Wednesday, December 20, 2006

We Need Another Hero

I'm a comic book geek. I relish the recent spike in comic-related movies and TV series and the announcements of those yet to come. A few months back I read an interesting editorial column stating that maybe the popularity of these super hero movies is due to the circumstances in which we live.

A war that fewer and fewer people support with each passing day, school shootings, suicide bombings—there's a whole plethora of circumstances beyond our control that can/could make the idea of superheroes that much more appealing. We don't really have the "heroes" that previous generations did. Prior to the recent glut of super hero movies, the last time such movies were anywhere near as popular was the late seventies with the Superman movies, live action Spiderman and Sha-zam/Captain Marvel TV series, the Super Friends cartoon… All of that came about during or almost immediately following the Vietnam War and later the hostage crisis in Iran.

And if you look at the super-hero movies of the eighties (of which there really weren't too many) they either were incredibly campy or dated today. Supernman III and IV were abysmal, the original Batman movie while enjoyable in the eighties has not aged well at all and seems/feels incredibly dated. The short-lived Flash TV series from the early nineties is similarly campy and falls flat when viewed through a 21st century lens.

So what do those original Superman
films and the current glut of super-hero films and TV series have in common? Maybe it's a quiet desperation, a wish for someone to come and put a giant band-aid on the world's problems because, God knows, our governments are far too corrupt to be capable of solving those problems for us. Our elected leaders are more interested in serving themselves, their careers, their legacies and their bank accounts than in serving their "bosses"—we the people who elected them into the very stations which allow them to rape, pillage, plunder, and steal from our bank accounts to pad their own.

With this lack of tangible heroes, we turn to the fiction of the pulp converted to the silver screen. Strong men and women in leotards or tights kicking the living snot out of those who would do us wrong, bringing justice to a world that is altogether lacking in it. And as unusual as it may seem, there is something delightfully and quirkily heroic about a billionaire dressed as a bat using his billionaire toys to solve crimes, about a man from another planet who can fly around the Earth so quickly he can reverse its rotation and turn back time, an Amazon woman with questionable fashion sense (those wrist gauntlets may have worked in the seventies, but I don't know how they're going to pull them off in the 21st century without giggles from the audience) an invisible jet and a magic lasso (a Wonder Woman movie has been announced), or about a man who takes a bit of a chemical bath in a thunderstorm and emerges able to run faster than the speed of sound (a Flash movie has been announced for 2008 or 2009, a script has been written, and casting rumors abound).

Maybe the appeal of these fictional heroes is that in the power they're given or the power they take, they use it for good. They aren't self-serving, there's altruism behind their actions. Whereas the reality, the elected officials whom we give power during every election cycle, no matter how noble their intentions may initially be, become corrupted by the very system they try to reform… They become self-serving and forget the very people who put them in their positions of power.

Once upon a time we had a sense of hope... maybe that hope was merely an illusion, but it was there. It was better than what we have now, films about men in tights with special powers they use to fight crime. But until that hope is restored, until we get another real life "hero", I guess the men in tights will have to do.


St. Dickeybird said...

Interesting take on comics. I'd never thought of that...
Makes sense. Also, the comics that came from the 40s were notably similar.

Perplexio said...

dickeybird: You raise an excellent point I didn't even touch on. Many of the comic book super heroes we know today found their origins in the forties-- during World War II. Superman, Batman, and the original Flash (Jay Garrick, the guy with the WWI army hat with the wings on it) and Green Lantern (Alan Scott, who looks considerably different than the later Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, which became far more popular than the original) all were introduced in the forties.

Good on you, for picking up on that old sport!

Susan as herself said...

Ahem. I will officially put in a vote for men in tights. The tighter the better.

And goodnight.

:P fuzzbox said...

It seems in times where life is so muddled in confusion. We need to see things in black and white. Nothing quite does it like comic book hero's. The popularity of Comic Book Hero's can be gauged not only by the movies but the fact that the reality tv show, 'Who Wants To Be A Superhero?' was a modest success for the sci-fi channel.


dragonflyfilly said...

i agree with "susan", the tighter the better....and i'm hopeful, when i see men have the courage to dress up in tights...i'm getting really bored with all these "macho men"

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


oh and p.s., i will comment on your comment at my place when i feel more alert

Anonymous said...

Whats with the profile pic? R u ashamed to show your real face, i think u r? All talk no face

Layla said...

Hey glad to see you are finally admitting you are a geek...oh, wait, so sorry just noticed the words "comic book" in front of that...oops, never mind :)

Merry Christmas, Buddy!

The Phoenix said...

You're not talking about Robin Hood and his Merry Men, are you?

Perplexio said...

Susan: I've heard there are plenty of Men and/or Boys in Tights in the Wrigleyville Neighborhood. I don't know that any of them are Super Heroes although I wouldn't be surprised if some of them happened to answer to the name "Captain Fabulous"

Fuzz: If you were a super-hero what would you want your secret power to be and what would you call yourself?

dragonflyfilly: When I think of "Macho Men" I think of the Village People and once again I must mention the Wrigleyville neighborhood of Chicago and "Captain Fabulous"

anonymous: I've changed my profile pic, just for you! Now don't you feel all special inside? Consider it a belated Christmas present!

layla: Merry Christmas to you too!

Phoenix: No, not so much. A lot of the left-leaning politicians in Congress like to think of themselves as modern day Robin Hoods but they tend to only rob from the rich to keep for themselves. Whereas the right-leaning politicians are more of the mindset of letting the rich keep as much of their money as possible.

Traci said...

I enjoyed reading your take on heroes.
You might find this Stan Lee interview interesting.