Today, we enter deeper into Nerdistan and explore a different kind of historical fiction. I don’t know if the dear reader is into comics or not. Regardless, I can show you a story with a historical, what more, with political-philosophical depth. The alternate history novels of the DC Comic Book Universe are the so called Elseworld novels, where crucial timeline events could turn out fairly differently, and we can meet otherwise well-established fictional characters in the mainstream continuity in a different light. In this case, what if the freshly orphan Kal-L’s tiny ship had arrived twelve hours later from the exploded Krypton and the later Superman would have found and grown up in the stalinist Soviet Union instead of Smallville, Kansas? Thank God for Mark Millar.
The answer for many prayers
Zor-L loved mankind so much that he gave his only son to redeem us from our sins and lead us into a new dawn… Well, yeah, despite years of comic books reading it didn’t strike me until I watched Man of Steel how much the origin creators had borrowed from christian mythology. The character of Superman has a lot of common with Jesus, Son of God. They were sent into this savage world by an enlightened force to give guidance and protection. Both lived simple lives to a point, both had an encounter with their nemesis before choosing paths to fulfill their destinies, and so on. But could twelve hours of difference corrupt the iconic character of truth and justice, the American way so much that we will percept the saviour as a crab of humanity’s own idealistic improvement?
|Somewhere in an Ukrainian kolkhoz|
The road to hell and those good intentions
Enemies in a prolonged struggle start to remind of each other in time, war and conflict do this to people. I read once that preferring one political philosophy over another depends on how we see our own race (or how old we are). A leftist down deep believes in the innocence of the noble wildman, who was dragged out from his happy and social being before the times of writing. He may look savage and chaotic in nature now, but if we establish the perfect political-economical system for him, he will have the chance to sing kumbaya instead of the selfish struggle of necessity for survival. So, people are good in heart. But a rightist doesn’t see this original sinlessness but the savage creature that cannot control himself. For this different reason he wants to maintain the order and set the rules through a class in charge. In a nutshell, you are free to do what you are allowed to because we above know it better.
Now, they don’t look much different on the second reading, do they? How can we classify living socialism or modern democracy? Is the former leftist because it establishes a new ruling class, which keeps telling what is the best for us? Or do representative democracies really belong to the right spectrum? Utopias or transitional orders have the nasty habit to re-establish obsolate ruling patterns because it’s all about control and better knowing than the mass in the end. Power can blind and corrupt even the saviour, and human made political-economical orders strived so much to prove themselves independent from the „celestial” influence can turn into an utopia like Yin and Yang turn into each other.
Superman, a force that can bring the light?
A childhood friend of mine once told me, Communism would be the perfect order for mankind, but everybody must be a saint for it. Well, what we have now here is an almighty alien, a demigod even, who can literally move mountains, change the weather, even keep you safe on roads day by day. His own self-sacrifice can make the system work. Resistance is futile because he can hear every word like no totalitarian state did before. And how does the other self-proclaimed beacon of light answer his challenge in providing for humanity? This is where Superman: Red Son fascinates me because it grabs the history of the 20th century by its very core. How do the opposing systems and ideologies look like in each other’s mirror? How despite all the antagonisms are they still connected?
|A new page is the metahuman arms-race in this Cold War|
Why does it worth it?
Yes, a comic book can provide this thought-provoking, and it entertains the reader immensely. Superman: Red Son revives Cold War like a historical footage and breathes life into it. Things are upside-down here. Forget the stupid-looking pants worn on the outside, the hero cliches, everything and everyone are well-placed. What did I miss in Red Son is a little more from the classic pantheon of Superman villains, but hey, it’s only three volumes. The end is no less than shocking, or what does „L” really mean in Superman’s kryptonian name?