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“Comics are the literature of outcasts…” ~Ta-Nehisi Coates

Read this post on Robot 6 at Comic Book Resources (which will lead you to this article) and then give some thought to this reader’s comment:

Scylfing says:  I’ve been sitting here trying to come up with other examples of mythological literature that elevate pariah classifications of people, and I just can’t think of any. The number of dispossessed figures that go on to become cultural heroes is legion, but they all seem to be displaced aristocrats and that doesn’t qualify–with the possible exception of Robin Hood in the earliest versions of the tale, where he’s a free farmer turned outlaw rather than an Anglo-Saxon nobleman in Norman England.


“Anyway, I think there really is something here about comics as the mythmaking of outcast groups that needs to be talked about more
.”

I couldn’t agree more.  This post has my mind running on overtime mulling over the “Culture of the Dispossessed.”  I think there’s some worthwhile articles waiting to be birthed within that seed of discourse.  What do you think, dear reader?

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1 Comment

  1. Ingonyama

    I think it’s indicative of the changing eras between the periods when myths and legends were written and now, when superheroes have taken on the archetypes once filled by those figures.

    The Marvel Universe is the best example I can think of. Aside from their “mainstream-acceptable” heroes like Captain America, Iron Man, Cyclops, and Phoenix, comics are chock-full of heroes who society tells us from high school shouldn’t be celebrated.

    Spider-Man and Reed Richards are science geeks. Invisible Woman and Human Torch are refugees from a broken home. Thing grew up a street tough, Storm grew up a street thief. Daredevil lost his eyesight to chance, and his father to malice. There isn’t enough room on this page to go into Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch’s family troubles. Psylocke is the victim of (metaphorical) rape, at least twice over. And whatever his real age, Wolverine will never grow out of being a James Dean-style “troubled teen.”

    The Silver and Bronze Ages of comics started giving readers something they’d never had before in their heroes…relatable characters. Batman was rich beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, Superman was the quintessential Boy Scout, Wonder Woman was a Greek demigoddess. While we rooted for them as they battled our problems for us, none of them had things that made the readers relate to them, or identify with them, until comic-book writers started getting into the people under the masks, the identities behind the capes.

    When Superman became the alter-ego, and Clark Kent the real Man of Steel, people sat up and took notice. Now he’s a harried, overworked reporter with a girlfriend who just happens to be his #1 competitor, and he has to save the city/world/what-have-you on a regular basis. It’s as much curse as it is blessing. Batman darkened down when people remembered why he vowed to fight crime in the first place…suddenly he became every orphan who ever missed his parents. As Diana, Wonder Woman became every immigrant who was ever confused by the American way of life, even as she tried to exemplify the dream her people had of the place. These changes in focus helped people like the characters better, because they felt like they knew them.

    Marvel’s iconic characters started out this way…in most of their cases, we got to see origin stories, where we identified with the people first and the costumes later. In the case of the X-Franchise, the powers became as much of a problem as they were a godsend, by their very nature…in some cases, even more so.

    This is getting slightly essay-ish, but what I’m trying to say is that fiction is judged by the standards of the time in which it’s read. Comics written for modern audiences…at least the good ones…know that if you give your characters personal problems to surmount, it makes the reader believe in them more, and as a result, it helps the reader root for them more. Relatability is hard when you’re writing about world-shattering events, unless you keep the responses as close to reality as you can.

    Hope this makes sense. ^_^;

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