Jottings on science, religion, technology, pop culture and faith from the Antipodes.

Comics, General

On new morality plays

From Comic Book Movies by David Hughes,

Why this sudden fascination with comic book heroes? Perhaps because so many directors and studio executives grew up (as I did) on Marvel and DC comics – an entire generation learned about morality, heroism and the difficult choices faced by heroes not from the classics, but from Spider-Man and The Hulk, with mythologies as potent and powerful as those of the gods of ancient times.

I’m thinking about metaphors to connect Christianity and technology – what stories and imagery do each use that might connect through novelty rather than a search for truth.


  1. Taking on board Walter Wink’s stuff about the Christian narrative providing alternative mythos to the myth of redemptive violence … the comic book hero is a dead ringer for MRV: violence is what makes the world a safer place in the comic book universe whereas the Christian angle is that violence is unltimately incompatible with the Love of God and the way of the cross. Factor in Rene Girard’s stuff about mimetic violence and we have the recipe for a cultural debriefing of the comic book heroes before we can safely use or connect with the imagery. Don’t we?

  2. Possibly, but I’m not familiar with Girard’s “mimetic” (imitative? performative?) violence. Certainly Wink’s connection with myths of redemptive violence (e.g. Marduk) would be helpful here. What I’m also interested in are the narratives within comics that stand against this. Where the hero is an ordinary person, violence is seen as a damning even as it “saves” people, and so alternative routes are taken.

    I’ve also been noting the subversive nature of comics – even characters like Superman have been used to critique and explore current American domestic and foreign policy (e.g. in Iraq).

  3. Basically Girard’s stuff is from a secular sociologist who became a Christian as a result of his work on this stuff. He postulates that a lot of culture works on the basis of covering up and ‘justifying’ pimal violent episodes based on mimetic desire; at its simplest this is taking the human innate capacity for imitating others to the point where we imitate desire for objects or people and this becomes rivalistic leading to escalating violence and then a community escapes the violent cycle by scapegoating and ‘forgetting’ its peace-making murder by mythologising it … not sure I’ve done it justice … anyway it’s pretty influential and the Christian ‘myth’ turns this on its head.

    On a different tack: I seem to remember that some comments on the Spiderman films were around the idea that this was a more conflicted hero … However I’m skeptical that you’ll find much that would question the dominant theme of redemptive violence -even conflicted or questioning still end up reinforcing it. The only way to subvert it is to allow the hero to suffer in their own person for redemption rather than inflict suffering on another [personified evil]. I Can’t recall seeing that in comic book superheroes … ?

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