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Author Topic: Holy Superheroes  (Read 18255 times)
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TELLE
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« on: June 05, 2005, 08:07:13 AM »

http://www.baptiststandard.com/postnuke/index.php?module=htmlpages&func=display&pid=3433

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Themes of justice, mercy, the proper use of power and the restraint of evil have permeated superhero comics since Superman first took flight in 1938, Garrett noted. He explores the spiritual foundations of comic books in Holy Superheroes, recently released by NavPress.

Garrett acknowledges he has been a comics fan since around age 10, but he first “got a little bit of the comic book mythology” when he and Chris Seay, pastor of Ecclesia in Houston, worked together on The Gospel Reloaded: Exploring Spirituality and Faith in the Matrix.

As they examined spiritual implications of the science fiction trilogy, Garrett encountered cultural observers who compared the movie characters to superheroes like Superman and Batman
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Maximara
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« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2005, 12:14:13 PM »

Quote from: "TELLE"
http://www.baptiststandard.com/postnuke/index.php?module=htmlpages&func=display&pid=3433

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Themes of justice, mercy, the proper use of power and the restraint of evil have permeated superhero comics since Superman first took flight in 1938, Garrett noted. He explores the spiritual foundations of comic books in Holy Superheroes, recently released by NavPress.

Garrett acknowledges he has been a comics fan since around age 10, but he first “got a little bit of the comic book mythology” when he and Chris Seay, pastor of Ecclesia in Houston, worked together on The Gospel Reloaded: Exploring Spirituality and Faith in the Matrix.

As they examined spiritual implications of the science fiction trilogy, Garrett encountered cultural observers who compared the movie characters to superheroes like Superman and Batman
.


If there is one main flaw evident from the article it is the idea that the "dark vigilante" came about recently. Anyone really familar with the Batman and Superman of the 1938-1940 period knows that they were first cast in this mold. Batman carried a gun and killed a few crooks along the way (See the Golden Age Batman chronology for the proof) and it was not uncommon for Superman to threaten some hood by picking up a piece of iron and twisting it into a  pretzel while 'See this? This is your neck if you don't tell me what I need to know.'

The main reason people do not know this is because the comics of that period are so hard to find and read and what has been reprinted is relatively mild.
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nightwing
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« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2005, 01:59:07 PM »

Well, I think you can argue that the earliest strips were still in a formulative stage as creators tried to find their footing.  Batman lifted very heavily from pulp heroes like the Black Bat, the Shadow, the Spider, the Phantom Detective and so on, and it was pretty much expected then that a "cloaked avenger" would carry a gun.  In other words, Batman and even Superman were more pulp heroes than comics heroes at the beginning.  Through trial and error, what we now know as the superhero formula took a less bloodthirsty form, and despite Wolvie and Punisher (and even the Batman movies), that's still how most of the world thinks of superheroes...good guys who don't kill.

There have certainly always been the violent "heroes"...in the 40s, the Hangman was downright brutal...but they tend to be in the minority, and there's a reason for that.  The Punisher's methods make him popular with some comic enthusiasts, but he'll never catch on in pop culture at large.  And notice that the super-popular Wolverine in the movies is all "warm and fuzzy" compared to his "berzerker" counterpart in the comics.  I think if you want your superhero to catch on in the world at large, you'd better make him relatively virtuous...otherwise he won't meet most people's criteria for "superhero."
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« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2005, 07:42:21 PM »

Quote from: "nightwing"
Well, I think you can argue that the earliest strips were still in a formulative stage as creators tried to find their footing.  Batman lifted very heavily from pulp heroes like the Black Bat, the Shadow, the Spider, the Phantom Detective and so on, and it was pretty much expected then that a "cloaked avenger" would carry a gun.  In other words, Batman and even Superman were more pulp heroes than comics heroes at the beginning.  Through trial and error, what we now know as the superhero formula took a less bloodthirsty form, and despite Wolvie and Punisher (and even the Batman movies), that's still how most of the world thinks of superheroes...good guys who don't kill.

There have certainly always been the violent "heroes"...in the 40s, the Hangman was downright brutal...but they tend to be in the minority, and there's a reason for that.  The Punisher's methods make him popular with some comic enthusiasts, but he'll never catch on in pop culture at large.


Can you say Rambo?  Cheesy He made the Punisher look like Red Riding Hood and he was popular enough to kick off his own subgenre which was lampooned in Hot Shots Part Deux. :shock: Also if you watch the serials of the 1920s though 1955 the majority had somewhat 'ruthless' heroes.  The cowboy hero who dominated this time period in movies and TV was the most ruthless of the bunch - the Lone Ranger was likely one of the few cowboy heroes who didn't leave a series of corpses (usially Native American) in his wake.  The 'spagetti' Western of the 60s - 70s mearly took this to its logical conclusion. The Phantom (who predates both Supermran and Batman) could and did kill though he did his best to avoid it. Captain American in his 1941 origin killed the spy that killed the inventor of the Super Soldier serum and went on to take out a few Nazis permantly (The 1960's retelling of this altered who killed the spy)

The point is that 'violent' heroes have always been popular. Futhermore to claim that superheroes that kill are recent ignores the history of the genre
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nightwing
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« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2005, 02:55:18 PM »

Okay, then let's look at it from another angle.

It's only recently that it became "chic" for heroes to kill.  Or, to cede you your point, let's make that "kill again."  For decades, decades during which most of America discovered superheroes and formed an opinion of who they were, they did not kill.  (And it's worth noting that most people did NOT discover superheroes through comic books at all, but through other media...which is still the case).

I also think you need to take heroes in the context of their times.  Nobody would blame Captain America for killing Nazis, any more than they'd blame their dads for doing it.  It was a time of war and anyway Nazis hardly count as human...if I met one today I'd probably kill him myself.  And in the old Westerns, shoot-outs were (1) sanitized affairs with lots of noise but almost no blood..."Aghh... ya got me...PLOP!"  and (2) pretty clear-cut in terms of good guys and bad guys.

By contrast, Wolverine...at least when I read the books in the late 70s...killed without much provocation.  (There's that infamous scene where he sneaks up on a guard and "snikt"!, which turns Nightcrawler's stomach).  And in the case of the Punisher, it's made clear in many stories that he's a loose cannon, a self-appointed executioner who is as much of a menace as the men he hunts down.  He's not a hero in any normal sense, though I guess he appeals to kids with anger issues.

The point being, yes Captain America, early Batman and even Superman killed at one point, but always their victims were either characterless ciphers who represented evil (Nazis, vampires, etc) or they were people who were shown to be so hateful and inhuman that "they had it coming." If killing had to be done, they were men enough to do it, but it was just part of the job...they didn't get off on it.  Now there's a whole coterie of superheroes whose entire appeal is that they are "bad boys" who "don't take crap"...they take apparent glee in piling up the bodies, and so do their fans...if they didn't kill someone in every issue, the sales would take a nosedive.  Killing is their raison d'etre; what makes them "heroes" is not their strong sense of right and wrong or any sort of moral center, but the ability to kill people and not lose sleep over it.  The same sort of fine character traits that get you promoted in a street gang...all that counts is how "tough" you are.

So yes, it's wrong to say no superhero ever killed until recently.  But it's not wrong to say that killing only recently became a prerequesite for selling books.  It was such a big fad at one point that John Byrne bent over backwards to create a situation where even Superman could take a few lives.  I don't know, since I haven't read this guy's book, but maybe his point is that superheroes exist to meet the needs of their age, and these days those needs include shedding a lot of blood.  To an extent, we as a society "create" our own heroes by projecting our needs.  In the 50s and 60s we did not need to see people kill for us vicariously.  Now apparently we do.

Before I forget again, I wanted to note here that the Punisher is one of the worst cases of plagiarism in all of fiction.  He is lifted, lock stock and barrel, from Don Pendleton's "Executioner" novels.  Maybe this was considered "okay" the first time he appeared...as a one-off adversary for Spider-Man...but considering how big the character has become, somebody oughtta get sued.

It's also worth noting that the code against killing in comics originated with Jack Leibowitz and Harry Donenfeld at DC, before being adopted industry-wide via the Comics Code Authority.  In his book, "Men of Tomorrow," Gerard Jones suggests this was done in a concerted effort to legitimize comics and keep the civic-minded parents' groups out of their hair.  Since Donenfeld built DC on money he'd made from selling pornography and bootleg liquor, it was kind of important to establish his new comics outfit as a source of "good clean fun."
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Maximara
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« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2005, 07:42:05 PM »

Quote from: "nightwing"
Okay, then let's look at it from another angle.

It's only recently that it became "chic" for heroes to kill.  Or, to cede you your point, let's make that "kill again."  For decades, decades during which most of America discovered superheroes and formed an opinion of who they were, they did not kill.  (And it's worth noting that most people did NOT discover superheroes through comic books at all, but through other media...which is still the case)..


More accurately they did not kill things that had a 'soul'. In his first appearance Superboy tried to kill Bizarro with Green K and latter did kill him with the remains of the machine that created him curing a girl's blindness in the process. Then you have the ocxational self will machine criminal that superman happily turns into scrap metal because it is 'not alive' These cop outs are only worse than GI Joe cartoon where no one every freaking dies in combat.

Quote from: "nightwing"
I also think you need to take heroes in the context of their times.  Nobody would blame Captain America for killing Nazis, any more than they'd blame their dads for doing it.  It was a time of war and anyway Nazis hardly count as human...if I met one today I'd probably kill him myself.  And in the old Westerns, shoot-outs were (1) sanitized affairs with lots of noise but almost no blood..."Aghh... ya got me...PLOP!"  and (2) pretty clear-cut in terms of good guys and bad guys.
)..


Not always. Little Big Man case in point. Also the Spagetti wester was natorious for having 'heroes' who were just as bad as the villians. Watch the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly some time for an example.

Quote from: "nightwing"
By contrast, Wolverine...at least when I read the books in the late 70s...killed without much provocation.  (There's that infamous scene where he sneaks up on a guard and "snikt"!, which turns Nightcrawler's stomach).  And in the case of the Punisher, it's made clear in many stories that he's a loose cannon, a self-appointed executioner who is as much of a menace as the men he hunts down.  He's not a hero in any normal sense, though I guess he appeals to kids with anger issues.


Of course by the late 1970's the Anti-hero had become popular as again best demonstrated by the likes of Rambo, Dirty Harry, and the countless man with no name cowboys running around. The Calvery lone=g a good guy was now a villian helping to destory Native American tribes and covering up their screw ups by court marshaling those who knew the truth.

In a way it was a whole back lash against the Vietnam war and Watergate messes. A war where it was Amercian soldiers seemingly shooting helpless prisoners and burning villages (Mei Li). A president who though he was above the law. Rumors of an FBI head named Hoover who had a file list that would have made Himmler of the SS green with envy. As early as the 1960's you had the decline and my 1970s it became mainstream
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Genis Vell
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« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2005, 09:26:21 PM »

I remember an early issue of SUPERMAN featuring Superman causing the death of a couple of criminals. Supes was standing in the middle of the street while they were on a car. He didn't move, so they avoided him... falling in a ravine!
Pretty hard to believe that the "no killing rule" arrived only after a few years!

This is the so-called "Mickey Mouse syndrome" (copyright by John Byrne, I think): more a character becomes popular, more he doesn't act badly.
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« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2005, 02:31:53 AM »

Quote from: "Genis Vell"
I remember an early issue of SUPERMAN featuring Superman causing the death of a couple of criminals. Supes was standing in the middle of the street while they were on a car. He didn't move, so they avoided him... falling in a ravine!
Pretty hard to believe that the "no killing rule" arrived only after a few years!

This is the so-called "Mickey Mouse syndrome" (copyright by John Byrne, I think): more a character becomes popular, more he doesn't act badly.


I think this varies on the character and culture. Rambo stayed pretty much the same through out his popularity and Wolverine still can turn somebody into hamburger and the Punisher is as much a loose cannon as he was when he first appeared his releative growth in popularity. Japanese manga heroes are all over the map and many of the popular ones have killed.
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