Times like this truly do make me wish superheroes were real.
There’s an affecting moment in J Michael Straczynski’s recent run on the comic Thor. The Norse god of thunder’s been dead for three years, but has come back to life, as only gods and comic book superheroes can.
One of the first places he goes is New Orleans. Thor was dead when Hurricane Katrina hit a year earlier, and he knows he could have stopped the hurricanes, the floods, or otherwise saved the city and its people. But he wonders where the rest of the superheroes were: “Why were not force fields erected? Why were tides not evaporated by heat and blast? Why were buildings not supported by strength of arms and steel?”
Just then, Iron Man shows up, to tell Thor that all superheroes need to register with the federal government to prevent superpower-caused disasters. Instead of preventing Katrina or repairing New Orleans, Iron Man and his fellow superheroes have been fighting each other over this registration requirement, part of what Marvel Comics called Civil War.
There’s some meaning to be drawn from this, that I can’t fully articulate. Something about thinking too small, thinking about short-term hurdles and squabbles rather than the big picture; a blindness to the fact of habitual human suffering that would be willful if it weren’t also somehow sickeningly necessary.
I’m not sure. But I think I know why I’ve been reading more comic books lately.