Welcome to SBC’s The Panel, a chance for you to put your burning questions – comics-related or otherwise – to a group of comics professionals.

The Panel lives or dies by your contributions; please email them to panel@silverbulletcomicbooks.com and we’ll add them to the list…

This week’s question comes from Vince Moore (name sound familiar?) and was sparked by Barb Lien’s definition of a comics hero in a recent column at SBC.

“In terms of comics, what is a hero?”


Vince Moore:

To me, in comics and otherwise, a hero is someone who rises to the occasion and above their limitations. A person who tries to help others. It may be a moral person and it might not be. A hero isn’t perfect, far from it. Being a hero doesn’t make one any less human than the rest of us. Although, very often, it is the more common variety of human that assumes a hero is somehow perfect. And I think that’s where the problems start.

The reason I brought this question up was that I totally disagreed with Barb Cooper’s definition of what a hero is. To me, it seemed like yet another jab at the superhero and the limitations upon comics such characters have created. Both within the industry and to the general public outside of comics. I would say I took it somewhat personally because at this point in my life I’m a bit bored by the whole superhero vs. indy/manga/whatever other kinds of comics you want to place here argument. I mean, truthfully, there is a hardcore superhero comics buying crowd and there is a much more fluid and harder to define crowd that buys other comics. At the bookstores, that latter crowd is supporting manga titles, bringing new people into the hobby. Just not into the comics shops. We all know this. But why then does that make the hero and things heroic suddenly the culprit? Is manga better for the seeming lack of heroes? Are we as a culture so jaded that we feel we no longer need the heroic in our lives at all, only the prosaic? I would find the world so much more boring if that were indeed the case. That people were through with the heroic in our culture.

I know I tend to stick up for the heroic far more these days. It’s almost as if we are now plagued by a cult of the mundane and the everyday. That somehow the Jeffersonian myth of the common man has become the new definition of the heroic. Everyman instead of Superman. For those of you out there who thrive with strong doses of the everyday in your literature and other entertainments, hey, more power to you. Just leave those of us who understand and desire the heroic, the larger than life in our lives alone.

The hero, in one shape or another, has always been with us. And hopefully always will be. If not, then may whatever higher power you readers believe in have mercy upon us. For our end may surely be at hand.

Vince Moore is the writer of Platinum Publishing’s upcoming book, Kid Victory & The Funky Hammer


Alan Grant:

The primary meaning of hero is someone respected for their courage or the noble values they uphold. The secondary meaning is the main character in a story.

Too often, when used in comics–and everywhere else–the word “hero” only applies as the secondary meaning. As in: Lobo was the hero in the Lobo comics.

But Lobo was a shit, not a hero. A hero has to be morally superior to those he opposes. Batman can never kill–at least not in my version of the character–because to do so would make him no better than his enemies. It would make him the same.

Some might protest: “But if Batman killed the Joker, he’d be saving thousands of future dead Gothamites.” This is the moral argument used by Bush and Blair: “Sure, we killed 10,000 innocent Iraqui citizens, and the same in Afghanistan…but we were saving maybe millions of future deaths.”

Of course, none of those dead innocents was asked if they actually wanted to die now instead of maybe, in some indeterminate future. The same logic dictates that Bush and Blair should promptly kill themselves, to save the future lives of even more innocents around the world.

When it comes to violence, the end never justifies the means.

I mention here something that might have bearing on the argument. I’ve been reading a book on military psychology, using US, USSR and UK records compiled since WW1. According to the conclusions, approximately 98% of all human beings find it impossible to kill another human being–I’m talking close quarters, not video-game war. The remaining 2% are classified as aggressive psychopaths; if they weren’t in the army, they’d be in jail.

I find it hard to imagine a hero who’s an aggressive psychopath…although I’ve employed the material in an upcoming Judge Dredd story.

Alan Grant is maybe most famous for his Batman and Judge Dredd work, and his classic EPIC series The Last American is due out imminently from Com.X as a trade for the first time.


Alonzo Washington:

In terms of comics a hero is WHITE & MALE. If it’s a female she’s White & trashy with Big Breast!!!! If they are Black they stay out of the way of the White characters and exist only to serve the White man. Sounds like slavery doesn’t it? However, In my comic book a hero can be any race & a Black super hero can be the center of the universe. I dare the mainstream comic book companies to make that statement and mean it! A hero is moral, brave, powerful, chosen and makes a difference in the lives of others for the good of humanity. That doesn’t sound like a hero for hire, sidekick or hell spawn. Heroes are limited in the world of mainstream comic books. They are all the same White characters with different circumstances. Bat Man & The Punisher are the same hero slightly changed. Super Man, Thor & Captain Marvel are the same. Spider Man, Captain America & Flash are the same just different packaging. Even funny characters like are Archie, Richie Rich, Casper, Mickey Mouse & Scooby Doo can be heroes in the world of comic book. However, a Black character can’t be one. Z0 Out!

Alonzo Washington is the creator of Omega Man and a noted black rights campaigner


Clifford Meth:

Heroism implies self-sacrifice. Not necessarily fearlessness, but courage in the face of uncertain triumph. Captain America. Daredevil. Harlan Ellison… I disagree that killing the bad guy is never justified. Letting the bad guy live is rarely justified. We just tolerate that liberal crap because it’s comics.

Clifford Meth is loved by Harlan Ellison, hated by Gary Groth, and doesn’t know which is a greater distinction. His current book is god’s 15 minutes.


Stephen Holland:

The reader who remains loyal, and/or the reader who tries something new. The reader who, basically, pays everyone’s wages.

The creator who works so hard to bring us regular entertainment, and/or the creator with the courage and imagination to try something new. The creator who, basically, persuades their readers to pay the retailers’ wages.

Outside of that, all bets are off.

It wasn’t the answer you were after, and I’m sorry. It is, however, the only one I have.

Stephen Holland runs Page 45, a comic shop in Nottingham, with Mark Simpson and Tom Rosin.

Thanks to the time and trouble taken by so many to vote, Page 45 just won the first ever Diamond Comics Award for Best Retailer in the United Kingdom. Mark and Stephen would just like to add a special thank you to Dominique, for a reputation isn’t earned in a year, and she worked her arse off at Page 45 for our first seven of them, before moving on to web design. In the words of Outkast, “Behold, A Lady.”


Donna Barr:

Wasn’t Hero the horny girl who couldn’t swim?

And a hero, thank you very much, was Mrs. Mills. She was a 5th-grade teacher, terminally mousy, faded-yellow dress, grey frizzy bun and bitter mouth. A ghost with chalky hands.

One day, when my mother and my other teachers were going on AGAIN about how Donna was weird, and didn’t play with the other kids, and didn’t notice boys, and stayed inside during recess to read, and ran through other kids’ jump-rope games, and pretended she was a killer whale, silently coasting around the ocean of the playground, and wouldn’t these other kids be terrified when they found out they were blue whales and she would eat their tongues, and she didn’t hear the bell because she was watching ants eat a dead mouse —

Mrs. Mills’ water grey eyes went steely, and she snapped, “Leave Donna alone. Donna marches to her own drummer.”

They may have defeated Mrs. Mills, but she wasn’t going to let them get away with it with me.

Mrs. Mills is my hero. And always will be.

Donna Barr has books and original art at www.stinz.com, webcomics at www.moderntales.com, www.girlamatic.com, and has POD at www.booksurge.com Nothing she won’t try, at least once.


Roberta Gregory:

As far as a “Hero” goes, I am not thinking of fictional characters, but of certain CREATORS who, for the most part, forego economic security (and the concept of ‘free time’) to tirelessly churn out page after page of their unique creative vision. Hooray for ALL of you… you know who you are!

Readers, please support your favorite indy comic and/or struggling creator! Buy their comics, and patronize their web sites. Due to declining sales, Fantagraphics will no longer publish my comic book, Naughty Bits, after this latest issue, #40. BUT I have many more projects in mind, which will need readers in the future.

Roberta Gregory is the creator of “Bitchy Bitch”, who not only stars in Roberta’s Naughty Bits comic book (from Fantagraphics), but also appears on television worldwide in animated adventures, the latest being the “Life’s a Bitch” series on the Oxygen Network.


Jesse Leon McCann:

I suppose it’s a subjective thing, based on a reader’s likes and dislikes. To me, a hero is someone who does positive things to help others, for altruistic reasons, while taking risks that may entail hurting themselves.

I’m glad the question had the caveat “in terms of comics.” If we were talking about real life, I’d have to say I don’t know, because I’ve never personally met one.

Jesse Leon McCann is a New York Times Best-selling Author. He’s currently editing the fourth Simpsons TV Episode Guide for Bongo Comics/Harper Perennial, and writing stories for DC Comics’ Looney Tunes and Cartoon Cartoons.


Vito Delsante:

A hero is a person with a definite morality. They know what is right and what is wrong and have a real strong sense of “the right thing.” Justice is a very strong idea for them. They may not be Christian or adhere to any particular religion or way of thinking.

I don’t know anymore than anyone else. I think the best thing you can say about a hero is that they are good…whatever your definition of that may be. We all know what good is.

Vito Delsante’s creator owned mini-series, “The Mercury Chronicles”, with artist Jim Muniz, is now in development with Image Comics and will hit stands late this year. “Batman Adventures Vol 2: Shadows and Masks” (DC Comics) is out now! He will next be seen in Reflux Comics #3 (August) and in X-Men Unlimited #5 (October).


Brandon Thomas:

This is a really interesting question, considering that I just finished Garth Ennis’ Hitman series for the first time a couple weekends ago. That series in particular forces the definition of “hero” to become incredibly less restrictive, as anyone that’s read it will have a hard time denying the heroic tendencies of main character Tommy Monaghan, who just happened to be a professional killer. I think with the more “realistic,” which might read to some as “flawed” interpretations of our modern heroes, the definition is becoming more flexible and taking on something akin to “a hero does more right than he does wrong.”

Nothing is completely black and white these days, because seriously, who’s interested in that, some impossibly irrational beacon of shining morality that can never be corrupted or make mistakes, or even act selfishly every once in a while. Heroes without the humanity aren’t as interesting to an audience, even if that humanity is sometimes ugly.

Brandon Thomas is one of the writers of Spider-Man Unlimited #3, scripter of Youngblood, creator of Cross and long-time Ambidextrous columnist.


j.hues:

Well there’s the SUPER hero and the hero. Comics, being a visual medium and thus traditionally “larger than life,” the hero qualities are equally exaggerated. As far as superheroes go, the ideal is Superman. Truth, Justice, the American Way. Never take a life, always put others before oneself and have virtually zero flaws. Of course, since then comics creators have tried to ‘humanize’ our heroes, injecting them with failings and flaws.

But the more interesting heroes in comics are those who exist on the periphery, those who exist in non-superhero comics. The heroes in David Lapham’s STRAY BULLETS are heroes because they have survived the horrors of that world, thus far. Books like 100 BULLETS and CEREBUS don’t even have heroes, per se, but rather protagonists whom we follow. These characters don’t necessarily have any heroic qualities but they are the main draw to the book. These series tend to be much more compelling and richer an experience than the traditional superhero fare, which really began as just escapist fantasy. This is why, in an attempt to cater to an ever aging audience (and let’s face it a 30-something year old reader is going to demand more literary depth than a 12 year old one), the mainstream superhero publishers have tried to drag their superheroes down into the muck and mire of the real world. In some cases it is successful, a character like BATMAN is enriched by his character flaws (emotional distance, over-driven, reluctant but obsessed father-figure), and a character like SPIDER-MAN was built on his flaws, but even then the fans didn’t want to see too much reality in their spandex books. When Marvel seemed ready to break off the Parker marriage to make Peter single again, the fans were outraged and that decision was reversed. Divorce is maybe TOO real for spandex comics even still. Even when Marvel brought a certain humanity to their heroes, there was still that larger than life surreality to them.

Maybe everything changed for superheroes when Spider-Man failed to save Gwen Stacey. Maybe that was the moment when it was determined that heroes could fail and have weaknesses and still be heroes. Since that time, heroes have killed and become more violent (at least they’ve shown more violence. Even the Punisher, in his own murderous way, has become a sort of hero (or anti-hero as the phrase was coined). Maybe, just as the notion of a hero changed with the snapping of a young girl’s neck, the idea of what a hero is, or should be, in comics is still in flux.

j.hues is the Public Relations & Marketing Manager for FUTURE ENTERTAINMENT. Creator of the daily webstrip “Rolling With The Punches Volume 2”, he has at various times in the past been a columnist, news editor, and manager of Missouri’s largest comics shop. His current shop is available online at his link.

 


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