*Originally posted 3/31/09 on Black Elixir Neat*
o-lee crap, Sunny Day Real Estate's made it to the overhead at Chapterhouse, and I feel like such a dweeb for having missed most of their oeuvre.
So, I have a lot of posts on here about the depiction of sex, gender, etc. in comics, and ways I feel the industry falls short of my rather lofty social expectations. Well, then this guy comes along and throws up a post that makes me quite, quite happy on many levels.
Responsibility and repercussions seem to have long-standing resonance in the comic book collector world, seemingly without regard to genre. That said, those are subjects I feel that just about any of these genres could explore admirably. Spider-Man's flubs and social misalignment stand as the primary example of this, yet perhaps other, less central matters could explore these topics, in smaller details in the margins and corners.
One element few people wish to touch in post-human stories without absurd amounts of pathos are responsibilities around the extraordinary abilities. How does the way Superman flies differ from Wonder Woman? Can we get some little side notes on the ways that Peter Parker satisfies his predatory Spider instincts in the bedroom, like the way his fingers stick to skin, or the unorthodox positions his flexibility allows? How do characters who convert back and forth between solid and energy forms feel about having guts one moment, and a nuclear fusion/fission reaction the next? How much does Wolverine really use his eyes when he can smell what you ate on your sixteenth birthday in your sweat, and what does it mean when he decides to look at you? I really would like to see a little more of how individual and alien the lives of post-humans are to humanity, in those little ways that each of us differ.
Although Marvel's scientific experiments gone awry exemplified the element of trauma in the awakening of post-humanity in an individual, even Superman carries an element of this phenomenon in the revelation of his extraterrestrial heritage. A boy grows up in a middle-of-nowhere town that, to this day, probably gets one bar on a cell phone, worrying about things like fixing the tractor and that godforsaken social studies test, when he starts ripping steel in half and shooting fire out of his eyes if he gets a half-mast from Lana Lang's thong strap peeking out from her Dungarees. Eventually, Pa takes him into the cellar and shows him this contraption that seriously can-not have come from anywhere we know, lighting up in the dark in increasingly subtle ways and incongruous color schemes that make no sense under a yellow sun. Something lights up, and a defeated, terrified scientist fellow appears like Leia out of R2D2, with a voice ringing with that despair that comes from wishing that you just weren't right. This man, this weird ghost-man, has these little gestures and features that drill right into the boy's heart while he listens to this mysteriously familiar guy address himself as the kid's birth father. The dude's already staring into the proverbial void while preparing to fire his child out into the physical one. The end of Krypton must have been absolutely gruesome. He's left, this confused tween boy, with the usual maddening drug trip of puberty, the confusion of coming from a completely inaccessible origin, and heretofore unexplainable abilities and physiological functions that he has to learn to manage on the fly (pun totally not intended, but kept in.) That sounds pretty traumatic to me.
In what ways does post-humanity process this trauma? How does the nature of the trauma creep up for these people? Does Cyclops of the X-Men rub the back of his head before getting on a plane after falling out of one and hitting his head as a child? Does Luke Cage's unbreakable skin ever itch, and how does it register touch? How does Carol Danvers feel about her body, even having a body, when her consciousness and form have drifted up and down the vibrational wavelength?
Comics do cover trauma, yet often times the characters seem to feel sorry for themselves until someone comes along for them to hit, and in hitting this someone, they find the strength in themselves to project their problems onto some stupid thug with pimped out riot gear and feel contentment in mauling their fellow man over what's "right," or saving some morons from a burning building to renew their basic sense of humanity. Savagery and compassion are to superheroes what boredom and disappointment are to us; part of the deal. If we take into account that a superhero will, most likely, save someone in trouble, then what would pose to them the real challenge of living their "everyday" lives and permitting themselves to feel their woundedness? What can a superhuman accomplish with a little humility, flexibility and ingenuity?