It seems Stan Lee came under fire for comments he made for International Women’s Day yesterday. For the uninitiated, Stan Lee is the guy that basically made Marvel Comics happen during the birth of the so-called “Silver Age” in the 1960’s. Working with numerous, gifted, and in this writer’s opinion underappreciated, collaborators like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Lee is responsible for bringing the world Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, The Avengers, and reviving all time classics like Captain America. Part of Lee’s magic was to build “relevancy” into his projects. He brought the first black superhero to the nation and his women characters were more than someone for the star of the book to rescue.
But alas, when he tweeted out the cover to a book he produced in the 70’s all about women superheroes he was subjected to a tweet storm of how the heroes are too well built and body shaming of normally proportioned women. Apparently unrealistically thin waists and over-sized breasts are too big of a stretch of the imagination in a character that can project impenetrable force fields and turn invisible.
I have one question – Is nothing fun anymore? Seriously, these are comic books! They are almost by definition stupid. The whole idea is to suspend reality and enjoy a flight of fancy. I love them so deeply because when they are done right they simply make me happy. Yes, on occasion they have produced powerful social insight but that is not why the average fan reads them week after week after week. That’s not why people like me invest vast sums of money and time in collecting, cataloging and consuming them. That’s something one does because it is fun.
The social commentary that has come from the medium so impactfully is usually a happy accident. These things are cranked out like popcorn at the movie theater. In an effort to sell, people write about what’s on people’s minds at the moment, but there is no time for research, background or deep thought – the deadline is just around the corner. Once in a while a writer gets a fixed short run assignment – a so-called miniseries – in which he or she can be more purposeful but the demands of comic book publishing do not allow for the kind of insight one can get from a novel or essay.
Have you ever asked yourself why the heroes wear the masks and brightly colored costumes? The artist has to move so fast they have no time to render details of a human face, so they draw the same idealized face over and over and over again and quickly adorn it with the mask so you can tell Captain America from Iron Man. Same thing for women’s bodies. These artists have no time for the subtlety of a Degas or Da Vinici – they draw the same very idealized body over and over.
But no – in our politically correct age we can’t simply enjoy a good yarn where good guys beat up bad guys all of them in tights looking like Athena and Adonis. No, we have to make sure our heroes are diverse in race, gender and body type. Give me a break!
Have you ever read I Chronicles 16? It’s the chapter of the Bible where King David first brings the Ark of the Covenant back to the nation of Israel. This results in sheer joy among the Israelites. He commissioned his chief poet to write about it and the resulting Psalm says this:
But the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and joy are in His place.
Sometimes it is enough just to enjoy something – simply to be happy. I just read a comic book yesterday that made me happy like that. Unfortunately such things are becoming harder to find in the sea of graphic story-telling designed to appeal to the current joy-sucking environment of our nation.
I do not think it unrelated that we find simple joy leaving our culture at the same time God is. And I think that observation holds the key to restoring such joy to us.