Posts Tagged ‘superheroes’

Superheroes and Nationalism: Captain Israel


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Wednesday, January 19, 2011


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Captain Israel: A Hero for Our Times?

I try to refrain from political discussions on this blog but this Mondoweiss post about a Captain Israel comic book will, I think, be of interest to readers of this blog. In an earlier essay on Canadian comic book history, I touched on the relationship between superheroes and nationalism.

I think my earlier comments might shed light on this topic:

Moreover, Superman, like the superhero genre he spawned, is a profoundly American idea. Superman was created at a turning point in American history, during the Great Depression. Economically debilitated, the U.S. was isolationist, but in a few short years it was ready to recover its strength and become the world’s leading superpower. Just as wimpy Clark Kent threw away his business suit to emerge as Superman, America was a great power waiting to flex its muscles. Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, Superman’s creators, were second-generation immigrant Jews. As such, they had multiple reasons for identifying with American nationalism; deep in their bones, they felt that only a superpower could defeat Hitler.

Ingrained in the superhero genre is a sense of America’s invincibility, its inherent goodness and its world historical destiny. For this reason, national heroes from other countries (be they Captain Canuck, Britain’s Jack Staff, Italy’s Capitan Italia or Israel’s Shaloman) always seem either satirical or half-baked. Despite the faltering war effort in Iraq, the U.S. is the world’s only superpower and for that reason it is the only country that creates confident and commercially successful superheroes.

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A Reverse Dr. Wertham?


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Tuesday, September 7, 2010


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The panel used as an illustration in the original New Guard article. From Tales to Astonish #60; written by Stan Lee, penciled by Dick Ayers, inked by Paul Reinman.


Bigger than the Birch Society, YAF and the Americans for Constitutional Action all rolled into one, there has recently emerged on the contemporary scene a new potentially right-wing organization of formidable power—the Merry Marvel Marching Society. This extremist group, cleverly disguised as an innocent venture in comic-book publishing, is busily undermining the minds of our nation’s youth and indoctrinating them in a set of beliefs which can only be described as patriotic and wholesome. As Perry White of the old Superman comics would say—“Great Caesar’s Ghost!” What is the world coming to?

Yes, unbeknownst to the Liberal Press, the minds and hearts of America’s college youth are being subtly spirited away by a group of tongue-in-cheek artists and writers in New York City.

Thanks again to the indefatigable researches of Sean Howe, another historical oddity has been drawn to our attention: a 1966 piece on the (admirable, in the author’s view) right-wing subtext of Marvel Comics. It was originally published in The New Guard, the official publication of the Young Americans for Freedom, and the author, David Nolan, went on to co-found the Libertarian Party and is currently campaigning for a senate seat in Arizona.

This is interesting from multiple angles, whether considered in the context of Marvel legend Jack Kirby’s JFK liberalism, Alan Moore’s condemnation of superhero comics as connected to American militarism, or the current climate of “realistic” superhero comics—to name just a few possibilities.

The full article can be read after the jump. (more…)

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deet deet deet


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Thursday, July 15, 2010


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A new low for Comics Comics? Here’s a quick, egocentric look at the rest of the recent comics blogosphere webonet.

beep boop beep

The most important comics internet writing of the week can be found here, of course.

dreep dop dope

A few weeks back, the great Brynocki C posted his latest must-read epic, which included the following bit I wanted to republish just for Frank:

Didja hear? Artists can’t write unbiased criticism. They only see their subjects through the filter of self interest as a creator. As opposed to critics. Real critics. Real critics are as pure as new snow, with eyes of a child yet minds learned like the eldest philosopher. They castrate their creativity to write from the place of total mental stillness. Able to see through all walls of personal agenda. They use their pen of young lamb to judge what’s best not for themselves, but for all humanity. Such is the powerful power, the terrible responsibility of the true critic.

Co-sign (cosine?) that. Get it yet, Frank?

Coincidentally, by the time I read BC’s post, I had already bought and read (and decidedly did not enjoy) two of the comics under review, in the most recent of many misguided attempts to acquaint myself with the larger superhero comics world since we started Comics Comics. Every once in a while, I get the idea that it’s important to “know what I am talking about.” But that’s all over now. Honestly, I almost never write about Brian Michael Bendis or Blackest Night anyway, so I think it is safe to finally let that ambition slide. It’s healthier to rely on back issues or Bully when I need a fix of four-color fisticuffs.

bloop blop blap

Which leads me to another recent post on superhero comics, written by everyone’s favorite new internet hyperbolizer, Matt Seneca, who seems to have genuinely taken the intellectualizing-about-capes beat to new heights in a very short time. He believes in treating “the entire mainstream like a quarter bin.” This philosophy has much to recommend it, except for a not entirely inconsequential math problem: four dollars can get you sixteen comics from a real quarter bin, but only pays for one copy of Neal Adams’ Batman: Odyssey.

brope bop bleem

No comment.

bop a dop a doo

No comment either on Ng Suat Tong’s mostly negative take on Crumb’s Genesis, though it is the first solid online pan of the book I’ve read, and though he takes issue with things Dan, Jeet, and I have written. I’m sure all three of us would differ with some of his interpretations to varying degrees, but I am just grateful that he seems to have actually read the book in question, and didn’t manufacture our views wholesale, something you can’t always count on from certain quarters of the internet. I disagree with the ever thoughtful (if occasionally somewhat humorless) Ng on many, many things, but his essays and posts are always worth taking seriously. That comment thread is so forbiddingly unreadable, though, that it more or less banishes any thought (for me, at least) of attempting to continue the argument.

breep bap bop

Speaking of TCJ.com threads, could this be the most hilarious comment ever written? (Oh, to be a fly on the wall when it is read to Ken Smith over the telephone!) Of course, to really find it funny, you have to have wasted an awful lot of your life reading various blinkered self-proclaimed pundits going on and on about unimportant things in incredibly pedantic detail. … Then again, if you’ve made it to the end of this post, you’ve probably done just that.

deep depp doop

Did I miss anything? Is there any good writing about comics on the internet, or is the situation as dire as it sometimes seems?

yop yop yop

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled “comic book” coverage. Stay tuned as Dan and Frank argue over who should play Jarvis in the Avengers movie! (My money’s on Richard Jenkins.)

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Kwik Kwotes


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Thursday, April 15, 2010


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I think that I can seriously say there are many different types of fiction out there, one of them is the heroic, and Art Spiegelman has no sympathy for the heroic, so I have no sympathy for Art Spiegelman.

Frank Miller, defending caped crusaders last weekend at MoCCA.

I don’t know about this heroic business; I like superhero comics mostly for the art.

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Wally Wood Should Have Beaten Them All


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Thursday, February 18, 2010


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Weird Science 16, 1952 (original art)

Wally Wood’s life and art exist in the space between two comic book stories. The first, “My World”, published in Weird Science no. 22, 1953, was written by Al Feldstein as a tribute to the 26-year-old Wood, who drew it. In the story, an unseen narrator describes his daily experience of reality juxtaposed with panel after panel of spectacular fantasy scenes, consisting “. . . of great space-ships that carry tourists on brief holidays to Venus or Mars or Saturn . . . My world can be ugly . . . Landing at night and entering my cities and killing and maiming and destroying . . . My world is what I choose to make it. My world is yesterday . . . Or today . . . Or tomorrow . . . For my world is the world of science fiction . . . conceived in my mind and placed upon paper with pencil and ink and brush and sweat and a great deal of love for my world.” The final drawing of the comic has Wood smoking a cigarette at the drawing table and looking a bit wan. It’s an evocation of the celebrity of Wood-the-cartoonist published by William M. Gaines’ EC Comics, home of Mad, and the publisher for which Wood did his most famous work.

Twenty-two years later, Wood, having long since broken with Gaines and Feldstein and by then a cautionary tale to his peers, wrote and drew “My Word” for Big Apple Comix. It is again a breathless narrative complemented by stunning drawings, but this time it’s a trip through a hellish New York. A furious Wood closes his introductory monologue with “Anyhow, since I have three pages in this mag, I’d like to comment briefly on the universe.” And off he goes. After some muggings, some light S&M and the requisite pile of shit, Wood, apropos of nothing, leaps on art: “That mysterious process by which one’s fantasies enrich the lives of others… and the pockets of publishers. But it is worth it, for there are the fans.” And here we see a naked boy prostrating himself saying, “Do what you want with me! Kick me! Fuck me! Shit on me! I love you! By the way, your old stuff was better…” Wood closes with a distorted version of “My World’s” final panel: A squat alien at the drawing board, smoking and saying, “My word is the word I choose to make it, for I conceive it in my mind and put it down on paper with a lot of sweat and love and shit like that, for I am a troglodyte. My name is spafon gool.”
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Going Faster Miles an Hour


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Friday, December 18, 2009


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I’m not sure why Robin McConnell chose this image to illustrate the “Best of 2009″ Inkstuds radio show — we never ended up discussing Blackest Night, even though I read all five issues to date in preparation. (Fellow show guest Sean T. Collins, apparently a sadist, chose it as a potential topic.) Robin, Sean, Chris Mautner, and I did end up talking about a bunch of other 2009 highlights, though, and if for some reason you haven’t had your fill of comic-book blather this holiday season, you can listen to the show yourself here.

Actually, I kind of wish we had had the time to cover Blackest Night, which isn’t really good, but does represent a kind of ultra-meta-state-of-the-comics-industry symbolism that is almost impossible not to appreciate on an abstract level, whether or not it’s worth reading. (It isn’t, unless for “scholarly” purposes.) Then again, the subtext (or is it just text?) in question is pretty obvious, so it’s not like anyone needed a bunch of pointy-headed critics to draw it out.

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Alan Moore Has Good Taste


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Wednesday, August 6, 2008


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[Via Mike Sterling].

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