Heroes and Superheroes

I have to admit, amid all of the excitement of San Diego Comic-Con last week, my mind was elsewhere. I am one of those who doesn’t like the direction Comic-Con is driving at—more celebrities, more glitz, and less comics. I can’t lie, though, I didn’t grow up a comics kid. Besides the daily stuff like Garfield and Peanuts and the occasional Archie book, I spent most of my childhood engrossed in books.

That week of Comic-Con I thought about a different cartoonist whose representation at the event was probably minimal: Harvey Pekar. He famously collaborated with R. Crumb and other artists on his autobiographical American Splendor series. He passed this past July. If there is one comic book hero I can identify with, it’s the ever curmudgeonly Clevelander, Harvey. It is his awkwardness, wry insight, and honesty that I care about in literature. The Harvey who tellingly writes about his experience with cancer in Our Cancer Year is more meaningful to me than the superhero who “saves” a bus full of imaginary people.

I guess growing up in the age of CGI and the comic book movie, I’m desensitized to the special effects. Those much rarer effects, like real emotion and empathy, are edged out, stuck in the sideshow, or worse, some stupid subplot.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the comic book format and recently I’ve been getting into the graphic novel heavily: check out this post. But I have no crush for the superhero. I appreciate real heroes, the kind who spend their lives engaged in the work of daily life, however seemingly insignificant. Those who write out the details, who can craft the careful nuance of a story, they are my superheroes.

I guess that makes special effects my kryptonite.

I know my views are probably rare, so I would love to hear from everyone in the comments what their take is.

7 responses to “Heroes and Superheroes

  1. Hmm. I totally hear what you’re saying, but I must confess to loving superheroes (at least, certain ones) just about as much as I love everyday heroes. I agree that the latter tend to *move* me more, but the former are often more entertaining (in the mindless, escapist sense).

    So I like to think of it as appreciating and enjoying both worlds… Kind of like I love literary fiction AND genre fiction? But maybe I’m just being greedy and trying to have it all. 😛

  2. writer-at-heart

    I also love superheroes, but the actual hero and what s/he can do, such as triumphing Good over Evil. (As opposed to too much emphasis on the big glitzy computerized special effects in some movies today.)

    So maybe it’s the actual story and message that are important? Supergirl and Superwoman were my heroines!

  3. I used to read The Simpson’s, Indiana Jones and Star Wars comics on a regular basis and Mickey Mouse when I was a kid, but I never stuck long enough to pay attention to the cartoonists or become a lunatic reader. I enjoy browsing comics and look at the different colors and figures, but that’s all that has been left.

    I like a couple of comic-movies such as X-Men or Iron Man, but a some of them are just terribly executed.

    I prefer the “hero” in the meaning of drama — this could be anyone!

  4. Cribbing off Sarah’s comment – it’s the hero aspect that makes all heroes, super or not, compelling in anyway. I do think, like with Superman or Wonder Woman, it’s difficult to find the nature of what makes them tick and ultimately relatable. (Although, Justice League and the early Superman: The Animated Series do excellent jobs.)

    Movie-wise, I think the trick to “getting” Superman is to explore his overly super-powered nature. Also you need a villain that can physically go toe to toe with him. (Have them fight in space, so you can cut down on the budget. :P)

  5. I have zero interest in comics, superheros AND special effects if that makes you feel any better.

  6. @ Kristan – Agreed. I guess I don’t dislike superheroes, I just never grew up with them.

    @ Mom – I didn’t know that you were a fan of comics!

  7. @ Sarah – Yes, the hero’s journey is something I’m pretty interested in too.

    @ Kevin – It’s not enough to have super powers, but if there’s a compelling enough story line to go along with those displays of pyrotechnics, I’m hooked.

    @ Rebecca – haha, thanks.

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