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.