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Avengers and Justice League

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The conflict between the concepts of justice and vengeance goes beyond movie or comic characters. It’s one of humanity’s moral dilemmas. Justice is a modern ideal that pretends to oppose primitive revenge instincts. Justice apeals to human rationality and the Common Good in behalf of salvation. Vengeance mistrusts justice and the system than is supposed to hold it. Justice is meant to prevent chaos. Vengeance appears upon the loss of equilibrium, where justice fails in preventing chaos.

I find these moral dilemmas very actual in the world we live on, and so I draw upon fiction to contrast DC´s Justice League with Marvel´s Avengers. I will work upon the recent films only, without losing sight of the fact that the stories and their characters date back almost 60 years and have had variations in the same comics as in television.

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Since Marvel´s Cinematografic Universe (MCU) began en 2008 with Ironman´s first movie, we have more characters and more movies to build up The Avengers saga. On behalf of DC, its extended universe began in 2013 with the new Superman, Man of Steel, followed by Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Suicide Squad (2016), Wonder Woman (2017) and finally the Justice League (2017). Therefore to be “just”, I´ll take only face one from the Marvel MCU and The Avengers first movie released in 2012 to compare with DC´s 2017 Justice League.

jl and a movie

Teaming up.

In the movie, we see Bruce Wayne devastated by Superman´s death, gathering the metahumans files. At the end of Suicide Squad, we saw Miranda Wallace turning in these files to Wayne: Diana Prince, Barry Allen, Victor Stone and Arthur Curry. Its Batman who comes up with the idea of building up a team of metahumans, A.K.A. superheroes. It strikes me that the Dark Night, being sucha  lonely wolf will like to team up with others. I could interpret this as a maturity gesture, as if Batman had accepted his humanity, assume himself incapable of saving the world on his own which definitely contrasts his well known narcissistic personality.

On the other hand, in Marvel´s saga, its senior spy Nick Fury who summons the Avengers initiative, “a group of extraordinary people willing to fight the battles we could not win”, or a bunch of unstable monsters, a time bomb. Fury is kind of a parental figure (with both, paternal and maternal features) who later delegates leadership to Steve Rogers and Tony Stark coming altogether as a lovely dysfunctional family. Howard Stark´s ghost, founder of SHIELD is the discord figure for Tony and Cap’s filial rivality which is mediated by Fury’s maternal function taking care and looking after all the members of the avengers family.

Going back to our point, the Justice League teams up upon Superman’s death and the arousal of Steppenwolf, who takes advantage of Earths desolation at the criptonian death to attack. It is the return of an ancient war that occurred in a mythological time and required the union of the tribes of the Earth: men, Amazons and Tritons. Diana and Arthur join Bruce as representatives of ancient tribes upon the call of war. Cyborg and Flash are the teenagers summoned to the team to do justice. The team joins at the imperative to save the world because only they can save it and are unable to refuse the calling.

In contrast, the avengers recruited by Fury are summoned by the theft of the Teseractor perpetrated by Loki who seeks to destroy Midgard to take revenge on his brother Thor whom he has always envied. Steppenwolf seeks to conquer the world and thus causes the union of superheroes to stop him. Loki on his own wants to destroy the Earth to take revenge on his brother. To achieve this, he makes a deal with Thanos, the real villain who will destroy the planet in exchange for the Tesect. Loki is just a mercenary used by Thanos for his personal motivations in relation to his brother. If I go further in the comparison, Thanos, unlike Steppenwolf, has a more complex agenda. He does not seek destruction but the salvation of the Universe … but in the first Avengers movie, we still do not know that so I will leave this argument for a later post.

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So, the League of Justice joins because it is their duty to save the world. The Avengers summoned by Fury answer the call without much clarity of what they can do and with many doubts about Nick’s intentions. What really makes then a team is Agent Coulson´s death at Loki’s hands. Their main motivation to team up is to avenge his death and by the way saving the Earth. As Tony tells Loki, “maybe we cannot save the Earth but we will surely avenge it, and you my friend have manage to piss us all”.

 

jl and avWhile the Justice League fights for the salvation of the world from the categorical imperative to do the right thing; The Avengers seek to avenge the death of Agent Coulson in a personal struggle against Loki (for whom we have already seen The Age of Ultron and Infinity War, we know that the formula repeats itself). In my interpretation, it is on the one hand the Kantian vision of the categorical imperative as the duty-to-do-the-good-represented in The Justice League; and on the other hand Nietzsche´s overcoming of the spirit of revenge that establishes the condition of possibility of the superman represented in The Avengers

¿Kant or Nietzsche?… ¿Justice o Reveange?… ¿What´s your choice?

Marvel Extended Universe or Stan Lee’s Rhizomes.

A rhizome is a concept proposed by the French philosophers Deleuze and Guattari as an epistemological model where elements connect with each other without hierarchies. The term is adopted from botanics where a rhizome is a horizontal and underground stem that contains buds from which the roots and herbaceous sprouts are born and grows horizontally. The Marvel Universe is drawn this way: as horizontal stories that connect to each other in an energetic ensemble of characters [1].

In the sixties[2], DC cómics launches The justice League of America, a group formed by the leading superheroes of the brand (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Acuaman and Green Lantern) representatives of American patriotic values. To compete in a decadent market, the editor of Timely Comics, (Stanley Lieber, better known as Stan Lee) is commissioned to invent a group of superheroes to compete with the Justice League[3]. Thus the Fantastic Four are born, safeguarding the rules of the comic code, but defying the stereotypes of heroism. A scientist, a woman, a monster and a teenager who obtain powers from a scientific accident in space. The public loves it and it’s the beginning of the Marvel era.

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In 1962 new characters are born: the monster Hulk, a superhero based on the novel by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Spiderman, the melancholic teenager and Thor, a crippled doctor who transforms into the Nordic God of Thunder. In 1963 comes Ironman, a millionaire magnate trader of arms with a heart disease and Dr. Strange, an arrogant physician who is instructed in the dark arts. In 1964 Daredevil is introduced, a blind lawyer who at night is the Devil Avenger of Hells Kitchen in New York.

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In the same year, Stan Lee launched the Avengers and X-Men. Unlike the Justice League of DC Comics, the Fantastic Four, Avengers, X-Men, The Inhuman and The Defenders are explosive groups of personalities who are forced to work as a team but without any harmony. Its members come and go, they hate each other, they reconcile, they change sides, they make new groups. Energetic ensembles whose charges are attracted and repel in the tragic random existence.

Another important aspect in Marvel stories is the presence of strong female characters. The invisible girl, Susan Storm, is not an Amazon like the Wonder Woman or the girlfriend or cousin of a superhero like Batgirl or Supergirl. Susan is a woman with a strong character and personality that unites the team formed by her fiancé (later her husband), her younger brother and her best friend. The X Men series are full of strong female personalities: Storm, Dark Phoenix, Emma Frost, Mistique, Scarlet Witch …. monstrous without a doubt, heirs of the Western tradition in which the woman is a carrier of evil. “In the early 1960s, Lee and Kirby create an unprecedented world of gender equity”[4].

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Without the safety of distant galaxies, remote times or the fictional cities of Metropolis or Gotham, the lead characters of the Marvel Universe coexist with their fans in a real world. Without fear of the dark side or mythical prophecies that ensure the victory of good, the characters of Marvel show all their dark power born of hatred, resentment and fear.

I’m interested in Marvel comics as unpolarized representations of human ideals. Stan Lee and his team give life to a series of stories and characters where monsters become heroes and the concepts of evil and goodness become points of view. Pride, vices, anger, revenge and hatred are characteristic of Marvel superheroes, impacting generations and generations of outcasters identified in the alienation of their favorite characters.

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Yondu: You can fool yourself and everyone else, but you can’t fool me. I know who you are.

Rocket: You don’t know anything about me loser.

Yondu:. I know everything about you. I know you play like you’re the meanest in the heart but actually you’re the most scared of all

Rocket: Shut-up!”

Yondu: I know you steal batteries you don’t need and you push away anyone who’s wiling to put up with you because just a little bit of love reminds you of how big and empty that hole inside you actually is.

Rocket: I said shut-up!

Yondu: I know them scientist what made you never gave a rats ass about you.

Rocket: I’m serious dude!

Yondu: Just like my own damn parents who sold me, their own little baby to slavery. I know who you are boy, because you’re me[5]

The Comic industry: Aesthetic production or mass-media?

After the world wars, US imperialism dominates Western culture. With mass media, culture acquires liquid dimensions in an era of emptiness. The masses consume media production, starting with the print media, radio, television, cinema and now the internet. And it is these means from which the dominant culture permeates. As in ancient times, fiction stories become a power structure in determining the values of a culture. The French philosopher and psychoanalyst Felix Guattari indicates that

Film industry, television and the press are fundamental instruments for forming and imposing a dominant reality and dominant meanings. […] these are instruments of power. They manipulate, more than messages, libidinal energy. […] Today the mass media works essentially at the service of repression. But they can also become important liberation instruments.[6]

Comics emerge in the context of the massification of information in print media. Towards the end of the twenties, newspapers popularize the comic strips with an endless number of loving characters. These first comics, as the name implies, were intended to entertain with simple images and friendly characters telling funny and simple stories.

During the Great Depression in the United States, in the early 1930s, comic magazines became the medium of cheap literature for a hopeless society. Newspapers comic strips evolve to small booklets that told funny stories. The themes of these magazines were essentially the westerns of adventure, comedy and horror. The French philosopher Clement Rosset in his tragic philosophy[7] points out that laughter and terror are common reactions to the real. It is not surprising then that these genres were so popular in this era. The great depression represents a narcissistic wound in the new empire towards the devastation of the first great war: a cruel reality difficult to represent.

Cowboys heroism against the Indians in the conquest of the American West tames the rage of the working classes oppressed by the financial crises, generating the stereotype of the American monomyth[8] that shape American culture and later would invade the cultural imaginaries of the West. The premise of the western consists of the foreigner who comes to a lawless community and is forced to do justice by his own hand. It is not a virtuous hero, but a tragic character thrown into a circumstance in which he fights injustice. Once the order is restored, the hero disappears, he never becomes a member of the community, he is always a stranger.

Superman´s birth in 1938 marks the beginning of the era of superhero comics, a theme that will impact in such a way that it will take over the term comics. It should be noted that initially Superman was an extraterrestrial dedicated to protect the weak and unprotected. In the same line of the western hero. The following year, Bob Kane creates Batman, being the first dark vigilante.

On the break of Second World War[9], DC Comics, had to modify the superhero image, making him an american patriot in order to prevail him from being confused with a communist.

Even though the superhero comic is born as a resistance and a critic to the capitalist hegemony, it is used by the system as propaganda for its media impact. In the Second World War, the comics were used in favor of the allies led by the United States. With Hitler and Nazism as villains, the American heroes Superman and Captain America carry the heroic colors of the nation that will save the world.

Yet, at the end of the war, comics become victims of the fifties morality and become demonized by the American psychologist Fedric Wertham and his article The seduction of innocence in which he accused the comics of provoking juvenile delinquency and the lack of values in the youth[10]. Such ideas persists to date: too much violence in comics, too much evil for children’s minds. The article generates such an impact, that the editors of magazines, writers and artists were summoned in commissions at the American courts in a witch hunt that resembles the Holy Inquisition. After defeating the demoniac Hitler, the superheroes were accused of evilly seducing kids innocent minds.

In 1954, the Comic Code Authority was created to regulate the contents of comic magazines. Most of the comics saw its extinction at the Code that prohibited explicit violence, bloody and terror contents, sympathy towards criminals and stipulated that in all stories goodness must win against the evil. These regulations helped to create the image that comics were a satanic thing that could contaminate children’s innocent minds and thus should be watched. But the seed was sown.

batman y joker

Batman: Then why do you want to kill me

Joker: I don’t, I don’t want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no, NO! No. You… you… complete me

Batman: You’re garbage who kills for money.

Joker: Don’t talk like one of them. You’re not! Even if you’d like to be. To them, you’re just a freak, like me! They need you right now, but when they don’t, they’ll cast you out, like a leper! You see, their morals, their code, it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you. When the chips are down, these… these civilized people, they’ll eat each other. See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve[11]

 

The problem of Evil.

Ever from Plato, the problem of evil has been conceived both in philosophy and literature as the abject of human ideals. Virtue and goodness have been attributed to man and to God as statutes of their being. In all history, literature and scientific counting, evil is incarnated in demonic monsters that must be annihilated since they are dangerous to humanity. Contemporary mythologies such as Lord of the Rings, Star Wars or DC comics perpetuate this tradition in which good and evil are opposing forces, sometimes with a Hegelian influence are complementary, but good always triumphs over evil.

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From the psychoanalytic point of view, in 1914, Freud writes desolate about the great war and its horrors without being able to understand how it is that the human race having achieve such grandiosity in culture and civilization could be so destructive. As if the domestication of impulses implied eradicating malice and hatred! In the famous correspondence with Einstein, both share their concern for the destructive tendencies of the human. Finally in his book Civilization and its discontents, he suspects of a violent and deadly human instinct that civilization can not domesticate.

Human history is a story of wars and violent deaths. However, the twentieth century stands with its scientific and technological innovations in building war machines and perfecting annihilation techniques. The Holocaust will go down in history as the great genocide. As if the ancient great empires – Greece, Rome, the Apostolic Roman Empire of the Middle Ages with its Cristero wars – or the imperialisms – the British, French or Spanish that conquered the new world – would not have been genocidal!

The main problem in thinking about evil consists in the narcissistic idealization that humanity has made of itself. From Plato to Freud, going through the Christian tradition, the conception of man has been polarized and idealized. The hegemony of goodness placed in man and in God maintained the conception of evil in the peripheries of the human, represented in monstrosities. And the monstrous and demonic deserves and must be destroyed. Hence, the massacres carried out in the name of God during the Middle Ages were not considered genocides. African Indians and blacks had no soul, witches were possessed by the Devil, so that by not being considered human, their extermination lacked the moral judgment of genocide. Paradoxically, the Jews in the Third Reich were also removed from their rights as citizens and condemned to extermination. The difference: it was not a divine design but a human one … or a demonic one if we maintain that Hitler’s evil places him as the very incarnation of Satan. And what about Hiroshima and Nagasaki the devastation and radiation affectations for generations to come? Nor is it genocide since the Japanese were “bad” and were bombarded by the “heroes of war”: the Americans who rescued the Jews from being annihilated by the monstrous Germans. Is this a historical story or a fiction script? The lines are faint.

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Mutants. Since the discovery of their existence they have been regarded with fear, suspicion, often hatred. Across the planet, debate rages. Are mutants the next link in the evolutionary chain or simply a new species of humanity fighting for their share of the world? Either way it is a historical fact: Sharing the world has never been humanity’s defining attribute.

―Charles Xavier[12]

The history of humanity has always been told by the powerful. Mythologies and heroic stories have been used as power structures to institutionalize the values and traditions of each culture, as well as the representations of evil. Hence, it is interesting to observe how in the 20th century, facing the death of God and the destruction provoked by wars, contemporary mythologies emerge in mass literature generating new concepts of heroism and monstrosity.

In the last sixty years, after the world wars and the holocaust, the problem of evil and human destructiveness as well as its approach have had to change significantly. Philosophy and science have done their part in trying to explain and understand evil. Fiction, as always, is more accurate.


[1] Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari. El Anti Edipo. Capitalismo y esquizofrenia. Barcelona, Paidos, 1985
[2] Sean Howe. Marvel Comics the untold story.
[3] Sean Howe. Marvel Comics the untold story
[4] Rebecca Housel. X-Women and X-istance. En: X-Men and Philsophy. Astonishing insight in the mutant X-verse. New Jersey, John Wiley &Sons, Inc. 2009. p 85
[5]Guardianes de la galaxia Vol. 2 (2017). Director: James Gunn. Guionista: James Gunn (basado en el comic de Marvel escrito por Dan Abnett y Andy Lanning) Internet Script DataBase.
[6] Felix Guattari. Más allá del significante. En: Erotismo y Destrucción. Vittorio Boarini (Ed.) Fundamentos, Madrid, España, 1983. p 85
[7] Rosset p 43
[8] The archetype called American Monomyth (American Monomyth) was coined by Shelton and Jewett, American superheroes literature scholars. In their book The Myth of the American Superhero, they point out a singularity present since the western stories about American heroes in contrast to Joseph Campbell’s famous work, The Hero of a Thousand Faces. This singularity consists in the lack of community: Mills Anthony R. American Theology, Superhero Comics, and Cinema. The Marvel of Stan Lee and the Revolution of a Genre. Routledge. New York, 2014, p 4.
[9] Grant Morrison. Supergods. Random House, Nueva York, 2012
[10] Sean Howe. Marvel Comics the untold story. Harper-Perennieal, Nueva York. 2012. p 29.
[11]Batman: El caballero de la noche (2008) Director: Christopher Nolan. Guionistas: Jonathan Nolan y Christopher Nolan (basado en los personajes de DC Comics creados por Bob Kane) Internet Movie DataBase.
[12] X Men 2. (2003) Dirigido por Bryan Singer. Guionistas: Zak Penn, David Hayter, Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, David Hayter (basado en los personajes de Marvel, creados por Stan Lee y Jack Kirby). Intenet Movie Database.

The Cybernetic Monster

ultronA new chapter in the history of the Dark Side is opened. The new enemy of mankind the machine. In 1968 the supervillain Ultron appears in The Avengers. Initially it is an artificial intelligence created by Hank Pym to achieve peace[1]. The machine´s response is that peace is only possible with the eradication of the human. Terminator in 1984 takes upon the same plot: a race of machines that annihilate humanity[2]. The Matrix in 1999 takes up the same premise where machines abuse and control the human without them even taking notice [3]. Humans have become things instead of persons, objects instead of subjects. The machines take control and use human bodies as energy generators while the minds are plugged into a neural network that reproduces a virtual reality called Matrix.

Annihilation of the human race has always been a theme in mythology and literature. In present times, it can clearly be referred to the traumatic and terrifying memory of the genocide of the Second World War (the latest one in human history, by far not the only one or even the most atrocious), however, the fact that it is a machine and not a human who executes it poses an important change in morality. The question must be placed whether or not machines have a psychism and are capable of self-regulating their decisions from a human ethic. Artificial intelligence is clearly a scientific mind at the service of reason … however, it has no soul. Does the disembodied machine (soulless and evil) constitute the possible contemporary representation of evil?

Has humanity ever been so organized, had built such a great deal, accumulated so much and, simultaneously, been so tormented by the passion of nothingness, of the clean slate, of total extermination? In this time in which the forms of annihilation acquire planetary dimensions, the desert, end and means of civilization, designate that tragic figure that modernity prefers on the metaphysical reflection on nothingness. The desert wins, in it we read the absolute threat, the power of the negative, the symbol of the deadly work of modern times until its apocalyptic term.[4]

descargaOn the other hand, in the eighties gore cinema and the figure of the zombie, the dead in life, became popular [5]. Although the zombie dates from the horror novel [6] and has a great boom in the early twentieth century inspiring writers like Edgar Allan Poe or Lovecraft, it strikes social representations in 1968 with the movie The Night of the Living Dead by George A. Romero.

The zombie and the machine constitute representations of the negative, the null, the absence of life. The living death and the artificial intelligence are contemporary monsters that no longer represent destructiveness or evil but death, nullity and the emptiness. Soulless bodies, stagnant psyches.


[1] In the 2015 film, Avengers: Age of Ultron, its creation is attributed to Tony Stark (IronMan) and Bruce Banner (Hulk). However in the comic world, it is created by Hank Pym (AntMan). Ultron has been destroyed and has resurrected increasingly powerful about 11 times
[2] Gerard Jones, Killing monsters. Why children need fantasy, super heroes and make-believe violence. New York, Basic Books, 2002
[3] Jones, Killing monsters. Why children need fantasy, super heroes and make-believe violence
[4] Gilles Lipovestsky. La era del vacío. Ensayo sobre el individualismo contemporáneo. p 34
[5] Noël carroll, The philosophy of horror or paradoxes of the heart.
[6] The first recollection of a zombie appears in 1697 on a novel by Pierre Corneille de Blessebois titled The Zombie of the great Peru. The figure of the living death emerges in the voodoo religion of Haiti.
[7] Le Goff. El orden de la memoria. El tiempo como imaginario

Praise of Evil: Becoming A Monster

vader in therapy 2“The Dark Side” is a concept taken from Star Wars where dark is the opposite of light in “The Force”. In StarWarian mythology, the dark side refers to evil, hatred and death. It is the power source of the Sith, while the light side refers to the positive balance of all living things and the Jedi feed on it. [1]. The struggle between good and evil is present in every age of humanity, in every society and in the psyche of every human being.

Good and evil are moral judgments that may vary according to time and culture. However, some precepts seem to prevail. Evil is harmful, good is beneficial. Evil is diabolical, good is divine.

In Star Wars, Anakin Skywalker before being Darth Vader is torn between good and evil. Anakin is seduced by the dark side of the force by his mentor, Emperor Palpatine who happens to be a Sith Lord. The motivation of Skywalker to surrender to the dark side is the possibility of overcoming death and thus save the life of the woman who loves[2]. “Only the dark side can overcome death.” What is the relationship between death and evil? Why is power over death attributed to supreme evil?

Star Wars is a contemporary fiction that which effect resembles that of ancient religions. Assisted by the mass media, it invades commercial representations from Disney´s castle (the great capitalist monster). Another similar phenomenon is the Marvel Universe[3]. Both George Lucas (creator of Star Wars) and Stan Lee (the genius behind Marvel) invent fictional worlds with revolutionary intentions that mark their respective times and develop in different ways new concepts about good and evil, the heroic and the monstrous.

As for superheroes´ goodness and supervillains´ evil in the Marvel Universe, an interesting phenomenon occurs that has never been seen in the world of comics [4]. Superheroes have dark, monstrous aspects. They are far from being great images of virtue as were the first superheroes (all inspired by Superman). And in recent times (both Marvel and DC and other comic books) plenty of stories about dark heroes using their evil at the service of the greater good have appeared. Vigilantes and avengers whose main power is anger rise up against a decadent, useless system. Justice belongs only to the avenger and the world of fiction [5].



[1] Daniel Malloy, Light Side, Dark Side, and switching sides: loyalty and betrayal in Star Wars. En: Irwin William (Ed.), The ultimate Star Wars and philosophy. You must unlearn what you have learned. West Sussex: Blackwell, John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 2016 pp 136-147
[2] Jason T. Eberl, “Know the Dark Side”: A theodicy of the force. En: Irwin William (Ed.) The ultimate Star Wars and philosophy. You must unlearn what you have learned. West Sussex: Blackwell, John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 2016. p 100-111
[3] I emphasize the Marvel Universe because of the transgressive and obscure content of its stories and characters. In DC Comics, Batman is the iconic dark night and although other graphic novels can be even more obscure (like some British comics or Frank Miller creations, or for example HellBoy), the Marvel Extended Universe as well as Star Wars maintain a link within and outside the law as subversive movements (diverse publications) and part of the establishment (association with Disney, movie franchises and television series).
[4] With the exception of Batman, who in his beginnings was victim of the censorship of the comic code.
[5]Mark D. White, Superhumans ethics class with the Avengers. En: William Irwin (Ed.) The Avengers and philosophy. Earth´s mightiest thinkers. West Sussex: Blackwell, John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 2012. p 5-17

The Heroic Monster

ThingHulkSplashThe idea of inventing a monster superhero emerges motivated by the public fascination with the character The Thing from the Fantastic Four published in 1961. Ben Grimm is a scientist who along with his friends (Richard Reed, Sue Storm and Johnny Storm) travel to space and have an accident receiving super powers. However, Ben Grimm becomes a rock monster. Angry and melancholic by his condition and the rejection of his wife, he decides to commit suicide (like Dr. Jekyll), but before jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge, an accident occurs and he is compelled to help people rescuing several passers-by. Even though people are afraid of him, he is regarded a hero[1].

Given the success of this character, Stan Lee begins to plan the creation of a new superhero whose monster transformation is not permanent. Inspired by Stevenson’s novel and Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, The Hulk is born. The English word hulk means “hull of an old ship permanently beached, used as a warehouse or as a prison”[2]. Another meaning of the word is “awkward-looking big person”. [3]. The name given to this superhero monster shows the difficulty in shaping it. The comic lasted only six months, during which the story did not finish being defined. Eventually Hulk was a special guest in various comics, almost always as a villain who in the end proved to be a hero[4]. In 1963 The Hulk is invited to be a part of the Avengers, although the eventually leaves and comes back several times.

Hulk is a speechless creature. He growls and pronounces words without any grammar as a childish, primitive monster. “What prevents him from being a villain is that all he wants is to be left alone, he does not want to be hurt and acts from his survival instinct [5]. Hulk’s groan is the cry of existence… it just hurts to be alive[6].

Between the 60s and 80s, the world of comics has made superheroes a lot of tormented monsters. Monsters that become superheroes, vigilantes upon a failing law. The comic represents a transgressive movement that gives the youth new representations susceptible of identification where anger, revenge and hatred come at the service of the greater good.[7]

The great superheroes in the Marvel universe are monstrous, obscure, narcissistic personalities in conflict and constant debate. They are very far from Superman’s ideal of goodness who, being an extraterrestrial being, is alienated to human passions. Towards the end of the 70s and the beginning of the 80s, the dark heroes are reborn. In an era of emptiness, superheroes are beyond good and evil.

The cool man is neither Nietzsche´s decadent pessimist nor Marx´s oppressed worker, he is more like the TV spectator trying curiously one after another the night shows, the consumer filling his cart, the one who doubts between having a few days on the Spanish beaches or camping in Corsica. The alienation analyzed by Marx, resulting from the mechanization of work, has led to apathy induced by the vertiginous field of possibilities and generalized free-service; then the pure indifference comes, freed from the misery and “loss of reality” of the beginnings of industrialization.[8]

The emptiness era is characterized by indifference, apathy, the exacerbated narcissism and the alienation of the cool man. Fast food and fast sex. The postponement of desire is no longer a requirement of reality. The pleasure principle is increasingly affordable. And faced with this possibility of enjoyment, the figure of the antihero, of the villain, of the monster that rebels against a system where justice is no longer held as ideal, appear as referents of identification for generations X, Y, Z, millenials and others.


[1] Anthony R. Mills. American Theology, Superhero Comics, and Cinema. The Marvel of Stan Lee and the Revolution of a Genre. Routledge. New York, 2014 pp 118-121
[2] Oxford Dictionaries. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com.1) An old ship stripped of fittings and permanently moored, especially for use as storage or (formerly) as a prison
[3] Oxford Dictionaries. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com. 2) A large, clumsy-looking person
[4] Fingeroth. Superman on the coach. what superheroes really tell us about ourselves and our society. p 122-127
[5] Mills. American Theology, Superhero Comics, and Cinema. The Marvel of Stan Lee and the Revolution of a Genre. p 120
[6] Fingeroth. Superman on the coach. what superheroes really tell us about ourselves and our society. p 126
[7] Jeph Loeb, Tom Morris, Heroes and Superheroes, En: Superheroes and philosophy. Truth, justice and the socratic way, Chicago, Open Court p 11-20
[8] Gilles Lipovestsky. La era del vacío. Ensayo sobre el individualismo contemporáneo. Barcelona, Anagrama, 1986 p 42

Dr. Jekyl & Mr. Hyde

cropped-joker.jpgMost monsters (in literature, cinema, painting and sculpture) represent the human sinister, projected on the outside, at deformed, dehumanize body. The Devil, witches, demons and other monsters inherited from medieval literature, function as persecutory objects that have frighten humanity for a long time. The monster is the incarnation of humanity´s dark side, projected on the outside as a safe zone where it can be feared and destroyed outside of the subject. Most of the monsters in literature and later in the cinema follow this line. But the real monster lives inside us.

The first reference of this particular type of monster is the novel The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, published in 1886. According to Stevenson’s biographers, the conflict between good and evil within of a person is a theme that the author works from his first writings. His education in Scottish isolation was strict and religious. As a child he was an example of kindness yet as a teenager he became “obscure” and “ugly”. He writes The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde while suffering from tuberculosis and facing death.[1]

Dr. Jekyll is a recognized physician, dedicated to  the caring of others and the struggle against death. Mr. Hyde is a murderer and a monster. The plot of the novel (and its multiple theatrical and cinematographic representations) involves the reader in the suspense and anguish of lawyer Utterson, Jekyll´s acquaintance, who fears that his friend is the victim of a disastrous relationship with Mr. Hyde. Later it is discovered that the doctor had generated a formula with which he “liberated” his inner monster, Mr. Hyde, who represented his “vicious” desires. Unable to control the monster, Dr. Jekyll finds no other solution than suicide and confession in a letter he leaves to his friend. [2] Mr. Hyde is the murderer who lives in the soul of the physician. And the only way to stop his monstrosity is to kill him.

The first film appearance of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde dates back to 1920 (34 years after the novel was published). Since then and until 1990, 24 American films have been produced as adaptations of the text. Mr Hyde is the only exponent of this type of internal monster that goes out of control from its birth in 1885 to 1962[3], when Stan Lee y Jack Kirby give birth The Hulk.[4]


[1] Leonard Wolf. The essential Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Ibooks New York. 2005.
[2] Wolf. The essential Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
[3] during this same period of time, monstruosity is placed upon war and particularly in Hitler and nazisim as the pretenden incarnation of the Devil himself.
[4] Danny Fingeroth. Superman on the coach. what superheroes really tell us about ourselves and our society. Bloomsbyry, New York 2014. p 121

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