Every Tuesday I post excerpts from best selling at not selling super blog, Playing Favorites.
They can’t. The Midnighter keeps threatening his advisors with death if they don’t quit pissing him off. Jack Hawksmoor as the de facto president keeps going out to kick dissidents in the face personally and taking time outs to bang The Engineer, not really reviewing or signing any of the paperwork that just needs to be done when you’re The President of The United States. The Doctor just starts running his own religion (not to himself specifically; he’s more of a Jesus figure). I think Shen actually does do some responsible public relations work, but you figure that a poorly-run superhero oligarchy needs more spin than a busty Asian with wings can drum up. I don’t quite remember what Apollo is doing. Probably running interference with his daughter. I didn’t read much after that (because, honestly it wasn’t that great a run and it was rapidly sliding downhill), but while there isn’t much of an illustrated point in comics (if Superman were forced to become president, he’d probably do a great job. If only because of the three magic words, “Vice President Batman.” Regardless, the outcome would be whatever the plot needed.)
But by the time you got into it, you really didn’t like The Authority. They were just jerks and after a few runs where they did discuss their politics (cheering when a temporarily copy of Jenny Sparks uses a dream engine to destroy all weapons on Earth [and no I’m not taking the time to discuss everything that’s wrong with that idea]), they took over the United States and started getting really quiet about specific policies (other than, say freedom of religion and making things better for gays). Is it because specifics would have made it seem less like they were aggressive, ADD sufferers who were obviously unfit for government, because actually enacting those policies when they’d obviously overstepped their bounds wouldn’t be much of an endorsement, or because someone felt they’d challenged the loyalty of their readership enough by just pushing the story this far outside of the norm (which just shouldn’t ever be an issue with “The Authority,” but who knows).
What I’m saying is that making heroes stand up for anything more nuanced than “me good, you bad,” or “me good, you bad,” crafted in the mold of something on par with “Watchmen” in terms of complexity and depth (though not specifically in the morally ambiguity of “Watchmen”) is a dangerous business.
I’m not saying that these things aren’t heroic because they aren’t done, as if concepts of super-heroism are shaped by market forces, but concepts of super-heroism are shaped by market forces. They aren’t solely shaped or even strongly shaped, but having the mainstream media of superheroics dominated by characters of myopic morality in the position of righteous avenger simply to appeal generally to kids who are alleged to be too young for complex situations and storytelling and adults who are too sensitive about their own views to read about the existence of an alternative or simply too stupid for complex situations and storytelling. By having cultural icons of not any ordinary heroism, but super-heroism crafted to appeal to a generic mold of reactionism, willful ignorance, and violence must have a reflection on the culture in which they are facets.
Of course that’s backwards; superheroes aren’t anything more than action movie protagonists in a serialized format because that is what the culture wants to see. If anything, the constraints and necessities of the serialized formats demand they actually transcend the reactionary, willfully ignorant, and lethally violent action stars which were spawned by the same cultural thirsts which birthed them. I don’t know if it’s World War Two or some other simplistic first-world egotism that compels the perpetuation of the heroic figure hitting a scheming, underhanded (often ugly) foe for trying to unapologetically destroy all life/free will.
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