From his high school beginnings to his entry into college life, Spider Man remained the superhero most relevant to the world of young people (Wright 234). His comic books, in fact, included some of the first mentions of the demonstrations -- the 1968 demonstrations at Columbia University. Peter Parker is in the middle of a demonstration at Empire State University, where the administration had decided to convert an empty building into a hotel for visiting alumni instead of a low-rent dormitory for minority students. He had to somehow find a middle ground between his concern for the students and the combat lawlessness as Spider Man. "As a law-upholding liberal, he finds himself caught between militant leftists and angry conservatives (234-235). He refused to join the demonstrations and wanted to listen to the university's side of the issue before taking a personal stand one way or another. The comic ended with the dean saying that they always expected to use the building for dorms, and he was wrong when saying that students "should be seen and not heard." A young black student added that he, too, had learned a lesson. Recognizing the dean's concern, he stated, "Sometimes it isn't easy to tell & #8230;who your real friends are." Spiderman endorsed the middle road while rejecting the extremes and violent responses in both the right and left.
As the decades went by, other political concerns arose, including urban crime. Once again, comic books reflected societal norms. The Dark Knight Returns and the Watchmen, as Umberto Eco states, were two comics that seemed to take the stance that space is permeable where the superhero took a role that supported a varied and contradictory battery of readings. The superhero was both the exotic bringing resolution with his costume, but surprising everyone by his adherence to an almost archaic code of personal honor (Reynolds).
According to Reynolds, there are similarities between the Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, both being the product of writers of a similar age and generation. More importantly, they raise the intellectual and ideological positions from comic books to the graphic novel. The Dark Knight, for example, stresses how TV news drugs the public's sensibilities into accepting violence as part of every life. Watchmen, similarly, includes a parody of a right-wing fanatic journalist and "right on" magazines. In the Dark Knight, deviance has become the norm and there are no more normative values. The Joker, who has killed hundreds, becomes a media star. It is a work that goes well beyond a "comic book" level that is only concerned with superheroes saving the day. Instead, it questions the morals of today's humankind and the distinction of good and evil, reaching the conclusion that they are not that different from one another. It makes the viewers question their own morality and how it fits into this spectrum of good and bad and what has happened to the society around them. Watchmen continues this crossover between good and bad, with a vigilante superhero and his efforts to solve the mystery behind the death of a super-patriotic, right-wing superhero, the Comedian.
Is the superhero dead? Is there no more need for someone who has stronger powers, and will villainy win over heroism? The end of the Dark Knight leaves the viewer hanging. From a negative standpoint, it could mean that superheroes are no longer in existence, because people no longer believe in them. They can only exist within one's imagination, and that imagination is gone. or, from a positive standpoint, the movie can be seen as a call to action -- it is up to people to become the heroes and make a better world for themselves. The film may be seen as a moral drama where the hero is hoping to inspire the viewers to retain their values and not succumb to unethical choices.
Costello, Matthew. Secret Identity Crisis: Comic Books and the Unmasking of Cold War America. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group, Inc., 2009
Horn, Maurice. The World Encyclopedia of Comics. New York: Chelsea House, 1976.
Reynolds, Richard. Super Heroes. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1992.
Rovin, Jeff. Encyclopedia of Superheroes. New York: Facts on File Publications,…