Henry Jenkins interviews Jorn Ahrens, talking about comics and the city:
Are there specific ideas about the city which originate with comics or do you see comics as primarily replicating ideas which are in broader circulation?… What have comics added to our understanding of what it means to live in the city?
I see primarily the coincidence of the historical emergance of an environment of mass society, most clearly accentuated in modern urbanity with its implementation of the modern self, speed, a stone-born-nature, etc. and new types of mass media of which the comic is one. This coincidence, in my view, feeds a very particular and reflexive relation between the comic and the city. The film, too, is involved in this development. However, I see the comic being special here when its frozen sequentiality also corresponds with the frozen architecture of the sublime that the modern city contunally tries to realize…
Comics made the city readable. The city as social realm strongly refers to communication via images. Comics help turning these images into cultural narratives and aesthetics and to create outstanding icons of modern identity, landmarks of our self-understanding that are, by definition, not bound to specific cities or nations.
Anne Trubek looks at Superman’s original hometown (his first one on Earth, that is):
In 1933, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster dreamed up the comic strip hero with superpowers. Both boys were from immigrant Jewish families and lived down the street from each other in Glenville, then a booming, overwhelmingly Jewish, middle-class neighborhood, with kosher markets selling Yiddish newspapers on nearly every street corner. At the time, Cleveland was the fifth most populous American city, and a forward-thinking one at that, being the first to install public electricity and trolleys.
Siegel’s father first arrived in Cleveland as a sign painter, but he soon left that profession to open a haberdashery in a less prosperous part of town, only to die from a heart attack when robbers entered his store. According to Gerard Jones’ indispensible book Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book, the Siegel family was told that he had been shot in the chest. (Whether this incident was the inspiration for a bullet-proof superhero is unknown but seems plausible.)…
Judi Feniger, executive director of the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, notes that Siegel and Shuster both exemplify the Cleveland immigrant story, as children of parents who may not have spoken English. They had a “working-class ethic that is particularly Cleveland, and particularly Glenville,” she says. In 2008, the museum hosted the exhibit “Zap! Bow! Bam!” about the creation by Jewish immigrants of Superman and other comic book heroes.
Yeah. I’m probably just going to blog about comic books and sports for a while.