A friendly reminder to click on the little box in the top, left corner to check out my superhero. =)
The Shadow Hero is fairly different than the other comics that we have read thus far in class. Of course, there is the aspect that it is based off of a Chinese American superhero, but the way he came about to be a superhero remains very different.
While reading this comic, the humor reminded me a lot of what we read from Ms. Marvel last week. His evolution story involves his mother insisting that he must make something of himself, and in her mind this means becoming a superhero. On his first mission, she drives him to it, makes his costume, and drives him home when he gets injured. We see this overbearing, mother character role play throughout the graphic novel, which is also something very humorous at times.
She constantly reminds her son and husband that they are not “real” men, and that they bring her a lot of shame because they do not perform in hyper masculine ways. Of course this is not directly said, but it is implied. As a result of her husband unable to protect himself, he ends up being murdered by the villains of the graphic novel. Hank vows to himself that he will avenge his father’s death, which is something similar we have been used to seeing in this class. However, Hank, unlike his mother, admires his father. Before he even wants to become a superhero he longs to become a figure like his father. Admiring his father does not change, but his plans change when he sees that he wants to protect himself. I wonder, what does this say about masculinity?
I think the comic was making a lot of societal commentary on how society views masculinity, and possibly in this case, the Chinese culture. However, it seemed problematic to me when Hank’s father is murdered due to the fact of him being unable to protect himself. He appears weak, after his wife has made many comments on how she feels shame towards him. She later regrets how she treated him, but when we hear the background story of the father, we realize that he did not always use to be this way.
He was strong and fearless, but he had a drinking problem. After he wishes to no longer drink again, he becomes more of a sensible, honest, and level headed figure. Although Hank ends with still taking care of his father’s store like he always wanted to, he is still admired by many for being the superhero. It made me wonder, does this story offer redemption for the usual tale of hyper masculinity, or does it fall under the same spell?
In a 1983 interview with Alan Moore, he discusses his distaste for characters in the comic book genre, particularly with Marvel: “The thing with characterization is that it’s important, but it’s largely done wrong…[n]ow what happened when Marvel came along in the sixties was that they thought, ‘Let’s be realistic and give them human characters. We’ll let them have one characteristic’” (qtd. in Hoberek 20-1). Moore explains that Marvel attempts to try to salvage this lack of characterization within the comic book genre, but feels that they still failed: “[They] must be crippled, neurotic, or foreign, and [creators] don’t bother to get anywhere near the complexity of human character” (21). In other words, Marvel tries to make characters more relatable to the reader, but they only aspect that they have added is a surface level flaw, and they do not follow through with the depth of the character. Much of what Moore is referring to is what has been branded as the Silver Age of comics.
Following the Golden Age, the Silver Age in comics, particularly with superheroes, were “no longer ascendant but instantly recognizable and open to a variety of ironic reinterpretations” (qtd. in Alaniz 19). No longer did the superhero fit a tight mold that we were so use to seeing with Batman and Superman, but now superheroes were becoming more diverse, as Moore said it, adding more characterization. This is particularly seen through Marvel, and Stan Lee and Jack Kirby open up this door through the comics of X-Men
This comic, created by the writer, Stan Lee, and the artist/co-writer, Jack Kirby, follows a group of mutants which are a subspecies of humans who are born into superhuman powers. In many ways, they are the outcasts of society, hiding out at a school with their mentor, Charles Xavier also known as Professor X. Since this comic first emerged in 1963, there has been much evolution of this comic, particularly through the character of Professor X. Flashing forward to a little over four decades, X-Men: Days of Future Past, written by Simon Kinberg, Jane Goldman, and Matthew Vaughn and directed by Bryan Singer, offers an in depth look at Professor X. Throughout this movie, we can experience the complexity of Professor X by visiting his younger self, and going through his journey of how he became to embrace his disability of not being able to walk. Although Moore assesses Marvel from 1983, he still fails to see the potential that Jack Kirby and Stan Lee create through X-Men. I am not suggesting that Moore is wrong about Marvel during this time he made these comments, but he fails to recognize that both Lee and Kirby assisted in breaking down the metanarrative of superhero stories. Throughout X-Men: Days of Future Past, due to the fact that we are introduced to a younger Professor X, we experience the struggle of the decision that he made to sacrifice his legs for his powers. This then creates a space for disability studies by recognizing that a superhero can have their own separate, complex space, without it being addressed in a patronizing manner.
In this movie, we get introduced to a much younger Xavier, when Wolverine tries to go back in time and mend the past. Xavier is much younger, he can walk, and he has a bad attitude. Wolverine finds Xavier and Beast at the school that Xavier created, however, it is nothing but a house that they both live in and not a school at all. The much younger Xavier decides that in order to walk, he is willing to give up his powers. He takes medication in order for this to be accomplished.
When the movie pans to the younger Xavier taking his medication, it is set up to look as if he is shooting heroin into his body. Later on in the movie, he decides to stop taking this medication in order to regain his powers, and he starts experiencing signs of relapsing. He tells Wolverine that he cannot handle it, and all of his emotions are literally unbearable for him. In his quest to save Raven, his powers are not as strong as they use to be because he is still coming off of the medication, much like a recovering addict relapsing from a drug.
This metanarrative of the hero always being the fastest, strongest, and abled, had been deconstructed into something different. Xavier is mentally stronger, kinder, and overall a better person and mutant when he cannot walk. Within the silver age, “[l]ike soap operas, to which they are often compared, these stories focused much more on issue-after-issue character development than action and violence-though there was also plenty of that” (Alaniz 19). Continuing with this thought, Lee and Kirby’s “work, plot, pace and mystery were shunted into the background while their brawling, bickering heroes took center stage, soaking the pages in pathos, anger and romantic melodrama” (qtd. in Alaniz 19). While the character of Professor X may not have been fully developed in his beginning stages, as mentioned above when he went through many transformations, Kirby and Lee should still maintain this credit.
Amongst many superhero comics, the body is always the central focus of the narrative. Throughout the genre, it became the focal point to many of the stories being told. Furthering this notion, “the body is enlarged and diminished, turned invisible or made of stone, blown to atoms or reshaped at will….The superhero body is everything” (qtd. in Alaniz 17). However within this movie, it became evident that it did not have to be everything. While the story still focused on the struggle that Xavier went through in making his decision, by the end, it was proven that the mind can be just as, or even more powerful. Even when Raven is adamant about killing the scientist who assists in testing on mutants and turning the humans against them, Xavier manages a number of times to literally get into her head to try and convince her to stop. This then creates a new outlet and focus on the power of the mind, rather than the superhero body.
Referring back to Xavier taking medication and losing sight of who he really is as mentioned above, this could present another possibility in shedding light within disability studies. Due to the fact that there is a lot of medication involved amongst people with mental disabilities, there is a factor of fear when taking medication. Of course this is not true for everyone, but it could help shed light onto those who do have this fear. This fear derives from the fact that that if they take too much medication, they may lose sight of who they really are; allowing the drugs to take control of their own bodies is a frightening factor. This idea further gives complexity to the study of disabilities, and helps develop Professor X’s characterization as well. (Of course I am going to provide a source here, but have not found one quite yet!)
Overall, the character of Xavier in the movie X-Men: Days of Future Past assists the audience in understanding the field of disability studies. Although this character has been through many changes throughout the decades, it has been clear that he has developed quite a bit in regards to his complexity of his human character. Thanks to Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Xavier creates agency for other possibilities of what a superhero can look like within this genre. Arguably, he is a character that develops the most promise, especially seen throughout this movie. His leadership amongst the X-Men give them hope that they too can be leaders even if they are outcasts amongst society. Xavier gives many possibilities for what a superhero can look like while simultaneously sending a message to society. He deconstructs this metanarrative, and offers an opportunity for audiences to look at other possibilities of what superheroes can look like. However, it is done in a way without patronizing those with disabilities. There is purpose and depth behind Professor X. Alan Moore’s criticisms of Marvel fall too harsh because due to Lee and Kirby’s more inclusive characters, they helped contribute to the idea that superheroes possibilities are endless. Instead of critiquing this idea, this is something that we should celebrate, that many different people have the ability to look and feel “super.”
Wow! What a pleasant surprise in reading Ms. Marvel. I think this entire semester I have been saying I have been searching for a more complex, female role in the comic book, and I think Kamala has that potential. From the opening pages, it is evident that Kamala is a young girl who suffers from an identity crisis. She has to navigate where she belongs as a Pakistani American living in New Jersey. She resents parts of her Pakistani culture, especially in her family sphere. There are many comments she makes towards her family members about how she feels uncool, and wishes she had a better name other than Kamala. Even the superhero she desires to become is blonde and powerful, emblematic of the girl she admires at school, Zoe.
As a reader, I can see that Zoe is not someone that Kamala should want to emulate. She is ignorant, telling Nakia she likes her “headscarf” and makes sure to ask her if anyone pressured her to wear it. I think Zoe is representative of the American who fails to try and understand people from different cultures who were raised in America. She comes off as she is trying to be genuine, but it is evident that she feels superior to Kamala and her friends. She tells Bruno that she is concerned about his “economic situation” which she really knows nothing about. Her boyfriend tells Kamala that she smells like curry when she comes to the party and she fails to do anything about it. I also really enjoyed how she had the valley girl touch: “Like, omg!”
Yet again, I feel Ms. Marvel is a very real superhero, especially for those young girls who struggle with identity. It was enjoyable to watch Kamala grow throughout this comic, seeing that she is the strongest when she is herself.
In Considering Watchmen, Andrew Hoberek talks about many aspects of the Watchmen, particularly with the contributions that it brought to the genre of comics, and the politics within the graphic novel and outside of the graphic novel. I think the best way he put it was when he mentioned that it was a postmodern take on the genre of comics, which completely makes sense.
Something that struck me in chapter 2 is when they discuss Moore, and what he did for comics: “[he] turns the familiar comic book icon of Superman, the noble and indomitable hero who defends truth and justice, on its head with the premise that if superheroes really existed, their powers would be made to advance the interests of the state in its pursuit of geopolitical power, unless of course, these superhuman beings were to turn to the ruling authorities and make themselves the masters of the world” (40). This was something that I had not thought about when reading the Watchmen.
Much of our political leaders today “advance the interests of the state” which then becomes difficult to trust any of them. Not only this, but it shows how corrupt the system of “justice” truly is. This also feeds into the critique that Alan Moore offers of the comic book genre itself. It also makes me wonder about it. Obviously as we read earlier, much of the comic book genre is capitalized, and we can most prominently see that through Batman and Superman. But throughout all of these decades of the genre, who are we believing in? Have we fallen victim to another false set of beliefs that the state wants us to believe, that things are a lot better than they actually are? These superheroes could possibly just be putting band aids on top of a deeply, infected wound. What can we believe in? Hoberek mentions a lot of these shared critiques that Alan Moore makes about the genre, and even says that he does not like Marvel. For him, giving the characters disabilities and making them more “realistic” did not solve anything, and in fact, made them have less depth (21).
I think this is one of the reasons why I enjoyed reading the Watchmen so much, and am guilty of enjoying the character of the Comedian. Although he does awful, unspeakable things throughout the graphic novel, he is also a satirical representation of what American society has become. “What happened to the American dream?” Well, Alan Moore shows us.
In the remaining chapter of the Watchmen, there remains an ominous feeling. The main characters, particularly Rorschach, continues to seek out the mystery behind who killed the Comedian. Through Rorschach’s journal, we as readers can start to trace this mystery as well. As he is solving this murder, so are we.
In chapter 6, we are introduced to the origin story of Rorschach. What is interesting about all of these super heroes however, is none of them have super powers except Dr. Manhattan. When Rorschach starts to tell the therapist about his upbringing, and how his mother prostituted herself for money, it was hard for me not to feel empathy for his character. It then becomes clear why he is the way he is. Particularly with the mask he wears, Moore and Gibbons make the comparison of these ink blots with the image he sees when he walks in on his mother having sex with another man. This is shown on page 3 of chapter 6 in the first two panels. It also then makes sense of why Rorschach remains somewhat of an asexual figure. He appears to be repulsed by any type of sexuality, especially when he encounters this image of the man and woman embracing on the streets. He writes in his journal that he does not like it, and almost seems to be angered by it.
Returning to chapter 2, a lot of these characters struggle with their own sexuality, or struggle with an aspect of it. Sally Jupiter recounts the time that she was almost raped by the Comedian, and Hooded Justice tells her to “cover” herself (and we later find out that the Hooded Justice is homosexual, possibly struggling with his sexuality.) After this panel, we see the comic where Sally is overtly sexualized in a younger version of herself, and Laurie is disgusted by this. Sally tells her that it reminds her of a time when people use to find her attractive, which boosts her self-esteem. It’s interesting, however, that her being objectified in a comic is juxtaposed with the time that she was nearly raped. I think Alan Moore might be making a larger comment about the genre of comics perhaps, particularly with women characters in these panels. A lot of the characters become objects in this genre, and Moore could be critiquing the genre for doing this. A woman’s sexuality becomes confusing for readers, and in this case, even Sally.
By the end of the graphic novel, we find out that Ozymandias is the one who killed the Comedian, and the Comedian is actually Laurie’s father. The only true happy ending that we see for these characters is through Laurie and Dan, who remain disguised of their true identity after visiting Laurie’s mother.
Right away when I started to read Watchmen, I could tell this was going to be a much darker comic than the usual ones that we have been reading for this class. From the content, the art, and the violence, this definitely sheds a new light on the way I view comic books and graphic novels.
Content wise, Watchmen is fairly dense. It takes me almost an hour to read each chapter, because I feel like there is so much to be said within each panel. Something else I noticed was that there are a lot of repeated panels, that you don't notice until you read ahead. I found myself connecting the pieces to this puzzle. Alan Moore finds a way to connect and interweave these chapters together.
One of the characters that I found fascinating was the Comedian. To me, he was a satirical symbol for everything that is wrong in society, particularly with America. His costume in some panels is very emblematic of something that Captain America would wear. I think it is really easy to dislike, or even despise the Comedian, but I didn't want to go this route. Considering that he is a parody of sorts, I actually appreciated the character. One of my favorite parts is when he says: "What's going down in this world, you got no idea" (52). The comedian seems to be one of the few characters that calls it like it is. Granted, he did terrible things. But when I read about the comedian, I almost feel like Alan Moore was trying to have him serve as a reflection of our own flaws. Of course, not all of us are murderers and rapists, but I think there is raw truth to the Comedian that you often don't see in many comics.
It's hard to put him in the villain category even though he does awful things. It's almost as if he is representative of what everyone else is afraid to say, especially when he says that he is the American dream. This directly comments on how flawed America, and the American dream is. Of course, the Watchmen makes many political comments on America based on what I have read thus far, which I will continue to discuss on my next blog post.
Hi Dr. Hatfield! If you click on the little button in the top, left corner you will find my prospectus there. I apologize for the mess I created. I was having so many technical difficulties last night and it was very frustrating. I will be cleaning it up later.
Before I get to my rant of Jean Grey, I really enjoyed reading about the characters of X-Men. I lied in my last blog, probably my favorite group of superheroes as of yet! I love the fact that they are going to school and have a professor who teaches them. It is always interesting to see the background stories of superheroes. Something that I like about the Avengers and X-Men is that as an audience, we can get completely lost in their own world. When we read about individual superheroes who fight for the people like Superman and Batman, it can be a bit more difficult to understand their character. At least for me. But when I read about an entire society of superheroes, I can feel more empathetic.
Okay, onto Jean Grey. Her earlier version was alright. When we read the first issue of X-Men, she seemed like she was going to be an okay character. But when she turns into the Phoenix and destroys a planet along with the people on it, the only thing that the Cyclops can say is, "she has suffered enough!" Therefore, we should all give her a break. REALLY? Just because she cannot handle all of these powers, we have to give her a break? WHAT? WHY?! But wait, she feels so guilty, so maybe we should (sarcasm.) It was hard for me to wrap my head around this concept, because I feel like if this were any other character, the X-Men would have not been as forgiving. Why is Batman blamed for things he did not do? Why is the Hulk blamed for things he did not do? The list goes on. WHY ARE WE GIVING JEAN A BREAK WHEN SHE ACTUALLY DID SOMETHING SO TERRIBLE? Sigh, I do not understand.
Moving onto the evolution of the X-Men, wow. Of course aesthetically, it looks quite different than the ones we read before (mostly referring to the New X-Men #114) I noticed quite a difference in the dialogue as well. In the previous X-Men, there seemed to be more conversations circulating among the characters. In the newer one, it seemed to put a lot more emphasis on the pictures rather than the dialogue. Oh, and we cannot forget about that dismembered body at the end, eek.