Superheroes and the Tragic Hero

Today I’m going to shift gears a bit and discuss a non-superhero comic book with no super-powered characters. The comic is Ghost World. A story of two irritatingly cynical and immature girls whose lives have become stagnant after graduating high school. Personally, I did not enjoy this comic book (I think I actually fell asleep every time I read it), but it is a great example that shows that comic books don’t need to be superheroes and powers all the time.

This week, I also read Hawkeye #19 in Matt Fraction’s run of the character. What made this comic book very interesting is the use of American Sign Language (ASL) throughout. As someone that doesn’t know ASL I found this comic very interesting to read because without the ASL component that I didn’t understand I found the comic very similar one of those silent movies from the 1930s. Your focus is drawn towards the artwork in the panels and every few pages there is some text that keeps you on track with the story. Another interesting aspect of this run of Hawkeye is that it follows his life away from the Avengers. In this series he is not portrayed as a superhero. This draws an interesting parallel to Ghost World because both comics this week are about non-superhero characters without powers.

Now you might think, how can you write a comic that doesn’t have  someone going up against a villain every issue or trying to save the world. Well for that we need to go back to more classical forms of literature and the concepts of protagonists and the tragic hero. I’d argue that both Clint Barton in Hawkeye and Enid Coleslaw in Ghost World are set up to be tragic heroes. In Clint’s case its easy. His fall comes about when he is deafened by an attack in issue #18, so I didn’t read his fall from grace but you definitely see the after effects in the first few pages of issue #19. Like any tragic hero, Clint is prevented to follows his heroic path because of his pride and shame. He doesn’t want to use ASL because he feels that everyone will judge him, but in true heroic fashion we are shown him overcoming his ego at the end of the issue to rally his building so that he can keep them safe. Enid’s tragic journey is a bit more difficult to decipher but it follows the classic path of a tragic hero. Her stagnation is a result of her cynicism keeping her ego inflated. Although she eventually overcomes this when she realizes the only way she can move forward is to start over with a change of scenery.

4 thoughts on “Superheroes and the Tragic Hero

  1. Great post Kyle! Hawkeye was definitely difficult to follow at times, but I agree that the lack of dialogue fixates your attention on the artwork instead. I think it was cool to see Hawkeye in a setting without the Avengers as it gave us a more grounded story.

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  2. Yo kyle,

    I agree i saw hawkeye #19 as a silent movie. It was really interesting as i didnt have to need to rely on the dialogue to make sense of the story, interest the gestures and actions made more of an impact. To me, i think it shows that stories dont always need words to express their meanings and stories can be told in different forms and medias than the conventional dialogue, and image.

    Also, i loved Ghost World. it was a bit too whiny and cynical but the feel was just right as a teenage story. It definitely resonated with me. You should read my blog post. lol!! Shameless plug!

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  3. Hey Kyle,
    I find reading your posts very insightful whenever I get the chance to read them and I had a good time working on Ghost world together with our fellow group members.
    Hawk eye was also a fun read and I totally agree with you in that the use of ASL made it more interesting as I was also drawn to the other aspects of the comic and was visually very entertaining.

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  4. Loved your post! I really enjoyed the fact that you brought up the idea of Hawkeye not having as much dialogue and how that impacts the art work. I felt because of the minimal amount of dialogue the art work really popped because it had to tell the story and engage the reader.

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