Dennis O’Neil: Superheroes in Three Dimensions
Back when days were yore and the sun was yet in the sky and I had a shining splendor of a job – could any job be better than editing Batman? – I didn’t always go film versions of comic books. Not sure why. Fear? Of disappointment? Of being shown that others were better than I was? Of just needing to get away from my day job and watching actors portray the characters who lay on my desk was not exactly getting away from them. All of he above? None of the above?
Not that I missed all the superhero flicks, but I still haven’t seen the last Christopher Reeve Superman and I caught only a few minutes, on television, of the Ben Affleck Daredevil. There may be others I’m forgetting.
Now, though, I catch ‘em all, even the ones that reflect my comic book labors, and I tend to like them, even those that are darker/grimmer than they might need to be. The most recent Daredevil – the unAffleckian version – and the quite similar Jessica Jones are not exactly jolly entertainments. In a few minutes, when I leave this computer and get in the car, I’ll be off to see the much discussed and maligned Batman vs Superman and tonight I’ll probably tune into FOX’s Gotham while recording what is, I think, the lightest and brightest of the teevee superdoers, and of course we’re talking about the lovely Kara Danvers – Supergirl.
I accused Ms. Danvers of lightness and brightness and that’s true only if you can ignore the Maid of Might’s backstory which, like her cousin Superman’s bio, involves the destruction of an entire planet, including friends and relatives. Many of the other costumed heroes have grim pasts too. Batman, of course, seeing his parents killed in front of him and Spider-Man, responsible for his beloved uncle’s death, and Daredevil whose father was killed and who owes his powers to a nasty accident and the Thing, changed into a monster by radioactivity and Iron Man and Nightwing and and and…
Are we dealing, here, with modern fairy tales? Well, there’s Bruno Bettelheim, of the renowned psychologist Bettelheims, who said said that scary fairy tales, with all those dark woods and evil witches, are developmentally healthy because they allow youngsters to face and acknowledge fears, and then reassure the kids that they will survive. And I’ve read very few, if any, comics that did not end with the good guys triumphant.
Batman vs Superman, currently playing at a theater near me, has a happyish ending. I know this because somewhere/when in the last bunch of words I went to a theater near me and saw the movie. Then I came home and checked the email and
had dinner. Oh, and did I like the movie? Well, that might be a topic for another time. Or not.