MARTHA THOMASES: Superman Red… or Blue?
My last two columns generated a certain amount of off-topic political discussion, which is 1) exciting and 2) frightening. The fright stems from the fact that political discussions got us kicked off this site four years ago.
The excitement comes from proving something I have always believed. Feminists claim the personal is political. I think the arts are political, too. You may have a different opinion. It depends in your definition of art. I think art is something created by an artist that makes you see the world in a new way.
Forty years ago I had surgery, and was lying on my parents’ couch zonked on major pain killers. I was reading Dune, watching the Olympics and the political conventions. I couldn’t tell which was which. Maybe that’s because Dune is a mind-blowing book. The sequels never moved me as much. Perhaps it was the drugs, or maybe they need world-class diving in the background.
Different people with different perspectives can find enjoyment in the same entertainment. The Hunger Games, which seemed to me to be a reasonably populist and feminist fable, has made over $200 million as I write this, and I doubt all those ticket-buyers are part of the Occupy Wall Street crowd.
Comic books would seem to be an All-American form of entertainment. Especially superhero comics. Truth, justice and the American Way. Upholders of the law who best criminals and ne’er do wells. And yet, those of us who consider ourselves rebels and/or leftists have found plenty that resonates.
Superman is an undocumented alien. The X-Men are scorned because they are a minority, born different from the rest of us. The Legion of Super-Heroes imagines a future in which we not only survive, but learn to use science to live in peace. Mostly.
Often it is the sensibility of the writer that makes a story resonate politically. Twenty years ago, when Bill Clinton was running for his first term, Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove supported his candidacy. Dan Jurgens did not. If you were reading Superman comics then (when one storyline ran through four different titles, each published a different week of the month), you might have been able to pick out their different points of view.
There are people who share my political beliefs whose work I don’t like, and people with whom I disagrees whose work I read avidly. There are writers like Jamie Delano, who I mostly love but whose work I like less the more I agree with him.
We have an election ahead of us this year, and I hope that, as a nation, we can debate issues on their merits, and not descend into the kind of lies and distortions that frequently foul our discussions. And I hope comics do their part, presenting different issues and different perspectives through the prism of graphic fiction.
I think Superman is a Democrat. How about you?
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