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By Rupert Cornwell
Sunday, 4 September 2011
Superman may have been around since before the Second World War, but only your great-grandfather might dimly remember Action Comic No1 of 1938, in which he made his debut – and a heck of a lot has happened to society since. According to DC Comics, the reinvented Justice League will be “younger, angrier, more brash and more modern”. Younger and more modern OK, old-timers may say, but a brash and angry Superman? Alas, such is the zeitgeist. In fact, relaunches have occurred roughly every generation: in 1956, in 1986, and now in 2011. This one, however, is different, and probably critical if comics are to survive as a serious industry.
For the moment, Batman, Superman and the others will be available as before, in comic books from the stores. But are books any longer the right medium for superheroes? Do not their super-human strength, blinding speed and mythic feats better belong in the virtual, digital realm?
But another, even more basic question arises. Could reality be rendering comic characters obsolete? Take, once again, 9/11. The planes tearing into the towers, the explosion of red and yellow flames, the billowing plumes of black smoke – all seemed as unbelievable as something out of a cartoon. But everything, horrifically, was true.
As the late, great graphic artist Will Eisner noted: “We suddenly found that the enemy we had always fictionalised was here. The mythological imagery used in comic books for the last 70 years suddenly came to life.” The industry rushed out special editions and anthologies devoted to the attacks. Powerless to respond to an enemy he would have swatted away in a printed comic book, Superman reflects on his inability “to break free from the fictional pages where I live and breathe, and become real during times of crisis and right the wrongs of an unjust world”.
Bob Andelman is the author or co-author of 12 books, including Mind Over Business with Ken Baum, The Consulate with Thomas R. Stutler, The Profiler with Pat Brown, Built From Scratch with the founders of The Home Depot, The Profit Zone with Adrian Slywotzky, Mean Business with Albert J. Dunlap, and Will Eisner: A Spirited Life. Click here to see Bob Andelman’s Amazon Central author page. He is a member in good standing of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (member page).
Copyright 2011 Bob Andelman. Click here for copyright permissions!
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