Saturday, November 14, 2009

On the Importance of Clark Kent, Part One

Nah, Bill. You may have been right about Beatrix Kiddo, but you were dead wrong about Clark Kent. He ain’t a mere mild-mannered disguise for the Last Son of Krypton. He ain’t a critique by Superman on the human race. He ain’t some mask that Superman puts on in the morning. Clark Kent is more than a pair of glasses, a blue suit and red tie, and a fedora. He’s not just some milquetoast behind the typewriter, pining for the affections of Lois Lane. No, Bill. You got it all wrong. If Superman has a psyche, then Clark Kent is the very thing that keeps it, and him, from exploding like Krypton into a billion planetary fragments.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A desperate scientist and his wife place their infant son into a rocket ship that is sent hurtling toward Earth just as Krypton goes ka-boom. The infant lands safely in the heartland of America, found by a kind couple, Jonathan and Martha Kent, who raise the child with a Midwestern sensibility. Named Clark Kent, he grows into maturity where he develops powers and abilities far above those of mortal men. And like many small town dwellers, Clark migrates to the big city of Metropolis—a New York stand-in—and soon begins his double life as a mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper and the defender of American values as Superman.

It’s an origin told a hundred times before, so much so that it is a vital cog in the American collective consciousness—a shared delusion and aspiration.

Superman debuted in Action Comics, No. 1 in June 1938 . He is the creation of writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster. The children of Jewish immigrants, the pair met in Cleveland during the Great Depression and bonded over their love of science fiction. Soon they collaborated on their own adventure tales inspired by the pulp and comic strip heroes of the time. Brave, omnipotent men who dared the impossible populated their stories. But Siegel and Shuster were nothing like the men they wrote and drew. They were more like the alter ego of their famous powerful protagonist—awkward, shy, and mild-mannered.

Perhaps that is why Clark Kent resonated for a great deal many boys, myself included. I have occasionally been insecure, weak, and cowardly but felt there was a strength and ability hidden underneath a seemingly fragile fa├žade, ready to take flight with the ripping of a shirt.

Yet Superman chooses to live on a daily basis in the persona of the meek, bespectacled human not to merely masquerade as one of us, but rather to become one of us. But, then again, he was raised as a human by human parents. Makes you wonder which is the person and which is the persona--Clark Kent or Superman?

Next, "On the Importance of Clark Kent," part two--Disguised as a mild-mannered reporter

Sunday, November 1, 2009

We Interrupt Your Blog...

There's been a delay in this week's blog due to unexpected circumstances. But in the meantime, a word from our sponsor--the Klingon Empire.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Of Introductions and Ideas

Allow me to introduce myself. As it says on that nifty sidebar to the right of the screen, my name is Ryan Thomas Riddle. That's the short version. The long version--well, I'll save that for when we really get to know each other. I am a writer of sorts just like all the other bloggers, posters, and whatevernots out there furiously typing away on their keyboards in the dead of night when everyone else is asleep.

As the shingle says at the top, this is literary masturbation where I will be writing on things that I find interesting, bug the shit out of me, and just plain piss me off. Originally, I was going to title this blog "Verbal Masturbation," but my friend Maurice pointed out that this is a written blog not an oral one. And, as we all know, oral masturbation is autofellatio. Ah, Maurice--wise beyond his years.

This is my second attempt at writing a blog. Well, my third actually if you count the posts I used to make over on myspace--does anyone still use that, by the way? But I don't count that. So let's say this is my second attempt at writing a blog.

This blog won't be a public diary where'n I'll pour out the minutiae from the banality of my life. Not a word will be spent on what I consumed for breakfast or lunch or supper. Not a word on what I did at 1:45 in the afternoon, or what I did at 1:45 in the morning. Not a word on the color of my sneakers. Or the fit of my jeans. Or the brand of coffee I drink. Or the fact that I am down to the last roll of toilet paper.

I'll be taking my cue from some of my favorite writers like Harlan Ellison and Michael Chabon. Here I'll be posting essays, short and long, about books, movies, comic books, society, culture, and anything else I come across. That's a tall order, I know. There's a notion out there that blogs should be specific. If you like comics, blog about comics. If you like music, blog about music. If you like Tijuana Bibles, then blog about that. You get the idea. But I don't want to hamstring myself to one particular topic. I want to go 'round the world and back, and maybe to some far-off worlds that remain undiscover'd.

And off we go...

Next, "On the Importance of Clark Kent."