From the New York Times [as reprinted in the Daily Telegraph], an editorial ["Superheroes Who Vanquish the Big Stars"] by A. O. Scott:
Comic books are the foundation of a fan culture once derided and now celebrated as the province of nerds, misfits and losers -- young men, like their idols' alter agos, who could compensate for their social marginality by coming the the rescue of the society that had spurned and mocked them. Their origin stories are tales of shame, victimization and abandonment overcome by lonely discipline and endless self-sacrifice.On Two Blowhards, as part of a discussion on Weirdos and Culture:
The cultureworld exists in defiance of normal life because the people in it really do stand in opposition to normal life. Normal life made them suffer. Not only can they not forgive, they're determined to find meaning in that suffering. They didn't suffer back in high school because they were weird. No, they were made to suffer because they were special -- special and better.
In the cultureworld, among others who are like themselves, these sufferers don't have to wrestle with being strange, out-of-control, vindictive people with loony and burning fantasies about their deep-down superiority to the rest of us. They get to compete on their own terms.
Could the contrast be any clearer? In the comic-book world, these unhappy children, unable to grow up, would develop super powers or diabolical machinery and wreak vengeance on unhappy mankind. In our world, they move to Greenwich Village and wear black, which on balance doesn't seem so bad.
[Update 16 May 2005: added link to NYT article, courtesy of Mr. Whitlock.]