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Author Topic: Superman and the Nazi!  (Read 12025 times)
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nightwing
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« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2005, 04:25:08 PM »

Kal-L writes:

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Clever observation… indeed Fredric Wertham, this psychiatrist wanabee, did a lot of harm to comics industry in the 50’s.


We seem to go through this periodically: some opportunist in the field of psychology sells out his profession in pursuit of the fast buck and publishes a book aimed at the moms and dads of the world.  In Wertham's case, he handed parents an easy "explanation" for juvenile delinquency...never mind that it's more likely caused by bad parenting, it's so much easier to throw comics on a bonfire than to examine your own failings as a parent.  (We're seeing the same thing now with the focus on video games, movies and cable TV...which I grant you are generally horrible stuff, but with a little hands-on parenting a kid can be well-adjusted enough to handle all of it).  

A few years later, it was Dr. Spock and his "ground-breaking" notion that it's okay to let your kid run the household since you don't want to damage his/her precious little psyche...thus producing a generation of self-absorbed creeps who think the world owes them something (and who, incidentally, all seem to hate their parents anyway!).  Wertham appealed to parents' fears, Spock to their wishes (who wants to discipline kids? It's hard!) but in the end they both told people what they wanted to hear, and sat back and counted their royalties.  Never mind how many minds and lives they screwed up in the process.

TELLE writes:

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Far from being a "wannabe", Wertham had a distinguished practice and was quite influential within his profession and within the US judicial system. The blame for the implosion of the industry in the 50s can also be placed in the hands of the cowardly and conservative major, non-horror publishers, as well as political opportunists like US Senator Kefauver, among many other figures. If Wertham convinced people, they wanted to be convinced. He also has a blog!


Yes, that's how it usually goes.  After the glory-hound "expert" publishes his hysteria-inducing "study," a gaggle of vainglorious Senators start hearings to whip up hysteria a bit more and show the voting public that, by gum, their elected officials are on top of the issue.

Wow, hearings on comics, movies, video games...thanks for making America safe, Senators!  Meanwhile 50 years after Wertham we still have runaway crime, crumbling city infrastructures, budgetary boondoggles and poverty.  It's a pathetic cycle of blustering theatrics that goes on forever, and gets us nowhere.


Quote
Of course, many aspects of the early, vigilante-like Superman myth, not to mention the all-knowing, all-seeing, Big-Brother aspect of Superman are indeed fascistic and speak to a near universal drive in humanity towards order and control (thankfully usually balanced out by a will to freedom, cooperation, and anarchy)


You know, I never know how to answer accusations of facism on the part of Superman.  Technically is it "facism" if it's not government-sponsored? Superman acts as a free agent in those early stories, taking the law into his own hands and applying not the rule of the land but his own notions of right and wrong.  If everyone else followed suit that would lead not to facism but to anarchy.  There were occasions when government officials were the bad guys who Superman half-strangled into "confessions," so I don't read a "government is always right" subtext into those tales as I would in a true facist tract.

Later on, like in the 50s, Superman did become more a defender of the status quo and a flag-waving embodiment of patriotism, and I suppose those on the left could argue that alone made him a "fascist."  But by then he had also abandoned his old strong-arm bullying tactics, so he was hardly a storm-trooper.  If anything, buying into the "Establishment" mindset seemed to make Supes a much more even-tempered, calmed down sort of guy.  Not traits I'd attribute to a fascist.

Wertham saw what he wanted to see.  He formed a conclusion and then sought out the "facts" that would back him up, which is the exact opposite of what an ethical scientist is supposed to do.  Whether you care about comics or not, its pretty obvious Wertham was a hack.
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Klar Ken T5477
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« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2005, 04:54:21 PM »

I actually found a used copy of Wetham at a book store which was obviously used in a community college psych class as many pertinent passages are underlined but all the 'headlights" and 'eye injury' illos are intact.

Wertham would have a cow if he saw modern comics today.
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TELLE
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« Reply #10 on: November 17, 2005, 10:50:27 PM »

Quote from: "nightwing"
Technically is it "facism" if it's not government-sponsored?


Yes.  The term applies equally to the local neo-nazi skins who terrorize their neighbours to the KKK to imperialistic governments that profess doctrines of racial purity.

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If everyone else followed suit that would lead not to facism but to anarchy.


We have different views of anarchy.  For you it seems to be a synonym for chaos.  I understand it as a communitarian political philosophy.

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Whether you care about comics or not, its pretty obvious Wertham was a hack.


It's clear that Wertham's methodology in SOTI and elsewhere was flawed but this can't be said, as I understand it, for his entire career and work.
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« Reply #11 on: November 17, 2005, 11:04:19 PM »

Quote from: "Nightwing"
Later on, like in the 50s, Superman did become more a defender of the status quo and a flag-waving embodiment of patriotism, and I suppose those on the left could argue that alone made him a "fascist."


One of Superman’s strengths as a fictional character, one of the things that makes his revisions generally successful (Byrne notwithstanding) whereas revision has not been kinder to other characters, is the fact that Superman’s heroism is so broadly defined and simplified that it can mean something to any time and any person.

Superman’s flag-waiving isn’t bothersome to those that view such displays elsewhere with anxiety about nationalism, because Superman’s characterization is so pure and incorruptible that the aspect of it that are bothersome in the view of many, namely, the cynical manipulation, cannot be applied to Superman. Superman is not trying to drum up votes and isn’t running for congress; there are no petroleum lobbyists in the Fortress of Solitude. Superman represents the purer motives behind the symbol that none can disagree with (respect for the individual, progress, liberty), instead of the more cynical aspects of Rambo-style aggression.

Quote from: "Nightwing"
You know, I never know how to answer accusations of facism on the part of Superman.


Here’s how I’d answer it: If Erin Brockovitch was a comic book superheroine, she’d fire proton beams at Yeti.

Superman is an action hero, and it is a trait of an action hero that they solve problems with physical action. In real life, I’d find the idea of someone that spends their days beating up other people whose behavior they dislike to be rather sinister and frightening. However, it works according to the conventions of the action story.

The accusation of Fascism on Superman’s part comes from the fact that Superman uses force to solve problems. And this is a valid point; what point can a fist make, no matter how powerful the fist? This is counterbalanced however, by Superman’s intrinsic purity; he would never use force excessively, he would never cause undue injury or take a human life. This is why the post-Carlin “fallible” Superman who loses his temper didn’t work: make Superman human and with human prejudices and suddenly Superman starts to look a little sinister.

Unfortunately, society's problems are too big to solve with either the all too easy solutions of congressional hearings about tooth decay or funnybooks...or by whipping out the Paddle and reverting to authoritarian, distant parenting. Rather than blame Dr. Spock, what can be blamed is the belief spreading through popular culture that violence is the great solution to problems. Hey, if God didn’t want us to kill all our problems off, he wouldn’t have invented the grenade!
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« Reply #12 on: November 17, 2005, 11:16:49 PM »

Yes, the Comics Code Authority still exists.  But No, it doesn't seem to be as powerful an influence as it used to be.  Just look at this month's Green Lantern issue, which is "approved", but features Hal fighting a man-eating shark-monster and Black Hand gaining the power to graphically drain the life out of people, killing them in the process...
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« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2005, 12:05:31 PM »

I am surprised there are Wertham’s partisans among comics readers. How can his actions be justified? Well, debate’s open.

As for the fascist aspect of Superman, remember a famous retort in the Man of Steel by John Byrne which has been a subject of controversy? Superman holds Lois lane in his harms and flies her back home. She asks: “how do you know where I’m living?”, and Supes replies: “I know where everybody lives”.

Another thing shocks me, the behaviour of Superman towards the nation of Qurac (doubtless designing Iraq). And in the online story we find in this site; “Graduation” ( http://superman.nu/tales3/last/ ) I don’t like much the way arabs are shown. According this story, all arabs wear a veil and are terrorists, and they’re planning terrorist attacks on a big scale.



This story has been published in 1992, before and since then, so much of the same kind have been published, and we wonder if US has not given the arabs the idea of attacking them, by dint of repeating they were criminals.

As for the Comics Code Authority stamp, it reminds me of the famous issue #5 of Green Lantern/Green Arrow in the 70’s, when Speedy becomes a drug addict. For the first time, a DC publication had not CCA stamp, because they thought it could shock young minds.

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« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2005, 12:27:11 PM »

Quote from: "Kal-L"
I am surprised there are Wertham’s partisans among comics readers. How can his actions be justified? Well, debate’s open.

I read an interview with Wertham in an old issue of Nemo, the much-lamented magazine on classic comics, and was interested to note that Wertham actually loved comics, and had a Milt Caniff original page, complete with dedication, on his wall. The point he was trying to make was that violent comics caused juvenile delinquency. (At least, that's how I understand it, not having read Seduction of the Innocent.) Fair enough.

The trouble is, a guy like Wertham shows up every generation to vilify one medium or another: lately, video games have been blamed for violence in children, and before that it was movies and Heavy Metal. Two hundred years ago, Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werther was blamed for a spate of suicides among young men. According to my admittedly limited research, few mental health professionals nowadays would ascribe extreme behaviour to exposure to violent images or fiction, but tend to blame factors like emotional distress, abuse, social ostracism -- well, lousy childhoods, basically.
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« Reply #15 on: November 19, 2005, 12:12:08 PM »

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Wertham actually loved comics, and had a Milt Caniff original page, complete with dedication, on his wall.


OK, but you know what kind of comics Milton Caniff did; kind of conservative, with stories implying good flawless American citizens like Steve Canyon or Terry and the Pirates. Rather formal and “politically correct”, contrary to the kind of comics Wertham aimed, like EC comics that had nothing to do with the soft sugar coated world of Milton Caniff.

On the other hand, your analysis is relevant, when you compare reaction of the public towards comics with these towards Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werther or video games today. Maybe persons like Wertham are necessary, maybe their role is to temporize excesses. Moreover, there’s a saw: “purest diamonds are born under the greatest pressures” (or something like that). Maybe if Wertham hadn’t come up, imagination and sense of creation of comics drawers and writers wouldn’t have been whipped enough, and maybe we wouldn’t have known the FF, Xmen, Barry Allen the Flash, Hal Jordan the Green lantern etc…
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