Superheroes and Generation X
(FYI: I’m about to rag on my generation again.)
SPOILER ALERT (kind of)
I took my nephews to see “Iron Man” last night. It’s a good comic book movie. Probably my favorite of all the ones that have been out in the past few years. I am looking forward to the Hulk 2, though. You can rarely go wrong with Edward Norton.
I used to collect comic books. 92 was my stack at the comic book shop in Merritt Shopping Center. And the guy who worked there was a real-life version of Comic Book Guy on the Simpsons. Big, fat guy with a lot of hair.
Tivo’s been recording a lot of superhero cartoons. Just watched Spiderman with the X-men making a cameo. Bad animation, convoluted serial story line, lame, lethargic fight scenes. But there they are in full, bright, inked cartoon life. Nostalgic.
Again I started thinking about the legacy of our generation.
Who’s your favorite superhero? Mine was/is Wolverine. I think Superman is the worst superhero in retrospect. Why create a superhero that does everything and practically can’t be hurt? Super strength, flies, invulnerable to just about everything, heat ray vision, super ice cold breath, runs as fast the Flash. That gets boring after a while.
Batman is my second favorite, I think. Brilliant, tortured, obsessive, psy-ops detective. He was the anti-Superman back in the day. And then there was that whole super campy period in comics that was just sad. Man. That’s where this stuff came from:
I never did like the whole teen sidekick thing. Kind of lame to have a sidekick around that was just going to be kidnap bait in every other issue.
Culturally, you had all of these comic book heroes born in times of trouble. World War II for example — Captain America vs. the Nazis, the Cold War. They represented hope and good and often patriotism. They represented societal struggle in tumultuous times, right. Hokey villains everywhere.
Trying to keep up their sales, comic books have also intentionally conformed to the perceived sensibilities of the day. Check out some of the campy, psychedelic, hallucinatory stuff from the 60’s. I think you can tell a lot about a culture from its comic books (and the young male population that consumes them).
Back when I was in school, when I was but a ween there was so much to choose from. A world of vivid imagination and Stan Lee-type alliteration. It was a great world of imagination and it’s what inspired me to explore drawing and art (that and all the painting shows on PBS).
ENTER GENERATION X
So we’re handed heroes, legacies, back stories and multiple universes of literature, if you will. And what do we do with it?
We assassinate Captain America. We rape/sodomize Plastic Man’s (or Elongated Man, I get them mixed up) wife. We commit genocide of mutants. Handed this world of vibrant, colorful, semi-innocent wonder, we take it upon ourselves to make it dark and sticky. It wasn’t real enough for Generation X.
Are we a sociopathic generation? Skeptical, cynical … ah. I’ve got it. The word I’m looking for is “disillusioned”. Disaffected, definitely. It’s one thing to not be naive. It’s another thing to be sadistic.
When my 12 year old nephew thinks of Batman, I don’t want him to think of Batman as a pedophile because of some stupid “Robot Chicken” episode. Or Charlie Brown as a drug dealing heroin addict because of “Family Guy”. Popeye being a steroid addict because of “Drawn Together”.
You know? I don’t want kids picturing the idea of Santa Claus as a sweat shop foreman, abusing little elves and slaughtering reindeer. That’s what Generation X does with traditions and societal norms.
That reminds me of a story someone told me the other day. A friend, JW, was telling me that a new woman started working at the hospital where she works. Apparently, the woman’s a little wild. And apparently, she curses like a drunken sailor who was cut off in traffic and simultaneously stubbed her toe. Some of the other people there asked JW to talk to the new woman about it. She did. And here’s what the woman said:
“F%$ them! This is my life and I like to curse, %$@! They can suck my d$@!”
On the other hand, my family still asks me if I have to wear a tie when I go to work. A different generation.
A GOOD BALANCE
I think the comic book movies strike a good balance, though, even the ones I’m not crazy about. They’re made to fit the mainstream so they usually aren’t too childish nor are they distasteful. They’re not just geared to the nihilistic 18-24 year old metal heads or GTA idolizers. They want to reach entire families plus women plus be a date movie, a kids movie, a feel good movie, a summer blockbuster. I hope they keep it up and keep the comic book world thriving.
But you know what I’m really waiting for? And I think this is the strategy of Marvel and DC comics. I’m waiting for the team-up movies. You notice they’ve all been isolated so far. One superhero per movie. Not even any cameos.
SPOILER: If you sit past all the credits at the end of Iron Man, none other than Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury tells Tony Stark that S.H.I.E.L.D. is starting an Avengers project.
Each generation retells these stories in their own way.
I wonder what the “Batman: The Dark Knight” movie will be like in the year 2058.
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By Kate Wilhelm