Marcus

Comic books are the most true to Objectivist values in our culture

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I would argue that the comic book format, as it is envisioned and presented in western culture, is both historically and contemporarily some of the most consistently Objectivist art available.

Most comics have a clear theme, a clear demarcation of good and evil, a respect and reverence for the human body in the form of it's beautiful, strong and physically fit heroes, most comics punish evil and uphold good as triumphant, a respect for science and identity (atleast within the artist's own metaphysical constants) etc,.

Some comics are appraised and worth thousands to millions of dollars because people still value them. I find it interesting no other form of art in western society has consistently upheld herioc themes or hero worship except comics. Is the the last refuge of classic Greek/pure objectivist ideals in our society?

Thoughts?

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Look! Up in the sky!

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It's a government drone looking to suppress you, your family and your mind...

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It's a government drone looking to suppress you, your family and your mind...

Damn! I thought it was Superman defending truth, justice and the American way. Shucks.

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It's a government drone looking to suppress you, your family and your mind...

Damn! I thought it was Superman defending truth, justice and the American way. Shucks.

I would love to take one of them down...

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Marcus wrote:

I would argue that the comic book format, as it is envisioned and presented in western culture, is both historically and contemporarily some of the most consistently Objectivist art available.

end quote

That is an excellent observation. I think my first comic book hero was Superman though the TV show seemed a bit dated when I first saw it. I always wanted Superman’s muscles, (especially the abs) and Clark Kent was intriguing because he had a most wondrous secret! I don’t think much of the Clark Kent persona was a “put on.” That was the way the duel character thought. “Look up in the sky,” and “look at the reporter at his desk,” for a true composite.

And don’t most of us fantasize about being an adult version of Superman? We may envision ourselves as having advanced technology no one else knows about, or having trillions of dollars, or “just pulling the strings” in some way, or being able to determine the outcome of an Israeli/American attack on evil Iran or North Korea. Our fantasies most likely began with the Superman character.

The first Superman movie was terrific. Superman is a younger person’s “John Galt.”

Peter

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I would argue that the comic book format, as it is envisioned and presented in western culture, is both historically and contemporarily some of the most consistently Objectivist art available.

Most comics have a clear theme, a clear demarcation of good and evil, a respect and reverence for the human body in the form of it's beautiful, strong and physically fit heroes, most comics punish evil and uphold good as triumphant, a respect for science and identity (atleast within the artist's own metaphysical constants) etc,.

Some comics are appraised and worth thousands to millions of dollars because people still value them. I find it interesting no other form of art in western society has consistently upheld herioc themes or hero worship except comics. Is the the last refuge of classic Greek/pure objectivist ideals in our society?

Thoughts?

I hope you are trying to be ironic but suspect you are not. The "physically fit" reference is what has me wondering whether you are ribbing, or serious.

Assuming you are serious, ask yourself this question: would Aristotle's philosophy be susceptible to a comic book rendition? If not, why not? Would the Stoic philosophy be likewise susceptible?

Philosophy--whether Stoicism or Objectivism or even zen Buddhism--is pretty hard. Objectivism is a philosophy. Ergo, I don't think comic books are a very good format for Objectivism.

[Full disclosure: I find comic books asinine, and always have].

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Not sure that I agree with this. Yes, the heroes stand out, but they are diverse. Too diverse to fit a Randian mold. Does the Punisher reflect Objectivist values? What about Spider-Man? What about the villains? The villains aren't Tooheys, that much is certain to me. They're worse.

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How did Superman come to be?

Two Jewish boys from Cleveland created him in 1933. How could it be otherwise, A super being with a name like Kal El whose father was named Jor El. It was a nerd and nebish fantasy come alive. The character caught on and the rest is history.

As Joseph Goebels once said of Superman --- This Superman, he is a Jew!

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Hey, I thought a Canadian created Superman!

I stopped reading comic books around age 12,but I used to like Little |Lulu. Didn't realize till years later that LL looked exactly like me.

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Joe Maurone's "Objectivish" blog is a running tribute graphic novels.

Of course, Spiderman's co-creator, Steve Ditko, also created "Mr. A" well-known to Objectivists.

Ayn Rand explained much of this appeal as "bootleg Romanticism" along with James Bond, Charlie's Angels, and a bit of Star Trek: Original Series. She had her preferences, of course, and they often were highly personal. That being as it may, it is clear the graphic novel genre per se does accept the fundamentals of aesthetics that Rand elucidated in The Romantic Manifesto. Even the link from Samson Corwell above taking us to an master of evil is in the romantic school, not naturalist or classical or expressionist or impressionist or dada or whatever else.

The images are crisp, clear, precise, powerful, unambiguous. The values presented are also unarguable. He offers you hell, not an equivocal exploration of tentative engagement. It's not a discussion.

Comics are not my thing. I have explored them, read some early histories, collected some complete series. It is not a medium that I get excited about. But I have to agree with Marcus in the original post that broadly, the graphic novel medium does present its stories in an "Objectivist" sort of way. You can find exceptions, also: murky, surreal, unreal, mishmashes of almost-evil versus maybe-more-evil. But they are exceptions.

Just an edit --

The above and the topic, really, are about "super hero" genre comics. Daunce mentioned Little Lulu, not one I have read. However, I do have Uncle Scrooge in my box of comics in bags and boards. The story of his evolution by Carl Barks is well-known. Originally, a mean skinflint, he quickly became a good-natured (though stern) representative of Glasgwegian capitalism. In later stories into modern times, when Donald and the Boys are captured by cannibals or pirates or the Beagle Brothers, it is Uncle Scrooge who uses his brains to get them out of trouble. They run into these snares in the first place, of course, because it is the adventurous old duck who insists on exploring unknown realms in search of opportunities.

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I would argue that the comic book format, as it is envisioned and presented in western culture, is both historically and contemporarily some of the most consistently Objectivist art available.

Most comics have a clear theme, a clear demarcation of good and evil, a respect and reverence for the human body in the form of it's beautiful, strong and physically fit heroes, most comics punish evil and uphold good as triumphant, a respect for science and identity (atleast within the artist's own metaphysical constants) etc,.

Some comics are appraised and worth thousands to millions of dollars because people still value them. I find it interesting no other form of art in western society has consistently upheld herioc themes or hero worship except comics. Is the the last refuge of classic Greek/pure objectivist ideals in our society?

Thoughts?

Assuming you are serious, ask yourself this question: would Aristotle's philosophy be susceptible to a comic book rendition? If not, why not? Would the Stoic philosophy be likewise susceptible?

[Full disclosure: I find comic books asinine, and always have].

I am 100% serious.

My point is not that the entire philosophy can be condensed and explained in a comic, but that it is in a broad sense, the only form of art today that even vaguely represents Objectivist ideals (leaving aside AR's works obviously). No other art form comes close.

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Also, consider the fact that Japanese comic art (manga) and American comic art are worlds apart stylistically. Japanese artists often forsake realism for overt sillliness and exaggeration. Heroes are stylistic caricatures (big hair, oversized weapons etc), cause and effect is often ignored (in favor of plot devices). There are a few Japanese manga comics that have strong realistic/romantic elements, but they are the exception and not the rule.

It's clear that not all comic cultures are the same, art always reflects the underlying society (which in turn reflects their philosophy). So this appears to be a uniquely American phenomenon.

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I don't read comic books anymore.

Are there any producer-heroes within comic book culture like Roark, Galt, Rearden, Dagny, etc.?

Or do the heroes exist mainly to get bad guys?

Michael

There are quite a few examples of this throughout comic books. Bruce Wayne (Batman) is one example. Tony stark (Iron Man) the billionaire industrialist/inventor is another. Often times their extraorindinary money/ability ties into their over-arching goal of fighting crime (aka justice).

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Hey, I thought a Canadian created Superman!

I stopped reading comic books around age 12,but I used to like Little |Lulu. Didn't realize till years later that LL looked exactly like me.

Wrong! Kal El is Jewish. He has two Jewish "fathers".

He was drawn in such a way that he looked Gentile. Otherwise it would not have sold. Can you picture Superman/Clark Kent with a big Jewish nose and payos (the side of the head curls)? No way. That is why baby Kal El was brought up by two Genitles on a farm in the midwest.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I didn't say he wasn't Jewish, I just always heard he was Canadian made. Have not looked it up in case I am wrong!

So baby Moses was fostered by Ma and Pa Kent... who knew?

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I didn't say he wasn't Jewish, I just always heard he was Canadian made. Have not looked it up in case I am wrong!

So baby Moses was fostered by Ma and Pa Kent... who knew?

Born in Cleveland Ohio.

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The staff of the Daily Planet, btw, remain the dumbest journalists ever to hold down jobs even up to today, which is an impressive record.

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The staff of the Daily Planet, btw, remain the dumbest journalists ever to hold down jobs even up to today, which is an impressive record.

It give an entirely new meaning to the phrase "goyische kopf".

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lol. Those bozos in the newsroom never noticed anything weird about Clark Kent-, even though there is no such thing as a mild -mannered reporter especially back then. How that paper stayed in business is unfathomable. They must have had one hell of a sports section is all I can think of.

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I don't read comic books anymore.

Are there any producer-heroes within comic book culture like Roark, Galt, Rearden, Dagny, etc.?

Or do the heroes exist mainly to get bad guys?

Michael

There are quite a few examples of this throughout comic books. Bruce Wayne (Batman) is one example. Tony stark (Iron Man) the billionaire industrialist/inventor is another. Often times their extraorindinary money/ability ties into their over-arching goal of fighting crime (aka justice).

Marcus,

Thanks. (btw - Welcome to OL if I did not welcome you.)

Your phrase "their over-arching goal of fighting crime" is more to the point I was asking about.

In Randian literature, the over-arching goal of Roark is to build buildings. The over-arching goal of Rearden is to run his steel mills, produce Rearden metal and find new applications for it. The over-arching goal of Dagny is to run the railroad. A new challenge to them generally involves a new productive project of some sort.

I don't feel the over-arching goal of Bruce Wayne is to run his business. That seems to me to be incidental to the story--sort of like the reason he can afford to be Batman. I don't know about Tony Stark.

My point is that Randian heroes (the ones she wrote, that is) display a producer side that is in the foreground. It is a driver of the story. And her heroes don't chase bad guys for the good of society or to save innocent victims. They mostly try to get the bad guys out of their way. Like Rand pointed out often, her stories are not about the conflict between good guys and bad guys, they are about good guys fighting good guys, with the bad guys around to do some of the donkey work.

The focus in the comic book world is much more traditional mainstream than Randian. To use an analogy, comic book heroes seem to me to be closer to a John Wayne character (for Westerns) or a normal cops and robbers story with a hero cop than a Howard Roark.

One other part that bothers me is the relationship of comic book heroes to society--but this only refers to the comic books I remember from my youth or the occasional movie I see based on a comic. (I suspect this might apply to modern comics, but I can't really say without reading them.)

Randian heroes are generally law-abiding, but only to the extent they choose to be. They are rebels by nature. Disrupters--mainly of markets. But disrupters of all of society if need be.

The comic book heroes I know about are law-abiding because they want to be. They are much more defenders of society than Randian heroes are, even when they have to temporarily step outside the law to get the job done. Their goal is to protect society from the bad guys. But the Randian side? Galt actually worked to destroy society. Dagny shot a guard in cold blood. Roark blew up a major building complex project. And so on.

As an aside (as something you might be interested in), from my marketing studies, I have discovered an entire literature devoted to the psychology of comic book heroes. Here are a few:

Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight by Travis Langley, Dennis O'Neil and Michael Uslan

Several works by Robin Rosenberg (and sometimes others): The Psychology of Superheroes, What is a Superhero?, Superhero Origins: What Makes Superheroes Tick and Why We Care, etc.

Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence by Gerard Jones

Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us about Ourselves and Our Society by Danny Fingeroth

There are others. I have a couple of these, but I haven't read them yet. I have read some sporadic articles by a guy named Peter Coogan (who also coauthored What is a Superhero?).

Also, there's a growing literature of comic books heroes and philosophy.

btw - I agree that comic book art, especially the airbrushed kind, can be stunning.

Michael

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The topic loosely is comic books, Marcus, and this is OL. Reversion to the topic is easily effected by a new comment about the OP. So I will make one.

Rand's message could be brilliantly transmitted in graphic form, in both old and new style comic books, not only action-hero ones (Ragnar smashes through the window to rescue Galt! hat tip, Xray) but romance comics (Roark visits Dominique, tastefully done if possible).

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