Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Superhero's Journey

I had a thought last night and couldn't shake it.

The comicbook superhero is pretty much always on an interrupted version of the Hero's Journey Mono-myth as related by Joseph Campbell.

It's universally held that the Origin Story is the most boring part of any superhero movie and it's true.  It is. It absolutely is but no audience would stand for it, if that part of the story wasn't told.

You can look at just about any superhero origin story and every part can be interrupted as landing somewhere on the the superhero ring cycle.

Call To Adventure; Check

Refusal; Check

Threshold; Check

Journey to the Underworld; Check

Mentor/Supernatural Aid; Check

Road of Trials; Check

Death and Rebirth; Check

And the big one...Transformation; Double Check

But then the comic book superhero's story goes into a loop once he hits Atonement.  A superhero never returns from the Underworld.

Now Marvel's heroes usually got as far as atonement but they never really completed the Hero's Journey either.

I'll need to ponder on this some more.


bob kuk mando ( i'm sorry you raped Andrea Dworkin and i disavow your Patriarchal Cisheteronormative Bourgeois Consciousness in shame ) said...

Stark Industries isn't a boon to his fellow man? likewise, Reed Richards?

to your larger point though, the superhero can't ever "return" due to the narrative gimmick that they are nominally existing in some perpetual simulacrum of current society.

and yet, we don't have any Hulks or Iron Men or Doctor Stranges wandering around.

thus, in order for the society portrayed in a comic book to continue to reflect the societal mores and realities of the current day in which it is being published, the Supers can't actually be allowed to impinge upon the story line in any serious way.

in what world in which Superman actually existed would Mao be permitted to murder a hundred million Chinese? in what world in which Wonder Woman actually existed would she not have put a stop to Pol Pot, who was reviled even by other contemporaneous Communists?

so, the failure of the Super to "Return" is a function of the external story telling conceit that the Super exists concurrently with and walks amongst us.

Cambias said...

There are other story patterns than the Hero's Journey. A big problem with a lot of modern films is the attempt to shoehorn stories into Campbell's template.