Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blogathon 37: Of Humanity and Superhumanity Part Two

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

That fundamental difference between the two groups and their central leader figures, John Horus and Carick Masterson, leads to the problem in each respective series. Masterson doesn't age and can't die. What would that do to a person? Would it make him cold and devoted to controlling his environment completely? So, he took over the world secretly, controlling things from behind the scenes in ways that no one knew. That a collection of nations target him and his group alone shows how well protected his position is. He's no longer human and maintains his basic humanity to the degree that he still thinks like a human; meaning, he thinks himself as something more than human without actually progressing to the point where he's not actually human anymore. That's where the idea of ruling the world so he can live in comfort comes from. Granted, it also allows him and his group to keep things under control, it's mostly about the power and the profit. As he puts it: "[...] THE MORE PEOPLE ALIVE THERE ARE, THE MORE PEOPLE THERE ARE TO EARN MONEY THAT WILL EVENTUALLY BE GIVEN TO ME. / ALSO, THE MORE PEOPLE THERE ARE TO BREED GIRLS WHOM I WILL EVENTUALLY FUCK." It a callous attitude, one that is contemptable, but rooted in the idea of a man who will not age nor die. In a sense, he's trapped somewhere between humanity and true superhumanity. Physically, he's a superhuman, but, mentally, he's a human. Together, they make him inhuman.

By contrast, John Horus operates within the system to a degree. It doesn't occur to him to secretly take over the world and make things right that way. It just occurs to him to kill the president and his advisors for arranging an illegal war. Basically, what if a superhuman killed Bush for Iraq? He wants to serve his fellow man and that means working within established systems. He doesn't see himself as something better than human; John Horus is a human who happens to have the best tool to fight injustice. He does what he thinks anyone in his position would (or should) do. That's his failing: he is better than humanity. He's developed such sophisticated weaponry that that technology actually raises him to another level. He had other means of enacting change than just killing someone. It's something so narrow-minded and focused that it ignores how people tend to react to that sort of thing.

Of course, with these two men on either side, what's the proper middle ground? Considering yourself above humanity and deciding to take on what you think is best is inhuman, but considering yourself just another person is being too human. Where should these two have landed? The failing of these books is that Ellis offers criticism but no solutions. Where is the proper place to land? Supergod shows that being truly different from huamanity leads to death and destruction, so that's not the answer either.

There is no answer beyond the most obvious one: superhumanity cannot function alongside humanity unless it is willing to bow to the wishes of humanity. That's how superheroes like Superman operate: they colour inside the lines and stick to the laws established by man and don't rock the boat. The minute you do that, you almost need to be willing to kill anyone that gets in your way and utterly debase humanity, making sure they're under your thumb completely. Secretly ruling the world isn't enough -- it needs to be explicit. And things need to be made better. Part of being better than humanity is acting better than humanity. That means not falling prey to the same vices and faults as humanity. Wanting power for the sake of money and sex? That should be beneath someone above humanity. Just killing the people at the top of a corrupt system and expecting everyone to applaud you? Hopelessly naive.

The roles of Tom Black and Joshua Carver fill the same roles in their respective books: the men who take down John Horus and Carrick Masterson. Both do it out of recognition of where things went wrong. How they go about is interesting. Black does it because he's disappointed. Horus failed to live up to his expectations. Carver does it because it's his job, because he's crazy, and because the idea of someone controlling everything offends him.

To be continued in 30 minutes...

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