superman.nuStrange Visitor!facebook    
  •   forum   •   THIS WEEK'S CHAPTER: "POCANTICO TO VEGA!" •   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?
September 19, 2020, 07:54:00 AM


Login with username, password and session length


Pages: [1] 2 3 4 5 6   Go Down
  Print  
Author Topic: If comic book heroes tell us something, we should BELIEVE it  (Read 11584 times)
0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.
JulianPerez
Council of Wisdom
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 1168



« on: September 26, 2006, 03:02:45 PM »

If comic book heroes tell us something, we should BELIEVE them, people!

This is somethiing that bothers me about post-Crisis reboot series like HAWKWORLD: they assume that what the Silver/Bronze Age Hawkman shows us isn't the truth, and doubt the characters at their word for everything (the Hawks couldn't REALLY be here to study crime techniques; they're spies, and they can't REALLY be happily married, it must be a cover story).

It bothers me when people assume that Doc Savage's "Crime College" in upstate New York is a cute euphemism for brainwashing instead of being exactly what Doc said it was: a way to remove people of their evil and antosocial nature medically. Okay, this involves a naive view of human nature and a view of medicine that is based on discredited quackery, further, one that in order to work means you have to ignore that the twentieth century ever happened...but still, it violates the contract between writer and reader to assume that Doc's college is something outside of what he says it is, outside the spirit of the story.

There's no reason to think that E.E. Smith's LENSMAN universe is a fascistic military dictatorship, as some have called it. E.E. Smith made his universe with heroes that were pure and noble fighting against absolute evil. Yes, the book's politics were jingoistic and pro-military and totally without irony, but Smith said Lensmen were incorruptible; they were depicted as heroic characters and that should be respected.

In the end, it's not what "things would be like in our real world." It's about what things are like in the world the writer creates.

In the real world, the Silver Age Hawks don't make sense at all. They dressed as birds despite being from space, and though they studied crimefighting techniques, they worked at a museum and used the objects/weapons there to fight crime.

In the real world, Lensmen would be a terrifying, status-quo enforcing thought police answerable to nobody with all the nasty elements of the military minset (admiration for brutality, resistance to change, unwillingness to question authority) as well as the positive ones the books showed (honor, courage, loyalty).

It's a very nasty, mean-spirited instinct to say "how you saw something isn't how it really happened." The reason is it undermines the contract between writer and reader, our willingness to buy into the world the writer is creating.

This is why the THUNDERCATS comics totally failed to capture the spirit of the original series. Their view of Thunderra as a class-stratified society is cynicism in a context where it just doesn't belong.

This is also why IDENTITY CRISIS is bothersome. Particularly the revalation that ever since the Satellite Years, the JLA has never been the clean-limbed heroes they were "supposed" to have been, and all along performing morally questionable personality switches.

On the other hand, it's not just about being cynical inappropriately; the danger of assuming the writer is a liar can take many forms. One of the worst is "the Punisher, Conan and Wolverine aren't really heroes." Don't get me wrong, the Dirty-Harry-esque reactionary spirit of the Punisher is very alienating (the book sometimes reads like it was a horrible Reagan-era fantasy written by Peter Boyle as JOE, the hippie killer) and the ultramacho vibe turns me off. But still. In the context of the story, the Punisher and Wolverine are the protagonists. They can be likable or not likable, effective or not effective, interesting or not interesting, but it's not fair to the kind of story being told to deny their ability to function as heroes.
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 #1 on: September 27, 2006, 11:07:45 PM »

I think what you're saying indirectly is that you miss thought bubbles, and the sense of belief that inherently comes with them.
Logged
davidelliott
Last Son of Krypton
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 267



« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2006, 12:10:09 AM »

The silver age Hawks were fine the way they were... why not show a MARRIED couple (a rarity in the SA) fighting crime.  It's more contrived to have one Earth, post Crisis, where Carter Hall was Hawkman in the '40's and Katar Hol as the current Hawkman (if that still applies)... or that both Hawkmen are fighting crime at the same time with similar costumes and methods.

And they used Thanagarian technology "behind the scenes"... Absorbatron, their ship, etc and enjoyed using the medievel weapons.

I feel your pain
Logged
MichaelBailey
Superman Emergency Squad
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 66


This Ain't No Sippin' Tea


WWW
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2006, 07:57:09 PM »

On one hand I can appreciate what you are trying to say.  You seem to have a problem with people going back and putting something of a modern sensibility to books and comics of the past.  That's cool and all, just not something I can agree with.

As far as the Lensman series or Doc Savage, well people will read into a book what they will read into.  Frankly even if Doc Savage started a crime college to medically remove their evil tendencies for the greater good there is still an underlying fear that maybe his definition of what is good and what is evil may change as time goes on.  Savage could continue being the quintessential good guy, but given how history works (even fictional history when it is interesting) things could change.  It may not be what the writer had in mind, but then again the writer's word on the matter isn't always the last.

There is a term known as auctorial fallacy, which roughly means that whatever the author had in mind for a piece of writing or a movie or a comic book is not the final word on the subject.  There is a relationship between the writer and the reader and in that relationship the reader is going to take away from the book or story or what have you what they feel the piece is about.  If the author of Doc Savage thinks that the Crime College is a place where criminals are "cured" of their evil ways for the good of humanity then that is fine but the reader worried about the concept and what Doc Savage or someone else could do if their definition of evil comes to encompass things like any form of anti-social behavior, like speaking out against the government.

Now, as far as comic books go, well for roughly three decades now writers have been changing stories and histories to serve their own needs.  While in the abstract the fact that Zatanna mind wiped Dr. Light and Batman and so many other characters "changed" the history and removes the rose tinted lenses it doesn't negate the actual stories printed in the sixties and seventies because the original CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS made all of that history questionable in the current context.  The stories before the revelation still happened and happened in the way the writers intended and now there is another version of that history based on what Brad Meltzer brought to the table.

Just because HAWKWORLD came along doesn't mean that the Silver Age Hawkman stories didn't happen.  It's just another version.
Logged

"I now own well over 13,000 comic books.  Most people would call this a hobby.  I prefer to call it was it actually is; a hopeless addiction." -MRB
Gangbuster
Superman Squad
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 587



« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2006, 10:10:45 PM »

Quote from: "MichaelBailey"
On one hand I can appreciate what you are trying to say.  You seem to have a problem with people going back and putting something of a modern sensibility to books and comics of the past.  That's cool and all, just not something I can agree with.


I'm not sure that what Julian is complaining about is "modern sensibility." Marxism is...how old, now? Even crime comics are...how old is Detective Comics? None of the ideas that Julian was complaining about are new, so their modernness isn't the problem. The problem, I think, is that these aspects are out of character for many established comic book heroes.

And for people who think that Marvel is more realistic...really? In real life, when you mutate, you get cancer and die. When you are bombarded with cosmic rays, you get cancer and die. If a spider is irradiated, it dies and doesn't bite you...and if it did, it would just hurt really bad. If some kind of gamma ray nuke explodes near you, you either die...or get cancer and die later. And Norse gods do not exist!

My point? There is a place for realism in comics. However, there isn't a very big place for it in Superhero comics, for obvious reasons.
Logged

"Trying to capture my wife, eh? That makes me SUPER-MAD!"

-"Superman", 1960

nightwing
Defender of Kandor
Council of Wisdom
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 1621


Semper Vigilans


WWW
« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2006, 01:39:34 PM »

I think the current trend of "forget everything you knew about..." goes back in some part to Alan Moore's 80s run on Marvelman/Miracleman.  In it, he "reveals" that the character's Fawcett-like, fanciful adventures of the 50s were all a computer-generated dream life created by a government agency while Mike Moran and his two sidekicks slept in sensory deprivation chambers.

This one worked, at least from my point of view, for two reasons: one, the "reveal" didn't make Mike any less virtuous as he's not the one who lied to us and two, since I'd never heard of Marvelman until this series, I didn't have any particular attachment to those older stories anyway.

But as with any good idea in comics, this sort of thing has been run into the ground by lesser talents who don't "get" it.  Too many writers fancy themselves some sort of postmodern, deconstructivist, ironic geniuses for taking wholesome fantasies and turning them into some sort of perverse nightmare.

I have enough trouble with today's generation of hacks, who rake in big bucks by doing so-so to awful work on characters invented by superior talents of another generation who never made squat.   But when these idiots add insult to injury by defecating on the characters as well, it's indefensible.  I think DC is beginning to understand what over a decade of this sort of thing has earned them; a box full of broken toys.  

JulianPerez writes:

Quote
It's a very nasty, mean-spirited instinct to say "how you saw something isn't how it really happened." The reason is it undermines the contract between writer and reader, our willingness to buy into the world the writer is creating.


It's also self-defeating.  Once you've established that stories can be undone at a whim, ret-conned away, twisted or turned on their heads, then there's really no reason to keep collecting comics, is there?  The big draw, at least for repeat buyers, was always that sense of continuity and evolving mythologies.  If everything that happens this month can be revealed as a lie next year, then nothing any creator does really matters at all.  That's why I always roll my eyes at phrases like "this issue: everything changes!"  Of course it does, and whatever changes you make will soon be undone, too.  Keep your comics, I'm spending my money on DVD box sets.

Quote
This is also why IDENTITY CRISIS is bothersome. Particularly the revalation that ever since the Satellite Years, the JLA has never been the clean-limbed heroes they were "supposed" to have been, and all along performing morally questionable personality switches.


Never read it, never will.  But having said that, I agree with MichaelBailey that you shouldn't sweat it.  Nothing that IC did can change what happened in the real "Satellite Era," just as nothing anyone else has written since 1986 changes in any way what went before in the Multiverse.

The way I see it, official Silver Age continuity began with Showcase #4 and ended either with Crisis 12 or "What Ever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?"  Anything after that is non-canon and I can take it or leave it.  In fact, sometimes I think anything that happened to any Earth-2 character after All-Star #57 is non-canon.

Quote
On the other hand, it's not just about being cynical inappropriately; the danger of assuming the writer is a liar can take many forms. One of the worst is "the Punisher, Conan and Wolverine aren't really heroes." Don't get me wrong, the Dirty-Harry-esque reactionary spirit of the Punisher is very alienating (the book sometimes reads like it was a horrible Reagan-era fantasy written by Peter Boyle as JOE, the hippie killer) and the ultramacho vibe turns me off. But still. In the context of the story, the Punisher and Wolverine are the protagonists. They can be likable or not likable, effective or not effective, interesting or not interesting, but it's not fair to the kind of story being told to deny their ability to function as heroes.


Technically, the protagonist of a story is it's "hero." But that's not the same as saying he/she is "heroic."  In the 70s and 80s I was okay with Wolverine in the X-Men and his own book because he was sort of like James Bond; effective and efficient if not at all the kind of guy you want as godfather to your kids.  On the other hand, making Punisher a hero stands your syndrome on its head; here is a guy created as a villain, or at least an extremely misguided loose cannon, and transformed into a hero by 80's sensibilities.  When the Punisher debuted, he was a blatant theft of Don Pendleton's "Executioner," but I got the impression he was presented almost as a parody, or perhaps it would be better to say indictment of that character.  His methods and his mindset came off as deranged and abhorrent, if not totally unsympathetic.  But when the 80s rolled around with its celebration of anti-heroes, Marvel raided their closet for "good guy killers" and decided Frank Castle was close enough. And suddenly he was played as a straight good guy with no hint of irony, so that now more than ever he is a direct steal from the Executioner, and why Pendleton doesn't sue Marvel I'll never know.

I agree that in the context of his own stories, the Punisher is "the hero" in that we're there to see him succeed in his mission.  But in no way does he deserve to stand side-by-side with the likes of Spider-Man or Daredevil, and as soon as they see him they should immediately commence whipping up on him with a view to capture and incarceration.
Logged

This looks like a job for...
JulianPerez
Council of Wisdom
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 1168



« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2006, 04:58:32 PM »

Another example of the sort of thing I'm talking about: there was a movie recently about Joan of Arc where she was presented as being someone that is insane and hears voices, instead of a dedicated nationalist, someone mystic and perhaps a little eccentric. It's very damaging to the Joan of Arc story, and to the power this character has over the imagination, to have her be crazy and hear voices instead of having a purpose.

Maybe this isn't the best example because Joan of Arc was a "real" person; I'm talking here about about the Joan of Arc STORY.

Even stories that have different versions need to keep some things in place to have them be effective. There are hundreds of different versions of Atlantis, for instance, but the really effective ones have Atlantis's sinking be a result of the actions of the inhabitants, usually lapsing into decadence, or dabbling in sorcery, or generally getting too big for their britches somehow.

An Atlantis story where they didn't deserve it brings an element of victimization in a story meant to be about pride.

Quote from: "MichaelBailey"
Frankly even if Doc Savage started a crime college to medically remove their evil tendencies for the greater good there is still an underlying fear that maybe his definition of what is good and what is evil may change as time goes on.


That's an anxiety that can be true for some characters and not for others. For instance, it's hard to really get anxious about somebody like Doc Savage choosing between good and evil.

I recently got ahold of a Steve Englehart interview from the late 1970s or thereabouts, where Steve was asked if he thought Batman was a fascist.

Steve responded something to the effect of, "Batman isn't a fascist...Batman's RIGHT!"

Doc Savage doesn't brainwash. Doc Savage is RIGHT.  Cheesy

Quote from: "Gangbuster Thorul"
And for people who think that Marvel is more realistic...really? In real life, when you mutate, you get cancer and die. When you are bombarded with cosmic rays, you get cancer and die. If a spider is irradiated, it dies and doesn't bite you...and if it did, it would just hurt really bad. If some kind of gamma ray nuke explodes near you, you either die...or get cancer and die later. And Norse gods do not exist!


You are correct in pointing out that Marvel - JUST like DC - uses old school "magic wands" like radiation accidents and so forth. Superhero comics wouldn't be comics without dubious weather control rays and all that.

But Marvel comics ultimately ARE more realistic. It's not a question of the presence of costumes or fantasy elements or not; it's question of outlook.

The first is that in Marvel there was a sense that change is possible. This is an illusion, for the most part, but an illusion that is very important. Compare Hank Pym and the Wasp to Hawkman and Hawkwoman. The Hawks were in love, they were married, but there was never a sense that would change or be different; their status quo feels extremely static because they are an idealized relationship instead of a real couple.

Compare that to Hank Pym and the Wasp, who are just as much in love as the Hawks but are much more idiosyncratic: he is considerably older and more mature than she is, she flirts with other team-mates to make him jealous. They've been through some downs; witness the brief period in the sixties where Hank Pym was permanently trapped at ten feet in height and he refused to let anyone see him, including her.

This is not to say that characters should just go through downs, of course. But that downs should be POSSIBLE just like "ups" should.

The Marvel heroes had a sense of joy when using their powers and occasionally used them for mischief. In one early Gardner Fox/Mike Sekowsky issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE, "Snapper" Carr even once tried to use a device from a captive criminal to pass a history test, only to be rebuffed by Wonder Woman. "SHAME on YOU, Snapper!" She said. Compare that to Spider-Man leaving passive-aggressive "presents" for J. Jonah in his office, or how he had FUN web-swinging.

Marvel stories, especially in the beginning, were driven by characterization and character's motives on a story-by-story basis. The FF went back in time to Egypt to discover the Egyptians' cure for blindness. The Mad Thinker attacked the Avengers because he wanted to steal Tony Stark's electronic secrets. The Gray Gargoyle attacked Thor because he wanted to know the secret of the Thunder God's immortality. Johnny Storm sought for a way to break Maximus's Negative Zone because he and Crystal were in love.

In other words, there's a difference between the DC heroes and Marvel heroes that makes the Marvel heroes ultimately more real: the DC heroes were driven by GOALS, whereas Marvel heroes and villains were driven by FEELINGS, and more complicated motivations than "serve and protect" or "respond to a crisis" or "take over the world."

The Marvel heroes got BEATEN sometimes. Take the cover to SPIDER-MAN #39 where he was unmasked, captured and powerless before the Green Goblin. The Marvel heroes occasionally were underdogs.

(Bear in mind I'm talking about Silver Age DC - but these arguments could also apply to Bronze Age DC too, because really despite DC's best efforts they were never entirely successful in creating a three-dimensional, Marvel style world, even today. The DC Multiverse is trapped between being two-dimensional and three-dimensional, like an awkward, piebald teenage werewolf in mid-transformation. The exception is Steve Englehart's 1970s run on JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, where for nine issues all of the DC heroes had personalities, could change, and were driven by motives...alas, it was all too quick and didn't last, but for a minute there....)

Quote from: "nightwing"
It's also self-defeating. Once you've established that stories can be undone at a whim, ret-conned away, twisted or turned on their heads, then there's really no reason to keep collecting comics, is there? The big draw, at least for repeat buyers, was always that sense of continuity and evolving mythologies. If everything that happens this month can be revealed as a lie next year, then nothing any creator does really matters at all.


Good point. In order to care about the characters you have to have a sense that stories and their consequences matter. You keep on reading comics because you have an emotional investment in the characters. And this is severely undone by any circumstance that you question what you're seeing as being "true."

I've said this before, and as much as I admire the incredible achievement that is AVENGERS FOREVER, it laid the groundwork for destroying the entire Marvel Universe forever: Space Phantoms.

Space Phantoms can duplicate another character's powers exactly, and sometimes don't even know they ARE Space Phantoms. Thank Rao nobody has picked up on this yet. Because think about it: at any moment, ANY character can be declared as having been a "Space Phantom all along." It destroys a universe if you can't really accept what you're seeing as being real or the truth.

Quote from: "nightwing"
Technically, the protagonist of a story is it's "hero." But that's not the same as saying he/she is "heroic." In the 70s and 80s I was okay with Wolverine in the X-Men and his own book because he was sort of like James Bond; effective and efficient if not at all the kind of guy you want as godfather to your kids. On the other hand, making Punisher a hero stands your syndrome on its head; here is a guy created as a villain, or at least an extremely misguided loose cannon, and transformed into a hero by 80's sensibilities. When the Punisher debuted, he was a blatant theft of Don Pendleton's "Executioner," but I got the impression he was presented almost as a parody, or perhaps it would be better to say indictment of that character. His methods and his mindset came off as deranged and abhorrent, if not totally unsympathetic.


This brings up an interesting point: the danger of taking irony seriously.

E.E. Smith's LENSMAN universe is entirely quite sincere. Though there is also Robert Heinlein's STARSHIP TROOPERS, which also has something of a fascistic military dictatorship...whether Heinlein was trying to be ironic or not ironic with that book is something people go back and forth about and have for DECADES, but still, there was a sense of humor about the entire proceedings and if somebody made a STARSHIP TROOPERS movie or TV show that doesn't pick up on the sly "hee-hee's" about military rule, who plays it perfectly straight...not only would it be creepy and obscene, it would miss the entire point.
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)
Gangbuster
Superman Squad
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 587



« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2006, 07:35:31 PM »

Quote from: "JulianPerez"

In other words, there's a difference between the DC heroes and Marvel heroes that makes the Marvel heroes ultimately more real: the DC heroes were driven by GOALS, whereas Marvel heroes and villains were driven by FEELINGS, and more complicated motivations than "serve and protect" or "respond to a crisis" or "take over the world."

The Marvel heroes got BEATEN sometimes. Take the cover to SPIDER-MAN #39 where he was unmasked, captured and powerless before the Green Goblin. The Marvel heroes occasionally were underdogs.


That's true. "I need to stop the bad guy to take a picture to get money to buy Aunt May's medicine" is a more complicated motivation than "I need to stop the bad guy because I'M RIGHT!" Still, the difference could be the era that these characters came from. DC's most popular characters are, to this day, products of the Golden Age. Marvel's are products of the Silver Age. The popular mentality during the late 30s and 40s was quite different from that of the late 50s and 60s, and maybe we still hold these characters to some of the same standards, of the conditions in which they were created.

Or the answer could be simpler: Marvel's characters are generally younger. Instead of having teenage sidekicks, the teenagers are the heroes, and in a way that makes them seem more human, having to deal with finding dates and paying bills, etc. As for the Bronze Age, I always liked Superboy stories better than Superman, and maybe this is the reason.

Just my two bits of speculation.
Logged

"Trying to capture my wife, eh? That makes me SUPER-MAD!"

-"Superman", 1960

Pages: [1] 2 3 4 5 6   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!