superman.nuMary Immaculate of Lourdes NewtonHolliston School Committeefacebook    
  •   forum   •   THIS WEEK'S CHAPTER: "THE TRACTOR!" •   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?
June 17, 2024, 06:34:37 AM


Login with username, password and session length


Pages: [1] 2   Go Down
  Print  
Author Topic: McLuhan on Supes  (Read 7716 times)
0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.
TELLE
Supermanica Council
Council of Wisdom
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 1705



WWW
« on: September 27, 2005, 07:15:20 AM »

Quote
In his first book, 1951's The Mechanical Bride, McLuhan reproached the Man of Steel, calling Superman's crime-fighting tactics "the strong-arm totalitarian methods of the immature and barbaric mind."


Toronto comics critic Guy Leshinski recently wrote about another Canadian, Marshall McLuhan (who coined the term "global village," among others).  McLuhan had lots to say about comics and the history of media, including the quote above.

It's probably been discussed here before, but I wonder if anyone has any specific thoughts on McLuhan.  It seems to me there were some Bronze Age references to him in some Superman titles.  Maggin's novels?

edit:http://www.eye.net/eye/issue/issue_09.22.05/city/panelist.html
Logged

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

Posts: 1168



« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2005, 08:28:54 AM »

I think McLuhan was very insightful in the ways that comics work, particularly the idea that because comics are told in still pictures, like a novel, it requires mental power to read over. Many people that don't see the big picture blame all sorts of picayune little straw men when explaining why comics don't sell as much as they used to: continuity, the overabundance of superheroes, the fact that comic book store owners all resemble that Simpsons character, etc. The reality is, comics are a medium that. in contrast with television and movies, require imagination to work, just like novels and radio - and why use your imagination when you can rent the video?

Quote
In his first book, 1951's The Mechanical Bride, McLuhan reproached the Man of Steel, calling Superman's crime-fighting tactics "the strong-arm totalitarian methods of the immature and barbaric mind."  


My first instinct is to disagree with McLuhan's statement here, but thinking it over, there's pleasure to be gained in great visceral feats and barbaric brawls; this is the whole point of Superman and superheroes. My enjoyment of superhero comics is inherently immature for that reason. The savage violence, destruction, and mayhem in comics is fun and rather childish; adults understand that people can really get hurt in fights and it really doesn't solve anything ("Hey, put down that crane, you'll take somebody's eye out with that!"). McLuhan's not wrong - but he's missing the point.

Many write of Superman in praise of his decency and honesty, and while these characteristics are important to who he is, what also is important is the fact he is an adventure character in adventure stories, an "Ace of Action" whose main franchise is beating up people whose behavior he disapproves of. Superman is a fictional character and so we can enjoy his behavior from a vicarious perspective that would be different from someone in say, Superman's own world.

I've always loved the dichotomy of how Wonder Woman is supposed to be a pacifist but somehow she always lays a few knockout punches in her stories. Sure, all that pacifism stuff is all well and good, but this is a comic book story, so dammit - we expect her to throw down and chuck a couple tanks while she's at it, too!
Logged

"Wait, folks...in a startling new development, Black Goliath has ripped Stilt-Man's leg off, and appears to be beating him with it!"
       - Reporter, Champions #15 (1978)
Uncle Mxy
Superman Squad
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 809



« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2005, 10:00:47 AM »

My first instinct was to look for more context, to assume it was some sort of sensationalist statement (especially given the source).  Here's a fuller version of the quote, which hopefully adds a bit of context to what he was saying (though there's undoubtedly more context to be had):

Quote
"The attitudes of Superman to current social problem..reflect the strong-arm totalitarian methods of the immature and barbaric mind.. Superman is ruthlessly efficient in carrying on a one-man crusade against crooks and anti-social forces [without] appeal to the process of law. Justice is represented as an affair of personal strength alone.. [He] seems to embody a mounting impatience with the laborious processes of civilised life and a restless eagerness to embrace violent solutions."  - Marshall McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride


My second instinct was to think about what Superman was like at the time this was written.  The 1940s Superman was a far cry from the deputized world citizen boy scout, and the overall era of superheroes seemed to be coming to something of an end at that point.  

My third instinct was to say "screw it, not worth replying to this thread", but I disobeyed that instinct, probably to my peril.  Smiley
Logged
TELLE
Supermanica Council
Council of Wisdom
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 1705



WWW
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2005, 10:05:39 AM »

I agree that that the comics have changed but the basic premises remain the same.  But it is easy to miss the point, as Julian notes.  Siegel and Shuster's Supes was different in emphasis from Siegel and Weisinger's Supes.  It's interesting to me to draw out the differences in how these critics (Wertham, McLuhan, Ariel Dorfman, etc) see Superman is similar but almost opposite ways.
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 #4 on: September 28, 2005, 01:45:39 PM »

I think it's quite true that Jerry and Joe's Superman was a figure of pure wish fulfillment who solved all the world's problems with strong-arm tactics.  That's what gave the strip instant, visceral appeal to kids of that era (an era rampant with organized crime, social injustices and overseas, a whole nation devoted to bullying its weak neighbors).

I'll also grant that very little of this stands up to the cold light of logic and go him one further by saying it quickly became painfully tedious. How many times did Superman throw a guy into the air or drop him from a building to get a "confession"?  How many of those confessions would stand up in court even in the pre-Miranda 30s and 40s?

This early Superman works only in the realm of pure allegory.  As far as I'm concerned the last vestige left is the Clark Kent persona, a disguise so lame that it can only work when the stories are crude, simple morality plays.

It's interesting to note that most criticisms of the post-Jerry and Joe Superman (from Weisinger to today) boil down to the view that he is not totalitarian enough.  Which proves there's just as big an audience for thoughtless, kick-butt "justice" today as there was in the Depression, maybe more.
Logged

This looks like a job for...
Uncle Mxy
Superman Squad
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 809



« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2005, 03:58:03 PM »

Quote from: "nightwing"
It's interesting to note that most criticisms of the post-Jerry and Joe Superman (from Weisinger to today) boil down to the view that he is not totalitarian enough.  Which proves there's just as big an audience for thoughtless, kick-butt "justice" today as there was in the Depression, maybe more.

He was still totalitarian in the cover art.  
See http://www.superdickery.com.  
Seriously, I think he was totalitarian, just in ways we didn't care about at the time.  For all his genteel limits for dealing with normal foes (e.g. due process, not beating them to a bloody pulp) how he handled stuff like privacy was just as totalitarian, but nicer.  It's like how some people view the 1950s as a whole.  Where he really needed to be more totalitarian was with his "friends" (who really were more like "pets" -- perhaps that's a  totalitarian angle as well), who'd get themselves in enough trouble where any sane person would've ditched them (well, maybe I'd have kept Lana Smiley ).  The stories were cute nonetheless.  Looking at an homage like Wildstorm's Mr. Majestic, he's more akin to many Golden/Silver Age Superman character aspects  than the Bronze and Iron Age Superman eras were.
Logged
Captain Kal
Superman Squad
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 716



« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2005, 04:40:29 PM »

McLuhan was a revolutionary thinker on communications theory.  His most famous insight was "The medium is the message."  He got people to think outside the bounds of conventional social interactions and communications.  He even considered light bulbs a form of communications.

In light of that, I'm not certain McLuhan was ever specifically referenced or his ideas in the superbooks.  If this occurred, it's probably in the context of GBS in the Maggin novels.
Logged

Captain Kal

"When you lose, don't lose the lesson."
-- The Dalai Lama
TELLE
Supermanica Council
Council of Wisdom
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 1705



WWW
« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2005, 07:26:04 AM »

Quote from: "Captain Kal"
McLuhan was a revolutionary thinker on communications theory.  His most famous insight was "The medium is the message."  He got people to think outside the bounds of conventional social interactions and communications.  He even considered light bulbs a form of communications.

In light of that, I'm not certain McLuhan was ever specifically referenced or his ideas in the superbooks.  If this occurred, it's probably in the context of GBS in the Maggin novels.


I think I was remembering Lois' interview with "The Oldtimer" in Last Son of Krypton as a McLuhan persona.  But instead of being an expert on media/technology, he was an expert on how Superman transformed the world.
Logged

Everything you ever wanted to
know about the classic Superman:
Supermanica
The Encyclopedia of Supermanic Biography!
(temporarily offline)
Pages: [1] 2   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!