Comic Books: America’s Secret Heroes

On the day that the Academy Awards bestows its annual awards, there are two films missing in the picture category: The Dark Knight and Ironman. Easily the best two pictures I saw last year, their snub is evidence that the Academy is out of touch with modern culture. Most likely, Slumdog Millionaire will be given its due, but it doesn’t compare to the other two in my opinion. Some may question my opinion, but I do not. For me, the comic book, and its heroes and villians, have become a serious art form in many areas of the fine arts – art, literature, and movies.

The comic book itself derived from many things. The earliest of which were Japanese Manga. During the 1700s and 1800s, the form evolved through editorial cartoons, children’s stories, and eventually comic strips. In the 1920s and 1930, the comic book we know and love today was born along with the story of Superman. Now while Superman is full of German existential and gestalt psychology, the art form continued to change and evolve. Beloved characters like Batman, Captain America, The Phantom, Popeye, and Dagwood arrived. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the books were seen as something for children. In the 1960s and 1970s, that all changed.

To redefine the art form, the comic book underwent dramatic changes in style and substance. The Cold War, its technology, and it events redefined the genre. Merging with Science Fiction, comics began to take themselves more seriously. Still, movies made from comic books were still seen as movies for kids. A new art form grew out of comic books – The graphic novel. Some were serialized comic books, but Maus changed all that. Soon, other compendiums arrived.

nfs13A generation growing up in the 1950s and 1960s arrived on the scene and redefined the genre in the 80s and 90s focusing more on the storyline and the art – comics became darker, more serious pieces of literature. The Dark Knight novels redefined Batman although the movies of the 80s and 90s didn’t help the image of a brooding Bruce Wayne. The Watchmen is set to arrive next month and could redefine movie adaptations of other graphic novels and comics much in the way that Spiderman, the first X-Men movie, and Batman Begins did for regular comics.

So what has changed to make comic book movies part of our movie going culture? Technology. The use of CGI has allowed movie makers the opportunity to bring the pages of the comic book to life. Everyone and their mother knew that Christopher Reeve couldn’t fly, but it was the only the beginning of the technology. By the time Spiderman was leaping from building to building, the technology had changed so drastically in 25 years, it was more believable. Computers actually have redefined the art form in the pages. Gone are the faded dot colors and they have been replaced by sharper, brighter pixels.

xfirst001_dcThe future of the comic book is not in doubt. While Marvel and DC Comics both have web sites, the content is still delivered to the masses in its original form. While newspapers gave away their content online in the 90s and 2000s, the comic book industry has not and that is what will keep it alive. Many old comics have been reborn with the new technology.

As for me, I still hold dear the Original X-Men, Captain America and Bucky, and Nick Fury: Agent of Shield. To me, Nick Fury is the comic book movie I wish to see most. The high point of any movie last year was at the end of Ironman, Samuel Jackson appears as Nick Fury in the apartment of Tony Stark. I almost came out of my seat. The fact that I was standing at the time prohibited me from doing so, but nonetheless, it was the most exciting point of the year in movies. The fact that David Hasselhoff didn’t kill Nick Fury totally is something that is redeeming to me.

Now where did I put my latest copy of Wolverine?


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