Read Old Superhero Comics Now!

July 6, 2018

Preface:  For those in the fold of comics fandom, what I say here is somewhere between “common knowledge” and “redundant.”  I write this not for that audience, but for the millions on the fringe of fandom who like the superheroes — or once did — and for those unfamiliar.  (But yah, for the trufans too. We all need reminders at times.  😉 )  Also, I admit alternating between past and present tense.  I’m writing primarily about the Golden Age (1938-50s), as the storylines mentioned became more complex over time, the themes more deeply examined yet held fundamentally true. My apologies to English majors; it’s difficult to discern between the timeless and the timely (no Pun intended — trufan injoke 😉 ) when discussing art.

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Superhero comics arose during the years leading into World War II, as a direct response to the swell in racism and eugenics rhetoric that was raging in Europe, Asia, *and* in the US and UK during the 1930s. The very name “Superman” (the first of the stretchy-pants superheroes in US mass media, first seen in Action Comics #1, published April, 1938) comes from the Nazi use of Nietzsche’s “Übermensch.” Superman is genetically superior, as the name and the Nazi use of it imply.  But he is also an orphan immigrant and only physically superior on Earth.  In the Old World — in this case, on his home planet of Krypton — Superman/Kal-El/Clark Kent is a regular Joe.  This underscores the theme that if given the opportunity — whether it be under the US constitution or anywhere that freedom allows one’s talents to thrive — anyone can be a hero.

More importantly, Superman comics didn’t deny that some people have talents that others do not, but they sent the crystal-clear message that if one has talents — and we all do (more on that below) — those talents must be used for the good of all. This message was later immortalized explicitly by Stan Lee at the end of Spider-Man’s debut story on page fourteen of Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962, “…with great power there must also come — great responsibility!”

The second great iconic superhero of the time (IMHO), Captain America, debuted in Captain America Comics #1, published December, 1940. He has long been my favorite superhero for a number of reasons.  One reason in particular is that Joe Simon and Jack Kirby took on the challenge of a hero who was not genetically superior like Superman.  No, with Cap, they went further in tackling the perversions of Nazi philosophy.

Cap got his powers via a serum, the Super-Soldier formula, precisely the sort of thing the Nazi’s were working on to make their “über” race even more über. Now the message was that even if you were *made* “superior” by science, what really matters remains who you choose to be in your words and actions.  Also, Captain America, in a sense, has the stain of original sin.  So his message is also that even if you are inherently flawed, you have value and the potential for good, perhaps even greatness.

Together, Superman and Captain America thematically undermined the Nazi’s justification of their Earth-dominance agenda — that the Nazis saw themselves as inherently superior *or,* through their innovation, they could make themselves superior. With Superman and Captain America — and all the rest of the superheroes — superiority became purely a moral question: Who can do their own utmost to benefit all of humanity and (adding in the theme of perhaps the completion of the original superhero trinity — Wonder Woman) the Earth upon which we live?

I’ll go further by saying that in superhero comics, “superiority” was removed from the discussion. The most powerful messages in superhero comics are that we are all ultimately the same, despite physical characteristics, and that even when we fail at doing the right thing, we still have the opportunity to do right next time. Superhero comics made a point of showing — repeatedly and continuously — lest any reader misinterpret the message to mean you *had* to have a super-human power to be a super human — that *anyone* — Captain America’s sidekick, Bucky, for example — can be a superhero by finding their own talents and using them for good — whatever they be, however modest they may at first appear, and no matter how often we fail.  Some of the very best and most-loved superhero stories are about learning from failure and correcting one’s course.

That, fellow readers, is — in a (bloated) nutshell — why superhero comics exist, why they arose when they did, and why they have been a mighty force, first in Western culture, then eventually globally. Costumed superheroes are inherently a part of Word War II, and like so many other aspects of WWII, they continue to represent the best in us, a best that must be re-fired repeatedly — we hope, of course, *not* by the blood of patriots, but yes that, if need be.  But we can start be reading (or re-reading) the hard-learned lessons that the great men and women creators of the superhero art form — many of them immigrants to the US, the rest all descended from immigrants — have blessed this world with.

Now is most definitely a time when everyone — US, UK, and Russian citizens perhaps especially, but *everyone* — need to be breaking out the comic books, re-learning what we already know and what tens of millions of our grandparents and great grandparents died for (my words here; it can be said many ways) — that creating and preserving a peaceful, just, and sustainable world is only done by acknowledging the inherent worth of — and nurturing the inherent potential for good in — everyone. And that when we screw it up, we fix it, no matter how big the mess or how stained our own hands.

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As a postscript, I am aware of how much my words above apply to myself and my own screwy life. My talent, my superpower if you will, is awareness — seeing it all. My struggle is in productively interpreting what I know and using it to do the right thing. I think many of us suffer from that disease these days.

Keep up the fight.

Keep the faith!

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Where to read comics free online:
https://www.pointsprizes.com/blog/86/10-best-sites-to-read-comics-online-free-of-charge

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Bring Jimmy Destri back to Blondie!

February 16, 2017

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Migrated…

May 29, 2012

I just migrated this content over from my old, prblogs.org blog.  It’s a mess and will take months to clean up and spruce up…  But hey, text is text.  At least you can read that.  🙂  Excelsior!

Happy Xmas (War is Over) by Stevie Riks

December 24, 2011

Written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Originally recorded by John & Yoko/The Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir, 1971
This version by the great Stevie Riks, uploaded with permission
Subscribe to the Stevie Riks YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/MrSTEVIERIKS
Stevie Riks official Web site: http://www.stevieriks.com

Blondie Then and Now

December 22, 2011

bg-aBlondie is my personal favorite band ever!  Their first five albums are creative, timeless, flavor-rich pop rock, with song writing as good as it gets and rock-solid musicianship.  One of my great musical pleasures is a periodic listening of those first five albums straight through.

I just watched the BBC documentary Blondie One Way or Another (2006).  It skips quickly through the meatiest part of their success, probably ’cause that’s the part we already know best, but puts detail to both the before and after.  I knew the before pretty well, too, having read most books and articles on the band in years past, but this adds some more early color that was helpful.  The most revealing part, tho, is in its coverage of what’s happened since The Hunter.

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Product Idea :: Multi-Machine Mouse

October 20, 2011

I use two PCs all day, and I’ve seen end users with more than two PCs on their desks.  My brain moves between tasks on the different monitors, often without consideration for which machine they happen to be running on.  Actual data input seems like a natural division between machines, so the two keyboards don’t bother me.  But I would *love* to have a wireless mouse that would switch machines cleanly so my two machines feel more like one big (albeit compartmented) workspace, at least for minor (point-and-click) tasks.

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Star Trek Voyager vs. Reality

September 10, 2011

Over the last few weeks, I’ve watched most of the Star Trek: Voyager series. I know it’s not hugely popular amongst Trek fans, but it’s the post-original series I enjoy the most.

Questioning what is (really) “real” has been a recurring Trek theme since the original pilot, and Voyager focused on that frequently, perhaps too frequently. I observed recently that the entire crew should have been certifiably insane by the end of the second season. Here’s my list of ways in which Voyager shook their grip on “reality” on multiple occasions:

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Hire me! (Hired!)

August 1, 2011

Update (8/26/11):  I’m back at work with Symantec, supporting Workspace Streaming and Workspace Virtualization onsite at a major customer, on the Jersey side of the Hudson.  Excelsior!

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I’m actively seeking permanent employment, and my resume page has been updated, http://sjones.prblogs.org/my-resume/.  I believe either of the following would be optimal fits for me:

  • A software product manager position where I’m expected to drive business strategy as well as being intimately involved in the development and delivery process — I love identifying market opportunities, planning how to exploit them, and then executing the plan to customer delight!
  • A consultant or IT staff position where I have broad responsibility across clients, servers, and infrastructure planning and design as well as implementation and support — I love bringing together pieces of technology to solve problems, perfecting the system, and making end customers happy!

Over the years, I’ve accomplished great things as both a business person and as a technologist.  On the surface, these seem like different disciplines.  In interviews, I’ve run into the quandary where hiring managers looking for a business guy think, “well, you’re more of a technologist;” and hiring managers looking for a tech guy think, “well, you’re more of a business and marketing person.”  But the fact is I excel at both! Whether it’s people or computers, the recipe for success is the same: figure out what needs to be done, get the extended team on the same page, and care deeply about following through.

Americans Are People, Too!

May 31, 2011

Sick of trying to access Web content in the UK that is “not available in your country”?  Darn stingy Brits… !  🙂 Here’s your fix.

DaveProxy – Your Free UK Based Proxy Server

Refuse to Lie!

April 8, 2011

Refuse to Lie!