Meet Clutch

Chapter I:

Rite of Passage

Years ago, a time when strife met the everyday, when grief was the national attitude, there was a young man who was bound to change that, better or worse. His name was Tim Collins. His childhood was fair, much like his adolescence. He was an above-average student, but a just-around-the-same-level kind of teen. He had his friends, a good family, and a roof over his head, all while never asking for more. All of this was what was around him, but, on the inside, a superhero was waiting to be born. It was not a desire to conquer, or to make a name for himself, that was embedded in his character, but a curiosity that drove him to ask the bigger questions, and allowing him to feel any and every emotion around him, all manifested in one question: What else can I do? This is the origin story ofClutch.

Tim Collins, a graduate student at MIT studying Electrical Engineering, was in the process of making a technological breakthrough: he was creating a pair of cyber-kinetic gloves that emitted two hands composed of Hard Light, which is a type of holographic projection capable of having the same physical properties as real hands, like grabbing, moving, and touching other objects. These hands are able to shrink to an almost microscopic size, intended to perform surgeries where actual human hands could not access, or grow large enough to help shape a building as if it was a mound of clay. This concept came to him as a child, when he would hear about or see the schoolyard bully attack another victim. At times, he intervened, and other times, not as much, but always, the idea of someone bullying someone else offended him. He thought, “These are the guys that need the most help. It’s wrong for a kid to feel that kind of fear. And for what?” Like a pair of helping hands, he wanted to create something to help those who did not deserve the treatment they were receiving. With his creation, he would be able to help others who needed the most help, such as during a natural disaster, under unsafe working conditions, or anywhere else he felt needed. Inspiration was building, turning into a discovery of possibilities.

Beside his own intellectual curiosity, there were others around Tim that were partly responsible for his transformation into Clutch. His parents supported him throughout his education, but as he continued to study, his parents grew less and less interested in his accomplishments. This granted a type of independence and maturity; the type that most kids don’t choose to live through. When he moved away to study, it was pretty easy for him to make friends, but most were just that- friends. His studies were where his heart was. Then, he met Mary. Mary (abbreviated for Marisol de la Puente) was an artist that frequented the campus library at MIT for inspiration. She was a sculptress, concentrating on making models of famous characters from American narratives. She has completed figures of George Washington, Harriet Tubman, Tom Sawyer, Cesar Chavez, but her best accomplishment was making a six-inch figurine of Peter Pan. Not only was it her favorite, but it also gave her recognition in artistic circles. They met in passing one morning towards the campus library. As they both frequented the library, they also grew aware of each other’s existence.  As Tim tried to reach out to talk to her for the first time, he soon discovered another hurtle- Mary was deaf. This made Tim even more determined to talk to her. After making the clumsy attempt to learn sign language, Mary almost pitied him, yet found him charming at the same time.

Mary and Tim were soon a couple, with the both of them complimenting each other when it came to their work. At that time, he began work on his gloves. While this was happening, Tim was also introduced to Roy, a classmate of his. He was the son of the Rogers family, responsible for creating a revolutionarily new model of the computerized tomography (CAT) scan machine. No one spoke of it, but the two seemed to be in constant competition when it came to the best new idea. This was not something Tim enjoyed, but his encounters with Roy sparked all the awful qualities inside of him, encouraging them to peak out into the outside world.  What made things worse was the professor they both had, Dr. Henry Palmer. He not only encouraged competition between his students, but was almost testing them in a way to examine their potential. He had his own question that encapsulated his character, which was written on a banner over his desk in his office: Success is a Tool, Not a Trophy. What Tim did not know about was Palmer’s affiliation with the secret society called Friends of the New World. A group who’s ideology concentrates on the notion that the world is a constant progression of ideas and development; those who are not align with those changes will suffer the consequences of excommunication from the world, to be left to die, along with the old ideas people once lived by. Their motives, however promising or beneficial to the world, overshadowed everything else people thought of them–global domination. To them, the world was in constant battle over the past and the future. They captured the most brilliant scientists to begin working on projects designed to help anyone that was part of their cause, including prolonging the average lifespan, developing weapons decades ahead of their time, and creating super-human serums to grant them a body that is impervious to disease and weather.

A year after dealing with Palmer, and dating Mary, Tim Collins finally finished his gloves, but kept them a secret. He had no idea who to trust. What will Palmer do when he discovers them? What will Roy try to create after he finds out about the gloves? What will Mary think? These questions ran through his head every day as he tried to hide them. To try them out, he went to went further into the country-side, trying to be as reclusive as possible. There was a small lake with an abandoned cabin. He called his “den and pond”; he gave it that name because of the small sign above the door. It was a wooden sign with a barely-legible word on it, slightly making out “—den pond”. He would use the gloves and project the hands and do whatever came to his imagination. The hands were strong enough to serve as a damn and gentle enough to pet the wildlife around him. He felt like a giant in a small body. This feeling, along with his mantra, allowed him to gradually become okay with sharing this to help others. It was a few days before Christmas when he decided to confide in Mary about his gloves. They were walking along in the park, with Tim having his hands in his coat pockets, hiding his gloves. Mary kept talking with the aid of her mobile phone that allowed her to write and pronounce what she wanted to say. As they were walking, they noticed a stroller rolling downhill into the street and oncoming traffic. Mary clutched his arm when she noticed that to bring it to his attention. He then raised his hands towards the stroller, and, having activated the gloves, shot his holographic hands out to save the child. Everyone saw. There was now no point in hiding them. Mary clutched his arm even harder now. Once the commotion was over, he sat her down to explain. The whole time before telling her about the gloves, he was worried about what she would say. Her patience and understanding allowed that worry to vanish. They spent the night talking about the gloves and what he intended to do with them. Where his technical aptitude flourished, so did she in imagination. When he saw innovation, she saw possibility. He wanted to perform surgeries where it once could not exist, she saw being able to set an example for others. She began to help him shape and develop where he can put his creation to good use. They started roaming the streets. It was almost like clock-work when he stopped a mugging taking place, and helped put out a fire where the firefighter’s hose couldn’t reach. It was the beginning of Clutch as a hero for the people. But while all of this was happening, so were the plans of the Friends of the New World as they began to unravel, one accomplishment at a time, what they desire, starting with the capture of Clutch and his technology. What will happen to Clutch? Will he have what it takes to stop them? These questions and more will be answered in the second installment of Clutch.

Chapter II

Rights and Redemption

            It was now Tim with his gloves that began to save the lives of the innocent, help set an example for those with extraordinary potential and with the right heart in place that allowed him to become Clutch. Behind every good man, there was a great woman; while it was Clutch that saved the lives and helped the oppressed, it was Mary that assured his belief in himself and what he was trying to accomplish. Mary helped Tim shape the morality of Clutch, what he symbolized, and how his role can be used to the best of his abilities. She came up with the name Clutch; it was the moment she saw the stroller that frightened her, only to see Tim save it in time. The clutching of his arm assured her to know that he has power to save lives, and the heart to want to. She even came up with his costume, which resembled a detective from old noir films, having a duster jacket and fedora. The jacket was designed to hide his gloves like concealed weapons, while also having a radio sewed into it that allowed direct communication with her, along with law enforcement and detectives that liaison to him. He was a vigilante, and he knew it. It was also Mary who brought his attention to the shades of gray that the law cannot address.  The police had guns and the law; Clutch had his gloves and Mary. Very shortly after stopping car accidents and aiding the police with car chases, Clutch went straight into the heart of those who thrive in the gray areas of the laws- organized crime. The mob started to see its business get attacked and begin to decay. Clutch stopped drug-trafficking, went after those who demanded extortion money, and, with the aid of his co-operatives, stop any and all weapon shipments directed by them. The mob now had no idea how to combat Clutch. Not only were their resources drying up, but their access to insiders in the police department and government offices disappeared. Almost at once, both the Mob and anyone affiliated with them received a list of people who were now under “special protection”; those who were bribed were saved, and those who refused were exposed. There was nothing the mob could do to stop this. A year after this, the streets were safe, crime was reduced to nothing, and slowly, but surely, those living in fear had a pair of helping hands on their shoulders, helping them escape their oppressors.

It did not take long to see the streets of Boston become less of a town associated with danger and more a town that welcomed anyone wanting a new life. It was the new Metropolis of ideas, serving as the new capital of hope and scientific advancements. This gave Clutch a chance to further experiment with his gloves. The more he used them, the more abilities he discovered in them. Much like the way the gloves grew in size, the gloves also proportionally multiplied the strength in his hands. Clutch had the power to stop a tidal wave in the palm of his hands. Another new feature he discovered was their ability to let Clutch feel what it was touching even if he couldn’t see it. It could have been through a wall, inside the human body, or underwater. There was a possibility for him to be able to see what was in the mind of others as well, by putting the hands on anyone he wanted to psychically probe, but Mary put a halt on this. She told him that the thoughts of others is a privacy that should never be breached. She has done such a good job directing his motives, that he trusted her judgment and ceased to develop that ability. Whether it liberated him or held him back, he felt like he was in the right. Clutch was a superhero people could look up to. Even Tim did.

 As all of this happened, the Friends of the New World began to act. They infiltrated all government institutions, took over the mob, and, soon, the war of the minds began to reach the streets of the public. Fear was the new weapon; ignorance was the new drug-of-choice, and freedom was now something to be traded in for protection. It only took a few months to make the streets of Boston into a warzone. Friends of the New World were so effective, the wielded an even more powerful weapon than Clutch’s hands- the media. They made Clutch the reason why violence tore across their town. He went from hero, to vigilante, to criminal. The public demanded him to turn himself in along with all of his tools and weapons. According to them, if it is possible for a person like Clutch to have a weapon, what is to stop him from taking over the city? It was now a battle between Clutch and the people. Who will stop him? It did not take much for Friends of the New World to persuade the people to give them the power to stop him, no matter the expense. This is when Clutch discovered the connection between Friends of the New World and Dr. Palmer, along with Roy as his protégé. They developed the most sophisticated weaponry possible to stop Clutch. But it was Clutch, with all of his training and practice, and Mary by his side that made him stop everything they threw at him. His hands were strong enough to crumple up their tanks. They were resilient enough for them to fly into their weapons and stop their power source. They shielded him against a wave of gunfire, missiles, and explosions. The hands swept away armies like dust. There was a resilience in Clutch- the kind that makes him not want to stop until everything is settled. Everyone was running out of ideas. This is when Roy unveiled his secret weapon- a droid that replicates the image of the person it is fighting. This droid was composed of liquid metal that allows it to form his body into whatever form it desires. Its strength and durability were very powerful, but the psychological implications were much worse. The droid was able to mimic every characteristic of the person it was fighting. They put him to work against Clutch. This battle lasted for hours. Clutch ripped it in half, threw buildings on top of it, and shot him to the farthest depths of the ocean. Nothing stopped it. Whatever happened to it, it would simply come together again and rebuild itself. Clutch then thought of grabbing him and throwing him into space. He shot his hands towards him, and as soon as he tried, the droid stared right at him. This put inside of Clutch the biggest fear he has ever experienced. Whatever he did, the stare made Clutch feel like he was doing it to himself. This made Clutch see what he has become- a fearless monster, powerful enough to do anything, with nothing to stop him. He let the droid go, and fear shot into the heart of Clutch, of Tim. It was at this moment when Mary reminded him of who he was. She reminded him of the time they met. This memory took him back to that moment. He remembered that day as if he was living it in that moment. It was two years ago when he got Mary’s attention. When he saw her for the first time, he knew this girl was the thing that has been missing in his life the whole time. In order to get her attention, he created a small machine that replicates the scent of the beach and the mist of ocean overcast. He tried to impress her, but Mary showed him that it would take much more than a machine to win her heart. She did not love him for his intelligence, but for who he was as a person. He fell in love with her heart; only a person like Mary could feel and believe what she does. As these memories flooded his mind, she told him through the radio in his jacket, “That machine is as strong as you, but it doesn’t have your heart”. Almost like an intellectual rebirth, he got back up and went straight to the machine. They ran towards each other, ready to attack. As they ran, the projections came back into Clutch’s gloves. He ran faster and faster; the droid ran faster and faster. They met, and then…Clutch punched him right in his chest, putting a hole right through him. He took his hands out of him, and both Clutch and the droid looked inside. There was nothing. The droid, as Clutch, looked back at him. The droid fell to its knees, and collapsed. Roy and Palmer saw all of this happening. So did the rest of the world. It was this act that made the people see who was in the right. The Friends of the New World had every intention of theirs spelled out and the people bought it, but the acts of Clutch spoke louder. Soon, they were all arrested and Clutch resumed as the hero he once was. The gloves helped in rebuilding the city. Clutch helped bring the people together again, letting them believe in him and themselves. The new town was now a town of independence, where the freedom to think was the backbone to its existence.

Chapter III

 Redemption After Requiem

Years after the ordeal with Friends of the New World, Boston felt safe again. Within that time, Tim and Mary married. They moved closer to his “Den and Pond”, but not too far from the city. Tim finished his studies and became a doctor. His gloves were able to help him access parts of the body that were once considered impossible to reach, or, for the most part, areas where risk was too high to perform surgery. Many of his coworkers urged him to patent his gloves and make the technology readily available to the world. But Tim refused; he did own the patent, but for the sole purposes of making sure no one can replicate his technology. He worked and continued to do what he did best- help those in need.

 At this time, Mary was now a famous artist. She soon started to curate museums all over the world. She also continued her work as a sculptress. As she traveled, inspiration grew to create even more types of characters. She made a new statue about every six months, including a model of The Queen of England, a Buddhist monk, and Nelson Mandela. The world was tranquil. A combination of democracy and community was the attitude for most. But it was not a utopia; a series of different opinions about how people treated the world and what was happening never ceased to exist. But no matter how different the ideas were, no one was fearful of their government because they knew the power was in the hands of the people. They elected people who did their job, and if they could not, they were removed and replaced by someone who could. The position the government was one to run the country, not control it. All of this was happening, yet, still, there was Tim and his Den and Pond. He would still practice and use his gloves, but, with crime being hardly present, there was hardly a need to be Clutch anymore. But that did not stop him to experiment and explore. Like it or not, he missed being Clutch. He found two more abilities his gloves had. One was the ability to create a type of tether between him and the gloves. This granted him the ability to fly at the rate the gloves did. Another new ability he discovered was the power to reach into the Earth and feel everything that was happening. This helped him detect earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. He appreciated it, but he also knew that this was a power that should not be wielded unless such a situation warrants it. As he kept walking around, felling the wildlife around him, he began to wonder about Palmer, Roy and the Friends of the New World. They were locked up, but were they really gone? Tim knew intimately that is impossible to lock up an idea. The world seems okay for now, and if anything happens, Clutch will be there.

 Tim went to monitor on Palmer and Roy. Everything appeared to be in control. Nothing was suspicious on the surface. This is when Clutch kicked in; the fact that nothing was happening was the very problem. There must be something going on. Everyone is too quiet. What are they hiding? No matter how deep Clutch pursued this, there was nothing granting him a call of action. To everyone, the streets were. To Tim, it was almost as if Clutch has retired.

With Tim’s contributions to medical engineering, he was granted a new position to oversee the latest technological breakthroughs all over the world. Great new achievements were happening one after another. New surgical tools, robotic prosthetics that were years ahead of their time, and drugs designed to aid in muscle rebuilding were being introduced all over the world. Everything looked great. Tim watched all of these inventions and saw a better life for everyone, but still continued to think about his time as Clutch, as a hero. All of this technology was great. With the help of countries trying to stop crime, they also helped each other better themselves through the study of medicine.

 Years fell off of the calendar. Tim and Mary were happy when they were together, but Mary felt how much Tim missed being Clutch. No one knew how to answer that problem. None of their friends knew how to fix it. Who could? This man had the power to change the world. Will anyone ever come close? This began to trouble him.

 After deciding to finally give up being Clutch, he allowed others to patent his technology. This act seemed generous at first, but took hardly any time to turn into the worst mistake of his life. What he predicted the whole time happened like clockwork. People replicated it, and soon after, weaponized it. Very shortly after, the new advancements that Tim approved for medical research were now used for weapons, including concentrated radiation guns, people with robotic arms designed to multiply strength, and knives that can cut through almost anything. Communities soon turned on each other for power. Small towns became small city-states. It was survival of the fittest. This however turned into an even more serious problem as bigger countries began to overpower those who had very little to defend itself with compared to the armies of soldiers. Tim and Mary watched over everyone scramble for protection, wondering when the next attack will take place. The world was now a warzone, with giant hands as soldiers.

 Mary shoved it Tim’s face about the new world was Tim’s fault. That’s when it clicked- somehow, Palmer was responsible for this. He went to check on him and Roy- they were gone. He used the ability to dig into the ground and search for them. They were in Japan, building their army. As Tim found them, they were speaking to a mass of people, trying to recruit new soldiers. Tim had no choice now- he had to stop them in some way, as Clutch. He overheard them speaking about creating their New World. They wanted to build from the ground up. He said to let all of those scrambling for their own desires to destroy themselves, since it is inevitable. Soon, his coat relayed a series of voices. Friends of the New World are not only back, but they were the ones that made his patent available to everyone. It would be impossible to make his gloves by just anyone. Their scientists and engineers did that. The silence that presided over them was the eye of the storm. They were building their army. All of this was their doing. As Clutch reflected, Palmer and Roy unveiled their new plan- to allow everyone wearing the gloves to be under the control of Palmer. The gloves have a sensor that detects sunlight. Once night fall hits, their weapon will send out a signal that will mask the moonlight and allow access into the minds of the people wearing the gloves. Soon, everyone wearing them will have their gloves controlled by Palmer to do their bidding.

Clutch needed an army. But who will join him? He has no one to trust, save Mary, who is monitoring activities back in the States. It was Mary who assured him that he can do it by himself and, when the time comes, he will know what to do. Closely observing who were wielding the gloves and how they were using them, he could tell that they lacked the type of experience he had. Clutch went down and like brushfire, cleared the new glove-wielders away. Practically bulldozing his way through, he went straight for Palmer and Roy. Palmer yelled out to Clutch, “As death is inevitable, so is nightfall”, and switched on the machine. It was now or never for Clutch. He mustered up all the strength the gloves had, then dug his hands into the ground. He clutched as hard as possible, putting in all of the strength of his heart as well as his gloves. Soon, everyone felt what was happening- Clutch was trying to stop the world from rotating. Tidal waves were crashing on beaches and buildings were breaking due to their inadequacy of withstanding such gravitational force.  As soon as he accomplished that, he dug his hands out and collapsed on the floor, almost losing consciousness. This, however, did not stop Palmer’s intentions. He wanted to proceed, waiting for those on the other side of the planet to arrive to his aid, as mindless soldiers with immense power. This also made everyone on the side of the sun realize Palmer’s intentions, making him the new target. Soon, a crash of Palmer’s army and the people took place, starting a new war that would take place in the longest day ever. As plants began to die on the night-side, so did oceans begin to evaporate. This battle went on and on, never giving a sign when it will be over. Clutch started to lead small armies and instructing them further how to use the gloves. Palmer’s army began to become more militarized as well, using weapons at the same time. The war waged on. The number of casualties grew more and more. Something needed to be done to stop the war. But what?

 Clutch called Mary to see what was happening in the States. No answer. Within minutes, he flew towards her, with the worst possibilities of what may have happened swimming through his head. A group of Palmer’s soldiers took her hostage. They were demanding he turn himself over to Palmer. When Mary yelled out not to do it, one of soldiers slapped he with one of his projected hands. That act clutched at Tim’s heart and removed all moral restraints. He shot out his hands into the group, decapitating all of them almost simultaneously.  Mary saw all of it and scuttled to a corner in fear for her life. Clutch tried to assure her that he won’t hurt her, but the fear was too strong. This made Clutch look at himself, then Mary. He knew what had to be done.

 Clutch went from a superhero to a machine with one objective- destroy the gloves. One after another, he went up to each of the glove-wielders and crushed the gloves into nothingness. The expedition may have lasted months, but there was no way to tell since it has still only been one day. After hundreds of battles, he met with Palmer, face-to-face. The blood of Palmer’s soldiers was littered across his face, hands, and arms. Clutch had the look that said he will not stop until it is all over. Roy launched at him with a pair of his own gloves, but Clutch grabbed him and squeezed him like a piece of ground beef. It was soon just Clutch and Palmer, along with what remains to be the planet, dying a slow and painful death.

          “You don’t get it, do you?” said Palmer. “I’ve already won. Everyone will have to join me. The world is in shambles. This is the New World!”

            “You don’t get it, either” said Clutch. “This is your New World”. Clutch took off his gloves and gave them to Palmer. “Go ahead. I already killed your prized student and anyone else in my way. The next logical step is to kill me”.

            Palmer was frozen with fear, because Clutch was right. Clutch is what stands between him and world domination, for the world that he created. Soon, as if years of being strong and confident swept off of Palmer’s face, giving him the appearance of a withered old man. He couldn’t even lift the gloves. Clutch placed them back on his hands, and carried Palmer away to the nearest hospital.

            Soon later, Clutch developed a new power- to make a group of his projected hands form into shapes. He turned one group of them into a stake and the other into a rope. With the strength of all the gloves put together, they used them to help pull the planet back into rotation. The damage was catastrophic, but everyone understood that it had to be done. The world now had one objective- to rebuild itself. Everyone worked. They felt that the events that took place were partly everyone’s fault, so everyone needed to make amends. Mary soon became a peace ambassador to try to help countries communicate with each other.  After what Clutch went through, Tim was okay with not being Clutch for a while, so he went to help others with the rebuilding process as well. He performed necessary surgeries and helped build buildings.

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What Does the Brightest Day Hold for the DC Future?

After just finishing following up on the most recent In Brightest Day issue, I have been perplexed about a few things. Since its beginnings, the story has been concentrating on the twelve characters that have been revived from the dead, from DC classic characters such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, to newer characters that are becoming more and more essential to the DC continuity like Firestorm and Boston Brand, the Deadman. At the core of the story lies an essential question that happens to stay present the entire series thus far: Who will wield the white power ring, becoming the next White Lantern? This offers lots for the plot development…………however, does that element of suspense make this a good story? Here is my opinion.

First and for most, this story is not one that should be used to follow one specific character, such as Green Lantern or Boston Brand. There are over thirteen different types of editorial titles with the In Brightest Day banner. These titles either focus on a specific character or group of characters, such as Green Lantern or Teen Titans. All of the series’ are involved with the plot dealing with the question of the next White Lantern. While also pleasurable to read, they are still dependent on the development of the In Brightest Day storyline.

Secondly, this storyline, much like recent DC events such as Final Crisis and Batman R.I.P., involves a process that requires learning about a character’s background that is essential to their involvement with the story. To understand why Hawkman and Hawkgirl are being used as a key to open the gates between their world and Earth, an introduction is used to tell why such an act is taking place. The involvement of Aquaman helps explain the new role of Aqualad, the character that will, according to Atlantean prophecy, help bridge the gap between Atlantis and the surface world. Even though their stories are told to the readers, they are still at a disadvantage due to their necessity for the reader.

Backstory of Hawkman and Hawkgirl

Third, while the story requires characters to be either re-introduced or have part of their background fleshed out, it still does not make the story any more coherent. The story arc is either going in several directions at once or cannot make up its mind about which story to follow since each subplot is not treated the same way. While appearances by classic DC characters are nice, the stories of the Brightest Day main characters determine where the story goes and how everyone else is treated.

Several Portraits of the Brightest Day Stories

Do these features make this comic series bad? No.

Is this a story I would recommend to others? This is not a yes or no question, since I want to but cannot do it without hesitation.

While there things that I do not appreciate, such as the vast array of stories that need more than just a story that tries to encapsulate years of DC Universe history, or its handling of several stories in a way that makes it almost frustrating to follow, this series probes big questions such as the connection between people and the universe, what it means to carry out a role and not make it feel like a routine, and what it is like to search for meaning after several attempts and still not having a clue. The process that takes place between the character having a goal to fulfill and actually fulfilling it is more about discovering how that goal will effect the rest of the other stories, suggesting a universal application.  For these characters, their stories may not be as smooth as the readers may like, but the stories have a type of promise that make the reader keep reading.

Overall rating: 8.5/10- pick-up Blackest Night first. If you like that series, move on to In Brightest day.

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Beowulf, the Lone Ranger, and Superman: The Context of Danny Fingeroth’s essay, “It Started with Gilgamesh”

When discovering Danny Fingeroth’s book on superhero culture and criticism, “Superman on the Couch”, several essay stood out that would make an interesting case study on the superheroes that have been reviewed and discussed in ENG 492, including Amazing Grace: Wonder Woman, Xena, and Buffy, You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry: The Hulk, Judge Dredd, and Wolverine, and a host of others. As attractive as they may be, his essay It Started with Gilgamesh: The History of the Superhero, grabbed my attention the most. At the start of this study, I always wanted to know if characters beyond the pages of periodical comics were considered superheroes, or, if possible, can you do a “superhero” reading of such characters? This essay answers the question quite fairly.

Fingeroth begins his essay writing, “…As long as there have been humans gathered around a campfire or a screen, people have wanted to hear tales of heroism”. This attitude allows an analysis of stories reaching as far back as the Greek epics and having little prejudice between characters portraying acts that make them heroic versus characters with super-human abilities. The superhero, when reading into their character with this perspective, can very easily exist due to the desires of what an audience demands and having story-tellers that are capable of fulfilling that demand with characters that champion against struggles which require acts of heroism, such as a threat to a nation of people, criminal acts against human rights, and recusing those in need.

Beowulf: Arguably, one of the first superheroes

An essential part to Fingeroth’s essay depicts how it is possible that a character like this can exist in fiction, yet trouble us if that character existed in real life. He writes, ” …any event that rises above–or below–the everyday is an event that will change people’s attitudes, bodies, minds, relationships. As you read this, changes are going on inside and around you…But Superman will not retire”. This shows how characters that exist, or have a type of superhero quality to them, embodied or inherent, become bigger than characters that are searching for resolution, closure, or some type of achievement that, most likely, has nothing to do with the rest of world. Characters that have the superhero quality Fingeroth examines depict a type of immortality due to the audience believing that they are greater than the average person, making their story succeed their physical existence.
Part of Fingeroth essay also graphs the development of the superhero by looking at the presence of such characters and their influence with their audience. As characters that begin to establish the foundation for superheroes in comic book culture gain more and more in demand,  a variance of such characters were soon funneled into a type of trope that included a dual identity, a motive that was paired with a pure heart, and having abilities that surpass the expectations of the human body. A large portion of characters from Western stories were seen as such characters as they possessed most, if not all, of these traits, along with a sense of nationalism and adventured tied into their background. The Lone ranger, being a masked vigilante, and having superhuman-like reflexes and accuracy, and taking on a role of judicial administration, helped build a

The Lone Ranger: Arguably, one of the first comic book superheroes

fan base for such characters appearing in periodicals, from newspapers to pulp magazines.

The evolution of such characters, from cowboys with guns to metahumans with superhuman abilities, also came along with the evolution of media, being a new haven for such characters. Their presence permeated into radio, films, and even serialized television shows. While characters such as the Lone Ranger were a hit, it was Superman who catapulted sales, demand, attention, and awareness of such characters that led the way for superheroes to become more engaged in the public eye.
As Fingeroth explains the importance of such characters, he also explains how such canonical
characters are responsible for the inception of characters seen in comics.  He writes, “Shakespeare’s plays are certainly a spring from which many a modern yarn has been spun. Hamlet and Lear are certainly inspiration for Marvel Comics’ Thor and Odin characters…And would there be a Dr. Doom–or a Darth Vader, for that matter–without the transcendent villainy of Shakespeare’s Richard III?” This suggests that characters present in comic books now are all an extension of the canon of characters, re-telling their stories as the medium of storytelling changes. It is very possible that comic book superhero have always existed in one form or another, or, that they have been waiting for the most appropriate medium to come along so they can tell their own stories.  As Fingeroth writes, “the superhero has evolved in our collective consciousness to the point where it may not even matter where the concept originally came from”, it suggests that such characters own a fluidity that makes them as a part of our culture as much as the narratives that define a people, a country, or, possibly, a time period.
While most superheroes can be found either in comic books or on movie screens today, their role has come to signify a type of storytelling that has always existed and has been subject to a desire that has always been demanding to be fulfilled. They accomplish what most people can’t; they live out our fantasies; they save the damsel in distress. Whatever it is they do, they do it for us, because of us, and as a result of us.  We may not be able to stop a freight train, or fly in the air, but it is because they can, and due to us wanting to see someone do that, in one way or another, it makes them our heroes.

Superman. Period.

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Paperman: A Superhero film………sort of.

 

“When the world is in peril,

when evil surrounds you,

when danger is lurking,

who do you call?……..Captain Excellent!”

The film Paper Man is a story about a struggling writer, Richard (played by Jeff Daniels) who becomes reclusive during a pseudo-separation trial. During this trial he befriends a young woman, Abby, a local to the city of Montauk, New York, ushering the beginning a beautiful friendship and, hopefully, Richard’s next book.

If this is the story, how is this a Superhero film? That’s when Captain Excellent comes in and saves the day……sort of.

The film through the lens of a superhero studies course involves looking at the presence and role of Captain Excellent (played by Ryan Reynolds) and the protagonist, Richard. Since most superhero texts have the superhero as its protagonist, reflecting on both characters becomes a look at what a superhero does for the text, the character, and the reader/audience. The dimension involving what a superhero is is twofold between Richard and Captain Excellent. Richard plays the lead role that has a struggle and is trying to save what is in peril; for Richard, this includes his marriage, his career as a writer, and his own psychological well-being. Captain Excellent is playing the supporting role; what his character actually is serves as Richard’s representation of his conscience, advising his decision-making, serving as an emotional crutch, and giving Richard someone to talk to in his state of recluse.

Though straightforward in its description, the two roles do an interesting job of questioning, and possibly answering, what it means to be a superhero. Richard as a superhero strips away almost every character trait most attach to the definition of what a superhero is, such as physical near-perfection, confidence, and a sure sense of what is right and wrong. Richard is none of these; the ability to draw confidence is at the mercy of a failing marriage, seclusion and a superhero friend, yet is still struggling. His attitude on what is right and wrong is questionable at best, represented in his affiliations with Abby and how they spend time with each other. His appearance is, well……he looks like Jeff Daniels. Period. While his character may not resemble what most superheroes do, it is in his struggles to be okay, which may be what his wife wants him to be, or possibly what Captain Excellent tries to get him to be, where the audience begins to root for Richard. His demise may be self-induced, but it is when he decides to move on to become a productive writer or supporting husband that accomplishes great things, such as finishing a novel, saving a marriage, and even manage to bring clarity to the debacle he created during his time apart from his regular life. The name Paperman comes from Abby, as they reflect on who or what he is as a person, he says, “I need to do something with my hands[…]Even Jesus, he was a carpenter…I’m a flimsy man, a paperman”. Abby comes in to redefine what that means by responding, saying, “You’re a writer”. This gives context to Richard as Paperman- a superhero who can create stories with his imagination.

Captain Excellent, the other superhero, looks, sounds, and acts much like a superman-like character, which is often handsome, strong in appearance, and has superhuman abilities such as flight, strength, and superstrong breath. While he may fit a profile, in this film, he has no physical presence. His role in the film serves as Richard’s conscience. Though he cannot break through a wall or burn something with heat-vision, his role as Richard’s conscience is a moral beacon, giving him direction and advice, as well as emotional support when a strong decision is in limbo. The role of Captain Excellent is emphasized when Richard asks him to do “the voice”, making him say his superhero mantra. This act gives Richard reassurance that he knows a superhero as well as looks up to him. This makes Captain Excellent more of a superhero by representing for Richard what is right and that someone is around that can help him when he needs it. The superhero is now more about representing the right thing, as oppose to actually doing the right thing.

The amount of influence Captain Excellent has in the film is almost useless when looking at the plot, its rising climax, and his relationships with his wife and Abby. However, when looking at this film as a Superhero study, it is more about trying to understand how significance and importance is placed into characters in their introduction, and measuring what they can or cannot accomplish. While Captain Excellent is very-much-like  a Superman-like character, it is Richard’s goal to grow out of him; though Richard has no superpowers or anything else resembling a superhero, the audience roots for him, not Captain Excellent. The film is okay, but, then again, in this film, being okay is the goal.

Here is a trailer of the film. What do you think?

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In Brightest Day- The New 52-week DC Event

2010BrightestDay1PromoAdbyDavidFinc.jpg 2010 Brightest Day #1 Promo Ad by David Finch
 
In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight
Let those who worship evil’s might,
Beware my power… Green Lantern’s light!

What is the Brightest Day? What is the Blackest Night? As interesting a question these are, a bit of background and introudction are required. The series itself is a DC-comic bi-weekly year-long comic event written by Geoff Johns and Paul Tomasi. This comic is also the host of several other stories and spin-offs that focus on a particular character, such as In Brightest Day: Green Arrow, or a group of characters, such as In Brightest Day: Green Lantern Corps. While the story itself relies on Green Lantern mythos, such as the creation of the universe and the powers of various Lantern characters, the story is expanded to the entire DC Universe as it involves twelve DC characters coming back from the dead and what are the ramifications from it. (You with me, so far? Good. Now strap on your seat-belt).

The series In Brightest Day, much like In Blackest Night, is a project that has been built up for years by the minds of Geoff Johns, David Gibbons, and Peter Tomasi , that originate with the retelling of the Hal Jordan origin story and bringing back this character as the main Green Lantern the comic concentrates on. Over the years, before Johns came along, the story of Green Lantern has expanded to having multiple Green Lantern characters and specific events that have some of them either the new focus of the Green Lantern story-arc or being relinquished of their powers. The story itself has evovled so much, that the original Green Lantern has nothing to do with the revamp that took place in the sixites. Currently, the story focsuses on Hal Jordan, argued by many (both critics and characters in the story) to be the best Lantern of all time, as it has told his origin story, his return as a Green Lantern, and his involvement with the new, various other Lanterns.

Here’s a video that tells the history of Green Lanterns and what led up to the events of In Blackest Night

After the events of Hal Jordan being restored as the central Green Lantern, making him the main character in on-going story-arc of the Green Lantern comic, stories involving new characters emerged. The Sinestro Corps War ushered in the possibility of new characters bestowed with a new type of yellow power-ring, much like the green power-ring the Green Lanterns weild. This event allowed discourse about what it means to be a Green Lantern and begin to specify what are the capabilities of the power-rings; in Sinestro Corps War, the Green Lanterns deal with the restrictions of their rings, including their need to power their ring every twenty-four hours and that they cannot kill, which are then  lifted later in the comic. After this event came more Lanterns, which soon expanded into the entire color spectrum. This expansion gave a new dimension to what it meant to be a Lantern since they all represented a trait of the human condition (Rage, Avarice, Fear, Will, Hope, Compassion, and Love). Once these Lanterns were established, tied in with all the other events taking place in the DC universe, events such as the death of Bruce Wayne , Martian Manhunter’s search for a possible relative, and the rise of Blackhand, the event In Blackest Night soon arrived. This brought along the Black Lanterns, standing for Death, and having Black Lanterns, which were dead, wither previous or recent evetns, characters, spreading death as far as possible. It is when Sinestro (yes, that Sinestro) shows Black-hand and Necro, the two most powerful Black Lanterns, what it means to be alive, that introduces the White Lanters (the Lanterns of Life).

The picture below shows each Lantern from the color spectrum

At the beginning of each In Brightest Day comic, a small passage reads, “Once dead, twelve heroes and villians were resurrected by a white light expelled from deep within the center of the Earth. The reason behind their rebirth remains a mystery. But it will not be a mystery for long. This is The Brightest Day”. While the plot is told, the motive for White Lanterns and what will happen is so fluid, it is almost impossible to tell how the story plays out. So far, the concentration is on figuring out how the characters came back and why they are now the way they are. In the central storyline, In Brightest Day, a lot of the emphasis lies in characters that are not Green Lantern. This is what the stroy consists of so far.

Stay tuned for a review on the story itself and where the story goes from here.

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Thrilling Adventure Stories, I Guess…..

One of the best parts of reading comics are exploring what they’re doing and why. Comics, most notably, were created for advertising, satirical storytelling, and simple entertainment. When superhero stories came along, including Detective Comics, Actions Comics, where Superman began, and so forth, their stories seem to create a feel that only they could tell. Fighting injustice, saving the planet, and bringing two opposing forces to peace are only some the fantastic things the Superheroes we read in comics are capable of.

Sometime earlier this year, I read a short Sueprhero comic by alternative comic book artist Chris Ware (Click here for a biography on Ware or here for an interview with Mame McCutchin) entitled (I think) “I Guess”. Thrilling adventure Stories was actually a comic book syndicate created in the mid-1970’s based on the pulp magazines and comics, tryingto catch some of the momentum comics were acheiving in that time. Chris Ware brings in his creative nature, seen in RAW magazine Vol. 2, #3, to the Superhero story in a way only Ware can.

Here is a sample of the comic (Click here to see the complete story)



This is a story of a young child who loses his parents and tries to make his life better. This is where the comic becomes as experimental as they come. The illustrations and the text follow this premise, however, the two are telling a different story. The images tell a story of a young man who was boomed with superpowers and left orphan, deciding to fight ever-doers and their dastardly plans. The other is about a young boy who misses his father and is trying to reconcile his childhood by venting about all of the events which warped his psychology at a young age. This storytelling style as a superhero comic is both challenging the convetnion of comic book writing and what makes a “superhero” story a “superhero story”.

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Who Do You Wish to Be?

Hello and Welcome to my blog. My name is Rolando Rubalcava- click on the about link to hear more about me, this blog, and all of its intents and purposes. This blog is in the process of exploring the academic study of comic book superheroes, including their origins, their role in the comic book industry, and their presence in our lives today.

One study I wish to explore is the facination of superheroes and how we interpret and understand who they are- what is their character like, what they reflect from us, and how do we respond to their stories and roles. Is it possible that there is comic book character for everyone? How do these characters develop their shape? Is their fanbase responsible for those changes? If people could interect with them, what would we tell them?

These questions have been on my mind since I started reading comic books. Little by little, the more comics books I read, the more I wanted to know about them. With this blog, I will explore just how superheroes are involved with are daily lives and where can we begin to understand the contruction of superheroes.

So, now, I have a question for those of you reading this blog: Which superhero would you be, and (I highkly suggest exploring this) why? Any input would be great. Feel free to share or respond to comments posted as well.

To give this blog some momentum, I will start:

If I could be any comic book hero, I’d be Green Lantern; not just any lantern either, but Hal Jordan, rumored to be called the greatest Lantern of all time. Reading The Blackest Night, the DC comic book event of 2009, I was compelled to explore as much of the mythology of the Green Lantern as possible and see what’s he all about.  What makes me relate to a guy like Hal Jordan is his incredible amount of Will; a character trait that can recharge the sun, move mountains, and create an infinite amount of possibilities (weilding the right power-ring of course). Beginning with Geoff Johns Secret Origins and reading the other books building up to Blackest Night, I got to know Jordan, not as a man seeking truth, justice, or revenge, but chosen for his character to be bestowed with great power, and using it to do good, being empowered more by his own will rather than superpowers. Pretty cool.

This is a picture of Hal Jordan as the Green Lantern taken from Balckest Night #1

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