The Poetry Cosmic!!
I’m, obviously, a pretty big fan of Jack Kirby. His reputation as the King of Comics, as well as his influence on modern popular culture, rests on his limitless creativity and innovative art work. However, his writing, especially his dialogue, is often ridiculed for being “wacky” or clunky. I actually love Jack’s approach to dialogue: he imbues it with the same bristling, barely-contained energy as his artwork. It’s an odd mix of antiquated word-play, pseudo-science, and techno-babble. He emphasizes random words, interjects neologisms, and adds an excessive number of exclamation points. I can see why some may find Kirby’s writing off-putting or embarrassing, but again, I find a unique, odd charm to it.
In an attempt to capture some of the dynamism of Kirby’s writing, I’ve been constructing found poems culled from his work. I’ve kept as much of the original syntax and punctuation as possible, but tried to give the words a new context. I’m not sure they really “work” as poems, per se, but it’s been a fun experiment. Here’s the first one I tried, taken from 1978’s Kamandi #1.
I recently stumbled across the original trailer for 1978’s Superman: The Movie, and was struck by the characterization of Superman’s father Jor-El. There is an obvious messianic subtext to the story of Superman -Kal-El is an intergalactic Moses who uses his powers to help and protect humanity- but this trailer makes that much more explicit by implying Jor-El knows his son’s destiny and gives him to us as a savior. It’s an interesting take on the character, yet it seems to put more emphasis on Jor-El’s sacrifice than on Superman’s inherent goodness as a source of inspiration. It also makes Clark Kent’s “hero’s journey” much less dramatic: he is destined to become our savior, and he cannot choose otherwise.
I can see why they wanted to stress the role of Jor-El in the trailer since Marlon Brando gets top-billing for the film. However, this notion of paternal sacrifice seems to undermine the importance of Martha and Jonathan Kent to the development of Superman’s character: nature make Superman powerful, but nurturing makes him a good, noble person.
The trailers for the upcoming Man of Steel suggest this duality of Superman’s origin is central to understanding the character. There is still an implication that Jor-El sees his son as a savior, but it’s clear that this unique destiny is shaped by the caring, paternal presence of Jonathan Kent.
Of course, the overly paternalistic narratives of both trailers underplay the importance of Superman’s mothers, Lara Lor-Van and Martha Kent. Hopefully Man of Steel addresses their role in shaping Superman’s character. After all, their sacrifice and nurturing influence are just as important as Jor-El’s and Jonathan’s.
These messianic themes of sacrifice and redemption are obviously part of Superman’s appeal. The fact that the character remains inspirational after 75 years is a testament how much we, as a culture and as individuals, want to look up to someone.
Thank you, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, for giving us someone to look up to.