Monday, June 14, 2010

Sunday Scribblings - "Superhero/heroine"

I think the Superman comics were the first ones about a superhero that I ever read, but I'm not actually certain. It’s not like I used to read comics serially... it was more a case of “Grab everything within reach and read it all”, so Superman, Spiderman, Green Lantern, The Phantom, Batman, Flash Gordon, The Hulk and others I can't even remember, were all grist for my mill.

So let’s say that Superman was the first alien superhero whose exploits took hold of my imagination well and truly. I think I was also reading Phantom comics (he of the “Ghost who Walks” fame) and Mandrake the Magician at the time... they were superheroes too, I guess, but they didn’t originate on another planet like Superman. They had extraordinary qualities, not extraterrestrial ones.

I guess the reason for liking Superman more than most was that I started at the beginning with him – that is to say, I had a big fat book of collected Superman comics starting with the very first ones. It was kind of strange to read those early comics because Superman’s features – and those of other characters - hadn’t quite evolved. To me the characters (all of them, not just Supe) appeared unfocused and a bit fuzzy, a bit like trying to read without my glasses. But as the years passed and the dialogue and drawings and colours and styles improved, Superman grew to look like the superhero epitomised (is this a valid usage?) by Christopher Reeves. As far as I’m concerned, he WAS Supe. Nobody else can be Superman, and anyone who’s seen Reeves as Supe will not be able to accept anyone else in his place - which is why there have been no super-duper HIT remakes of the classic Superman movies.

What struck me as totally inexplicable, undemanding though I was of my reading material, was the “Bizarro Superman” creation. I mean, why? It's not like they'd exhausted all other story/adventure avenues for Supe. Bizarro was the opposite of Superman – a sort of mirror-image, I guess. An anti-superhero. Ugly (with cracks? in his face) where Supe was good-looking, stupid where Supe was intelligent, irrational where Supe was anything but... and so on. Perhaps he was based on Frankenstein’s monster, but I’m not sure.

The weirdest part was how, in being the opposite of Superman, Bizarro’s speech was also “opposite” – meaning, if he said something was “good”, he really meant it was “bad”, and so on. I felt a bit sorry for Bizarro at one point, mainly because of a particular episode where he hates himself for being so... well, so bizarre, I suppose. “Me not human... me unhappy”, in his own words. But then the illogic of that pathetic statement occurred to me – if Bizarro said the opposite of what he meant, what he was actually saying was “Me human... me happy”. Why was his speech acceptable as a direct statement for that bit alone? I
found that stupid AND irritating. Supe's encounters with Bizarro weren't really riveting after that particular discovery of illogic.

It’s been a long time since I last read a Superman comic. I tried to relive the magic a few years back, but alas, I’d moved on from Supe, much to my regret. I’m just relieved to have the memories of my fascination with Superman to fall back on... it makes me happy to think that he made me happy once. My first superhero.

1 comment:

Anu said...

Twas the other way around for me - I had a MAJOR crush on Christopher Reeve (I think it's just Reeve not Reeves) - and that's what made me read "Superman"!

Loved Mandrake and Phantom too - but none of the others.

(OMG - can you belive it my word verification reads "brachit")