Over the holiday break, I decided to watch the newest Superman movie and I was certainly disappointed in the silly story, the rebooting of the franchise, and the awful acting of the lead character.  Superman should be wily, and funny, and tough.  He never preens.

It’s always boring when movie production houses feel they have to re-start a story that’s been never-endingly told for generations.  We pretty much know the backstory of Superman and we don’t need to re-live, over and over again, every 10 years or so, just how the star child becomes the Superman on earth.

In my short life, I think I’ve lived through at least a dozen iterations of Superman in film and on television and I would be perfectly fine to have a new Superman just appear in media res.  We get it he’s special and Superhuman, so just drop him in and let the story start with no explanation necessary!

Superman isn’t the only comic book franchise that loves to reboot, and re-tell, and re-start.

Batman is also a guilty cousin.  How many Batmans have we had to put up with over the years in the mainstream media and how many times did we have to re-live his story of becoming?

Don’t forget Spider-Man!  He’s on Broadway, and TV and the movies, and yes, he’ll reboot his story all over again for you, too!

I wouldn’t mind these re-re-re-tellings of “how they became” if they were just a little bit more interesting.  It’s funny, I never tire of hearing the horror of how Oedipus became King, but I’m not so interested in hearing again — for the hundredth time — how Batman’s parents were murdered.

One interesting, common, tether between the three main “Man” comic book heroes is the notion of irrevocable change in childhood and its effect on how the kids become who they are in adulthood.

All three mans — Superman, Batman and Spider-Man — had to cope with severe death and incomprehensible loss and wanton murder and purposeful abandonment at an early age, and that hardship loss of social justice formed them into becoming crusaders for the public good.

Disney’s Bambi had to deal with overcoming the devastating murder of his mother, but that didn’t turn him into an animal SuperHero. I guess the human sense of justice was lost on him in ink.

I understand, from a dramaturgical standpoint, why that sort of irrevocable loss is important to the history of a comic book hero, but I also wonder what sort of influence that loss has on the intended readership and audience for the product.

Do young children admire these similar young people who are forced by circumstance to overcome their early deficits to later become bathed in public adoration?  Or are those reading these comics more likely to be less able to relate to the hero because they cannot really comprehend the loss of a parent except by reverse osmosis and projection?

Do we really want to promote and celebrate how “murder makes the child into a superhuman hero” into the chains of our current societal condition?  What lesson is being taught?  What crusade is being waged?

Are we condemning, or celebrating the — “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds” — meme in our children with the comic books they read?  Inhuman power creates human destruction — and the reverberation in the child shakes the man the to core.

4 Comments

  1. What is comic circulation like these days ……or are most comics delivered and read on the internet?

    Portugal has just been introduced to Arrow – http://www.cwtv.com/shows/arrow …….. which is of a similar ilk – but one I am not familiar with .

    But the pattern is there …….

    I guess each time they re-invent special effects and reinvent the characters they hope to gain a new audience who they have to sell the back story to and forget that some folks his have seen it all before and are actually looking at how they deal with the set material and present the story we already know by heart . They fail to understand we are either there for our kids or grand kids – or to see what makes their interpretation different and how it stands up against all those that have gone before.

    1. I think high end comics have a rabid following, but there are not as ubiquitous in everyday life in stores as they were in my youth.

      I’ve heard good things about the Arrow TV show. I have not watched it.

      There is a certain, tiring, repetition to a character’s backstory — I guess there’s some comfort in the shared repetition of the meme.

      1. It is that shared repetition that reinforces the “murder makes the child into a superhuman hero” meme …….

        I wish in some ways you could maybe have a catch up preview before the film itself – or an advisory to watch the others first ….. works with books better than films I guess.

        I am quite enjoying Arrow – it is subtitled in Portuguese – all part of my language training – SMILE !