1. I wonder if at least Maher would be the kind of person who would hand any comic book to a five year old because he assumes it’s ‘for kids’, only to be shocked that it’s quite the opposite…(A lot of modern takes on superheroes are pretty dark) And as for Steyn…I kind of have a feeling that part of his criticisms might be stemming from bitterness about Lee being a democrat.

    Also, just because people like superheroes, video games, etc. doesn’t mean that that’s all they ever do or watch…and these people almost seem to act like superhero fans, etc. only care about superhero shows and nothing else.

    Maybe some people take ‘only supers can be heroes’ as a lesson from these stories, but most people don’t. In fact, in one Spiderman movie, Aunt May was like ‘There’s a hero in all of us’. And there’s superheroes without powers, or superheroes with powers so sublte and small that they’re almost like the average person. And then, there’s superstories like Unordinary (which is on Line Webtoon) where the vast majority of the population has powers, but the main chars have to deal with not having powers at some point or another, and power is not always seen as a good thing in that story.

    My superhero story is actually for teens and adults, and does subtly discuss a lot of societal things and interpersonal dynamics, so it actually goes completely against what those guys are saying.

  2. Tim Brown says:

    Like most commentators – whether political (right or left), cultural (secular or religious), or “popular” (young or old) – even the smartest people end up sounding somewhat foolish when they operate outside their real areas of expertise. And it’s always easy to dismiss something one doesn’t like or really understand as silly and irrelevant. It’s an almost universal flaw that we enjoy looking down on things we aren’t familiar with or don’t take pleasure in.

    I can’t disagree with the statement “Their highest purpose is to reflect .., however dimly, the real Hero whom we worship” – but can any Christian? That’s pretty much the highest purpose of -all- of Creation, including us and everything we do. Certainly, it needs to be said, but it strikes me as more of a universal starting and ending point than a practical working tool. What has to be worked out is -how- to do that, and that includes a lot of the stuff such as representing heroes (and villains!), real-life social and personal issues, aspirations and inspirations, stories aimed at various age and maturity levels and sensibilities, and indeed sheer enjoyment of a fun story. All while creating and enjoying stories as things of their own distinct kind, different than sermons or sermon illustrations.

    Discussions like this also remind me of Sturgeon’s Law: ‘Ninety percent of everything is crud.’ Comics, movies, and speculative fiction are not exempt from this (after all, it was an SF writer who came up with it!). So even while defending the existence and enjoyment of these things, we ought to keep in mind that a lot of it is, frankly and politely stated, crud. And that’s even before factoring in matters of taste and preference. It leads me toward caution when defending or criticizing a body of work, especially on philosophical/religious grounds. But it also makes me appreciate the work of discernment; after all, Sturgeon’s Law indicates that some portion of ‘everything’ has real value.

  3. Travis Perry says:

    Maher may be motivated by the fact that superhero movies are immensely popular, more than anything else. He’s openly defended being “elite” and clearly does not care for that which belongs to people he seems to think of as “ordinary slobs.”

    Steyn I’m actually less familiar with–but I’d say he’s on to something, at least in one aspect of the quote you shared from him. We live in culture in which real people who really sacrifice their lives for others are in fact honored, at least from time to time, and are usually paid a decent wage, but entertainers who pretend to have superpowers on film are adored and are paid in the millions. I think it’s fair to see that as an indicator of a cultural problem. Or at least a potential problem–an indicator of a tendency to inordinately prize entertainment over everything else, or nearly everything else.

    It’s of course not too surprising that a site that promotes speculative fiction would defend comics as you have done, Stephen, so I’m more impressed by your admission that comics can be a potential problem in some ways–as can be any form of entertainment. So kudos for that.

    But I think that in spite of the admission of some of potential issues in regard to superheroes/comics, I think there’s some other concerns you did not mention. Perhaps because they don’t concern you–or perhaps you haven’t considered them.

    I myself am fine with a little bit of attention going to superheroes along with a mix of other speculative fiction. But I feel that superhero stories in fact wind up getting way more attention than they merit–the number of superhero movies, in my opinion, far exceeds what it ought to be. It seems to me such tales steal oxygen from other speculative tales.

    But I’m not really sure about that. Maybe without superhero stories, speculative fiction stories as a whole would simply gather less attention among moviegoers. Maybe.

    But in any case, the minority of critics like Maher and Steyn aside, the movie-going majority in America adore superhero stories. Which is why Hollywood is cranking them out like sausages–they make money. Please excuse me for wishing that they didn’t make quite as much money as they do in relation to other forms of speculative fiction…

  4. Kirsty says:

    A quote I came across recently:
    “Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can.” ~Terry Pratchett

What do you think?