Category Archives: American Values

New Wave Anti-heroes, Rising Bodycounts and Batman

 

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When I think of tough guys, loners and outsiders -your Clint Eastwood, Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson, your Wolverine, Punisher, Bond and Judge Dredd – Batman to me is the king of the outsiders. He’s the king of the loner antihero “don’t fuck with me or you’ll regret it” crowd.

Batman is a bad boy. He’s dark, cool and sexy. He’s exciting and dangerous but also emotionally distant. He’s not the kind of guy a girl brings home to meet her parents. He is the kind of guy who smashes a mouth full of teeth down the throat of a rapist in a dark alley at 3 am in Gotham City.

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BATS OF A FEATHER, FLOCK TOGETHER

Where Batman differs from his anti-hero contemporaries such as Dirty Harry, Wolverine and The Punisher is that Batman doesn’t kill, and that is a deliberate moral choice that Bruce Wayne made.  Some say that is his weakness, while a contrasting viewpoint is that it is one of Batman’s greatest strengths. Batman gets to have all the darkness and edge and cool of an antihero, but still gets to be a morally decent human being who refrains from killing his enemies or criminals in general.

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Another of my favourite characters is The Punisher, you can call him amoral, say he has PTSD or whatever else you like. It  really doesn’t matter, labeling  Frank Castle won’t help you understand him, and it sure as hell will do nothing to stop him.

When the Punisher comes to town he’s like a tank that just mows down bad guys and keeps moving. To some he’s a total psycho, to others an agent of mercy, or avatar of death. He’s a one man army of destruction with no moral “confusion” about what he does or why he does it. In Frank Castle’s world, everything makes perfect sense.

“Label me, you negate me”

There are bad men in organised crime who do think like kidnap young women, ship them overseas and sell them into sex slavery while they are forced onto highly addictive drugs. There are bad men who put semiautomatic weapons into the hands of children, there are men who rape and torture and kill civilians for profit, or simply because they could get away with it.
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In Frank Castle’s world, those people need to die. The world is better off without them. The crime families, mobs and gangs are beyond the capacities of the police and legal system, so therefore their ever present threat needs to end, permanently, and Frank Castle is the man for that job. He’s not so much a man on a mission or executioner nut job – as an unpaid civil servant. In Frank’s mind he’s the guy who comes around to take out the cities garbage, that nobody else wants to deal with. In his world view he performs a necessary job that nobody else wants to do.

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Frank Castle makes for an interesting contrast with Bruce Wayne. Both the Punisher and Batman fight crime, one is a former marine, the other a rich autodidact civilian. Their methods differ, but their basic goal of a war on crime – of targeting high profile crime lords and super-criminals means they are similar characters. The key point being that Punisher kills criminals, while Batman keeps them alive to face arrest and prosecution. Both use fear as a weapon, and display fierce sigils branded onto their chest that make it clear that if you are close enough to see them, then it is already too late, and your day is not going to end well.

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BATMAN AIN’T NO MAGILLA KILLAH

In Batman’s first year in Detective Comic, he DID kill people, and sometimes used a gun.  Sometimes he killed people on purpose, and other times inadvertently like punching a guy out of a window, or off a high railing in an industrial factory.

Then with the introduction of Robin, the powers that be at mighty D.C. decided that Batman would not be a killer (at least not an intentional killer, and certainly not a psychopath) and made both the character of Batman, and the books he featured in lighter in tone. He became more like Superman and less like The Shadow. Unfortunately it meant that Batman went from a cool urban commando to a grinning idiot who ran around in the daylight, at least until he was rescued in the 1970’s by Denny O Neil and Neil Adams who returned him to his Gothic pulp roots.

What started as a Gothic inspired pulp vigilante book with a coat of Superhero paint (inspired by the success of the Superman books) turned into a genuine Superhero book, with a very MORAL character. Who deliberately chose not to kill, or use guns, and that is the Batman we have had ever since. The version that most of us enjoy and get all worked up about when live action film versions of Batman ignore his integral morality. The guy who swore off guns forever. The guy who refuses to use “the weapon of the enemy”.

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Another perspective on why Batman does not use guns, other than the editorially mandated one, a story if you will in the Batman canon that never really happened, is WHY did Bruce Wayne suddenly decide to stop using guns, and killing people by pushing them over balconies, or the odd snapping of a bad guys neck?

I think another possible reason, if you like to ponder these sorts of theories and ideas – and you want to include all of the Batman continuity as a whole from 1939- to the present day, assuming it’s ONE GUY who has changed and evolved as a person – I think that Bruce Wayne realised the error of his ways after those first months where he was a very sloppy and careless Batman, who perhaps didn’t always kill on purpose, so much as inadvertently. Batman used a gun only sparingly – rather than charging in lighting up the night with a muzzle flare (except that time he had a machine gun mounted on a plane, kind of hard to ignore that one) – and I think Bruce Wayne evolved to become a more moral person, who saw what he was doing was wrong, and decided not to kill anyone on purpose, and that he would certainly never be an executioner ever again.

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I think that perspective gives more credibility to the character, and more growth to him as a moral human being who starts out as a man-child punching crime in the face. A character who starts out obsessed with vengeance or revenge for the death of his parents, and evolves into a Batman who serves Justice, and who avoids killing at all costs, who ultimately wants to work WITH the system of law, by putting criminals in the hands of the cops, lawyers and judges. Rather than being someone like Frank Castle who wants no part of the systems of government and law that he operates totally outside of, Frank Castiglione skips the judge and jury and sends criminals on a one way first class trip straight to the coroner.

Batman wants the world to be a better place, Batman’s dream is not just Justice or punishment, but to live in a world where he is no longer necessary, while Frank Castle’s dream is just to wipe out as many monsters as he can before his inevitable demise, he has no end goal. Of course the idea of why he stopped using guns was sort of glossed over in the comics, there have been several key Batman stories that talk about guns, but it’s kind of this forgotten thing in his history and people are often surprised at those earliest stories to see him using guns. It just seems kooky and odd now, and we want to forget about Batman using guns and sweep that taboo stuff under the rug.

 

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ALL YOUR GUNS… ARE BELONG TO US

We can take this contrast of the moral vigilante hero even further with the characters such as Dirty Harry and Judge Dredd and to some extent James Bond.

‘Dirty’ Harry Calahan is permitted to use “justifiable force” within his job as a cop. He is legally allowed to shoot the bad guys, if the situation can be reasonably justified as presenting a threat that requires that level of lethal force.

Dirty Harry throws away his badge

In the first Dirty Harry film, we see Calahan bending the rules, using force in excess of that which is necessary and eventually breaking the rules altogether when he shoots a subdued criminal at the end of the film. He then throws his badge away in the final moments of the film, as he knows he can no longer be a cop, and he has gone too far. Dirty Harry is a film that really was not intended to have a sequel. But sequels happened, because the films made money for the studio, Warner Brothers kept making them.

Somehow in the sequels Harry Calahan ends up back on the police force he walked away from in the first movie. He keeps right on using excessive force, to the point where he basically becomes like the Punisher, he often goes around executing criminals, not really even trying to enforce the law at all, yet he somehow still has a badge. By the third Dirty Harry film (The Enforcer, 1976) Harry is no longer content with just a Magnun gun to obliterate his enemies and uses a bazooka to blow away a bad guy in a guard tower.

The Dirty Harry film series was very entertaining, but utterly ridiculous as they kow towed to the prevailing paradigm of 80s action cinema – that of rising body counts and zero accountability from fetishized heroes who used lethal force, who changed from being somewhat realistic hard edged anti-heroes to over the top comic book like action heroes minus any morality or conscience.

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“Dirty Harry is, perhaps like Rocky Balboa before him, also a keen dissection of the evolution of the action star from the 1970s to the 1980s. James Bond, for the most part, stayed James Bond. But Harry and Rocky changed as film trends changed. They both, in their respective first films, started out to be gritty and melancholic and kind of realistic. And both, by the fourth films in their respective series, had mutated into unbeatable, peerlessly heroic icons that were used in a somewhat jingoistic fashion by their fans. This was a movement from the depression and hopelessness of the Vietnam War to the blast-’em-all mentality of the Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan years.”  – Witney Seibold / CraveOnline – The Series Project: Dirty Harry

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WE COME IN PEACE… SHOOT TO KILL, SHOOT TO KILL

The Batman / Dirty Harry / Punisher vigilante archetype is taken to the extreme with Judge Dredd. In a post-apocalyptic dystopian future, gigantic megacities are rampant with crime. The Judges are entitled by their job role to be judge, jury, executioner and cop all rolled into one, in an effort to streamline the process of law and justice in vastly over populated megacities. The “Judges” as they are known in the 2000 AD fiction are a drastic response to crime in a world where other alternatives fail.

 

Judge_Dredd vs Predator bad ass knife

 

Dirty harry as he becomes more lethal, more of a effective killer moves away from the law and justice, becoming an aimless amoral vigilante.  Judge Dredd however kills as part of his job as a judge in Megacity 1. It is part of his job to kill, and the more effective a killer he is, the more effective he is at enforcing the law in his world. That is not to say that Dredd kills all criminals indiscriminately like the Punisher, he still has legal mandates to follow.

For people not familiar with Dredd, he is sort of like a combination of Dirty Harry and Batman. A bad ass vigilante type, who happens to be a law enforcer, who bends and sometimes breaks the rules, but who ultimately still has a morality to him that means he is not a pure fascist or sadist. Judge Dredd appears to be a fascist at a glance, but looking into his stories he doesn’t have a political agenda, he is both a parody of actual law enforcement and in his fiction a good cop, in that he does his best to actually enforce the law, even when he bends or breaks the rules he lives by as anti-hero characters often do.

 

“While sometimes Judge Dredd is a good man doing his best to save his city, he’s still part of a fascist system.

But the best part about this is, although America is still one of the greatest Judge Dredd stories out there, highlighting Dredd and the Judges as fascists really wasn’t anything new. In fact, it had been part of a major story arc that had gone on for a while.

To me, Judge Dredd is one of the most morally complex and interesting characters because of that key conflict. He’s a man who’s a part of a fascist system, but he and many other Judges aren’t doing what they do for power’s sake, they’re not doing what they do because it suits them. No, the Judges – especially Dredd himself – do the job they do because they believe that it’s right. That, under the circumstances, there really is no other way. That they put a harsh leash on the citizens, but only because the previous system of democracy lead to Armageddon.” – James Aggas / Judgedreddcollection.com

 

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In a world that doesn’t make sense we often feel powerless and helpless. Characters such as Batman, the Punisher and Judge Dredd force the world to make sense on their own terms. We feel empowered reading these characters not because their solutions to problems are legally or morally right, and not because their solutions seem to work (temporarily) but because these characters appear to be both powerful and capable. In fiction heroes can take on the world and win.

However their examples are not sometime to emulate. Their actions just don’t work in the real world, with rare exception. For every Sunday Superhero who leaps in to rescue a citizen in distress, there are far more poeple we don’t hear about who get shot stabbed or killed trying to help someone out.

Batman, The Punisher, Judge Dredd and Dirty Harry are terrible terrible role models. But we love these characters  because they are power fantasies, the characters look cool and powerful, and most of us would rather feel cool, powerful and in control of our lives than helpless and afraid.

Nobody wants to be adrift in a sea of emotional chaos where down is up, up is down and we don’t know how to make sense of the world. Tough guys, loners and antiheroes like regular heroes are ciphers, characters we project ourselves onto and vicariously enjoy for their values and hardline uncompromising attitudes. They can’t succeed outside of their own fiction, in real life we are often forced to compromise and do things we don’t want to do, often it can be soul destroying and it’s not a matter of choice, but survival. That kind of hardline no compromise attitude rarely works in the real world.

That hardline attitude may work well temporarily in places like combat sports or the military, but those environments still have rules, and the real world has no rules, just human idea constructs smooshed over top of what we call life. And in life we have to find our own way and make sense of things – the world is not black and white, but endlessly complicated, expansive and multidimensional.

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BAT… JAMES BAT

We can’t escape from the 70’s Batman and fully undestand 80’s Batman without a nod to the prolific James Bond. Forties Batman was grim and gothic, fifties Batman was a grinning idiot who ran around in the daylight, late fifties and early sixties Batman had increasingly bizarre adventures in space and other forgettable stories. Seventies Batman  moved back closer to his roots, bringing back the Gothic dark elements of the character, while adding an exotic globe trotting James Bond angle to the Batman mythos, before moving into more grim existentialist flavored Batman stories in the eighties.

James Bond, in any incarnation is not a vigilante. He is a spy, a tough guy and a loner however he works for a British government spy organisation. He has a famous “license to kill”. It’s an unavoidable part of his job to kill. His portrayal has veered from serious to outlandish and comical and stone cold serious again through the different actors, and tone of the various movies. From high camp, to straight action to gritty intense emotional drama, Bond has done it all. He’s a very effective fighter, killer and spy. He makes for a great contrast with Batman, Dredd and Dirty Harry. We can see the overlap in their methods, their morality (or lack of) and the dangerous situations they all face on a daily basis. Leaving these guys aside for a while, let’s take a look at some of the overall trends in action heroes in cinema and comics during the 70’s and 80’s, and then see how it all relates to, or influences Batman media.

 

BACK……..TO THE 1980’S

(A.K.A. CRUSH…KILL…DESTROY!)

 

War Western and Film Noir
If you look at the history of american action movies you have your war and western films, film noir, detective stories of hard boiled gum shoes and the like, and as the war and western movies died off in the 50’s and 60’s you had the rise of the loners, the outsiders, tough guys, and antiheroes typified by actors like Lee Marvin in Hard Boiled, Charles Bronson in Death Wish, Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry.

As the straight laced 60’s action heroes gave way to more grim anti-heroes of the 70s, and excess over the top body count of 80s action cinema the cowboy/cop/soldier turned into the loner /outsider/antihero. The hero archetype in cinema moved from establishment to anti-establishment and back again, taking on new forms and permutations. The trend continued in the 80s with new wave action hero’s such as Stallone and Schwarzenegger who were as famous for their imposing physiques as their high bodycount movies and non-stop blood thirsty action.

Back to the 80s guns action and overkill

In the 80’s out were the straight laced serious cop/cowboy heroes  and in was super-human murder death killing machines such as The Terminator and Rambo. Chuck Norris, Steven Segal, Jean Claude Van Damme and others continued the trend of Stallone and Schwarzenegger in B-grade cinema where the selling point was the high bodycount, martial arts expertise, military commando’s and other types of extreme hero killing machines who dominated the decade. The lone hero or anti-hero with the highest bodycount and the smartest one liner and baddest attitude that started with Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood evolved and devolved in the 80’s to new forms.

Heroic trends shifted from establishment to anti-establishment to jingoistic pro Americana war propaganda and back again.

 

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“RIGGS IS CRAZY!”

But the 80’s was not just home to near super-human killing machines, but was also the decade of rogue cops on a revenge mission and sci-fi, technology, A.I. and Trans-Humanist fears with Robocop and The Terminator. The crazed 70’s cop on a revenge kick morphed and blended with the 80’s excess new breed of action hero. Martin Riggs in the first Lethal Weapon is tough yet vulnerable, by the fourth film in the series, he has become  a parody of himself, he still gets hurt, but we know he will always come out on top like Rocky and Dirty Harry. The heartfelt portrayal of the genuinely suicidal Riggs continued the new trend of sub-genre PTSD that was firmly established in The Deer Hunter (1978).

Alongside these new special effects heavy blood thirsty action movies was the usual glut of B-grade Kung-Fu Killer imports that  trickled down the pipeline and eventually gave way to American teenagers new obsession with Deadly Ninja films.

It didn’t matter any more in this crowded action-genre market whose side the hero was actually on. What his values, ethics and mission were – only how big the explosions were, and how many people he killed during his mission or journey. James Bond who had dominated the action movies of 60’s had become a relic by the 80’s – he was no longer cool. What was cool was pointless mass carnage, excessive blood and explosions, abstract violence as pop-art – a trend that ironically James Bond himself helped to start in his earliest films, this trend continued throughout the 80’s as “me-too” Z-Grade action movies appeared on the video rental shelves next to the big budget action blockbusters.

 

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WHERE DID YOUR BAT-MANNERS GO OLD CHUM? (A.K.A. BATMAN IS A BIT OF A BASTARD)

As these types of new wave heroes and anti-heroes invaded comics along came Wolverine, Judge Dredd, The Punisher and of course Batman became more of a hard ass in the 80’s. If 70’s Batman was typified by James Bond style globe trotting adventures by Denny ‘O Neil and Neal Adams, the 80s were about grim and gritty Batman, none more grim and gritty than Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, a tought ruthless bastard who was equally likely to sneer or laugh at you as he broke both your arms…Miller’s semi-sadistic vision of Batman overshadowed every other Batman story in the decade of Miami Vice, new wave pop, hair metal and hip-hop. While Wolverine and The Punisher debuted in the 70’s, it was the 80’s were they graduated to their own titles and found new fans as they became a popular ultra-violent alternative to mainstream superhero comics,.

No other writer had written Batman so gruff, stand offish and downright mean as Frank Miller in The Dark Knight Returns. This was Batman as Dirty Harry, Batman as Judge Dredd in another costume. Gruff, uncaring, stand-offish, he often spoke in short sentences with a commanding tone that other Bat writers over the years picked up on.

The team of John Wagner and Alan Grant in (issue numbers) ran with their own version of this hard bastard Batman in a fantastic run of comics.  John Wagner, Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle’s gave us a breif fan favourite run on Detective Comics staring in 1988, in Detective Comics #583-594; 601-621 (thanks to FamousFanBoy for the reference).

For people who grew up on and only knew Batman from the campy 1966 TV show starring Adam West and Burt Ward, this hard cynical violent Batman of the 80’s seemed excessive, mean and horrible, a betrayal of their childhood character.

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But for hardcore Batman fans, it was a return to the roots of the Gothic vigilante who terrorized the criminal underworld before he was castrated by the Comics Code Authority and his stories turned into a saccharine dayglow fever dream of political correctness. It was more of the hard bastard 80’s Batman who fans greedily devoured and asked for seconds.

With the influences of Miller’s Dark Knight Returns Batman and Wagner’s Judge Dredd, Batman in the 80’s was a tough bastard who grew more dark, grim and cynical. In short he was becoming more like the modern Batman we know. Some would call him a fascist, or mentally unstable. But no matter what label was thrown at the Dark Knight, none of them could really stick, or at least not for long as a new fresh interpretation was always just around the corner.

Many of his regular monthly stories reflected the regular version of Batman fans were used to from the 70’s. But the hunger for for a harder edged Batman would reach it’s peak with the 90’s Knightfall storyline, where Batman / Wayne is replaced by nutcase Jean Paul Valley, who uses deadlier weapons and becomes a parody of Batman while trying to replace him.

Batman by Greg Capullo one tough bastard
Miller’s Dark Knight by Greg Capullo

In the modern era we get a composite Batman. The athletic James Bond Batman of Neal Adams, the hard cynical bastard Batman of Frank Miller, the relentless manhunter Detective of Paul Dini, the Gothic Dark Knight of Bob Kane & Bill Finger and other great Bat-writers. The modern Batman is a mix of all these great elements, and the whole of Batman is greater than the simple sum of his parts, his diverse writers, artists and influencers.

He can be grim and cynical, he can be the light hearted Lego Batman or Adam West Batman, he can be eerie and creepy Batman in Kelley Jones horror stories, he can do it all. Batman is tough, he’s an awesome idea, nobody is going to break him by writing a bad story, Batman’s been around too long and is so damn cool and brilliant that he can do it all. Fighting white martians, fighting Superman, fighting sharks and jumping sharks, he’s been there, done that and now he’s ready for more.

“…this is the most perfect version of Batman ever. Wagner and Grant’s Batman is the gritty, damaged Miller version, merged with Morrison’s “love god”, merged with the father figure who raises and nurtures Robins, merged with the super-hero from the pages of Justice League. He’s every Batman, it’s all in him!  – Paul C. / FamousFanboy/Blogspot.com.au

 

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Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns”

While Alan Grant was a prolific Batman writer in the late eighties and into the nineties, his collaborator John Wagner contributed to only a select few Batman stories. Its makes his contribution however small that much more special. I’m not saying he is more important than any other Bat-writer over the decades, but to get to the modern Batman we love you have to go through Dirty Harry and Judge Dredd and Frank Miller’s Batman – the same way to fully understand the Golden Age Batman you need to know about Zorro, The Shadow, Doc Savage and Superman. Frank Miller’s influence is significant, but often over stated.

To follow the trail of the smiling daylight cop Batman to the dark detective Batman, his diversion into sci-fi bizarreness and high camp and a return to the darker Batman that revisited his Gothic roots from Detective Comics #27 you have follow the reinvention of characters at DC lead by Julius Schwartz such as the Silver Age Flash, which leads into Denny O Neil and Neil Adams Dark Knight Detective of the seventies, which leads into Doug Moench’s Batman of the 80s, Miller’s Dark Knight, Kelley Jones’ gothic horror Batman, Chuck Dixon stories of the 90’s. Paul Dini’s Batman Animated stories, Loeb and Sale’s Halloween stories, and all the regular amazing talent on the monthlies up to the modern day with fantastic runs from brilliant writers such as Grant Morrison and Scott Snyder.

POST POST POST MODERN CAPE AND COWL

Batman comics group editor Denny O Neil’s overall influence on Batman from 1970s-1990s cannot be understated. He has been involved with the character as a writer and editor for longer than any other individual, he was in the unique position to help reshape Batman from irrelevance to pop-culture juggernaut.

You don’t get Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, Nolan’s Batman Begins or Snyder’s Batman v Superman without the groundwork laid by Denny O’ Neil and other talented bastards over several decades. Denny takes Batman seriously, he respects the character and puts him in challenging situations where he is forced to rise to the challenge and use all his skills. Denny’s Batman is perhaps the most human. He fails, he expresses remorse, he is not invincible, unbeatable, nor any sort of  Bat-God under Denny O Neil’s pen.

Denny is perhaps the most significant writer to have ever worked on Batman next to his co-creator Bill Finger. His background as a crime reporter / journalist led him to include social and sometimes political commentary in his Batman stories in a seamless way that integrated with the core themes of Batman and whatever case the world’s greatest detective was trying to solve that month.

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Denny ‘O Neil along with other new generation writers of his era lifted the craft and quality not just of Batman, but the superhero genre of fiction. Putting real world issues into populist cheap entertainment gave Denny’s stories a more timeless feel. While some of the dialogue in those older stories can be a bit hammy, the themes of his stories still resonate today. With Neal Adams’ anatomically accurate drawings, and cinematic dynamic storytelling style, together Denny and Neil  redefined Batman for an entire generation of Batfans.

Including Batfan Paul Dini who (along with Alan Burnett and Bruce Timm) would redefine Batman yet again in the 90s with Batman the Animated Series, creating one of the the most definitive and enduring versions of Batman beloved by fans around the world.

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Wagner / Grant Batman in Detective Comics #596

 

NEW WAVE HEROES AND ANTIHEROES SETTLE IN

The new wave of western anti-heroes such as Clint Eastwood’s Blondie in For a Fistful of Dollars were seen as sheik, uber-cool nonchalant ass-kickers by the youth, and needlessly cruel and violent by the older generation who had grown up with relatively bloodless Westerns and exaggerated morally perfect heroes typified by John Wayne, Gary Cooper James Stewart and other stars. Sam Peckinpah continued the trend of bloody Westerns featuring unlikable and often downright villainous – yet human – characters.

With “emotional realism” taking precedence in the late 70s into the 80s, many stories in both films and comics also brought a kind of cynicism and existential meaninglessness that is still today often mistake for “realism” in general, rather than as a sub-genre of the “realism” movement that swept into film through the seventies, echoed a couple of decades later in TV and comics by the likes of Oz, The Wire, and The Walking Dead.

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From the 70’s to the 80’s we had the end of the John Wayne moral Cowboy / War Hero / Lawman characters and the rise of the anti-hero and excessive violence. This was the era of Wolverine and Judge Dredd, of Frank Miller’s Daredevil and Batman, of Dirty Harry, The Terminator, Robocop and Rambo. The trend of new wave surreal realistic violence started by genuine passionate film makers such as Sam Peckinpah devolved into mindless blood letting, bigger explosions and body counts, and a sort of amoral glorification of pro-american killing machines masquerading as fetishished unbeatable soldier heroes and one man armies on revenge missions for America.

Even the anti-war film Rambo, the grim and gritty tale of a shell-shocked Vietnam veteran who is unable to return to civilian life (a new sub-genre of film showing the real life after effects of the Vietnam war – rather than the glory and propaganda of earlier war films – first touched on in the in the PTSD infused The Deer Hunter) devolved into a remorseless killing machine in his sequels, depicting the jingoistic consequence free fantasy violence that the first film spoke out against.

The tie in jingoistic 80’s cartoon depicting John Rambo leading a team of “me too” G.I Joe type team on missions where rocket launchers, grenades and realistic automatic heavy artillery led somehow to blissful bloodless resolutions to american foreign concerns in exotic locations further eroded whatever credibility Rambo had established as a character in his first appearance. Further even bloodier sequels would cement Rambo’s memory as another 80’s murder/death/kill machine, drowning out the tone and message the first Rambo film established in a deafening roar of semiautomatic gunfire and garnished with a tidal wave of empty shell casings.

…AND THE REST

James bond continued to do what he does best through the years, leading from the lukewarm Bond of the 80’s to the politically correct but underwhelming Bond of the 90’s – Bond remained somewhat unpopular – as even the cold hearted killer BOND looked tame and boring next to the existential cool of Clint Eastwood or the bad boy outsiders like Judge Dredd, Batman and Wolverine who appeared in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

As the 70’s ended, so did the era of John Wayne, and moral cowboy heroes and conscience of America for several decades. The Duke  starred in his final film The Shootist (1976), a somber small scale western film about an aging gun fighter dying of terminal cancer. Directed by Dirty Harry’s Don Siegel, it’s the film nobody really expected to see after John Wayne’s semi-retirement from cowboy film in the 60’s.

James Bond continued on through the 80’s, and moving into the 90’s attempted to reinvigorate the franchise with Pearce Brosnan in four films (and a non canon video game)  that were an odd mix of poorly implemented political correctness and other 90’s cliches that failed to modernise Bond in any meaningful way. They were still fun films, but lacking in many ways. Brosnan was excellent as Bond, but the writing was not up to the standards it should have been for such a beloved character.

Not until the success of Batman Begins and The Bourne Identity did James Bond successfully move out of action adventure movie limbo (and legal dramas behind the scenes) to be reborn a meaner, more handsome, more clever and capable Bond than any we had seen ever before. The sense of humor and knowing winks to the camera of the Connery and Moore era were gone, this Bond was all seething rage, pain and pathos, this was James Bond: Year One, a reinvigoration of both the character and franchise that continued on for several films. Things had come full circle as 70’s Batman was heavily influenced by the cinematic James Bond, and decades later James Bond was heavily influenced by the cinematic Batman.

 

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Further permutations of the vigilante archetype played out through the eighties and into the nineties. One of the more interesting comic book oddities was Marvel’s Moon Knight.

Moon Knight was a creation of prolific Batman writer Doug Moench.

Having penned many Batman excellent stories, Moench created Marvel’s most superficially  Batman-like character “Moon Knight” in the late 70s. What was similar was the costume, money, gadgets, vigilante schtick and war on crime, what was different is that Marc Spector was formerly a mercenary, a cold blooded killer who was reborn as Moon Knight, whose new superhero mission was to serve as the avatar to Khonshu -the Egyptian God of the Moon.

Moon Knights depictions would vary over the decades from being a moral hero, to psychotic, to multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia. Moon Knight then is a Batman like character who is genuinely crazy, who sometimes kills, while still basically being a moral hero on a mission. Loose affiliations with the Defenders, Avengers and other teams mean Moon Knight varies in his personality and depiction as much by writer as because of his multiple personality disorder and supernatural origins.

While superficially similar to Batman, the Moon Knight stories are different enough to make him a genuinely interesting and even unique character.

Batman Judge Dredd 1

I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick tour of Batman’s vigilante contemporaries and influences. Coming up in a future article I’m going to take a look at the Golden Age characters who are part of Batman’s DNA like The Shadow, Doc Savage and Zorro.

So stick around, there is plenty more to come Batfans.
bat like judo throw

 

 

 

 

5 ESSENTIAL SUPER LIFE LESSONS FROM MELISSA BENOIST’S SUPERGIRL

Supergirl Melissa Benoist eating S shaped super cake

There is nothing in my life that I would go back and change, even the darkest moments. All the successes and greatest joys in my life are a result of the absolute worst things. Every missed opportunity is a blessing is disguise – Ronda Rousey

Supergirl Melissa Benoist smile cape

1.YOU CAN NEVER GO BACK TO YOUR OLD LIFE, BUT YOU CAN REINVENT YOURSELF AND KEEP MOVING FORWARD

With the painful loss of her home planet of Krypton, her whole way of life and everything she knew – it was the toughest event that Kara Zor-El ever faced. But the loss of Krypton was the gain of Kara’s new home on earth, her new earth foster family, her new super powers and becoming the selfless iconic hero Supergirl.

Kara would never have become Supergirl if not for the death of her parents, the same way Bruce Wayne would never have become Batman without the death of his parents, or Kara’s cousin Kal-El would never have become Superman.

Krypton’s loss was earth’s gain. Kara’s ordinary life was destroyed, and she was called to her destiny on earth. But it wasn’t easy. For years she hid her powers and who she was from all but her foster family. Eventually Kara embraced her new self – superpowers, being an alien outsider on a new world and became Supergirl. She embraced living the unique life that only Kara Zor-El could live.

I love pretty much everything about our Kara. She’s pretty, strong, kind, caring, helpful, adorable and becomes badass when she has to –  Reddit User ‘Furan_Ring’

Supergirl illustration Melissa Benoist

2.WHEN PEOPLE LOVE YOU – KEEP BEING A HERO WHEN PEOPLE HATE YOU  – KEEP BEING A HERO

Don’t let other people’s perception of who you are and what you stand for shape your core values. Whether people love, hate or are indifferent to you, you must live the life only you know how to live, and live the principles, values and choices that makes the most sense to you right now.

We can’t predict the future, we don’t know what good or bad consequences will come of our actions, but we do know the values we live by, and if we are not happy with that, we can upgrade our values to better ones and develop new habits that serve us rather than hold us back.

Heroes choose their own values, mission and code of behavior to live by, they don’t wait for someone to tell them what to do and they don’t ask permission to be who they know they have to be.

Supergirl fight master jailer bad dude

There are times when people will love and support what you do. You can accept support from others, but don’t become dependent on that, instead welcome all who choose to help you, but be self-reliant and accept no excuses for living anything less than an authentic life.

There are times when people may hate you, or what you stand for. They may openly ciriticise you, or do it behind your back. You can waste you time and efforts trying to manage others people’s perception of you, or you can simply be indifferent to people’s ideas about you – good or bad.

supergirl hands on hip hero pose melissa benoist

Being free of the need for approval or criticism means you live life on your own terms. It doesn’t mean being rude and arrogant to people you disagree with or don’t like. It does mean affirming who you are and not letting people push you around, and being immune to other people’s ideas about who you are and what you should do with your life.

Supergirl Melissa Benoist meets Flash Grant Gustin

Instead you must choose your own way of life and maintain an inner light that never wavers. A hero’s inner light and belief in themselves stays lit through the darkest stormiest night and brightest day and is unchanging.

The world corrupts those who are easily corrupted, while those who stand firm in their belief in themselves are untouchable by any force in this world.

So whether people love you, or hate or are indifferent to you – keep living the life only you know how to live, keep being a hero or heroine in your own unique way.

supergirl martian manhunter flying melissa benoist

3. SOME BATTLES WE MUST FIGHT ALONE, WHILE OTHERS WE HAVE TO ASK FOR THE HELP AND CO-OPERATION OF THOSE ON WHOM WE DEPEND

We all have things we must do for ourselves by ourselves each day, and then there are tasks in life that are beyond us and our current abilities, in these times we must ask for help. We all need co-operation in our lives if want to become greater than we were yesterday, and be excited about tomorrow.

Supergirl tv kara melissa benoist sister aunty capured house of EL

We all need friends, family, associates and well wishers to co-operate with if we want to keep overcoming obstacles in our lives, or get projects done that are simply too big for one person, no matter how smart, strong, resilient or talented.

A heroine looks after her family and friends and all those whom depend on her. And she knows the people who truly value her will be there for her when she needs them. Co-operation allows us to get large projects done and things that would be impossible for one person to ever achieve. To be greater than we were yesterday and excited for tomorrow, we need to cultivate healthy relationships with friends, family and associates.

Kara Supergirl tv show main cast melissa benoist

4. FAMILY IS NOT JUST BLOOD, BUT THE PEOPLE WHO SHOW UP IN YOUR LIFE

Family are the people who show up in your life who love you and support you unconditionally. We are all born with one type of family. Some people have families that love and support them. Other people have families that treat them poorly or even abuse them. Most of us find our experience lies somewhere in between the two extremes of unconditional love and outright abuse.

But along with our biological family, are the people who show up in our lives and love us, who support us, without anyone ever asking them to, and without being related by blood.

Supergirl-TV-Show-Dean-Cain-Helen-Slater

So whether blood relative or just someone who chooses to be part of your life, family is whoever shows up and loves you, whoever supports you in your choices even when they disagree with them. Loving someone only when they agree with you is not really love. The people who show up in our lives and support us no matter what choices we make are like rare jewels in this world – they are people to be treasured and appreciated.

As Kara is an alien outsider in this world, we too at times feel likes outsiders. We all need to find our own version of fitting in and belonging. To accomplish that we can either compromise who we are and try to “fit in” with other people and their values – or we can look for a tribe that already shares our common values, that accept us for who we are, rather than belittle us for what we are not and will never be. Those who truly love us and support us are our family every bit as much as our blood relatives.

Supergirl smile chyler leigh on set melissa benoist

5. BE YOURSELF – THE UNIQUE SELF THAT THE WORLD NEEDS YOU TO BE

Conformity means taking on others peoples values as more important than your own. It means taking on other peoples ideas about who you are, what you should do, and their own selfish opinions about how you should live your life. No other persons “opinion” about you, should ever be more important than your own opinion of yourself.

No other person has the right to choose your values for you, or try and live your life for you. You MUST choose your own values, go your own way and be uniquely you, you must BE YOURSELF  because you simply can’t be anyone else. It’s just not possible.

Supergirl head_in_the_clouds_by_5red-d8tztzm

Only you are uniquely qualified to know how to be the best version of yourself. The world demands and expects conformity, it expects well behaved polite automatons who don’t think for themselves. But doing that means not only compromising who you are, it means depriving the world of your unique talents and abilities.

The world demands conformity and mindless drones, but what it NEEDS is unique individuals who say “YES!” to life, people unafraid to express themselves, and live their unique lives as only they can.

The world needs people who accept themselves and know it is “okay” to be you, it is okay be different. It is okay be strange and flawed, to feel doubts, insecurity and vulnerability. To be vulnerable is to be human.

Our differences are what make us unique and often the source of hidden strengths.

Supergirl hands on hip confident smile Melissa Benoist

People who live fearlessly are the ones ones who shape our future, they are often invisible leaders and trend-setters, they are paradigm busters and rebels, they refuse to be classified or labeled or held back by any kind of limiting belief. They also get scared and doubt themselves and have both spectacular successes and monumental failures in life.

They are our heroes and super-heroes. They are our family and our friends. They are our peer groups. They are YOU and me. Because no hero or heroine can accomplish anything worthwhile by themselves. We are in this life together.

Heroines and Heroes stand up for themselves and just as important – they stand up for those who are not able to stand up for themselves, for the people who have no voice in this world.

The greater our co-operation, the greater our capacity to love, the greater is our potential as everyday heroes and heroines – the kind the world needs to stand up for what they believe in and be heard with a unique voice and one of a kind perspective.

Supergirl Melissa Benoist with Super Girl Scouts

5 ESSENTIAL HARD HITTING LIFE LESSONS FROM BATMAN

Batman Profile 1

1. YOU CAN TRANSFORM YOUR GREATEST FAILURES AND PERSONAL TRAGEDIES INTO YOUR GREATEST STRENGTHS

Youn Bruce Wayne saw his parents brutally murdered before his eyes. He swore an oath to “war on all criminals”. Instead of growing up a rich trust fund baby, he instead became the Batman, a one man army who fights a never ending war on crime with single minded determination and courage.

Batman fights the corruption that tangles like a creeper weed around the heart of Gotham City choking the very life blood of Batman’s chosen kingdom. By night Batman fights crime in the streets, and by day the Wayne Foundation fights the causes of crime like poverty., homelessness and lack of education.

Bruce Wayne is Batman 24/7. He never rests, he never stops. His dedication, and passion is unwavering, his commitment, 100%.

Batman Incorporated Wayne Foundation fights crime and poverty

Batman - Dark Detective oath to war on all criminals

batman cemetery flowers grave 1

In real life Jamie Walton was forced into a life of child prostitution. Jamie Walton is a survivor of child sex crimes in the United States and she runs the real life Wayne Foundation started by herself and Kevin Smith.

You  can find the Wayne Foundation website here

Wayne Foundation Header Jamie Walton 1

Mission Statement

The Wayne Foundation is committed to spreading awareness of CSEC (Commercial Sex Exploitation of Children) DMST (Domestic Minor Sexual Trafficking) occurring within the United States.

Vision Statement

The Wayne Foundation’s vision is for a world without child slavery. We are dedicated to providing direct assistance to those victimized by exploitation.

By starting the Wayne Foundation, Jamie Walton has taken one of the greatest most horrific things that could have happened to her in her life and turned it into a strength. By offering shelter, a network and access to integral services for young women who have been cruelly exploited – she offers them a way out, a way to start the process of escape and recovery from modern day sex slavery in America that the mainstream media barely even acknowledges and polite society doesn’t even want to talk about, let alone do anything.

Jamie Walton Kevin Smith public service announcement sex trafficing

If you want to donate to this worthy cause, or simply find out more about the organisation and it’s services, then please visit the website Wayne Foundation Donation page.

You can listen to Jamie Walton’s heart breaking true story as she tells it over a series of Podcasts with Kevin Smith. It’s very hard to listen to, but I urge you, like Batman to face darkness head on rather than run away or be afraid of that which is extremely disturbing.

2. NEVER GIVE UP ON BECOMING THE GREATEST VERSION OF YOURSELF

The Batman is always learning, always adding to his skill set. Ever-becoming, always hungry, never satisfied. His yearning for self-knowledge, growth, understanding and developing his skills knows no limits. In real life we have to learn many skills to be of any use in the world – and that is a lifelong process.

To become better people, to grow up into a healthy fully functioning human being means accepting the responsibility for your own growth process. It also means whatever we can’t do alone we should get help with. Batman may spend most of his time alone, buy he has Alfred to help him every step of the way, and Bat-Family made up of Robin, Nightwing / Grayson, Batgirl, Huntress, Catwoman and others who help him during his most challenging crises.
Bruce Wayne kid parents murdered-tile

We become better people through co-operation with others and ourselves, through building life affirming habits rather than soul destroying addictions. Becoming the best version of yourself means going beyond your own self-imposed limits. It means saying “YES!” to life and getting off your ass every day, facing your demons and doing whatever the hell you need to do today that gets you to where you ought to be. It means learning whatever skills you have to – to get where you know you need to be in life.

Becoming the greatest version of yourself must be a conscious choice. It is an ongoing process. Like Batman, simply deciding what direction to face in, deciding where your life is heading in the future can have a powerful impact on today, on how you live your life every moment from now on.

Becoming the best version of yourself means living personal excellence at all levels, and always looking to make improvements however small or incremental. It means living life not just with your head, but with your heart. It means being vulnerable and afraid, and feeling shame or doubt or any any other universal human quality, accepting all of it and using it as fuel like Batman. Constantly driving us to become better versions of ourselves, and not accepting lazy excuses or half-hearted efforts. It means taking all your failures and successed and using them as fuel to propel you forward to greatness and new heights of achievement.

lazy-batman

Batman ain’t lazy, and he doesn’t do “too hard” or “can’t be bothered today” – he charges forward with an unbreakable laser-like focus on whatever he sets his attention to, and why would you want to give anything less than your best effort?

You are your most authentic self when you show up in life and give everything you have, making no excuses for mediocrity. Total dedication, total commitment, living with purpose in every step, in every breath – is a daily choice. You may fail, but you damn well better show up and give life your best effort, nobody can fault you for that.

Batman lucky stan head and shoulders bats

3. NO MATTER WHAT DIFFICULTIES YOU FACE IN LIFE – KEEP MOVING!

No matter what tragedies, good fortune and suffering we experience in this life, there is a hard truth that we have to make peace with. WE HAVE TO KEEP MOVING.

Life is growth and movement. We stop moving – we die.

Batman running roof top Jim Lee

Giving up on ourselves or on those whom we are responsible for means remaining stationary, taking no strides towards our goals or mission in life. There are times and places to sit and contemplate, or talk with people who can help us through grief and other types of suffering. Whatever we do in life, we’re going to experience suffering. We can either be crippled by that revelation or empowered by it. If we know ahead of time, that there will good times and horrible times, we can mentally say to ourselves

“Yes, I am a going to face whatever challenges and suffering come my way in life, and like the Batman I’m going to rise up and embrace it, rather than run away or repress whatever fears I must face”

When you keep moving you have momentum, and it’s easier to change the direction of your life when you are already in motion, than when you are stationary.

Batman ready to kick ass and take names

We all have the same 24 hours in a day. The only difference is how we use them. Every day we must get out of bed , brush our teeth, get dressed and face the world. So do whatever you have to do during hard times – cry, get angry, blame the world, the economy or whatever you like while you endure the unendurable – but keep moving. Batman welcomes challenges and difficulties – they make him stronger as he inevitably finds a way to overcome them – and you can do the same.

4. WHERE THERE IS A WILL, THERE IS A WAY

I have a silly expression I often like to say to myself:

“Batman does 5 IMPOSSIBLE things before breakfast”

It is an exaggeration on the myth of Batman as BAT-GOD (being unbeatable), but when you set your attitude to being able to do the “impossible” and just turn a blind eye and ear to anyone who tries to stop you or criticize you – you end up routinely doing the impossible.

bat god jla geoff johns mobius chair

The impossible is not walking on water like Jesus, punching like the Hulk or flying like Superman – in the real world the so called impossible is often other people’s lack of faith in themselves and their own abilities projected onto you.

Or your own lack of faith in yourself and your abilities. Where would the world be if every time somebody said something was “impossible” we gave up without even trying? We would have no Batman for one thing.

DC EDITOR:  “We need another hero like Superman by Monday Bob!”

BOB KANE: “Well, that is impossible, it simply can’t be done so I won’t even try.”

When you stand for something in this world – whether you shine brightly in the sun like Superman, or do what you do best in obscurity like Batman in the shadows – well some people are going to get jealous and want to drag you back down to their level. Don’t let them do it. Be immune to critics, and do “5 Impossible Things Before Breakfast”.

Doing the impossible is not really about setting world records, or trying to impress anyone as it is about going beyond your own self-perceived limitations. You don’t know what you are truly capable of until you do it. And those who never try will seal their own fate as people dis-satisfied with life, too afraid of their own shadows to move forward and accomplish new things.

Batman kicking ass and taking names X

5. BATMAN IS NOT JUST MAN, A COSTUME, A LOGO OR URBAN BOOGEYMAN. BATMAN IS AN ATTITUDE.

I frequently refer to Batitude in my verbose rambling Batman articles.

Batitude is a fun word that was popularised with the release of The LEGO Movie. But more than a social meme, my version of Batitude represents having  a Batman like attitude to life. You are are reading about this attitude right now. I hope you also live it.

I apply the same kind of mental discipline to my physical and mental training, and values in life that Batman does.

Batman brooding black red background

You can leave out the the negative stuff about Batman – the depression, stand offish attitude and the murdered parents part, and embrace the good stuff from Batman. You can choose your own personal version of Batitude, Bat Wisdom and Bat Values and live it however you damn well please.

For me Batman is an avatar of darkness, of our individual and collective shadow self, someone who walks the line between light and darkness, denying nothing in himself and accepting everything. If you take a look at my Batman Value Grid you can see some of his overall qualities and characteristics. It’s up to you to choose the values your own values to live by.

table-of-batman-essential-qualities-by-john-sorensen

The particular values I aspire to live by in my own life inspired by Batman include:

Heroic, Determination, Goal Focused, Single Minded, Relentless, IRON WILL, Protector, Strong Man, Mission and Purpose.

However – I don’t always live up to those qualities, but I damn sure aim in that direction and take action every day of my life.

The alternative is to drift aimlessly through life standing for nothing, and being basically nothing. You know you’ve met people like that all too often, so don’t become one. Instead rise up like Batman and live the best life you can imagine for yourself and others. Find your own mission, find your own purpose and get busy being of service however you can.

BATITUDE 1

It’s up to you to choose your own values to live by, but whatever version of Batitude you apply in your own life, don’t compromise who you are, don’t give up on being the greatest version of yourself you can become. Remember that like Batman, at any stage of life you can totally reinvent yourself and go in new directions, learn new skills, and literally be a new person. No matter what tragedies you suffer, no matter what happens, you get up off your ass and keep moving. You take each day one step at a time, making steady progress towards your goals and dreams.

If you can’t remember all of that, then remember this simple mantra;

“BE LIKE BATMAN”

And remember whatever you do in life you can’t always choose the circumstances, but you can can control how you react to the circumstances and events of your life.

By choosing the right kind of BATITUDE!

batman david mazzucchelli bright night 2

Superman, John Wayne and Apple Pie

A hero at best can only reflect our cultural values.

A hero reflects the way we want to see ourselves.

Or how we imagine the best version of ourselves to be.

A hero represents our collective dreams and imagination.  Heroes are wish fulfillment fantasies while also being ciphers for projecting the best version of ourselves into the future.

The hero archetype occurs in diverse cultures around the world.

America is home to (and the innovator of) two unique versions of the hero archetype – the silver screen Cowboy and the comic book Superhero.

superman pie 1

I love Western films and I can’t get enough of Superhero comic books, so let’s talk a little about heroic archetypes, in this case the definitive Cowboy and the Superhero – Superman and John Wayne.

A hero can choose their actions and live their values, but can only be truly called a hero by an observer.  To call oneself a hero means basically nothing, it is more a label other people apply to the hero.  The hero simply is.

Modern fictional heroes tend to lean more towards pacifism than historical heroes.  But we have no shortage of the soldier/killer hero type of character.  Old time Greek heroes from myths and legends thought nothing of killing monsters or their fellow man in the name of their quest, or if the Gods asked them in return for special favors.Modern heroes like Superman resort to violence as a last resort, and try to avoid killing any living thing unless absolutely necessary.

To some people this non-violence is the evolution of the hero archetype in alignment with modern human values, to other people not killing a clear and present threat is just naive.  There is no right or wrong answer here, merely differences of opinion and cultural values.

The shadow side of a hero becomes an imperialist, conqueror or being of power who imposes his (or her) will on another, regardless of circumstance.  The hero in shadow becomes a self-righteous person unable to stop being the hero, and who is not really a person concerned with serving the genuine needs of others, but with serving their own needs, and enforcing their will on others as they believe they are morally right to do so.  The hero as villain may become a benevolent dictator or world conqueror / self appointed ruler.

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Superman is the definitive Superhero.  He’s a little old fashioned, he sticks up for the little guy and he visits his parents perhaps a little too often.  He believes in looking after each other, and he believes in America.

He’s the big blue boy scout, the angel on your shoulder that tells you to avoid doing bad deeds, America’s conscience.

He’s the guy who blah blah blah blah and he……..ZZZZZZZ…..

……..SORRY!  I fell asleep there for a moment.

So yeah Superman is a little vanilla, a little boring.  At least according to some people.  I get it, Superman is not what you would call edgy or cool or extreme like Batman.

Classic golden age superman

But frankly I love Superman.  I’ve been reading a a fair amount of classic and modern Superman stories lately, and the more I read the more I love the character.  While Batman is my favourite literary character, I can’t think of him without thinking of Superman, they are like Spiritual brothers, forever entwined.

Yes, it’s Superman–strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman–defender of law and order, champion of equal rights, valiant, courageous fighter against the forces of hate and prejudice, who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth and justice. – Adventures of Superman radio serial, 1940-1951 (thanks to the CBR Comic Book Legends Revealed column for the quote text)

Batman Superman yin yang

When I think of these semi-mythic timeless pop-cultural icons I am reminded of classical greek myths and legends.

The Avengers are an awesome team, but the JLA are like modern day Gods!

If Superman represents all that is good about America, then Batman is America’s dark underbelly, repressed feelings, ideas and values.  Batman is America’s Shadow self that it doesn’t want to acknowledge.  I think  Grant Morrison sums them up wonderfully in his Supergods book:

“Superman was of the day; Batman was of the night and the shadows. Superman was rational, Apollonian; Batman was Dionysian” writes Grant Morrison in Supergods. This fascinating new hero was horned like the Devil, and most at home in darkness; a terrifying, demonic presence who worked on the side of the angels. – Alex Wainer quoting Grant Morrison in Soul of the Dark Knight: Batman as Mythic Figure in Comics and Film

I tend to think of Superman like Helios and Apollo, Greek mythic figures associated with the sun.  Morrison refers to Superman as the “Sungod from Smallville” – after all, Superman is a living solar battery.  The more solar energy he stores, the stronger and healthier he is, and the less solar radiation he has stored the weaker he gets.  Take away the yellow sun and Superman’s powers fade away until he becomes basically mortal and human.

superman frank quitely sun all star superman1 grant morrison
“All Star Superman” by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

Superman’s values may be old fashioned but they still have relevance in today’s world.  In a healthy creative cycle somebody creates something – let’s say in this case the fictional character Superman.

The character becomes popular, and then that popularity declines.  Along with the decline in popularity (but not always) comes experimentation, irrelevance, revision, revamp, relaunch, deconstructionism, post modernism, and eventually a return to the original version via Holism.  What was old becomes new again, what was no longer in style comes back in style.  The classic version of a character re-emerges, now more fully defined, and thoroughly explored after going through the creative literary cycle.

From Superman’s humble origins as a champion of the underclasses, the poor, and the disenfranchised to a tool of wartime propaganda and later a corporate icon, to his evolution into a protector of the planet earth from threats both alien and terrestrial, Superman is as Seinfeld calls him “the guy”.

superman seinfeld 1

Superman is the original, the best, the definition of what a Superhero is, or could hope to be.

Despite his metamorphosis from modern day Moses and Samson into a sort of Space Jesus – Superman is still “the guy”. He’s the gold standard all other superheroes are compared to.  He is the living inspiration to generations of fictional heroes in the DC Universe, and he’s an inspiration to a few of us here in the real world too.  He may be old fashioned like your Grandfather – but he’s also loving, kind, and lives to serve others.

One of my all time favourite Superman stories that best represents Superman’s values and what he stands for is the tabloid sized Peace on Earth story by Paul Dini and Alex Ross.  Superman: Peace on Earth is a great snap shot of the values that Superman embodies, while also showing the limitations of the Sungod from Smallville.

Superman_Peace_On_Earth_COVER Alex Ross Paul Dini

The painted  photo-realistic art by Alex Ross in Peace of Earth is based on human models.  The base model Ross transforms into a fictional character, with accurate anatomy and lighting that bring his stories to glorious life.

Peace on Earth deals with some possible real world ramifications to Superman forcing change on human beings.  Despite the realist art style, the book still feels like a mythic tale of a near immortal sun god who walks among us, and painfully realises despite his immense power he has some very human limitations.

What Superman comes to realise is that you can help people all you like, but ultimately they have to want to help themselves.  People have to want to learn and act on that choice themselves, otherwise your efforts can just make people dependent on your “help”, and will perhaps do nothing to evolve in their own way.  This kind of help can even set humanity back by making them dependent on a savior figure, instead of choosing to evolve and think for themselves.

Superman: “I can only tell you what I believe, Diana. humankind has to be allowed to climb to its own destiny. We can’t carry them there.”
Flash: “But that’s what she’s saying. What’s the point? Why should they need us at all?”
Superman: “To catch them if they fall.”

-JLA #4

Superman_Peace_On_Earth CROPPED

The welfare of Earth and all its people will always be my primary concern. But if there is a solution of hunger, it must be one that comes from the compassionate heart of man and extends outward toward his fellow man. There’s an old saying: ‘Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.’ That simple message asks humankind to nurture with knowledge, to reach out to those in need and inspire others to do the same. That is life’s greatest necessity and its most precious gift. – Superman : Peace on Earth

Okay we will come back to Superman later, but now let’s talk about John Wayne, the all American cowboy hero.  John Wayne was an actor, the most famous screen cowboy that ever was, and in many ways, John Wayne IS America.

Or at least he was.

John Wayne stood for the old guard of America, or more specifically pre-Vietnam and pre-civil rights America where the American dream rapidly became the American nightmare.  There were cowboys before John Wayne, but during his reign as a Hollywood leading man, John Wayne became the definitive film cowboy, he defined the cowboy archetype and any cowboys who rode the dusty trails in his wake are forever eclipsed by The Duke.

While John Wayne had some controversial, perhaps backwards and conservative views, even his critics admit that he was one hell of a man, who almost never said a bad word (at least publicly) about anyone.  Despite his unpopular views during the rapidly changing culture of the post World War II years, and the death of the Western as a film genre in the modern era, John Wayne remains a much loved figure of film culture and Americana.

Wayne’s on screen characters were consistently men of good moral character, who stood up to bullies and outlaws.  Wayne had a no nonsense way of speaking his mind both on and off the silver screen.  John Wayne was a man’s man.  He was big, strong, kind and he spoke his mind.  One of his most well known movie maxims “A man’s got to do, what a man’s got to do”.

John Wanye portrait by Doctor_Pencil_Deviant_Art
‘The Duke’ by Doctor-Pencil / DeviantArt

Wayne’s on screen persona was one of quiet dignity, strength and good moral character.  While off screen he spent most of his time involved in the production of his next project, away from his family, and he never went to war.

He was the only person I could think of at the time who could personify great strength and determination without talking much.  That sounds easy, perhaps. But it’s not.  Either you have it or you don’t.

-John Ford on casting Wayne in Stagecoach

Some of Wayne’s critics felt that John Wayne was a hypocrite for appearing in jingoistic war films, while not going to war himself.  At the time, many leading men in Hollywood did go to war.  Men such as Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable and Lee Marvin.  Some critics would say there was a  disconnect from Wayne’s on screen persona to who he actually was.  Despite this seeming hypocrisy, Wayne was still considered a hero by soldiers and civilians alike.

With other leading men away during the war, Wayne had very little competition for lead roles.  His career had earlier bombed when he first had the opportunity to be a leading man in The Big Trail (1930), only to be sent back to B-Westerns for the better part of a decade.  Had John Wayne gone to war, it likely would have been the death of his career, if not his actual death.  Wayne would most likely be remembered as just another struggling actor in B Westerns, or more than likely not remembered at all.  Wayne forged an enduring partnership and friendship with director John Ford.  Ford believed in John Wayne and insisted on casting him in Stagecoach (1939), the film that made John Wayne’s career.

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John Wayne in Stagecoach (1939)

Whatever went on off screen, it seemed that John Wayne was fated to become one of America’s most beloved leading men.  Personally I feel glad that he never went to war to potentially die a pointless death, as his on screen persona would go on to define the role of the American Cowboy hero for decades.  You could say John Wayne had a destiny to be exactly who he intended to be in this life, and nothing in this world was going to change that.

While the Cowboy archetype in the negative aspect is one of potential oppression of the Native American people by Colonials, the Cowboy myth in the positive aspect also stands for determination, self-reliance, hard work, honesty and integrity.  In short the mythic Cowboy film archetype is also a symbol of the rugged individualism, “can do” attitude and self-determination of America, and is tied to the birth of the American dream.

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Ron Howard and John Wayne in his final film ‘The Shootist’ (1976)

I feel we can all learn a little something from John Wayne, as a on screen example of heroism and determination in the face of adversity, an example of a man of moral character and strong values.  Wayne was human of course, and he had his flaws as all of us do.

Whether ranch hand, settler, farmer, bounty hunter or sheriff, the Cowboy archetype has many facets and permutations.  The Cowboy as sheriff or Lawman becomes the modern day urban cop.  Industrious settlers became captains of industry.  The farmer Cowboy fulfills the typical american dream of marriage, children, property and prosperity born of hard industrious labor and a “can do” attitude.

Modern cowboys still exist in certain parts of America of course, and the general attitude of “Cowboy” is one that America is often labelled with as a whole in a derogatory sense, particularly in reference to America’s never ending invasions and wars in third world countries.

The cowboy archetype never truly died and is alive and well in some modern fictional characters such as Pete Perkins (Tommy Lee Jones) in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) in Justified, and Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) in Longmire.

John Wayne Mug1 Even John Wayne’s critics had a hard time when they met him in person, finding him an opinionated, strong, likable, intelligent, charismatic and reasonable man.

What John Wayne stands for today, is the archetype of the rugged individual, the man’s man.  This classical male archetype that has all but disappeared from our cinema screens in recent decades with the rise of the “sensitive” man and the metrosexual dilution of typically old world male values in mainstream cinema culture.

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From the 1960s-2000 we have seen the death of the manly moral Cowboy hero, and the rise of the anti-hero, the amoral bloodthirsty action hero, and the new age metrosexual hero such as Neo in The Matrix (a thin loner computer nerd who becomes an enlightened Superman figure).  We’ve seen our heroes and manly men deconstructed, pulled apart, vilified, called redundant, sexist and old-fashioned. Even James Bond was not immune to the rise of culture clash, and changing gender roles at home and in the workplace.

While films like the James Bond series attempted to remain socially relevant by aping changes in cultural values, instead the films merely adopted a horrendously bad politically correct style that left Bond effectively castrated, a shell of his former self.  Not until the reinvention of Bond as Daniel Craig in Casino Royale (2006) did Bond get his balls and machismo back.

Post year 2000 we have seen the rise of the comic book superhero film, and not so much a return to the old fashioned potentially racist, sexist misogynist Cowboy heroism, as a further evolution and re invigoration of the hero and heroine archetype.  Moral heroes likes Captain America and Superman are back on the big screen where they belong, and what was once old is new again.  Thankfully a stand alone Wonder Woman film is finally making its way to the big screen, 70+ years overdue, the tireless icon of the super-heroine, the adopted feminist icon and all around amazing Goddess will hopefully get the cinematic treatment she deserves, standing as a rightful equal next to the JLA in “mans’ world”.

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Old fashioned hero vales may be synonymous with bigotry, but they need not be.  We can enjoy heroes without them being sexist killers, racists and colonials.  Male heroes can have charisma, charm, balls and machismo, without being cookie sexist stereotypes who put women down.  Female heroines can be empowered strong Women in their own right, without just being a reaction to male heroes, or serving as convenient plot devices.

The superhero archetype may have been born in a patriarchal world, but there is no reason for superheroes to remain tethered to outdated and irrelevant paradigms.

 A hero or heroine need not be anything other than what they choose to be.

The power of the hero and superhero archetype is not locked into the past, but remains progressive and ever-expanding.  A hero need not be implicitly be a killer, enforcer of empire, or the “might makes right” attitude.

Many classical and contemporary heroes have been exactly that.  But the further evolution of the hero and superhero archetype is not dependent on reinforcing limiting cultural values of the oppression of any individual or group.  The hero and heroine archetype does not have to continue to be one of sexism, violence and death, it has far more potential as an archetype of higher values, compassion, co-operation and service to humanity.
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With popular comic book heroes we get our puritan moral characters such as Superman and Captain America, our dark, cynical and conflicted characters such as Wolverine, Batman and The Punisher, alongside more middle of the road moral characters such as Spider-Man, and monsters such as the half-human/vampire Blade and the genetic atomic monster The Incredible Hulk.  The hero-ism and moral values of these characters varies, each can be said to emphasise a different aspect of the human psyche, allowing for playful healthy expression of our higher values and darker desires in safe context.

The over dominance of male-centric hero characters and plots reflects an unbalanced patriarchal society while simultaneously showing our fear of embracing the feminine aspects of our psyche, both in men and women.

Superhero cinema embraces and draws upon all other genres at its leisure.  Action movies, horror, science fiction, drama, fantasy, existentialism, comedy, western.  Any and all filmic tropes are up for grabs.  The Wild Bunch or The Dirty Dozen can become the Suicide Squad.  The Magnificent Seven or Ocean’s 11 can become The Avengers.

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The further evolution and integration of basic human values in Superhero Cinema is up to the new generation of writers and film makers.  Will they continue down the outmoded path of sexist colonial male heroes with women sidelined as femme fatales, kung-fu divas and other ridiculous stereotypes?  Or perhaps dare to evolve themselves and their world by writing strong independent female heroines?  In my opinion we need more Joss Whedon’s and Angelina Jolie’s in the world.  We need to hear the authentic voice of the feminine at all levels of society, particularly in superhero cinema.

Getting back to Superman (you didn’t seriously think I was done did you?) – Superman’s story is the ultimate immigrant story.  As a character he is timeless and universal.  While born on Krypton and adopted by Ma an Pa Kent on Earth, Superman is truly a citizen of the world, an advocate along with Wonder Woman for world peace, and a tireless champion of Justice, Freedom and Truth.

The famous phrase “Truth, Justice and the American Way” was not part of the original incarnation of Superman, the “American Way” part was added later during World War Two, most famously it was adopted by the George Reeves Superman TV show, and then became part of Superman lore.

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Truth, Justice and… Insurance? [Image courtesy of SupermanHomepage.com]
Truth and Justice can be said to be ideals that can apply in any nation, but “The American Way” makes Superman into an imperialist, an enforcer of American culture and values.  Fans and some writers would argue he has outgrown that status, and has become more like modern world mythology.  Superman today then belongs not only to America, but to the world. The character even renounced his US Citizenship in Action Comics #900, however it is unknown whether that story by David S. Goyer was canon, or merely a one off experiment.

As a non-American, I agree with the decision of Superman. He is more than an American. He is a symbol of peace, justice and humanity. He is no more the puppet toy of one country.

-An anonymous internet fan on ‪‎Superman renouncing his US Citizenship in Action Comics #900

Revisionist and post-modern Superhero stories such as Watchmen, Miracle Man, Dark Knight Returns, Superman: Red Son, The Authority and Irredeemable show the potential negative side of the Superman archetype.  These stories show a Superman figure as a potential tool of empire, as an iron fisted tyrant, an otherworldly alien threat (the eternal outsider or “other” who threatens the status quo), and as an mentally ill evil alien God of near limitless power.

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While these stories are entertaining and brilliant in their own right, their place in the canon of Superhero stories is part of a larger cycle.  Creation, Innovation, Experimentation, Deconstructionism, Post-Modernism and eventual metamorphosis back to Holism (the reintegration of the various deconstructed story parts and themes that often resembles the very first version of character) means that even stories not about Superman, ultimately help to define who and what Superman IS, by showing us what he is NOT.

In a similar fashion, the Batman “Knightfall” story gave the world a Batman it did not want, and clearly demonstrated that Batman (as an idea) was not broken, and was not in need of fixing.  Similarly, Superman is not “broken” or irrelevant.  The Man of Steel’s stories are as strong and relevant as the authors ability to write engaging fiction.

Superman stories are as emotionally resonant and deeply meaningful as a writer allows them to be.

The values Superman stands for are not just old fashioned and irrelevant so much as timeless and subject to innovation that ultimately brings the character full circle back to his earliest incarnation. Superman (and Batman) can withstand endless revisionism and retconning because they are such strong well defined characters to begin with, yet with room to project something of ourselves onto the characters so that we can also relate to them.

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One writer who has struck a chord with modern fans is Jeph Loeb.  Loeb has been a writer for the big and little screens, and comic books for several decades.  Jeph Loeb knows characterisation and plot like the back of his hand.  More than that, he knows how to reinvent a character for a new audience, or reinterpret a character to bring them back in line with their core values that were present all along.  What was old and boring becomes fresh and new again in the hands of a talented writer such as Jeph Loeb.

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Fan Favourite “Superman: For All Seasons” by Loeb and Sale

The earliest version of Superman was a man of the people, and for the people.  While modern Superman battles crooks, super-criminals and space aliens on a weekly basis, he still rescues cats from trees, saves damsels in distress and helps out the common man and woman however he can.  Superman never truly ceased being a man of the people, he just took on more responsibility than anyone could rightly ever ask him to.  He transcended and included his earlier stories, he continues to be the champion and inspirational figure he always was and will be, while evolving beyond a simple minded moralistic crusader of Truth, Justice and the American Way.

Modern Superman is smart and capable.  While the sungod from Smallville walks among us, no less a man than a God, he is still flawed and deeply human.  He makes mistakes and questions his actions like any sane person would do.  Modern Superman is more complex, more intelligent, stronger and most importantly more human than his earliest incarnation.

Superman is in a sense the best of us, or one potential version of what we collectively imagine the best version of ourselves to be.  He is a man from Smallville, a farmer, a keen eyed reporter, and a living deity of near limitless power.  To some he is Hercules and Samson, to others he is baby Moses floating down the Nile river, to others he is a messianic Christ like figure who suffers for our ill-informed choices, and never complains as all he has for us is Love, tolerance and peace – no matter how badly we treat him.

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Superman can take it, because now and forever, he is “the guy”.  The cloth, the mold from which all Superheroes are cut and defined.  The all American square jaw, the courage of his convictions, his kindness and generosity, his tireless service to his fellow man and calm demeanor are what define Superman and make him the person we aspire to be.  His humble upbringing on a farm in Smallville and very down to earth old fashioned parents inform who Superman is.  Superman is basically the most moral character ever created in Superhero fiction.

Superman sets the bar of human values and achievement high.  While we may never reach the same heights as the Sungod from Smallville who can lift mountains and see microscopic bacteria and macroscopic worlds and galaxies in outer space beyond our limited vision, he knows that we will try to do our best and he will be there to catch us when we fall.

Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! (“Look! Up in the sky!” “It’s a bird!” “It’s a plane!” “It’s Superman!”)… Yes, it’s Superman … strange visitor from another planet, who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men! Superman … who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way! And now, another exciting episode, in The Adventures of Superman! 

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Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us. And on my soul, I swear…until my dream of a world where dignity, honor and justice becomes the reality we all share–I’ll never stop fighting. Ever. – Superman in Action Comics #775

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John Wayne was more than one of Hollywood’s most famous and most successful actors – he was, and still is, an icon and a symbol of American itself.  Wayne projected dignity, integrity, and strength in all his films, even when his characters were flawed.

– Scott Eyman, author of John Wayne: The Life and Legend

When I think of the best qualities of America, I think of a nation that has embraced immigrants and diversity, a nation of unlimited opportunity, a nation of freedom of expression, a nation free from the tyranny of Kings, Lords and Royal Families who considered themselves divinely appointed rulers and whose rule was absolute and unquestionable.

While those are all fine ideals, the dark underbelly of America is corruption at the highest levels eating the heart of America like a flesh eating virus that will eventually kill its host.

I am ashamed at the alarmingly high rate of incarcerated African Americans, the relentless irresponsible spending of the War Machine disguised as “Liberty”, and the propaganda that America has enemies it must fight, or foreign nations it must liberate.  I am ashamed that the once proud and free America has allowed itself to be taken over by greedy corporations and mega-banks who control much of the country, and have far more power, money and influence than the Government.

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War of Nations by Dustsplat / Deviantart

It is easy to hike up taxes when there is a war on, or some other fear inducing national crisis to be milked for all its worth. America is a strange nation that makes peace by dropping bombs and shooting bullets, but I question whether those actions are in the best interests of the American people.  Home of the brave and free, or home of the unintentionally enslaved?

I think of archaic horrendous policies like Rendition and turning back the clock on human and civil rights with Guantanomo Bay.  Sadly America has made itself a world leader that coerces other countries through trade agreements to “play ball” or else.

To see America as all shiny red and blue superheroes, rainbows and lollipops is to live in a dangerously delusional and naive fantasy world.  The worlds of American movies and fantasy paint a different story.  They tell us the story of how America used to be, or at least how America imagined itself to be at its best and how it wants to be seen on the world stage.  But that America does not exist any more, and you have to wonder at this point if it ever did.

By contrast seeing America as all cocaine cowboys, mercenaries, and corrupt governments run by shadow corporations is also only a partial truth.  The larger almost incomprehensible truth I suspect is somewhere in the middle, and of course I am using extreme examples to make a point.

Every country has its best self and its worst self.

What I like about American culture is the spirit of independence within the heart of Americans.  I love the “can do” attitude and the will to work to better themselves.

It pains me to see that spirit being undermined by a country being divided amongst itself, rather than united.  The endless “justified” wars and manufactured over inflated crises that keep people too poor and afraid to do anything to help themselves.  The rampant pollution and environmental devastation and corruption at every level that keeps people too sick, stuck in survival mode and afraid to really stand up to the corporate overlords as a collective of free thinking individuals.

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I love the values that Superman and John Wayne represent, and the America that exists in popular fiction.  But was that America ever real, did it ever exist, or was it merely an unrealised dream?  I have no idea.  The unparalleled prosperity America knew in the post World War II era was in part because the factories and exports of competing nations had been bombed to hell.  Once they recovered, life was not so sweet and easy for the average Joe and Jane.

A cynical view of Supes and the Duke sees them as conservative puppets of the establishment – but the values I identify with these two icons more than any other are those of hard work, self-reliance, self-confidence, courage and kindness.  But are those values rewarded in modern America or are people trying to get ahead in a rigged game?  Are people really enjoying the fruits of their labor, or are they finding that Government does whatever the hell it wants to do, no matter what opinions and choices the people voice.

What happens when you work hard to get ahead, live an honest life but then the Government decides to take your house away anyway in the name of “progress” and urban expansion?  What happens when people fight a war of independence, only to succumb to a virtual dictatorship or at best an Oligarchy from a shadow Government that publicly talks about making changes for the better, while privately locking up and torturing anyone they like without trial after publicly calling them a “terrorist” and throwing away the key?

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Is it because we collectively LET it happen through not standing up to the authorities who are supposed to represent the will of the people?  When did the servants become the masters? When did the officials elected to represent the American people decide to kick out the owners of the house, and change from servants into ego-driven dictators?  When did the American Dream turn into the American Nightmare?

I love what the Heart and Spirit of America stands for, but does that America still exist?

Despite all this, I believe that the Heart, Spirit and Soul of the American people is strong, and one day soon, big changes will take place.  The dinosaurs who dictate to the people of America are dying a slow, painful and long overdue death.

Their life support machines are failing, their life insurance policies will not be cashed, a new energy, a new blood is being born onto the planet who will be the final extinction of the “Greed is Good” mantra that has ruled America in recent decades.

Superman and John Wayne are icons and symbols of America itself.  In many ways they ARE America.  

They represent the best and worst of the nation. They represent freedom and independence, but they also represent the might makes right attitude.  To be a hero, you gotta make someone else into the villain, and America loves to invent new villains every week so they have someone to fight or liberate.

Their is a danger in the hero archetype that those who see themselves as heroes will enforce their will unquestioningly.  Hitler believed himself to be a hero for the German people.  He’s no hero in my book.  If he were alive and I met him today, I’d punch him in the face for sure no matter what the consequences. America loves to see itself as Cowboys and Superheroes on the world stage, but the danger in that view is that somebody has to become the villain, otherwise the hero just does not exist..  Somebody else has to be “wrong” to make America “right”, hence the constant invention of new enemies and perceived threats.

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However what I love about Superman and John Wayne is that they are both men of character and principle.  It’s easy to be soft and lazy, it’s easy to drop out, not care or be cynical.  It takes a tough and emotionally strong person to give a damn, to have the courage of their convictions, to not be swayed by the crowd of popular opinion.

The true test of ones convictions is when we stick to our principles during the hardest times in our lives.  

It is easy to have principles and values when there is nothing that challenges those values.  The true test of character is when we face struggle and opposition and we just keep on marching  forward, enduring the unendurable, being true to our word, our actions flowing from our principles without hesitation or second guessing.

The danger here of course is that we may be wrong.  Might does not make right in my view.

But right or wrong, our actions speak louder than words.  There is no greater coward than a person who refuses to engage with the world, or take any kind of action at all.  The man (or woman) who acts and is proven wrong still commands greater respect then the man who fails to act at all.  Having tried and failed, those who act have the choice to modify their actions, and learn from their mistakes.  Those too full of fear, doubt and the mental virus of self-loathing fail to act, and thus fail to learn or to truly live life in all of its complexity.

Having never risked anything, never gained, never lost, the person of inaction can be said never to have lived at all.

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Cowboys and Superheroes are more than anything, men of action.

Dynamic figures of bold confidence who command our attention and inspire with their acts of valor, heroism and bravery.  More than their physical achievements, they inspire by example, through being living examples of abstract principles, ideas and values.  John Wayne is America.  Superman is America.

We should emulate the archetypal hero’s core values if we want to better ourselves. We can enjoy heroes and heroines as entertainment, but we should not act out the violence of the Hero, Superhero and the Cowboy.  Let the fictional characters act out the violence we feel in our hearts so that we need not enact that violence in the real world.  To be like our heroes also means acknowledging and finding a healthy outlet for the darker aspects of our own nature, rather than repressing those impulses.

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America for better or worse is a nation of achievers and people who take action.  Despite rampant corruption in business and government at the heart of America is a “CAN DO” attitude.  I can’t say the same about the UK, Australia and New Zealand.  If you succeed in America or dare to dream, people encourage you.  While in countries like my adopted homeland of Australia, people tend to shoot down your dreams and ask you to “be realistic”.  Basically code for “Be mediocre like me, go nowhere, do nothing, attempt nothing, be nothing“.

I’d like to see more people taking action from their heart of hearts, and not just thinking of short term goals, but what is good for us as individuals and as an intelligent evolving species on this planet.

What I love about America is that it embodies more than any other nation on the planet, the idea of:

I CAN AND I WILL, I DO AND I DARE

Superman and John Wayne are men of action, men of myth and legend.  Men of moral character, men who live their values in every breath and step they take and embody the kind of self-confidence, dignity and pride that can not be faked.

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And that is what I love about America, those eternal values that will never die in my view, no matter what corruption festers in the background undermining the hearts and souls of the honest hard working American people.

There is power in the hero and superhero archetype, but whatever power it holds is only what we give to it, and what we allow to manifest within ourselves as we live our lives, and live our core values.

Superman is not just an alien with extraordinary abilities, far above mortal men… he cares for us. He radiates decency and integrity, it’s not just the powers that makes him a great man, it is because he is Clark Kent. He, the All-American country boy from the Heartland. Clark Jerome Kent is too integral to the mythos and grandieur that is Superman. That rocket could have been choosen to have landed anywhere, at any time, even fleshed out for decades. Could it–would it have been the same? Perhaps, but I am thankful such curiosities are left to Elseworlds. The Kent’s wholesome upbringing they raised Kal-El with is what makes Superman a gentle being filled with warmth, kindness, and innocence. An adopted son of man and Earth with honest values and a big heart. 

-Josh Grayson / SupermanHomepage.com

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