Final Blog Post

If you still need blog posts for the semester, you can comment on this entry.  In your comment, identify a page in Jaime Hernandez’s Gods and Science that seems especially interesting to you.  Explain what you find interesting about it.  How does it relate to some of the work’s overall themes? How is it especially innovative or noteworthy when it comes to image-text tensions, page layout, or visual imagery? How does it offer a critique or reflection on superhero history and the place of subaltern subjects in that history?

These questions are meant to be suggestive rather than exhaustive.  You reply can point out other things as well.  It just needs to offer a page for us to think about.

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Do We Need THIS Chinese Superhero?

Monica Chiu’s essay is both a summary and a critique of Superhero culture over the years, speaking to the (more often than not) offensive representation of Asian people within the superhero realm. She vocalizes what “The Shadow Hero” by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew does for Asian culture and questions whether Hank’s persona does his heritage a justice. The graphic novel features a first generation Chinese-American protagonist, Hank, and showcases his sometimes comical experience as a superhero; one with virtually no super powers. According to Chiu, there is a larger significance here; the comic depicts “Chinese immigration, acculturation, and race consciousness in its introduction to the nation’s first Chinese American superhero”. Prior to this graphic novel, which is in fact a revival of the character Green Turtle, Chiu states that representation of Asian’s and their culture have been off putting and sadly, socially acceptable. She makes reference to instances of blatant racism in critically acclaimed works dating as far back as the mid-nineteenth century.

Chiu makes a valid connection and circles back to it often throughout the essay, linking Superman to The Shadow Hero. She says that the Shadow Hero is ultimately about the immigrant experience and Superman was as well; that it echoed to immigrants and the Jewish people. Superman hid his identity to be accepted by American culture in that time period. The Asian people are often surprised throughout the comic when Hank reveals himself to be Chinese; perhaps it’s because he insists on wearing a mask, or because his skin is a shade of pink due to his mother’s attempts and giving him super powers, but Chiu finds fault in this; she insists that the representation of Hank has been white washed so to speak to make his character more palatable to white readers. Chiu argues that while authors Yang and Liew may have had intentions to assert a proud Chinese superhero into the realm, we may not need this particular superhero; to my understanding, one that’s not entirely comfortable with his heritage.

QUESTIONS:

Chiu poses the question of whether The Shadow Hero is a text that recovers from racism or relapses into a modern version of it. I am able to see how both are depicted in the comic. In what ways do you think the text is a recovery and in what ways do you feel it is a relapse? Can it be both?

Chiu makes quite a few references to Superman. She says that Superman spends his life between cultures, an American one and an alien one, similarly to Hank. So why then do you think Superman has had so much more success? What are some of the factors that played a role?

Part 1: Further along in the essay, Chiu talks about Hua, Hank’s mother and describes her as a “typical self-sacrificing Chinese mother”. Was it a positive thing to depict Hua this way or do you think it furthered biases and prejudices about asian women?

Part 2: Chiu says that Instead of pushing her son into law or medicine, she encourages him to be a superhero. Is it possible though that she is also projecting her own desires to become a superhero onto her son after her exciting brush with the car thief? Why or why not?

Marvels: Ms. Marvel’s Reboot Reception/Contemporary Revision

In her article, “Unveiling Marvels: Ms. Marvel and the Reception of the New Muslim Superheroine,” Miriam Kent reviews the reception of the redesigned, refashioned, and rebooted Ms. Marvel comics. Formerly Carol Danvers, an “all-American blonde bombshell” (Kent 523), the Ms. Marvel title will now belong to Kamala Khan, a sixteen-year-old Muslim Pakistani-American girl from New Jersey. Kent provides an insight into the Ms. Marvel comic reviews and the feminist critique of the comic and its replies.

As Kent mentions in her article, Ms. Marvel: No Normal “represents a break from tradition” (Kent 523). The story centers Kamala Khan, a Muslim Pakistani-American from New Jersey. Kamala possesses the ability to polymorph. Her unique ability allows her to alter the shape and size of her body, which seem to shift based on her inner conflicts. Kamala’s story has been celebrated by feminist for the representation of a female character “in an industry which has traditionally been dominated by men in terms of content, production, and assumed audience” (Kent 523). Except for the few exceptions, such as Wonder Woman, lead female comic book characters are scarce.

Kent goes on to examine the critics’ enthusiasm of Kamala’s “relatability.” Many writers argued, regardless of Kamala’s background, readers can be attracted to her story. Kamala’s “character resonates with issues of assimilation and arguably represents an embrace of her “otherness.” For example, at the start of the comic, Kamala’s bacon sniffing scene illustrates her cultural difference illustrates her difference and grapple with her religion. However, later in the comic, Kamala sneaks off to a party. She drinks, socializes, and grapples with assimilating with her peers. As Kent’s article puts it, many critics describe Kamala as a teenager “wanting something she can’t have” or is “just like us” (Kent 525).

Interestingly, it seems that Kent objects to critics urge to relate Kamala to the every person because “such reviews also erase individual experiences of marginalized peoples, suggesting that any reader who has ever felt marginalized should be able to relate to the book when, in reality, every individual experiences difference differently” (Kent 525).

Ms. Marvel’s revision is an example of the “reimagining” of a superhero to reflect the society they inhabit. Kamala is the result of the demand for diversity in comics. Kamala’s story is the contemporary take of a superhero story. No longer does a superhero have to be a blonde, American Caucasian. Ms. Marvel acknowledges the need to change the origin of a superhero but remain relatable to the comic audience, but, also, remain true to comic themes, such as feminism.

Questions

How does Ms. Marvel’s feminism contrast with the feminism in the Wonder Woman Comics?

Kent’s examination of Ms. Marvel: No Normal’s critical reception reveals a need for the character to be relatable to “everyone.” Can Ms. Marvel be appreciated without her need to blend into American culture?

How does the reimagining of Ms. Marvel: No Normal contrast with the reimagining of All Star: Superman, Marvels, and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns?

“Making and Breaking the Superhero Quotidian: How All-Star Superman Embodies and Revises the Everyday By Frank Bramlett”

In the article, “Making and Breaking the Superhero Quotidian: How All-Star Superman Embodies and Revises the Everyday,” Frank Bramlett considers how Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely “use the extraordinary, the remarkable, and the unexpected to highlight yet ultimately overturn the story of Superman’s day-to-day practices and expectations.” Morrison and Quitely rewrite the Superman comic, giving his backstory in one page, 4 panels. The notion of the quotidian means “the everyday, the unremarkable; the quotidian refers to everyday routines and expectations.” Morrison and Quitely challenge Superman’s “regular” quotidian after Superman flies to the Sun to save the crew of a scientific expedition. As a result, his body absorbs too much solar radiation, and he slowly begins to die. What sets All-Star Superman apart is “that it calls attention to Superman’s quotidian existence by radically changing Superman’s circumstances.” After Superman returns to Metropolis, he is experiencing “an extensive, life-changing trauma. This trauma shakes his everyday experience to its core and causes him to revise his understanding of his day-to-day living, as well as his interactions with a host of friends, enemies, and loved ones.” Superman realizes that the source of his powers is killing him, and he begins to question his routines. Additionally, Morrison and Quitely give us a Superman that is aging, a moral Superman, a hero that isn’t stuck in time.

Defining the Superhero Quotidian

        The quotidian of the superhero coordinates with Coogan’s definition of superheroes; mission, powers, and identity. In the case of Superman, “his day-to-day actions and behaviors involve helping others, to the point that he expects to be needed.” Among other superheroes, part of Superman’s daily life includes a fight against evil. In the earlier comics, Superman is always battling some sense of evil, and he always wins. He, himself always expects to save someone. When he returns to Earth after being stuck in Bizarro World, he is surprised that someone else had “save” Earth. Perhaps one of the most important point Bramlett makes is that

What superheroes accomplish is seen as extraordinary and wondrous in the eyes of onlookers, the participants in the comic who observe the superhero’s actions. But these same feats are often taken for granted and seen as ordinary by the superheroes themselves. They live their lives in two identities, their superhero guise and their alter-ego guise. In other words, they manage their mission, powers, and identities in such a way that it becomes a sort of routine, something that they expect from their lives on a regular basis.

In Marvels, people were sometimes in awe when they saw a Superhero, but to that Superhero, it’s just another day. They live their lives like any regular individual, any regular American. Wonder Woman’s dual identity was completely normal and part of her everyday life. It’s the same for Superman. Part of Superman’s daily routine includes him being Clark Kent, his alter ego, who is a journalist at the Daily Planet. Another part of his day includes him flirting with Lois Lane, before rushing to save the world. Reading a comic book without having a superhero save the day seems impossible, seems unthinkable. As readers, we want to see the hero save someone, or fight for justice. Superman’s quotidian of saving the day is an ordinary expectation for the audience/readers.

Additionally, Bramlett argues that Morrison and Quitely “draw ontraditional elements of Superman stories, a choice which helps readers feel at home with what they’re reading.” By keeping these traditional elements, Morrison and Quitely kept the quotidian existence of the Superman comic. “All-Star Superman” doesn’t have a different backstory, or a different daily life. Erving Goffman states that a “pre-established pattern of action which is unfolded during a performance and which may be presented or play through on other occasions may be called a ‘part’ or ‘routine’” This concept helps us understand the consistent story and flow of Superman. Superman’s action of fighting for justice is a pattern that has been rewritten over and over. It’s a part of his routine, we expect Superman to save the day using his super-strength, super speed or any of his superpowers. Superman often faces challenges and has to overcome them. Even if he is “losing” his powers, we expect Superman to always win.

Frank Bramlett also includes Richard Reynolds working definition of the superhero genre. Richard Reynolds constructs a list of seven motifs from the first ever superhero comic. One of his motifs that shows quotidian is “[t]he extraordinary nature of the superhero will be contrasted with the ordinariness of his surroundings.” Superheroes carry out their performance on a “front,” that is a conceptual/physical space. Most of Superman’s mission is common within Metropolis, that “city streets, Lex Luthor’s headquarters, the Underverse, among countless others.” The other motif that Bramlett mentions is “the extraordinary nature of the hero will be contrasted with the ordinary nature of his alter-ego.” As stated before, Superman’s alter ego is Clark Kent. In this comic, Clark Kent is drawn to physically look different from Superman. He is a very clumsy man, has poor posture, and dresses awful. Clark Kent has a regular job and lives a regular, everyday life. Bramlett states that, “In order to inhabit two different social roles, Superman has to differentiate his performance by using tools and other signs that set him apart from Clark Kent. This is an everyday task, a quotidian endeavor, and he succeeds nearly to perfection in All-Star Superman.” Superman is extremely comfortable with his alter ego personality. He plays his role so well, that Lois Lane doesn’t believe Clark Kent is Superman, even when he tells her. It’s a persona he was playing for years, it’s part of his daily life, he knows how to be Clark Kent. However, when Clark Kent visits certain settings, we expect the role of Superman to show up.

Revising the Superhero Quotidian

         Another important part of Bramlett article is “quotidian disruption.” Borland and Sutton explain that when [quotidian disruption] takes place, “both natural attitude and routine practices become problematic and confusing, and this is an impulse for mobilization.” When Superman realizes that he isn’t immoral any more, his everyday routine changes. Bramlett states that “In the face of extraordinary change, actors adjust, and their day-to-day practices accommodate the new and bring about a different quotidian.” Superman’s quotidian becomes disrupted the day he found out he is going to die. However, he learned to adapt to his new life. He accepts his faith, he doesn’t question the world or question why this is happening to him. His body changes, some of the powers that he exhibits are new or are enhanced. Superman’s day-to-day existence, his quotidian experience of his superpowers has shifted in “All-Star Superman.” He chooses to not become hopeless when he finds out he’s dying, but to redouble his effort to complete his missions. A slightly new quotidian appears for Superman as he adjusts to his new life. It’s almost impossible to think that someone doesn’t lose themselves after finding out they are going to die.

Questions

Frank Bramlett states that, “In the everyday, the unremarkable, Superman plays certain roles and engages in certain performances that occur with a high degree of regularity.” What are some, or one performance that is considered “a high degree of regularity” in “All-Star Superman?

Frank Bramlett states that, “When Superman finds out that he is dying, he realizes that his everyday existence has to change; in other words, his daily life—his quotidian—will shift because he knows the end of his life is coming. Superman’s day-to-day living, his everyday life begins to shift as soon as he discovers his mortal wound. The expectations and routine practices of his quotidian experience shift to accommodate what Luthor did to kill him.” What is one change you noticed with Superman? What routine practice or quotidian shifts did you notice? Could be a big change, a change in his personality, or the way he saves the day.

What are some specific examples of Richard Reynolds two motifs that show quotidian in “All-Star Superman.” If preferred, you are welcomed to use other comic books to show specific examples, such as Marvels, Watchmen…

The Acceptance of the Superhero Amongst Humanity

In Carney’s “The Function of the Superhero at the Present Time”, he states that the superhero is the “allegory for humanity’s relationship to its own history.” (102) COntemporary superhero narratives seek to aid humanity and better society yet not nececariy do huamnity’s work for them. Contemporary Superheroes aid humanity so that it can reach its fullest potential. The superhero’s goal is to create a sence of something larger than humanity itself. With, Book one of “Marvels” the idea of the superhero is complex in that superheros are not accepted or even appreciated as they are seen as “freaks”. This idea that humanity cannot except anything or anyone that doesn’t fit their realm of human-kind is seen as an outsider. Therefore, the superheros are alienated.

Phil Sheldon in Book one is not the biggest fan of the Marvels at the start. He says, “Before they camr. We were so big. So grand. We were Americans-Young. Strong. Vital! we were the ones who got things done. But we’d gotten smaller.” (105) We see here how scared and small Sheldon feels compared to the Marvels. He along with the human race are overpowered by these nonhumans. He seems resentful towards the fact that these superheros are in fact bettering humanity. This idea of American consciousness which Carney states is something that was embedded into this particular comic that American society is able to uphold itself without the aid of external powers. Humanity can’t seem to look past the idea that there is something more powerful out there that is capable of achieving more while bringing

In order for this issue to be resloved the world must “change with it” meaning society must shift and change along with the superheros. In Sheldon’s letter to his wife at the end of Book one, he writes, “It isn’t going to be them that adapts to us. The world is different. The rules have changed.” (44) Sheldon’s realization that the Marvels are in fact real and more superior than the human race shows that humanity sometimes must be able to accept and and learn that a more powerful and greater force and consciousness is out there. Superheros can only succeed if humanity is fighting alongside with them. Fighting against the superhero will only cause more tension and perhaps even a downfall of humanity as a whole. The two races must work together in order to understand one another. Sheldon’s incident of losing his eye is an allegory for Japan attacking Pearl Harbor. Just as the United States woke up and realized they were in for a war, Sheldon is woken up with a realization that the Marvels aren’t trying to overshadow humanity or mock the human race but in fact aid them in becoming better versions of themselves.

  1. In Book one, Sheldon says, “This is our city! Our wolrd! Who gave them the right to just come in and take it away from us?” How does this statement represent or reflect American consciousness/idenity?
  2. The Marvels are viewed as “outsiders” or “freaks” and are put on display and alienated. How do we as a nation today seem to reflect these types of actions?
  3. At the end of Book one whenSheldon writes the letter, do you agree that in order to understand and accept something that is foreign to humanity, we must be able to change not only our society but ourselves? why/why not?

 

The Female Link and Continuity in Watchmen

Watchmen is often credited with redefining the boundaries of the superhero genre, Keating acknowledges these changes, but asks us to look beyond them and see the ways in which the text remains the same. According to Keating, the continuity maintained beneath the changes of the superhero genre resides within the representation of the female characters in Watchmen, but the representation of the female characters is almost nonexistent.

If we look closely at our two female characters, Laurie and Sally Juspeczyk, they essentially merge together. They are defined by the relationships they maintain with and between the other more substantive male characters, even their crime fighting identity as Silk Spectre is not theirs to wield individually. Their lack of identity separate from the bonds between the male heroes is the continuity behind Watchmen.

The foundation of Watchmen relies on a conservative heterosexual framework through the female characters to compensate for the revisionist moral ambiguity of the text. Typically, women in comic books are either plot devices, or sex symbols, Sally Juspeczyk is both. Not only did she have raunchy images of herself coveted by fans, but she was portrayed as somewhat of a damsel in distress during her encounter with the Comedian. Afterwards Sally is merely a useful tool to keep the minutemen together as she was their link to the agent, who is credited with the initial creation of their group.

Laurie is also frequently defined by her bonds with the men of Watchmen. As Keating says, she is largely seen as an appendage to Jon. It is depicted through her treatment after Jon leaves Earth, she is cast aside and told her meal ticket has flown the coop. These portrayals are the continuity behind Watchmen, the women are still seen as unimportant.

  1. Is the heterosexual framework in Watchmen necessary? Can the story of Watchmen work without it or if it was reversed?
  2. Does Ozymandias’ revelation of his plan negate Laurie’s portrayal throughout Watchmen?
  3. How did you view the depiction of female characters throughout Watchmen? Were they well rounded and developed, did they seem lacking in any way?

Watchmen: Duality through Politics

 

 

Politics in Watchmen is eluded in various ways. Specifically there is a talk on the Cold-War and its significance in how it plays through the characters.

The Cold-War era I argue was a time of nuclear proliferation being above the value of human life. Hoberik argues that similar writings such as The Day After, are cautionary tales. Cautionary tales existing within the realm of post-something. Usually implicating there is a mistake being committed or a disagreement that causes conflict with all the major bodies in a story.

Politics in Watchmen is used as a tool to signify a caution to the value of human life. We see characters such as Dr.Manhattan who begins to eliminate their scale on how much they value human life. Watchmen can also be seen as a acceptor of a totalitarian government. Hoberek said while some believe it is an optimistic story, it isn’t considering the characters (Dan, Juspeczky) seem to give up. They succumb to the ideologies that revolve around a post-Coldwar/totalitarian country. Especially when they decide to except Veidt’s diabolical plan; The Veidt Method. A hitler-esc form of creating super humans for “zen thinking”, when in reality they will be for military power.

Watchmen also highlights the idea of monopolizing or strategizing to the point where we see our enemies just as a number or political body.The characters also extract themselves from being seen as a group or as a population of people who live as one. The human lives accounted for are disregarded in this idea and in Hannah Aendt’s words “it (based) itself on loneliness on the experience of not belong to the world at all, which is the most radical and desperate experience of man.

  1. Why are Moore and Gibbon’s history important for understanding politics in Watchmen?
  2. Do you think Dr.Manhattan began to see life as less valuable through the end of the comic?
  3. How does life differ from now to that of the cold war era? Are there any similarities?