Is Capepunk A Real Genre?
Good evening! I'm sure you keep hearing about labels with the word punk. Steampunk, cyberpunk, dieselpunk, biopunk, and the list goes on. Back when I tried to find the right sci-fi genre for my book series, there was a huge list of potential candidates. I ran across some of the well known genres like space operas, post-apocalyptic, superheroes, dystopian, and more. But I also noticed a huge list of punk genres. After many months of extensive research, I decided that steampunk and post-apocalyptic were the right genres for me. That doesn't mean the other punk genres aren't interesting or valuable. However, some punk genres appear to be more reputable than others. Believe it or not, I ran across a genre called Capepunk. Doesn't that sound preposterous? Basically, it's a punk version of superheroes. Let's see if Capepunk has any merit.
Naturally, there is less research on Capepunk. I read some definitions that say Capepunk is supposed to be more realistic than regular superhero fiction. Do you think realistic and punk belong in the same sentence? Regarding most genres, I would say no. However, I see the point. You could say Capepunk is making a statement against the idealistic, flamboyant, and kid friendly version of superhero fiction. In many comic books and films, superheroes are righteous individuals who place the needs of others above their own desires. For better or worse, they have tremendous powers and it's important to use them for the greater good. A supervillain wants to destroy the world and our hero ultimately saves the day. Everybody gets a happy ending! Modern superhero fiction includes protagonists with flaws and struggles, but the formula is still true. Capepunk stories are usually darker with protagonists who struggle to accept the idea of being a superhero. The road is long and difficult with a lot of mistakes. Superheroes in Capepunk fiction are often antiheroes and they can't save everyone. In fact, some of them resent the idea of saving anyone at all. It's not unusual for Capepunk heroes to lack a moral compass or perform extreme deeds to get a job done. Also, this genre doesn't guarantee a happy ending. Sounds a bit depressing, right? Some Capepunk tales include superheroes who are more relatable to regular people. They have regular jobs, character flaws, ups and downs with personal relationships, bills to pay, hobbies, goals and dreams, etc. Overall, these superheroes need to overcome obstacles that are similar to everything we see in real life, except they also need to save the world from supervillains! That must be a stressful lifestyle.
Here's the tricky part. What kind of work counts as Capepunk? I don't think many authors or film makers purposely try to make Capepunk works. Most of the fiction people label as Capepunk is probably chosen retroactively. That's okay because it's how most fiction and media is labeled at the beginning. When a genre becomes really popular, authors and film makers decide the label is acceptable and use it with pride. You guys should check out Goodreads! I found two lists of alleged Capepunk books.
Let's take a look at some possible examples. This is a very sketchy genre, but some films and books could probably fit within the limits. I would say Unbreakable, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, is a good example. A security guard named David Dunn realizes that he possesses much greater strength and invulnerability than regular people. He also appears to have psychic or precognitive abilities. David is just a normal guy who tries to figure out what's going on. Along the way, he meets a strange guy named Elijah Price. Ironically, Elijah has the opposite situation. He's abnormally frail and sickly compared to most people. Their fates are strongly intertwined through the film.
I believe the Watchmen comics and film also fit within the Capepunk standards. Watchmen is basically a deconstruction of traditional superhero fiction. It's dark and gritty with some thought provoking elements. Violent scenes are bloody and disturbing. It covers a lot of political issues from certain time periods in American history. Watchmen shows a big conflict between morality and serving the greater good. I don't want to give away spoilers, but the choices at the end aren't great. Our heroes have to choose the lesser of the evils. What seems right to one person might be immoral to someone else.
There's a book series called The Reckoners by Brandon Sanderson. The superheroes in Sanderson's franchise are known as Epics. Unfortunately, the Epics don't use their powers to help people. Instead, they want to control humanity. It's a world of supervillains rather than heroes. The Reckoners are a small group of regular humans who try to overthrow the powerful Epics. Good luck with that! Is this a realistic premise? I think it makes sense. Many people would not use their powers for the greater good in real life. Yes, I believe the basic concept is realistic.
A film called Chronicle might fit the mold too. It's one of those found footage movies. A group of teenagers find a mysterious item in the woods and it gives them the power of telekinesis. At first, everything is fun and games while the boys experiment with their cool abilities. The story takes a darker turn when one of the boys decides to use his powers against regular people. He believes it's acceptable for power beings to bully and terrorize the weak. Again, I could picture this situation if a bunch of rowdy teenagers were imbued with amazing powers.
I don't think the bigger Marvel and DC comics are part of the Capepunk genre, but there might be a few exceptions. The Dark Knight trilogy, directed by Christopher Nolan, seems quite realistic and rebellious at the same time. It's an entirely different take on Batman. Bruce Wayne has to conquer a lot of obstacles as a human being, entrepreneur, and superhero. He has plenty of flaws, but ultimately overcomes them. The villains in the Dark Knight saga are very much like modern terrorists. Think of it this way. If Batman villains ran amok in the real world, it would look a lot like the Dark Knight trilogy.
Some of the Netflix series like Daredevil and Jessica Jones also seem like Capepunk. The characters are very human and believable. They actually take a serious beating throughout the series. The characters struggle with some inner demons and personal history. Many of their villains seem to be rooted in reality, including mobsters, drug cartels, and such. Both of those television series are pretty realistic in my opinion.
Will Capepunk get a lot of recognition in the future? I doubt it. Capepunk is pretty vague and not particularly easy to define. With the exception of very specific works, I don't see much difference between Capepunk and regular superhero fiction. It needs to become more distinct from major franchises like the X-Men, Avengers, and Justice League. Other punk genres like steampunk and cyberpunk are very stylized. I don't see that type of clarity in Capepunk. Furthermore, superhero fiction is changing anyway. Modern superhero films and comics are becoming somewhat more relatable and realistic. There's a bigger issue as well. How could something like Capepunk compete with juggernauts like Marvel and DC? It's almost impossible! The genre might develop more over time, but it will probably remain virtually invisible because the attention will always go to Marvel and DC. But I guess we can maintain hope.
That concludes my post. Can you think of any notable Capepunk works? Leave a comment and let us know. I'm going to leave some links, so you can learn more about Capepunk and potential examples. Hopefully, you guys learned something new from today's post. Even if you think Capepunk is a bunch of nonsense. Speaking of punk genres, my next post will probably be a film review for Blade Runner 2049. I'm really excited about that movie! Enjoy your week and we'll see each other again soon.
10/9/2017 01:19:25 pm
I agree that Unbreakable would be this vague capepunk, but this genre is a no-go. First off, it serializes not one period in history, past or future, as all punks do. It punks nothing, as antiheroes have existed in comics since the pulps, like the Shadow and Crimson Avenger. So, this 'genre' punks nothing, says nothing, other than here is an alternative name for the superhero genre. I came across this writing my first novel, read the really bland 'definition'...and ran away. Steampunk, atompunk, dieselpunk, cyberpunk, stonepunk, mythpunk, dreadpunk, rococopunk, clockpunk; these have shown merit on temporal and power source/aesthetic fronts and have lasted and grown. Very good blog, by the way. Best to let people know this exists anyway.
10/9/2017 02:17:31 pm
Stephenie and William J are the true experts in this sector of literature and suspect both would love to see their work in graphic novel form. I loved Watchman. But love Marvel and DC too....Capepunk seems very much a US genre....we only have Sherlock Holmes in a cape Best Steve
10/9/2017 02:19:54 pm
Thanks for the comment, William. I think you nailed a big part of the problem. Capepunk is missing the “punk” element. What kind of statement is it making? Not much from what I can tell. It needs to have a better definition than being a more depressing version superheroes. I’m not sure if every punk genre needs to focus on a specific time period, but it definitely needs to be very stylized. Superheroes can fit into other punk genres too, including steampunk, cyberpunk, dieselpunk, or whatever strikes your fancy. I suppose Capepunk might evolve over time, but the odds seems to be against it.
the Web series "Worm" imo is one of the best examples of capepunk. it's set in a world where people get their superpowers through traumatic experiences, they call them "trigger events". super villains are more like crime lords then evil masterminds and the superheros are run by the government. here is the site where you can read it: https://parahumans.wordpress.com/
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