created by Tim Kring
(NBC, 2006)

Over the years comic books have grown up, maturing from simple tales told as complete stories in an issue or as a big story spanning two to four issues, to today's graphic format of complex literature told in story arcs spanning dozens of issues with epic series that encompass entire lives.

From the beginning, comic books have also spilled into other media. In the early days there were radio shows featuring Superman and Batman. Later on, television shows used comic-book characters or comic-book inspiration for shows like Batman, Captain America, Wonder Woman, The Man from Atlantis and The Green Hornet. As comics grew up, so did their media transitions, moving into the movies and becoming more adult and more complex. Superheroes like the Crow and Blade tackled the darker side of powers, and Ghost World, Unbreakable and American Splendor took comics or comic ideas out of the box that stereotype had built for them.

The problem with the media formats is they couldn't match the complexities of years' worth of issues developing grand plots while tackling episodic-length challenges in the process. And that's where we were when Heroes debuted in 2006 on NBC. Finally, the media formats can match in power of storytelling.

Heroes was created by veteran television creator Tim Kring and uses the format of comic books -- small story arcs lasting a single episode contributing to the larger story arc that spans one or more seasons of the television series.

It's a tale of superpowers emerging in human beings around the planet. This is possibly an evolutionary step, like mutations from the X-Men, but as yet that avenue remains unclear. What we do know is that one of the characters can paint the future when he's high on heroin, and in his future paintings he's shown that one of the heroes detonates in the heart of New York City, devastating it as effectively as a nuclear bomb.

In this show, the heroes aren't noble. Some of them want to do good, some of them want to be left alone, some of them don't use their powers at all or are afraid of them, and some of them are purely evil. It's realistic in the way it portrays humanity as individuals would deal with great genetic advantages.

The art direction makes the viewer feel the comic setting, the stories are so full of twists that one never knows what's coming next but one is always sure that there is going to be a good-versus-evil struggle and that those forces are destined to meet. For the first time in years, I'm willing to watch network television and suffer through the commercials just to see an episode when it first airs.

by Rick Wren
17 March 2007