A Clash of Heroes

Superheroes, philosophy, ethics, and politics



Wonder Woman #23 and the Meaning of Love

We all have a bad habit of tossing around important words without thinking about what those words really mean. One of the most carelessly used words in English (and probably in a lot of other languages, too) is “love.” We inject “love” into our conversations—personal, religious, political, whatever—and speak of it with vague reverence, but what we seem to mean is something like “nice feelings.” This kind of “love” is offered up as the silver bullet for ending war, hatred, prejudice, sexism, and any number of other evils in the world. But we’re fools if we think that nice feelings could stop ISIS or hatred or human trafficking.

In other conversations “love” seems to mean just sexual attraction, as if wanting to sleep with someone badly enough means that we love that person.

Kindness, good feelings, romantic attraction—they’re are all good things, but love has to be more. When we talk about love in a way that treats it as mere kindness or sexual attraction, we cheapen it, turning it into something that happens to us instead of something that we choose, something that we do. Continue reading “Wonder Woman #23 and the Meaning of Love”

Notes from the Secret Empire Part 6

Yesterday a man named James Hodgkinson opened fire on a congressman and four others at a baseball practice, and the apparent motive for the attack was political.

I hate to sound cynical, especially when there are real people suffering, but violence and tragedy have become so commonplace that it’s hard to work up the kind of emotional response that we ought to have about these sorts of things. Maybe it’s because these days, the Outrage Machine runs on high-output twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty five days a year. Maybe it’s because every day there’s some new cause demanding my full emotional investment flooding my social media feed and the news cycle. But whatever the reason, increasingly I find myself feeling shame more than anything else when bad things happen. Things like the Alexandria shooting ought to shock me, but I’m ashamed to say that they don’t. I don’t have the energy to be shocked anymore.

I bring this up because Secret Empire #4 landed on shelves yesterday, and I can’t help noticing how (sadly) relevant the book is to where we are right now––but not (necessarily) in the way that Spencer intends. Continue reading “Notes from the Secret Empire Part 6”

I Hope That They See What Makes Her Special

My wife and my daughter saw Wonder Woman on Friday, and my oldest two sons saw it on Saturday. (Our youngest is a toddler, so we can’t go to movies together right now.) Before the boys and I went to the theater, I took my daughter to our local comic shop for some free comics and to have her picture made with a Wonder Woman cosplayer.

After I snapped the pic, the cosplayer smiled at my daughter and told her, “Go protect your family!” It’s what you’d expect a superhero cosplayer to say to a kid, but the admonition struck me as odd and stuck with me for the rest of the day. Continue reading “I Hope That They See What Makes Her Special”

NOW Can We Finally Rethink Man of Steel and Batman v Superman?

The outpouring of support for Zack Snyder since he announced that he was stepping away from the director’s chair of Justice League after the death of his daughter has been moving. My social media feeds have been flooded with posts, memes, articles, and other things offering prayers, condolences, and appreciations for the director and his wife, Deborah. I still think that the internet is mostly a festering cesspool of ignorance and nastiness, but every so often it helps people to come together in beautiful ways.

On the other hand, all of the warm feelings feel a little surreal coming after a year of the Snyder-bashing that followed BvS. The sudden turnaround following the nearly relentless hatred that followed in the wake of that movie feels familiar. Haven’t we seen this before? Right––we’ve already seen this in BvS. Continue reading “NOW Can We Finally Rethink Man of Steel and Batman v Superman?”

Notes from the Secret Empire Part 5: The Return of Hope?

***Major spoilers for Secret Empire #2***

Secret Empire #2 knocked us all off our feet earlier this week because it has a doozy of a last page. While the issue gives us plenty to think about, it seems like most commentators have spent their time speculating about what the last page means. Is it really Steve Rogers? Which one? Is it the Cap from the Ultimate Universe? Is this more shenanigans caused by Kobik? I’ll admit that the last image in the book left me stunned, and for the next hour it’s all I could think about. Here was exactly what I’d been waiting for: the return of Steve Rogers. I just hoped that it wasn’t a gimmick or a trick. We’ve been tricked several times since Captain America: Steve Rogers was announced last year, after all. Is this another one? Continue reading “Notes from the Secret Empire Part 5: The Return of Hope?”

The MCU Has a Language Problem

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a language problem.

Let me preface this by saying two things:

First, if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like to think about movies, if you’re the kind of person says, “But it’s just entertainment!” or “It’s just a movie!” or “You think too much!”––well, this post isn’t directed at you. You might as well move on to the next blog.

Second, this is not in any way an attack on the MCU. I LOVE the MCU. If I’m going to spend my increasingly-rare free time on a movie, nine times out of ten it’s going to be a Marvel movie. I’ve seen every MCU movie opening night since The AvengersI was there for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 opening night in IMAX, and I loved it.

But it’s true: the MCU has a language problem. Continue reading “The MCU Has a Language Problem”

Notes from the Secret Empire (Part 4): On That Twist . . .

Notes from the Secret Empire (Number 4)

What actual hell?

***Major, gigantic, huge spoiler alert for the Free Comic Book Day issue of Secret Empire . . . which was already spoiled a couple of weeks ago.***

So, in the Secret Empire Free Comic Book Day special, this happened: Continue reading “Notes from the Secret Empire (Part 4): On That Twist . . .”

So I wrote this book . . .

If you like what I do here at A Clash of Heroes, you might also like the first novel in my fantasy series, Animus: Little Gods. Nobody wears a cape or a mask in Animus, but it is very much inspired by my love for comics and superheroes, and it tells the origin story for a whole world of super-powered heroes, freaks, and villains who will populate the rest of the series.

As self-important as this probably sounds, you might think of Animus as a blending the landscape of The Stand or The Walking Dead with the philosophical tone of Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns––along with the old-fashioned heroism of Marvel and DC heroes. It has telepaths, shape-shifters, demons––as well as a few “normal” people who are far more horrifying than the freaks. Continue reading “So I wrote this book . . .”

Notes from the Secret Empire (Part 2): Hydra Cap and the Imperial Presidency

One of the most striking and powerful pages in Secret Empire #0 comes after the prologue in the opening scene on the Helicarrier. The unnamed narrator of the book describes the events of the issue in retrospect:


I’ve said before that we shouldn’t read Captain America: Steve Rogers or Secret Empire as a direct allegory, but there’s no doubt that Spencer has American politics in mind. So while we can’t say that Hydra Captain America equals Donald Trump or any other particular president, it’s hard not to think of the idea of the imperial presidency during this monologue. Continue reading “Notes from the Secret Empire (Part 2): Hydra Cap and the Imperial Presidency”

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