Wednesday, April 16, 2008

True That.

Why Superman will always [sc., given lazy writers who don't know how to make use of such inherently interesting material] suck.

4 comments:

Jacob T. Levy said...

humbug! That's accepting weak writers' excuses for bad Superman stories. "Kryptonite-unrelated weaknesses" characterized Superman for decades:

Orphaned twice over, he lost both a planet that he shouldn't have remembered but did because of post-infancy technological teaching that accomplished nothing but teaching a young child all about a culture and a family that were already dead and his adoptive parents to ordinary human mortality. He had to sentence his surrogate brother to a thousand-year imprisonment to save his life, and spend decades trying and failing to find a way to cure the disease that brought it about. He lost his childhood best friend to a lifetime of bitterness and rivalry. Kandor, Supergirl's death-- the Silver/Bronze Age Superman was *always* surrounded by failures and limitations that had to do with the basic human condition, not shiny rocks.

And the best writers, especially Elliott Maggin, saw the storytelling potential in a man who was psychologically human, limited, mortal, and capable of loneliness who was simultaneously physically godlike and invulnerable-- and a man who was utterly aware of all the ethical dilemmas in the linked-to article, who wanted to save everyone always and couldn't without reducing the people he *felt* to be his equals to the status of slaves.

If the paradox of theodicy can support thousands of years of philosophy, I have to believe it's an interesting enough struggle to build the occasional non-sucking comic book around.

Will Roberts said...

I detect a fan.

I'll not wade into that brier patch of empirical facts you adduce in SM's defense. I'd have to be a fool, and my momma didn't raise no fool.

Still...that last argument just doesn't sit right with me. I'm not sure the ingredients of theology also make good comic books. When I was a kid, I had a comic book version of the bible. That was interesting enough, at the time (at least the Hebrew bible parts of it--Jews have a holy book infinitely superior to Christians from a plot development point of view). But I guarantee you that a comic book version of Thomas' Summa would suck. What makes for interesting onto-theology doesn't necessarily add up to good serial-format tales of heroism.

Jacob T. Levy said...

Fair enough-- not every conflict is a good comic-book conflict. I think this one is-- there's good pathos to be had in a theodicy walking around on two legs. But at a minimum, it means there's *something* there to work with, and that we shouldn't take the route of saying "he's superstrong so no conflicts are possible."

Will Roberts said...

Post edited to reflect Dr. levy's principled objections.