Tag Archives: Action Comics

Waiting For Krypton: Education Post for Media Diversity UK

Lee's depiction of DC Comics' Superman and Batman.

Lee’s depiction of DC Comics’ Superman and Batman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The opening scenes of the documentary Waiting For Superman depict education reformer/charter school advocate Geoffrey Canada as describing one of the saddest moments in his life. When he learned that Superman was not real, he was distraught because there was, in Canada’s words, “I was crying because there was no one coming with enough power to save us.” From his perspective, DC Comics’ Clark Kent/Superman “just shows up and he saves all the good people,” “even in the depths of the ghetto.” As a fellow comic book fan, I would have to question whether Mr. Canada knows the story of Superman, and the criticism thereof from the likes of one of his allies for justice, Black Lightning (Jefferson Davis, who, in one rendition, just so happens to be a public school principal) , who noted that Superman may be Kryptonian, but he is still white, and avoids the Suicide Slums (the poor side of town where Metropolis is).

I want to lay aside that criticism, and talk about the idea of power, and what it means in eyes of education reformers. As I quoted Mr. Canada above, he was distraught that there was no one with all of the power to save what Geoffrey Canada calls “failure factories,” or schools in predominantly impoverished neighborhoods that primarily feed the community drop-outs and/or felons, and yes these are communities that are of predominantly black and Latin@ American populations. These “failure factories” are what stifle economic growth, deprive corporations of an educated workforce, and communities of stability. From the perspective of philanthropists such as Bill Gates (from the documentary and his history of being active in the Education Reform movement), children receiving education is for the purpose of the workforce, so that multinational corporations can keep up with global competition. In Waiting For Superman, the topic of power is not discussed again until we see education reformer/charter school advocate Michelle Rhee at work, who was given “broad powers” to make sweeping changes. The issue of power is an interesting topic, and to see it discussed explicitly in these two instances are what caught my attention. Where does power come from? Who has it? What does it look like?

For the rest of the essay, please go read Waiting For Krypton: Race, Ableism and Education Reform

A Comic Fan Searches For A New Hero: Conclusion

A Comic Fan Searches For A New Hero: Conclusion

Posted on November 19, 2013 by 

Check out the introduction for background on this series of posts!
Check out part 1: Green Lantern. Check out part 2: Captain America.Check out part 3: Wolverine. Check out part 4: Power Girl. Check out part 5: Aquaman. Check out part 6: Luke Cage. Check out part 7: Iron Man. Check out part 8: Spider-Man. Check out part 9: Wonder Woman. Check out part 10: John Constantine.Check out part 11: The Incredible Hulk. Check out part 12: Batman. Check out part 13: Static. Check out part 14: Black Canary. Check out part 15: Superman. Check out part 16: Thor. Check out part 17: the Phantom Stranger. Check out part 18: Green Arrow. Check out part 19: the Flash. Check out part 20: Animal Man.

What were the final scores?

In order from least points to most, the scores were:

Iron Man: 1.0666666  points
Phantom Stranger: 3 points
John Constantine: 4 points
Hulk (Mr. Fixit): 4 points
Captain America: 4 points (1 bonus point)
Green Lantern: 4 points (1 bonus point)
Aquaman: 4.5 points
Luke Cage: 4.5 points
Black Canary: 4.5 points
Thor: 5 points
Wolverine: 5 points
Hulk (Smart Hulk): 5 points
Green Arrow: 5 points
Wonder Woman: 5.5 points
Batman: 5.5 points (1 bonus point)
Power Girl: 6 points
Static: 6.5 points
Spider-Man: 7 points
Hulk (Savage Hulk): 7 points
Animal Man: 7 points
Superman: 7 points (1 bonus point)
The Flash: 7.33 1/3 points (1 bonus point)

Before I comment, I want to make a critique of my methods. 

Justice League

Justice League (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First, my categories were too binary. There is a large difference, for example, between the worldview of Animal Man and the worldview of Luke Cage, but the binary “yes or no” did not leave much room for exploring that. In fact, I admit I fudged the numbers a bit by using decimals when that binary became too restrictive. If I were to revisit this series again, I would use a scale of some sort, not a yes/no.

Second, this list is nowhere near as diverse as I would have liked. While I did speak about race and gender to some degree, there remains a lack of diversity on my list. Given unlimited time and energy for this project, I should have included Cyborg, Steel, Storm, Black Panther, Falcon, Batgirl/Oracle, Supergirl, Katana, Black Lightning, Vibe, Stargirl, and others as representatives of minorites. But instead, I chose the representatives that I already had some affection for, and contrasted them with the more standard heroes of the Avengers and Justice League.

The "Heroic Age" roster of the Aveng...

The “Heroic Age” roster of the Avengers. Cover art for Avengers vol. 4, #12.1, by Bryan Hitch. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Third, there are doubtless many other heroes that I could have reviewed that would have scored much higher than those represented here, and certainly there are heroes that are not represented that are fan-favorites of people very near and dear to me. To you folk, I apologize. I simply ran out of steam for the job, and people were already threatening to boycott Political Jesus if I continued, lol. So perhaps one day, I will give Blue Beetle, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, Rogue, Gambit, Nightwing, and Boris the Beat their due, but it won’t be today.

Conclusion:

Having said all that, I believe that I am in no shape to give a whole-hearted devotion to a super-hero the way I have done for Green Lantern in the past. In dissecting these heroes over the last few months, I have gained an appreciation for them beyond how they fit into my categories. Phantom Stranger and Constantine rated very low, but why do I enjoy reading them so much? Thor rated fairly high, but I have little desire to read his book monthly just because he did well on my list.

Still, there were a few heroes that really outshone the competition and made me appreciate who they are. Spider-Man and Superman are heroes that have always been in my periphery. I tend not to like more mainstream heroes. But I simply cannot deny that they represent the best of who we want to be. I am now committed to diving into their stories a bit more over the coming year. I was surprised Hulk rated so high, but Hulk has always been a favorite of mine, especially in his Savage (childlike) persona.

Variant incentive cover for The Flash vol. 3, ...

Variant incentive cover for The Flash vol. 3, #1 (April 2010). Art by Tony Harris. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The true front-runner (no pun intended) however, is the Flash. He surprised me. I have been reading a lot of these heroes in preparation for this blog, but I was really struck by the Flash in a way that the others didn’t strike me. In particular, his boundless hope and his humanization of even his enemies, and unwillingness to settle for anything other than the best outcome was truly inspiring. And I don’t mind saying that this is coming at a great time for Flash fans, who have a TV show on the horizon, a great comic to follow, a whole slew of t-shirts to wear, and a new advocate on Political Jesus. The new Flash fan – ME!

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A Comic Fan Searches For A New Hero: Part 15, Superman

A Comic Fan Searches For A New Hero: Part 15, Superman

Posted on November 18, 2013 by 

Check out the introduction for background on this series of posts!
Check out part 1: Green Lantern. Check out part 2: Captain America.Check out part 3: Wolverine. Check out part 4: Power Girl. Check out part 5: Aquaman. Check out part 6: Luke Cage. Check out part 7: Iron Man. Check out part 8: Spider-Man. Check out part 9: Wonder Woman. Check out part 10: John Constantine.Check out part 11: The Incredible Hulk. Check out part 12: Batman. Check out part 13: Static. Check out part 14: Black Canary.

A shaken Clark Kent, unconcerned about his sec...

A shaken Clark Kent, unconcerned about his secret,assists Lateesha Johnson; she was attacked by gang members. Art by Dan Jurgens. From Superman v.2 #121 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Superman is Superman. You may be reading the wrong blog if the name doesn’t ring a bell.

Who is Superman?

Superman literally started the super-hero genre. He was the first, and continues to arguably be the most powerful and/or important one out there. He was born on an alien world, rocketed to Earth upon that world’s destruction, and was raised by mid-western parents to be a paragon of truth, justice, and the American way. He was a founding member of the Justice League and has had more movies, games, TV shows, cartoons, toys, and other things than you can shake a stick at.

Is this character heroic? Truly. Although his powers make him a bit oblivious to most forms of real danger, he still puts everything he has into saving others, many times at the cost of his personal life. Even in those rare instances where he is out-powered or de-powered for some reason, he still refused to back down when others need him. (1 point)

Does this character represent the “powers” or fight against them? Hmmm. You  heard that whole “truth, justice, and the American way” thing, right? He has been a teensy bit of a tool of the American powers at certain times. At other times, however, he has made a point to say he is a world citizen, not just an american one. Being the “other” rarely stops Superman from being beloved, however, as for some reason, only Lex Luthor seems to get xenophobic around him. There might be a little white, male, protestant privilege on display here… Still, he is getting better… (.5 points)

Does this character kill? For the most part, no. It is a point of pride with him. He truly makes every effort to not kill anyone for any reason, taking his great power as a point of departure for finding more creative and less lethal ways of dealing with problems. However, there have been a few times when seemingly impossible situations have forced him into making a decision he didn’t want to make and he ended up killing someone more powerful than himself. Having said that, depending on the era, he has also shown that he has a fierce commitment NOT to kill enemies, even when faced with impossible situations. In general terms, Superman NEVER kills, unless a writer with some agenda gets a hold of him (or a certain movie director…)  (1 point)

Does this character have a spirituality? Yes actually. Matter of fact, he is a bit conflicted in this regard. He has a definate protestant, likely Methodist, upbringing, which comes up surprisingly often in the books over the years. He has even prayed on occasion, read the Bible at funerals, attends church, etc… However, upon learning more about his Kryptonian heritage, he has also seemingly embraced certain aspects of Kryptonian religion (sun worship, or Rao worship). To what extent these exist simultaneously in his heart and mind, who can say? But it certainly would make for an interesting exploration.
(1 point)

Does this character have an interesting (and sustainable) story to inhabit? Thankfully, this has been fixed to some degree lately. For most of his publication history, Superman has not been terribly interesting. He is simply a known quantity with no growth arc possible (leading some writers to introduce killing enemies into his repertoire, as above). Recently though, the comics have striven to make him more of the other, make him younger, more reckless, and while maintaining his values, make him unpredictable and less “boy scoutish.” This has led to much more interesting stories, and Superman has been enjoyable to read for the first time in ages. (1 point)

Does this character have a supporting cast that isn’t just around to make them look good? Yes. In fact, Superman has one of the best supporting casts around. While it is true that the characters in his cast were originally used JUST as a foil for how great Superman is (Lois Lane practically invented the damsel in distress trope), it is also the case that the long publication history of these characters have also led them to have very long and dramatic story arcs themselves. Lois Lane, now far from the always-damsel-in-distress, is one of the leading reporters in the world, the very epitome of a feminist, empowered, successful woman. Currently, Superman is dating Wonder Woman, every bit his equal. He shares one book with Batman, who is arguably more popular than him. Jimmy Olsen even has a character development.  (1 point)

Does this character have a T-shirt I can buy in size XL? Too many to count. (1 bonus point)

Does this character represent, in broad terms, an outlook on life that I can support? Yes. In broad terms. I am not sold on the whole “American way” thing, for a number of reasons. However, Superman doesn’t only represent America. He, ideally, represents the best humanity can be, even though he transcends them on a certain level. Sounds like my Jesus a bit. He is self-sacrificial, and wants to help, never hurt.  (1 Point)

Are this characters powers (or lack thereof) interesting? Here’s the rub. Superman is just too damn powerful. He is the strongest, most invulnerable, and has been shown to give the Flash a run for his money in the speed department. He can shoot heat vision from his eyes, cold from his lungs, and hear Lois screaming from the other side of the universe. He has super-smarts, x-ray vision, and a super dog. Quite simply, if writers don’e use one of the three tropes that he is weak to (kryptonite, magic, mind control), we simply don’t believe he is ever in danger. This is what causes lazy writers to use killing or introducing a bajillion other kyrptonians into the world in order to make things “interesting.” I’m not saying Superman CAN’T be interesting, I am saying that it is hard. Too hard for most writers. I’m being generous with the half point here. (.5 points)

Verdict: 7 out of 8 points

Tune in next time for a discussion of Thor…

 
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