Had a brilliant dialogue online concerning comics which began with a video from Hank Green.
This video dealt with, as Richard put it, fetishistic science. Meaning there's something out there that we don't totally understand so we give it a power in our minds. In the genre of superheroes what we give power can in turn give us power. The problem with this is that the more we come to understand things in science, the more the fun gets ruined because we, regretfully, discover that these things will not give you super powers. Typically it just gives you cancer or adds to global warming because right now science says everything sucks and is bad for you.
This brings us to "The Magic Spider", which is something Matty coined and let us now discuss. The actual spider is the one that bit Peter Parker and transformed him into Spider-man. Originally the spider was irradiated in a science experiment, because at the time the story was originally written there was still a bit of mystery concerning radiation. Stan Lee didn't have much of a science background, but we look past this because its a really great story. However, we're smarter about radiation now and know that exposing a spider to radiation won't do anything to the spider that'll make its bite super-power-giving. Fast forward a few decades with this origin being retold, and the spider in question is no longer radioactive, but genetically altered because that's where the scientific mystery is now. Go further into the future and if they retell the origin again when we know a lot more about genetics then there's going to have to be something else different with that spider.
Something about this spider is magic. It gives superpowers. The Magic Spider is the literary device that allows a character to gain superpowers. It allows us to escape the confines of science and enter the superhero genre. Other examples of Magic Spiders are The Speed Force from THE FLASH, magic, and any kind of alien life or technology. We don't have to know how a Green Lantern Ring works, we know its alien technology. Even high intelligence can work as Magic Spiders because there's no way we can currently explain Ironman's armor rationally, or half the stuff Reed Richards slaps together on a regular basis.
But let's go back to before the the current superhero genre kicked off, which was 1938. There were characters that had all the qualities of superheroes, even if we didn't flat out call them that. The modern superhero genre call on the past one. We call it mythology. Everything from Greek Myth to Arthurian legend has been drawn upon, and that is what gives the current genre its depth. But they did indeed have their own Magic Spiders back then, although it was much simpler considering the level of scientific knowledge back then. The most common Magic Spider was being blessed by a supernatural entity, usually a god.
But things rolled forward, and where does that land us in relation to the Magic Spider? Well, it landed me in a classroom in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The topic: Gothic Literature. This was one of those classes where I ended up keeping all the books. The professor was one Doctor Bob Geary, who while I was not a very good student, I was quite fond of him as a teacher. This man knew his stuff, and for reasons I didn't fathom at the time, he was a fan of my comic strip in the school newspaper.
Why on Earth would the professor who mercifully passed me through Gothic Literature and subsequently Literature and the Problem of Evil care about my super hero comic in the paper? That involve a couple hundred years worth of literature and years of study on my part. Gothic Literature dealt with one thing consistently: the numinous, the feeling that there's a supernatural force involved that creates both a feeling of fear, but also one of awe and wonder. It frightens us, but still fascinates us.
Gothic Literature spawned quite a few genres. The modern horror genre obviously with stories like Bram Stoker's DRACULA. But then there's Mary Shelly's FRANKENSTEIN which can be argued that it is one of the first science fiction stories. We also have Edgar Allan Poe starting the genre of detective fiction with MURDER AT LA RUE MORGUE.
Crazy science beyond what we understand. Humans developing skilled understandings of the world around them. Supernatural forces preying on people. All of this wrapped up with the numinous. Pulled apart to go their separate ways, but then elements coming back together to form something new. Put them together one way and you get H.P. Lovecraft.
Put them together another way and you get superheroes. The Magic Spider is indeed a numinous thing collecting the stuffs we wonder about and fear and giving them the power to create superhumans. No wonder Doctor Geary had an interest.
Makes me wonder if these works are going to be studied in classes as centuries go by. I also wonder if these characters like Superman and Spider-man will be studied as mythology as millennia go on. Will people later believe that we believed these characters actually existed?
Because if you want to put a Barenaked Ladies song on your blog from YouTube that ain't happening, so enjoy some fun stick figures.
I've got to thank Richard and Matty for all their input and brilliant points as to this subject matter. Nice to have folks around that are smarter than me. I'll see y'all Friday.