Saturday, September 27, 2008

Faith is a funny thing.

People without faith don't understand people with faith. People with faith can't objectively explain their experiential evidence to those without faith. In my life I have had faith in a lot of things, and many of those things when exposed to the light of day, or to the perspective of age have lost their luster. The things so easily believed in as a child become hard to swallow as an adult, as much as we may want to, as much as we wish we could still take the comfort we did when more naïve.

My efforts as I have gotten older have been to remind myself the faltering foundations of my faith are based far more on changes in me than changes in those things I believed. At times though, things in which my faith were strong have changed to try to match my new perspective, thus losing exactly what it was that built my faith in the first place. The hell of it is, people like me often ASK for these things to evolve to our perspectives, and then complain when they are not what they once were.

Once in a great while though, something amazing happens. The object of faith evolves, changes to fit the perspectives of the faithful, yet retains all that made it holy in the first place. When such an event occurs, faith is made manifest and all your travails in the name of belief are cast aside. For one miraculous time, all doubts are gone and you bask in the power of that which you believed in, and walk away better for it, knowing that as troubled as you may be, this perfect confluence of want and need has happened, and by happening has established that it may happen again.

I love comic books. I love what they have always meant to me, and as much as I recognize there are lots of genres which flow well in the graphic format, the modern myths of the Superheros are my very favorites. I also recognize the Superhero genre can support many types of story telling-- from the 1950s Zap/Pow to Watchmen. Yet as we the audience have matured, comics have tried to keep up with us, and Zap/Pow is gone replaced with what I almost refer to as “every hero a Rorschach” syndrome. There's still plenty of fine storytelling going on out there, but so seldom now do I see the stories that made me enter the four-colored world in the first place. So often the people in my comic shop are my age, and not the age I was when I first read Detective Comics. So often the people my age in the comic shop with me lament about the quality of the comics we spend hundreds of dollars on each month (yet continue to spend hundreds on each month). Why do we keep coming back?

Because sometimes your faith is rewarded. Sometimes a comic series plays off so perfectly the child within you thrills or cries and the adult holding the comic still manages to say “wow” and truly mean it.

Superman is not my favorite character, and yet we must acknowledge he is the essence of the comic genre, and likely America's immortal contribution the heroic myth like the Hellenistic Hercules, the Semetic Samson, and the Britannic Arthur. When Joseph Campbell's intellectual heir in the 30th Century is writing his version of “Hero with a Thousand Faces” Superman will hold his own with the great myths of human history. If you have any doubt, read all 12 issues of All-Star Superman. Grant Morrison, as absolutely insane as I understand he is, and as convoluted as he can write things, has distilled everything a comic book and a comic book hero should be into these 12 issues. Look at this distillation of the Superman origin:

Seventy years of Superman history in four panels and eight words. I wish the writers on Smallville understood this kind of dramatic brevity.

This is a Superman who is not a character- he is Legend. Frank Quietly's artwork is perfect for this story. The nuance of expression is at a level previously delivered only by the great Kevin Maguire, and the fluid construction of shapes and images flow creating a world which is as hyper-real to our present as those brightly colored Zap/Pow comics stand above the black and white world of the fifties. Morrison takes stories and characters we know, and know well, yet makes them seem as new as they must have seemed in 1938. Compared to other great works in this format I truly love, All-Star Superman is still something else; something more.

The title is as sophisticated as anything I have read, full of real emotion and real people, while still present a story full of Science Fiction concepts which will capture the most escapist, or child-like among us. We see a world actually affected by the presence of Superman. Superman's simple existence has inspired great men of science to make a world where Jimmy Olsen doesn't take the bus to work, or even a Segue; he has a rocket pack, and this is perfectly normal. America is not sending astronauts to a space station in orbit; they are traveling to the sun. It's a world where Samson and Atlas DO show up... and end up arm wrestling Superman for a chance to date Lois. How awesome is that?

I am in my mid thirties. I have traveled the world. I have read countless books. I have been to war more than once. I have a child old enough to go to war himself soon.

All-Star Superman
brought me to tears.

All-Star Superman made me cheer.

All-Star Superman made me laugh.

All-Star Superman left me in awe.

All-Star Superman gave me Hope.

If Warner Brothers thinks they have to go dark to come up with a successful comic book story, here's the proof they are dead wrong.

It took more than two years for DC to publish all 12 issues. I forgive them. All-Star Superman is why I read comics. It has justified my faith.

Yeah, me too.

Thank you.

1 comment:

Eric said...