Comic Books Review Essay
A comic book “When Marty Met Emmett” is a prequel to the movie Back to the Future. It tells about the first acquaintance of young Marty McFly and Dr. Emmett Brown. Bad boys demand that Marty gives them a special tube for musical instruments. Marty agrees because they are stronger than he is, but the tube is suddenly smashed. When Marty learns that there are no more tubes in the store as a certain Dr. Brown has bought them up for scientific experiments, the leader of the gang urges Marty to steal those tubes from the doctor. Having guessed all the passwords, Marty enters Doc’s dwelling. However, the scientist likes the boy’s quick wit and accepts Marty to be his assistant. Instead, Marty brings a radioactive tube to the bad boys (Gale 1).
Marty and Doc are representatives of different ages: a young man and a man of about fifty years of age. According to Erikson, people pass several psychosocial stages during their development (Van Lange et al. 418). Thus, Marty’s period of adolescence is characterized by searching for identity. At the same time, it is important for the youth to gain approval of people of the same age. For this reason, Marty agrees to the risky undertakings if somebody casts doubt on his courage or ability to do something.
Doc is in the period of generativity vs. stagnation (Van Lange). He wants to be productive by inventing different things that could be useful for society. His biggest dream is to create a time machine. Eventually, he succeeds and what is more, Doc also starts a family. Unlike Marty, Dr. Brown feels responsibility for his actions and tries not to make decisions in hurry. In this story, Doc flashes back from the point where he has established himself as both a successful inventor and a caring husband and father. The main characters overcome crises of their stages of development, and it means that they advance in their social development.
In the story “Wolverine: Brotherhood”, a seventeen year old girl Lucy works in a café where Logan is a frequent visitor. He never speaks to anyone, but Lucy finds the way to get to know him when Wolverine leaves his book on a table in the café. She thinks that he is the only one she can trust and look for protection from him. One night, the girl is shot by unknown men. Logan, her neighbor, becomes a witness of this crime. He finds her diary where she asks him not to forget her. Wolverine is on the track of a mysterious brotherhood. These men kidnap young women and keep them as their prisoners, and Lucy was a one too. Eventually, Wolverine finds them and avenges Lucy’s death (Rucka, p. 1).
Wolverine is an unusual character since he possesses traits of both a hero and those of an anti-hero. He is not as perfect as Superman is, for example. In the context of Freud’s theory of personality, this superhero is often in conflict between the Id and the Superego. Freud suggests that the Id is unconscious, irrational, and aggressive part of human personality (Elliot 48). This phenomenon is amoral and it tends to satisfy sex and aggressive instincts, whereas the Superego is completely antithetical to the Id. The Superego comprises a concept of morality stored in the personality due to the experience of an individual (Elliott).
Accordingly, Wolverine is a cold-hearted killer. Despite his intelligence, his Ego is often unable to suppress the unleashed Id: Logan falls into a towering rage during fights. It is easy to drive him frantic. To show his brutal spirit, the authors depict Wolverine as a man with powerful muscles, hairy body, and ferocious facial expressions. However, the main character tries to abide to a moral code: he helps those who are defenseless and restores justice. Because of this conflict between the Id and the Superego, Logan’s Ego suffers. It is evident as the main character is unsocial and moody.
In “Lara Croft and the Frozen Omen”, the plot begins with a theft of ivory artifacts from the museum. After a series of adventures, Lara finds members of some dark cult. She learns that their leader, a demon, wants to destroy the Earth with the help of the stolen artifacts. In the end, Lara beats a monster who wants to rob another museum, but the police arrest her and with her mate. The story will probably continue as it lacks the logical conclusion (Bechko).
Feminist theory of analysis pays special attention to the role of a woman in any piece of art or literature. According to this theory, it is mostly through men’s lenses that the readers can see female characters in movies, cartoons, video games, and comics. Supporters of this theory claim that men visually present women only for a male audience in some works (Lee 60). Therefore, they place the focus on the female body so that it to be sexually appealing for men. Besides that, female characters do not have a distinct personality. All of them are weak and dependent since they need men’s help. This phenomenon is a part of sexism (Lee).
The comic “Lara Croft and the Frozen Omen” is presented in three issues where the first and the last issue are drawn by a man and the second one is drawn by a female artist. It is noticeable that Lara of the male perception has makeup, long eyelashes, perfect body, and pretty face. Her body is motionless even in action. The artist lays emphasis on her attractive appearance without showing vivid emotions on her face. Lara’s image in the second issue is different. Now, her appearance recedes into the background and one can see dynamic pictures where Lara’s personality becomes more definite. Thus, although Lara Croft is an independent, smart, and strong woman, there are some traits of sexism in the depiction of her appearance.
“Superman: Birthright” begins with childhood years of Superman when his parents, dwellers of the planet Krypton, try to save their newborn baby from the collapse of their planet. They send him to the Earth where a married couple from Kansas finds the boy, adopts him, and gives him the name Clark Kent. Superman discovers his superhuman capabilities during his trip to Africa. He learns that his parents are adoptive. Superman realizes that he has a special mission on the Earth. Clark starts to lead a double life: as a common journalist and as a mysterious hero who saves people from dangerous situations. Finally, Superman discovers the secret of his origin and defeats the main villain who destroyed his planet and tried to do the same thing with the Earth (Waid).
Superman is a prototype for all other comic heroes with supernatural abilities who come to other people’s rescue. This character is an example of the hero archetype. Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell were the first who introduced and studied this concept (Van Lange et al. 351). The archetype is a pattern of symbols, images, situations in the collective unconscious. This part of human psyche does not relate to an individual experience but it is transferred through cultures and generations.
Usually, the image of such a hero appeared during difficult periods for various nations and cultures. For example,
Superman came out in times of the Great Depression when Americans needed support (Packer). This protagonist has the following traits of the archetypal hero: mysterious circumstances of birth, living with adoptive parents, special powers, and abilities. Artists depict him as a young and strong man. Beside those traits, the archetypal hero, like Superman, has to abide by the moral code, save the helpless, and fight with the ultimate evil in the end.
A comic book about Sherlock Holmes “The Seven-Percent Solution” represents the famous detective as a drug-addicted person. It turned out that his fight with Moriarty had been Sherlock’s delirium caused by cocaine use. Moriarty asks Watson to help him because the detective follows him and threatens. Watson decides to take Holmes to Vienna where he meets Sigmund Freud. The psychiatrist cures Holmes with the help of hypnosis. He learns that when Holmes was a little boy, Moriarty said him about the death of his parents. Since that time, Moriarty has been subconsciously associated with something horrible for Holmes (Meyer).
Freud paid special attention to subconsciousness. During his practice, he revealed that it played the major part in human mental health. Afterwards, Freud developed a theory of psychoanalysis. On this basis, he distinguished several mechanism of psychological protection. For example, Holmes’ subconsciousness used a mechanism of repression (Elliott 53). At the same time, it causes a neurotic disorder that becomes a substitute for negative experience. The latter is eliminated from the consciousness and memory but it remains in the subconsciousness and it can be remembered when hypnosis is used. Sherlock considered Moriarty to be the genius of evil while Moriarty was just a teacher of mathematics who gave private lessons to Sherlock and his brother, Mycroft. It happened because the little boy, having learnt the terrible news, transferred his negative feelings to Moriarty’s personality and forgot about their origin.
Drug and alcohol abuse is another onset of the repression having a detrimental effect on one’s mental health (Elliott). When Holmes started using cocaine, his state of mind became even worse, producing hallucinatory delusion. The success of the treatment lies in awakening with the help of hypnosis and working through negative emotions. Thus, a psychiatrist helps a patient to recall unpleasant memories to his consciousness to overcome them.
“X-Men: Origins” introduces main characters of the story to the reader. The X-men are mutants but they do not realize it until they reach puberty when their supernatural powers become evident. Usually, this discovery is followed by dramatic events in the life of a mutant. Even the close ones begin to shun them, and this fact gives additional pain to the X-men and leads them into exile. Outcast by everyone, these mutants eventually join the University of Professor Xavier. This man wants to help them and gain their right to be a part of society because Xavier is a mutant as well (McKeever).
As the comic has a set of equivalent characters, it is reasonable to analyze the plot based on Henri Tajfel’s social identity theory. Tajfel claimed that each person identifies himself with a certain group inside society and therefore, his behavior will depend on values and purposes of the group (Van Lange).
The X-men have unique personal characteristics that make them diverse (age, nation, language, religion, etc.) but at the same time, being a mutant is the strongest attribute for them, which determines their belonging to their team. Now, each of the X-men identifies himself with the members of his group of mutants and divides the world into mutants and ordinary people with whom he is in opposition (Tajfel named it in-group and out-group relations) (Van Lange et al. 17). In-group members tend to discriminate the outsiders. Thus, society does not accept the mutants, and many of its representatives want to neutralize or enslave them. Likewise, some mutants (Magneto and his followers, for example) also wished ordinary people to be dead or become mutants as well. Consequently, social identity has a variety of features that both unite and divide people, depending on the intensity of opposition among social groups.