entire thread to express his distaste for the trope. In their eyes, this overreliance on power dampeners makes “powers seem like man-made rather than something biological.” This is a well made point.
no one stays dead
As Reddittor vivvav states, “frequent, guaranteed resurrections that occur within a year or two of the character’s death” are the worst. This trope is so common that it has been mocked in many TV outlets.
While there is some debate over whether these types of deaths and resurrections are more egregious than those of characters who have been dead longer, the fact is that readers are fed up with constant resurrections. It belittles the sacrifices these characters have made, as evidenced by the number of Marvel characters who have come back to life in 2021.
A cover that has nothing to do with history
Whether it’s variant covers or “dumb, irrelevant hooks on the cover” as Reddittor DJToastyBuns puts it, misleading cover art is a problem for many readers. Nobody wants to pick up a book with the Rhino on the cover, only to find that he doesn’t even show up until the last panel.
Misleading covers aren’t the world’s worst comic trope by any means, but it’s their commonalities that make them so boring. Over time, it seems comic book covers have less to do with a book than they once did in the Golden or Silver Ages. Don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
Although there are comic book characters with living relatives – Batgirl, Nightcrawler, Wonder Woman, for a few examples – a large majority are deceased. The reason for this varies, but Reddittor Jiffletta observed that it ensures the heroes “don’t have a safe home to return to, so they must travel to grow and achieve their heroic destiny.”
While this can be a great motivator for characters like Batman and Spider-Man, it’s not mandatory for all heroes. Some characters don’t need a personal tragedy to be selfless and have free will. Related to this, the trope of dead parents can be considered insulting because it treats parents as plots rather than characters.
Heroes fight before teaming up
A notorious trope that has run through films such as batman versus superman, this story beat has been around since the 1960s, but has been very rarely advanced since then. As Reddittor’s catsails noted, “it feels like nothing but strong, dumb men beating their chests. Is that what people want to read?”
While this trope has been used effectively in stories such as “Civil War”, it’s remained a stunning cliché overall. Even when based on ideological differences rather than simple misunderstanding, conflicts often fall flat.
long lost relatives
In a recent Redditor robber19 thread they ask “Anyone else tired of the ‘long lost family brother’ trope?” The answer is a resounding yes.
While the trope offered some fun and interesting backstories for characters like Cyclops with his brother Havok, nowhere did later reveals have such a big impact. Even when the writers do something original with the trope, it still elicits moans due to the frequency of these storylines.
Unnecessarily stretched mysteries
They’re two separate tropes, but they’re related because of how they relate to each other. In the event that a mystery extends beyond its natural conclusion, there is often a chance that the revelation will come out of nowhere because the writer felt he had to change the story to surprise the audience.
According to Redditor nalydpsycho, the worst conclusion these types of mysteries can take is when “the big reveal leaves me wondering ‘who? empty revelation.
Back to status quo
One of the most egregious tropes in the comic book medium, reverting to the status quo is often a sign that a writer doesn’t know what to do with a character. While there are times when it doesn’t and is instead used to bring a character back to its roots, frequent resets still dilute any spirit of creativity and stunt character growth.
A deleted Redditor put it well when he said, “You really can’t connect with these characters anymore because you know they’ll always be [revert] return” to their old selves. While it’s believed that the reader can still engage with a character despite the constant reverting to the status quo, there’s no denying that the trope has hindered any lasting change.
While there are a number of reasons why readers get tired of event comics, the main one has to do with character development. Usually, the crossover style of comics like Civil War II is filled with characters and plot beats that detract from any character’s solo title. The fact that these types of stories put a hold on the threads of each book makes them all the more pointless and frustrating.
Perhaps a now-deleted Reddit user sums it up best. Events are the worst comic trope because “they have no impact”. Considering how often such crosses occur, this is undoubtedly true.
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