Humanising Gods, Deconstructing Superheroes – Fixing the Clock.

14348_comics_watchmenThe common trope of Superheroes, particularly those brought to film, now a days, is to make them grim, gritty and above all else ‘realistic’. In 2013 Superman was famously remade in the form of Man of Steel, leaving behind the vision Richard Donner and Christopher Reeve brought to the screen for a dark and brooding hero, compared numerous times to Christ through visual cues. Previously, realism was supposedly brought to the screen with the likes of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy (2005 – 2012), and even before that, we had Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). While the non comic book reader would point to these as the true visions of realistic superheroes, and the comics as purely kids stuff, these dark tones and realistic notions all came directly from the comics. The deconstruction of superheroes, to show how they would fair as real people, has existed in comic form long before the first shot was taken on the set of Batman (1989). While many have tried their hand at deconstructing heroes, including Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison, none have been more successful and more celebrated then Alan Moore.

Moore has described the act of deconstructing something as being and extension of the alchemist principle referred to as ‘Solve et Coagula’. “‘Solve’ is to take something apart and examine it – it’s analysis. ‘Coagula’ is to put it back together again – synthesis. 250px-ForthemanAnalysis and synthesis.” [Graydon. 2009] To deconstruct the superhero genre is to take it apart, look at what you have, then find a way for it to come back together logically. While this sounds like a task that would be simple to comprehend, there were very few attempts to display it in a cohesive, and tangible state that would actually sell. Moore’s famous run on Miracleman/Marvelman, acts as a precursor to the “absolute deconstructionist last word on the superhero” [Graydon. 2009], with the original story structure and notion coming from a childhood curiosity of Moore’s in regards to Mickey Moran (Miracleman/Marvelman) growing up and became a real world adult. “I thought it would be funny to have Mickey Moran grown up and become an adult, who’d forgotten his magic word.” [Mealoid.2013] The idea of a comic book character growing up, even giving the hint of growth, was something that was rarely shown. Comics would usually develop a status quo, allowing a new reader access to the title at any issue and be able to enjoy it as a standalone work. As Moore has stated, “this embracing of what were unambiguously children’s characters at their mid-20th century inception seem to indicate a retreat from the admittedly overwhelming complexities of modern existence.” [Flood. 2014]

By not allowing these characters to grow and act as real people would, you are essentiality creating a reality that does not exist. The general status quo attitude of life depicted, shows a world where superheroes need not even exist, everyone is depicted as some form of stereotype, with no true human nature to them. Making it easy to pick out from any line up just what made everyone tick, you could tell a bad guy from a good guy at a simple glance. “They don’t mean what they used to mean. They were originally in the hand of writers who would actively expand the imagination of their nine to thirteen year old audience. That was completely what they were meant to do and they were doing it excellently.” [Kelly. 2013] To bring humanity and to ground and deconstruct these gods, you need to display their flaws. Everyone, regardless of their capabilities, has some flaws. “There is no way that they work in terms of the conventional idea of the hero.” [Graydon. 2009]. In the prospect of bringing something new to the superhero genre, you introduce the most human of concept, flaws. “Obviously, if you are going to be doing something new, then to a degree you’re destroying whatever preceded it”. [Kavanagh. 2000]

tumblr_my4eo60gpl1srbmxlo1_1280In the earlier piece, Miracleman/Marvelman, Moore gave the previous treatment of superheroes, the light hearted child like fantasies, a realistic view as the delusions they truely are. Giving the 50’s comics a purpose in story as Miracleman/Marvelman’s brainwashed reality. In Watchmen, the notion of children’s comics is not addressed as their background, and impact such beings would have, are treated as true and realistic to this world. Beings such as Miracleman and Dr. Manhattan would inspire a deep routed sense of fear in the general public, just as a real life Superman would send panic through our very society.

The Act of deconstruction, as described by Moore, is similar to the childish whim to take apart a wrist watch to see how it would work. “, you could perhaps get an old screwdriver and start to take them apart, take all the little cogs out, which is why that perhaps turns up as a motif in the Dr Manhattan.” “. It’s very easy to take things apart, even if you do it in an elaborate way”. ” Taking apart the conceptual apparatus of the superhero… it’s not rocket science… but putting it all back together in a more benign and more transcendent form that works – a more flexible form, a better, improved form – that is something which is a bit more tricky.” [Graydon.2009]