May 09, 2004

A Soviet Superman?

Posted by Ed

Comic books--or graphic novels, or whatever you want to call them--have never terribly appealed to me, however often I'm told that I'm underestimating them. (If I don't have time to read all the real books I want to look at, why should I spend my on a bunch of silly little books with pictures?) Nevertheless, I'm weirdly intrigued by the idea behind Superman, Red Son, which is reviewed in today's Observer:

Imagine for a moment a wildly alternative twist to the Superman mythology. What if the infant from Krypton had landed not in Kansas, but in Ukraine? And what if that prodigious alien child was raised by collective farm workers whose values were truth, justice and something different from 'the American way'? How would the arrival of a superhuman being alter a supposedly egalitarian society and how would it shift the Cold War stalemate of two military superpowers? ('Let our enemies beware: there is only one superpower now...')

Here's what intrigues me about the idea: it's possible to draw certain weird parallels between Superman and various trends in Soviet history. In the 1930s, for example, the Soviet regime encouraged a mass movement of workers known as Stakhanovites--Soviet industrial shockworkers who won awards from the regime for super-human achievements that far exceeded their production quotas. (The movement was named for Aleksei Stakhanov, who hewed 102 tons of coal in a single 6-hour shift in 1935, producing 14 times his quota; in the 1980s, it was revealed that he had been secretly helped by his colleagues, making his achievement far less spectacular than it appeared, but his work was hailed by propagandists and other workers were urged to try to duplicate his feats.) Placing Superman in Soviet Russia, then, raises a bunch of interesting ideas about the relationship between the individual and the collective. Moreover, socialist realist novels often deal with the achievements of the heroic worker struggling to help his collective, and socialist realist art often dwells on the same theme. You might well end up with something interesting if you combined themes from Soviet history with an artistic style that combined socialist realism and comic book art.

Would I read such a work? Well, probably not... The images of Superman, Red Son on this website don't especially appeal to me, for example, as neat as it is to see Superman conversing with Stalin. Even so, I guess I'm glad that someone got an idea like this, and in the unlikely event that I feel the need to look at a comic book, maybe I now know where to start.

Posted by Ed at May 9, 2004 04:51 PM

Hello folks nice blog youre running

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