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Wednesday, December 13, 2023 

If superhero fare is escapist, the Good Men Project can't seem to make up their minds

The Good Men Project wrote a puff piece about the superhero theme and genre, and asks whether it's escapist fantasy, moral lesson or just literary junk. And then, wouldn't you know it, a website that looks quite suspiciously woke, brought up the following:
When Phantom – the first superhero – debuted in 1936 as a mysterious, costumed, immortal crime fighter, he set the precedent for those who followed: larger than life characters, representing noble causes, having great powers and using their skills for good.

The ‘Ghost Who Walks’ was closely followed by ‘The Man of Steel’ (Superman), ‘The Caped Crusader’ (Batman) and ‘Shazam’ (Captain Marvel), within the same decade. All were idealised forms of God, according to UniSA illustrator and animator, David Blaiklock, an award-winning teacher in his field.

“Superheroes embody what we value in society at a given point in our history,” Blaiklock says.

In the 1930s, the strong, muscular, white, alpha male was championed. Today that narrative has shifted to embrace women and diversity in all its forms. One only has to look at the popularity of the comic Ms Marvel (aka Kamala Khan), a Muslim Pakistani-American teenager, to see how far society has come.

Today’s superheroes reflect different cultures, backgrounds and sexual orientations, and are less idealistic and psychologically more complex than their forebears.

“We have a broader perspective now and our approach to life is less black and white. We are also more conscious of the messages we are sending to readers, most of whom are young and forming their ideas and values,” Blaiklock says.
Something tells me the citation of the Muslim Ms. Marvel was no accident. And shouldn't the point be that the superhero stories of the past emphasized specific values, whether good or bad? This also ignores that during the 30s, Will Eisner and Jerry Iger created Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, and in the 1960s, there was far more emphasis turning up on POC as well, like Black Panther. It's boring in the extreme how they keep fudging things up with decidedly obvious deliberateness, all to score some virtue-signaling points. That aside, even culture and background today remains stunningly superficial in mainstream, with no serious focus on being of Bulgarian descent or even Thailand. The heavy-handed emphasis seen today on leftism makes it hard to buy they're really more complex, and that's the only "message" they're actually sending anybody. Oh, they're "conscious" alright.
Blaiklock, who is Program Director for UniSA’s Bachelor of Design (Illustration and Animation), drives home to his students – the next generation of illustrators – the importance of thinking about the characters they draw and whether they fit the narrative they want to convey to society.

“If we tell them the macho superhero who degrades women is okay, then those behaviours will be endorsed. We have a responsibility to educate as well as to entertain, given the power that comics have.”
Oh, what's this here? An allusion to "toxic masculinity"? Since when do most superhero stories of the past, when written well, actually depict "macho" heroes degrading women? Or, what's their definition of degradation anyway? I've got a disgusted feeling that, given the chance, the writers of this piece of propaganda would call Superman and Spider-Man "macho" in a negative sense at the drop of a hat if they thought that's what it takes to humiliate classic creations that lost all meaning years ago. And then, they have the hilarity to bring up Fredric Wertham:
This influence was highlighted in 1954 with the publication of Seduction of the Innocent by German-American psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, who criticised overt depictions of violence, sex and drug use in crime comics, describing them as “a cause of juvenile delinquency”.

His book was taken so seriously by the US Government that it resulted in the establishment of a Comics Code Authority, a self-policing code of ethics and standards for the industry.

Although voluntary, the code was essentially a form of censorship, banning any content deemed “harmful” to children and requiring that “good shall triumph over evil” in every instance.

Specific restrictions were placed on the portrayal of kidnapping and concealed weapons, and depictions of “excessive violence” were forbidden along with sexual innuendos and “lurid, unsavoury and gruesome illustrations”.
I don't see the point of discussing Wertham when leftists like these don't complain about how censorship is still very prevalent today. (Nor do the same people seem concerned about graphic violence in real life.) It's long hypocritical to cite Wertham as an example if only the past matters, but not the present. They go on to say:
UniSA visual storytelling lecturer Dr Jeanne-Marie Viljoen, who coordinates an Introduction to Comic Books elective, says alternative comics have led the way in introducing more diverse heroes.

“Love and Rockets produced by the Hernandez brothers in the 1980s, based on a fictional village in Latin America, is a good example, particularly in their depiction of racial minorities in a very realistic way,” Dr Viljoen says.
In that case, why come within even miles of complaining mainstream aren't delivering? All that's done is lead to the sad situation where contrived storytelling replaced organic for the sake of all this woke pandering.
UniSA Media Arts instructor Dave de Vries, who has worked for both Marvel and DC, says that given the historic demographic of their readerships, it is not surprising that issues focusing on minorities are not usually the central component of the US publishers’ storylines.

“Both Marvel and DC are unashamedly mainstream with New York sensibilities. They need to appeal to the largest common denominator to make a quid,” de Vries says. “If they believed that Superman as Arabic, gay or black was going to increase sales, then they wouldn’t hesitate … the model as it stands is earning them money.

“The mainstream comics are probably the least well suited to trying to push diversity. They tend to leave that to the independent publishers who are very good at writing content that is more nuanced when it comes to gender and diversity.”

That said, de Vries says Marvel introduced female characters from the outset, as well as bringing other cultures into their narratives and people with disabilities (Professor X, Daredevil and Doctor Strange to name three).
Yes, but so did DC early on, when you take Wonder Woman and Liberty Belle as examples, ditto the Black Canary. So only late in the article do they acknowledge there were female protagonists introduced, and still very awkwardly. But wow, they and their interviewees actually admit mainstream as we know it is ill-suited for the identity politics they're pushing. In that case, why do they keep droning on and on with this nonsense, and won't urge the Big Two to quit what they've been up to in the past 2 decades at the expense of talented storytelling?

They're also oblivious here to how DC, under EIC Marie Javins, does believe Superman-as-gay would increase sales, even though it didn't. What's this commentary site trying to prove anyway? It just so happens much like Marvel, DC too pulled quite a few of these diversity stunts, and they failed because they weren't organic and weren't merit-based. Which predictably means little or nothing to Good Men Project. Nor do they consider even independent comics can blow it big time when it comes to issues diversity emphasis, and should they be trying to "push" it? When it's as forced and contrived as it's become, that's a big mistake.

I wish these propaganda outlets would stop putting so much focus on the Big Two, and not just because they're just as guilty as Quesada and DiDio of running them into the ground. It's also because they're clearly uninterested in genuine entertainment. Even indies don't work well if they adhere to identity politics.

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