Friday, May 06, 2005

Iron Man

Underemployed at the moment - I think my pale, sweat-beaded face and my hoarse voice croaking out incomprehensible gibberish terrified the patients away. So today I am sitting in my surgery at Hogarth House, surrounded by my superhero posters, and I reckon I might write about Iron Man.

The superhero posters, by the way, are a new innovation. When I got here the room was decorated in Early Mental Asylum Blue, with eye-catching posters advertising genital herpes and domestic violence. After much psyching myself up, I snuck in one morning and put up my own posters. So now as well (and occasionally instead of) "Men, rethink your third drink" and "Oh No, I've got Chlamydia!", it's Daredevil and Ultimate Iron Man.

Daredevil would be close to my favourite. For those unfamiliar with the books, and only aware of the predictably uninspiring movie, Daredevil is a man who was blinded as a child by an industrial accident. Almost in compensation, this accident gave him heightened senses - he can hear heartbeats, smell fear, feel print on paper.

Now what makes him good? For me it's a lot of things. The way Matt Murdock has been written when the writing is at its best is as a complex and deeply flawed man. He is a selfish hero. He is driven by things he doesn't understand and which have some absolute control over some aspect of his life, things with which he will not negotiate. He is a deeply religious man who at some level appears to be punishing himself, and who seems determined to drag others along and down with him. He is given to inappropriate, destructive disclosures. Because of what he's done, the people he loves have suffered horribly.

But you can't help but admire him. Like many driven people, his courage, his ability to put things ahead of his personal safety, is remarkable. Plus you get organised crime, fight scenes and pretty damn funny dialogue.

I think if I had to say one thing about the character that impresses me it would be his vulnerability. If you look at Superman, Superman is an Apollonian superhero. He flies above the people he seeks to save. He is literally invulnerable. His skin cannot be pierced, his closest friends are not even of his species.

But Daredevil is a Dionysian hero. He's embedded in the lives of the people he is trying to save, he is intimately entangled with them, he sometimes knows them better than they know themselves. And this is not the distant overseer's knowledge, the human panopticon's calm weighing and discarding, this is someone struggling with and failing to contain his own internal demons who can almost literally feel the pain of others. And he's vulnerable. Bullets don't bounce off Matt Murdock, they cut right through and damage him. In the end he's not some uberalien floating above us, he's a blind man going up against people with guns, a lone man surrounded by powerful, secretive enemies, enemies who have already killed and crippled those close to him.

This is not coming out right. I was going to write about the Ultimate version of Iron Man, how Mark Millar has changed him from the relatively unheroic prospect of an invulnerably rich man in a super-powered mechanical suit to someone new, someone who needs the control and protection of a suit or armour between himself and the world. But it's hard to get this stuff across.

Anyway. I have better go get my stuff organised. Post again in a few days.



Blogger Chade said...

Don't forget what in amazing Orson Scott Card is bringing to the party.

3:35 PM  

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