META: Notes on a Genre I Love

Martin Phipps martinphipps2 at
Fri Mar 6 21:13:28 PST 2009

Trying again.

On Mar 6, 11:10 am, Tom Russell <milos_par... at> wrote:

>    As Warren Ellis, Chris Ware, and other cynics will no doubt tell
> you, superheroes are inherently ridiculous.  Accepting as a postulate
> the idea that if people found themselves gifted with incredible and
> weird powers that they would use them to fight crime (or commit it),
> there's still the question of code-names, gaudy skintight costumes,
> secret identities, law enforcement agencies and lawful citizens who
> either celebrate or at the very least tolerate the massive property
> damage incurred during your average superhero slobberknocker-- and
> that's just for starters.  That's not even getting into talking apes
> and parallel dimensions and, yes, giant typewriters.
>    And, you know what?  I'll give them that.  Absolutely, superheroes
> and the universes they inhabit are ridiculous on their face.  But
> rather than seeing that as a liability, or as a reason to endorse
> "campy" material (shudder), I see it as a source of great strength.
> Like its "bastard" origin, it allows the superhero genre to go places
> and do things that other genres can't; the best superhero stories use
> the ridiculous to approach the sublime.

Personally, I see the ridiculousness of superheroes as something that
needs to be fixed: when superheroes are presented in other media
(movies and TV) they are never exactly what we see in the regular
comics because that would be too silly.  Keep in mind that most of us
started reading superhero comics when we were either kids or teenagers
so we either didn't realise how silly they were or we were primarily
interested in how the Black Widow filled out her costume.  Most movie
adaptions of the comics, at least the ones that worked, including X-
Men, Spiderman, The Dark Knight and Iron Man, took a more realistic
approach than what we see in the comics.  And to me, frankly, the more
realistic approach is more interesting: I am more interested in how
people would actually cope with having powers, which is basically the
idea that Stan Lee had when he created the X-Men, Spiderman and the
Fantastic Four in the first place.  A logical extention is how
ordinary people would react to superheroes and how their presence
would affect the society around them and how the heroes, in turn,
would react to those changes.  This is more interesting, to me, than
just seeing people hit each other.

It's actually ironic that you posted this on the day that the Watchmen
movie came out: I actually thought this was a protest on your part of
Watchmen style deconstructionism.


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