Friday, November 10, 2017

Outlaw Heroes...thanks to Dan Didio (Part 1)

At NY Comic Con last month, I attended Dan Didio’s panel in which he has a semi-informal discussion with some of DC’s top talents and the audience. I was ostensibly there to ask him questions about Captain Marvel, but I didn’t want to be a dick and hijack the panel, so I listened and participated in the spirit of it.

He asked some interesting questions and invited the audience to share their answers. Again, not wanting to be a dick, I did not raise my hand every time and beg to be picked, but upon reflection, those questions inspired me to come up with some interesting answers, so I would like to share them with you here now.

One of the first questions was “What was the first comic you ever read?” I can’t remember which comic book was the first I ever read, specifically. Comics have always been a part of my life. However I can remember how some of the first few superhero comics I read gave me a very specific impression of a superhero that was probably unique to the time.

The time was the early 1970’s, and between Vietnam, Watergate, and the rise of the various youth counter-cultures,  in the popular mainstream it seemed that governmental authority was not infallible, and the hero maybe the hunted. I may have been vaguely aware of this dynamic from other elements of culture and media that I absorbed, but it really came home to me in superhero comic books.

The three comics in question were issues of Batman, Spider-Man, and Tales of Suspense featuring Captain America.

The Batman story was part of a storyline in which Batman was accused of the murder of his adversary Ra’s Al Ghul. When the story began, he was already being hunted by the police, and unearthed the dead man’s grave to find it empty. At that moment, two cops found him. He fought them and dragged one of them to the grave, only to find the body or Ra’s in it, where it had not been before! The story ended with Batman still on the lam ad Commissioner Gordon continued to direct the manhunt against him.

The Captain America story involved an imposter with a ray gun on his wrist leading high-profile bank raids. This, of course led to Captain America being a hunted man. Cap ultimately defeated the crook, but not before there were serious doubts as to whether or not he was still n the right side of the law.

Finally, the Spider-Man story was the famous first appearance of the Punisher. I don’t have much memory of this story, as the comic disappeared from my life not long after I acquired it. Lost or stolen, I imagine. I do remember that the Punisher was trying to hunt him down in the belief that he was a bad guy, and the police didn’t seem to like him much either. There was an air of desperation about his life that impressed me well.

So with these three stories, I was of the mind that to be a superhero was to be outside the law. That wearing a mask and costume to fight crime was a thing that the police and authority did not like. But since these characters were the sympathetic characters of the story, that meant that rebel fugitives were the good guys and law and authority were the bad guys.

This sort of view of things was only reinforced as I started to learn about the American Revolution (this being the bicentennial decade) and read about folks like Paul Revere doing things under cover of night to avoid the redcoats.


Artists and heroes.

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