Adam Graham's Blog: Christians and Superheroes, page 87

November 12, 2012

The earliest superheroes were not married and for the most part, romance wasn't on their mind. Superman, Batman, and the like were more concerned with doing the hero thing. The same could be said of the Green Hornet, the Shadow, the Lone Ranger, Sherlock Holmes, Nick Carter, and many characters from the same era.

They were single minded in their pursuits. In the case of superheroes such as Superman, it was a single minded pursuit of justice and crime-fighting that left little time for romance.

Some of this lack of interest in the opposite sex probably fueled some unjustified charges of homosexuality against some comic book characters.

However, romance of sorts came to comics. As Superman waged a never-ending battle against the forces of evil, Lois Lane waged a never-ending battle to get Superman to marry her. This happened in the comics and on TV but all turned out to be a dream. Those annoying wake up calls didn't stop Lois. She even got her own comicbook in 1958 that pursued that goal.

It was mostly playful stuff right of a sitcom with Lois Lane much like Sisyphus constantly rolling a stone uphill only to have it roll back down saw her schemes go awry.

The Fantastic Marriage

In 1960s, the Superhero world changed for with the introduction of the Fantastic Four. The Fantastic Four were first and foremost a family team from the beginning. They had amazing superpowers but they were real people as well. Like any family, they fought and had personality conflicts but beneath it all, they cared for each other. The team was made of Reed Richards, his girlfriend Sue Storm and her brother Johnny, as well as ex-football star and pilot Ben Grimm. They are hit with Cosmic rays and become (respectively): Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Girl (later Invisible Woman), The Human Torch,and the Thing.

While Sue's affections wavered during the course of their adventures with her crushing on Sub-mariner and Ant Man, she did end up marrying Reed in Fantastic Four Annual #3.

Lee had really captured the need for human companionship and marriage even among superheroes and he used it a lot in his work. It also occurred in the FF as Ben Grimm's rock hard personality is softened by the loving blind woman Alicia Masters. Not every romance story worked as well.

Other Superhero nuptials occurred in the 1960s including the Flash to Iris West in 1968, and another two superhero wedding between Marvel characters Yellow Jacket (aka Hank Pym) and the Wasp (1969).

However, as Stan Lee took a break from the torrid pace of writing, one character who had been on the road to matrimony was thrown off of it. Marvel killed off Spider-man's love interest Gwen Stacy because they didn't know what to do with the relationship other than marriage, which they weren't ready to pursue.

Other marriages weren't made to last as Superhero divorces started to occur. Hank Pym struck his wife in anger culminating a series of events that had him drummed out of the Avengers and leading to his divorce from the Wasp.

Other marriages broke up, but just as in the real world, marriages continued to happen. After years of heartache, heartbreak and frustration, Spider-man proposed to Mary Jane Watson leading to the marriage in Spider-man Annual #21, a marriage that fans would come to love and one editor at Marvel would come to hate. (More on that in the next post.)

Finally, Superman himself got married. There had been Superman marriages before but in the twisted continuities of multiple alternate Earths and various characters on Earth One and Earth Two in the pre-Crisis DC Universe, it really is hard to track who was married to who.

The series tracked with Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman which was built on the growing relationship between the two characters. In the TV series, Clark was portrayed as a virgin who saved himself for marriage. While a lot of crazy stuff went wrong in the TV show, one has to admire their dogged determination to get married despite clones, witches, and all these sorts of obstacles.

There are three big superheroes that have the highest name recognition: Superman, Batman, and Spider-man. By the mid-1990s, whatever craziness happened in the rest of the Superhero world, two were quite happily married in the comic books. However, that wouldn't last for long.

To be Continued....
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Published on November 12, 2012 08:59 • 664 views • Tags: aquaman, fantastic-four, marriage, spider-man, superhero, superman
The Cover Art for Rise of the Robolawyers (due out next week) has been completed by our cover artist.



I'm finished a last quick proofread before we go ahead with publishing it next week for the Kindle.
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Published on November 12, 2012 07:07 • 183 views • Tags: cover-art, powerhouse, release

November 10, 2012

Spider-Man Newspaper Strips -Volume 1Spider-Man Newspaper Strips -Volume 1 by John Romita

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This was a fun volume containing the first volume of Spider-man newspaper strips. Stan Lee takes care of the scripting after taking a six-year break from the character in the comic books. This first collection covers the first couple years of the script.

The stories themselves are great with Spider-man tangling with Dr. Doom, Dr. Octopus, the Kingpin, and Kraven: The Hunter. In addition, the comic strip introduces a unique villain in the Rattler.

These are a blast of 1970s Spider-man. They can be somewhat dated but I prefer to look at them as retro with reference to 1970s pop culture and one strip series that has Peter working at a disco for Norman Osborne and Flash Thompson.

Spider-man's lovel life is put on hold as he and Mary Jane have a tiff and then Mary Jane goes off to Florida with Kraven the Hunter. Spider-man himself navigates a moral dilemma as he needs to provide some help to his ailing aunt May and in a moment of weakness allies himself with the Kingpin's mayoral campaign, but breaks off when he finds Kingpin breaking his word and hurting people.

In addition to the tremendous vintage comic strips, the book includes interviews with the great Stan Lee and John Romita on the development of the strip. On the written page, Stan Lee comes off as very humble saying that he doesn't take ownership of the Spider-man stories as he can't keep up with all the books and that when he does read a story, he always has the thought of, "Gee, that's a great story, I wish I'd thought of that." I've had thoughts quite a bit less charitable. :)

The only thing that's a bit of a challenge to get used to is three-to-a page format of the strips which is a minor issue in such a great collection of Spider-man by Stan Lee. I can't wait for Volume 2 to arrive via Interlibary loan.



View all my reviews
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Published on November 10, 2012 10:44 • 338 views • Tags: comic-strip, spider-man

November 8, 2012

In my final post responding to thoughts in Frank Miller'sinterview in Men Without Fear.

Miller expressed frustration with comics' tendency to have heroes pair off with normal people. "Why is Superman with Lois Lane? Why isn't he going with Wonder Woman. She can match him." He argues that Superheroes should be as operatic with their love lives as they are with their fighting and then he goes to explain his work was with introducing Electra.

For better or for worse, DC seems to have taken him up on that offer with Superman and Wonder Woman sharing a long kiss in the new 52 version of Justice League with Superman unattached with his marriage having been retconned out of the series and Clark and Lois being just friends.

However, I think the reason that we traditionally see superheroes dating "normal people" is that it makes them more identifiable with humanity. If you're Superman, in particular, this is important because the concept of Superman can be scary or unrelatable if you think of him as some Greek God having a relationship with another Greek God.

I think that in addition to that, there can be some normalcy in a life defined by the unusual in having a normal woman to go home to. Of course, the operatic quality is not limited by a partner not having superpowers. If you watch the last two seasons of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, you'll see a lot of tension and drama in that relationship and in trying to get married and stay married.

Plus all Superhero marriages and relationships generally don't go well. Think Green Arrow and Black Canary, Ant Man and the Wasp and that ongoing cat and bat game between Catwoman and Batman. It's just not a good situation. The big exception to this is the marriage of Reed and Sue Richards.

We'll talk more about marriage in our next series on some of the recent comic marriage dissolutions with the New 52 from DC and One More Day in Spider-man.
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Published on November 08, 2012 06:45 • 203 views • Tags: frank-miller, marriage

November 7, 2012

One more comment on Superman in the Forties before I return it to the library.

As I mentioned in my review, in Action Comics #1, after stopping wife-beating, preventing an unjust execution, and saving Lois, Superman set out to prevent a war. Jerry Siegel believed that war was exclusively caused by munitions dealers and by intimidating the arms dealer into enlisting, Superman prevented the war. That was in 1938.

Real war came the next year. In 1940, a year before Pearl Harbor, Siegel wrote a story for Look Magazine where Superman stopped the war in two pages.

However, when America entered the war, everyone knew Superman couldn't fight it. This was helped by Superman participating in war games and despite his efforts, his army lost because of the determination of American soldiers to prevail. Superman proclaimed his prime in America's fighting men who were America's true secret weapon.

Siegel himself served in the military and Superman was endowed with a little extra dose of humility. There were limits, there were problems so big he couldn't solve.

But this didn't make Superman impotent in the face of real suffering. It just required a different solution. This was best illustrated in the story, "Christmas Around the World." In that tale, Superman brings Christmas to towns in war torn countries and helps reunite four child war refugees with their parents.

Superman's efforts are only superhuman in the amount of time his mission took. Such relief efforts have been done since by people who have come with supplies and gifts to troubled lands. Superman had learned that he couldn't help everyone but that he could help someone.

Of course, more modern writers and producers have drawn a subtly different lesson: Superman can't help.

In the movie Superman IV, Superman undertakes to destroy all the world's nuclear weapons, but ends up realizing as a result of facing Lex Luthor's ridiculous clone of him, that humanity needs to solve the problem for themselves. Similarly in the graphic novel, Peace on Earth, Superman tries to stop world hunger but fails and instead urges people to share knowledge with needy people.

The big difference here is that rather than finding a smaller way in which he can make a difference, Superman is left to shrug his shoulders and say, "It's all up to you."

Perhaps, this in part because of the obvious parallels written into the superman mythos creating an analogy between Superman and Christ. It is as if the writers want to say that God is impotent in these matters and it's all up to us.

However, we're left with the same problem Superman faced: the problems are too big, particularly if they're too big for Superman.

Some times, the use of statistics to emphasize the scope of a problem like poverty is simply overwhelming. If you say, "X number of children in our state will go to bed hungry," I think it makes people overwhelmed. And if you start talking world hunger with hundreds of millions and billions thrown in, good night.

It's hard to see when you start talking numbers like that how a few boxes of pasta or a few dollars can make a difference, and statistically you may be right.

However, the food you provide makes a difference to one or two real people who may go to bed full rather than hungry. What Superman taught showed in "Christmas Around the World" is that we may not be able to solve a big problem, but we can help some of the people involved.

I think we would do more good if we shifted our focus from the big global problems we can't solve to the individual people we can help. Sponsor a child, provide a Thanksgiving Meal, write a check, give an hour of time. Do something small that helps one or two people and if enough of us do that, we'll make a dent in the big problems.

I had the privilege this week to do food sorting at the Idaho food bank. We had four large boxes full of food from a food drive, from the little bit that people were able to donate here and there. A little by everyone makes a lot.

Jesus told his disciples that "the poor you will have with you always" (Mark 14:6) This wasn't meant as a blithe acceptance of reality because he also told to help the poor. Rather the statement serves as a reminder that the problems of poverty will always be present on Earth because of the problems in the human condition. However, we can help those in poverty, if we don't let the bigness of the problem overwhelm us.
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Published on November 07, 2012 09:35 • 192 views • Tags: poverty, superman

November 6, 2012

Captain America? While America suspense over who will win the real election, with campaign fever on full blast, Marvel decided that the Ultimate Universe had a fever and the only prescription was President Captain America.

This is a far better choice than other comic book presidents such as Lex Luthor and Dr. Doom.

Of course, President Cap has far more on his plate than the current budget crisis including alien invasions and nuclear crisis problems. So the problems of the Ultimate Marvel Universe are suited to a man like Captain America. (Note: Mainstream Continuity Captain America isn't President.)

Whoever we elect today won't have that same character we associate with Captain America.

It's remarkable in a way that we still associate Captain America with his more golden age version given how much the comic books have tried to disassemble that. During Watergate, Captain America abandoned his identity to become Nomad. And in the Ultimate Version, he's portrayed as a Church-going cursing hypocrite who complains about sex and cursing in the movies while dating a married woman. In the mainstream universe, he's portrayed as questioning America's role in the world.

When confronted with the latest nutty attempts by liberal comic book writers to mess around with Captain America, conservatives don't like Captain America less, they like his writers less and are upset at the writers for messing around with an American Icon and fondly remember the days when for a dime could read the Adventures of Captain America Commie Smasher.

Of course, Marvel takes the official stand that didn't happen and that a crazy guy impersonating Captain America was the one doing it. After all, what could be more crazy then fighting people who are spies for countries that murdered more than 100 million innocent people? (Combined between Stalin and Mao.)

Regardless of what happens in the Comic Books and how the character is redefined, Cap. remains that quintessential American hero, Marvel's Answer to Superman if not in physical strength, but in moral strength. Sadly, this Captain America is not on the ballot, but wouldn't it be great if he was?
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Published on November 06, 2012 08:32 • 145 views • Tags: captain-america
One thing you won't find in any of the superhero stories I do is any of that magic.

Magic is of course represented in mainstream comics by such characters as DC's Dr. Fate and Marvel's Marvel's Dr. Strange.

Perhaps, this is partially because of upbringing. (Growing up Magica De Spell was verboten.

But, it always strikes me as kind of weird when these characters appear besides major superheroes. It all seems really awkward at best. You have Spider-man fighting an evil spirit along with Dr. Strange and Spider-man's just out of place compared to when Spider-man's fighting Doctor Octopus. He's simply not equipped for this sort of situation, totally helpless in fact. Spider-man's strength is his scientific mind and his fantastic physique. Adventures with "Spirit World" enemies take him so far out of his element that it's absurd. Same thing with Superman who can't fight magic.

Beyond the absurdity, I think that the portrayals of magic in superhero stories have taken on a far darker turn in recent years than perhaps silver age stories and the Super Friends when most of the magical villains acted like Magica De Spell. The darkness of this sort of magic leads to a sort of Harry Potter problem that I don't want to portray even in parody.

Of course, there is scientific stuff that borders on magic and there's magic that makes things ordinary heroes can defeat and that's fine. Thor comes to mind as an example who while having this mythic world is really more or less of an interdimensional alien particularly as portrayed in the Avengers.

I do think there is a place for portrayal of other aspects of the supernatural with demons and angels (thought not the way the comics and cartoons do it), but I'll leave that discussion to another post.
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Published on November 06, 2012 07:36 • 135 views • Tags: magic, superheroes

November 5, 2012

Continuing to respond to some thoughts raised by Frank Miller in the video, "Men Without Fear," Miller states that Matt Murdoch "intends to do good and causes much damage." (Aside: Wouldn't that suggest that fundamentally Frank Miller's version of Daredevil is a failure.)

He then adds, "He should have been a villain. He had a terrible childhood. His romantic life is the worst."

Here I think Frank Miller hits on something interesting, though it has little to do with Daredevil specifically. In fact, most Superheroes had pretty crummy childhoods. Exhibits A and B: Batman and Robin both (parents murdered right in front of them). Exhibit C: Spider-man (mocked and bullied). Exhibit D: Captain America (belittled, struggled with weakling status.)

And beyond childhood, there are other temptations to villainy. Think about how many powerful beings have hit the Earth in the pages of Comic books bent on global domination. Yet Superman, even before DC comics recognized any significant role by his parents was a force for good.

But we're confronted with a question. So many comic book characters and real life ones as well who similarly situated have radically divergent outcomes and outlooks. What makes a mutant become a hero while another mutant who experienced a similar accident becomes a villain? What makes one billionaire a philanthropist while another is greedy?

While atheists like to jump Christians with the problem of evil. The problem of good is a tricky one both in real life in fiction for atheists in particular. In fiction, this is seen particularly clearly in the world of superheroes where evolutionary impulses really can't explain. This happens in real life to with policemen risking their lives.

Some of this can be explained by Christians acting out of love for God. But not all. There are undeniably good works done by people who are not at all involved with God.

What explains this? It's the Christian doctrine of Common Grace which God gives to all humanity through his providence whether they serve him or not. In Matthew 5:45,46, Jesus described this characteristic of God:

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.-Matthew 5:45,46 (KJV)

Paul describes the Civil Authority as God's minister in Romans 13 to punish evil and uphold good. The presence of law and police is a gift from God. It may be corrupted (as any gift from God can be), but imagine our world without them.

I think wherever you find goodness, you ultimately find the Hand of God, whether the people doing good acknowledge it as such. Whether its in an FBI agent tracking down terrorist, or a cloudburst that waters a dry and barren land, a spring of cool water, or in a Superhero that upholds justice, you'll find the hand of God, his goodness towards us.

As bad as this world can be, it would be intolerable if not for the common grace of God.
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Published on November 05, 2012 07:38 • 381 views • Tags: common-grace, daredevil, frank-miller

November 4, 2012

My wife has finished her editing/rewrite on Rise of the Robolawyers and it lands at about the 27,000 word mark.

In addition, my narration of the audiobook version of Tales of the Dim Knight is going exceedingly well.

Both projects should be available by Black Friday.

In addition, my third project. As of yet unnamed is at 34K. The life of your friendly neighborhood Christian superhero writer continues to be robust.
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Published on November 04, 2012 16:47 • 155 views • Tags: writing-update

November 1, 2012

I've been reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking which focuses on introversion and the power of Introverts. I always score very high on Introversion tests, so I find it interesting.

As I thought about this topic, I wondered where my favorite superheroes would lie on this Introversion/Extroversion Axis.

Of course, Superheroes can be tricky to pin down. The nature of the Superhero business requires characters to do things that are more naturally introverted such as keeping few close relationships less someone learn your secret identity. It also can require some more public outgoing behavior.

In addition, Superheroes are often dualistic with two identities with two very different identities. Where does Superman begin and where does Clark Kent end?

Introversion doesn't have to do with selfishness or necessarily shyness. It has to do with what energizes you. For introverts, it's time alone and in thoughtful activities like reading. For extroverts, it's time with people. Introversion can be accompanied by other traits such as thoughtfulness and sensitivity.

Thus, it's quite possible to be a Superhero AND an introvert. I'd say many of the DC heroes definitely fit that bill because their origins go back farther and original comics drew from an earlier time in what Susan Cain calls the culture of "Character." Oftentimes, early comic books didn't have our characters with a lot of flashy personalities and identity problems. We loved the original superheroes because of their character, their quiet strength and humility, and much of that has carried over to the present day.

One final challenge is that there have been so many versions of these characters and writers have changed personalities. I will only write about the characters as I know them, so no "New 52" stuff or other recent comic innovations.

The Justice League: Animated Series

Batman (Introvert): The coolest and most popular Superhero of the modern age is probably one of the most introverted in his modern version. The Justice League Animated Series makes this clear. Sometimes the other heroes will go about flouncing around, jumping into action with little thought or consideration. In the middle of all, Batman sitting down in the batcave, with an actual solution. Batman can hold his own battle, but he is the clear brains of the Justice League series. Like many introverts, he wears a mask (named Bruce Wayne) who does all the smiling socializing necessary to maintain a secret identity, but Batman is at ease and happy down in the Batcave figuring everything out.

Superman (Introvert): There's some debate over this, though perhaps it stems from a misunderstanding of Introversion/Extroversion. Someone on a comic forum argued Superman Adores his wife (that's back before DC made Superman unmarried so they could pursue a relationship with Wonder Woman)." Many introverts adore their spouses. That's not the point. There's a difference between an introvert and a misanthrope. I tend to think Superman is an introvert, partly due to nature (Krypton seems a place that valued personality less than Earth.) and nurture (being raised on a farm miles from others.) Superman's always been a bit of a loner and so has Clark Kent, even from childhood with few close friends and this has continued to adulthood. I mean Batman may have the Batcave, but when Superman needs to recharge he flies up to the North Pole to a place called, "The Fortress of Solitude." I rest my case.

Martian Manhunter: Maybe, he'd be more sociable if there were other Martians around, but he's a very quiet and thoughtful person who rarely says anything that's not important and is more given to contemplation than chattering conversation.

The Flash (Wally West) (Extrovert) : Ultimate extrovert, always joking around and having a good time, though it was once suggested by Unlimited hero that his jovial attitude was only a mask. I hope not because the Justice League needs some balance.

The rest: Green Lantern (John Stewart) (Introvert), Hawkgirl (Slight Extrovert), Wonder Woman (Extrovert).

The Fantastic Four

I guess it shouldn't be surprising that the team of Superheroes that forsook secret identities would be majority Extroverts (with one key exception).

Johnny Storm (the Human Torch), ever the outgoing lady's man who thrives on public speaking, social interactions, and public performances is the obvious Extrovert.

Sue Richards (the Invisible Woman) is far more outgoing than her Introvert husband and always up for going out and social occasions.

Ben Grimm (The Thing) may be self-conscious about his appearance, but when he gets out, he shows all the boisterous enthusiasm of any Extrovert.

Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) is the team's only Introvert. He's the guy that the rest of the team has to pry out of the lab. It is true that in one early issue of the Fantastic Four, he did encourage the Four to go to a reception held for them by Congress. But this was more out of a sense of duty and patriotism rather than excitement about a social outing. Ironically, it's the Introverted Reed who rises to leadership.

The Avengers

Here we base our perceptions on the two or (in the case of Iron Man) three movies containing the most popular characters as well as the other bits about them we've picked up from the Marvel Universe:

Iron Man (Ambivert): Tony Stark is kind of hard to figure out. On one hand, he's a party animal in social situations and loves being the center of attention and can be recklessly spontaneous such as blowing his secret identity at the end of Iron Man. On the other hand, he handles solitary activities and works well alone. He's not only a combination of man and machine, he's a combination of Introvert and Extrovert. He's an Amnivert (and that's a real word.)

Thor (Extrovert): Thor is not one for quite reflection. He's the pure man of action, ready to march into war. He's not stupid, not reckless, but he is a social leader, much more comfortable with comrades by his side than alone.

Captain America (Introvert): The Marvel heroes have huge respect for Captain America, but it's not because he's the most outgoing people person. It's once again that quiet strength of character and dedication to duty. He first appeared in 1941, and is come from the same cloth as Batman and Superman. He's not the life of the party, but its quiet strength and inspiration.

Others

Due to the sheer volume of material I've read, I've got to offer an opinion on a couple of characters not usually included in any team.

Spider-man (Introvert): There have been some conflicting portrayals of Spider-man, whether this is due to him being an amnivert or him being an "Extrovert wannabe," or whether the writers have had trouble writing him consistently is a fair question. There are several things favor him being an introvert. His geekiness, his quiet enjoyment of science and solitude loom large. On the other hand, Spider-man can be somewhat impulsive and reckless in battle. While humor or comedy is not the sole province of extroversion, his flip, wise-cracking comments to all-comers may suggest extroversion to many.

I think Spider-man's extrovert traits are proof of a concept that Cain shared in the book. No one is a complete extrovert or introvert. Anyone who fell into either category according to Carl Jung would be in an insane asylum. Spider-man's multi-faceted personality makes him such a fascinating and engaging character and also keeps him sane.

However, I think the evidence is quite clear on Spider-man's introverted tilt. While Spider-man may be wisecracking with the bad guys, if we watch cartoons or read the comics, we see him having deep introspective sensitive thoughts in his private moments. And when Spider-man
has had a bunch of drama (either in or out of costume), there's nothing he enjoys more than swinging across the Manhattan skyline, enjoying the pleasure of peace and quiet above the maddening rush of the city.

Daredevil (Extrovert): Superman may retreat and enjoy the tranquility of the Fortress of Solitude but not Daredevil. As a blind man, he's expected to weak and helpless and it drives him nuts. In Daredevil Vol. 1, #25, he declared that it felt like being Matt Murdoch was a mask. At his best, he's a swashbuckling adventurer and outgoing lawyer. The limits of his handicap and the requirements of being a superhero notwithstanding, Daredevil is an Extrovert at heart.

So, of the seventeen heroes I looked at, eight are extroverts, eight are introverts, and one is an amnivert. With these diverse personalities, they all play key roles in keeping the world safe from evil.

In that way, superheroes may set an example for introverts and extroverts in the real world.
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Published on November 01, 2012 22:38 • 2,662 views • Tags: batman, daredevil, spider-man, superman

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
...more
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