Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blogathon 36: Of Humanity and Superhumanity Part One

[Beginning my discussion of Warren Ellis's superhuman trilogy from Avatar Press (Black Summer, No Hero, and Supergod).]

Note: I've written about these books before and two posts are worth checking out before continuing: Black Summer #7 and No Hero #6.
Black Summer was about superhumans who were too human. No Hero was about superhumans who were inhuman. Supergod is about superhumans who are no longer human at all, but something else.

--Warren Ellis

These comics make up a thematic trilogy, not a plot trilogy. Each story stands on its own and function on a larger scale when placed next to one another. Even then, Black Summer and No Hero offer the best chance for direct comparison, both structured the same with seven proper issue and a shortened 'zero issue' that begins their respective stories. Both are drawn by Juan Jose Ryp and both begin with a group of superhumans that began with the simple goal of cleaning up their corrupt city. Where they diverge is interesting. Supergod, on the other hand, has Garrie Gastonny on art, is five issues, and deals with superhumans on a global scale, specifically built and directed by nations. Whereas the first two series begin extremely locally and expand, Supergod begins on that level. But, Ellis provides a framework of sort for understanding these three stories and how they relate to one another.

In the most basic terms: John Horus, the superhuman in Black Summer that starts everything by killing the president, his advisors, and whoever tried to stop him, is too human. He steps over the line many have of how far would you go to see justice done, because he cares that much. And because he's so human, he can't see that there are better ways to accomplish his goals. In No Hero, it comes down to control. Carrick Masterson created superhumans with a drug and used that power to secretly take over the world. He's brought down by an insane man sent in to destroy the Frontline on behalf of a multinational group. Masterson's casualness about ruling the world is meant to be inhuman, but so is Joshua Carver's ability to infiltrate the group and slaughter them when presented the chance. In Supergod, superhumans are created and think nothing like humans. They are different and those differences cause death and destruction.

Black Summer and No Hero are two sides of the same coin, and Supergod is something else entirely. I think the first two are good superhero stories, while the third is a genuinely important and worthwhile work that's been ignored at the detriment of future superhero fiction. So, of course, I'll start with the two books that are closely related.

The starting place in these fictional universes for superhumans is the same: a group of people that want to clean up a corrupt city. How they go about creating superhumans is one of the key differences. In Black Summer, the Seven Guns use technological enhancements that maintain their basic humanity and augment their physical abilities; in No Hero, the Levellers/Frontline take a drug that alters their bodies and, possibly, their minds. On one side, you have Iron Man and every other basically human 'superhumans' who use their wits to make themselves more, but in a manner that's apart from them. On the other, you have mutants or Spider-Man, the types that are changed forever and are no longer human anymore. That disconnect is the thing that separates the Levellers/Frontline from the Seven Guns. While the Seven Guns can choose to see themselves above humanity, there's always something that holds them back and keeps them grounded to a degree. They're still humans. Disarm their guns and they're no different than you or I. The Levellers/Frontline are superhumans always.

To be continued in 30 minutes...

We're also up to $349.99!

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Hero Initiative! (Details in this post.) After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]