Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blogathon 40: Of Humanity and Superhumanity Part Five

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

Ultimately, the question comes down to what does being superhuman mean. What is the proper use of power? I've already said that, for humanity, the perfect amount is where you're the Powers That Be's bitch. Do the dirty work, don't ask questions, and don't rock the boat. Be Superman (er, most of the time). But, even then, Marvel and DC have implied conceptions of what being a superhuman means. Black Summer is a Marvel conception twisted, while No Hero is DC twisted. Marvel features superhumans that are too human; DC features superhumans that are inhuman often -- near lifeless icons. That's where Supergod stands out. There is no natural conception of the superhuman as non-human, as something completely divorced from all human thought and inner life. And, yet, it seems so natural and obvious when you stop and think about it. I mostly wonder if it would be possible to establish a shared universe populated by superhumans that are non-human.

Then again, to relate this to an earlier conversation: would Superman actually qualify under these conditions? Does, for example, Grant Morrison's Superman actually think like a human? His viewpoint of the world is skewed and different from most humans. Ellis applies the conception of non-human superhumans to the idea that they would be destructive or consider humanity irrelevant. That's not guaranteed, though. Isn't it possible that non-human thinking could lead to the view that all life is sacred and worth protecting? That every life is irreplaceable and all important? That even those who try to destroy you are worthwhile and should be treated with kindness and meant to be reformed? After all, I made the joke about that version of Superman basically being SuperJesus and wasn't Jesus meant to be God? Ellis draws heavily on the Old Testament conception of God but ignores the New Testament. Must a God be destructive?

Superman doesn't fullfil the role, honestly, because he chooses not to occupy it. He's much more like Carick Masterson: superhuman in nature, but human in his brain and heart. He's limited by his humanity, which is why he occupies a state of inhumanity. He is above and equal. I said that Clark Kent is the balance and that's his limitation.Whereas, a hero like Spider-Man is rooted in humanity. If both were to take their ideals too far, Superman would conquer the world, while Spider-Man would take down figures of authority. It's not simply a matter of the scope of power, it's a matter of perspective. No Hero is almost a remix of Squadron Supreme, a book with a group based on the Justice League, you'll recall. Those characters are so powerful and shiny and perfect that they're stuck in that inhuman position, not human and human. No wonder Marvel is the company that people 'relate' to: it's heroes are so rooted in humanity.

To be continued in 30 minutes...

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