Supposedly before C.S. Lewis’s Conversion he told his good friend J.R.R. Tolkien that he considered the Christian story to be “a fairy tale.” Tolkien’s response was to ask him if there was a fairy story he would rather was true. This supposedly stopped C.S. Lewis.
It’s become my opinion that there at least two “fairy tales” I would rather were true, although I don’t believe any of them are.
The one about a Mad Man with a Box that travels through Space and Time.
Or the one about the Last Son of a destroyed world who fights the neverending battle for Truth and Justice.
I could talk about the beauty of the Bodhisattva ideal as contrasted with the idea of Son of God, but I think in many ways the ideas of savior figures that most appeal to me end up being the man with the blue box, and the man of tomorrow.
There’s no real greater meaning to this post, just what’s on my mind.
So with DC’s None Dare call it Reboot, I’ve been thinking a lot about the essence of some of the big names in super-heroing both from DC and from the House of Ideas. This post is my ideas for how I would tell Wonder Woman’s story.
Wonder Woman, due to over-reinvention, somewhat lacks a “core story” the way many other well-known supers have. I’ve thought about what her story should be. I think it should focus on her role as Ambassador to Man’s World. Clark is a purer moral paragon, but Diana comes from a society that lacks many of the problems of our society. She would tend to confront uncomfortable status quos not necessarily knowing how they can be solved, but knowing that they shouldn’t be taken as given.
So with DC’s None Dare call it Reboot, I’ve been thinking a lot about the essence of some of the big names in super-heroing both from DC and from the House of Ideas. This post has a few thoughts on Spider-Man.
Spider-Man is an Everyman in a way that no “Super-Normal” can ever be. Spider-Man is a nerdy little kid who becomes a super-hero by accident. This is the most important thing about Spider-Man.
So with DC’s None Dare call it Reboot, I’ve been thinking a lot about the essence of some of the big names in super-heroing both from DC and from the House of Ideas. This post is about Batman and Superman.
Batman is a much purer wish-fulfillment fantasy than Superman. At first this seemed strange when it popped into my head, because Superman is not only more powerful than Batman, he embodies the dream of flight, and Superman is more often truly happy. But here’s my argument:
So on RPG.net I read a thread that said that the reason he doesn’t like Kitchen Sink settings is that they end up muddied. If Magic and Mutant Powers and Aliens yadda yadda all coexist. I certainly understand that complaint. I’ve read and created Kitchen Sink Settings that fall apart for that reason. But it seems to me that there are a couple of ways that Kitchen Sink settings can and do work sometimes.
One reason is that they can allow for very different stories to coexist in the same world, in ways that payoff in awesome ways. The best example of this kind of thing I can think of is Superhero Comics. For example I am currently reading, via trades Gail Simone’s excellent comic Secret Six. It is not a typical sort of super story being about characters that are, at best, anti-heroes. You could certainly have written a story much like Secret Six in an environment that didn’t include members of the Justice League (while some of the characters in S6 are dependent on major DC characters for their history you could get similar characters without those ties). But in the second trade Depths, Wonder Woman appears. It’s totally unexpected and it sounds like it wouldn’t work, but it does, A world that didn’t have Amazons and Banshees and Vandal Savage couldn’t have produced some of the best moments in Depths.
Unexpected crossover doesn’t always work of course. The absolute weakest scene in all of Sandman is the one that has Scott Free and the Martian Manhunter. Transitive crossovers are especially not a good idea.
Another reason for the Kitchen Sink is that sometimes you have a story with a different organizing principle. One example of this is indie comic hit Scott Pilgrim. This is a world that has Half-Ninja and Subspace and Psychics and Magic and other things. What ties the fantastic elements together however is that they all operate by Video Game logic.
What makes the Kitchen Sink succeed or fail, if you ask me is, does it have some coherence from somewhere else. This doesn’t mean it has to be a meaningful or deep story. An episode of the Justice League cartoon wasn’t typically a great work for the ages, but they don’t feel confused because it gains coherence from what could broadly be called super-hero tropes (costumes, heroism, high stakes, etc). In addition, besides the constants of the hero characters each episode would be a more focused story, it wouldn’t be Aliens AND Wizards attack Metropolis! (On a different track this might be one of the reasons that in D&D theme dungeons are so appealing)
Hmmm…There are some clearly unfinished elements in my thoughts, maybe I’ll get back to this.
When do disparate elements work together? Your Thoughts?
So I mostly love Silver Age comics and HP Lovecraft. They have a common characteristic that makes me sad however, and that’s that there’s racism there. In neither case is it the dominant theme in the oeuvre in question, but it might be very prominent in particular works. I should also note that to be fair to comics that comic racism is generally the typical forms of racism in the era’s pop-culture, while Lovecraft was racist even by the standards of a more racist time than ours. That said, going on we’re treating it as mostly the same thing.
Just a quick note, because I’m sick. So I read Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr.’s The Eternals, and if you have any interest in superheroes or Kirby esque weirdness you need to read this comic.
It deals with one of the odder corners of the Marvel Universe, The Eternals a race of superhumans created by the godlike robotlike Celestials. The Comic starts without them knowing who or what they are. It’s really great, and Gaiman gets a couple of potshots against Civil War in.
Seriously Check it out. I might do a real review later.
So I’ve talked about some of the most iconic super-heroes, but I haven’t talked about some of my favorites. I’m mostly a DC guy, but I really really love the First Family of Marvel. My real love for them started in a weird place though. It started in Planetary. I knew enough lore (partially from cartoons) to get most if not all of the specific allusions to Fantastic Four history in the Four, but It made me decide to go look up some Essential Fantastic Four, and I’ve generally loved what I found.