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Archive: June 2004

bye bye

Rose and I are moving tomorrow, and we won’t have Internet access in our new apartment until Monday at the earliest, so the posting forecast for this weekend and next week is light to nonexistent. Stay tuned for a series of posts about Minicomics You Should Be Reading, though.

“Don’t die, Chubby!”

Seaguy is shaping up to be one of my favorite superhero comics in a while. It’s the sort of comic where you half-expect a purple gorilla from Mars to show up at any moment (no gorillas yet, but Atlantis and its clockwork wasps have made an appearance). It has that Silver Age-DC sense of manic nonsense in it, but it’s not a nostalgic trip back into the past… Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart grab what they need and leap forward. #2 is very different in tone from #1, and Seaguy and Chubby are finding out why nobody goes on adventures anymore. Things are getting heavy but, thankfully, neither grim nor gritty. (But then, with Animal Man, Doom Patrol, New X-Men and even The Invisibles, Morrison’s always been a chief contributor to the school of ‘mature’ superhero comics that don’t stand on the shoulders of Frank Miller and Alan Moore).

I’m still considering this, but I think Seaguy intersects neatly with the current superheroes-as-fascists conversation flying around the blogs (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, etc.). The only authorities in Seaguy’s world seem to be Mickey Eye and his I-Police, who rule by enforcing the herd mentality with marketing and consumerism. The superheroes have all retired, not because the regular folks decided heroes are fascist, but because they decided they don’t need heroes. (Who needs a superhero when you have a ridiculous iron umbrella to protect you from meteorites? And who cares if the meteorites are moon rocks covered in Egyptian Hieroglyphs? I’m sure the people who’re supposed to know about that stuff know what’s going on…) When Seaguy and Chubby decided to become real heroes and go on adventures, their decision makes them pretty much the opposite of powerful auhority figures—not only does nobody take them seriously (taking things seriously doesn’t seem to be allowed), now they’re being hunted by the I-Police. But at the same time, the I-Police are so inept that Seaguy and Chubby can evade them easily. And the fact that Seaguy and Chubby are inept and half-hearted heroes at best (”Now we’ve done it, Chubby! Maybe we should just pretend none of this ever…”) hasn’t kept them from (accidentally) creating a humongous blob of intelligent processed-food product, (accidentally) destroying the Xoo industry, and (accidentally) discovering Atlantis.

Fascism Victims

In all this talk about superheroes and fascism, I’m struck by an obvious question I haven’t seen addressed. If we read superhero comics and these comics are so harmful, who has been hurt personally by the ideologies or politics or narratives of superhero comics?

I have a story of my own, but I think I’m in the minority. I think of it as being more about the dangers of interpretation than with any problems in superhero stories anyway, but I want to see if I can get any other responses before Monday, when I’ll have time to write about myself.

More Tim O’Neil on superheroes

More Tim O’Neil on superheroes: Peiratikos is not a floating nimbus of freelance love. But we're not cranky either.

See also: Marc Singer: Oh, That Again
See also: David Fiore: On Superheroes & Hero Worship
See also: John Jakala: But Superman Is So Powerful!
See also: J.W. Hastings: The “F” Word

18 June 2004 by Steven | Permalink | 6 comments »

Heroism is fascist!

Tim O’Neil has returned to tell us (again) why superheroes can’t be taken seriously:

In a lot of ways, this hearkens back to the “literature of ethics” conversation of a few months back. As we discussed then, the “literature of ethics” concept was good except for one teeny-tiny fact: there is no examination of ethical dilemma in 99.9% of all superhero books. Black and white, good and evil, are pretty much accepted as is, and any shades of grey are presented as mere obstacles to be overcome. So, when you pick up The Avengers or Superman, the unspoken assumption is that the powerful superbeings whose adventures take place therein are morally infallible creatures whose strange abilities give them the obligation to combat “evil” outside of the traditional constraints of our legal system… Which is why I just don’t think an intelligent, grown adult can seriously accept most superhero books on face value…

Ignoring the unsupported blanket statement1, the problem with Tim’s argument is that phrase, “at face value.” As David Fiore pointed out, “what intelligent adult accepts anything they read at face value?”

But the really weird thing about Tim’s argument is that it implies that it’s good for children to read pro-fascist literature and take it seriously. What?

1 The only reasonable answer to the claim that an arbitrarily large percentage of items in a certain category suck is to cite Sturgeon’s Law. “99.9% of X sucks” and “99.9% of everything sucks” are both cop-out statements, because they seek to avoid addressing specific problems by throwing generalizations at them and hoping they go away. They deserve each other. The bulk of Tim’s argument is based on such a cop-out generalization, so it’s hard to take too seriously. His real point seems to be that he prefers to read superhero comics in a childlike (uncritica)l manner rather than an adult (critical) manner, and his elaborate justifications merely obfuscate this.


I guess it’s not really subtextual at all.

It’s called polysemy

It’s called polysemy: Congratulations on discovering its existence. (See 13 and 14 June 2004.)

15 June 2004 by Steven | Permalink | Comments disabled

gzip: well, sometimes it’s simple

gzip: well, sometimes it’s simple: Why Blogger web sites display garbage sometimes. It involves character sets (that's what I thought) and gzip compression.

Via: Mark Pilgrim
See also: Bugzilla Bug 241085

14 June 2004 by Steven | Permalink | One comment »


I’ve been too busy with cleaning, packing and crankiness to write about comics this weekend, and you can expect that to continue for the next few days at least, though I promise to get back to The Filth and hope it will be sooner than expected.

However I didn’t spend my whole weekend being productive and cranky. I saw Saved! yesterday, and it was much more effective and affecting than I’d expected. Since about age 21, I’ve been fascinated with the way being a teenager is being presented to teenagers, though I no longer think I’ll ever get around to writing this up formally. As a result, I still read some YA and am willing to watch movies that aren’t just standard romances. Because I went to a single-sex Catholic high school and because of who I was while there, I didn’t have anywhere near a normal high school experience, so I’m interested to see what Hollywood thinks normal is, but I’m not well-equipped to judge its relation to reality. I assume that a high school in an area as wealthy as the location in Mean Girls seems to be might have that much conspicuous consumption, and even our uniforms didn’t keep some girls from having visibly nicer cars or haircuts than the rest of us, so I think that’s clear enough. I asked Steven whether couples made out in the halls as in Joan of Arcadia, and he thinks so but wasn’t really paying attention. We had people change clothes basically in the hall after school and probably more offers to lend people tampons than his school did, but I don’t expect to see that in the movies.

Anyway, my point is that the realistic details don’t matter as much as the politics and the heart when I’m looking at these things. Saved! has more heart and better politics than I expected. I know it’s got an audience problem, trying to appeal to Christians and anti-Christians or former Christians alike. But basically it’s not about God any more than Joan of Arcadia is. It’s about what you’ll do to fit in and how that differs from belonging. and the ending, in which everyone remembers that Jesus spoke out in favor of forgiveness and kindness and even those who don’t care about Jesus think that sounds like a good plan, is perhaps predictable but not a cop-out, and each character had to take time and make a decision to love or to reject love. As far as messages go, I’m comfortable with that one, but there’s even more going on.

Unlike in Mean Girls, the gay character actually gets to have a relationship, not just remain a comedy figure checking out all the hot guys. This is an important distinction.

And like in both Mean Girls and Joan of Arcadia, there’s a somewhat androgynous (at least by movie standards) nonconformist who ends up in a romantic relationship with the male nerd character. While in Saved! no one intimated that Cassandra was a lesbian, I think this setup works for several reasons. For one thing, none of them ever denies that bisexuality is an option or that you have to define your orientation for good in high school, which seems like a minor point but will be meaningful to the people who need to hear it, I think. It’s also interesting that nerds (and I count Roland in this group even though Saved! entirely lacks classroom scenes, but I’m working with stereotypes here) are now getting realistic girlfriends rather than none at all, ever, or fantastically attractive airheads, as either comedy or wish-fulfillment fantasy. And it’s good to see that (at least implied) bisexuality isn’t solely the realm of drunken sorority girls looking for attention, which seems to be a common representation.

And the Christians weren’t evil and weren’t perfect. Yes, many things were dumbed-down and mocked, but that’s how it goes in high-school comedy. All of them were struggling and trying to make sense of the world. And that can mean being a gung-ho Christian but not knowing the difference between Moses and Abraham, or being willing to lie to a superior to protect a student’s privacy, or doing bad things in hopes of getting bad people brought to justice, but none of the characters were zombies. They were all trying to do what’s right but first to figure out what’s right and how you can tell.

I realize this probably isn’t much to recommend the movie, but I did enjoy it. The teenagers looked like teenagers, with a few beauties among a lot of awkward classmates. The adults had foibles and blindspots but weren’t hopelessly irrelevant. There were some very funny lines and even though the ending is in many ways ambiguous, it’s more satisfying than if everything had been resolved in explicit detail. The future is open, and that’s the point. It’s time to graduate and move into the real world, where things generally don’t get tied up nicely. And that’s a good thing to know.

The LiveJournal of Anne Frank

13 June 2004 by Steven | Permalink | Comments disabled