Sweet Clarity


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Because we got a little off-schedule this week, I’m not going to make the big Shazam reveal until tomorrow (sorry, I know). But since my last post may have come off as a little more strident than I intended, a little brief clarification may be in order.

First, I wrote that only one superheroes-grown-up story has ever worked, but to be fair, I might well have missed something or other. (I’ve never read Rick Veitch‘s Bratpack or its sequels, for example, and for all I know, they’re brilliant. And Alan Moore’s early Miracleman comics worked to at least some extent.) And once you’ve got more than one “exception that proves the rule”, maybe the exceptions don’t actually prove the rule so much as they disprove it. So there’s that.

Second, I also kind of gave the game away when I brought in Ursula K. Le Guin. Once you take away the capes and underwear, there’s really no reason that a story with super-powers can’t be successful (and “adult”). Books ranging from Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination to the New Testament have proved that a super-powered protagonist isn’t necessarily a liability. It’s the costumes that cause most of the problems. (But they’re big problems. Green Arrow yelling, “My ward is a junkie!” is bad all enough on its own, but when he’s dressed like Robin Hood while he’s doing it, it’s all over. Wearing that outfit, reading the 9/11 Commission Report would seem ridiculous.)

That’s all, I think, since I don’t want to get too deep into the nerd weeds. I still think my general point was valid, but consider adding these grains of salt, please.

Unrelated bonus: Since Dan brought up Jerry Lewis comics, here’s a memorable comic book moment that’s been making the internet rounds lately, for those who haven’t already seen it: When Jerry Met Kal-El.

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6 Responses to “Sweet Clarity”
  1. tiny little ghost says:


    (circles the post several times, and vanishes)

  2. lauren r. weinstein says:

    Is your blog haunted?

  3. P. Hambrecht says:

    I think if we take a look at the history of literature, what we consider “grown up literature” now — most of the important modern novels of the last 175 years or so, modern histories — can be seen as just as codified and silly in their conceits as the comics that try and ape them.

    It’s our goofy idea of modernity and what’s “serious” that’s the problem. “Run Rabbit Run” is just a drunk Iron Man to me.

  4. T Hodler says:

    Well, like I said, P. Hambrecht, I didn’t mean to come off quite as stridently as I did. There are obvious exceptions, etc.

    I’m basically complaining about tone more than anything. I like superhero comics, but when they’re presented in a portentous, self-important manner (as they often are these days), they just don’t work.

    To be “serious”, you don’t have to be Updike, but I’m not even talking about serious comics, I was talking about superhero comics that present themselves as “grown-up”.

    And the alcoholic Iron Man stories are definitely sillier than Rabbit, Run. More fun maybe, but also sillier.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Why don’t jew include Moses in the Old Testament as a “super=powered” protagonist? SOrry.. I guess I’ve answered my own question..

  6. T Hodler says:

    The Old Testament is definitely one of the great superhero stories in all of literature. Okay?

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