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  1. #16
    Astonishing Member Zelena's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PwrdOn View Post
    Superheroes were just conceived as fun, light fare for young kids, but that kind overly simplistic world view from comics is also pretty deeply rooted in most fascist movements. Superheroes represent an ideal vision of how we'd like to see ourselves, and comparing them to the deeply flawed individuals we see in the real world there definitely is an immediate impulse to look down on modern society as corrupt and degenerate next to some nostalgic version of the past. And where I feel like fascists split from reactionaries is that they actually recognize that their conception of a pure society never actually existed in reality, but that rather than simply trying to adhere to traditions as they actually are, they want to forcibly remake society along the lines of what they believe it should have been all along. And superhero comics have always been a great outlet for these sorts of impulses, because the presence of superpowered individuals naturally helps you get around any logical obstacles or contradictions that would make your ideal society unworkable in practice.

    So far at least, this hasn't proved to be all that problematic because superhero comics were always dismissed as tripe for kids and sweaty basement dwellers, and not to be taken seriously. But now that superheroes are very much mainstream there is a whole generation of people growing up totally unashamed to wear their fandom as a badge of honor and to celebrate comics as these masterworks of storytelling whose themes have applicability to the real world, and while there may be a handful of stories out there that are thoughtfully written and challenge their readers to question everything they see, the vast majority of comics, particularly the ones that get adapted into films, foist a pretty simplistic world view where problems ultimately get solved by big muscle dudes punching them really hard. And if that kind of ideology really takes hold among the public then we might be in trouble.
    The most interesting comics I’ve read are the ones who were challenging my beliefs.

    I suppose there are good comics and bad comics and in the same way that social networks tend to bring together like-minded people, the people who are seduced by simple and radical solutions will read the stories that confirm their beliefs.

    Texts are considered as speaking to the mind when images are speaking to feelings. Images are certainly the favourite tool of propaganda, there are so effective… There is a responsibility of people who produce them in doing something of quality. This quality can be found in unusual places and can give pause for thought…

    About fascism as an historical phenomenon, I recommend “The anatomy of fascism” by Robert O. Paxton…

  2. #17

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    It is interesting. Just specifically talking about Superman, that superhero is very obviously anti-fascist in origin and development. It is somewhat hard to argue that a sub-genre and medium that has a majority of Jewish-Americans as its most notable creators would also be primarily fascist or line up with any intolerant ideology.

    Superman himself is almost a comical counterargument to both the Nazi master race and the Nietzschean Overman. He's essentially the most powerful man on the planet, but he sides exclusively with the weak and oppressed, refuses any sort of autocratic power and spends most of his life acting like a normal person.

    Personally, I don't really think the Boys works if it was directly a commentary on fascism and super powers. Instead, what seems most realistic to me is that human beings in general have a strong impulse to idealize notable people and forget that they are actually just as fallible, flawed and sometimes even worse than any other person.

    At heart, superheroes are essentially about power rather than about any specific political idea. The basic conceit of a superhero is that the protagonist receives the power to do what only many people working together could do. Superheroes are about power and made for an audience that does not have power. George Lucas commented in an interview with Bill Moyer that Darth Vader was by far the most popular Star Wars character among young children. His explanation was that young children are innately aware of their powerlessness and dependence so they gravitate toward the most overtly powerful character in the story.

    The claim by Obi Wan that if Vader strikes him down then he will become more powerful than Vader could ever imagine rings hollow to those children. A political science thesis could probably be written as to how a person's response to that scene could also mirror the way the poor and working class historically gravitate toward populist autocrats and dictators rather than collective and equitable governors.

    However, from a simple point of view, superheroes explore the nature of power and often challenge the axiom that "power corrupts." Instead, most often, superheroes are about the responsibility of power - it's basically Spider-Man's mantra - and the need to balance power and humane concerns. The old intro of Superman, for example:

    Faster than a speeding bullet
    More powerful than a locomotive
    Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound

    These lines arose during the depression and the transformation of the world from a modern to an industrial one. What Superman transcends is the material advancements represented by the mass slaughter of warfare and local carnage of organized crime during prohibition, industrial processes that left many people maimed for life and the massive new skyscrapers that blotted out the sky - - often with the new wave of immigrants to the New World (Italians, Irish, Eastern European Jews, Armenians, Polish, etc.) being the powerless victims of this social transformation.

    Superman's myth - and the X-men's, Fantastic Four's, Spider-Man's, Wonder Woman's, etc - is the exact opposite of the fascist. It attempts to sell the idea that even in the face of impossible odds, if you act like a hero, "mighty forces will come to your aid (Goethe)."

    At heart, it is the optimistic examination of what Robert Caro said about Lord Acton's axiom:
    "...all power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. I believed that when I started these books, but I don't believe it's always true any more. Power doesn't always corrupt. Power can cleanse. What I believe is always true about power is that power always reveals. When you have enough power to do what you always wanted to do, then you see what the guy always wanted to do."

    With superheroes, the answer usually is that the "guy" wants to save and help people -- and sometimes beat the crap out of some dickhead, too.
    Last edited by A Small Talent For War; 10-18-2020 at 01:06 PM.

  3. #18
    Astonishing Member Zelena's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by A Small Talent For War View Post
    With superheroes, the answer usually is that the "guy" wants to save and help people -- and sometimes beat the crap out of some dickhead, too.
    I read all and I think you’re right but I wonder what part thrills more the audience: the saving part or the beating part…

  4. #19
    DC Comics Forum Mod The Darknight Detective's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelena View Post
    I read all and I think you’re right but I wonder what part thrills more the audience: the saving part or the beating part…
    Yes!

    In all seriousness, I like the saving part more.
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  5. #20
    Astonishing Member PwrdOn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelena View Post
    I read all and I think you’re right but I wonder what part thrills more the audience: the saving part or the beating part…
    But saving the girl from the bad guys is one of the more fascistic aspects of the whole genre, it hits all the same beats that were used in KKK or Nazi propaganda. You have women being portrayed as these weak and innocent naifs that are constantly being menaced by these irredeemably monstrous villains, sometimes portrayed as literal subhumans or demons, with the implied threat of rape always hovering over, and the hero usually starting off as a shy and timid nerd, representing the emasculated modern generation, who needs to undergo a transformation in order to reclaim his manhood so that he can take up the task of defending the virtuous womenfolk against all the evil forces that threaten them. And sure, these types of stories long predate fascism and don't have to be overtly political in their messaging, but the problem is that if you have an audience that is already programmed to think along these lines, writing stories about how heroic men defending their women from menacing outsiders is just about the best way to push them over the edge into full blown militants. There's a reason that Birth of Nation, which pretty much used this exact plot, was such a hit that it basically revived the KKK as a nationwide organization.

  6. #21

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    However, saving the damsel in distress is actually more of a trope for all other similar pulp adventure genres rather than superheroes specifically. Again, though, it is not tied to any particular political ideology, Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, the Justice League and Avengers are depicted saving general people even more than saving their lead ladies specifically. Also, the villains in superhero comics are rarely trying to possess the lead heroines or rivals to the hero in that regard. Lex Luthor isn't fighting Superman because he stole Lana or Lois from him.

    Many superheroes did not create an "other" to fight, but the villains were actually people in the hero's own social group and people that they did not hate - and often in positions of authority as well. Name any major villain - Lex Luthor, The Green Goblin, The Joker, Dr. Doom - and they were actually friends and peers of the hero. This is a trope that has only gotten more prevelant. The only obvious unrelated super-villains in this regard were actual Nazis like the Red Skull, who still is a dark mirror to the hero, Captain America. Often, the villains represent the fascist point of view, which is natural considering who was writing and drawing the stories.

    At heart, the superhero does not appeal to weak adult men as much as it appeals to adolescents as they grow into more powerful, and more dangerous, phases of their lives. It's essentially the appeal of Spider-Man and the X-Men when it became the massive cultural phenomenon from the 80's onward. It was a strong narrative metaphor for going from childhood - where the person is powerless, but feels loved and supported - to the teenage years, where your body grows to physically much stronger, controlled by unprecedented urges and you feel like a hated outsider compared to pre-teen years. As a child, you had no responsibility, but as a teen - as you learn to drive, become sexually active and, often, enter the workforce, the responsibility and expectations are overpowering, but the surprising ability to deal with what adults face can seem like a freakish superpower.

    It is interesting to look at BIRTH OF A NATION as a proto-superhero story (a.k.a. THE CLANSMAN) but so are FRANKENSTEIN, DRACULA and THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO or ROBIN HOOD and so on. Superheroes can tell fascist stories, but they are not exclusively fascist. If anything, the actual stories of the original SUPERMAN and WONDER WOMAN comics were socialist in nature.
    Last edited by A Small Talent For War; 10-18-2020 at 03:54 PM.

  7. #22
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    This is among the reasons that I think superhero comics should be written to be kid-friendly. So we can dismiss any attempt to use them as any kind of real world solution analogy.

    We need not go all the way back to 1940-1960ish. But we really need to be able to dismiss some peoples desire to cast themselves as superheroes, and especially, anti-heroes.
    Last edited by DrNewGod; 10-18-2020 at 06:59 PM.

  8. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrNewGod View Post
    This is among the reasons that I think superhero comics should be written to be kid-friendly. So we can dismiss any attempt to use them as any kind of real world solution analogy.

    We need not to all the way back to 1940-1960ish. But we really need to be able to dismiss some peoples desire to cast themselves as superheroes, and especially, anti-heroes.
    I completely agree - especially for comics to re-engage with 13-17 year olds more directly as well. I think a lot of the heat of "superheroes" has left American comics and gone into things like MARVEL movies - definitely aimed for that PG-13 audience - and Manga, like the recent worldwide hit MY HERO ACADEMIA which also deals with the nationalism and class conflict like many other Manga lately.

    I also think pre-teens are ready for superpowered heroes, but I do believe the core of the traditional superhero story is a strong sense of injustice that compels the hero to act. You see that in Harry Potter and Naruto as well, but the drive for justice and acquiring the power to achieve it seems particularly up front in superheroes more than in the many different superpowered hero genres. Essentially, there is some sort of wrong that awakens the hero to the injustice or inequity in the world and then, even if they find some righteous resolution to that specific wrong, they can no longer ignore how unfair the world is. I personally believe that that sense of unfairness is felt the strongest as we enter adolescence which is why the comics readers encountered when they were 13-15 often leave the strongest impression.

    However, I also think you'd need to be regularly reading comics before high school or junior high for those comics to have any impact. If I hadn't started reading comics when I was three, I never would've read Teen Titans, Daredevil The X-Men or, later, TMNT, Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns when I was a teenager. Nor would I have encountered AKIRA or any of the Manga and Anime that started coming to America around that time, but having grown up on BATTLE OF THE PLANETS and SPEED RACER, they weren't entirely unfamiliar.
    Last edited by A Small Talent For War; 10-18-2020 at 06:07 PM.

  9. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by PwrdOn View Post
    But saving the girl from the bad guys is one of the more fascistic aspects of the whole genre, it hits all the same beats that were used in KKK or Nazi propaganda. You have women being portrayed as these weak and innocent naifs that are constantly being menaced by these irredeemably monstrous villains, sometimes portrayed as literal subhumans or demons, with the implied threat of rape always hovering over, and the hero usually starting off as a shy and timid nerd, representing the emasculated modern generation, who needs to undergo a transformation in order to reclaim his manhood so that he can take up the task of defending the virtuous womenfolk against all the evil forces that threaten them. And sure, these types of stories long predate fascism and don't have to be overtly political in their messaging, but the problem is that if you have an audience that is already programmed to think along these lines, writing stories about how heroic men defending their women from menacing outsiders is just about the best way to push them over the edge into full blown militants. There's a reason that Birth of Nation, which pretty much used this exact plot, was such a hit that it basically revived the KKK as a nationwide organization.
    Doesn't the fact not superheroes are men undercut this claim?

    Quote Originally Posted by DrNewGod View Post
    This is among the reasons that I think superhero comics should be written to be kid-friendly. So we can dismiss any attempt to use them as any kind of real world solution analogy.

    We need not go all the way back to 1940-1960ish. But we really need to be able to dismiss some peoples desire to cast themselves as superheroes, and especially, anti-heroes.
    Being written for kids doesn't mean something won't end up pushing a very ugly message. In fact, that's one of the easiest ways to write something with reprehensible morals without people really noticing it.
    Last edited by Agent Z; 10-18-2020 at 08:45 PM.

  10. #25
    Astonishing Member Ptrvc's Avatar
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    You know what's fascist? Trying to ban or restrict freedom of speech/expression. That's super fascist.

  11. #26
    Astonishing Member kjn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ptrvc View Post
    You know what's fascist? Trying to ban or restrict freedom of speech/expression. That's super fascist.
    It's not limited to fascism in any way, though. What's more unique to fascism is instead how it impoverishes language in order to make free thought impossible.

    14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak.

    Newspeak was invented by Orwell, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, as the official language of what he called Ingsoc, English Socialism. But elements of Ur-Fascism are common to different forms of dictatorship. All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning. But we must be ready to identify other kinds of Newspeak, even if they take the apparently innocent form of a popular talk show.
    (Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt by Umberto Eco)

    Perhaps the most important source for this is Victor Klemperer, in his LTI – Lingua Tertii Imperii: Notizbuch eines Philologen
    «Speaking generally, it is because of the desire of the tragic poets for the marvellous that so varied and inconsistent an account of Medea has been given out» (Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History [4.56.1])

  12. #27
    Astonishing Member Ptrvc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kjn View Post
    It's not limited to fascism in any way, though. What's more unique to fascism is instead how it impoverishes language in order to make free thought impossible.



    (Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt by Umberto Eco)

    Perhaps the most important source for this is Victor Klemperer, in his LTI – Lingua Tertii Imperii: Notizbuch eines Philologen
    See I'm not so concerned with Fascism that I'm willing to live under other forms of tyranny because they aren't fascism.

    Either you're free or you're not. I'm not gonna be happy just because the boot smashing my teeth in has a hammer and sickle instead of a swastika.

  13. #28
    Astonishing Member Killerbee911's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revolutionary_Jack View Post
    Let's look at it this way, imagine if cops or vigilantes without powers and so on are presented and treated as superheroes, would you give that a pass?
    I picked out three groups firefighters, emts, and cops for a reason. You choose to talk about the one that has real world implications that can't be avoided which I mention in my post. In its purest form policemen would get the pass but they are unmistakable issues with police that clearly tie in with this topic. They are no songs going f*ck the EMT or Firefighters. Nobody, when they see firetruck on the scene, goes "oh no here is firemen".

    What separates superheroes from being seen/treated like Firemen and Emts, Is that for entertaining stories you have put superheroes acting not totally controlled by the government and rules because superheroes have many tropes that would maybe less fun to read in some creators opinions. But that leaves superheroes these guys who enforce rules with little no oversight(which is one of the police issues) and sometimes slightly border on kinda tyrannical or fascist in their approach. And again nobody ever calls a Fireman or Emt kind of fascist for saving people.

    Superman and others probably do property damage, Batman beats people half to death and torture as well, They are underage sidekicks and child soldiers, Heroes ignore the system to supposedly do the right thing and they enforcing the law while being above the law. The last two things are some stuff that makes superheroes feel a fascist. And that is because comic storytelling heavily based on tropes and they want don't stop telling stories with those tropes even when they are options to do better(See the initiative without the forcing people to be heroes part). If Superheroes operate within the " Superheroes get called to help, They show up and help, pass the villains off to authorize and bounce" they never feel like authoritarian force but just people trying to help like firemen and emts. And a world like My hero academia the heroes doesn't feel like say Avengers Infinity Wars were the heroes go screw the government our way is right. MHA has more common sense based rules and heroes operate within the confines of the world laws. Which never brings it into "The safest hands are our own" mentality.

    That was my point a lot of superhero stories is based on bizarro comic trope logic and at worse the heroes themselves wouldn't be taking the heat for some issues/problems because it would be the system( and country) that is at fault kind like qualified immunity and laws criminalizing things that shouldn't be a criminal offense.
    Last edited by Killerbee911; 10-19-2020 at 07:28 AM.

  14. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by Killerbee911 View Post
    I picked out three groups firefighters, emts, and cops for a reason. You choose to talk about the one that has real world implications that can't be avoided which I mention in my post. In its purest form policemen would get the pass but they are unmistakable issues with police that clearly tie in with this topic. They are no songs going f*ck the EMT or Firefighters. Nobody, when they see firetruck on the scene, goes "oh no here is firemen".

    What separates superheroes from being seen/treated like Firemen and Emts, Is that for entertaining stories you have put superheroes acting not totally controlled by the government and rules because superheroes have many tropes that would maybe less fun to read in some creators opinions. But that leaves superheroes these guys who enforce rules with little no oversight(which is one of the police issues) and sometimes slightly border on kinda tyrannical or fascist in their approach. And again nobody ever calls a Fireman or Emt kind of fascist for saving people.

    Superman and others probably do property damage, Batman beats people half to death and torture as well, They are underage sidekicks and child soldiers, Heroes ignore the system to supposedly do the right thing and they enforcing the law while being above the law. The last two things are some stuff that makes superheroes feel a fascist. And that is because comic storytelling heavily based on tropes and they want don't stop telling stories with those tropes even when they are options to do better(See the initiative without the forcing people to be heroes part). If Superheroes operate within the " Superheroes get called to help, They show up and help, pass the villains off to authorize and bounce" they never feel like authoritarian force but just people trying to help like firemen and emts. And a world like My hero academia the heroes doesn't feel like say Avengers Infinity Wars were the heroes go screw the government our way is right. MHA has more common sense based rules and heroes operate within the confines of the world laws. Which never brings it into "The safest hands are our own" mentality.

    That was my point a lot of superhero stories is based on bizarro comic trope logic and at worse the heroes themselves wouldn't be taking the heat for some issues/problems because it would be the system( and country) that is at fault kind like qualified immunity and laws criminalizing things that shouldn't be a criminal offense.
    Jim Kelly's Superman was interesting in this regard. Since he cooperated with the police, he would place restrictions on what he would do when it came to assisting criminal investigation. For example, he would not scan the city at super-speed with X-ray vision to find a suspect as that would violate all the rights to privacy of all the law-abiding citizens that he scanned in the process.

    The basic principle of police, firefighters and other rescue personnel is that the demand for their services is sufficient that the public should fund and maintain them even though their actual use will be rare. With police, that was thrown into disarray because of the war on drugs (starting all the way back with prohibition). Ideally, most crime is a rare occurrence, so the police workload should be relatively light in a functional, free society. However, when we illegalized what really is a medical problem - drug addiction - and turned a multibillion dollar market over to brutal criminals, police and the court system end up facing an ongoing and insoluble problem that eats away continually at civil rights and civil order.

    With Superheroes, the basic concept is that there is something going on that only that person has the power to fight. If the police in Gotham were able to handle the criminals, then Batman would just be an unhelpful vigilante. If there weren't super-genius criminals, dark gods and alien invaders constantly threatening Gotham, then Superman would not really have a whole lot to do.

    If, for example, Seigel and Shuster just invented the concept today, then we might see a Superman who is something more like Batman going after and meting out vigilante justice the leaders of corrupt financial institutions, vicious drug cartels, warlords and arms dealers and so on that the international community either refuses or cannot contend with. Or we'd see superheroes who start their own businesses as heroes for hire basically acting as superhuman private eyes.

  15. #30
    Loony Scott Taylor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremi View Post
    It's the showrunner of the Boys. Of course he'd think superheroes are facists.

    Man Garth Ennis is not the person people should be emulating for superheroes...
    This, pretty much. The guy sounds like he has no independent comic experience at all.

    No one reads comics to pretend they are the damsel in distress.

    What people get out of comics, why they like them, is complex. Because the people creating these little rags are complex people who put their selves in there. Did Claremont write Wolverine fighting his way from the basement to upstairs to the heart of the Hellfire club to show that Fascism is great? The Hellfire Club were the fascists in that story.
    Last edited by Scott Taylor; 10-19-2020 at 01:57 PM.
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