Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blogathon 39: Of Humanity and Superhumanity Part Four

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

Krishna is created by the Indians to help solve its problems. Embued with radical powers, it looks at the population problem in India and begins killing people. It allows a nuclear weapon to be detonated because nuclear winter will cool the planet down. To save India, it will tear it down and rebuild it. Three astronauts return to Britain fused as a spore alien god that people have to take medication when near because fungi will grow in them. Scientists worship the three-headed fungus god. It's not a simple matter of these things being gods, it's that we turn them into gods. When the Indians built Krishna, they designed him to be their god. In an extended speech in issue three, the three-headed god delivers a speech about his role, summing up an argument that there's a genetic need in humans to create gods, something that activates a pleasure centre in our brains that will bring us together and help us to work as a community. He summarises the argument as such: "I am your stash." It's a disturbing idea.

That superhumans would be seen as or treated as gods is nothing new. That they would think differently isn't new either. What sets Supergod apart is the degree to which Ellis applies these ideas. They seem inescapable: there is no situation where we would not treat superhumans as gods and no situation where they would not think radically different from us. Even someone like Jerry Craven, the American super-soldier, is something that's alien. He's eventually sent to kill Krishna, but looks around, decides that Krishna has done right and that he wants to stay with Krishna. He was a man treated as a god and, as such, he didn't react or act as expected.

I've been struggling to figure out exactly how the ideas of Supergod could be applied ever since it came out. Ellis presents a fairly direct story that leads to the end of the world because superhumans think so differently. But, where else could this sort of story lead? If superhumans are so alien, so different in thought and deed, what story could possibly be told featuring this conception of them? In a similar limitation to Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen. His apathy and distance is what makes that story work to a degree. If he took a more active interest in the events unfolding, the story would fall apart.

Then again, one can rarely apply radically or new ideas to mainstream superhero comics. That doesn't mean that other comics can't benefit from the lessons of these three comics.

To be continued in 30 minutes...

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