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Life, the Universe, and Superheroes

July 24, 2015

1. There’s something about the basic superhero story: monster wrecks havoc, hero swoops in, they fight, monster is defeated. It’s the simplest action story going, dating back at least 4000 years. It’s satisfying. There’s no moral complexity required, just clear good and evil. You know who to root for. You cheer when they win. Plus they’re larger than life figures and superpowers are basically magic. (Sometimes literally.) I can’t help it. I love them.

2. I spent years not reading comic books. I spent years believing they weren’t my thing. I was a reader of fiction, a “serious reader”, after all. Besides, I didn’t grow up in a town with a comic shop. I didn’t know where to begin and the idea of buying single issues scared me off and apparently you had to keep them in a plastic sleeve all the time too? Not. For. Me. But then I fell for one too many superhero TV shows and realized that superheroes were a thing I actually liked, so I started reading superhero novels and thinking about the ideas, and then the MCU took off and I discovered that those individual issues? They bind them together every once in a while. I don’t have a lot of trades now, but I do have many. I’m kind of embarrassed it took me this long.

3. I have seen and read an amazing amount of Batman media for someone who doesn’t actually like Batman. He’s too gritty for me, as a rule, and I’ve never really found something to empathise with in him. Until Arrow and its spinoffs came along, I couldn’t get attached to anyone created by DC. I’m much more of a Marvel girl, though again, my entry point was the movies, not the comics. The Marvel characters are portrayed as real people a bit more readily. Their problems, when they don’t involve monsters, are ones that I can understand. There’s a heart to the stories that seems to be missing from DC. There’s more humor too, or at least more light-heartedness.

4. I said earlier that superheroes have polar morality. They’re good or bad, but not both. But actually, I’m attracted more to the heroes (and villains) with complexity, who are grey or have moral dilemmas or flaws they need to overcome. I think that’s something fundamental to human stories, too. We need to work out our ethics somehow and then pass them on, and what better way than a story?

5. I’ve seen it written that superheroes are to the present-day what mythology was to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. That they’re just as larger-than-life, just as fantastically powered, just as involved in epic battles and questions of morality. I’ve also seen it written that the archetypal urban fantasy heroine—powerful, flawed, attractive, fighting monsters—is just a superheroine in a different setting.* Both these ideas make a lot of sense to me. The urban fantasy theory probably explains a few things too.

6. Ant-Man was a fun movie. This might explain why I’m writing a post on superheroes today.


* Side note: Batman was inspired largely by noir fiction. So was urban fantasy.

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