Monday, July 16, 2012

Anti-Heroe's...Is it Time for Superman to Roll Over?

The San Diego Comi-con 2012 is over and it was an awesome event and my panel "Transforming Graphic Novel Readers into Graphic Novel Writers" was a blast! Leading kids/adult graphic novelists Jenni and Matt Holm (Babymouse  and Squish),  Jimmy Gownley (Amelia) and Joe Kelly (I Kill Giants, Superman vs. The Elite, Ultimate Spider-Man, and many more) all spoke about tools and skills they needed to successfully publish their works and gave suggestions for aspiring graphic novelists. Educators Katie Monnin, PhD., and James Bucky Carter, PhD., related how education can help. What sticks out most is that:
  • Written work is rarely successful the first draft, or even the first try.  NEVER get discouraged.  Just stay open to constructive criticism and constant editing;
  • Structure is really important in writing graphic novels.  Writers/illustrators must structure the story, the panels, the pages, and they must structure their working time and day;
  • Panelists agreed that developing 'real' characters was the trick to successful work and readers must be able to relate to them;
  • While writing the story is important, equally important is being able to 'lay out the story' so art, text and panels flow smoothly.
  • Classroom attention should be directed not only to literacy building (both visual and verbal literacy), but to teaching executive functions such as structure and organization, attention to detail, and the encouragement of creativity and creative alternatives.
We also discussed the changing role of 'hero' in popular culture, and how the anti-hero is growing in importance and popularity. The big question which was posed by Joe Kelly years ago and developed in his new film, Superman vs. The Elite:   
  •  Is Superman out of date? Has his role of super-hero been replaced by awesome but ego-centric, crime-fighting anti-heroes?
  • Why is it that we frequently ask about  Superman's place in our culture today, but Spidey, Batman ("The Dark Knight"), XMen, and so many other superheroes' 'potency' in our world of fantasy and fiction are rarely questioned?
According to
In fiction, an antihero[1] (sometimes antiheroine as the feminine) is generally considered to be a protagonist whose character is an "everyman" type of character, in contrast to the larger-than-life qualities of an archetypal hero. The term dates to 1714,[2] although literary criticism identifies the term in earlier literature...[3]
Unlike traditional heroes, antiheroes are not as fabulous as the traditional ones. They may be corrupt, oppressive, etc., or may merely have no unusual qualities whatsoever (the common definition). They are not villains but not necessarily heroes. They may do bad things but are not evil. They may fight villains, but not for the reason of justice, or if it is for the cause of justice will take an "ends justify the means" stance. Their actions are motivated by their own personal desires, such as revenge. 

In my teaching (and as a parent) I have found that kids do like heroes.  They like heroes such as Harry Potter .... but, they also enjoy villains.

But by age 12, I think something happens, young adults today, in my experience, actually are drifting more towards the anti-heroes.  The Twilight characters, Hunger Games, are full of anti-heroes. Furthermore we love Spidy and Batman who are vigilates - who take punishing crime into their own hands and have no qualms about murdering 'the bad guys' without trial by jury. For further thought and discussion, please leave your opinions in the comments and go watch Joe Kelly's Superman vs. The Elite which addresses this question with grace and humor, action and reflection.

Joe Kelly's Superman vs. The Elite, which came out last month and is available on Blue Ray  and streaming on the web. It puts the question of hero vs. anti-hero out in the open for full question and evaluation. He empowers Superman to wrestle with his goody-two-shoes image and enables him to rise as a more modern but true-to-self hero.

To whet your taste buds, here's a super interview with Joe Kelly - a truly AWESOME superhero in my humble opinion - who claims his work is dark, while I find it wonderfully empowering and uplifting:
And, a trailer...
As a leaning optimist, I'd like to think Superman and true-blooded "good" heroes are not dead.  And, while some flaws are essential to make them real, I believe that not only is there a place for these role models, there is a vital need for them.  I find so many of us floundering in lives of  cynicism, frustrated with our leaders, with politics and economics and need the larger-than-life fluffy role models to aspire to.... That's my take...what's yours?
Both the interview and the film are well worth the visits and views and I'd love to hear what you think about them and the changing role of today's super-heroes.  Please leave your views and takes on this subject (and tell us who your favorite heroes/anti-heroes are) in the comments.
Thanks for the visit, please come again!

Thanks for


  1. Thanks for joining us at Creative Mondays :) wow I remember Superman from when I was little but my Sons have never really been bothered about him,I always remember the film where he out runs the train and think wow one day I will be as fast lol

  2. I don't think Superman is out of date or that there is anything unique to our current attraction to anti-heros.

    For example, you look at the ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Scandinavian and Hindu myths, most of the greatest heroes were actually anti-heroes by modern standards. Good people don't chase down women, get roaring drunk or get into petty vengeful fights like Zeus, Apollo, Horus, Odin or Shiva. The late 19th century penney dreadful was another more recent example of the power of anti-heroes, as is much of Joesph Conrad's work.

    Wrote a blog post about my favorite anti-heroes some months ago now. It includes Dirty Harry, Major Motoko, Tyler Durdan and Edmond Dantes:

  3. thats a great post! they were antiheros ! I am your newest follower! I cannot wait to read more of your posts and hope that maybe you can return the favor and follow The Preppy Student. I always comment for every comment left on my page and hope to start a friendly relationship with your wonderful blog!

  4. another wonderfully informative post ~ and thanks for linking up with Magical Monday Meme ~ and commenting ~~ thanks, ^_^ ( A Creative Harbor)

  5. I have been following your blog for the past couple of months and really enjoy your posts. My daughter is a graphic novel and anime reader as well as an anime artist. I so envy you for being able to go to the San Diego Comi-Con.If I only lived on the west coast instead of the east coast. We will be attending the Anime-Con in Atlanta in September. My nephew was a huge Superman fan for years and wore a cape everywhere he went for at least a year. I agree with you that the focus as of late has changed with who the youth view as a "hero".

  6. Being a comic nerd myself, I think that no, Superman will never die. I think fans/readers go in cycles of liking darker anti-heroes like Batman but then revert to all-powerful Supermen. The thing about Superman is that he may be all-powerful but in actuality, we must remember that he is not of earth; he is not human. His internal struggle is dealing with this learned human behaviours and saving a planet full of people who are not his own. He must figure out how he fits in. I will always hold Superman in a special corner of my heart.

  7. Everyone needs a hero to aspire toward, but I don't like how they make many of the heros today appear dark where you just can't tell the good guys from the bad guys anymore.

  8. I'm afraid my son might turn-out to be the only Superman that is of earth. He is growing but can see any other thing more powerful than the superman. I'm not a fan of these characters though.

  9. The problem with Superman is that, being nearly omnipotent, he was often not that interesting. The goofy stories he got stuck in when I grew up showed that. The post-TV Batman, and Spider-Man (indeed most of the Marvel characters of the 1960s and 1970s) were more complicated.

    Gotta say: I'm tired of dystopian worlds, such as Hunger Games. Depresses me.

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  10. Princess Nagger is a big fan of anime and graphic novels - she used to be a huge fan of Teen Titans Code Lyoko but has recently been obsessed with the oddity, Soul Eater. I know, right? But I've enjoyed watching her create her own anime and graphic stories that have shown tremendous growth on not only her writing ability and drawing skills (pretty amazing for a 9 year old) but her dedication to keep the story lines flowing in an intelligent manner. It will be interesting to see how she progresses - and I love that her school has them turn their spelling words into a comic strip that has to have an understandable and consistent story line using the specified words. :)

  11. I always tell ALL my writing students that they cannot expect to write an essay perfectly the first time pen hits paper. I try to instil in them the idea of organizing their thoughts, jotting notes down in large squares (that indicate paragraph), and to be patient. It takes time and work to get to that place of accepting their work. Also, edit edit edit! Great post and I hope you have an awesome week,

    abcw team

  12. Very interesting read, and the process of this particular way of writing. I love Beatrice Potter and all her Children's book of Peter Rabbit and friends. When I read her biography, she said she could have wall papered two rooms with rejection notices...but she never gave up, and who doesn't know Peter Rabbit as a child.

    We will never outgrow our need for Clean, moral heroes...I hope they never completey die out in our desire to be "modern"!!

    Thanks for some good insights.

  13. Hi, Thanks for the Comi-con insight since I could not attend. Regarding anti-heroes or villains for that matter, could it be that they have a certain flamboyance about them that just plain good old heroes don't? I've noted in movies that it is the lead villain who has the most cool look, dialogue etc while the hero is usually the one who is quiet, brooding and well, boring!

  14. I am a new follower would love a follow back at

  15. I don't think Superman is out of date either. When asked Superman or Spiderman, my 10-year-old said Superman all the way!

    "Written work is rarely successful the first try." Great point. Constant editing is par for the course so stay positive!!

  16. I just think people perceive Superman as perfect and we tend not to like that. Other heroes have foibles and relate closer to the average person. Think of how many heroes the media makes and how they enjoy tearing them down. It is a sad commentary that Superman can be perceived as something less than admirable because he lives a good, well balanced life.

  17. I know a few people that went to that event.

    My almost 7 year old loves Superman, Spider-man and the Hulk. My 4 year old is all about Spider-man.

  18. When I think of an anti-hero, Lucky Jim springs to mind! I didn't like the book though! What I liked about Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, is that in both series a rather vulnerable young person, who is actually not powerful to fight evil, but by love and self-sacrifice proves to be the conqueror.
    Great post Meryl!

  19. When I think of an anti-hero, Lucky Jim springs to mind! I didn't like the book though! What I liked about Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, is that in both series a rather vulnerable young person, who is actually not powerful to fight evil, but by love and self-sacrifice proves to be the conqueror.
    Great post Meryl!

  20. Super post! Superman is still one of my Ogre's favorite characters - I even bought him a Superman snuggie as a gag gift for Christmas a few years back. Also, he has more power in his pinkie than a sparkly vampire has in whole emo body. ;D

  21. I don't think that Superman is out as a 5 year old boy asked for his costume for his birthday ! My son had one too, many years ago when he was 10 and now he approaches the 40th,lol !
    ABC Team

  22. I've never been a Superman fan but The Elite look as one dimensional as he is. I think there is room for both heroes and anti-heroes as there have been through the centuries of storytelling.

  23. I think Superman should remain. One of my son's favorite super hero.

    Aero 360's Arrows
    Rose, ABC Wednesday Team.

  24. follow you the blog hop - please follow back :)

  25. I think "SUPERMAN" will always be superman. It's just like these days, other marvel heroes came to rise. But SUPERMAN for me is still in.

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