Journal Exercise: Prompts and Questions of Relevance

This exercise represents a speculation on the goals and pursuits of my Journal article that I am working on pertaining to superhero narrative and its rhetorical function. These exercises were aimed at addressing prompts and questions that could help formulate possible approaches to an outline for the article itself.

 

Exercise Involving Murray’s 10 Prompts:

1.     This work needed to be done because…

The use and application of comic books/graphic novels in the classroom represent a growing tool that aids students in engaging in reading. Literature, such as the samples found in the Graphic Cannon, point out the innovative ways that literature is being adapted into a hybrid visual form of text and images. Even more so, the stories of superheroes represent something far more: a narrative reflection of the human experience.

2.     Those who will benefit from this include…

Individuals and social groups, from students in the classrooms to academic scholars, need to recognize that the comic book medium and particularly superhero comic books have developed into a legitimate form of expressing the struggles, questions, and issues faced by society.

3.     What I did was…

Look at Grant Morrison’s novel Supergods where he lays out a justification for the power of superhero comics and narratives. I wanted to build upon was just how important these narratives are to persuading and persuasively engaging larger audiences.

4.     How I did that was…

I took Morrison’s rhetorical analysis from the beginning of his work of the birth of the Golden age and sought to blend his commentary with an application that enhanced the status of comic book superheroes to as on par with mythical narratives (and modern) of our culture.

5.     When I did that what happened was…

An opening up those superhero narratives can act as skandalon or stumbling blocks that can draw a reader into a closer contextual reading of what it is that superheroes are and do, besides being pure entertainment. The narratives here have evolved in a way that retains them as entertainment narratives but with a layering that provides for room to use such characters as models and anti-models for our own behavior in the world.

6.     I worked out what that meant by…

Reading the research already done around comic book icons like Superman and Batman, engaging them as rhetorical models/anti-models for what Western society would deem as appropriate behavior but also as challenging mores and norms in a progressive light. Superheroes can embody the very best of human inspiration; they can drive us to contemplation and push us into action as well.

7.     I did what I set out to do to the extent that…

My initial intention was to articulate or begin to articulate an argument I want to continue to expand upon and I have. This experience has forced me to open up and engage my topic from new angles, bringing in academic elements that I previously did not consider – ethical philosophy.

8.     The implications for research are…

I feel that this kind of recognition does serve to trip up what people assume and think about comic books. They are popular, but are they more than that? I believe they are a medium, like the art of rhetoric is, that serves to embrace all kinds of genres and ideas.

9.     The implications for practice are…

As for practice, I would hope that the ideas here might become a source and benefit for helping individuals and groups realize the persuasive power of comic books. Elements like this could one stand beside novels and works of literary fiction as mirrors upon the human condition – not all, but some.

10.  What still needs to be done is…

How to translate and create awareness about what comics and superheroes can show us remains a challenge. Finding out how to broaden this sensibility and importance would be paramount.

Exercise Involving Brown’s 8 Questions: (p. 129)

1.     Who are the intended readers? List three to five of them by name.

 

The audience most likely would be academics and comic book readers who are interested in deeper implications and rhetorical properties found in the symbolic characterizations of comic book superheroes.

 

2.     What did you do?

 

I started with Grant Morrison’s book, Supergods, a reflection paper on why one should want to study comic books, and a paper I wrote on applying Perelman’s New Rhetoric to Morrison’s All-Star Superman.

 

3.     Why did you do it?

 

It is becoming more and more, besides a popular phenomenon, to recognize the benefits that comic books have to communicating messages, ideas, and increasing comprehension. If the Odyssey and Iliad are literature, mythic stories, then why not comic books as well – American mythology

 

4.     What happened (when you did that)?

 

What was discovered was far more complex and interwoven then I had anticipated. The result being that I cast a wide net that now I have to parse down and sort through.

 

5.     What do the results mean in theory?

 

The theory here is opening up on wider ideas of just how the “medium” of superhero comics can be overlaid, interwoven and applied to all kinds of genres and other mediums and theories as well.

 

6.     What do the results mean in practice?

 

In practice, there exists a broadening field of application waiting to have the lens of superhero comic books both appropriate and be applied to. Superheroes are reappropriation of mythic stories construed in a new and quite American medium of comic books.

 

7.     What is the key benefit to readers?

 

Ideally this examination would serve to open up a realm of possibility that allows serious scholars and thinkers to take heed of what a superhero narrative can incorporate and contribute to larger academic discussions.

 

8.     What remains unresolved?

 

Just how much influence the superhero narrative can attain? Is it something that remains and will remain relevant in our society? What might be the utilitarian function such a narrative can provide us with.

Murray, Rowena. Writing for Academic Journals. New York: Open U P, 2009. Print.

Advertisements

Avengers #6 – Quick Overview and Speculation

Marvel Comics “Marvel Now” Avengers # 6

by Jonathan Hickman and Adam Kubert

It is interesting to note that Hickman has a interesting and unique style of how he constructs, like an architect, the characters and stories he involves himself in. I first became particularly aware of this ability of his when I read his run on Marvel’s Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates #1. He has this deep pension for taking scenes that appear benign and normal and spinning momentous events out of them.

With his run on both Marvel’s re-launches of Avengers and New Avengers, Hickman appears to be engaging in what feels to be developing into parallel storylines. New Avengers takes on the controversial and pre-existing cabal in the Marvel Universe – the Illuminati who are engaged in a threat that other Earths, in other dimensions, are being squeezed together, forcing them to cancel each other out.

In the recent issues of Avengers the team faced off against creatures determined to “recreate” the Earth and in order to stop them, Captain America and Iron Man implemented a new formulation for the Avengers team – to think bigger. The result is a gear-like, interlocking mechanism that addresses the reality that sometimes the Avengers need reinforcements, and different combinations to face growing threats throughout the Earth and the Universe.

In issue #6, entitled “Zen and The Art of Cosmology,” Hickman continues to explore different members interacting with each other, and one, Captain Universe, self-exploring herself while Iron Man (Tony Stark) tries to decode the language of a new life-form.

What was greatly fascinating to me was the term “cosmology.” In common definition this applies to the origins of the universe and the fate that awaits it via evolution, dynamics, and ultimately the origin of natural laws. Considering the focus on the character of Captain Universe and attempting to explore her host bodies “pre-coma” memories is set within a strange parallel between the trauma of the host body in relation to larger, universal forces on a collision course.

Like the car, with two headlights like two colliding stars, and another car about to crash into it (as witnessed by Tamara Devoux, the host body of Captain Universe) play out like a warning of some collision, something “bigger” that is coming – impending.

The truly enticing element, the one that hints to me of connections and ramifications for what is going on in New Avengers is the words of Captain Universe, its warning, miraculous and ominus almost in the same breath, “There was nothing…Followed by everything…Swirling, burning specks of creation that circled life-giving suns…and then we raced to the light…This place, Earth, is significant…and the axis around which the multiverse spins.” This comes with a final tag that “I am dying” from the words of Captain Universe.

So, is the Universe really dying? What then is to come? With Earth at the center…this promises to be a ride that will mimic Captain America’s own proclamation that “We [the Avengers] need to get bigger…”

Hickman is pulling us into his cathedral and showing us that we can all think bigger, see the “bigger” and be awed and terrorized by it in one single breath.

Comics and Moral Ethics, Part 2

Watchmen

1462_400x600

Here is one of those graphic novels that finds a way to break the medium and become something more universal…consideration as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. Impressive? Yes, yes it is.

A lot has been said on Watchmen, even in relation to examinations of moral ethics – deontological and utilitarian perceptions.

watchmenmanhattanboth2

Quick Insert on Genre or Not a Genre

There are a lot of topics, themes, and ideas that one can discuss in Watchmen. That’s what, perhaps, lets it break the “genre” (and I say this because comic books/graphic novels go above and beyond mere genre definition) and does it in flying colors. But, are superhero comics an actual genre?

51RdhQ8UIUL._SL500_SS500_

Peter Coogan, in his work Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre, attempts to define the superhero “genre.” Why? I would argue that perhaps what Coogan is attempting to do is to lend the medium, as I like to call it, of comic books/graphic novels some credibility. This is beyond simply just Watchmen, because that novel breaks out of any real definition of what Coogan or others might call a “genre” in comic books – this comes through the story itself and the recognition too.

In counter-point to Coogan, Henry Jenkins in his blog Confessions of an Aca-Fan, points to comic book superheroes as existing beyond any simple attempt to define the “medium” as a “genre.” Superheroes are an exploration of the human condition. For as humanity is itself a complex systems of values and ideas, so to, as Jenkins points out

“…that it has maintained the capacity to build upon that varied history by pulling towards one or another genre tradition at various points in its development; that it has maintained its dominance over the comics medium by constantly absorbing and appropriating new generic materials; and that its best creators have remained acutely aware of this generic instability, shifting its core meanings and interpretations to allow for new symbolic clusters…” (http://henryjenkins.org).

 

Superhero comics are able to draw upon, to appropriate, whatever is needed – genre, form, idea, etc. – to explore whatever facet of the human condition any writer, artist, or fanboy/fangirl could want. Watchmen is perhaps a perfect example of what Jenkins is pointing towards.

So, getting back to moral ethics…

* The Theory *

Quick overview from last time –

Deontological ethics:

“What is at work in this theory, in summation, is the idea that when faced with a moral or ethical situation, one prescribes to choose to do what is right. Action chosen is the right action, sometimes disregarding the value or minimizing the value of consequences.

To put it in every day terms, if you follow this theory and you find out something horrible, like a friend’s husband is cheating on her, you would tell her, hands down, regardless of perhaps the devastating consequences that might erupt because you are doing what is considered the morally right thing”

Utilitarian ethics:

“In summation, this theory’s primary aim centers around the idea what is in the best interest, the ‘greater good’ for everyone. One can think about the movie Hot Fuzz if you like your pop-culture movie reference and imagine Sgt. Nicholas Angel as Capt. America and the Town Council as Iron Man and everyone else.

Or, to put it in everyday terms take the previous scenario of you finding out that your friend’s husband is cheating on her. Instead of coming right out and telling her you would stop, take into account perhaps the best situation to approach this. How can you let her know in a way that does not blow things up? Perhaps, for the sake of better ‘consequences’ you might not even tell her. Instead you might confront her husband, get him to tell her or knock it off. Ultimately, the aim is do what is best for everyone, the ‘greater good.’”

* Application *

Jumping into Watchmen, I would argue there is a symmetry defined by THREE pairs, each one representing a measure of degrees in the understanding and application of moral ethical perceptions like deontology and utilitarianism.

PAIR 1: The Deontological

Rorschach and The Comedian

watchmen-rorschach

comedian

This seems like an odd pair, and yet strangely a kin at the same time. On might laugh at the notion of the Comedian (aka Edward Blake) as someone with any sense of morality or even ethical morality, but one could argue that, despite his nihilistic, self-destructive tendencies, The Comedian has a strange and twisted integrity based on consistency. Of course, the Comedian dies at the beginning of Watchmen and all revelations on his character come via flashbacks and what one might see as “secondary sources” of memories and encounters that those “alive” had with him.

Perhaps the Comedians strongest demonstration of a perhaps “hidden” ethical code comes when Moloch, one of his adversaries, reveals to Rorschach that the Comedian died because he found out about Ozymandias’s plans to save the world by nearly destroying it.

moloch3

Rorschach (aka Walter Kovacs), in contrast, but similar to the Comedian, has a strange ethical morality of his own. He is violent, brutal, and vicious, but he acts without reservation to punish, in extreme, those he judges to be evil and in the wrong. It is for these actions that Rorschach represents perhaps the greatest threat, next to the Comedian, to Ozymandias’s plans to “remake” the world.

2643148-watchmen_12___rorscharch_s_death_2___copy_super

Elimination. It was perhaps the only option left for Rorschach and it was because, unlike Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias, and to an extent Night Owl and Silk Spectre, he could not and would not allow for what happened to go unchallenged.

PAIR 2: The In-Betweens

 

Night Owl and the Silk Spectre

lets-go

2184151-silk_spectre_edit_large

It is perhaps interesting, and perhaps the most accurate representation in Watchmen of the everyday person that one finds identified in Daniel Dreiberg (aka Night Owl II) and Laurie (Jupiter) Juspeczyk (Silk Spectre II).

Identifying them by their real identities rather than their superhero code names is fitting. One, because it points out the reality that in Watchmen both of them want to find “normal” lives in some sense beyond their “superhero identities” (though they get drawn back in like someone in need of a drug fix or because of perhaps a slightly erotic sensation of pleasure that comes from dressing up as someone else, like role-playing). Two, because both these characters are actually second incarnations of a superhero mantel of the universe they occupy. Daniel took over the mantel from Hollis Mason, who was the original Night Owl and member of the Minutemen (precursor group from the 1930’s and 40’s) who was his mentor. Laurie is the daughter of Sally Jupiter, also of the Minutemen and the original Silk Spectre – their relationship is not, NOT an easy one (reminds me of  early conflict between Com. Adama and Apollo in the more recent incarnation of Battlestar Galactica).

These two characters, though not in the beginning of the graphic novel, become a pair in a romantic notion as well. They bond together, kind of becoming the ones who might also make it out of the whole mess with something to live for too.

nite-owl-silk-spectre

Though at the end of the novel, both Daniel and Laurie are aware of what Ozymandias has done, they are not necessarily a threat to the plan and willing to simply move on, to live their lives. They are willing to compromise. Good or bad, they are willing, like many people in the world to see the shades of gray and find a way to move on – granted they do it under new identities and looks at the end of the graphic novel.

PAIR 3: The Utilitarians

Ozymandias and Dr. Manhattan

75267-65757

comics_before_watchmen_dr_manhattan_1 

Like the Deontological pairing of the Comedian and Rorschach, the pairing of Ozymandias (aka Adrian Veidt) and Dr. Manhattan (aka Jon Osterman…though that identity is dead, he really is only Dr. Manhattan anymore) makes for strange bedfellows. Where Ozymandias adopts the role less of a superhero (more like a super villain) and more of one seeking, at any cost (perhaps where Marvel Comic’s Illuminati under Jonathan Hickman’s vision may go) to save the world from itself. Dr. Manhattan, by contrast is part of the problem, he also, in comparison, becomes kind of part of an uneasy solution as well.

Ozymandias’s actions represent extreme utilitarianism twisted to align with his “smartest man in the world” ego that elevates himself into a god-like position towards humanity. Ozymandias sees his actions via the consequences and feels that he should and does do whatever it takes – including staging a fake alien invasion, using manufactured biological weapons, that kills millions of people and destroys most of New York City, all while killing those who helped create the project – in order to force the United States and the Soviet Union to stand down from nuclear annihilation.

Is Ozymandias right to do what he does?

Most ethical philosophers would disagree with Ozymandias I suspect. The key issue is that he has twisted and manipulated the idea of “the greater good” to suit his own ego, his own view of humanity’s future. He is not wrong to want to stop nuclear holocaust and escalation towards that end, but he does so by actually pushing the United States and the Soviet Union all the way to the brink (he does this by driving Dr. Manhattan from the Earth, metaphorically pulling the pin out of the grenade). In order to achieve his ends, Ozymandias engages in acts that seek to remove all those who could oppose him (the Comedian he murders and Rorschach he gets locked up).

His actions take him from a superhero, to that of a super-villain. Superheroes, in their purest forms, do not make compromises in the lives of people to achieve a greater outcome without reluctance. Ozymandias does it willingly and readily. He represents, as do the rest of the Watchmen, more complicated depictions and corruptions of the superhero medium.

Dr. Manhattan (formerly Dr. Jon Osterman who was disintegrated by an Intrinsic Field Subtractor at a government research facility in 1959, then reconstituted as a being of energy) represents perhaps the one character in Watchmen who has the “powers” of a superhero. He is, unlike most of the other, endowed with real powers. He is also, of all the characters, far, far less in touch with humanity.

His role in Watchmen serves as both an object in the way of Ozymandias’s plans (for which Ozymandias manipulates to attempt to remove him from the Earth, since he cannot destroy him or kill him) and as a strange, almost omniscient, observer of the events at work (like the Watcher of the Marvel Universe). Dr. Manhattan’s role as observer is what defines his utilitarian stance in the narrative. He operates within the bounds of logical reasoning and scientific/quantum mechanics. The world to him is a study in probabilities and measuring of the best possible outcomes. When Ozymandias reveals to him his plans and what he did (to drive him off of Earth) Dr. Manhattan’s logic allows him to accept Ozymandias’s decisions as correct.

watchmen_12_p27

However, there is a twist, a place in Dr. Manhattan that acknowledges the infinite probability of the universe that he sees as a “quantum observer” that causes him to warn Ozymandias that perhaps all his plans may not have succeeded.

6a00d8341c2df453ef01127919a2b628a4-320wi

This image in fact brings us, in symmetry, back to the first page of Watchmen, circling us back from what Dr. Manhattan has noted about how “nothing ever ends.”

images

* Summation *

 

So, the question and struggle of ethical morality is a continuing dialogic exchange. It is an interaction that allows and has a give and take in society. Of all the characters, the complex and twisted characters, in Watchmen there exists a strong and ongoing debate. This is what makes any novel, or graphic novel, timeless. This debate continues today, it will continue tomorrow, to paraphrase Dr. Manhattan, this too will “never end.”

2210487-ozymandias2

Comics and Moral Ethics, Part 1

NEWAVN2013003_Keown_col

Before I begin, I want to give credit to my friend Samantha LeBas and her blog: Comicsonice http://comicsonice.wordpress.com/. It reminded me of some thoughts I was kicking around in my own head about the role of moral ethics: particularly Kantian deontological and Mill’s utilitarian approaches.

Shout out to my Philosophy professor from my undergraduate, Dr. Snowden, for introducing me to these theories.

* Spoilers *

In Marvel Comics New Avengers #3, there is an impending trans-universe cataclysm coming and its up to Capt. America, Namor, Mr. Fantastic, Iron Man, Beast (in for the deceased Prof. Xavier, Black Panther, Black Bolt, and Dr. Strange – members of a secret cabal known as the Illuminati.

It’s quite obvious that Capt. America, being who he is, is uncomfortable with this whole situation (more on this).

Following their failed attempt to deploy the Infinity Gauntlet (well slightly successful but at a price), and its subsequent and apparent self-destruction (that’s right, they broke the Infinity Gauntlet but that might have been because they were no longer in their own universe and all), the group comes to a major turning point – after Namor goes nuts a bit and wails on Capt. America too.

The “turning point” leads to a major ethical dilemma.

Capt. America’s dilemma is one that forces him to confront the fact that there are those in his group (Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, etc.) who are willing to do “whatever it takes” to make sure the outcome is one that favors the most amount of persons (particularly the humans and life-forms of “their” universe versus the intruding, dangerously squeezing in, parallel Earths).

The confrontation is one that leads Capt. America, in an impassioned speech to implore the others in the Illuminati, among them Black Panther who himself turns on Capt., to steer away from the courses of action they are moving towards – drastic and perhaps dangerous (morally) ones. This confrontation then leads to Dr. Strange, to prevent the escalation, wiping Capt. America’s mind, removing him from the argument and the group itself.

So, was Capt. America right? We don’t know. It does leave some questions on the perceptions at work though –

* The Theory *

 

Deontological Ethics

As espoused by Immanuel Kant and others, and accounted for by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy…

“…is one of those kinds of normative theories regarding which choices are morally required, forbidden, or permitted. In other words, deontology falls within the domain of moral theories that guide and assess our choices of what we ought to do (deontic theories), in contrast to (aretaic [virtue] theories) that—fundamentally, at least—guide and assess what kind of person (in terms of character traits) we are and should be. And within that domain, deontologists—those who subscribe to deontological theories of morality—stand in opposition to consequentialists(http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-deontological/).

What is at work in this theory, in summation, is the idea that when faced with a moral or ethical situation, one prescribes to choose to do what is right. Action chosen is the right action, sometimes disregarding the value or minimizing the value of consequences.

To put it in every day terms, if you follow this theory and you find out something horrible, like a friend’s husband is cheating on her, you would tell her, hands down, regardless of perhaps the devastating consequences that might erupt because you are doing what is considered the morally right thing.

In relation to Captain America, one has to ask, is his feeling that other members of the group, who appear willing to “sell-out” their moral ethics to do what is best for everyone “or for the greater good” make him a deontological thinker?

Captain+America+1

I would argue that Captain America’s personality, as depicted fairly consistently in the Marvel Universe (can go back to the Civil War between him and Iron Man and still sees this) places him in the camp as a deontological thinker. Captain America believes that doing what is morally right is the best choice to create the best outcome, long-term for everyone. He is not one who is willing to give up his moral beliefs or views in order to achieve a promise of long-term possible outcomes.

Ironman_vs_Captain_America

You can say he has integrity and that he won’t sell out.

However, one must consider, in Hickman’s depiction of Capt. America in this situation, his unwillingness to bend may be something that could possibly jeopardize the entire universe.

So, perhaps Dr. Strange’s tactic of “removing” him from the situation was the best move after all. We’ll see.

Utilitarian Ethics

In opposition to deontological thinking there lies the theories developed by Jeremy Bentham and later John Stuart Mills in 19th century England.

Utilitarianism,

“…though there are many varieties of the view discussed, utilitarianism is generally held to be the view that the morally right action is the action that produces the most good. There are many ways to spell out this general claim. One thing to note is that the theory is a form of consequentialism: the right action is understood entirely in terms of consequences produced. What distinguishes utilitarianism from egoism has to do with the scope of the relevant consequences. On the utilitarian view one ought to maximize the overall good — that is, consider the good of others as well as one’s own good” (http://plato.stanford.edu /entries/utilitarianism-history/).

In summation, this theory’s primary aim centers around the idea what is in the best interest, the “greater good” for everyone. One can think about the movie Hot Fuzz if you like your pop-culture movie reference and imagine Sgt. Nicholas Angel as Capt. America and the Town Council as Iron Man and everyone else.

Or, to put it in everyday terms take the previous scenario of you finding out that your friend’s husband is cheating on her. Instead of coming right out and telling her you would stop, take into account perhaps the best situation to approach this. How can you let her know in a way that does not blow things up? Perhaps, for the sake of better “consequences” you might not even tell her. Instead you might confront her husband, get him to tell her or knock it off. Ultimately, the aim is do what is best for everyone, the “greater good.”

This is where Iron Man and the others in the Illuminati are. I don’t think they like being here, but even the Black Panther (who was against all of this) acknowledges his role as a leader of a whole nation – other people he must do what is best for. This is why he turns on Capt. America. He is not willing to risk their lives to be “morally right” or “pure.”

iron-man-marvel-comics-5474523-1024-768

By these standards the rest of Illuminati are not “immoral” people, but like modern political leaders they are forced to think beyond their own selves (not that Captain America is not) but with a realization that to achieve the “greater good” for everyone they may have to resort to methods and ideas that are not “above board.” They have to be willing to do whatever is necessary to achieve the best possible outcome – the saving of their universe, their Earth.

It will be interesting to see where this willingness on the part of Illuminati leads them. If, like in the past, Iron Man shows the willingness to go “wherever” the consequences could be damaging.

* Summation *

What is worrisome is that Hickman has chosen to remove Capt. America from the equation, the counter-balance to Iron Man. In Hickman’s other Marvel Comics title, The Avengers, at the end of issue #3 he labels, in a omniscient narrator mode Captain America as “life” and Iron Man as “death” setting them up in a cryptic but intriguing binary position to one another.

It should be interesting to see how this plays out.

Newspaper Comic

Writing A Journal Article – Expanding Ideas

Writing Exercise 1 – Expanding on Ideas

Skandalon

 

This is a Greek term that is defined in a couple of different ways. It is referred to as a trap, or snare, or stumbling block. My favorite definition comes from the idea of skandalon as an impediment placed in one’s way that when one stumbles or falls over it, as a “stumbling block” it can lead to you being forced to look at something, whatever it is you stumbled over. To interpret this in one way is to take the idea that whatever it is that you stumbled over might be quite ordinary, quite everyday and right in front of you, but it is not until you “stumbled” over it that you are forced to examine the “it” from a new perspective.

Take this idea of the skandalon or “stumbling block” and let’s apply it to graphic novels/comic books. What do you see when you see a comic book or graphic novel on some news stand, lying around, in a case, or anywhere? Do you see something that is for kids? Perhaps something disposable or something you take no interest in? When you watch movies, do you feel the same way? Let’s assume that your answer is “no.” Let’s assume that you watched the latest “comic book inspired” movies at the box office. Perhaps you were watching this past summer’s block buster movie The Avengers. That’s right, “block-buster,” not just some esoteric movie that came out and nobody went to see except fanboys and fangirls and other “geeks.” No, this is a movie that took in hundreds of millions of dollars. Does this make you reevaluate those “throw away” comic books and graphic novels still? Perhaps instead it might act as a “stumbling block” that makes you take a closer look, from a new perspective about something that you used to ignore.

In his novel, Supergods, long-time comic book writer Grant Morrison attempts to relate to his audience how comic books really are more than what many have long assumed. The subtitle of his book actually says: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and A Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human. That’s pretty ambitious by any recognition. How can something that we often consider “throw away” teach us about being us. Some food for thought here, historically, when William Shakespeare originally wrote his plays they were intended for a mass audience. They were seen as “public entertainment” and indulgences of the masses. They were not “high literature.” But look at them now, now they are the greatest works in the Western Cannon.

 

The beginning of Grant Morrison’s Supergods opens with the birth of the modern comic book medium – often short-handed and debated by most – as “the Golden Age.” The Golden Age began in 1938 with the publication of Action Comics #1 and the birth of Superman. Here is Morrison’s “sun god from Smallville” who’s creation and publication by two unknown Jewish men kicked off the modern comic book medium. This was followed, in 1939, by the creation of Batman.

These two “founding figures” of comic books emerged during the midst of the Great Depression in the United States.

Right out the gate Morrison does something that few may have seriously attempted to do in an previous interpretation – he attempts to rhetorically analyze these two characters first appearances. Why would one care about a rhetorical analysis of comic books? Rhetorical analysis is a tool that attempts to dissect some artifact (written, visual, etc.) and understand how the parts that make up this “artifact” relate to one another and come together to make an impact on their audience.

Morrison’s analysis sets a tone early on that there is something more to comic books than simply trash or a medium of kids and young adults. He immediately sets an academic tone, a serious tone, a more than what they appear realization that connects the comic book artifact to the perceptions and potential reactions of an audience. So, who is the audience? Well, when these comic books were first published the obvious audience was kids and young adults. What then enhances that appeal and why should adults care about what “comic books” have to say? The message, as Morrison dissects, reveals something that is not “throw away” but rather a complex layer of dramatic interaction and communication, what Kenneth Burke alluded to as his Dramatic Pentad or Dramatism.

Burke’s concept, as expressed in his work A Grammar of Motives, lies upon “motive: the reasons why people do the things they do” (http://rhetorica.net). If life then is perceived as being a form of drama then it is important to uncover the motives and parts at play. Burke names five elements, a kin to what some in journalism would recognize as basic questions like: who, what, when, where, why, and how. The five elements are:

  1. Act: What happened, what is the action or what is going on?
  2. Scene: Where is the action occurring?
  3. Agent: Who is performing an action and in what roles?
  4. Agency: By what means do they act?
  5. Purpose: Why do the agents act? What are their motivations?

 

Turning this back then, what is Grant Morrison’s motivation, his dramatic move in his book Supergods? The Act (1) is a rhetorical analysis of the first appearances of Superman and Batman at the dawn of what is called roughly the Golden Age of comic books.  The Scene (2) is a reflection upon events coming out of 1930’s America and the Great Depression as an impact in our modern times. The Agent (3), as Morrison is illustrating are the characters of Superman and Batman, their creators, and Morrison himself. Their roles form of tiers: creation, creators, and analyzer (who is himself a modern day comic book writer). The Agency (4) here calls upon a rhetorical analysis that dissects the roles that occur with the interaction of all three tiers, covering decades of time and analysis. Finally, there is the Purpose (5), and Morrison this purpose comes the direction that comic books have a way of communicating with an audience on levels that sometimes, and most times, are overlooked by many – legitimacy.

Writing A Journal Article – Abstract Evolution

ABSTRACT 1.0

 

Why Do We Need to Study Superheroes?

They Teach Us What is to Be Human

 

Why do we need superheroes? What purpose or reason would we wish to create fictional worlds (ones filled with cities and people liken to those in the real world) and populate them not just with ordinary heroes, but with “superheroes.” What is our fascination with this? Why does Shakespeare fascinate us? In his own time his works were considered “trash.” We love Shakespeare because his plays and words have and continue to inspire. Some say that comic books are trash, but in reality they are more akin to our own modern mythology, our ability to tell stories that inspire us. They are a medium that has an ability to draw upon every kind of genre, form, idea, etc. – to explore whatever facet of the human condition any writer, artist, or fanboy could want. Superheroes exist as our own creations, as mirror upon the real world. Studying superheroes, like any other discipline, requires humanity to look at itself. To study superheroes is to study the ideas and archetypes that form the core of human hopes, aspirations, and ideas that inspire us to look for and create a better “real” world.

 

 

ABSTRACT 1.1

 

True Inspiration: The Rhetoric of Comic Book Superheroes”

 

Why do we need superheroes? What purpose or reason would we wish to create fictional worlds (ones filled with cities and people liken to those in the real world) and populate them not just with ordinary heroes, but with “superheroes.” What is our fascination with this? Why does Shakespeare fascinate us? In his own time his works were considered “trash.” We love Shakespeare because his plays and words have and continue to inspire. Some say that comic books are trash, but in reality they are more akin to our own modern mythology, our ability to tell stories that inspire us. They are a medium that has an ability to draw upon every kind of genre, form, idea, etc. – to explore whatever facet of the human condition any writer, artist, or fanboy/fangirl could want. Superheroes exist as our own creations, as mirror upon the real world. Studying superheroes, like any other discipline, requires humanity to look at itself. To study superheroes is to study the ideas and archetypes that form the core of human hopes, aspirations, and ideas that inspire us to look for and create a better “real” world.

 

 

ABSTRACT 2.0

 

True Inspiration: The Rhetoric of Comic Book Superheroes”

 

The Ancient Greeks had a term, skandalon. This term, in one of its definitions is defined as a kind of “stumbling block” or something that may be around you, in the every day, that one day you “stumble” while walking past and that forces you to take a much closer look at it. Comic books are evolving into just that kind of skandalon in our world today. With the advent and popularity of movies and films based on comic books and comic book superheroes, why is it impossible to think that such things as comic books superheroes should not be studied, not be taken seriously? Superheroes are a mirror upon the real world. Studying superheroes, like any other discipline, requires humanity to look at itself – like the plays of Shakespeare (that were themselves just “popular” entertainment in his time). To study superheroes is to study the ideas and archetypes that form the core of human hopes, aspirations, and ideas that inspire us to look for and create a better “real” world. Comic book superheroes represent a rhetorical opportunity to self-examine and explore humanity, like any other piece of literature, in order to discover what inspires us to create a better world.