Sunday, January 26, 2014

DC vs. Marvel: The Battle of Gods

In 1948, a man addressed a science fiction convention and said the following,
"Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion."
Two years later, that pulp fiction writer wrote a book called "Dianetics" and thus, a religion was born.
If you don't know about Scientology the cult believes that 75 million years ago Xenu (an alien ruler of a "galactic confederacy") brought billions of people to Earth in spacecraft resembling Douglas DC-8 airliners, stacked them around volcanoes and detonated hydrogen bombs in the volcanoes. The thetans then clustered together, stuck to the bodies of the living, and continue to do so today, but you should really watch South Park's 9th season episode to get the full idea.

Funny, right? Ludicrous, ridiculous, and downright unbelievable. However, no more unbelievable than every other religion out there. All brought about by someone or a group of someones exploiting people's fears, wishes, or passions. So in a hundred years, five hundred years, maybe even a thousand years from now; who will the be the titans that we pray to?

Choose your deity.
Every god is birthed from a story. Comic book characters are the perfect choice for the next generation's deities. Think about it, they exist in the world we live in, but then again, not of this world. Every hero has their story that makes them great, they each have their cross to bear, and sacrifice themselves over and over just to come back and do it again. All for the love of us. It's just a matter of time before humans start anthropomorphizing them. But just as the Romans had Jupiter and the Greeks had Zeus, can the deities of the future coexist, or will a particular type of gods reign supreme?

Let's take DC, first. The characters in Detective Comics are by far the easiest to deify.
The Trinity.
They are gods, in every sense. They reside in the Watchtower, overlooking Earth. They have powers beyond any mortal man, and yet live among humans to love, to hurt, and to struggle with the same issues we suffer through. But when they are in their suits, when they don their cape, or cowl, or power ring, they are super. DC (whether intentionally or unintentionally) created gods. They are iconic even at their worst. Superman is clearly Zeus, Wonder Woman is quite literally the god of war (seriously, go read Wonder Woman), and Batman is Hades.

So how do we relate to them? For gods must be relatable, even the omnipotent one that is the crowd favorite today has his moments of mercy, rage, and compassion depending on which book you're reading about him. As a kid, I was all about Superman. Hell, I'm still all about Superman. From the two front teeth I lost as a kid jumping off a chair (thinking I can fly), to the Superboy vinyl toy I just bought; Superman is the epitome of all that is good in humanity. He never kills (don't you dare mention "Man of Steel" in my presence), he would rather sacrifice himself than to lose a life. And despite what some people might think about his alter ego, Clark Kent, he is not a bumbling, geeky guy in glasses. That's not how he sees humanity. Clark Kent is a good man. There have been so many times in the comics (and in real life) where folks wonder why Superman just doesn't do away with Clark Kent and just be Superman the whole time? What people don't realize is that Clark Kent is who Superman looks up to. Clark is his deity, the idea of what a good person can be.

That was my god. And in some strange way, it's still the deity I look up to. Not one I pray to, but he's my "What Would Superman Do?"

So with DC clearly having gods in their court, how could Marvel compete? Well, if Superman is God, then Captain America is Jesus Christ.
The guy next to Cap is a god!

Marvel Comics has their super heroes. They even have comics about actual gods. But their characters do one thing better than DC does. Marvel makes humanity super. In the 616 (look it up), here be demigods.

Even the gods wept that day.
Like Hercules, Achilles, or Perseus; Spider-Man, Captain America, and The Hulk are humans gifted with the power of the gods. These characters are not worshipped, they are thanked. They live in our world. They suffer through the same turmoils that we do. Spider-Man goes home to his aunt after a day of being Spidey. Captain America lives in Brooklyn. The X-Men go to school!

But when they are super, they take their human frailties and use them to make themselves be better. Tony Stark's alcoholism, Bruce Banner's rage, Wolverine's Canadianism (I'm obviously kidding. Being Canadian is not a super power), or rather his mutation. This isn't their kryptonite, this is the burdens they overcome, the same ones we do.
Do I think we'll worship comic book characters in the future? Who's to say. Time will tell on that one. Hell, we might end up worshiping musicians for all I know.
More popular than Jesus, at least on iTunes.
You might think this all lunacy, that comics are the last bastion of theology that humanity would ever pull from. And you might be right, though, as I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, there are a group of people who believe in an alien ruler that is responsible for them feeling bad, that a sci-fi writer pulled out of his ass.

And at the end of the day, is it really that bad? Personally I think (and know) we can do much worse. I wear a Batman shirt because I can identify with the character. I look at the super heroes in comics as ideals, because honestly, the real heroes of today are in short supply. Also, as far as I know, no one has killed in the name of The Flash. But in a thousand years from now, that too might change. Or as the title of this blogpost suggests, factions of super hero believers will fight for their gods as most do now.

Still, I see it as an upgrade. The stories of today's super heroes are far better recorded than the "super heroes" of yester-millenias. I'm hoping humanity will understand that these characters are not real, but rather they are fictional stories. I may be giving us too much credit on that one.

Regardless, I'd be happy to have us let go of this.
Ick! This? (Think about it)
For something a little more super.
Stands for hope, where he's from.