Friday, April 17, 2015

SS #032 - The Rorschach Test

Shortbox Showcase #32 - Anti-heroes in Comic Books

Professor Alan & Emily spend time reviewing recent feedback, and also talk about all of the Vertigo books they have both been reading.

Then they talk about the concept of the anti-hero in comic books and the rest of pop culture. They mention Dirty Harry, Sam Spade, The Punisher, The Equalizer, Deadpool, (hail) Doom, and Rorschach. And probably a few others.

Click on the player below to listen to the episode:

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Promo: Invincible Iron Cast, classic edition

Link: Our friend Lauren's blog
Link: Vertigo's Incognegro graphic novel

Closing song: Listen to Your Parents, by Insomniac Folklore

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  1. sorry to go off topic a bit here Professor Alan but I wanted to let you know that I found The Warlord #50 in a quarter box yesterday at the Big Wow Comic Con in San Jose CA. i really like how it ended.
    and to Emily, there's nothing wrong with just saying strait up how campy and all around awful the Batman:Brave and the Bold cartoon series was.

  2. Regarding my comment, I didn't mean to devalue golden age heroes of the importance they played in laying the groundwork, and I apologize if I came off that way. I've read quite a few golden age books, I just find myself unable to connect with any heroes as characters until things reached the Marvel Age and DC's late silver and bronze ages. Golden age heroes were aimed at a very specific audience, and my interests are more in how later generations who grew up with them then came in and re-interpreted that material as it was something they spent all their lives thinking about to that point. And even then, the golden age of comics was the end of an era of pulp heroes in general which was a new wave following earlier pulp and adventure heroes from 20-30 years earlier. There's some fascinating stuff in there about generational cycles, deconstructions, reconstructions, etc, but I'll hold off on going further into it here so as to not stray too far off topic.

    Transitioning it to anti-heroes, Namor is absolutely one of the few golden age comics I absolutely love, specifically those early years where he's an angry youth whose lands have been encroached on and abused by foreign parties, and his entire mission is to go out and conquer them. Which could make for a sympathetic villain, but I love how it quickly became him looking at these outsiders and finding people there he could relate to and care about, and so his invader aspirations died down to a general "you respect me, I respect you" attitude. Then WWII came and he fell to the wave of propogandism, and even when he came back later, it was with a sneery pissiness which continues to be a weak interpretation of the character, but I still love those original golden age stories. And another GA hero worth a mention is Laughing Mask, who was incredibly brutal as he wiped out his foes in very Frank Castle ways, all while wearing a golden, grinning mask of joy. A very chilling, compelling character for the time, and definitely a predecessor of the Steve Ditko antiheroes Rorschach was a reference to.

    With antiheroes in general, I find the brutes which characters like Lobo and Deadpool are parodies of to be very uninteresting in general (unless in said parody form), but I think Punisher, Wolverine, and others like them are so compelling because they're fully aware of how monstrous they can be. They in no way shy away from the fact that the methods they use are wrong, and that they'll be the ones who have to live with it. I think that's the dividing line as sympathetic villains are still often trying to justify their actions as a way to cleanse their conscience. Punisher and Wolverine are just the best they are at what they do, and what they do isn't nice. And it's not that they don't care, but because they do care, and thus feel awful about it in their downtime.

    Among the detective prototypes, I wonder if either of you have explored Mickey Spillaine's Mike Hammer. I've read a few, and while they're repugnant in the views they espouse, there's a rawness to them as Mike is himself an aware monster, a brutish bruiser who'd typically be a bad guy, but he's decided to use his bad guy build and methods to tear other bad guys down. Or at least those he perceives as bad guys, as many innocents get swept in his wake.

    1. We love your feedback, Noel, and we didn't mean to push back too hard. Thought-provoking feedback does just that ... it provokes thoughts.

      I like this notion of your on aware vs. unaware, in terms of what makes a more compelling or attractive character. Mike Hammer and Wolverine and Punisher being self-aware, as opposed to Lobo, etc ... Again, I've got to think about that one.