Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Justice Pantheon of America

Man, these animated DC films are coming fast and furious. And here were get some tasty interdimensional memes along with the ever-popular alternate-reality hero versions, something that Batman Beyond and Justice League have done better than the comics themselves. There's something much deeper at work here- certainly what will be an irreversible migration of superheroes from page to screen, the alternate reality meme as a metaphor for pop culture itself and the end of the solo superhero story. The superhero team- or pantheon, more accurately- has replaced the heroic myth of the outsider. The Green Lantern and Wonder Woman films were both pantheon-based as well, with the titular characters as firsts-among-equals. Cultural polytheism in real time.

I used to gravitate towards loner characters myself, even if very few of them operated totally alone. Conan had BĂȘlit and Red Sonja and assorted knaves by his side, Batman has his Bat-entourage, even Kamandi had his freakish sidekicks- a talking dog, a metal-skinned mutant, a gender-bent energy-being in human form. And I never liked Captain America as much without the Falcon as with.

There's no true solo comic book hero now- they're all tightly wound into an arcane pantheon of demigods who parade in and out of each other's titles regardless of whose name is on the cover. And now that process is leaving the esoteric brotherhood of lifelong initiates (some call them "fanboys") and spreading into the culture at large. The rise of the superhero team parallels the rise of organized fandom- the Legion of Super Heroes was simply a mirror held up to fandom, and it was the Justice League of America that kicked off the superhero boom of the early 60s.

At the same time it was bands like the Beach Boys and the Beatles that revived rock and roll, which had been predominantly focused on solo singers in the 50s. The power of the pantheon continues to this day- acts like Nine Inch Nails, the Cure, Daughtry and Smashing Pumpkins are bands in name only- they are the provenance of their leaders. But rock still eschews the monotheistic memes prevalent in pop and R&B and country in favor of the pantheon ideal.

SYNC LOG: Whitley Strieber has a front page article up on multiverses too.