It’s easy to follow a trend. You’re heading off on a path that’s already been forged by someone else. They’ve done the hard work, and you’re just being derivative of that.
On television, you couldn’t seem to get away from spy shows. Nikita, Alias, Covert Affairs, Chuck… You still can’t get away from hospital shows or legal dramas. Now it’s prison shows. Oz was arguably the first to take it mainstream, and now we have Orange is the New Black and other shows like it. But that’s television.
The Walking Dead is a perfect case for comics. Robert Kirkman didn’t invent the zombie. He’s riffing off the work of George Romero. He just happened to hit the zombie thing at a perfect time, and because of his storytelling skills, he has been able to take all the air out of the room. He’s taken up mindspace. Whenever someone says the word “zombie”, The Walking Dead will be part of that conversation. And there are a lot of zombie books coming out now.
Superheroes are the same way, building off what Marvel and DC helped to build and have dominated the past few decades. If you’re looking at a superhero comic from any company, what you’re really looking at are stories that creators wanted to tell in either Marvel or DC but couldn’t, for whatever reason.
However, with the depth and breadth of comics, it can be a challenge to forge new ground. It’s a challenge to find a space that’s underserved and to fill it. Being ahead of the zeitgeist is a much better place to be than in the middle of it, or worse, at the tail. It’s just impossible to predict.
What to do?
The first thing is to not only find a new way to tell an old story, but to tell the best story you can. A lot of creators are striving to be mediocre instead of being the shining light they could be. All it takes is some hard work.
It’s okay to follow a trend. Just understand that it won’t last forever, and if you aren’t telling meaningful stories within the trend, neither will you.