Thursday, April 5, 2012

I, Crimsonstreak: Comics and the Media

Something that's unique about I, Crimsonstreak is the amount of supplemental material appearing in the back of the book. The appendices contain newspaper articles, magazine features, journal entries, and dossiers. This post focuses on the newspaper stories and magazine articles, which are a tribute to the long tradition of journalism in comics.

This is not intended to be an all-inclusive look at the role of the Fourth Estate, but it's safe to say that even some of the earliest comics connect heroes to journalism. Here's a look at a few that come to mind.

Superman: Thanks to Superman/Clark Kent, a "secret identity" as a reporter is a widely accepted comic trope. Superman's secret identity gives him access to information not available to the general public, a perfect front for the champion of Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Lois Lane is the intrepid reporter always looking for that big scoop. The Daily Planet is eponymous with Superman mythology; you can't have one without the other.

Spider-Man: When Peter Parker isn't web-slinging around New York City, he's trying to earn pithy paychecks as a freelance photographer for the Daily Bugle and its hard-charging editor, J. Jonah Jameson. Jameson demonstrates (in deliciously over-the-top fashion) how the whims of a newspaper editor can influence coverage of a story. While most see Spider-Man as a hero, Jameson sees him as a villain...and that's how the Bugle often paints him. It's helped sell a lot of newspapers.

Daredevil: "The Man Without Fear" has an ally in investigative reporter Ben Urich, a journalist who works for the Daily Bugle (in the 2003 movie, Urich worked for the NY Post). Urich watched the development of Daredevil with intense fascination, and eventually deduced his secret identity as Matt Murdock. Instead of making that information public, he held it back, and both Urich and Daredevil supply each other with information from time to time.

Batman: In early Batman comics, Vicki Vale was a reporter convinced that Bruce Wayne/Batman were the same person. A storyline would find a way to dispel that perception, but she wouldn't let it go. My introduction to the character came in the 1989 Batman film, where Vale was a photojournalist who came to Gotham City to do a story on Batman. She fell in love with Bruce Wayne and Batman, while the Joker had a fascination with her. The movie also features a supporting character named Knox who's trying to track down the Bat, even though police tell him there's no such thing as Batman.

Watchmen: The series has a lot of background material that's not necessarily critical to the plot, including the Under the Hood autobiography. A reporter from a right-wing newspaper called The New Frontiersman plays a small role in the comic. The newspaper itself, however, is a major influence on the character of Rorschach (whose views are identical to the paper's). Dr. Manhattan's public outburst also comes on national television, and the role of media is an underlying theme in the story.

The Tick: In the Fox cartoon series, news anchors Sally Vacuum and Brian Pinhead bring us the latest developments from The City. The writers use them to comment on the absurdity of the Tick's adventures. Sally Vacuum talked in pedantic newswoman speak, but sort of disappeared after the first season of the cartoon. Her presumptive replacement, Brian Pinhead (pin-AID) wasn't much better.