Discuss how comics address social concerns. How has the representation of good and evil changed over time? What social mores are challenged or reinforced? How are characters rewarded or punished by the plot for upholding or breaking social mores or traditions? How have comics been used to address social concerns?
To borrow from a classic.... With power comes responsibility.
Heroes have the power, or at least some gift, that lets them take on problems too big for others. While The Question is not a fighter in Batman's League, he is at the same level, or close to, when it comes to being a detective. When looking for the good guys, they are still represented as those that stand in harms way, however their gifts can be of the most good.
Evil, on the other hand has grown in depth. The bad guys are seldom the one shot bank robber any more. While there are plenty of petty thugs in existence, they are no longer important to stories. It is not even the evil mastermind plotting in a dark warehouse that drives a story. The best written comics are about the life of the hero, and the every day evils we all face.
Batman isn't just going after Gimmicky villains like the Joker. He is also fighting a war against drug dealers.
Early in his career, Thunderstrike had to deal with his ex-wife's boyfriend, who was an athlete with a steroid problem.
Since the 'Golden Age' of comics, the audience has grown up. I do not mean that the readers are all older. People expect and want more detail in their comics. It is not enough anymore that a Hero swoops in, beats the bad guy, saves the girl, and is off for a nice date and an interview. Now, 'The Girl' if she isn't a hero, is likely to be a career woman. Lois Lane was a working woman, but her job was to chase after Superman, because he was news. Imagine her being an editor, having to spend long days in the office, trying to have a relationship with a man who cannot keep a regular schedule. These situations do appear in comics now.
As for the Hero being forced to toe the line... In some cases, other heroes come down on them. If the universe has something akin to The Justice League, then Heroes would want to maintain good standing with the League. This would be to make sure they can call on the league for help, and so the league will trust him or her to operate as a Hero, and not treat them as a criminal. Back to Thunderstrike again... When he let his feelings get ahead of his reasoning, rushing to help someone that didn't need it turned in to him (A) looking like an ass, and (B) having to pay for repairs.
Comics are a fascinating microcosm of the literature. Literature is both affected by and effects culture. In even the simplest amusement, say old the Punch and Judy plays, big issues have a way of sneaking into the message whether the artist wants them to or not.
As the culture changes, the 'sneaky' messages change too. The biggest one is the artists' assumptions on the nature of good and evil. As Western society as become more and more Postmodern (described by Daniel Dennett as a philosophy in which 'There are no truths, only interpretations') the representations of good and evil in comics has very diverse in a short amount of time. Lux Luthor and most old villains (super or mundane) were evil by choice. Evil is weakness in character. Later, we see the insane villain who has lost his/her ability to choice anything but evil. Evil is now linked with disease and force beyond simple choice. The representation of evil all depends on the publishing house and writers. However, one thing that I think is clear is that evil is becoming more and more 'graphic' in arts and literature. The phrase 'a hero is only as good as their rouges gallery,' reveals what I think is the reason behind this. Compare and contrast is one of the simplest forms of story-telling. Off camera violence/villain brutality used to be covered with a simple text block or dialogue. Now just about anything can wide up in print. Different writers do this for different reasons - to make the heroes' cause more urgent; to pull some ignored evil to the reader's attention; or simply to make an edgier story that will hopefully make more money. What ever the reason, modern literature spends a lot of time on describing evil versus describing good.
A main theme in comics is that one person can make a different. Given that Western culture is highly individualist, this social more's enforcement is to be expected. However, what comics challenge is the balance between altruism and self. Peter Parker is a great example of this. Uncle Ben's death might have been avoided if Peter hadn't said 'the robber's not my problem.' The message is clear. There's not such thing as 'not my problem.' On the flipside, young Matt Murdock rebels against his father's doctrine of non-violence by working out in secret. Later, he scarifies himself to protect a blind man and gets hit with radioactive chemicals. Without both events, rebellion/ altruism, Daredevil would never have been born.
Comics, like all art and literature, are part of human communication. Just because they are entertainment doesn't negate the fact that comics are a way to send mass messages. One of my personal favorite story lines is the GreenLantern and GreenArrow by Neal Adams and Dennis O'Neil. Poverty, environmentalism, racism and the duty of a hero are all address on one of the best road trips ever. Stories like 'Snowbirds don't fly,' and Marvel's precursor 'Green Goblin Reborn!' depicted drug use and it's effects for a young generation. In the case of 'Snowbirds Don't Fly' O'Neil went out of his way to point out that addiction don't only happen to villains. People's views of drugs and people who use them is strongly influenced by the media. Comics can help show another view.
Powers: Overclocked sensory system - eyes capture more 'pictures' per second than normal.
Training focus: Maximizing other senses and choosing a combat style.
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To start with, as society has moved away from a more defined, black-and-white view of morality, so has the comic community. Sure, it's still rather black and white, as far as things go, especially how far back some of the characters go, but even then there are many sympathetic villains (See: Loki, Mr Freeze) and almost no moustache-twirling, dastardly-grinning tie-protagonist's-love-interest-to-the-train-tracks exist in this day and age, with a few prominent exceptions (See: Joker).Furthermore, comics can be used as a tool to educate and inform as well as entertain. This can attempt to both reinforce (See: Jack Chick's *cough* 'work') and question societal norms and standards. The effectiveness of these attempts can vary from not very effective (See: Jack Chick (again), Con...dom...man? (really?) *snerk*) to incredibly effective (See: Watchmen, Mouse). Now, depending on the writer's position on matters, the character's actions and reactions to breaking the status quo will differ. Sometimes this will be treated as literally the devil's possession (See: Jack Chick (Yes, again. It's an easy target, sue me.)) and others will look at this more reasonably. Now, of course these are almost always soapboxes, places for the author to proclaim their opinions on the world and why they think they're right. Sometimes? It's just awareness. Take, for example Mouse. Written and drawn by the son of a survivor of the Holocaust, it tells of his father's tale, with the Jewish are represented by mice and the Nazis cats. Now, of course, on the other side of this there is propaganda, which ranges from the downright unbelievable (See: North Korean comics) to the sorta-weird-but-not-crazy-enough-to-warrant-medical-help (see: Jack Chick). So yeah, comics have been used to both enforce and question the status quo, a weapon of propaganda and a medium of exploration and depth. So, in other words, something made by humanity.
SuperHero Alias: The Baron.
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