Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Gus Van Horn's Hero Link-o-Rama

A blogger by the name of Gus Van Horn has two recent entries regarding superheroes and Objectivism that I found interesting. The first one, "Getting Write With Jesus?", discusses the influence of religion in superhero comics and science-fiction. What I found interesting and relevant to this site is the question he asks: "Is having one's world, or nation, or even just one's existence directly threatened by an enemy a necessary plot element for a story of heroism?".

His answer?
"No. Just watch The Pursuit of Happyness. Is having super powers? Or being armed to the teeth with lasers and nuclear weaponry? Or being born of a virgin? Or having mystical powers? No, no, no, and no. Just read Atlas Shrugged, which does have other elements of science fiction, although I would not classify it as such."
Horn also claims that "the problem being "answered" by God, so to speak, is that most writers in our culture today do not really understand heroism or romantic realism."

Well, I agree, which is why this site is here!

Horn addresses heroes again the next one, "Why Super Powers?". He references another blogger, Doug Reich, who blogged an entry called "Why Super Heroes Need Super Powers."
Horn then refers to another blog entry about the "inanity" of super-powered versions of the heroes of Atlas Shrugged, while linking to yet another set of links on the topic, Reason Online's "Rorschach Doesn't Shrug: The Watchmen's Hero as Objectivist Saint" and Witch Doctor Repellent's blog entry, "How Not to Understand Objectivism."

I found this issue personally interesting, since I've been mentally revisiting the Symphony of Babylon project that Landon and I had planned. I've been thinking about my own issues with that story as opposed to the original intent of the short story on which it was based. That story was meant to be a look at the politics of the Marvel Universe viewed through the biography of Doctor Doom and his ascension to world power. In that story, the major heroes were gone, leaving mostly characters of a political or a legal nature. (I even wrote away Doom's mystical inclinations.) The one major exception was the presence of Franklin Richards, who is believed to be, potentially, the most powerful being in the Marvel Universe, almost "god-like." The end of the story would have had him triumph as a symbol of Objectivist/Libertarian ideals. The problem with that, as I look back on it now, is similar to Horn's objections to a "superpowered" version of John Galt. The added irony is that, when I wrote this in '99, I had not yet read Watchmen. Now, I'm struck with the realization that my version of Franklin Richards would have been analog to Dr. Manhattan, but with a different ending (and, admittedly, not as effective as Dr. Manhattan; despite my ideological differences with Moore, his use of a lone superpowered character was better integrated to his theme. Touche...) But in Landon's story, although the superpowered characters were reintroduced, the real story centered on Agent 76 (Captain America), and the ending was more ambiguous for the hero, less triumphant in victory, but still, a victory from within, not without. Now, I'm not so hard-core as Horn about superpowers; me, I like a bit of the fantastic. But I draw the line at "godlike" beings who solve our problems for "us." Landon's ending was much better, in that it centered less around the deus-ex-machina approach and more on the triumph of the mind and the spirit.

Anyway, enough yammering from me. There are links to explore above...