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Courtesy of Lindsey Dawson.
It's interesting how it can take just one picture to make you see things in a new light – it's part of the old idea that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words'. One can debate that last point, of course, in this era when you can't trust photos at all, what with Photoshop being so available to everyone – including Helen Clark’s marketing team.
But the other day I was browsing around looking for material for a workshop on authorship that I was running. I wanted to touch on how graphic novels are a hot new trend in publishing. If 'graphic novel' means nothing to you, then think 'comic'. Yes, you loved them when you were a kid and they're on a roll again – but now they’re very clever and sharp and are being printed on substantial paper, not at all like the flimsy, throw-away comics of old.
In a TIME magazine list of the top 10 graphic novels for last year, I found this picture of the number three book on the list, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. It's Superman, but not as we know him.
I haven't seen the book itself, and don't know how these two have re-engineered the big guy overall for the 21st century, but this image seems to say it all. Who is this guy? Not like any version I remember.
He looks like Sensitive New Age Superman, adrift on fluffy clouds, gazing out over Gotham City and waiting for the next runaway train to stop in its tracks.
He looks like he's been groomed by the guys on the Queer Eye team. P'raps he's ON the Queer Eye team. He could also be Superpoet, just pondering and dreaming. Sure, he's still got the well-toned torso and rippling muscles, but it's like he's, well, gone soft! He even looks a bit drippy.
The cape that should be streaming in his wake as he scorches through the sky is tucked demurely beneath his bum, as if to cushion that super posterior (the clouds not being fluffy enough). The glance he throws over his shoulder is languid. Should the sirens sound below it's going to take this guy a while to wake up, flex the muscles and go to battle. Can you see this hero biffing baddies with his trademark ZAP! And POW! speech bubbles? "Got a problem down there?" he might call out. "Yeah, all right. I'll be there in a bit. Just taking a nap right now."
Tell you what, this picture reminds me of America itself. Not yet seeing what trouble they're in. Not as sharp and shiny as they used to be. Up there in the clouds and distanced from the rest of the world.
Heck, according to some current polls Americans are even thinking about voting the Republicans back in – especially now that a new Lois Lane is bustling about, taking all the attention in her high heels and power suit. I also see that the BBC has polled people in 22 countries about who they'd like to see in the White House, and the resulting was an overwhelming vote for Barack Obama. Instead, it seems the voters are being beguiled by the veteran warrior, John McCain, the guy who once said America could stay in Iraq for 100 years. Wake up, Superman. You may be needed quite soon.