I’ve been decluttering recently, as I mentioned in a previous post. I’m not entirely sure what has driven this urge, but it is something that has been lurking at the back of my mind for a long time. I have a lot of stuff that I don’t really engage with any more, not junk, but stuff I can happily do without as I get older. I don’t see the point in dragging it round with me wherever I go. Sometimes it’s only around because the business of selling it or giving it away is more trouble than leaving it be.
And as I mentioned in the same previous post, one of the things I am taking my leave of is my comics collection. The first part of which is the box of US comics, Marvel and DC that I accumulated in the early eighties.
Scanning and photographing all these comics’ covers for ebay purposes has led me to muse on the strange phenomenon that is the American Superhero comic.
Large men (usually) in tights with right on their side and magic like powers, engaged in epic battles involving extreme and bizarre violence against other large men (usually) or man like creatures, also in tights and wielding strange magic powers, whose intentions are less than benign to say the least. Often in mid air, against a backdrop of The Modern American City.
Weird. . .
It does seem to be an extension of the epic hero tales beloved of folk stories the World over.
In an effort to find out what lies behind this be-tighted battling I Googled a few superhero related phrases and eventually found an excellent article by a guy called Chris Gavaler who has studied the psychology of the American Superhero Comic. Worth a read.
Here’s a quote –
“Traditionally superheroes reduce complex issues to simple, child-like dimensions. The good guys are all good, and the bad guys are all bad. That’s a highly distorted but deeply reassuring way to look at the world. And the solution is always the same: righteous violence. America loves righteous violence. We also prefer our heroes to stand apart from our government, as a kind of incorruptible moral force that polices everything. Which means we embrace the myth of the benevolent vigilante, and superheroes are the ultimate example.”
“The traditional superhero is all-powerful and all-good, which is the way the U.S. likes to perceive itself in the international arena. Other nations are the needy citizens of Gotham. In foreign policy, we want and expect the rest of the world to follow our lead. The superhero may be the greatest embodiment of American exceptionalism. When the Cold War ebbed, the role of the U.S. shifted and superhero mythology began to explore a lot of grey area in what had been a previously black and white universe. But World War II and Cold War nostalgia continue to haunt the genre. America loves supervillains. They help us define ourselves.”
Fascinating stuff. Makes sense to me. A simpler World where good and evil are easily and reliably identifiable, and evil is defeated by superior levels of violence. Until the next time, and the next time. . .
Oh well, back to ebay. I’ve sold about half the stuff I’ve listed, which is pretty good. And I’ve made more than I would have predicted, I mean, if someone had said, “I’ll give you £50 for the lot” I’d have jumped at the offer. I’ve sold about a third of my US comics and made about three times that, so I’m happy. I need to get a job lot of jiffy bags though.