Sunday! (The Superhero Origins That Aren’t)


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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17 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Without delving too far into religion, I find that most mature superhero stories (fsmo “mature”) are attempts to rewrite Rabbi Kushner’s “Why Bad Things Happen To Good People” with a modern sensibility.

    They can’t resolve the inconsistent triad of God being Omnibenevolent, God being Omnipotent, and Evil Existing so they explore how Omnipotence Sucks.

    Imagine having ultimate power! Now imagine how everything still sucks no matter how many hot dogs you make that are so big that you can’t eat them!

    And so, with the invention of an omnipotent being who, despite his best efforts, still ain’t anywhere near omnipotent enough, we resolve the problem of evil.

    Unfortunately, that leaves us stuck with deities who resolve problems by hitting them hard enough.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

      The better way of resolving that particular paradox is to understand why supervillains are better than superheroes… (Which is NOT to say that all evil is good, but that trying to make a better world is a lot better than smacking down the people trying to fix shit).Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kim says:

        Supervillans aren’t better than superheroes – but they are a lot more *interesting*, as everyone from Homer to Milton figured out.Report

  2. Edmond Dantès, by the way.

    At 50 hours, this must be an unabridged version. It’s going to meander quite a bit before it gets where it’s going.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Most things from that period, you’re better off reading the abridged versions. (Everything Victor Hugo, for example).

      A lot were published as newspaper serials, which meant they were literally paid by the word and paid to stretch it out as long as possible.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Morat20 says:

        For the most part, I could not disagree more. Les Miserables and the Musketeer books are amazing works of art, and I don’t want to read only the parts some third-party considered important. But Monte Cristo is twice the size of The Three Musketeers or Twenty Years After and sprawls so badly, that I’ll never read it unabridged again.

        Also, William Goldman’s Good Parts Version of The Princess Bride is an improvement on the original Morgenstern.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          The hunchback of notre dame spends 40 pages before you even see the main character, just talking about the architecture of Notre Dame (which, while important, might be a teensy bit more interesting if interspersed between bits about actual characters).

          The art of novels has improved since these were written.Report

          • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kim says:

            Is it just a French thing, though? Or maybe a Franco-Russian thing? English novels of the same era are comparably crisp, right? American* ones even more so?- despite American literary conventions being almost entirely influenced by the newspaper trade.

            *except for that one guy who dicked around on innumerable pages with Tom Clancyish technobabble about whalingReport

            • Avatar Kim in reply to Kolohe says:

              I think the newspaper trade improved things. You could meander a lot, but you still needed to have SOME PLOT (kinda like Marmalade Boy the TV show).

              When people didn’t have many books, and you were pretty much assured that people would keep slogging through however many pages of “not plot”… Well, let’s just say, they didn’t have editors either.

              Copy editors job is to make sure that you keep the readers’ attention.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kolohe says:

              And the autobiography that keeps digressing so badly that it never gets even to the narrator’s first birthday. Who’d want to read something like that?Report

      • Avatar J_A in reply to Morat20 says:

        Lily of the Valley, perhaps the best of King of Serials Balzac, includes a scene in which the protagonist enters a room looking for someone, and the room is painstakingly described for two pages. Well, “someone” wasn’t there, so he walks out of the room and keeps searching for her somewhere else.

        Serials like Balzac’s the Human Comedy, or Trollope’s Barchester Chronicles, are true soap operas. For decades, we follow the stories of the same characters in different threads (novels) mixing and matching them from protagonists to barely part of the escenerie and back to front and center, without end.

        And, being paid by the word, or the page, they padded them with endless description. No need to imagine plot if I can instead describe an empty room.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to J_A says:

          That’s two pages. I can deal with two pages of “fluff”. Forty pages of 200-year old architecture (not the time period of the novel) drovve me batty.Report

  3. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    The Scarlet Pimpernel is usually considered the ur-literary Super Hero. A aristocratic dandy who was really a suave adventurer saving nobles from those dreaded French Revolutionaries. It would be like a Batman who only really cared about Gotham’s upper crust.

    The Gladiator did not have to go in the way of a superhero story. It was science fiction and Philip Wylie might have wanted to go in a more dystopian and literary way. Some wikipedia searching reveals that Hollywood turned the Gladiator into a movie in 1938 but decided to make it a zero into hero college football movie rather than do a normal adaptation.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to LeeEsq says:

      And the Pimpernel had a secret identity as the dumbest, most inane peer in all of England. His wife daydreamed about being married to someone like the Pimpernel instead, exactly the way Lois Lane disdained Clark Kent because she wanted Superman.Report

  4. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    As to what Hugo Danner can do without a costume; professional athletics, construction work, circus strongman, etc.Report

  5. Avatar Maribou says:

    My favorite read this week was a fun superhero school book called, appropriately enough, School for Sidekicks.

    Watched a bunch of stuff but right now I’m seriously obsessed with Orange is the New Black.Report

  6. Avatar Kim says:

    The computer says: “Transgenderism is the new gluten intolerance.”