I'm so tired of seeing perfectly-good movies stop so that I can watch a superhero sew.

There's a moment of near-perfect visual storytelling in "G.I. Joe" (not technically a superhero movie, but trust me this is going somewhere) that encapsulates the entire film: Silly, yet sort of amazing. Amidst a massive conflagration in the good guys' subterranean lair, Storm Shadow - the Evil Ninja - goes in to strike the killing blow on a helpless enemy, only to have his blade stopped mid-sweep by that of Snake Eyes - the Good Ninja. Caught by surprise, Storm Shadow instantly recognizes his opponent; triggering a flashback in which we see two young boys in Japanese-style martial arts training. "Brother!" exclaims the present-day Storm Shadow.

Practically, it shouldn't work: How can anyone sneak up on someone during a fight in an open area the size of a small city? How can you recognize someone through a head-to-toe rubber body-stocking just by his ability to counter a sword maneuver? What does them training together as kids have to do with why they're fighting now?

Of course, you and I and damn near everyone in the theater knows the answer: Because they're ninjas. Ninjas are always invisible until they no longer want to be; ninjas can recognize people by minor body language; ninjas hold honor-grudges forever. If a math teacher or a short-order cook behaved this way in a fight (or any other situation, really) we'd likely not accept it. But ninjas? Not a second thought. "Everybody knows" that's how things work for ninjas. In other words, the visual-storytelling works because it plays on the audience's collective pre-acceptance of Ninja formula or, if you like, "tropes." This is also why no one asks questions when two characters walk to the center of a street for an impromptu gentlemanly pistol-duel - so long as it's happening in a cowboy movie; and why no one even bothers to remind you that zombies need to be shot in the head anymore.

Tropes have been with us forever (though the word has only come to mean "that" pretty recently.) In the wrong hands, they're a way for the careless to pad a plot (see: Bay, Michael.) In the right hands, they're a way to communicate information to the audience without having to break the rhythm for an explanation ("oh! He must be a bad guy, got it!") In a master's hands, it's a way to execute a perfect fake out: "No way! The nicest guy in the group never gets murdered first!" You can tell that a genre is here to stay when it begins to have elements unique to itself that no one feels the need to explain anymore - when it begins to have its own tropes.

Much has been made recently of the oversaturation of movies based on comic book superheroes. While I certainly wish more of them were better, I welcome this oversaturation precisely because of the above-described concepts: I want the movie-going public to become saturated in superheroes so that the ability to utilize tropes will kick in - which, from where I sit, will help all superhero movies to streamline their narratives and deliver richer and more complex storytelling.

For me, nothing slows down even a good superhero movie than the constant need to explain recurring elements of the genre to the non comic-fluent mainstream audience; specifically, things like costumes, nicknames and gimmicks. In the comics, almost no explanation is necessary for such things because readers have been marinating in the tropes of the genre for about eighty years and already know the score: That in a Superhero Story, the first thing one does upon embarking on a vigilante or super-criminal career is to choose a nickname for oneself and construct a flamboyant costume. "Hm, I can jump pretty high... from now on call me RABBITMAN!" This sort of thing usually takes a single page, sometimes less than that. Why does Maxwell Dillon, upon gaining the power to throw lightning from his fingertips, decide to don a green and yellow costume and dub himself "Electro?" Because it's a superhero story (Amazing Spider-Man #9, to be precise) and "that's how it works in those."

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