Saturday, July 03, 2004


John Podhertz has a bad article on comic books and comic-book movies. I'm sorry to have to say that, especially as the conservative movement (in the form of the NRO Corner) is now trying to drive out Podhertz and everyone else who isn't in lock step on the comic book issue, but really, he's got it all wrong. Jonah Goldberg responds. Jonah is my super hero. As Jonah's metahero sidekick, I'd like to add a few points.

Podhertz makes the reckless statement
Movies and television shows based on comic books constitute the worst single genre in the history of filmed entertainment (with the exception of porn).
Let's look at some examples shall we? First, The Incredible Hulk. Not the movie (which could have been made passable by editing out about an hour of the film) but the TV show staring Bill Bixby/Lou Ferigno as David Banner/The Hulk. One of the greatest TV series ever. Sure, the ongoing plot line was ripped off from The Fugitive, but The Fugitive hadn't made it in re-runs, so it was all new to most of us.

The first Superman with those tremendous flying scenes. Annoying main actors, sure. But you can hardly blame the genre for the casting. And the deux ex machina at the end was a DC-ism. Those were always inferior comics.

The first two Batman movies. Tremendous.

The Batman TV series. Also tremendous if you are either sophisticated enough to enjoy the camp or unsophisticated enough not to notice it. The series works at both levels.

The Flash TV series was pretty good too.

OK, compare all the above with the TV series Alice, One Day at a Time, Maud, The Jeffersons and The Golden Girls. Add the movies On Golden Pond, Steele Magnolias and Thelma and Louise.

Now with this stark listing of the candidates, is Podhertz really going to conclude that the genre of comic-book-inspired shows is worse than the genre of liberal chick flicks? For shame.

I'd also like to add a defensive psychological note in regards to this quote:
Gerard Jones's terrific book Killing Monsters makes an unimpeachable case for the depictions of violence in these fantasies, arguing that they offer a comforting outlet for those who feel totally powerless.
I think that Podhertz has it exactly backwards. Maybe Superman is attractive to such kids because the idea of being invulnerable would sooth them. I wouldn't know. I never cared for Superman and neither did most of the comic book fans I knew. Superman was a god. I was drawn to heroes, not gods. Heroes who were all too vulnerable. Heroes who were often overmatched and injured. Heroes who suffered many setbacks but never gave up and always triumphed in the end.

I doubt that boys who feel powerless are drawn to heroes. The pain and (temporary) defeat and the need for courage in the face of overwhelming odds would not be comfortable for them. Boys (and men) who enjoy heroic fiction do because they identify with heroes. Because they can see themselves in the role.

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