Saturday, April 26, 2008

Let's be serious...for a moment

While I don’t own a collection or anything, I’m a big fan of comic books and superheroes.

Unfortunately, comic books have a hard time getting taken seriously. Despite the fact that many have absolutely astounding artwork and deep, sophisticated storylines, they’re still viewed as ‘kids stuff’.

In other words, take these storylines and put them on the silver screen and you get critically acclaimed blockbusters. Put them down in novel forms and you get best-sellers. However, put them in the format they started out in, and they’re solidly in the domain of children and ‘pale friendless virgins’.

As I said earlier, the stories can be deep and philosophical. Spider-man is my favorite example of this (as well as my favorite superhero). Here we have a teenage kid who has super-powers thrust upon him. Instead of instantly deciding to fight for ‘truth, justice and the American way’…he starts off in the same way a real teenager would…trying to exploit his powers to make as much money as possible.

Then he evolves into a character who realizes his own selfishness caused he death of his beloved uncle. We get to see the real-world problems that super powers and a secret identity would cause. Later on in the comic books, we see even more detail how Peter Parker’s double life strains his friendships and relationships with his family, friends and wife.

Long story short, a two dimensional character Spider is not. He’s a regular guy trying to hold down a job, keep up a relationship and finish school while feeling obligated to also be Spiderman. In fact, Peter Parker is the first superhero I became aware of that is really his secret identity. In other words, Superman smiles when he hears Lois has a thing for Superman even though she’s barely away Clark Kent exists. Why? Because Superman is Superman and Clark Kent is the disguise he uses to fit in. Peter Parker will always be Peter Parker.

Just to show that comic books and the movies based on them can have depth, look at Spiderman 3. Unfortunately, Venom was included last minute because he’s a fan favorite, but consider the story without him.

We have Peter Parker who finds the ‘Symbiote Suit’ which essentially turns him into a selfish idiot. For most of the movie, he’s not a very nice guy. He’s not fighting crime anymore because it’s the ‘right thing to do’. He’s fighting crime because he likes to hurt people, showboat and generally show off. On the other hand we have the Sandman, who is an extremely moral character who has turned to crime because stealing is the only way he has to raise the money to pay for a life-saving medical treatment for his young daughter. In his situation, how many parents out there would consider robbing a bank if it was the only way to save your child’s life?

So we have this very interesting situation. We have a ‘hero’ who’s fighting crime for all the wrong reasons and a ‘villain’ character who’s fighting crime for all the right reasons. We have this binary switch where we have an ‘evil hero’ fighting a ‘moral villain’. Spider-man if fighting the Sandman out of selfish revenge and the desire to hurt people. Sandman is fighting Spiderman because he wants to save his daughter’s life…and he doesn’t care if he’s killed or imprisoned in the fight.

Who do you root for? The hero or the villain? This movie is essentially asking the question “Can you do good out of a desire to do evil…and do the ends justify the means in certain cases?”

Well, by now you’re probably wondering what motivated this post. Well, it’s because today I saw something that really highlighted to me just how little respect this medium receives and how people refuse to take it seriously…even when there are real issues at hand.

I found a video online from Fox News.

A few months ago and ‘Mary Jane Watson’ statuette was released that was almost universally reviled. The statuette is MJ ii a pair of extremely tight ripped jeans, an amazingly low cut top…and she’s bent over a wash basin, washing Spider-Man’s costume with a gigantic grin on her face.

You can imagine the reaction. Fans and detractors alike claimed it was ‘too sexy’, ‘objectified women’ and relegated a major character to doing the male hero’s laundry.

To be honest, I agreed for the most part. The ‘too sexy’ part didn’t bother me much for the simple reason that male and female comic book characters alike tend to be absolutely perfect specimens of their sex while wearing extremely tight or very few clothes. Sure the women wear very little, but Superman and Spiderman wear skin-tight spandex. I also don’t believe that comic books ‘objectify women’ at least not any more than they do men.

This statuette was pretty bad though. A perfect-bodied female with double D’s standing in a provocative position while smiling and doing the male hero’s laundry? You don’t need to be a feminist to understand that it’s going to rub some people the wrong way. It’s an image that belongs to the 50’s

So, of course, Fox News ran a story on the controversy. Who did they interview to discuss the statuette? Stan Lee, the creator of Spiderman? Adam Hughes, the comic book artist that designed the statuette? Hell, maybe even someone from Marvel’s PR department?

No, they had that total retard who won the first season of that awful “Who Wants to be a Superhero” reality TV show…and he was in costume!

So, Marvel steps over the line with a piece of merchandising. Do we have Stan Lee pointing out that comic books where the first medium to show strong, independent women who are just as capable as the men? Maybe Adam Hughes pointing out that Mary Jane, considering she doesn’t have a costume and has been drawn differently hundreds of times, can only really be identified if there’s something linking her to Spiderman…and he just thought doing laundry fitted in with Spider-Man’s ‘real world’ ethos?

No, we have that complete tool in a spandex outfit talking bullshit to the camera, all the time wearing a shit-eating grin.

If I’d been a producer for Fox News and called Marvel asking for someone to interview, and they offered the reality show guy, I’d have told them to fuck off and take it seriously.

…but after all, it’s just a stupid statue based on a stupid kids comic book.

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