Straight From Krypton

I read this interview this morning with Danny Fingeroth, an active force in the comic book industry and author of at least two books about the commentary that comic book superheroes provide on our culture. Take the time to read it…its fascinating.

This has become a topic of great conversation over the last few years, I’ve noticed. While comic book fans were once isolated to the daring few geeks who wore superhero t-shirts and hung out at the local comic shop, I’ve noticed more “closet” superhero fans emerging with the huge influence of movies such as the X-Men series (that paints a disturbing commentary on prejudice) and NBC’s hit drama, Heroes (which asks the question, what if we were meant to be something more?). There has been significant conversation among evangelical circles over the Christological metaphor of the Man of Steel in Superman Returns, the importance of redemptive faith imagery in X-Men 2, and the emphasis on forgiveness in Spider-Man 3. I even recognized redemptive faith imagery in Ghost Rider (although it took the form of a beautiful woman showing significant cleavage). M. Night Shyamalan painted an intriguing portrait of faith within the concept of a comic book superhero in Unbreakable.

As you’ve guessed by now, or read here before, I was one of those comic shop geeks in my childhood, and still collect today. I’m as conversant about the history of the X-Men and Transformers as I am theology and Scripture. I love the story, the visual aesthetic, the commentary that comics and superheroes paint of our culture. I love how they point to hope…a hope of redemption.

Isn’t that what good art is supposed to do, anyway?

Regardless of whether or not you’re much into the comic book or superhero “scene,” watch for the themes presented in these stories…don’t just go for the action when you see them in the theater. If nothing else, their portrayals of good and evil are convicting. And while I tremble at the thought of reading philosophical undertones into everything (as some recent commentaries on superheroes have been wont to do), I think that there is something there we can learn from them. As with anything worth finding, we just have to look deeply.



I was chatting with an artist friend at his gallery a couple of months ago. The conversation was about the evil condition of needing money, and how it competes with the desire to produce one’s art.

He said something profoundly simple that night: “You don’t need stuff.”

As anyone who reads here regularly is, I’m sure, sick of hearing me lament, I find it difficult enough to balance the job that pays the bills with words inside of me that are screaming to get out. I’m thrilled to say that Karen and I are (typically) disciplined with our finances and dedicated to responsibly funding our future. Naturally, we occasionally buy a new toy (just tonight, we were discussing Christmas gift wishes). I suppose that’s a typically American stance.

As we drove through one of the wealthier neighborhoods in town a few weekends ago, however, I found myself gazing at the beautiful homes and recalling my friend’s words: “You don’t need stuff.” I remembered another friend, a musician, stating how irritating it was for him when he and his wife accumulated too much stuff, and how they would periodically go through their garage and basement and purge the un-necessaries. I thought about mine and Karen’s current income (both respectable professional salaries) and did the math on how amazingly short we would fall if desiring a home of that nature, and how much more intense a job I would need, and how many hours a week I would find myself slaving (at the expense of writing and theatre, my two loves) to pay for it, as well letting the two most critical relationships in my life (Karen and God) suffer dramatic decline. The immediate result of my cost-benefit analysis: its not worth it.


Yet our culture is built around money. The numbers in our bank accounts are the single most powerful motivator in our lives. I heard a story tonight about someone who couldn’t buy the medicine they needed, and considered how perverse it is that they would need to pay for their own health. I see presidential campaigns being measured by how many millions of dollars they have raised, as if this were a measure of their potential political success, and my stomach turns. If only we as a people could realize the impact of my friend’s words. We truly just don’t need the stuff.

Or, as God put it, money is the root of all evil, and your heart is where your treasure is.

How in the world can we manage to connect with God and with those around us? How can we spare the time when we must be slaves to the required income to maintain our toys?

How can we navigate around all this stuff?

Fashionably Late

Apparently, there’s a change afoot in fashion trends.

According to this ABC News article, teen girls are moving to become less trashy while retaining their fashion sense. The movement is even being catered to by clothing labels specializing in fashionable clothing that covers more.

Its been a long time coming. I’ve been in a state of perpetual concern for the past few years as to the state of revelation of the clothing choices of our culture, particularaly distraught over the fact that it targets 16-year-olds, and fearfully anticipating future psychological studies that will reveal the damaged psyche and self-esteem that these trends have produced.

Perhaps it is age that makes one less conscious of cutting edge fashion. If so, then my appreciation for the visual asthetic places me caught in between, because I appreciate good fashion. My faith, however, wars with my eyes when I walk through the mall and see girls passing by in a far more thorough way than I really ever should.

I’m in hopes that this trend proves enduring.

On a side note (and I mean this with no intention of a sarcastic stab, but out of sincere curiosity), I wonder how Paris Hilton feels about being named in this article (as a negative example) now that she’s “found God?


Existing in a Vacuum

Douglas Groothuis, who blogs at The Constructive Curmudgeon, recounts a conversation between himself and a nameless youth while in line to purchase the conclusion of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which paints an all too-realistic portrayal of an increasingly illiterate generation. While Groothuis is frequently painfully conservative, I found myself nodding in agreement with this conversation.

With a wistful smile.

I’m saddened when I contemplate that high school students today are largely clueless as to classic literature, the Scriptures, and art in general. In our technological innovations, I fear we have misplaced critical items in our cultural heritage. We fail to educate students in an appreciation of the arts (not typically the teachers’ fault, I’ve noticed, but rather the system) in favor of over-emphasizing the maths and sciences, resulting in a worldview that has cast aside mystery and desires to quantify everything.

Even more dangerously, it chooses to ignore as superstition anything that it cannot quantify.

Should I mention here that we can’t quantify God?

I guess our innovations should be making access to art and great literature easier, but instead we permit our children to rot away brain cells in front of video games and American Idol instead of cultivating an appreciation for (and a relationship with) the Scriptures, Shakespeare, Van Gogh, or Miles Davis.

It is conversations like these that cause me to realize the extent of the damage. It is bordering on cataclysmic.

A Mad Rush

I can’t believe it’s been 10 days since I posted anything, but I’ve been learning really important lessons about what’s important of late.

I’m trying to force myself into a regular discipline of writing. My goal is an hour a day. Doesn’t sound all that daunting, but wow, it’s beyond difficult at times. Tonight, I come home from slaving for the man with a pounding headache because I was reading confidentiality laws for like 4 hours (try it…riveting…really) and like a hundred household odds and ends to do, forced myself to write a page of dialogue and talked to someone about the set design for a drama sketch I’m directing in two weeks, and I realized my head was absolutely spinning. I feel like I’ve just sat down for the night, and it’s too late…I have to go to bed and do it all over again tomorrow.

And then, after stealing a few precious seconds to soak up the night sounds on our balcony, I turned to find my wife making faces at me through the glass door to get me to laugh.

I laughed. We both did, for a while.

God speaks through laughter, because He told me tonight what makes this all worthwhile.