Sunday, 19 January 2014

Who Is The Superman?

Am I finding too much to write about a mere comic book? On the contrary, I am certain that I have in no way plumbed the depths of Miracleman. To consider just one further point, and also one single page in the comic, despite all the copyright problems about superhero names, the writer of Miracleman perfectly legitimately applies the term "superman" to MM. That is because he quotes not Jerry Siegel but Friedrich Nietzsche.

On page 11 of Miracleman, no 1 (New York, 2014), eight panels zoom in from MM's head to the pupil of his left eye. Captions in the left hand column read:

"'Behold...
"'I teach you the superman:
"'He is this lightning...
"'He is this madness!'"

The bottom right hand panel attributes the quotation:

"Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche,
"'Thus Spake Zarathustra.'"

I imagine a film in which that Nietzsche quotation is shouted first in German, then in English, as the camera zooms in not on a smiling MM but on MM as he stands among carnage and flames after fighting Bates.

Later, a former Nazi will accept MM as the superman because he is a powerful blonde giant.

Although I am a philosophy graduate, I am not well informed about Nietzsche and therefore am not equipped either to summarize his philosophy or to discuss its possible connections to Naziism, Superman, superheroes or MM. But such a discussion would be a necessary part of any comprehensive analysis of Miracleman. The "overman," to use an alternative English translation which makes it easier to distinguish Nietzsche's concept from the first superhero, is distinguished not by physical strength or abilities but by transcendence of the herd, of mediocrity and of supernatural morality. He is superior because he creates new values instead of conforming to existing values.

Superman uses his powers to preserve, not to transcend, common humanity whereas MM, when he gains political power, tries to raise humanity beyond itself, thus generating a society that certainly has very different values. Thus, MM might be closer to the Nietzschean superman.

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