Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I am Silver Age, sir. We embrace technicalities.

So, my pal Richard Bensam commented on the other story that was in the  JLA Giant that contained the story I featured two posts ago. I'd like to talk more about that second story, "Journey into the Micro-World," and not just because it features the Protectors of Starzl, my long-time favorite obscure characters, but because Richard said the story "provided a powerful metaphor of crippling self-doubt [he's] recalled more than once over the years."

Here's the set-up: The JLA is brought to the alien world of Starzl to defeat their android defense team, the Protectors, before their bad radiation destroys the Starzlians. (Big design flaw, there.) The only problem is that, as the Protectors tell it, the radiation makes them unbeatable; this seems to be the case as the JLA  gets summarily whupped on land, on the sea, and in the air. 

Then they suss it out:

How? Well, see, what the radiation does (besides eventually kill you) is make you believe whatever it is you're told. So as each hero expressed doubt about the ability of the others to succeed, they internalized that doubt, and so failed at the task. This is a paradigmatic example of the kind of silver-age puzzle-piece that made superheroes work for victory rather than merely unleash their godlike powers.

In this case, the JLA recruits their "mascot," Snapper Carr, and in some hairsplitting of rabbinical  proportions, keep him from being told that the Protectors are invulnerable and help him defeat them.

"Even though I feel Ocana is invulnerable, I can still carry Snapper toward him at top speed!" Talk about your loopholes and technicalities.

Eventually the JLA prevail and turn off the radiation, and in the denouement (as other bloggers have pointed out before me) we get a rare glimpse of some super-pride :

Nobody punks the Big Red S.

I have gone on about this admittedly minor story for so long because it turns out that Richard's comment was both timely and apt. I can trace the roots and foundations of my ethical system back to several individual comics stories - and I feel the same way about this story that Richard does. Although I read it over forty years ago, whenever I find myself or someone close to me confronted with doubt, this story will come to mind, and I will ask (more or less): Is this sense of powerlessness real, or is it ultrazone radiation? Further, even if you don't feel you can succeed, is there anything really stopping you from acting anyway? Can we keep on going and not give up?

On a walk with Wonder Wife tonight we were talking about different ways of framing problems or concerns and our responses to them. She was relating a technique she had read in something by Byron Katie and we worked with it as we walked. But I was thinking: she reads this, and Thich Nhat Hanh, and other self-improvement and spiritual guidance books to help build her compass.

Me, I read comics.

No comments:

Post a Comment