Jun 15, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 841: Action Comics #554, April 1984


Isn't it strange that we can forget things that seem like they would have made an impression upon us? I remember this comic and the basic premise, but going back to it today, I find that it speaks to so many of the ways I've been trying to conceive of the superhero for so many years now.

This brings up some interesting ideas. The golden pyramids that we encountered with Superman and the Forgotten Heroes over the last couple of days turn out to be structures placed by an alien race that, once activated, erase the violent impulse from a species' development. As such, humanity has no myth, no tales of heroism or of overcoming obstacles. It's not the most factually solid of foundations as far as the development of the species goes, but we should recall that the tale is talking to us about the power of imagination, of myth, of the hypotheticals that we envision in our stories. In the wake of this removal of heroic myth from humanity's development, the planet is rife for conquering by the race that left the pyramids in the first place.

Except for two young boys, Jerry and Joe, who conceive of a "super man" who would be able to stand up to the invaders. And they manage to believe Superman back into existence. The salient point here is that, despite the fact that Superman defeats the alien armada, it is the power of belief in this figure, the faith that the two boys have in a character they created themselves, that provides the tool with which to remove the shackles of slavery within which humanity finds itself. Honestly, that's my dissertation right there. Marv Wolfman and Gil Kane said it in words and pictures when I'd just turned ten years old.

Which brings up another idea - the intersection of fan/professional scholarship and thought with that of academic scholarship and thought. I was on a panel a couple of weeks ago for the local Panel One comics festival, and we spoke at length about comics scholarship and the links to the greater comics community. Comics are one of those kinds of fandom that have, since the beginning, encouraged the kind of high-level thinking we often only associate with post-secondary education. The difference between someone who is a FanAc (Fan Academic) and a scholarly academic is that scholarly academics have a particular, and precise, set of tools, concepts, and words to talk about specific aspects of the medium that FanAcs might lack. But the breadth of knowledge of the medium, and how it works, are not solely the purview of the scholar. In many cases, in fact, the FanAc, free of the restrictions of the academy, will have much more broad knowledge and ideas of comics. It's important to recognize this kind of knowledge, and to work with it. Which is what I try to do.

We'll get back to Animal Man tomorrow, but this comic is a great favourite of mine, and I'm glad I took the time to read it and finish off the story of the golden pyramids. Belief in a thing can make it real. That doesn't mean it's not still a fiction. It's simply that it's become a fiction that has measurable effect in "the real world."

Whatever that might be.

To be continued.

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