Posted by: Doc Comics | April 19, 2010

Deconstructing Supervillains

This week’s comics selection, either V For Vendetta or The Killing Joke, offers up protagonists that blur comforting melodramatic binaries of superheroism and supervillainy.  In V For Vendetta, an anarchist challenges a fascistic regime (amongst many differences between the comic and film); In The Killing Joke, a madman questions whether it is he or the “otherwise drab world” that is insane (themes explored in the 2008 Dark Knight film).  These works bring to the fore several readings from the semester that have interrogated those more sinister potentials lurking within our superhero mythos: the tacit flirtations with fascistic values that Lawrence & Jewett find within this American monomyth, Coogan’s take on the supervillain as dark reflections and inversions of the superhero, and the “Antiheroic Continuum” that attempts to chart variants between the superhero/ supervillain binary (tho there are other efforts to chart supervillainy that can get downright hilarious).  The Joker even had his own brief comic series prior to The Killing Joke, prefacing the post-90s infatuation with morally ambiguous SuperAntiheroes (like The Punisher or Wolverine) and Supervillain protagonists (like Wanted) who seek to transform a corrupt status quo and its unjust institutions. Oftentimes, the SuperAntihero can find themselves in very ethically ambiguous terrain as benevolent terrorists.

Similarly, this week’s readings examine “Superhero Revisionism” following the 90s, the “Gothic Oedipus” of Capitalism’s schizophrenic subjectivities of despotic heroism, the dearth of utopianism within superhero comics, and a postmodern re-examination of Superman’s Bizarro doppelgänger identities.  Also of interest is why the cinematic adaptations of these stories are far less sophisticated and reflective than their graphic novel source materials, tending to reify perceptions that “the superhero genre is masochistic and addicted to violence porn…” (or that superhero movies suck).

UPDATE: The SuperAntihero trend continues! Check out this commentary, “The Villain of Iron Man 2 is Tony Stark.”




    this makes me sick to think that this needs to be reported

  2. The Top 5 Most Unintentionally Offensive Comic Book Characters… Wow.

  3. HOLY HYPE! Grant Morrison ignites controversy by suggesting that Batman killed Joker at the conclusion of THE KILLING JOKE, and the fanboy blogosphere explodes!

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