• Reports from Real Life
  • Home
  • Stories
  • Themed Collections
  • Visual Arts
  • Questions?


Last updateTue, 06 Aug 2013 2am

Back You are here: Home Reports from Real Life Oh, The Things We've Seen! Reviews The Greatest Hero
Tuesday, 03 September 2013 20:07

The Greatest Hero Featured

Written by 
Rate this item
(9 votes)

Picking the greatest comic hero isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially when you’ve grown up with four-colour and monochrome feats of derring-do from not only Marvel Comics and DC, printed in the ‘States, but 2000 AD in the UK and the English-language version of Hergé’s Tintin. Worthies like the Batman, Judge Dredd, the Phantom, Wolverine, Captain Haddock and Beast all had their moment in the sunroom of my nostalgia.

Captain America figured more strongly in this personal decision—especially how he was portrayed in the 1960s by (mostly) Jack Kirby and then, briefly, by Jim Steranko, sprouting out words by these artists in collaboration with Stan Lee.
The Captain America they reinvented in the swinging ‘60s swayed me with his personality, not his wardrobe. A man displaced, out of his time, looking to fit in — a humble fellow, once weak but now blessed with strength (not too much), who wants to do the right thing but is coming to grips with guilt related to the death of his partner. The world has changed and he doesn’t understand it—reflecting the crisis of confidence in the U.S. at the time. Even though Cap may be old-fashioned, he’s a symbol of hope — for everybody — and maintains that despite all the evil lobbed his way.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Superman never rated.
In my novel, central character the Brick also rules out the Kryptonian, probably because I penned his lines: “If Superman falls off of a skyscraper nobody cares, since the bastard’s invulnerable. But if Daredevil takes the same plunge, equal chance he survives or is dead-meat. Human condition, an’ all that.”
Mentioning the Brick also brings me full circle to the Greatest (comic book) Hero I eventually chose.
andrez pt1You see, the Brick was heavily influenced by another Kirby/Lee creation from 50 years ago: The Thing, a.k.a. Benjamin J. Grimm, a former American college football star, test pilot, and founding member of the Fantastic Four in 1961.
This is a superhero who never chose to be one, a pug-ugly slab of rock that lacked the debonair looks of Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne. As my dad would declare, he’s as ugly as a bucketful of arseholes, and is bitter about his transformation — one caused by his best mate Reed Richards’ over-zealous rocket ship mission and the cosmic rays that infiltrated their craft.
This man knows he’s been altered into an orange gargoyle and over the course of the next decade Grimm struggles with inner demons — but that’s just the icing on the melodramatic Danish. Even more important are his physical metamorphosis, under Jack Kirby’s increasingly assured hand, over the next 50 issues (from frog-like blobbiness into one of Marvel’s best-known, coolest icons) and the sense of humour that he displays during fisticuffs — no better so than in a remarkable bout with the Hulk in Fantastic Four #25 (April 1964). We have blue-eyed Benjamin’s best ever one-liners and mesmerizing scrappery that destroys several city blocks, along with a speedboat, a bus, and a bridge.
I never get tired of this one.
Undercutting the mirth is the melancholia — the Thing’s search for his lost humanity, self-doubts, and worries about his brute strength harming others. Hallmarks here? For starters Fantastic Four #51 (June 1966), for me one of the best ever issues of the superpowered quartet, subtitled ‘This Man... This Monster!’ A Jack Kirby cover, with the King’s art inside inked by Joe Sinnott, wrapped perfectly around Stan Lee’s (and most likely also Kirby’s) words. And what a yarn of angst and redemption it is.
If Shakespeare did comic books, this is the stuff he would’ve created—with phrases like “Oh, it is excellent to have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant!” in some huge word bubble, rejigged with a tough, Delancey Street twang.
Natch that.
The Thing would simply declare “It's clobberin’ time!”


Editor's note: In celebration of his new novel "Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?", Andrez will be here every Monday in September breaking down different aspects of our current fascination with superhumans. Stay tuned, true believers!

Read 4275 times

Last modified on Tuesday, 03 September 2013 20:17
Andrez Bergen

Andrez Bergen is an expat Australian writer, journalist and DJ who's been entrenched in Tokyo for the past 12 years. He published the noir/sci-fi novel Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat (2011), slipstream tome One Hundred Years of Vicissitude in 2012, and now Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? through Perfect Edge Books - a novel that combines classic comic books, noir, pulp, fantasy and sci-fi.

Bergen has published short stories through Crime Factory, Snubnose Press, Shotgun Honey and Another Sky Press and worked on adapting the scripts for feature films by Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell), Kazuchika Kise and Naoyoshi Shiotani.

Website: https://www.facebook.com/andrezbergenauthor
comments powered by Disqus