Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Super Duper

Whenever a superhero movie comes out people send me all the news clips. Usually that's great, except that in the case of Superman Returns, I'm getting clips that promote someone else's book.

That made me sad, so I went to Amazon to see if anybody still cares about Comic Book Character. Sales are kind of stinky, to tell you the truth, but I did find a new review posted that's really nice. Supposedly the guy is a "top 500 reviewer," so that's got to count for something. Here's what he wrote:

I have long seen comic books, at least superhero comic books, as more than
mere entertainment. I share this view with the author. Indeed, we both seem
to see the world as fallen- and in need of the inspiration that comic books,
at their best, can provide. This book is a well-reasoned look at the
legitimacy of the comic book as moral teaching aid in everything from
social justice to the metaphysical nature of good versus evil. It is written in
an enjoyable, informal, non-academic style (it is documented with footnotes, but
mercifully they are included at the back where you can ignore them if you
choose.)
_My only real complaint is that there are so many examples that
could have been included but were not. For instance, the Spectre, who as the
embodiment of the Wrath of God is the most theologically and metaphysically
relevant of characters, is only mentioned a single time in a single
sentence. The same goes with the complex Sandman mythos- mentioned a single
time in a single sentence. Such potentially fascinating characters as
Hellstorm (son of the Adversary) or Grimjack (walked out of heaven to help
his friends) are totally ignored. Even the original Captain Marvel (part man
and part God - with the wisdom of Solomon) is likewise ignored. Yet, I
suppose that there are only so many examples that can be fit into a book of
this size.
_Still, the examples that are given are well explored (especially
Superman, Captain America, and the Green Lantern/Green Arrow partnership.) A
prime specific example would be Green Lantern's eventual understanding that
law and order (accidentals) are less important than truth and justice
(essentials.) I could easily see this book becoming the starting point for
any number of discussions on what constitutes a true hero and heroism.
Indeed, I found myself wanting to argue on numerous points...
_As for this being strictly a Christian perspective, it truly seems to
me that the core concepts of Truth, Justice, and Good- as well as the heroic
archetypes that embody them- could be held to be more essentially Platonic in
nature. But that would be another discussion.

Isn't that nice? This weekend I'll be writing a very brief "Sympathy for Lex Luthor" for Christianity Today Online, which will post sometime next week. I'm starting to feel better now.

7 comments:

2e said...

Speaking of heroes, I ran across this book, "The Hero with a Thousand Faces." The author is overly freudian, and his writing is about as understandable as any good (or bad) existentialist. But it's a cool title. The guy's pretty intense too.

So, by contrast, your book is readable and cheaper. Not to mention, we actually know who comic book characters are. When it comes to Greek myths, we can't even pronounce the names.

Which leads me to wonder: Are comic book character our modern Greek myths?

David A. Zimmerman said...

I read Hero with a Thousand Faces. The guy's dead, so I won't fault him for writing like he's dead. I do like the hero's journey that he charts out; I actually am shopping an article about the hero's journey as we speak. That book was an explicit and direct influence on George Lucas as he wrote Star Wars, and C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien were almost undoubtedly familiar with it as they discussed myth over beer and peanuts. I'm told that DC Comics A-list heroes reflect the Greek pantheon: Flash = Hermes, Aquaman = Poseidon, Superman = Zeus.

Macon said...

That is a great review!

And well deserved, too, may I add.

Perhaps when you publish the revised printing you can add in some of those other heroes?

Or, perhaps you should post such treatments somewhere else on the intarweb? Perhaps *cough* Loud *cough* Time?

David A. Zimmerman said...

Macon's back! Good to hear from you. I hadn't thought about character studies on Loud Time. That could be fun.

Al Hsu said...

When DC rebooted the Justice League in the early nineties, the started with the classic seven heroes but then expanded it to twelve, I think, to fill out the Greek panetheon:

Superman - Zeus
Batman - Hades
Wonder Woman - Hera
Aquaman - Poseidon
Green Lantern - Apollo
Flash - Hermes
Martian Manhunter - ?
Plastic Man - Dionysius
Huntress - Artemis
Oracle - Athena
Steel - Hephestus
Orion - Ares

Not sure that's quite right. Green Arrow was in the list, too, and Big Barda and Zauriel at various times, and there's no direct parallel to Aphrodite, but I think this list is close.

Macon said...

Don't call it a comeback,
I been [lurking] for [weeks]!

Character studies would be Super Cool!

And I mean beyond the characters that already appear in your comments.

David A. Zimmerman said...

Man, an LL Cool J reference in a comic book discussion. This is the coolest blog in the universe!