Wednesday 23 November 2011

--and sometimes in the middle of the day - for no reason at all - I like to make myself a big pitcher of margheritas and take a nap out on the sundeck

Reading: Static Shock #1, which is okay, I guess, but there seems to be an odd back and forth between the comic it wants to be and the comic that the greater editorial vision for the New 52 wants it to be, on one hand full of the trappings of the 1990s cartoon show and on the other there's all this violent dismemberment, and while this dichotomy will no doubt give rise to gurning online about what DC is doing wrong (though they're shifting books in the short-term and short-term sales are what monthly comics are all about in this "waiting for the trade collection" age), there was something here that didn't ring true that I could not put my finger on until it struck me that Static (or rather his alter-ego Virgil) is not allowed to be poor.

He was poor in the cartoon to the point he couldn't take a bus to school and had a home-made costume rather than a body condom as seen in the newest comic, but in the comic he's not allowed to be so badly off and instead his home is a compact but comfortable brownstone, his costume is shiny and expensive-looking and he has a secret base full of technological wonders that's bankrolled by some sort of black Iron Man-type character with whom he has a student/teacher relationship that I don't see working too well dramatically since Virgil's actual father is still alive and present. The comic equates being less well-off than necessary to live comfortably as being the same thing as poor, as if being poor is basically the same as living in student digs for a year or two while you get your art history masters or become one of those insufferable Media students. Virgil/Static isn't some sort of projects-based superhero living a life of stark contrast to the surburbanites that typify superheroic fiction, but you get the impression that's where the writers wanted to go with it except the trappings and visuals don't back them up.

Static/Virgil seems a typical teen superhero and I'm not sure why I should care to read his book before any of the other teen superhero books on the market, or even the teen superhero books of yesteryear like Darkhawk, which I am still reading my way through now and then. All these teen heroes seem to live in houses with a garage, they all go to college, their big problems are romance and popularity issues caused by some some pesky supervillain - I suppose this might be a conscious thing in these Occupy Wall Street times to give people wallowing in poverty the escapism that superhero comics represent, like when Batman kept having crazy adventures after the war because that was what people wanted to distract them from their misery - although this might also have been because Fred Wertham accused Batman of being a bit of a gaylord and DC - displaying the winning grasp of public opinion that's kept it a powerhouse in North American comic books to this very day - made Batman as camp as humanly possible because, naturally, that is how you dispel gay rumors.

Whatever the case may be, Static Shock made me think about the class system in American superhero comics - or to be more specific, it made me think that North American superhero comics are increasingly distracted with being middle class, and that's a bit of a shame as I seem to remember some great comics from my youth that championed the poor, the underclass, the underdog or whatever patronising label I should be utilising, while nowadays it seems that comics are less about real people escaping into a fantasy world and more having a window into the lives of a defacto ruling elite of posthuman snobs, so I guess it's been worth checking out for that reason if no other, but I don't really get why I should care about this book. The original gave us a decent cartoon show and made a black teen superhero popular, but while that was trends being set, this update seems more like trends being followed, if that makes sense as a criticism - I mean, a comic is under no obligation to blaze a trail or anything even if I think it'd be nice if it would try something new.


  1. In the Spiderman comics I read as a kid, Peter Parker always seemed to be struggling with money; dodging the rent and begging Jameson for any job he could get. It made him more human, and it gives the writers something to work with. I've been trying to think of some other poor superheroes, but none spring to mind at the moment. There must be some.

  2. I liked that about Spider-Man, but as time went on and his troubles became more about which supermodel to have sex with my empathy subsided. As for poor superheroes, I'm tempted to say Runaways seeing as they're technically homeless and without jobs, but every time we see them they're living in mansions or beach houses, playing the latest videogames, or referencing the latest music, television, movies or internet memes.
    The old 1980s Power Pack was about a middle class family who found themselves suddenly poor and living in project housing, but the updated series removed that element of it for a safer suburban setting.