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What is the difference between the old Superman comics and the Watchmen? Or the Superman in Jimmy Corrigan? I believe it's the depiction of a superhero that has human flaws. Is a superhero a true hero if he/she shows human emotions that do not sterotypically belong to that hero? I would like to look into the repection of these more humanized heroes and try to establish the reason for this change in what the definition of a hero is and the reception to these neo-Heroes. Can we call the Comedian a hero? Or do those human characteristics he displayed stop him from being classified as such. If a hero shows a weakness that is not something like Krypotonite but something like Lust or Greed? Or even if they show a weakness of the flesh, such as The Dark Knight Returns, where an aging Bruce Wayne dons his costume and fights crime, but with consideration to his dulled reflexes and ability to get tired much faster? Can there be a reconciliation between what is considered to be a characteristic of a superhero and that of a human? Or, do we as readers seeking an escape from those human feelings we face everyday, want to see our heroes immune to such things? Can we watch our heroes fall from Gods to Mortals?
The jumping off point for this paper will be the pin that is featured throughout The Watchmen that the Comedian wears. This smiley face represents (in my mind) the unblemished superhero. But as it is shown on the cover, there is blood on it (and later ketchup), that could represent the tarnishing of the superhero reputation with humanized characteristics. Is the Comedian a superhero, or a disturbed man given too much power? I don't believe either of these really capture what he is, and I would like to try to refine a definition to what these hybrid heroes are.
The materials for this paper I hope to use will be The Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns along with any other comics I can find with a similar depiction of a humanized superhero. I would also like to look at the newer movie depictions of Batman (such as The Dark Knight and Batman Begins) where Bruce Wayne is a much darker person who must realize that he is not a hero but a vigilante who must fight against the baser human emotions. I still have to look into what other materials I plan to use as I am not sure about how many others are out there, but I'm sure that the man who runs the comic book store on main street could help me. And I'm sure that as I do research into this I will come across more of them.

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3 Comments

  1. Unknown User (fdl1)

    I like your idea and it is interesting to think about what makes a hero vs. a human or an anti-hero. However, I think you have a lot going on in this paper and I am wondering if it will take ten pages just to bring up and describe all the texts you are using rather than having the time to really analyze each of the representations and comics. Maybe you want to look at one very contained topics like emotion and superheros and whether or not having emotion takes away from their hero status. That way you can use a bunch of different comics and allude to all of them without having to summarize every character's battle.

    Or maybe you want to look at weakness/a weak spot in heroes and whether or not that makes them more human or less or more or less relatable to the reader. You can even use Pysch references of the perception of weakness to boost your point, and I'm sure a lot of comic-bookies have a lot to say about this. The pin reference however seems a little off, in that it doesn't really fit in with your paper- maybe this would fit better with a 'tarnished reputation in watchmen' idea or a 'comparison of traditional superheroes and the watchmen' paper- otherwise I think it would be too many ideas crammed into one paper and lacking in substantial analysis. Also you might want to consider what sources you will be looking at (besides the texts) that really bring your ideas together.

  2. Unknown User (kml12)

    I agree with Felice. I think that this is a really interesting topic but it sounds like you have alot of different examples that would take away from your main thesis. Personally, I think that the questions you posed were really great and i especially like the last two "Or, do we as readers seeking an escape from those human feelings we face everyday, want to see our heroes immune to such things? Can we watch our heroes fall from Gods to Mortals?"  I think that would definitely be something you could really get into and make some really great examples of the things that we have read and probably alot more other comics. You could talk about your own personal reflections on the idea of a superhero gone bad and probably even find some real factual information about humans and thier reliance on the "hero". You could even get into the history of the superhero and create an understanding of why and how people react to this fall from grace.

    If you do choose to use the pin as a jump off point, make sure you make it clear to the reader. I think its an interesting way to start the paper but just make sure that everything links together in the end. This sounds like it can be an interesting paper!

  3. It's unanimous: I like the questions you ask about superhero/antihero/fallen hero, but also see you struggling to get a handle on all of this -- seems like things could get pretty vague & impressionistic.  So...  Let's begin with the promising fact that both graphic novels you mention were published at virtually the same time (1986+); that gives you a way of focusing upon a particular period of emergence and possible historical/sociologica/economic causality.  Might be worth taking a look at this overview, and particularly the heading entitled The Rise of Anti-Heroes, which could help flesh out the group of comics to be discussed.  More productively focused, in my opinion.  The biggest challenge you face -- by far -- is how to theorize the topic.  That is, how do you plan to account for this "darkness" beginning to infiltrate comics, a self-conscious revisionism of the hero figure?

    One possibility occurs to me, based upon your mention of The Comedian.  This is happening not too long after a spate of very intense films finally come out that demythologized or mutated the mythologies about military heroism: The Deer Hunter, Coming Home, Apocalypse Now, and so on.  "Vietnam" and all of its connotations.  Interestingly, Moore has The Comedian and Dr. Manhattan dishing out some major war atrocities, no?  And probably you might extend that to the iconography and metaphors of Vietnam in The Dark Night Returns.  What makes this so complex is that Reagan-era films like Rambo (1982, 1985), Red Dawn (1985), and The Terminator (1984) are trying to recover the warrior hero, albeit in a steroidal and psychopathic new guise.  Not totally different than The Comedian.  Could be something there, but this topic would need careful focusing to keep it in control.

    One last thing: I'm not sure the smiley face represents the unblemished hero.  It's very much associated with 1970s kitsch and men getting in touch with their feelings, just the sort of thing that's getting violently rejected in 1980s Reagan America.  Thus, The Comedian might well be wearing it ironically.  Here's a brief Wikipedia article on the smiley face.  I think this abstract describes a promising subject that still needs some refinement.  Let me know if you're struggling to bring it under control....