Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Monday, March 12, 2012

What Went Wrong With American Heroism?

Wonder Woman #10 (August 2012).

What went wrong with American heroism? A picture is worth a thousand words. DC's core triumvirate of heroes represents 'truth, justice and the American Way.' Wonder Woman, an ambassador from a world of classical warrior women to the modern world of American men, embodies the truth that bridges those worlds. But what truth does she manifest here?

Wonder Woman's creator, William Marston, the American professor who helped to invent the lie detector, may have had his odd moments and his colourful brushes with the FBI (as discussed in this excellent post over at 20th Century Danny Boy); but it's hard to imagine him supporting this take of America's post-classical Amazon. In another post, I pointed out what went right in the DC comics reboot of its 75+ years of continuity. But DC lately shows its weak spots around its heroines, such as here, here, and in the image above. The argument from DC is that murderous, dark, gritty heroes sell their product. Yet the third issue of Wonder Woman sold 560,000 copies back in 1942. In January 2012, Wonder Woman #4 sold 57,626 (and that is with a much larger American population and an international readership). What, then, is the real reason for the deconstruction and degradation of American pulp heroes - and especially heroines - since the 1980s? Why are American pulps still displaying this morbid fascination with tortured and inverted heroism?

The start of the Wonder Woman series (1942). Image Source: 20th Century Danny Boy.

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  1. I haven't read the comic, so I can't really comment on the story. But actually the image, representing Diana as a shade crossing the Styx into Hades, seems pretty consistent with the classical Amazon theme.

  2. Thanks for your comment, KV. The image is Greek enough, except for Diana carrying guns. In the DCnU a lot of heroes who have never been depicted carrying guns in their entire history are now shown with them. Diana, when armed, has normally been depicted carrying a shield, a sword, and perhaps a dagger. Occasionally she carries a battleaxe, or a bow and arrows. Also, she sometimes wears a Grecian or Valkyrie-type winged helmet. Of course, her weapons are deadly, but until Dan Didio arrived at DC Comics, Diana was never shown killing her opponents and she is meant to be an ambassador and avenging truth-dealer, if a warlike one. The idea is that when the truth finally gets its boots on, lies are violently swept away.

    Her weapons signify that she is basically an American modern reimagining of several classical goddesses. Incarnations of the archeype were previously used in Renaissance Italy, revolutionary France and imperial Britain. The weapons these figures bear are always classical and are symbolic. The addition of the pistols, however, say something completely new and different - America is changing.


  3. America being symbolized by guns is nothing new. This is, as ever, about treating characters like garbage, because the powers that be know how to do nothing else. It's not a symbol; rather, the complete lack of one. -J

  4. Yes, I agree. The guns in the pic don't symbolize 'guns,' in the clicheed American sense. Instead, they are nihilistic. If there is one thing that the current editors at DC and Marvel demonstrate (and their probs are repeated throughout pop culture and in parts of higher culture), it is that change has created a vaccuum in morals, values, and between perspectives. No one has a baseline, but there is an enormous hunger for someone who can fill the void. I think this helps to explain Obama's call for 'Hope' during his first election campaign and the enormous appeal it had.

  5. The guns were given to her by Eros. It is an attempt at a funny comparison joke that you are not shot by Cupid's arrows in modern times, but Cupids guns. It sounds like Diana is still using love to solve problems. That and swords, arrows, superstrength, lassos.

  6. Thanks for your comment, Anon. I'm aware of the in-story reason for the guns. There is still a larger context to consider, where DC circulates the image of Diana shooting guns, which, phallic symbolism aside, has a certain social message that is different from her wielding a sword (even though a sword is phallic too), because the sword has classical connotations.

  7. This post just made me realise why I so dislike Superheroes using guns. It seems to me that in America the gun is a symbol of individual empowerment, like the old saying "God made man, Colt made him equal", you can see this in the mythology built up around the role of firearms in the settlement of the American west. Superheroes though are already empowered individuals so when they use a gun it seems like either they are seizing additional power they don't need, or it degrades their superheroism by making seem like they need augment themselves to perform superheroic acts.