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Super-duper heroes ?

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  • Elizabeth Apgar Triano
    Hi, I have gotten into discussions with a couple of friends off-list (one from Mythsoc, one not) about superheroes. I don t just mean Marvel superheroes, but
    Message 1 of 14 , Jun 17, 2004
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      Hi,

      I have gotten into discussions with a couple of friends off-list (one from
      Mythsoc, one not) about superheroes. I don't just mean Marvel superheroes,
      but invincible heroes as mentioned in Anne Petty's review of _The Myth of
      the American Superhero_ by Lawrence and Jewett. Both of my friends argue
      that there is nothing wrong with invincible superheroes.

      I have to wait for my book order to come in, and meanwhile I am wondering
      what other folks may have to say on the subject. I am uncomfortable with
      kick-butt superheroes with no chinks in their armor -- is it my problem or
      what? Superman has Kryptonite, for example, and that's all well and good
      -- but some characters seem to be almost inhuman in their perfection. And
      not having a weakness of any sort... to me that seems wrong and even
      unheroic.

      Lizzie


      Elizabeth Apgar Triano
      lizziewriter@...
      amor vincit omnia
    • dianejoy@earthlink.net
      Someone once said that flaws are what make the character. I m not sure; good points can also be turned into flaws, if the conflict s set up right. Gene Wolfe
      Message 2 of 14 , Jun 17, 2004
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        Someone once said that flaws are what make the character. I'm not sure;
        good points can also be turned into flaws, if the conflict's set up right.
        Gene Wolfe has some interesting characters who seem quite "good" but has an
        ability to create conflict nonetheless. (Then, not everyone's Gene Wolfe.
        Nor is he everyone's cup of tea.)

        In the superhero mold, weaknesses allow the writers to shape the story, or
        else the villainy has to be very powerful. Heroes, after all, have to have
        something to overcome to be heroic. For instance, if Spidey had a fear of
        heights, he'd have to get over this every time he rode his web. He may
        eventually get over it for good. Thereby hangs a tale. (I don't believe
        he has this disadvantage; he has others.) ---djb

        Original Message:
        -----------------
        From: Elizabeth Apgar Triano lizziewriter@...
        Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2004 10:36:58 -0400
        To: Mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [mythsoc] Super-duper heroes ?


        Hi,

        I have gotten into discussions with a couple of friends off-list (one from
        Mythsoc, one not) about superheroes. I don't just mean Marvel superheroes,
        but invincible heroes as mentioned in Anne Petty's review of _The Myth of
        the American Superhero_ by Lawrence and Jewett. Both of my friends argue
        that there is nothing wrong with invincible superheroes.

        I have to wait for my book order to come in, and meanwhile I am wondering
        what other folks may have to say on the subject. I am uncomfortable with
        kick-butt superheroes with no chinks in their armor -- is it my problem or
        what? Superman has Kryptonite, for example, and that's all well and good
        -- but some characters seem to be almost inhuman in their perfection. And
        not having a weakness of any sort... to me that seems wrong and even
        unheroic.

        Lizzie


        Elizabeth Apgar Triano
        lizziewriter@...
        amor vincit omnia






        The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
        Yahoo! Groups Links






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      • Larry Swain
        I d have to agree with you. If they have no weaknesses or flaws, whether physical or emotional, they aren t really superheroes so much as superhuman or even
        Message 3 of 14 , Jun 17, 2004
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          I'd have to agree with you. If they have no weaknesses or flaws, whether physical or emotional, they aren't really superheroes so much as superhuman or even demigods, in the modern sense.

          Even Beowulf with the strength of 30 men in his grip is not all powerful and nearly gets it himself before he finally dies in the dragon fight. Odysseus would have died more than once if not for the intervention of the gods/goddesses at some level. Achilles must have his heal!

          Larry Swain

          > Hi,
          >
          > I have gotten into discussions with a couple of friends off-list (one from
          > Mythsoc, one not) about superheroes. I don't just mean Marvel superheroes,
          > but invincible heroes as mentioned in Anne Petty's review of _The Myth of
          > the American Superhero_ by Lawrence and Jewett. Both of my friends argue
          > that there is nothing wrong with invincible superheroes.
          >
          > I have to wait for my book order to come in, and meanwhile I am wondering
          > what other folks may have to say on the subject. I am uncomfortable with
          > kick-butt superheroes with no chinks in their armor -- is it my problem or
          > what? Superman has Kryptonite, for example, and that's all well and good
          > -- but some characters seem to be almost inhuman in their perfection. And
          > not having a weakness of any sort... to me that seems wrong and even
          > unheroic.
          >
          > Lizzie
          >
          >
          > Elizabeth Apgar Triano
          > lizziewriter@...
          > amor vincit omnia
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
          > Yahoo! Groups Links
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >

          --
          _____________________________________________________________
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        • Elizabeth Apgar Triano
          Larry said:
          Message 4 of 14 , Jun 17, 2004
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            Larry said:

            << I'd have to agree with you. If they have no weaknesses or flaws, whether
            physical or emotional, they aren't really superheroes so much as superhuman
            or even demigods, in the modern sense. >>

            OK. That's one distinction. So is a superhuman or quasidivine protagonist
            something that would have a separate set of rules then?



            Elizabeth Apgar Triano
            lizziewriter@...
            amor vincit omnia
          • David Bratman
            ... It s not the perfection itself that s the problem. Kryptonite is hardly Superman s human weakness; it s merely a crude plot device to keep him from being
            Message 5 of 14 , Jun 17, 2004
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              At 10:36 AM 6/17/2004 -0400, Elizabeth Apgar Triano wrote:

              >I am uncomfortable with
              >kick-butt superheroes with no chinks in their armor -- is it my problem or
              >what? Superman has Kryptonite, for example, and that's all well and good
              >-- but some characters seem to be almost inhuman in their perfection. And
              >not having a weakness of any sort... to me that seems wrong and even
              >unheroic.

              It's not the perfection itself that's the problem.

              Kryptonite is hardly Superman's human weakness; it's merely a crude plot
              device to keep him from being physically invincible. It's possible to
              write stories about effectively invincible heroes without introducing
              artificial vincibilities, and many have.

              You know what inhumanly perfect character always bugged me the most? Mr.
              Spock. He bugged me because he was so loftily superior about his ability
              to do anything better than mere humans. And his going into "heat" in one
              episode was another artificial vincibility, to titllate the viewers by
              seeing Spock weakened. Superman, at least as played by Christopher Reeve,
              never had that problem because he was so personally humble and
              straight-forward.

              To see that perfection isn't the problem, look at Aragorn. What are his
              human weaknesses? He's occasionally testy, and he has a slight tendency
              towards despair. These are not major flaws. Yet he is a living human
              character.

              The problem with badly-written superheroes is the same as the problem with
              badly-written other characters: not that they're superheroes, but that
              they're badly-written.

              - David Bratman
            • Larry Swain
              Sure, by definition. One can not expect an invulnerable hero to be able to accomplish the same things that a vulnerable would. A vulnerable hero must go into
              Message 6 of 14 , Jun 17, 2004
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                Sure, by definition. One can not expect an invulnerable hero to be able to accomplish the same things that a vulnerable would. A vulnerable hero must go into battle, for example, even though deathly afraid of death. Angst, overcoming one's own fear, the chance that the hero will not be able to accomplish the deed, or in the end may accomplish but the price is too high (his/her death or causes a significant change in their character), etc. are all things that make the story interesting and gives the character depth.

                On the other hand, an invulnerable hero has none of these considerations. The IH will accomplish the deed and be unaffected by it. How boring.

                I think this may approach to a degree the difference between the Germanic gods and the Mediterranean. Balder dies, the other gods will die at Ragnorak. The Greco-Latin gods however, at least by the time we meet them, are invulnerable (yes, early, early myths have Zeus taking over from Cronos etc, but the Titans are overcome and imprisoned, not killed. [Time doesn't cease to exist, nor does the Sun, Helios as two examples). I think therein is one of the reasons that Tolkien and Lewis were more interested in Northerness once they encountered it.

                Larry Swain
                ----- Original Message -----
                From: "Elizabeth Apgar Triano" <lizziewriter@...>
                Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2004 13:57:40 -0400
                To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Super-duper heroes ?

                > Larry said:
                >
                > << I'd have to agree with you. If they have no weaknesses or flaws, whether
                > physical or emotional, they aren't really superheroes so much as superhuman
                > or even demigods, in the modern sense. >>
                >
                > OK. That's one distinction. So is a superhuman or quasidivine protagonist
                > something that would have a separate set of rules then?
                >
                >
                >
                > Elizabeth Apgar Triano
                > lizziewriter@...
                > amor vincit omnia
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
                > Yahoo! Groups Links
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >

                --
                _____________________________________________________________
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              • Larry Swain
                ... David, A few comments. Re: Spock, I understand your frustration. In part, I agree with it. But Spock could often be wrong, he was not the invincible,
                Message 7 of 14 , Jun 17, 2004
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                  > It's not the perfection itself that's the problem.
                  >> You know what inhumanly perfect character always bugged me the most? Mr. > Spock. He bugged me because he was so loftily superior about his ability
                  > to do anything better than mere humans. And his going into "heat" in one
                  > episode was another artificial vincibility, to titllate the viewers by
                  > seeing Spock weakened. Superman, at least as played by Christopher Reeve,
                  > never had that problem because he was so personally humble and
                  > straight-forward.
                  >
                  > To see that perfection isn't the problem, look at Aragorn. What are his
                  > human weaknesses? He's occasionally testy, and he has a slight tendency
                  > towards despair. These are not major flaws. Yet he is a living human
                  > character.

                  David,
                  A few comments. Re: Spock, I understand your frustration. In part, I agree with it. But Spock could often be wrong, he was not the invincible, invulnerable hero. That's what made him interesting: the divide between his illogical superiority over mere humans and the reality of his weaknesses and the trouble that pure logic can lead too since it is disconnected with the real world.

                  As for Aragorn, he certainly has human weaknesses. One of the chief is that he may fail the test in the end...as he himself lets us know. He also makes some bad choices, which he comments on at the end of Fellowship and the beginning of TTT. When we first meet him he is certainly not the typical, invulnerable hero-dissheveled wanderer with a broken sword and the disdain of his neighbors. Even by the time of the Council of Elrond and through Moria, Aragorn still is not that kind of hero. It really isn't until the sundering of the Fellowship that Aragorn begins to BECOME that hero, but even then I wouldn't say that he was invincible.

                  Larry Swain
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                • Michael Martinez
                  ... I blame Achilles for these kinds of reader expectations. Super-duper heroes appeal to a vulnerable audience which seeks reassurance. What does Achilles
                  Message 8 of 14 , Jun 17, 2004
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                    --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Elizabeth Apgar Triano"
                    <lizziewriter@e...> wrote:
                    > I have to wait for my book order to come in, and meanwhile I am
                    > wondering what other folks may have to say on the subject. I am
                    > uncomfortable with kick-butt superheroes with no chinks in their
                    > armor -- is it my problem or what? Superman has Kryptonite, for
                    > example, and that's all well and good -- but some characters seem
                    > to be almost inhuman in their perfection. And not having a
                    > weakness of any sort... to me that seems wrong and even unheroic.

                    I blame Achilles for these kinds of reader expectations.

                    Super-duper heroes appeal to a vulnerable audience which seeks
                    reassurance. What does Achilles appeal to? He reminds me of the
                    lillies of the field. He spins not, neither toils nor ....

                    Anyway, he is a pretty boy who makes poetic readers sigh. But does he
                    accomplish any good? Does he save the day for the better side? Does
                    he write home to Mom every week?

                    Give me a kickbutt hero with indomitable will, impervious underwear,
                    and a really slick starship that brings in the chicks. let me know he
                    is doing some GOOD out there in the universe, regardless of what the
                    consequences may be.
                  • dianejoy@earthlink.net
                    ... From: Elizabeth Apgar Triano lizziewriter@earthlink.net Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2004 13:57:40 -0400 To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Subject: Re: [mythsoc]
                    Message 9 of 14 , Jun 18, 2004
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                      Original Message:
                      -----------------
                      From: Elizabeth Apgar Triano lizziewriter@...
                      Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2004 13:57:40 -0400
                      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                      Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Super-duper heroes ?


                      Larry said:

                      << I'd have to agree with you. If they have no weaknesses or flaws, whether
                      physical or emotional, they aren't really superheroes so much as superhuman
                      or even demigods, in the modern sense. >>

                      Lizzie says:

                      > OK. That's one distinction. So is a superhuman or quasidivine
                      protagonist
                      > something that would have a separate set of rules then?

                      Not separate, but the rules have to be really ramped up; everything is
                      much larger than life. ---djb







                      The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
                      Yahoo! Groups Links






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                    • darancgrissom@sbcglobal.net
                      The classical Greek heores such as Achillies flaws were less of the physical nature than of the moral and emotional sort. Achillies is a big invullnerable
                      Message 10 of 14 , Jun 18, 2004
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                        The classical Greek heores such as Achillies flaws were less of the physical
                        nature than of the moral and emotional sort. Achillies is a big
                        invullnerable baby, sitting in his tent for much of the Illiad. This is
                        also, to use a much older cultural reference, true of the Gilgamesh who is
                        the template on which heroic deeds seem to be cast. He cannot be killed but
                        that leads to wild and destructive behavior. Thus Inkidu. Most of the
                        early Myths and legends from Persia and the Agean really are morality tales
                        for the listeners more than for the sense of story. It would be much later
                        in the dramatists that the sense of conflict would come to be the center, or
                        the play would be the thing. Greek stories about demigods usually suggest
                        to the listener that if you try to break from the fate we have planned for
                        you, you will die an even more torturous death.

                        Now to modern super heores. I Think it's important to point out that the
                        super heroes of Marvel and DC were generally created between the Second
                        World War and the begining of the Cold War. So Heroes like Superman, The
                        Fantastic Four, The Green Lantern, and the Flash were created less to be
                        good chartacters in a story and more as unsolicited propiganda. ONe fo the
                        most famous drawings of Superman shows him lifting a Nazi tank of the ground
                        while being sprayed with machine-gun fire. You don't want vulnurablility in
                        these characters they are the invincible heroes fighting against seemingly
                        inhuman foes. I direct anyone to the incredibly racist cartoons of Superman
                        and the Japanesse in the 40's. Not all heroes were created for this
                        purpose; Batman wasn't, The X-man are a wonderful satire on race relation,
                        and the Green Lantern Green Arrow comics were an amazing way of introducing
                        social commentary into the minds of young people in the 60's and 70's.
                        Also, Superman has undertgone extensive revamping since the 40's. He now
                        battles with moral questions of whether or not Ultimate Power corrupts
                        ultimately. With every generation our comic icons are reborn as we see
                        them. I was just reading in Newsweek that the are going to remake Superman
                        yet again in the next few weeks, the may have already done so.


                        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      • Mark Hall
                        On 6/18/2004, darancgrissom@sbcglobal.net ... Not exactly; while the exact date eludes me right now at the office, SUPERMAN originally appeared in ACTION
                        Message 11 of 14 , Jun 18, 2004
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                          On 6/18/2004, "darancgrissom@..."
                          <darancgrissom@...> wrote:

                          >>
                          >Now to modern super heores. I Think it's important to point out that the
                          >super heroes of Marvel and DC were generally created between the Second
                          >World War and the begining of the Cold War. So Heroes like Superman, The
                          >Fantastic Four, The Green Lantern, and the Flash were created less to be
                          >good chartacters in a story and more as unsolicited propiganda.

                          Not exactly; while the exact date eludes me right now at the office,
                          SUPERMAN originally appeared in ACTION comics and later the newspapers
                          well before WW2. 1936 or 1937 comes to mind.

                          Best, Mark E. Hall






                          Mark Hall
                          markhall@...
                        • David Bratman
                          I missed the original comment here. Mark is correct: Superman, the character, predates WW2 by several years. Though he s a product of war jitters: the
                          Message 12 of 14 , Jun 18, 2004
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                            I missed the original comment here. Mark is correct: Superman, the
                            character, predates WW2 by several years. Though he's a product of war
                            jitters: the earliest Superman stories are about his battles against war
                            profiteers. Batman also predates WW2, and even more than Superman began
                            his career as a detective unearthing criminals, and he of course had no
                            superpowers at all.

                            I'm not sure what "between the Second World War and the beginning of the
                            Cold War" is supposed to mean, as that would have been a period of a few
                            months in 1945. Many of the best-known superheroes, including the
                            Fantastic Four, Spiderman, and the X-Men, were created about 1960, during
                            the middle of the Cold War. But that hardly makes them propaganda: their
                            first stories are much less propagandistic than the WW2-era comics, and
                            they were specifically intended as good characters: much more human,
                            interesting, and emotionally (not necessarily physically) vulnerable than
                            the rather stiff older characters like Superman, Batman, Captain America,
                            et al.

                            David Bratman


                            At 08:14 AM 6/19/2004 +0900, Mark Hall wrote:
                            >
                            >On 6/18/2004, "darancgrissom@..."
                            ><darancgrissom@...> wrote:
                            >
                            >>Now to modern super heores. I Think it's important to point out that the
                            >>super heroes of Marvel and DC were generally created between the Second
                            >>World War and the begining of the Cold War. So Heroes like Superman, The
                            >>Fantastic Four, The Green Lantern, and the Flash were created less to be
                            >>good chartacters in a story and more as unsolicited propiganda.
                            >
                            >Not exactly; while the exact date eludes me right now at the office,
                            >SUPERMAN originally appeared in ACTION comics and later the newspapers
                            >well before WW2. 1936 or 1937 comes to mind.
                          • Elizabeth Apgar Triano
                            ... Oh, Michael, but that would be Kirk, and he was SUCH a jerk !! Setting the Spock issue aside for another post, I will admit that I am seeing some value to
                            Message 13 of 14 , Jun 19, 2004
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                              >Give me a kickbutt hero with indomitable will, impervious underwear,
                              >and a really slick starship that brings in the chicks. let me know he
                              >is doing some GOOD out there in the universe, regardless of what the
                              >consequences may be.

                              Oh, Michael, but that would be Kirk, and he was SUCH a jerk !! Setting the
                              Spock issue aside for another post, I will admit that I am seeing some
                              value to the save-the-world guys, for some. There are enough bad things
                              happening in the world that I guess a saviour could be savoured. Wait,
                              that reeks of religion... hmmm.


                              Elizabeth Apgar Triano
                              lizziewriter@...
                              amor vincit omnia
                            • Lisa Deutsch Harrigan
                              ... I ve been watching Looney Toons too much lately. Has anyone seen the new Duck Dodger s series? Super hero, not! Mythically yours, Lisa
                              Message 14 of 14 , Jun 22, 2004
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                                Michael Martinez wrote:

                                >
                                >
                                >Give me a kickbutt hero with indomitable will, impervious underwear,
                                >and a really slick starship that brings in the chicks. let me know he
                                >is doing some GOOD out there in the universe, regardless of what the
                                >consequences may be.
                                >
                                >
                                I've been watching Looney Toons too much lately. Has anyone seen the new
                                Duck Dodger's series? Super hero, not!

                                Mythically yours,
                                Lisa
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