The best-known indirect product of both actitives is what we loosely term "recreation," though one will immediately get different theoretical answers as to why humans need, or think they need, such recreation. Between games and literature, however, looms the shadow of didacticism, for while games are difficult to structure (honestly) in order to deliver a message, it can be done with varying degrees of subtlety in literature. This lends to literature the appearance, if not the actuality, of having a "useful purpose" in culture and/or society, and the most "useful" forms of literature are usually those which have or are thought to be works of *thematic realism* insofar as they comment with the same varying degrees of subtlety on man's real-world situation.-- me, EARTH SHATTERING CHANGES AT THE LAST MINUTE.
In this essay I reflected that the current trend at DC and Marvel to kill off heroes in gory or disturbing ways was basically a new permutation of an old trend, which involved comics-authors "compelling quick identification through making travesties of the fictional characters' lives." My main example was a Silver Age Superman story focused on "The Last Days of Superman," in which the Man of Steel succumbs to a mysterious ailment that prompts all his friends and relations into orgies of grief, until the last-minute reprieve that saves his bacon. But I could have chosen any number of other Golden or Silver Age stories that reduce the heroes to travesties of their normal identities.
Just as (according to Bataille) taboos exist in order to be transgressed, heroes exist in order to be travestied. This has nothing to do with anything relating to concepts like "masculine incoherence," for it applies as much to Wonder Woman as Superman. True, the superhero can turn the tables and restore his or her own identity rather than depending on luck or good fairies to do it, but the recent trend toward killing heroes outright-- in sure and certain knowledge that death no longer has dominion within the superhero genre-- is essentially a new form of compelling kinetic identification.
This is why I don't quite understand the fannish furor against the recent death of Asian-Atom Ryan Choi. I only read a couple of the Gail Simone ATOM books and didn't find the title interesting, but it seems that for many fans, the new Atom, whose title failed after 25 issues, became a cause celebre in terms of his being a non-stereotypical Asian hero, as seen in this essay from the blog "Reappopriate."
The blogger "Jenn" admits that she is aware that a lot of comics-characters only die temporary deaths these days, giving the example of the recent return of the Jason Todd Robin, and that therefore "it’s quite possible that Ryan Choi will be back."
Nevertheless, she says: "I tend to agree with the notion that D.C. Comics sets a dangerous precedent for so casually eliminating one of the few prominent Asian American superheroes when he appears no longer necessary."
But how can it be a precedent-- presumably one directed against minority heroes-- if the Ryan Choi Atom is but one Asian amidst a long list of Caucasian heroes who have temporarily died and come back (Superman, Jason Todd, Metamorpho) and is presumably now standing around the halls of Turnaround Purgatory (or whatever Grant Morrison called it), chatting with Hawkman and Hawkgirl as they all wait for some writer to resurrect them.
Some fans have correctly noted that Ryan Choi is being treated no less shittily than any other DC hero, but even this misses a larger point. Such a view puts credence in the notion of a pristine Silver Age ideal in which heroes were good and pure and never suffered humiliation and death.
In fact, humiliation and death were always present in the Silver Age: they were merely camoflagued or worked out in highly symbolic form. I remember that as a young fan I wrote an aggrieved letter to DC Comics, complaining that almost every cover seemed to show Superman "dead, dying or scared to death." The emphasis on humiliation and morbidity evidently disturbed me back then.
It doesn't disturb me now. I recognize the pattern of "death and resurrection" as a valid mythic pattern in current superhero comics, even if I must admit that the Geoff Johnses and their ilk are generally incompetent to get any worthwhile mythicity out of the pattern. But to pursue my game analogy above, the game can be good no matter how bad its players are.
Thus I'm afraid I can't agree with many of the well-intentioned fans who want a Ryan Choi to be immune to this game-pattern because he stands as an example of a non-stereotypical Asian superhero (or even seems to, since Jenn was actually fairly critical of Simone's portrait-of-the-Asian-as-a-superhero). I don't know that DC Comics *isn't* replete with closet racists, but I know that expecting a minority character to be immune to the current patterns of the superhero game, because he seems to validate a didactic standard, is the worst kind of tokenism.
And who knows? Death may actually make people like Ryan Choi better than they did the first time around...