Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Dark Age for Comics?

BOOKS & CULTURE CORNER
Don't Mess with My Genre
A fan of comic books wants to clean house.
By Edirin Ibru posted 06/11/07

These days it seems everyone is stumbling across some sort of philosophical or spiritual truth buried deep within pop culture, a discovery which I have no problem with at all. In fact I'm glad. People are actually thinking about what they watch, read, and listen to, and may even be benefiting from these pastimes. You've seen the titles at the bookstore: Finding Religion in the Scream Trilogy, Family Guy and the Meaning of Life, Even More Matrix and Philosophy: The 5TH Edition …

All right, I'll admit I made those up, and not every book which claims deep philosophical insight into a popular medium is worthless. But when the subject being butchered is one I happen to hold dear to my heart, I simply have to speak up.

It should come as no surprise that comics have figured in the "philosophy of … " frenzy of recent years. But unlike sports and movies, for example—which have generated whole libraries of explication—comic books have a unique vulnerability. While sports may have roots in children's play, they are watched by millions of adults and are praised for bringing out the best in the human spirit. Movies have been recognized as artistically credible from the beginning, even if skeptics have argued otherwise. Comic books simply do not have the same sort of foundations to rest on. Anyone writing about comics becomes an ambassador for a genre dragged down by the stigma of its own past, and if he does his job poorly, the whole genre suffers.

Consider Who Needs a Superhero? by H. Michael Brewer, a benevolent attempt to make a case for comic books as credible works of art. Alas, in his quest to elevate the medium, Brewer staggers around searching for connections between comics and the Christian faith. At best, these stand as serviceable youth-group sermons; at worst, they will make theologically learned readers cringe. Superman is compared to Christ; Bruce Banner (aka the Incredible Hulk) is said to recapitulate humanity's internal battle with sin; the nature of the Green Arrow suggests parallels to an all-seeing, active God. Brewer's heart is in the right place, but his execution is lacking.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous lostsheep said...

I admit that I have a tendency to be addicted to comics although I don't personally own any. I find comics addictive. Nowadays there are many TV shows and movies out there which are based on comics (eg X men, Fantastic 4) or are made like comics (eg the TV series Heroes). Maybe part of me want to be something bigger than myself, to have special powers. At the same time I know it is not very compatible with my Christian faith. After all Eve fell after wanting to be like God, knowing good and evil. Am I coveting powers that should only be in God's domain?

5:24 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi lostsheep,

I am addicted to comics too. I believe the word is 'fan', like some other people are addicted to football :)

By comics, I assume you mean DC and Marvel because there are many companies out there producing comics and mangas.

I guess all of us will like to have some special powers, and as you write "to be bigger' than what we are. However I do not think that this is incompatible with your Christian faith for the following reasons:
(1) We all bear the image of God inside us. Unfortunately because of the the Fall, we have all sinned and the the image of God is distorted. It does not mean it is not there, it is just distorted. That is why everyone have a desired to be something bigger than we are. That is because we have been something bigger which is the image of God.

(2) As Christians, we all have special powers. This is the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit who empowers us. Maybe not the powers of Jean Grey or Wolverine, nevertheless, we have powers.

(3) Wanting to be better and more 'powerful' is not coveting God's power. It is just wanting to be who God wants you to be.

Surprisingly, none of the comic superheroes wanted to be god. They have the powers but they never aspire for godhood, except for a mentally deranged Hal Jordan/ Green Lantern/Parallax.

enjoy the comics for what they are--comics.

4:25 AM  

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