Great post, you hit the nail right on the head concerning superheroes and what Lee did to make them interesting. I will also agree that many writers today are too uptight about fantasy characters, trying to be respectable rather than fun.
Happily however, there is a medium. And his name is Steve Gerber. Gerber happens to be one of my favorite writers ever, and for specific reasons. First off, he is an incredible idea man who comes up with interesting concepts that fit and appeal to artists. He never talks down to them, quite the opposite in fact. This is why he has worked with some of the best artists ever (Mike Ploog, Gene Colan, and Val Mayerick). He also never talks down to the audience, trusting they will be more than capable of understanding his stories.
But most important (to me) he is ambitious enough to work in realistic situations but professional enough to maintain the ingredients that make a good comic book interesting. The character Man-thing is a perfect example; in the series he broached the Vietnam war, the search for immortally, and racism. And yet he still gave what plenty of what us guys love, over the top violence. Man-thing smashed and bashed quite a bit, even more than the hulk at times. The series is also a prime example of Gerber’s intellectual surrealism, similar to the stuff exhibited by the Fleischers.The point being that you can have your pie and eat it, it just takes a good deal of talent. That and love of the medium and recognizing it for what it is, which Gerber has, and many unfortunately don’t.
[All artwork above by Mike Ploog, who with Gerber created some of the best (and fun) comics of all time.]