Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

June 22, 2006

Please Shut Up About Civil War Now

Can America's pop culture pundits stop with the breathless articles like this one, with writers all a-flutter because you can work in some facile analysis of current events into the framework of a superhero comic book? It doesn't seem to me like this should be a big deal anymore. Like professional wrestling, superhero comics have at their core conflicts and identity issues; you can do a rough overlay of just about any real-world issue where ideas are in conflict or identities are in question onto any number of superhero comics runs. When the creators make a story that reaches out for those comparisons, it's that much easier to find a few parallels.

imageNow, maybe Mark Millar will be the first writer to use the specific metaphor he has at his disposal to say something insightful and constructive about those issues, but I suspect that as in the past the real world comparisons exist primarily to flatter the entertainment value of the superhero comic, not so much to say anything that isn't, well, kind of dumbassed. The same way that the X-Men or similar series can only go so far when speaking to identity and outsider issues before people begin to realize shooting raybeams from your eyes really is different enough from sexual or racial identity to kind of limit any insight to be gained, I can't imagine a point of view emerging from Civil War that isn't constrained or made foolish by these characters' very specific fantasy identities. I understand getting some juice from real-world concerns, and it can make for effective pulp. When I was a kid I liked it when Captain America saw a high government official commit suicide. I thought that was way deep, man. But I never go there when thinking about Watergate. While Mark Millar's Captain America and I may both worry about civil rights and the dispensation of power in the United States, the moment this leads Cap to take out a battalion of Secret Agents to buttress his point he's kind of lost to me as a potential partner-in-ideology.

Marvel's Aubrey Sitterson disagrees with me.
posted 1:34 am PST | Permalink

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