“Nuclear chivalry.”


William Brafford

William Brafford grew up in North Carolina, home of the world's best barbecue, indie rock, and regional soft drinks. He just barely sustains a personal blog and "tweets" every now and then under the name @williamrandolph.

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34 Responses

  1. I always liked Batman the best because all the other superheros use natural abilities to fight technology-wielding scientists, engineers, and businesspeople. But Batman uses technology to fight natural evil. Batman serves to correct Luddite overreach within the comic book genre, and manifests secular humanism’s triumph over Dark Ages superstition and magic.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Following the Death of God, Superheroes are a good way to instill morality in the sheeple out there. Instead of telling them that we fall, silently screaming, through the void from nothing through nothing to nothing, we can tell them that they need to “be like Spiderman” in the hopes that they’ll fall in line and do what their superiors tell them.

    It’s the patriarchy evolving. Nothing more.Report

    • @Jaybird, you’ve lost me on this one. Who tells Spiderman what to do?Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        @William Brafford, I think Jay is saying that Stan Lee is now God.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        @William Brafford, The “ghost” of Uncle Ben acts as Spiderman’s Superego. With use of the exceptionally glib “with great power comes great responsibility”, Ben is effectively removing Spiderman’s moral agency by forcing him to subsume himself to the “greater good” which is just another way to say “the past’s concept of ‘justice'”.

        In doing so he does little more than protect the assets of the rich at the expense of the exploited.

        Why did he work so hard to protect the secrets of industrialist Norman Osborn? Why is he constantly ensuring that predatory banks are allowed to keep sucking the lifeblood out of the proletariat without helping freelance scientists who want to create cheap, abundant energy?

        He’s 100% in support of maintaining the status quo as imagined by his dead ancestors.

        He’s yet another tool of the powerful and entrenched forces against the good citizens.

        J. Jonah Jameson might be the only one in the city with his head on straight.Report

        • Avatar gregiank says:

          @Jaybird, So if Uncle Ben is the super ego does i guess that makes Spidey’s web the physical manifestation of his Id.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            @gregiank, we see the manifestation of his id when he kills Gwen Stacy.

            Perhaps it’s best that his murderous impulses be kept in check by the imagined disapproval of his ancestors but that makes it no less pathetic.Report

            • Avatar gregiank says:

              @Jaybird, i think killing Gwen would be an example of Thanatos at work. He is better off spewing and swinging all over the city from his libido.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              @gregiank, what would it take for you to see the murder as important, Greg?

              Would Spiderman have had to kill a man?

              How many women’s necks do you think he should be allowed to break as “gimmies” before you’re willing to hold him accountable?

              This is the real reason that comic books don’t appeal to women, by the way. That and the whole body thing. And outfit thing.Report

            • Avatar Rufus says:

              @Jaybird, Not sure if it stymies this whole theory, but I should point out that my wife is a comic book geek and I can’t get through one without getting bored and wandering off to do something else.Report

  3. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    No one beats Sponge Bob Square Pants, he can breath underwater, he’s a sponge with moral agency…he’s a good sponge!Report

  4. Avatar gregiank says:

    @Jay- comic books don’t appeal to women???? Doth tempt the wrath of the female geek at your peril. Now that is a death wish.Report

  5. Avatar Justin says:

    Batman embraced neo-conservatism? He was a vigilante, not a government official. The Dark Knight showed how government needed to be honest and righteous (like Harvey Dent) and not unethical and merciless (like Two-face and to some extent Batman).Report

    • @Justin, it’s not that Batman the character embraced neoconservatism within the storyline. It’s that Nolan draws mainly on the Frank Miller side of the Batman mythos (see The Dark Knight Returns), which reflects a neoconservative vision of leadership in a dangerous world.Report

      • Avatar Justin says:

        @William Brafford,

        While you could argue that Nolan’s The Dark Knight has some broad tonal influence with Miller’s work (Batman Begins was much more similar to The Dark Knight Returns than the Dark Knight was), The Dark Knight was more influenced by The Long Halloween and The Killing Joke runs of Batman. In fact, the scene with which Gordon, Dent and Batman are on the rooftop is pulled directly from the Long Halloween (as well as the rise and fall of Harvey Dent).

        Regardless, in all of the comic influences Batman was always viewed as an outlaw operating out side of official government action. His “vigilante” nature is the essence of Batman (i.e. his role as a benevolent protector that can do things a government can’t).

        Miller’s work was more about Batman filling the void left by an impotent government in a anarchic world. That’s very different from any kind of advocation of neoconservative governance. And even if it was the message, that’s not the movie Nolan made.Report

        • @Justin, I’m about to leave town for the weekend without my computer, so I can’t pick up this argument in earnest. I’d be hesitant to do so anyway, because I think we all pretty much sorted out what we think back when The Dark Knight came out.

          But two quick things: First, I mentioned only Miller because I didn’t know if you were a comics guy. But I see you are. No disagreements on the comics-to-films influences. Second, I’m basically with Yglesias on The Dark Knight and Cheney: the neoconservative foreign policy view I’m talking about is that “the heroes need to be backstopped by folks who are hard enough to walk on the dark side and to accept the public’s scorn.” I hope that link clarifies my position. (Am I wrong that this is the neoconservative position on executive power in an age of terror?)Report

  6. Avatar Boegiboe says:

    Isn’t the one real person Tony Stark most resembles Osama bin Laden?

    “…part-government, part-corporation, but finally neither: a vigilante NGO or bunker-busting Red Cross.”

    At least from the point of view of those who support bin Laden. I don’t want to add more, because I only have my vague memories of the old comics to go on–haven’t seen the movies, yet.

    I must disagree about Watchmen. You want to see what happens when superheroes don’t manage to hold each other to a code of honor and justice? What happens when a superhero behaves like a politician? That’s what you got in Watchmen: a shambling mess–a semi-secret society driven primarily by the insane and power-hungry among them, with infighting acting only to confuse and drive away the most reasonable people in their midst.

    In a world where we all potentially have the ability to get large numbers of people to listen to us, or at least to our chosen hero, everyone holding each other to codes of reasonable behavior and honor is the only hope for management of the power of the state.

    I think the State is what Dr. Manhattan ultimately represented: incredible power to destroy, moderate power to create, and absolutely no internal moral compass except what vestiges of humanity the people running the State manage to hold on to.

    The good guys in the Watchmen, such as they were, faced real choices, with no superego Uncle Ben (as Jaybird says) to magically guide them to their ultimate glory.

    I love superhero and comics-based movies, and Watchmen was maybe the best I’ve seen this decade, precisely because it deals frankly with the issues we’re facing.Report

    • @Boegiboe, I got something like what you describe from Watchmen the comic book, but I thought the movie was way too interested in stylized slo-mo glam-violence to carry the message.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        @William Brafford, Agreed on the slo-mo glam part Will but I must respectfully dissent.
        I felt that the movie, for all its flaws, was a very loyal adaptation of the comic. Remarkably loyal even. The ending was altered, yes indeed, but to be honest the space octopus always struck me as shark jumping and the movie alternative really worked for me on a few levels and maintained the spirit of the comic.

        So from where I sat the movie was about as good as any reasonable person, and many a demanding fan, could expect.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          @North, halfway between noble failure and hot mess.

          Think on this: Gilliam said that he wouldn’t be able to do it in fewer than five hours.

          *THAT* is the movie that I’d like to see.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            @Jaybird, Well hell yeah, so what I mean then is it was as good as one could expect within the context of this fallen world.Report

          • Avatar Boegiboe says:

            @Jaybird, I never read the comics, TBH, but the movie did feel extremely rushed and abbreviated. Maybe I should check out the series: I always resisted reading the Sandman series because it was so long, and I’m so glad I did read it.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              @Boegiboe, I don’t know how it would hold up for a first-time reader in a post-9/11 world.

              Alan Moore, god bless him, is a genius but… I honestly don’t know how it will have aged for someone whose idea of comic books wasn’t changed by reading it.

              I mean, it’s a deconstruction of the superhero and, more’s the point, it’s one of the first deconstructions. Part of me wonders if Kick-Ass didn’t do a better job of tackling some of the moral issues than Watchmen did… but Watchmen, to embrace a cliche’, “changed my life”. Kick-Ass did not.

              Of course you need to read it (of course!).

              I just would like to hear your take on it when you’ve plowed through.Report