Monday, January 21, 2013

Romances in the Wards

Fuck superheroes, frankly.
The notion that these things dominate an entire culture is absurd.
It's like every bookstore in the planet having ninety percent of its shelves filled by nurse novels.
Imagine that.
You want a new novel, but have to wade through three hundred new books about romances in the wards before you can get at any other genre.
A medium where the relationship of fiction about nurses outweighs mainstream literary fiction by a ratio of one hundred to one.
Powers #7
by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming

What in the world does this have to do with theology? This excerpt mentions nothing about God or religion. Instead, it's a character rambling about the oddly specific niche genre comic books have popularly been pigeonholed in. And what does that possibly have to do with Wednesday Theology?

A lot.

Really, the first chapter of my thesis, aptly titled Wednesday Theology: Theology and Language in Graphic Literature, could also be described as ramblings about the oddly specific niche genre comic books have popularly been pigeonholed in. The complaint is true, though, that the vast majority of monthly comic book titles follow the antics of superheroes, mutants, or other spandex clad vigilantes.

But not all graphic literature. And that is the key here. As Scott McCloud said, "I realized comic books were usually crude, poorly-drawn, semiliterate, cheap, disposable, kiddie fare - but - they don't have to be!"*

Sure, we can glean some theological insight from the mythological metaphors superheroes embody (as usual, comparing Superman to a Christ figure comes to mind first), but the format does not have to be, and is not, limited to superheroes. Graphic literature can dabble into any genre, and that opens the floodgates to the possibility of theological discourse, as it would with any medium.

Think about the quote above. What if it was true? What if 90% of all published literature was nurse romance novels? How absurd would it be that for every Tom Clancy, John Grisham, or J.K. Rowling book, you would have to wade through 90 nurse novels?

It would be just as absurd if 9 out of 10 movies were dark comedies about the upholstery business. It would be just as absurd if every other show on television was about cops or lawyers or doctors....okay, that one rings a bit true sometimes. Ignore that.

Sadly, the monthly adventures of superheroes drives and supports the industry. So each month the top selling titles are about the X-Men, Avengers, or Justice League, despite the publication of much better books.

I'm not saying get rid of superheroes. I may decry their overwhelming popularity, but I am absolutely a Batman fan (anyone entering my apartment can tell you that). But I would love for the industry's spotlight to fall every once in awhile on other books.

Especially books that might deal with Wednesday Theology.

*Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics (Northampton, MA: Kitchen Sink Press, 1993), 3.

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