I saw Wolverine this weekend (of course - I want to support my own industry) and I was very pleased. It caused me to reflect a bit on Stan Lee and the other creators of Marvel's heroes. Have there been new superheroes in the last few years? Sure. Can you name any? Maybe you can, if you are a geek like me, but for the most part it is the originals that people remember. Why is that? There were superheroes before the X-men. Lots of them. There were superheroes before Spiderman. Superman and Batman have been around a long time, but others have come and gone and nobody seems to have displaced these heroes.
Why? Two reasons. In Superman's case he was first. Nothing like him had really been seen before (except in the book Gladiator). Batman was also a first in that he was "dark". Dark for the time is not dark now, but when Batman came out he was dark.
We don't have the advantage of being first, but neither did Stan Lee. Stan Lee simply exceeded all expectations. He took a genre and made it new againby making superheroes as people like you and I, or at least people we would recognize. People expected "just another superhero comic book" and instead they got Peter Parker who kicks butt as Spidey (and is funny as hell) but as Peter Parker he has trouble with school, girls and holding down a job. You have the X-men who save the world once a month but also struggle with a type of racism against mutantkind. It was new and poignant and exceeded everyone's expectations.
So all you and I have to do to add to that pantheon? Take what is familiar and make it new again and not in a gimmicky way but in a sincere way that speaks to readers.
Sounds simple (it's not), it's achievable (but it takes work)...so let's get to work.