Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It's interesting how it can take just one picture to make you see things in a new light - it's part of the old story about a picture being worth a thousand words. One can debate that now, of course, in this era when you can't trust photos at all, what with Photoshop being so available to everybody.
But recently I was browsing around looking for material for a workshop on authorship that I was running. I wanted to touch on how graphic novels are becoming hot again. If 'graphic novel' means nothing to you, then think 'comic'. Yes, you loved them when you were a kid and they're big again - very clever and sharp. They're also being printed on substantial paper, not at all like the flimsy, throw-away comics of old.
I stumbled across a TIME magazine list of the top 10 graphic novels for last year, and here was this picture of the number three title, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. It's Superman, but not as I remember him.
I haven't seen the book, and so don't know how these two have re-engineered the big guy overall, but this image seems to say it all. Who is this guy? He looks like Sensitive New Age Superman, adrift on fluffy clouds, gazing out over Gotham City and waiting for the next runaway train to stop in its tracks. He looks like he's been groomed by the keen guys on Queer Eye team.
He could be Supermetrosexual, or Superpoet, just pondering and dreaming. Sure he's still got the well-toned bod and rippling muscles, but it's like he's, well, gone soft! He even looks a bit drippy.
The cape that should be streaming in his wake as he scorches through the sky is tucked demurely beneath his bum, as if to cushion that super posterior (the clouds not being fluffy enough). The glance he gives us is languid. Should the sirens shriek it's going to take this guy a while to wake up, flex the muscles and go to battle. It doesn't look like he'll be biffing baddies with a 'zap!' or a 'pow!' any time soon.
"Got a problem down there?" he might call out. "Yeah, okay. I'll be there in a bit. Just taking a nana-nap right now."
This picture reminds of America itself. Not seeing what trouble it's in. Not as sharp and shiny as it used to be. Distanced from the rest of the world by being up there in the clouds.
According to recent polls Americans aren't too sure who to vote for. The Republicans might even make it. Especially now that Lois Lane is bustling about and taking all the attention in her high heels and power suit. At the same time the BBC has polled people in 22 countries about who they'd like to see in the White House, and the resulting was an overwhelming vote for Barack Obama. Instead, there's a chance the world is heading for John McCain. Wake up, Superman. You may needed. Soon.

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