What this really means is that he spends some of his allowance on these figures, and what that means is that it's my job to take him to the comic store to buy them. Mrs. Irritable and I have an agreement: I don't go shoe-shopping; she doesn't go to the comic store. This works remarkably well. And it's clear, poking around the comic store, that comics (like video games) comprise an unambiguously male-oriented medium.
It doesn't take a feminist close reading of gender archetypes to see that the comic book world is decidedly not a girly space; the men in comics are almost always hypermasculine in ways that make Charles Atlas look like a junior high girl -- ways far beyond what I'm guessing are typical female ideals of attractiveness in a man. TV and movies made into something of hunky sensitive guy, but the comic book is ripped to the point of ridiculousness. This makes a certain amount of sense for , who doesn't actually have any superpowers (though I would think being a martial arts expert would lend itself more to definition than bulk), but why does Superman, whose near-invincibility and super strength come from Earth's yellow sun, need muscles at all? Wouldn't it have been more interesting, and more cleverly ironic (not to mention easier to pull off the "mild-mannered" alter ego thing) for him to have been a bit scrawny but able to open up an incommensurately large can of whoop-ass?
(And then there are the women, who mostly seem to dress for global warming and are ludicrously well-endowed, which I think would be something of a liability. Amazon warriors, according to legend, routinely cut off their right breasts in order to facilitate archery. I don't know if that's true, but one wonders why the crossbow didn't come to mind as a preferable alternative.)
Anyway, to the extent that I paid any attention at all, which is not great, I always liked Batman better. Superman, with his commitment to "truth, justice, and the American way," is just too jingoistic, too idealist, too lame. And really, his whole schtick is based on a fundamental injustice: by virtue of being an alien, Superman is practically a god. Batman -- who, being self-made, is closer to Nietzsche's Ubermensch anyway -- always seemed more interesting in a vaguely Dionysian sort of way over against Superman's Apollos. What Superman had by accident of birth and the designs of a father hell-bent on vicarious immortality, Batman cultivated through hard work, gadgets, and something approaching psychopathy. Granted, categorically seeking revenge on the criminal element of Gotham for the death of your parents is a bit snarkier than defending truth and justice in the good ole U-S-of-A, but you have to admit it's way cooler.
I never really got into the comics, so I probably have a pretty close to average apprehension of the Superman mythos. I know the basic elements of the story. I think I saw the first two movies. I'm vaguely aware that the comics eventually evoked multiple universes with contradictory timelines (what was that all about?), that Superman and Batman teamed up from time to time, and might have fought (didn't Batman win, sort of?), and that eventually Superman dies. But the comic book world is way too involved for me. I wouldn't know where to start, and I don't want to.
TV, on the other hand, is a little more accessible. We watched Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher made an impossibly hot couple. I mean, Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd made the whole Moonlighting thing work, but it was more chemistry than biology, if you get my drift. Cain and Hatcher were so silly with good looks that it almost didn't matter if either of them could act, or who played . I can sort of picture him, but I'm pretty sure he was irrelevant.with some regularity in the 90s. I don't remember much, except that
Recently, we've latched on to watching Smallville on DVD. We don't have cable and we're more than halfway through season four, which means we'll soon catch up with the show's broadcasting schedule and have to wait until the next DVD release, but in the meantime we're enjoying the ride. I realize this might simply be the same sort of questionable taste that made us unabashed Star Trek:TNG and Deep Space Nine fans (but not Voyager, because let's be honest: Kate Mulgrew is annoying). And since Smallville is decidely more sci-fi than other incarnations of the Superman franchise (but not, I suppose, extremely so), it sometimes takes suspension of disbelief out for a long walk around the barn.
But I think it works for a couple of reasons: one, the acting is pretty good, which is to say that the characters, and their tangled relationships, are believable even when the circumstances aren't.is particularly good as Lex, and judging from the outtakes (you gotta love DVD special features), is probably a lot of fun at parties. I'm not saying they're brilliant thespians, but none of the regulars really suck in the acting department, and that makes even some of the sillier story lines watchable. The show does have a kind of soap opera-ish making-it-up-as-we-go feel to it, which is forgivable, but there is enough of a tragic element to the unfolding story (Clark and Lex start off as friends, for instance, but are obviously doomed to be archenemies) to lend a simulacrum of depth.
The other reason is that on one hand the show's creators wanted to reinvent Clark Kent, and give him more personality and slightly different backstory. We see him struggle with being different, with being adopted, with teenage angst. Clark gets a little whiny at times, fretting about his "destiny," but for those of us who grew up with Luke Skywalker, this is relatively tame, and pretty much to be expected. He is not "Superman" yet, and a lot of character development hinges on him trying to keep his abilities a secret with no suit to protect his identity, and no one but his parents to trust with the truth.
On the other hand, if Welling's Clark Kent exists in a pre-Superman world, the writers and producers definitely -- almost self-reflexively -- do not. The show seems to be ironically and humorously self-aware, as evidenced by a tendency to employ, sometimes quite obviously, images and iconography from the larger corpus of Superman lore. Welling is frequently clad in red and blue, and primary colors feature prominently. The Smallville mascot (a crow, like it matters) has a yellow 'S' on its chest and a red cape. The kryptonite meteor shower that brings young Clark to earth also renders a young Lex Luthor inexplicably and permanently bald. And so on and so forth. Some it is almost subtle, some is downright cheeky (at different points, "Is it a bird? Is it a plane?" and "faster than a speeding bullet" are uttered). But it's fun, and I think it prevents the show from taking itself too seriously. It's hardly great art, but it's decent television.
But let's not kid ourselves; Batman will always be cooler.