META: Notes on a Genre I Love

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Sat Mar 7 00:36:35 PST 2009

On Mar 7, 12:13 am, Martin Phipps <martinphip... at> wrote:

>  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.

Well, yeah; I hope my piece didn't come across as "I like to see
people hitting each other"-- such stories are usually pretty boring.
My point is that the ridiculousness of certain sci-fi/fantasy concepts
in superhero fiction can be used to explore deeper things by way of

> 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.

Nope.  I love "Watchmen" (book; haven't seen the movie yet).  I'm not
actually a big fan of the formal shenanigans that Moore uses, but as
far as good storytelling and complex characterization-- yes, it's a
terrific and vital piece of work.

I don't consider "Watchmen" to be an anti-superhero story.  Sure, what
happens in the end happens in the end.  Sure, all the major characters
are perverts or psychopaths.  But in the end Dan and Laurie are
basically good if fundamentally screwed up people trying to do the
right thing.  Moore understands if not exactly loves his characters,
and he engenders understanding in the reader.  That's a world of
difference from those who create anti-superhero stories-- writers who
despise their characters.

I have nothing against deconstruction; Stan Lee and the Marvel Age of
comics is all about deconstruction.  It's taking the old things and
putting a new spin of them, making better deeper art with them.  Heck,
that's what you did in the best issues of Superfreaks-- the ones with
strong detail work, like the Atlanteans not being able to recognize
each other because vision is so poor near the ocean's floor.  (And in
that case, you were taking something ridiculous seriously and I think
the end result was awesome.)

I have nothing against darkness either.  Dark is lovely, dark is
complex, dark is life.  But there's a difference between darkness and
nihilism.  Darkness can enrich the soul; nihilism merely depresses
it.  I don't consider "Watchmen" as a whole to be nihilistic.


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