Thursday, February 16, 2006

And she can beat up your mom, too

True story:

I was just talking with my mom, who had recently heard about Frank Miller's upcoming Batman Versus Al Qaeda comic and wanted to know what I thought about it. As it happens, I just posted a comment at The Brill Building about same, so I repeated what I said there.

"The original Star Trek didn't necessarily do it well, but that's the right idea," I said. "If you want to make a comment about the Civil Rights movement, you don't make it about Black versus White, because your audience won't have any distance to understand the problem from outside their personal experience. You make it about green people, or Andorians, or..."

"...or Frank Gorshin with his face painted half black and half white," she replied.

"Well, that's a bad example,, should I be proud or ashamed that you remembered that was Frank Gorshin?"

I was kidding, of course. She took me to my first Trek convention. Yeah, my mom is a Trekkie. You got a problem with that?


  1. Yeah, my mom is a Trekkie. You got a problem with that?

    Er, n-n-no, Mr. RAB sir!

    Concerning Batman vs. Al Qaeda, the discussion on various websites have come around to the discussion about why more real-life events don't appear in comic books, with the typical response being that, if you have Superman or Batman on-hand to fix things, then nothing bad would ever happen 'cause superheroes would fix it, always. I'd like to respond to that sentiment:

    I think actually the reason isn't that superheroes are so powerful that things like 9-11 wouldn't happen, but that superheroes tend to win the great majority of the time in comic books. There are losses once in a while of course ("Sorry, Gwen!") but they don't usually happen.

    I think the best way to treat 9-11 would be to have it happen anyway, despite the best efforts of heroes. They're only human, after all, even if they can fly and shoot heat beams from their eyes. The essential limiting trait of humanity is not frailty, but perspective, and we can't even imagine being free of that, no matter how much your writer claims you're supposed to be as gods.

  2. There are two related but different questions here: one is should real world events ever be mentioned in popular entertainment? and the other is should we have fictional characters getting involved with those events?

    I don't think anyone was troubled by Watchmen which on the one hand said that Doctor Manhattan did nothing to stop or undo the assassination of JFK, but on the other hand had him radically change the outcome of the Vietnam War. Actually, one thing in Watchmen is especially pertinent to this discussion: the influence of Doc Manhattan leads to rewriting the Constitution so that Nixon could still be President in 1985. It was pretty dubious, and barely justified by the plot mechanics...but you have to figure the real reason Alan Moore did this was that he wanted to write Richard Nixon, and thereby take advantage of everyone's preexisting mental picture of Nixon, rather than having to use an original character. (Which brings this back to that other discussion about the lazy use of stereotypes, doesn't it?)

    When it comes to 9/11, I figure Superman's take on it would be something like "Two planes crashed into two buildings and I wasn't there to stop it. That makes several hundred thousand times I've failed to prevent some disaster because I was off preventing some other disaster. Maybe if I was better at being Superman, I could have done both." (My idea of Superman is a character who continually demands of himself that he be perfect, and therefore is continually letting himself down.) What he wouldn't do is take the facile attitude of "Oh God, the entire world changed that day!" because a guy who'd seen whole planets destroyed would have a broader perspective. And from this, we can extrapolate a similarly wider perspective from the rest of the superheroes.

    Marvel did some really awful 9/11-themed comics that were, in my opinion, pure kitsch: the outward appearance of sentiment but without any actual feeling, utterly tasteless, and poorly executed. Anything like this is bound to become solemn, morbid kitsch.

    I don't want to prejudge Miller...but based on his work, I suspect his message in this book may well be something like "All this having to follow rules and laws is hampering the destruction of these evil foes, that's why only a masked vigilante can do what it takes to bring them down." I seriously fear that this will be a Batman comic that turns out to be pro Abu Ghraib, pro Guantanamo Bay. I really hope I'm wrong.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.