Friday, October 29, 2010

Religion in a comic universe

There are two primary schools of thoughts regarding how the events that occur in a superhero comic universe would impact religion.

1) No fundamental change - sure there might spring up the occasional flash cult for a certain superhero (this happens to Superman occasionally), but for the most part, things would stay the same, with the superheroes with the names of mythological gods dismissed as impersonators or just guys who liked the name.
2) Major fundamental changes with entire religious structures dedicated to superbeings.

Both of these are a little simplistic, and don't really account for all factors.

First, the argument that the mythology-based superheroes are simply extra-dimensional beings is a double edged sword - while it could be used to keep a Church of Thor from springing up, it would also be used by the Richard Dawkins types to discredit contemporary religious figures. It doesn't take much imagination to see how "Christ was a Mutie!" could have a very fractious impact on modern Christianity, and the same holds true of every other modern religion. After all, once you've argued that one "god" is a super-alien, it opens the door to say they all are/were - which reduces every religion to a simple affiliation - like picking which sports team is your favorite or your political party identification.

The flip side of course, would be the false messiahs - as every fringe radical religious organization with minimal scruples and maximum ambition would be promoting their own "super-savior" figure - a mutant or meta or enhanced or enchanted human to use to promote that theirs is the one true way. This promotion would likely involve a bodycount.

Next, with the frequent Resurrections of famous superbeings, the question of the afterlife would seem answered - particularly with the existence of someone like the Spectre or the firsthand accounts of superhumans who've been beyond the veil (Green Arrow, Superman, the Fantastic Four, etc). Of course, every reporter and theologian on Earth would be constantly hounding them for exact details of their experiences to try and match them with their own belief systems. And in areas where they would conflict, one would imagine religious scholars and pundits of all stripes to do their best to discredit the accounts entirely. Of course, discrediting does nothing to solve the larger issue of what happened, as the alternatives lead to a lot of questions - particularly "why do only super-people, even ones without powers, come back from the dead?" And there are no good answers there.
And of course, you could start looking into all sorts of things the existing religious institutions would be trying to maintain legitimacy or, if possible, claim supremacy. It's not too much of a stretch from real life to imagine a group of Vatican scientists (no, that's not an oxymoron - go read it for yourself) using a dimensional portal to contact Heaven, and accidentally opening a portal to, let's say, the Dark Dimension or Apokalips.
So, needless to say, the oversimplification of religion in comics, while it is done for good reasons to avoid offending sensibilities, does close off some rather amusing story opportunities.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Superfolks and the problems with good satire

OK, so one of my birthday gifts this year was a copy of Superfolks.

The good news is that I thought it was very good and worth a read...but....

Part of what a good satire should do, regardless of whatever genre it's lampooning, is effectively capture the zeitgeist, and the flavor and culture of the times. Superfolks does this really well, but that's part of the problem for a modern reader - if you have no idea who the characters in "All in the Family", "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" or the minor figures of 1970s American political scene, some of the jokes fall flat.

This strikes as me as part of the problem with modern "deconstructionism" in supercomics - while they do alright at lampooning superhero genre tropes, they rarely tie in those tropes to the times people are living in. The fiction is a reflection of the larger culture it's in, and by not getting the proper context, modern superhero satire is just a satire of a subculture, and not the larger culture that creates and shapes it. Without this element, the audience is challenged to have the correct context necessary to appreciate just how much is being satirized.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why the Superman Movie might not suck

  • OK, so there's been some talk about the upcoming Nolan produced and now Zack Snyder-directing Superman movie. While there's been some strong negative reactions on the internets, here are somethings to consider:

    Zack Snyder being involved all but guarantees that Superman will punch something. That is a good thing.
    It is a GOOD thing that so far, everyone involved isn't a die-hard Superman fan. Consider the results of die-hard fanboyism from say, Jeph Loeb, Bryan Singer, and of course, Kevin Smith. The ability to look at things critically may not be a bad one.
    Seriously, is there anyone other than Nolan that could or should be trusted with a Superman film franchise? It wasn't going to be Jon Faverau or Joss Whedon - they are on Marvel projects.
    The more I think about, the more I think it's a good thing that Smallville and Superman Returns existed. No matter what your opinion of them, they served some useful purpose in providing useful guideposts. Superman Returns clearly illustrated the weaknesses in wallowing in the nostalgia of the Donner/Reeve films, and Smallville has helped to narrow down what aspects of the Superman mythos work with modern audiences (and some that won't).

    Now, this isn't all good news and lord knows there's a really good chance this'll tank, but I'm not prepared to bring the hammer down before I hear more than vague rumors.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Quick Hits

On Spider-Man movie casting: Nope, don't care.

On Bob Harras as DC Editor in Chief: Mixed. On one hand, his tenure at Marvel was marked by some notable mistakes (Bringing back Norman Osborn). On the other hand, I'm increasingly of the mind set that some friction is necessary in a brain trust in order to prevent the problems of group think, and that he might act as an increasingly necessary check on the excesses of Didio and Johns.

On the Price Change: Barely care. I don't really buy singles anymore.

Superman Movie stuff: See tomorrow's post.

EDITED TO ADD: Alan David Doane is selling off some comics. Please go take a look here. Thanks

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Well, there we are. With luck, regular blogging will resume tomorrow. I hope you enjoyed this and also took some time to hop over to Trouble with Comics to support good comics for everyone everywhere.

(I will never ever get tired of seeing the Sentry get the crap kicked out of him. If it were up to me, there would be a monthly series dedicated to killing the Sentry every single issue in new and hilarious ways.)

Friday, October 22, 2010


Today's classic Herc posters are brought to you by Trouble with Comics and the sound "BONK".

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Was there a more absurdly hilarious story than "The Replacement Thor"?

I think not.

(and again, we remind you to click over to Trouble with Comics)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Continuing a week long look at Herc-related posters. Brought to you in support of Trouble with Comics!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010


Herc has a pretty fun supporting cast, so I thought I would draw attention to it.

And a reminder to go check out Trouble with Comics.