On Superheroes & Hero Worship

Tim O’Neil is right, of course, when he argues that looking up to super-powered authority figures is a fascistic thing to do:

Which is why I just don’t think an intelligent, grown adult can seriously accept most superhero books on face value, because to do so is to court the worst kind of moral laziness. There have been a relative few books that have actually attacked the ethics of superbeings in one way or another, and whenever these books have tackled the notion of even semi-realistic superheroes, they have almost always touched on the fascistic elements implicit in characters who can change the course of mighty rivers with their bare hands.

But here’s my question: what intelligent adult accepts anything they read at face value? That’s why I would say that the only people who shouldn’t read superhero comics are kids who haven’t developed a critical perspective yet! Look at Tim–he’s a smart guy, but he seems unable to entertain the notion that these heroes are just textual elements in a swirl of narrative. Why? By his own admission, it’s because he read too many superhero comics as a young child. I started reading these things when I was 12/13–after I had already learned to love Dickens, Hawthorne, Hammett, and studio age movies, and I’m here to tell you–I never “looked up” to superheroes.

It comes down to this–Tim’s interpretation is Carlylean; mine is Emersonian (for a comparison between the respective authors of On Heroes and Hero Worship and Representative Men, see my undergraduate thesis.) Tim has responded in depth to the “literature of ethics” interpretation of superheroes, but what has he had to say about my own existentialist gloss on the genre–“the literature of moral and epistemological inquiry”? (also Tim–I’d love to know what you think of the Gwen Stacy Clone Saga!)

That’s it for now!

Soon: Seaguy #2, Mary Jane #1, Ronin Ro’s Tales To Astonish, and much more on Amazing Spider-Man #121-151 (oh yeah: if you’re intrigued by all of that seventies spider-man stuff, but haven’t been able to make head or tail of what I’ve said about it, check out Scott Tipton’s excellent–and linear!–look at the Gwen Clone Saga here!)

Good Afternoon Friends!


One comment

  1. Personally, I read them for escapism. They’re not real. I prefer them unabashedly unrealistic. Hell, you need look no further than Superman, a character with enough power to rule the world who steadfastly refuses to do so even when he might do a better job than we are, and see that if anything most comic books are the fantasy of those who want, for once, power not to corrupt those that hold it. It’s almost anti-fascist: those with the most power use as little of it as they can.

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