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Posts Tagged ‘Superheroes’

birdman

[mild, vague spoilers]

If Superhero Movies are our new mythology, Birdman makes our new mythology feel like crumbly newsprint and warped videotape. Not that Birdman will or should render Superhero Movies obsolete or anything. I still like, and still expect to enjoy, Superhero Movies. But Birdman reaches certain levels of truth, buried deep in the middle of an inescapable labyrinth, that might make it impossible for me to see our new mythology Superhero Movies the same from now on (at least until a movie comes along that can out-Birdman Birdman).

Things like “universal themes” and “timeless stories” are great, but I know now that I need more blood, more  super-realism.  Larger Than Life with more Life. If Superhero Movies are Led Zeppelin, Birdman is punk rock.

Darren Aronofsky dabbled in this kind of mythology with The Wrestler and Black Swan (before he got all Biblical with Noah). But where those two films hurtle towards death, Alejandro González Iñárritu & his co-writers wallop Aronofsky’s artistic defeatism with an optimism that’s more transcendent than anything I’ve experienced with a Superman story. Icarus need not be a tragic figure. There’s a Birdman in all of us.

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Flash Fact: Our universe is one of many, grown inside some unimaginable amniotic hypertime.  It may even be a hologram, projected onto a flat mega-membrane, which is, in turn, embedded, along with many others like it, within a higher dimensional space some scientists have dubbed ‘the bulk.’  In the brane model of the multiverse, all history is spread as thin as emulsion on a celestial tissue that floats in some immense, Brahmanic ocean of…meta-stuff.  Got all that?

If cosmologists are right about this (and I’d dearly love to hope they are), the superheroes, as usual, have been here already.

You could certainly argue that Early 21st Century Pop Culture’s Superhero Fixation is little more than a series of risk-averse investments made in response to the billions of dollars grossed by Spider-Man and Batman.  Or, if you’re like Grant Morrison, you could make a pretty compelling argument that our Superhero Fixation is a symptom of something far bigger than box office receipts- as in, the collective, magickal will of humanity sketching the blueprints of the next steps in our own evolution.

That’s the thesis that pops up throughout Morrison’s Supergods, though for the most part the book’s just History Of Superheroes, from the Nazi-Smashing Golden Dawn through the present-day Techno-Terror Renaissance.  A lot of common knowledge for comics geeks more hardcore than myself, maybe, but potentially worthwhile for them too, considering it’s all recounted by one of the best-selling rock star comic-book writers in the medium’s history.  Not only does Morrison offer his inimitable chaos-magick slant on the story of the superhero meme and the role it plays in the human psyche, but he also provides a few illuminating flashes of insider’s perspective on some of the biggest DC & Marvel titles of the past 25 or so years.

Because it’s Grant Morrison, naturally there’s some self-mythologizing that borders on self-indulgence.  Some of the autobiographical passages feel like they’d be better off in an actual autobiography, and he includes several of his own titles in his list of “Essential Collected Editions.”  (I mean I don’t exactly disagree with his choices, but still.)  Nevertheless, it’s hard to stay mad at Morrison’s self-mythologizing, since he spends so much more time mythologizing humanity and our relationship to superheroes, and he does it to an inspiringly optimistic degree.  “We love our superheroes because they refuse to give up on us,” he writes.  “We can analyze them out of existence, kill them, ban them, mock them, and still they return, patiently reminding us of who we are and what we wish we could be.”  Even the most cynical corners of my psyche have a hard time spurning that kind of conviction.

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