Sunday, 5 August 2012


Superheroes remain a dynamic comic book concept, a modern mythology, well adapted to cinema with CGI. Comics and film script writers endlessly renew the concept. Several comics put superheroes, or the closely related masked avengers and costumed adventurers, into the real world.

(i) A Nazi accepts Alan Moore's Marvelman as the superman. When a super-villain devastates London, the horror is graphic, but then Marvelman's pantheon effortlessly replaces the UN and national governments and institutes utopia.

(ii) In Alan Moore's Watchmen, the nuclear-powered Doctor Manhattan changes the balance of power and practical technology simply by existing.

(iii) Alan Moore transformed the Swamp Thing from a mud monster into a plant elemental who could change the world but thinks that to do so would be to impede evolution.

(iv) Moore's Superman stories avoid or rationalize the character's absurdities.

(v) Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen presents a literary superhero team.

(vi) Roy Thomas' Young All Stars retconned literary and mythological characters into comics' Golden Age.

(vii) Thomas' The Last Days of the Justice Society linked the end of World War II to the Ragnarok.
(viii) In Frank Miller's Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns, the Batman is an anonymous vigilante wanted by the police. When he also becomes a political embarrassment, the US President sends Kent to bring him down. The government is also troubled by an archer saboteur but is hampered by its own policy of concealing the existence of costumed crime fighters and super powered beings from the public.

(ix) Alan Moore's The Killing Joke, about the criminally insane Joker, asks whether one bad day would be enough to drive you or me mad.

(x) Kurt Busiek's Astro City puts everyday people into a superhero world. They picnic on a skyscraper roof to watch a super powered fight overhead.

(xi) Alan Moore's Tom Strong, presenting a strong man who was raised in high gravity not on Krypton but in a terrestrial laboratory, restored fun to superheroes after Moore and his imitators had made them dark and serious.

(xii) Moore's Top Ten presents the police force of a city where nearly everyone is super powered. The pizza delivery boy has super speed. A hot dog vendor cooks dogs with heat vision.

(xiii) Moore's Promethea puts a superheroine into an appropriately magical and mythological context and presents the author's philosophy.

(xiv) Mark Millar's The Ultimates transforms Marvel Comics' main superhero team into the US Superhuman Defence Initiative. Its members include a former mental patient with a hammer who claims to be, and happens to be, the son of Odin. The US says that it will not deploy persons of mass destruction, then sends Steve Rogers to rescue hostages.

(xv) Marv Wolfman transformed Lex Luthor from a wanted criminal and frequent convict into a billionaire industrialist/philanthropist, the most powerful man in Metropolis until someone arrives whom he cannot buy...

(xvi) John Byrne reduced Superman's powers to finite levels. He also replaced the timid Clark Kent as an implausible disguise for Superman with Superman as a public disguise for the confident and athletic Kent.

(xvii) The Smallville TV series shows Jonathan, Martha and Clark Kent, Lionel and Lex Luthor, Lana Lang, Pete Ross and Chloe Sullivan in Smallville while Clark's powers develop.

(xviii) The Lois and Clark TV series (not as good) is about Lois Lane and Clark Kent and the latter, as we know, happens to be Superman who re-heats coffee with heat vision and uses his flight power to levitate in his apartment.

(xix) Some good novels have been based on both TV series.

(xx) The Marvel Comics Thunderbolts are former super-villains hired by the government to track down unregistered superheroes: a good guys bad guys reversal.

(xxi) Garth Ennis' "The Boys" are a CIA team tasked to curtail the dangerous activities of corporately backed superhero teams that are parodies of the Justice League, X-Men etc.

(xxii) Mark Millar's Kick-Ass asks: Why has no one ever done it? What would happen if you or I donned a costume and went on the street? Kick-Ass is stabbed and run over but, after an unlikely series of events, does become the first of a wave of real life superheroes, mainly thanks to internet publicity.

(xxiii) Current Marvel films about individual superheroes cleverly build towards a team film. The coda after the credits of Iron Man II shows the discovery of a hammer in a crater... Nick Fury, who says in the Ultimates comic that he should be played by Samuel L. Jackson, is played by Samuel L. Jackson.

(xxiv) The Dark Knight film, not based on Miller's masterpiece, ends with the Batman pursued by the police, the idea being that, since District Attorney Harvey Dent has failed to be a White Knight for Gotham City, the vigilante must be its "Dark Knight." Miller's earlier graphic novel ended with the Batman apparently dead and even buried, although dug up, after a climactic fight with Kent. With both the Bruce Wayne and Batman identities closed, he is free to train survivalists in the Cave...

(xxv) My Hero is a TV comedy series about the domestic life of a superhero's secret identity.

(xxvi) and (xxvii) Neil Gaiman's Black Orchid and Sandman transformed costumed crime fighters into different kinds of characters.

(xxviii) and (xxix) In different series, Mike Grell and Andy Diggle made the Green Arrow a credible character.

(xxx) Alan Moore wrote good treatments of the Green Arrow and the Vigilante.

There are other examples that I am not familiar with. My point here is the diversity and wealth of superheroes.     


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