Friday, August 04, 2006

What It's All About in One Sentence

One of the coolest possessions I have is the "40 Years of Amazing Spider-Man" CD-Rom collection. It contains scans of the first 400 issues of the Amazing Spider-Man comic book, from 1962 up until a few years ago. That means all the original advertisements and letters are also included in the scans. For many years, Spidey creator and Marvel writer/editor/publisher Stan Lee wrote a monthly column in Marvel comics called "Stan's Soapbox." Following are excerpts from the December 1970 column:

I've often mentioned the hundreds of letters each year asking for our opinion of this nutty, scary, mixed-up world we live in....It suddenly occurred to me that it's about time we turned the tables and asked how YOU...feel about the real-life world outside. So hurry, condense your most profound expression of "what it's all about" into one crisp and canny sentence and shoot it along to [address]....Some of you will have the thrill of seeing your one-liners printed in future issues.

It can be argued that our era is just as nutty, scary, and mixed-up as the world was in December 1970, yet I seriously doubt any popular magazine, much less a comic book, would solicit, without a trace of irony, proverbs from their readership today. Rather, we have Marilyn Vos Savant in Parade magazine asking for readers to submit ironic twists of traditional proverbs. It is stuff like this that best demonstrates that we've had a profound shift in our paradigm, and that we are indeed in a postmodern era.

It is odd to think that as recently as 35 years ago, and in the midst of tumultuous events, that there was enough optimism in cultural currency that a comic book publisher would believe that the concept of "wisdom" (though slightly crouched within the concept of "folk wisdom") was in play. However, I'm not so sure that it is a bad thing that we have experienced such a shift. After all, how desirable is it to distill a solution to the complications of a nutty, scary, mixed-up world into a "one-liner"?

And speaking of "Smiley" Stan Lee, he is very much alive, and as long as he lives optimism will never be totally dead. This summer he has launched his newest project, the Sci-Fi network reality show "Who Wants to be a Superhero?" The premise of the show involves ordinary people taking on a superhero identity and proving that they have character and personality traits needed for heroic activity (in contrast to other reality shows in which Machiavellian scheming is rewarded). Here we have evidence that even in the decidedly postmodern genre of the reality TV show, some decidedly Romantic ideology lives on. Excelsior.


Blogger Heidi said...

It really is sad. Heidi has resorted to not only talking about herself in the third person, but she has stopped READING blogs, and now just comments. It really is a sad, sad, day for humanity.

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

was that supposed to be one sentence? because if it was, maybe you should go back to school...?

2:52 PM  
Blogger Azor said...

Anon, it was supposed to be 16, but I couldn't quite fit it in 11.

1:01 PM  

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