REVIEW: Silver Age Superfreaks

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Mon Apr 9 20:13:48 PDT 2007

On Apr 9, 10:40 pm, "Martin Phipps" <martinphip... at> wrote:

> But a lot of the Silver Age was deconstructionist: it was taking
> Golden Age ideas and redoing them in what was, at the time, a modern
> approach.  Spiderman was, apparently, the first teenaged superhero who
> wasn't somebody's sidekick.  The Thing, the Hulk and the X-Men were
> all heroes but people feared them to different degrees.


Yes, that's something that people often forget: the Silver Age was a
time of synthesis, and deconstructionalism-- taking things apart-- is
part of putting things back together-- synthesis.

As your examples indicate, you're more likely to find that level of
deconstructionalism in the Marvel Comics of the day.  That's one of
the reasons, I think, that some hardcore DC fans are so turned off by

The other is that the early Marvel books are written with a single,
strong voice-- that of Stan Lee.  And I'm not saying that to in any
way denigrate the work done by Kirby, Ditko, et al-- storytellers who
often did more than their "share" of the work.  But the fact is, it's
still Lee doing the dialogue, and the characterization tends towards
his preferences.  And that's fine for people who like Lee.

But what if someone like Bendis wrote every book Marvel put out?
(Okay, okay, I know that he already does...)  Some people love him,
some people hate him, some people do both at the same time!  It'd be
very divisive!

So the success of early Marvel was predicated on the very things that
turned some readers off from it-- Stan Lee and deconstructionalism.

>  Deconstructionalism is
> bad if it somehow disrespects the original creator's vision.
> Otherwise it is just a matter of giving people something they didn't
> expect.

Well, yes and no.  Surprise is certainly part of it, but true
deconstructionalism is pulling the genre or character apart and seeing
what makes it tick.  I accept it as a valid part of synthesis-- let's
take it apart and put it back together again-- but more often than
not, creators stop at the dismantling, at showing the foibles.  It
takes very little creativity to conduct an autopsy.  But stitcing the
body back together and making it walk and talk-- now that's magic.
And, to me, that's what "good deconstructionalism" is all about.

The thing that separates the Silver Age Marvel brand of
deconstructionalism from the pessimism of the eighties and nineties is
simply that: the pessimism.  Silver Age stories are inherently
optimistic and fantastical.  It's not the deconstruction of previous
tropes, or even the establishment of new ones that makes something
"Silver Age", but rather the _feeling_, the _vibe_, the optimism, the

And Superfreaks, being predicated on a conflict between superheroes
and police, and on the police feeling like they're being made
redundant-- is inherently more pessimistic.  I'm not saying it's
cynical, necessarily, though some of the stories _have_ been cynical.
Despite my ambivalance, Superfreaks has never turned me off the way
Jesse Willey's stories turned me off.  I think the cleverness of your
ideas-- particularly with the cloning storyline, and in the first few
issues-- goes a long way towards being a redeeming quality.

Again, this isn't meant as a criticism of the work, per se-- in the
sense of the word "criticism" that is critical or unflattering.  It's
just an observation about the Silver Age and the nature of your
series, which I feel is inherently anti-Silver Age.  But, again,
that's not necessarily a bad thing.


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