Sunday, April 18, 2010

C2E2 Panel: The Middle East and the City Streets: Superheroes in the Modern World

Friday night and yesterday, I attended the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo (or C2E2). My postings for this event will be short, closer to the expected writing style of the Internet.

On Saturday, I spent most of it attending panels, three of them to be exact. I took fairly copious notes. Instead of writing in an expository form and expanding on ideas and topics, I’m just going to provide bullet points that I took during the panels. If I expand on the bullet points, I’ll probably make it brief.

For the “Middle East and the City Streets: Superheroes in the Modern World” panel, I made my bullet points from memory. They will likely include a few inaccuracies and some unconscious commentary. That being said, here are the bullet points:

  • Kinda disappointing
  • Mostly discussed mainstream media being "behind" comics when addressing topics in the world rather than the comics themselves
  • Theory of the (two) panelists: Escapist movies a way for society to address themes (trauma) that modern society has trouble dealing with, like 9/11 and Iraq/Afghanistan wars
  • Mainly focused on mainstream adaptations of comics to movies since 9/11 or tried to do so
  • A lot of focus on Batman Begins as post-9/11 quintessential example of movie addressing themes that we're only now starting to come to grips with: the shadow organization that taught Bruce Wayne how to fight looking to destroy evil civilization
  • Some interesting discussion of Tim Burton’s Batman, the evolution of that ‘90s movie Batman to the franchise/character destruction by Warner Brothers and Joel Schumacher (even though the panelists and most geeks will pin the blame on just Schumacher)
  • Even the Dark Knight follows the theory with the Joker being something of a "suicide bomber" when coercing gangsters - a bit about the Joker being without ideology
  • The difference of Gotham digitally over layed onto Chicago and London in Batman Begins compared The Dark Knight just using Chicago unaltered by digital technology making for a grittier, darker experience
  • Panel edges toward hermeneutics when watching the mainstream but focused more on their "theories" and demonstration of theory rather than talking about mechanics and "psychological" and "sociological" implications
  • Touched upon Watchmen, the movie, failing on a literary standpoint because it continued addressing concerns of the Regan years rather than addressing concerns of the day and because the director was more interested in spectacle than communicating themes or literary impact
  • Felt like a lot of treading on old ground of literary criticism, with so much focus on mainstream culture being behind actual comic culture without actually approaching the implications of their theory or the "cutting edge" as represented by the comics
  • Will admit some interest in discussion of the first Spider Man movie being made pre-9/11 but marketed and shown post-9/11, especially the part about erasing the twin towers from the commercials – actually made me think of Fringe when the main character glimpsed and travelled to an alternate reality where the twin towers still stood

Personally, I think the approach taken in this panel became unproductive and struck the audience the wrong way. Attendees wanted to hear more about comics being on the cutting edge (not as in a self-flagellating way but more as a point of fact), not about mainstream entertainment following far behind and dealing with trauma that comics and the geek culture were probably generally more prepared for (not in terms of knowing 9/11 would happen but because comics has probably addressed many permutations of socially traumatic events over the many years that comics have existed).

It’s not like geeks already have a superiority complex that they developed in their younger years as a defense mechanism. Nothing like frustrating an audience while feeding their pride against what they may feel as a dumb normalizing oppressive mainstream culture that has only recently accepted geeks as a norm.

If the description in the program or even the title of the panel mentioned that discussion would be about mainstream adaptations of superheroes, I believe that the audience would’ve had a more positive reception to the panel.

Links of interest: Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo (or C2E2), Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne, Tim Burton, Warner Brothers and Joel Schumacher wreck Batman franchise in the ‘90s, Dark Knight, The Joker, hermeneutics, literary criticism, Spider Man movie, Fringe, Watchmen, the movie

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