Thursday, 23 July 2015

mensch und übermensch

I’d guess I’d need to categorise this as one of those things the more one thinks about it, the more manifest it becomes, and I had not given much thought to the thesis beforehand that comics as more than caricature or a stock-epithet is an act of cultural reclamation.

The rise of the genre parallels social and political movements that co-opted and perverted mythological themes, pantheons and notions of bodily perfection not in the classical, athletic and temperate sense but in terms of eugenics and dehumanisation. The bombastic fantasy of Richard Wagner and the Nietzschean Übermensch had been misappropriated and the medium of comics, drawing on real and imagined legendary sources and superhero avatars, is the taking back of such shared heritage—story-telling separated from propaganda. In the beginning, however, these characters sometimes volunteered for deployment—like in the 1940 first issue of Captain America, where the hero is portrayed as socking Adolf Hitler—sometime before the US had actually entered into the war and bucking popular sentiment—in protest to the country’s isolationist policies. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels even went so far as to ban the distribution of Superman comics under the Third Reich over intentional or perceived Jewish roots in Kal-El (close to the Hebrew phrase for “voice of God,” whom was saved from a dying planet in a space capsule but unlike Moses being found among the reeds), but the Third Reich was also very efficient on accentuating and bestowing otherness on people with traits that they would not readily self-identify with. The universes that comics contain is certainly a reaffirmation of narrative, allegory and inclusion and our alter-egos have a mythos that’s forward-going as well.