superman.nuMary Immaculate of Lourdes NewtonHolliston School Committeefacebook    
  •   forum   •   COUNTDOWN TO MIRACLE MONDAY: "LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS!" •   fortress   •  
Superman Through the Ages! Forum
News: Superman Through the Ages! now located at theAges.superman.nu
 
*
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?
March 01, 2024, 04:19:36 AM


Login with username, password and session length


Pages: [1] 2 3   Go Down
  Print  
Author Topic: Working Class Heroes  (Read 13245 times)
0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.
TELLE
Supermanica Council
Council of Wisdom
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 1705



WWW
« on: April 18, 2005, 06:57:51 AM »

I'm asking this question on a few other forums but I just know the folks here will have some encyclopedic knowledge to share with me and help me in my quest.

The Problem

Most superheroes were created by working-class cartoonists in the sweatshops of the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s.  Ironically, very few superheroes are actually working-class.  Outside of Bob Burden's Mystery Men, where are the superheroic truck drivers, mechanics and steelworkers? There seem to be more working-class villains than heroes.

I would like to compile a list of actual working-class heroes. Masked adventurers and comic-strip stars welcome.  Please note: for the purposes of this list, I am only interested in heroes with working-class jobs (ie, blue-collar/pink-collar/"proletarian").  I will accept tradesmen, factory workers, farm workers, unemployed/poor, craftsmen, etc.  NO white-collar workers, rich people, politicians, government agents, or cops  (including scientists, playboys, writers/reporters, professional athletes, pilots, lawyers, engineers, doctors, teachers, professional entertainers/actors/broadcasters).  I will accept Private Eyes and soldiers in a pinch.  And small businessmen ("Petit bourgeois").

A short list:
Freddie Freeman/Capt. Marvel JR --crippled newspaper delivery boy
Diana Prince/Wonder Woman --Princess who works as nurse
Johnny Chambers/Johnny Quick --newsreel camera operator
Peter Parker/Spider-man --photographer
Ma Hunkel --housewife/mother
Black Canary/Dinah Lance --florist
Luke Cage/Powerman --Hero for Hire
Logged

Everything you ever wanted to
know about the classic Superman:
Supermanica
The Encyclopedia of Supermanic Biography!
(temporarily offline)
Super Monkey
Super
League of Supermen
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 3435



WWW
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2005, 01:30:27 PM »

You can put all the Marvels there, since none are rich or have high paying jobs.
Logged

"I loved Super-Monkey; always wanted to do something with him but it never happened."
- Elliot S! Maggin
TELLE
Supermanica Council
Council of Wisdom
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 1705



WWW
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2005, 06:18:07 AM »

Although Billy Batson eventually works his way up to radio personality for WHIZ --sent on glamorous assignments all over the world. Cheesy
Logged

Everything you ever wanted to
know about the classic Superman:
Supermanica
The Encyclopedia of Supermanic Biography!
(temporarily offline)
Klar Ken T5477
Council of Wisdom
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 1338


Metropolis Prime, NYC, NY USA


WWW
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2005, 02:03:30 PM »

Wasnt there a construction worker who's name eludes me done for Marve or DC in the 80s drawn by Alan Weiss?

Something like Power Tool? :roll:
Logged
nightwing
Defender of Kandor
Council of Wisdom
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 1627


Semper Vigilans


WWW
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2005, 02:45:34 PM »

Aquaman doesn't have a job at all and never has as far as I know.  Plus for a lot of his recent history, he's been technically homeless (and looked like it with that beard!).  But he's also royalty so I'm guessing he won't pass your test.

Green Arrow started off rich but went bust.  For a lot of time it was unclear whether he had any job at all.  I think he was doing something by the time of Mike Grell's series, but it might have been no more than delivering flowers for Dinah's shop.

Hal Jordan started off in the glamorous vocation of test pilot but later bounced around from dead-end (and arguably blue collar) job to job for years, including travelling toy salesman and long haul truck driver.  During the famous O'Neil/Adams run he seems, like Ollie, to have been pretty much a hobo with no visible source of income.

Al (Atom) Pratt was a college student.  Which in itself suggests money in the family, but I don't remember him in a job per se.

Ted (Wildcat) Grant was a professional boxer, in fact heavyweight champion of the world.  So he may have had money (if so, little is made of the fact) but he got it in about the most blue-collar, sweat and muscle, agonizing way you can.  And in later stories I think he ran a gym.

I know you're excluding cops, but in the case of Jim (Guardian) Harper and others I don't know if that's fair.  They're hard-working, beat-walking cops (not office types) and that's not what I'd call a white-collar job.  But they also work for "the man," so depending on the point you're trying to make I guess they're out just for that.

Denny (Spirit) Colt has no job and lives in a cemetery!  But he was a trained detective before being "killed" so I guess you wouldn't count him.

Steve (Capt. America) Rogers was an Army private.  He became other things, but he was created, in my view, as a blue-collar kind of guy.

So much of this comes down to semantics.  Are you defining "blue collar" by what a guy does for a living, ie whether its physical labor that doesn't require an advanced degree?  Because lots of characters find themselves in those jobs at one point or other in their long histories.  Or do you limit it to guys who can't manage any better if they try?  For example, Peter Parker sells photos for rent money and not much more, but at heart he's a brilliant scientist who could someday amount to something and make big bucks.

I think what you'll find in the Golden Age is a reliance on the Scarlet Pimpernel/Zorro model of the aristocrat who fights for the little man.  It's not a deliberate attempt to glorify men with "better breeding," it's more just adhering to a stereotype for masked heroes.  In the Silver Age, the emphasis is on science and technology, so all the heroes are guys like Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Barry Allen and so on.

In other words, you may indeed be able to make a case for blue collar workers being underrepresented in the longjohn crowd.  But if you argue that's an intentional bias, or a deliberate statement about the virtues of one class of worker or other, you've got a big job ahead of you.  It's just the way things worked out.

Plus, from a storyteller's point of view, it's easier for a roving reporter to go AWOL for a few hours and fight crime than it would be for someone on a factory production line.  What's he going to do, say, "I'd love to save the city from destruction, but my shift's not over for another two hours!"
Logged

This looks like a job for...
Just a fan
Superman Family
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 136



« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2005, 03:14:07 PM »

How would you consider Superboy, he was a student in an average high school and worked part time in his Dad's store/ or did chores around the farm?
Logged

No man stands as tall as when he stoops to help a child
TELLE
Supermanica Council
Council of Wisdom
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 1705



WWW
« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2005, 02:55:17 AM »

Quote from: "nightwing"
So much of this comes down to semantics.  Are you defining "blue collar" by what a guy does for a living, ie whether its physical labor that doesn't require an advanced degree?  Because lots of characters find themselves in those jobs at one point or other in their long histories...I think what you'll find in the Golden Age is a reliance on the Scarlet Pimpernel/Zorro model of the aristocrat who fights for the little man.  It's not a deliberate attempt to glorify men with "better breeding," it's more just adhering to a stereotype for masked heroes.  In the Silver Age, the emphasis is on science and technology, so all the heroes are guys like Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Barry Allen and so on.

In other words, you may indeed be able to make a case for blue collar workers being underrepresented in the longjohn crowd.  But if you argue that's an intentional bias, or a deliberate statement about the virtues of one class of worker or other, you've got a big job ahead of you.  It's just the way things worked out.

Plus, from a storyteller's point of view, it's easier for a roving reporter to go AWOL for a few hours and fight crime than it would be for someone on a factory production line.  What's he going to do, say, "I'd love to save the city from destruction, but my shift's not over for another two hours!"


I think Superman/Clark is turning out to be the spoiler in this --pivotal here as in so many other ways.  I admit I had certain ideas when I asked the question but only because I've been thinking about these things for a long time.  In most cases I'm interested in the character as initially conceived or in trhe character's most lasting incarnation.  It's not surprising that they follow the sterotype/formula --just disapointing I guess.  How much harder for a taxi driver or piano tuner or computer technician (or cartoonist) than a millionaire, doctor, lawyer, etc to drive around at night looking for crimes?  Only a matter of degrees (ie, if you have time to bowl, you have time to roll).  Without being too critical, I think scholarship has established that there is really not much "innocent" or unintentional about the structure of popular adventure fiction and its role in reproducing so-called "ruling class" ideology in readers, however mediated and "against the grain" that reading experience may be --for instance, I read Lone Ranger or Superman comics on a number of levels (ironically, nostalgically, critically, politically, etc), hopefully fully aware of the biases inherent in the genre, from Hercules to Dark Knight II.

Why are superheroes usually loners?  What are the functions of side-kicks?  These are things that I can't believe just "worked out" randomly, as the best possible solution to stroytelling problems, in a political and moral vacuum.
Logged

Everything you ever wanted to
know about the classic Superman:
Supermanica
The Encyclopedia of Supermanic Biography!
(temporarily offline)
nightwing
Defender of Kandor
Council of Wisdom
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 1627


Semper Vigilans


WWW
« Reply #7 on: April 20, 2005, 02:30:19 PM »

Well here's where I stray into politics, so everybody put on your kevlar!  :lol:

Frankly I think even though many critics have labeled superheroes as fascist fantasies and slaves to the Establishment, the truth is they were born of a liberal mindset.  Like most Liberal heroes (FDR, JFK, etc) they fight for the "little guy" from a position of assumed superiority.  They exist in (or believe they exist in) a world where there will always be an underclass incapable of defending themselves and so, out of a sense of "noblesse oblige," they look out for them and see to their interests.  Yes, there is honor and virtue in the concept of a millionaire like Don Diego or Bruce Wayne fighting for the peasants, just as there is nobility in a Kennedy or Roosevelt leaving his ivory tower to fight for migrant workers, but there is also a certain arrogance and moral presumption as well.  So I think you need to regard comics in the larger context of American's notions of who and what we are.

America is a land of paradoxes, a land dedicated to the notion of equality which nonetheless recognizes a select few historic figures as "more equal than others."  A country that fought to be rid of a monarchy, then spent the next 200 years trying to create a new royalty out of politicians, inventors, athletes and movie stars.  We may say we believe in the equality of the sanitation engineer to the star quarterback, but when push comes to shove we look to the beautiful, the wealthy and the strong for leadership and direction.

In that sense, it doesn't surprise me at all that superheroes tend to be geniuses, millionaires or people with glamorous vocations.  I for one would rather read about a guy with a mansion and a fortune's worth of crime-fighting gadgets and vehicles than, to use your example, a cabbie who lives in a flea-ridden apartment and has nothing more in his crime-fighting arsenal than a mask and a set of brass knuckles. Does that make me elitist? Maybe, or maybe it just means I prefer seeing cool designs and enjoying, however vicariously, the life of a rich man.  I'm from the camp that sees comics as escapism, and I prefer to escape to a world more glamorous than the one I'm escaping from!  

Sometimes we need the benefit of hindsight to recognize our bias, I'll grant you.  If you read 1912's "Tarzan of the Apes," the subtext is pretty shocking by today's standards, but readily accepted at the time.  Basically the idea is that a British nobleman is by his genetic heritage so far superior to the common man that he can survive and excel at anything, and by extension, that certain other races aren't good for much of anything.  Maybe there is a bit of that at work in Batman, but I will hold to the idea that most of this stuff is market-driven; the object is to write what sells, not to preach a dogma.

Quote
Why are superheroes usually loners? What are the functions of side-kicks? These are things that I can't believe just "worked out" randomly, as the best possible solution to stroytelling problems, in a political and moral vacuum.


Not a vacuum, none of us live in a vacuum.  We're all the product of our times.  But it's much harder for me to believe that these guys sat down and deliberately worked to make a political statement, or even analyzed in any great detail the psychological or political reasons a character works.  In most cases, these guys were just kids...they simply knew what they liked in other characters and they stole it!  Batman was a riff on Zorro, Superman was part John Carter and part Hugo Danner, and so on.

I think the side-kick thing did  just "work out."  Someone -- most now agree it was Jerry Robinson -- decided kids needed a point of identification so they invented Robin.  It worked.  Others saw Robin worked, so they copied him as closely as possible.

For me, that's the history of comics in a nutshell...it's a process of trial and error, run everything you've got up the flagpole, and when one idea out of a hundred succeeds, everyone rushes to imitate it in as many variations as legally possible.  At the end of the day, the fact that some thigns work and some don't says more about us as an audience than it does about them as creators.  America has embraced the notion of the aristocrat as defender, and for the most part yawned at "working-man heroes."  The publishers just give us what we want.

Personally I think it boils down to readers asking, "If this guy is so great, why can't he get a better job?"  :lol:
Logged

This looks like a job for...
Pages: [1] 2 3   Go Up
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

CURRENT FORUM

Archives: OLD FORUM  -  DCMB  -  KAL-L
Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines

Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS! Dilber MC Theme by HarzeM
Entrance ·  Origin ·  K-Metal ·  The Living Legend ·  About the Comics ·  Novels ·  Encyclopaedia ·  The Screen ·  Costumes ·  Read Comics Online ·  Trophy Room ·  Creators ·  ES!M ·  Fans ·  Multimedia ·  Community ·  Supply Depot ·  Gift Shop ·  Guest Book ·  Contact & Credits ·  Links ·  Coming Attractions ·  Free E-mail ·  Forum

Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
The LIVING LEGENDS of SUPERMAN! Adventures of Superman Volume 1!
Return to SUPERMAN THROUGH THE AGES!
The Complete Supply Depot for all your Superman needs!