Sunday, December 25, 2005

Executing Captain America:

I cannot more strongly recommend Kurt Busiek's Astro City series for comic book readers. Busiek takes already existing themes and characters, deconstructs and reconstructs them while adding his own originality to the mix such that the final superhero product is his own unique creation.

Most of these heroes, loosely (very) based on both Marvel and DC characters (for instance Superman is Samaritan, Batman is the Confessor, the Fantastic Four are the Furst Family, and so on and so forth), operate in one mythical city -- Astro City. The series has been compared to Alan Moore's "Watchmen" as a comic book with sophisticated, real world themes. But as Busiek has explained, Astro City differs from Watchmen in this sense: Watchmen explored what if heroes existed in the "real" world, with "real world" logical implications and asked "how would the world be different?" Astro City, on the other hand, takes real world like characters and puts them in a world where unrealistic comic book logic applies, and the world miraculously stays the same (check out this character who reads like a cross between Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, Joe Camel, and Fatty Arbuckle). As Busiek noted, "We've got trolls living underground in Astro City. We've got time travelers reweaving the future. We've got fantastic technology, mystical creatures, alien contact and powerful, violent destructive beings by the double handful....One of the most charming elements of the superhero story, for me, lies in the fact that the world it all happens in is our world -- that this fantastic, furious, cosmic stuff happens in what could be the skies over our heads -- and sure, it should transform the world into something unrecognizable, but it doesn't...." Busiek, Anderson, and Ross, Astro City, Life in the Big City, p. 9.

Pictured above is "Silver Agent" loosely based on Captain America. He is a hero of the "Silver Age" of comic books, and operated from "1956 to 1973. A statue was erected to him after his death." The statute has been long featured in the Astro City series and engraved on it was "To Our Eternal Shame." Fans long wondered what that meant and Busiek finally revealed in the latest issue that the Silver Agent was framed for a murder, tried by the US government, and executed (he declined all appeals). It reads like executing Captain America. Read more about it here.

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