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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Superhero Ethics: 10 Comic Book Heroes; 10 Ways to Save the World; Which One Do We Need Most Now?

There are many authors who take me by surprise. Dr. Travis Smith is one of those. Recently, I dove into a good read:

Superhero Ethics: 10 Comic Book Heroes; 10 Ways to Save the World; Which One Do We Need Most Now?

 

I really did not know what to expect. I thought maybe it would reveal who was the best comic book hero we all grew fond of in our heart of hearts. The convergence and divergence of the comparisons kept me flipping the pages.

Is this the answer to the great debate of which superhero should be on top?

You might have to stick around for the contest to find out.  I found it endearing that Dr. Smith also unveiled his humanitarian side blended with a political strategy with a dab of common decency. You have to read it to understand what I mean. Perhaps I should explain more clearly, but I do not want to give out spoilers.

Superheroes have shaped and inspired us to cheer for good over evil. But you know, some of those supervillains were just so bad. Their additions made the stories so good.

Readers will discover brilliance and a unique perspective reflecting a hidden humanity mixed with nonhuman abilities. Smith dives into the complexity of several characters and bounces the internal conflicts each one possesses with societal comparisons. It feels like a twist and kneading of the perfect mix for a win. But can you do that? Superheroes are all so different with individual skills and abillities.

Furthermore, Smith demonstrates superheroes have a larger purpose than just entertainment value. Sure, we all see glimpses of these hero types in ordinary people during extraordinary moments captured by someone and displayed in the media.

But superheroes are more than that. They really stimulate the action junkie inside you. You want to be in their shoes. You want to be cheered by the people with your crime fighting capabilities.

I wanted to be them. You want to be them. We all wanted to be them. Right?

So what about the human parallels? Superheroes are imperfect. Sometimes it was frustrating, but that made us love the drama more. Even Superman was flawed with his weakness of kryponite which could symbolically resemble a human vice.

When Smith compares beasts such as The Hulk and the Wolverine, he writes,"As we will see, Wolverine's need to defend the innocent and act honorably in a social setting contrasts with Bruce Banner's desire to live separately from society, protecting others by isolating himself from stimuli that might engage his rage."  They are opposites but still the end goal is the same. Maybe that is why they all get stuck together in some adventures.

Smith goes on to explain the Wolverine is a deliberate fighter whereas The Hulk comes by being a hero through opportunity, unintentionally. Both characters struggle with internal clashes, but still persevere against evil and try to right a wrong.

The Hulk and Wolverine are dangerous and dark in the stories. They have savage responses which are sparked usually by anger and out of control emotions. In the same sense, they can somehow harness that aggressive behavior into a product they steer which can fight for the good.

As we grow with each superhero's story, they evolve almost with some sort of similar reality as a mortal. It is important for fans that there is a moral to the episodes, comics, or movies in which is relatable to everyday societal problems or futuristic chances of peril.  Perhaps it is social decay almost on the brink of destruction rescued just in time by Batman and Robin. Maybe it is a strong single woman saved from a horrific death and left to admire her savior while she uses her networking to help defend the world and aid her superhero crush. Don't forget about the characters who are on the fine line of going rogue but somehow turn to good choices.

Superhero Ethics is definitely a unique approach to human conflicts, behavior, and morality issues with an academic spin. I found it fascinating to read about all the angles Smith brings to the surface.

As he suggests, maybe Batman has more in common with Lex Luthor. Nah. I can't go there. He despises Lex Luthor. Batman still feels it is his responsibility to save Gotham City. He gives to needy causes as Bruce Wayne and intrigues us with the highest technology and secret black veil to disguise him as the dark of night.  Who could dismiss that raspy voice? He's just too good to be so bad.

Dr. Smith brings many viewpoints to the table which really spark a conversation as to which character is best. As a great author, it is designed to reach your imagination. Explore, through each chapter, the comparison to our own human conditions.

Travis Smith is associate professor at Concordia University where he teaches political philosophy. He remembers seeing Superman: The Movie with his dad on the big screen at the age of five. He has been collecting comic books since he bought a copy of Uncanny X-Men #207 in 1986 with his allowance from the racks at Stan's Variety. For over thirty years, Travis has made a weekly stop at his local comic shop on the day new comics are released to pick up the books on his pull list--from Comic Connection in Hamilton, Ontario, while he attended McMaster University, to the Million Year Picnic in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as he earned his doctorate at Harvard University, to Major Comics in Montreal, Quebec, the city where he now teaches Hobbes, Tocqueville, Plato and Aristotle by day, and fights crime by night.


Superhero Ethics is a fun read with very deep analytics. Heck, you should expect fantastic stuff from someone who received their doctorate at Harvard.  He does not disappoint. This is a book with profoundness and fascination. Great fun!

Stretch your imagination while you dive into the complexity of the character contrasts. I think you will find Smith is really on to something beyond the normal examinations.

I find it tricky he looks like an ordinary gentleman in his profile picture. Does he use a phone booth to change into his superhero costume? It might be what we least expect.

He even had a love for comic shops and collects comic books. That's pretty cool.

I also picked up those comic books as a kid. You might have done the same. Keep the thrills going by rushing to Amazon to pick up Superhero Ethics.  You get to psychoanalyze some of our favorites through Dr. Smith's perspective. It is so interesting and makes for a fast read because you can't put it down. You will love it!

3 comments:

Bob G. said...

Momma Fargo:
---So, you finally found my real passion...comic book superheroes.
You chose a book to review that I haven't heard of, and now, I simply HAVE to add to our "library".
The philosophy about the whole superhero genre is a fascinating one...has it's own mythology, if you will.
And yes, we all want to be one in some fashion.

I've been collecting comics since the 1960s (got some great issues over the years), and this is something that the late Joseph Campbell would find complimentary to his writings on modern myths.
I already have a couple books on superhero "philosophy" (Green Lantern and Captain America), and there is an entire series on various superheroes (male AND female) that I won't live long enough to read every one of them.

THIS book, however is something worth getting.
Interesting that Dr. Smith teaches about Hobbes and Tocqueville. I enjoy the writings of both.

I think our society could use a good healthy shot in the arm (or ass) when it comes to ETHICS (and it's associated behavior).
That would, by itself, save us a world of hurt all around.

I have to ask...WHICH Concordia University is this?
Is it the one (here) in Ft. Wayne?
(inquiring minds want to know).

Thanks for the heads up on the book.

Have a great weekend & roll safe out there, Kiddo.

Momma Fargo said...

Ah..Bob G. I had no idea you were a comics fan. That is so cool. I have some old ones in my collection. You will really enjoy this one.

Old NFO said...

Interesting. I'll add it to the read list, although Marvel et al have butchered the storylines to the point that nothing is the same as when I was a kid.