Mindy Newell: Lost In The Darkness
“I grew up reading superheroes where the most important element of that name was ‘hero’ rather than ‘super.’ But, lately, a number of the books from the big two superhero publishers, DC and Marvel, seem to have forgotten the hero part of the name.”
My friend and fellow writer Corinna Lawson, the woman some of you may know as the Geek Mom who writes for Wired, wrote those words in her latest piece, entitled “The Cliffs of Insanity: Putting the Hero Back in Superhero.”
It struck a deep chord in me.
“The Death of Captain America” (Captain America #25, March 2007) scared me and deeply bothered me. It seemed to signal the defeat of American idealism, the loss of belief in this country’s basic precepts of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and freedom for all. And worst of all, it seemed to me that Marvel was telling its readers, most importantly the kids of America, that there was no future here, that the dream was over.
It was an allegory; Marvel seemed to be telling us, for the death of America.
Oh, I think I understand why this story was written. Darkness had overtaken this country, starting with the Supreme Court deciding the election of the Bush administration, ignoring the people’s right to vote or to have their votes recounted or retaken. And the Bush administration, led by Darth Chaney, was such a causally evil administration, ruining the careers and reputations of anyone who got in their way, including people like General Colin Powell and outed CIA agent Valerie Plame, and casually lying to the American public and suckering them into an unneeded and unnecessary war in Iraq, while letting the perpetrator of 9/11, Osama Bin Laden, escape from Tora Bora because the administration could use him and Al Quada to continue to scare the public into accepting the erosion of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Yeah, I got it. It did seem that America, the America I grew up in, that, even with all its continuing problems, the America that promised hope to the world, was dead and buried.
There is a reason why totalitarian and oppressive governments attack the arts and kill writers and artists and sculptors and ban plays and books and movies. Because the arts are where ideas flourish, where the flicker of hope, of what should be, stays alive. Most of us do not think of comics as part of the arts, but they are, combining both the written word and illustration in one format, and as art I believe that comics both affect and reflect society, and are capable of promoting ideas and initiating discussions.
Return Of The Jedi (which would have been a better movie if Luke had been corrupted by Daddy Vader, and Leia and Han had to save him, and then Luke could have saved his father). Ben-Hur. The Searchers. The Bridge On The River Kwai. Watchmen. Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Angel. Battlestar Galactica. Ultimately, all these stories are about the rich and complex nature of good and evil, of love and hate, of triumph and tragedy. Great stories are about anger and hate, lost and found souls, corruption and redemption.
Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces, which George Lucas used in telling the story of Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars movies, is about the monomyth of the world’s cultures throughout history, which is the journey of the hero:
The hero starts in the ordinary world, and receives a call to enter an unusual world of strange powers and events – the “call to adventure.” If the hero accepts the call to enter this strange world, the hero must face tasks and trials – a “road of trials,” either facing these trials alone or with assistance. At its most intense, the hero must survive a severe challenge, often with help earned along the journey. If the hero survives, the hero may achieve a great gift – the “goal or boon” – that results in the discovery of important self-knowledge. The hero must then decide whether to return with this boon – the “return to the ordinary world” – and often faces more challenges on the return journey. If the hero is successful in returning, the boon or gift may be used to improve the world – the application of the boon.”
Once upon a time, our comic book heroes took this journey.
As Corinna wrote, “But, lately, a number of the books from the big two superhero publishers, DC and Marvel, seem to have forgotten the hero part of the name.”
I agree, Corinna.
Too many of our comic heroes have lost their way.
TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten
TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis