Thursday, March 16, 2017

Theory of relativity

I saw a meme a while back about how villains in comics are always given the raw deal, considering the fact that most of them are academically endowed and would’ve worked hard to rise to their position of power, while most of the superheroes would’ve got their superpowers either by stroke of luck/accident (Spiderman) or owing to them being from another planet (superman) or riding on the inventions of the scientists on their payroll (Batman). While almost none of the villains are super humans almost all of the superheroes are, is one consistent fact across all comics. Just googled Wiki for some familiar villains and this is what their description says -

Joker - The Joker possesses no superhuman abilities, instead using his expertise in chemical engineering to develop poisonous or lethal concoctions, and thematic weaponry, including razor-tipped playing cards, deadly joy buzzers, and acid-spraying lapel flowers.

Penguin -  bullied as a child for his short stature, weight, and beak-like nose. Several stories relate that he was forced, as a child, always to carry an umbrella by his overprotective mother due to his father's death from pneumonia after a drenching. He has a brain power that could possibly outwit some of the smarter men in existence.

Two face - Before his transformation into Two-Face, Harvey Dent had a successful career as Gotham's upstanding district attorney, proficient in nearly all matters pertaining to criminal law.

Lex Luthor - power-mad American billionaire, business magnate, inventor, scientist, philanthropist to the city of Metropolis, and one of the most intelligent people in the world. A charismatic and well-known public figure, he is intent on ridding the world of alien superhero Superman, who Lex Luthor views as an obstacle to his megalomaniacal plans and as a threat to the very existence of humanity.

There is an extended similarity in our stories as well. In Puranas, the villains (asuras) are generally not well endowed at birth itself unlike the heroes (Devas). To my knowledge from the stories that I’ve read, all the Asuras do intense penance to please the lord and gain their power as boon. More often than not the trigger for their vigorous penance would’ve been some misdeed or insult caused to them by the Devas and to avenge the same they would acquire super powers and would unleash their revenge. The lords would await for what is a fair bit of time of punishment and embarrassment for the devas and at the appropriate time would take sides with them and vanquish the villains. The correct inference could be more like a parent mediating in a kids fight, only addition being the bias.       Note: I personally feel the fights and punishments and the avatars taken by the lords as described in our Puranas have much more deeper meaning and are not to be taken in a literal sense. I am quoting them as comparison to the American comics for want of no other reference point from our end.

Getting back to the context of the post, going by the similar vein of thought across all comics, it all ties back to the fallacy that humans, however talented they may be should and would, always tend to misuse their power, however deserved or fruits of labor they may be and always should have a regulator, who in all probability has similar or stronger skills which make them as alien. The one singular theme which has a strong under current across all stories is that “Power corrupts and Absolute power corrupts absolutely”. While this message comes out pretty cleanly in our Puranas and stories, its hidden and layered in the western comics. I’ve always looked at in wonderment about how crazy Americans are about their comic heroes and all those hulla-bulla. But the more one takes a deeper look at the stories they are not so much in difference from ours after all. And considering the fact that our Puranas have been around like forever and have been mostly propagated through word of mouth and in the form of songs, they are definitely the frontrunners for all of these comics and considering how young the American nations are (excluding the history of natives about whom I am as clueless as their conquerors) they would definitely want to consider these comics as their heritage and culture and probably it gives them some sort of identity amidst all those river valley civilization nations, who kind of have a head start of about few millenniums.

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