Presentation on theme: "Comic Books and Batman. Comics Stand out as an overarching symbol of pop culture itself Comics (or comic strips) are narratives told by means of a series."— Presentation transcript:
Comic Books and Batman
Comics Stand out as an overarching symbol of pop culture itself Comics (or comic strips) are narratives told by means of a series of drawings arranged in horizontal lines, strips, or rectangles, called panels, and read like a verbal text from left to right. Usually depict the adventures, exploits or lifestyles of one or more characters in a limited time sequence.
Peanuts The characters are all children but they seem to have much more insight into life than do adults, who are relegated to the margins of the strip. Its tone is subtle sadness, a veiled angst that begs the readers to ask the great question of philosophy: Why are we here and What is life all about?
Comic Books 1930s: comic books communicate narratives through a unique combination of text and sequential illustration that works within its own aesthetic vocabulary. Not the same as comic strips; the main difference is in marketing. Comic strips are daily and syndicated in newspapers and aimed at adult readers, comic books are created, distributed, and sold on their own merits to a paying and overwhelmingly young audience. Comic book is a misnomer; not books and usually not comical Most closely associated with superheroes; Superman, Batman, and Spider-man Comic books epitomize the accessibility, and appeal to instant gratification that lie at the core of modern consumer culture.
The preeminent motive shaping comic books has been the commercial motive of publishers to craft a product that appeals to paying audiences. Because the profit is low, publishers have traditionally emphasized quantity over quality. This has fueled the use of formulas that can easily be duplicated as well as adequately speak to the concerns and expectations of their audience. Formulas are ways in which specific cultural themes and stereotypes become embodied in more universal story archetypes.
Audiences turn to formulaic stories for the escape and enjoyment that comes from experiencing the fulfillment of their expectations within a structured imaginary world. Like rock-and-roll, comic books responded to the emergence of adolescents as a discrete market with tastes and preoccupations of its own, sometimes in direct conflict with the mores of mainstream adult culture. Where are they today? The mass medium so appropriate for propaganda and star-spangled saber rattling in the 1940s now survives among a subculture raised on cynicism, irony and moral relativism.
Graphic Novels Starting in the 1970s “indie” publishers began competing with the larger publishers. They experimented with new styles, more sophisticated formats, and stories suited to adults. Graphic Novels are book-length comic books that tell a single story for adults. Comics online have become almost completely ironic in focus (thanks The Simpsons!) More importantly, irony is a basic mindset of the carnivalesque.
Reading Comic Books The Superhero genre is still popular today because as Barthes argued it recycles an ancient code—the code of the hero. This code includes: –A life-saving journey in infancy: Superman had to leave his home planet of Kypton to avoid being destroyed along with it. –An obscure childhood: little is known about the early lives of most superhero characters. –Orphanage: some superheroes, like Batman, Captain Marvel, Black Panther and Cyclops, have lost their parents as had many ancient mythic heroes. –Superhuman powers: possessed by all superheroes (physical or intellectual). Sometimes gained in unusual ways (e.g. Spider-man being bitten by an irradiated spider gone berserk). He gains his spider sense, spider’s web. –A fatal weakness: exposure to kryptonite, blindness (Daredevil), psychological problems (the Hulk), the fatal weakness is a basic feature of the hero code—Achilles had a weak heal, Samson’s strength depended on his hair, etc. –Selfless dedication to the common good: usually at their own expense, the heroes of ancient myths and the comic book superheroes exist to help the common folk. –A magic weapon: Norse god Thor had a powerful hammer. Spider-man has his web shooter, Iron Man has a sophisticated suit of armor; Batman his sophisticated car and array of gadgets, etc.
Reading Batman Comics In 1954 Frederic Wertham published Seduction of the Innocent Mostly about horror comics but contained four pages that suggested there were homoerotic overtones in Batman comics: "At home they lead an idyllic life. They are Bruce Wayne and "Dick" Grayson. Bruce Wayne is described as a "socialite" and the official relationship is that Dick is Bruce's ward. They live in sumptuous quarters, with beautiful flowers in large vases, and have a butler, Alfred. Bruce is sometimes shown in a dressing gown. As they sit by the fireplace the young boy sometimes worries about his partner… it is like a wish dream of two homosexuals living together." – Dr Fredric Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent (1954)
Is Batman Gay? Interesting the moral panic that ensued… Comics were thought to promote deviancy
Moral Panic and Comic Books Superheroes have evoked moral panic In the 1950s concern over violence led to senate hearings. However as moral panic theory suggests, the public outrage and concern was to last only a brief period. By the 1970s comic books were seen as not only a simple form of entertainment, but also as mementos of a previous, supposedly more innocent period (one in which propaganda could be blatant!).
Comic Books and Propaganda
Comic Books and Movies Comic book characters crossing over into movies a true convergence of media stages in the domain of pop culture. Watchmen is particularly interesting; Rorschach, a demented vigilante with a morphing inkblot mask who investigates the Comedian’s murder. They are parodies of superheroes. The Comedian is a reworking of the state- sponsored, nationalistic breed of superhero a la Captain America or Nick Fury. Rorschach is a version of the night-shrouded hero embodied by Batman (the Dark Knight) to Daredevil.
In carnival theory, parody and irony reign supreme. What happens when we put out faith in moral leaders (represented by the Watchmen indicative of politicians like Reagan or Thatcher in the 1980s)? –The Watchmen serves as a critique of power generally. The Watchmen was also grounded in the real world in ways previous comics were not. Metropolis is noticeably artificial and faux pristine in comparison to the world depicted in the Watchmen. The comic book came to satirize the comic book (we will see this theme reemerge, The Simpsons satirizes sitcoms (amongst other things) and the Daily Show satirizes real news programs). Comics have broad appeal because they constitute a perfect example of how fantasy, the comedic, and the grotesque are intertwined in pop culture materials and spectacles.