Adam Graham's Blog: Christians and Superheroes, page 110

October 14, 2012

Early Superman: Our Politically Incorrect Hero

I finished Superman: The Dailies, 1939-1940 and it was a pretty fun look at the earliest Superman stories. The stories and artwork were fun in telling the original stories of the Man of Steel. His villains are mostly thugs, gangsters, corrupt government officials, warmongers, and a government assassin thrown in.

The early comic book is marked by some politically incorrect moments.

Superman uses enhanced interrogation procedures on thugs, tossing them up and down in air to get them to talk. And in one story, leaving them chained in a pool of water where they'd been holding Lois Lane, promising only to let them out if they confess.

In addition, a princess doesn't take kindly to Superman's refusal of her advances, so she tries to stab him. Superman responds by taking her over his knee and giving her a spanking which Superman concludes is long overdue. And when Lois complained about being demoted from reporter and stuck on the lovelorn columns, Clark Kent says, "Little girl getting bored?" (Though, it's hard to tell whether Kent's sincere in that mocking as he foregos a scoop and helps Lois get back to reporting.)

Of course, while Superman doesn't quite measure up to today's standards of political correctness, he was also addressing real problems confronting people in the 1930s and 40s with vigor. In one case, he dedicated himself to helping a down and out boxer get back into the ring, getting the homeless boxer into an apartment and training him while fighting disguised as the boxer, right until the championship fight.

Superman dedicating his time to helping one guy and defeating a gang of gamblers? Wouldn't happen today, but that's what the early Superman did. He was concerned about orphans being cheated by unscrupulous managers, the devastation of war, and the oppression of crooks and crooked politicians on the innocent.

You combine the goodness and the political incorrectness and this Superman reminds me a lot of many people I've met who are older who say things out of bad habits. They aren't up on the latest politically correct words, but they've got the courage and know the difference between right and wrong. It takes very little character to just avoid offending people, but a lot more to actually put it on the line to help others.

Beyond this note, The strips seem to chart three key journeys:

1) Superman from the rough around the edges character we meet in the comic strips and Action Comics #1 to the "Boy Scout" we know from productions such as George Reeves Adventures of Superman.

2) Lois Lane's journey from struggling journalist being kept down by the man to the daredevil of the Fleischer Cartoons.

3) The comic's journey from fantasy/reality to pure fantasy. Superman's early days are filled with a lot of real life characters that threaten and hurt real people to the fantastic costumed characters that inhabit most comic books from the Silver Age to the present. (More on that in another post.)

This particular collection or the bigger collection of all Superman strips from 1939-42 is a must-read for fans.
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Published on October 14, 2012 19:34

October 13, 2012

The Writing Process: The Mad Scientist in the Chewbacca Costume

This week, I finished the first draft of a key section of the third book in the Adventures of Powerhouse Series.

In it, Powerhouse goes to Comic Con to help promote some new comics from his company Blue Cat Comics.

The prime villain Mitch Farrow, CEO of Dorado Incorporated is trying a new tact. Having failed to destroy powerhouse physically, he's resolved to trash Powerhouse's reputation by attacking him and his new heroes.

Farrow's mad scientist in residence, Doctor Fournier is along incognito to enjoy the convention. Imagining himself to be a wanted man, Fournier dresses in a Chewbacca costume while still wearing his signature bow tie.

Doctor Fournier was a minor character in Tales of the Dim Knight but an important one. He developed the one and only weapon that was able to stop Powerhouse, a force field generator. He returns in the 2nd Adventures of Powerhouse book, Rise of the Robolawyers. (Currently waiting to be edited by my wife lovely wife Andrea Graham and tentatively slated for a November 2012 release.)

He's a fun character to write. He's a mad scientist but for the most part acts cool and levelheaded. He has no designs on world domination or the maniacal laughter we associate with the typical mad scientist character.

His flaw and his brand of evil is the one that comes when their desires have no bounds. Fournier loves science, creating things, building things, and solving problems. Nothing in this is evil or sinful.

However, what makes Fournier do evil things is that his desires have no bounds or limits at all. He'll do anything to satisfy his curiosity and solve problems for anyone, including someone whose problem is that Powerhouse is still breathing.

In this particular story line, I have a lot of fun with Fournier as his Chewbacca costume fools even Powerhouse who asks for his help.
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Published on October 13, 2012 11:34

October 12, 2012

Teams of Convenience

Before we leave this whole topic of superhero teams, there's one type of team that's worth mentioning and that is the teams of convenience.

Many of the great superhero teams such as the Justice League and Avengers have had constant turnover particularly in recent years. The teams, particularly in their full forms are not balanced and they're not really "super friends" at least not all of them when you get on teams with dozens of members.

On one level, the comic book Justice League and Avengers are reminiscent of many "teams" thrown together in workplaces though with far more interesting tasks.

On another, they remind us of many organizations of people who join together on occasion for common cause, whether its a volunteer fire department in rural areas or a political group. Great caution is required in these situations as the bonds that tie are weak, and the risk of schism is pronounced. Thus, as both teams have learned, establishing a sense of community can be helpful to long term survival.

While these sort of groups are not ideal, they may have just as much importance as the other two types of teams.
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Published on October 12, 2012 22:30 Tags: avengers, justice-league

October 9, 2012

The Great Teams of Fiction: The Family Teams

Continuing on our previous posts about different types of teams, there's another important type of team to talk about and that's what I like to call the family type.

While the balanced team brings a great deal of diversity. However, diversity is not without its drawbacks. Oftentimes, very diverse areas enjoy a great deal of productivity but they also can hurt a sense of community and belonging according to one study.

There's a longing for community, for a sense that we belong and that brings us to a type of team that appeals to that level and that is the family team.

The team need not be perfectly balanced, but there's ultimately a sense of unity in common cause and genuine belonging. This was a big theme of television shows I watched when I was growing up. The best of them did it very well.

True family teams are somewhat limited in the Superhero world. Most superheroes' default status is to fight alone: one-on-one against the forces of evil.

There are, of course, Teams like the Avengers or The Justice League are ad-hoc coalitions that bring together some of these solo fighters. However, the comings and goings of these teams make things feel less like a team and more like an on-again and off-again coalition, particularly with them messing around with multiple Avenger and Justice League teams. While Super Friends may have been applicable to these heroes at one points, Super Acquaintances and Occasional Allies may be more appropriate.

The X-men have had many comings and goings and internal squabbles with a lot of Ex-X-men and some who come back after being Ex-X-Men and then are Ex-Ex-X-men and then there are those who leave again after coming back and they're known as Ex-Ex-Ex-X-men and then...

However, once again, The Fantastic Four . In
Who Needs a Superhero?: Finding Virtue, Vice, and Whats Holy in the Comics, Michael Brewer praises the Fantastic Four as an example of the type of family situation that Christians and the Church in particular should exemplify, even to the extent that they often welcome other heroes to their world and as partners.

Of course, the Fantastic Four has had riffs and members leaving and various squabbles over the past 50 years. But with the Fantastic Four, they always ultimately end up back together because that's where they belong. It's that family that ultimately draws them back and it's what keeps people interested them and in good teams that speak to our desire to be more than just a means to an end but also to find that place where we belong.
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Published on October 09, 2012 22:10 Tags: fantastic-four

October 7, 2012

The Great Teams of Fiction: The Balanced Teams

Reviewing the Justice League calls to mind, the beauty of a team.

True teams are not things we see frequently. In my life, I've been on may teams that are thrown together randomly. In sports, teams change drastically from season to season.

However, fiction produces the greatest teams.

I'll take a look at the three types of teams:

The Balanced Team: I think this type of team is only produced in perfection by fiction. It's personalities and skills match and compliment one another.

Probably, the best example of this I've ever seen was the 1980s A-Team. You had the brilliant leader Hannibal Smith. You had Face who could con anyone out of anything. You had the mechanical genius known as BA Baracus. With all that talent combined you always got your money's worth when you hired the A-Team.

For Superheroes, the Fantastic Four is a great example of such a team. The fight scenes with all four of them on their game are simply wonderful. The scientific genius and elasticity of Mr. Fantastic, the shielding powers of the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch's ability to flame on all combine to make them very hard to handle. You can defeat any one of them , but coming up with the right strategy to beat all four? Much harder.

Of course, while fiction writers draw to extremes, this same thing is at work in the truly great businesses and ministries. The fictional examples show the strength of diverse talents, styles, and names.

For Christians, the apostle Paul offers some solid application using the body as an example in 1 Corinthians 12:

For the body does not consist of one member but of many....And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.-1 Corinthians 12:14, 16-20 (ESV)

Too often, we get the idea that everyone should be like us. However, there are many ways people are different because God made them different and we need to honor that with the people God brings into our lives. The things that make us different can be the things that can come in very handy for the best of the whole body.
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Published on October 07, 2012 22:15

October 6, 2012

Excerpt: Powerhouse Flies Again

Powerhouse Flies Again
Here's a Sample from Powerhouse Flies Again, currently available for Kindle.

In this scene, we meet the villain of this new novella series:

Mitch Farrow slouched in a green metal office chair held together by duct tape. His Ebay auction filled the screen of his bulky, third-hand computer monitor. A fast food bag and an empty paper cola cup littered the buckled plywood desk that he also used as a kitchenette table.

The green linoleum floor had missing patches. On his right the sink had four days worth of dishes piled in it and smelled of putrid water. The electric stove and refrigerator were cracked with paint peeling, as was the cabinets’ frou-frou blue paint.
He refreshed the Ebay auction on his screen. Thirty-five seconds to go. Come on, a few bucks more.
The auction ended at $315. He made a note in his ledger.
Not bad. This sale would put him at ninety bucks for the month once he paid his bills. He smirked and hummed “If I Were a Rich Man.”

He turned the monitor off, grabbed his newspaper off the kitchen counter, and strode to the eight foot square patch of carpet that passed for a living room. The taupe carpet was partially blackened from foot traffic and riddled with teeth marks from rats. He rearranged two red afghans over his gray recliner, covering where the stuffing was coming out while protecting his sensitive skin from the irritants ground hopelessly into it.

He settled into his chair and took a sniff of the newspaper. “Good old newsprint.” The only clean smelling thing in this dump. He smiled. Why sit there and read a bunch of lies and fabrications on the internet when he could read lies and fabrications in a good old American newspaper? He reached into the cigarette pack in his pocket, withdrew one of his blissful cancer sticks, and slipped it in his mouth.

No, Rosie needed him. Even with his life insurance, she and her mom wouldn’t make it without his alimony checks. He put the cigarette back in his pack. On the bright side, he was still worth more alive at the moment, he was down to two packs a week, and he’d be dead before he could get lung cancer from smoking anyway.
“Razzle Dazzle” played on the lace-covered cardboard box serving as an end table. He picked up his cell phone. “Hello, Farrow speaking.”

“Hi, this is Anne Falkenberg. The FDA just voted.”

Mitch held the phone tight. It was his attorney.

“They decided the drug needed more testing.”

Mitch dropped the phone and a stream of curse words left his mouth. He grabbed it. “It’s been used in Europe for five years.”

“I know this is disheartening. Understand, though, they’re just wanting to make sure that the drugs are safe and people are healthy.”

Mitch huffed a shallow breath. “None of them have AIDS. None of them have an ex-wife and daughter who have AIDS. This is what 235 years of democracy has produced in this country, a bureaucracy that fiddles while people waste away and die.”

“I know it’s frustrating.”

Mitch laughed. “Frustrating is when your DSL won’t work. Seeing your daughter suffer and knowing she and her mom are going to die like you are isn’t frustrating.”

Tears welled in his eyes. He clutched the receiver with a death grip.


“Anne, I’m hanging up. I know you did all you can, but I’ve got a lot of vinegar to spew.” He punched the red end call button, hurled his cell phone across the room, and let out a primal scream. He stared at the ceiling. “Why, God? If you’re there, why didn’t you let me die in the accident rather than get that accursed transfusion?”

What was he doing? That was silly and pathetic. Time for some meaningful, purposeful venting to the folks who read his website. No question he was going to blog about the FDA Nazis. Still, he should check and see what else was going on. He flipped through the classifieds and spotted:

Help Wanted: Cynic
Change the World
Great pay and benefits.
Send application to Box C, Seattle Guardian

He chuckled. If you need a cynic, I’m the man for the job.


Learn more in Powerhouse Flies Again.
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Published on October 06, 2012 21:11

Justice League: Secret Origins (Review)

So, I began today watching the Justice League TV series which stars with the 3-part Story Arch, Secret Origins.

The plot that brings the Justice League together is, of course, an alien invasion by some ugly aliens. I say, "of course" because an alien invasion is the inciting for the recent Avengers movie as well as The Mighty Avengers direct to DVD release. This does contrast with the Silver Age introductions where the Avengers just needed to battle Loki alone while the Justice League apparently only needed to be fighting a giant malevolent alien starfish. But this is the 21st Century and no Starfish is going to be enough to bring together Earth's greatest heroes.

Aliens invade the Earth just as Superman has been destroying all the big missiles the Earth has that could do any good at the behest of a disarmament plan. Batman and Superman feature strongly in the first episode with brief appearances by the Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman and the Flash (outside the action) , but by the end of Part One, it's clear Superman and Batman won't be able to handle this alone and in Part Two, the first scene features all our heroes including the Green Lantern and Hawk Girl joining the fight.

From there on, the series was animation magic with a great sci fi plot and superhero battles. We got to know most of the characters and get a taste of their personalities. Each adds something to the team except perhaps Hawkgirl. Her personality seems too much like Wonderwoman's at this point, and she's one of those character you get the idea was only added in so that you'd have a good balance of female characters.

The series, like Batman Beyond had a little bit more gore than the early-mid 1990s Batman and Superman series, but it was all good as it was just alien goo for the most part and not blood.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0
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Published on October 06, 2012 12:48

October 5, 2012

Comic Dreams: For Want of A Comic Book Artist

If you write superheroes you face a unique challenge if you can't draw. Well, even my stickmen look bad.

When I first began showing Tales of the Dim Knight to people, someone thought it'd be a good idea to do it as a graphic novel. He looked into it and found it would require going overseas to do the artwork and opposed offshoring work on principle.

In the years since, I've never quite run into an artist who could do the type of work I need. I've never imagined they've existed. Those who can do this sort of work well seem to work for mainstream publications or have their own comic books. It's definitely something I'd love to pursue if I could work out.

This is particularly true when I hear about The Marvel Method wherein the writer writes a generl plot outline, gives it to the artist and the artist then draws the pictures and fleshes out the story. The writer then adds the dialog where appropriate.

It sounds like a blast, but it would all depend on finding the right artist. We'd have to have some shared vision and be able to respect each other as it's very much a collaborative process. I wouldn't want just anybody to do it. Someday, hopefully I'll find someone to bring Powerhouse and other characters to the full comic-style adventures they deserve, until then, I can dream.
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Published on October 05, 2012 18:45

October 4, 2012

Stan Lee's the Man

Stan Lee

Stan Lee remains one of Superherodom's greatest ambassadors. He was co-creator of so many of the great Marvel franchises: The Fantastic Four, The Avengers, Spider-man, The Incredible Hulk, The X-men, and what I'm reading right now: Daredevil.

Mr. Lee always approached his comic books with a sense of fun (not that he didn't get serious from time to time). His work has a sense of fun and excitement to it. He loves his readers, he loves his characters, and its writ large on every page. In one page of a comic I'm reading, a previous issue is referenced and Lee said, "If you didn't read that issue, don't worry, we won't mention it again.-Considerate Stan Lee."

He's a bit of an inspirational figure. He was 39 and ready to give up on Comic Books writing entirely when his wife encouraged him to try one more time and to write a comic book his way. The result was the Fantastic Four and was followed by a host of other characters including Mighty Thor, Iron Man, and The Incredible Hulk. While this made him a success in the comic book world, it didn't necessarily make all of his dreams come true.

After Fantastic Four was created, there were plenty of setbacks with poorly produced television shows and movies, the failure of Stan Lee Media due to shenanigans by some of his investors. He enjoyed a mixed series of good and bad films as some efforts were successes and others were abysmal failures (such as the 1990 Captain America Movie.) His original dream of acting didn't come true until he was 58 and he appeared as the jury foreman in Trial of the Incredible Hulk. Now, as he's 90, his characters are enjoying perhaps their greatest popularity among the general public. When I feel annoyed at the pace of my career when I'm 31, the amazing story of Stan Lee stands as a reminder that it's a long journey ahead.
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Published on October 04, 2012 06:03

October 2, 2012

Powerhouse v. The Illusive Plot

On the blog, I'll address a couple criticisms that my work's gotten, not as a defensive measure but to explain the methods of my madness.

If there's criticism that Tales of the Dim Knight is the seeming lack of a central plot. Some have even suggested the book should be a short story collection.

Tales of the Dim Knight by Adam Graham

However, I'm comfortable with it as a novel, though I guess people could consider it a braided novel if they like. I will say that the book is a little different, so it throws people for a loop. There are three things that make the book different and throw people for a loop.

First, humor was a priority because it's very much a comedy and a parody. Many authors use humor as something that they mix in with their plot. What's different about my approach with Tales of the Dim Knight is that so much of the basic superhero stories are told for the parody and humor value. So the plot is at least partially built around the gags rather than the gags being put in around the plot.

Second, my overall style for the story is tied to the way I encountered superheroes growing up which was mostly in episodic television. And in the best superhero TV shows like Spider-man: The Animated Series, the stories may stand on their own but they were usually leading somewhere and somewhat inter-related. I hope that appeals to people who grew up watching Saturday Morning cartoons as part of that nostalgic feel.

And that brings me to the third point, the overall dramatic story in here is about Dave Johnson's journey. He gets his ultimate dream when he becomes a superhero, but that has an impact on his family and there's all ready trouble to begin with, so the story of the relationship between Dave and his family holds the novel together dramatically.

Obviously, the style we use here is not for everyone, but I'm very satisfied with it and how it turned.

If you'd like to try out, we are having a give away on Goodreads with the prize being an autographed copy.
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Published on October 02, 2012 00:36 Tags: powerhouse, tales-of-the-dim-knight

Christians and Superheroes

Adam Graham
I'm a Christian who writes superhero fiction (some parody and some serious.)

On this blog, we'll take a look at:

1) Superhero stories
2) Issues of faith in relation to Superhero stories
3) Writing Superhe
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