Monday, November 20, 2006

super-heroes

I was scared of Spider-man as a kid. Honest! The first time I saw Spider-man, as a little kid, I found him scary. There was just something inhuman about someone with(out) a "face" - which I didn't know was a mask yet - such as the one he had. And the same could be said of most Marvel characters I knew back then with the honorable exception of Captain America.

On the other hand, DC comics' pantheon was composed of friendly demi-gods - Superman, Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman, Aquaman ... - those guys either had no masks or at least you could still see a reasonable part of their faces. Besides, Superman was a real guy - I'd seen him on tv and there were plenty of pictures of him around in magazines and newspapers. So was Wonder Woman, she had her own tv series and she was beautiful! I also had this treasury sized book - which I later learned had the gorgeous art of Alex Toth - where these noble heroes - also known as the Justice League of America - went to an hospital - or was it an orphanage? - to cheer up disabled children. In the end I think it was the kids who helped them save the day :-D

Anyway, DC comics heroes were far more benign and parent-like than those other strange, weird characters published by Marvel comics. I mean, those other had that Rock man and that Fire man who belonged on a team with a big 4 on their chests - were they friends or foes? They were always fighting each other... Now, Captain America was another thing. This guy at least could have been part of the Justice League. Unlike Spider-man, his mask didn't cover all of his face. Also, he looked noble and distinct. And the best was that shield of his - if only I could get one like that...

It was only when I actually started to read the words on the comics, that I started to see how Superman, Batman and co. were perhaps a bit boring, especially when compared to the Marvel gang. Sure, Spider-man still looked scary, but he was a funny guy and he looked regular and handsome beneath the mask. He was like anyone else, always fighting his bad luck. And he also had to go to some sort of school - a university - and deal with teachers and exams - I could relate to that. Also, the drawings on the Marvel comics just felt more alive. They leaped off the page right atcha! Superman flying in his comics never quite felt like a flying man would if he could fly - don't ask me why, I just knew it. But Captain America beating the crap out of the Red Skull, man I could almost hear the crack of his shield smashing the ugly villain's jaws. And Spider-man lived in New York - that was a real city I'd heard of and seen on tv. And to my eyes it looked exactly like what I'd seen of the real one. So these guys must be real too!

So, what started as fear ended up as admiration. And as time marched on and I progressed in my increasing awareness of the world and its mechanics, I started to realize these weren't really real persons - which I think I kind of suspected all along. Nevertheless, comics were made by some real guys. There were their names on the first page of every story. Who was this Stan Lee guy? It looked like he was the Walt Disney of superheroes - his name stamped on every Marvel comic, even when he didn't write or drew or did anything as far as I could see. Boy, could this Sal Buscema guy draw - his Captain America was great! And who's this John Buscema - he must be related to Sal, perhaps they're brothers, he's the best artist ever! If only I could draw like that...

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