Revisionism and Super Heroes

Posted: February 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

This week Group 1 of Agents of Atlas came together to discuss revisionism and its application to the super hero. Kick-Ass (2010), Matthew Vaughn’s film adaptation of the comic book by the same name, provides a perfect example of a hero born in the modern/post-modern age of comics. Dissimilar to the the Agents of Atlas, Kick-Ass features the general darkening and maturing of the superhero narrative, with excessive violence and minor sexual content (Wandtke).

In regards to the Kick-Ass’s standing in the Generic Cycle, the film could be categorized as both Revisionist and Parodic. With a narrative debatably parallel to that of Spiderman (A teenager fighting crime who unknowingly befriends the enemy and reveals his identity to his love interest) and the reflexive nature of the narrative (A comparison of one character to Batman), clearly Kick-Ass contains many attributes of a Parody.

Fitting into the Revisionist category, Kick-Ass is not your typical hero. There is nothing that sets him apart from any other citizen besides the iconography displayed by his green and yellow costume. He is no stronger, smarter or richer than anyone else in the story. The traditional: extraordinary-supernatural-transformation-into-hero is substituted for a failed attempt at preventing a crime, being hit by a car and subsequently receiving extensive nerve-damage. The ordinariness of his “transformation” allows the spectator to identify with him more so than the more typical tale of gamma-rays and curses.

As previously mentioned, Kick-Ass appears to be a conceptual revision of stories such as Spiderman and Batman as it maintains the same general ideas (Wandtke). Similar to the character’s of Watchmen, the character’s of Kick-Ass share many attributes and characteristics of existing heroes. Big Daddy is compared to Batman and Kick-Ass is closely linked to the origin story of Spiderman as portrayed by Sam Raimi.

Besides the revisionary character of Kick-Ass, the film is vehicle to a level of violence, coarse language, sexual activity and/or horror not usually featured in super hero films. It takes the characteristics of such graphic novels as The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen and steps it up a notch (Lipsett). The presence of Hit-Girl’s dialogue alone puts Kick-Ass on a revisionary level of its own, separate from that of the ‘Revisionary 80s.’

Lipsett, Joe. Week 6. Revisionism. Carleton University. St. Patrick’s Building, Ottawa, ON. Feb7 2011, Lecture.

Wandtke. Introduction: Once Upon a Time Again. pdf. Web Feb 12 2011

Kick-ass. Dir. Matthew Vaughn. Marvel Films, 2010.

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