Monday, August 28, 2006

On Icons and Superheroes

My sister posted a great breakdown of the different character types in superhero comics, and I was stopped short by a comment on the post...

Moose N Squirrel (great name, BTW) says that Wonder Woman is not an icon, because they say that Iconic implies that a character embodies "a certain aspect or shtick (sic)".

Well, not only do I take issue with their spelling of "schtick", I take issue with this implication of Icon.

Icon, taken from the greek for image, is the term used in the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition for religious art of a holy being or object, such as Jesus, Mary... Or the Saints.

Specifically the Saints are important here, because they are recognized in such art by their Attributes. What is shown with the Saint is a necessary part of identifying which Saint it is. Saint Cecelia has her organ, Saint Peter has his key, Saint Anthony his Tau cross, La Caridad Del Cobre a boat with three men.

So, a better definition of a comic book Icon: A character that possesses a unique set of attributes that would be recognized by many people who do not read comics. These attributes may or may not include personality attributes.

Here is my list of Iconic Superheroes. I do not agree with DC's push on the Flash and Green Lantern... YET. They are getting close, but there are still far too many people who look at my Professor Zoom T-Shirt and don't really remember the Flash logo to contrast it.

Their attributes include but are not limited to:
  • Superman - "S" Shield, Red Cape, Spitcurl, certain Classic Heroic Poses, the phrase "Truth, Justice, and the American Way", the "Boy-Scout" Personality, Lex Luthor, Smallville, Kansas, Farm
  • Batman - Dark Cape and Cowl, Utility Belt, the phrase "Youthful Ward", Batmobile, Bat Cave, Alfred, the Joker, Arkham Asylum, the Bat Signal
  • Wonder Woman - "W" Breastplate, Bracelets, Lasso, Dark Curly Hair, Red Star Earrings, her Tiara, (although I hate it and want to leave it off) the Invisible Plane
  • Spiderman - Webs (Webshooters), Full Face Mask with White Eyes, Spider on Chest, tendency to Joke in Inappropriate Situations, Doctor Octopus, Mary Jane, Aunt May

These are all attributes of the characters - supporting cast, items, poses, personality. What's the test? Go out, find yourself the nearest high school football game. Grab a random spectator and ask them to name a superhero as you read a list of any seven items from that list. You'll get a correct answer on at least 6, every time.

Anybody who tries that this weekend, comment here and I'll give you 10 Goddess Points. I'll decide what they're good for later.

One more note before I leave my thoughts with you. I left out personality attributes for both Wonder Woman and one other more or less inconsistently treated personality.

Batman accompanies Wonder Woman to the realm of Iconic in attribute but not in personality. While his portrayal has not been as inconsistent as hers over the recent years in the comics, a large part of his Iconic nature is due to television shows where he was not given the dark, serious personality that is such a part of his portrayal today. This means that different non-comics readers posed with the same question from the list may give different answers, depending upon age and viewership (i.e. Did they watch Superfriends and the Batman TV Show or did they watch the Batman movies? And, most importantly, do they deserve to live? (as shown by their degree of revulsion towards Batman and Robin))

Until next time, Same Goddess Time, Same Goddess Station!

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