And I've been greatly enjoying it, despite some initial trepidation and trying to get over some of the scientific inaccuracy. I mean, I can let it slide in comics, but this is pretending toward a greater sense of realism, and so pseudoscientific garbage like the 10% Myth really stands out. It's easy to suspend disbelief for the normal comic book insanity: breaking the laws of physics on a daily basis, magic and Kirbytech and Unstable Molecules and impossible Mutant genes and whatnot. But when real-world pseudoscience (see: Grant Morrison's use of the Million Monkey Myth in JLA: World War III, or talking about aquatic crackpot Masaru Emoto in Frankenstein) ends up in the fictional world of comics, I cringe. I don't know if it's because somehow seeing it accepted as true in a fictional universe somehow validates it in the real world, or if it's because comics used to frequently take the time to teach the audience real science, in-between instances of defying the same, or if it's just because the real-world pseudoscience isn't nearly as believable as the comic book stuff, but it's annoying nonetheless.
Where was I? Anyway, I've been watching Heroes, and I admit that I haven't seen a lot of the talk about it in the Blogohedron. But has anyone else picked up on the sheer metafictional brilliance that is Hiro Nakamura? Here, we have a character who wants to be a superhero, who knows about his special abilities, and who has, since the beginning, been the character with the most focus on comic book superheroics and conventions. And he's Japanese; he speaks only a little English. Which means he has to be subtitled for the English-speaking audience. Which means, when we watch Hiro, we see a picture, and we see printed words. We have to pay attention to both in order to understand.
Hiro is a comic book character. Everyone else is in a TV show, a medium of sight and sound, but Hiro is in an animated comic book. Unlike even his companion Ando, who speaks some English, we have to read Hiro as we would any other comic book character, by synthesizing words and pictures together. So the character who knows the most about comics, who behaves and thinks most like a comic book character (I'm waiting with bated breath for him to say "with great power..." in Japanese), is the one which the audience perceives most as a comic book character, because of the way the creators have played with the television medium.
That's freakin' brilliant. Good show, Heroes. Good show.
Hiro does say the "With great power..." line. I forget what episode its in though...
In one of the later ones, he says something pretty close. Like someone took the line and ran each word through a thesaurus.
The bits of "real science fact" writers like Gardner Fox or John Broome are best known for incorporating into their stories came from the simple fact that these were intellectually curious people who genuinely enjoyed learning this stuff and passing it along to others, combined with the assumption that many readers would be equally keen to learn such things.
Not to create an idyllic view of the past here, but along with the decline in science education over the past few decades we've seen a commensurate increase in blatant anti-intellectualism and a prevailing assumption that anything requiring knowledge is somehow elitist and exclusionary. The footnotes in a Julius Schwartz story seemed like invitations for eager, interested readers to learn more about these concepts; I can't help suspecting that modern editors would remove them for fear that readers might find them "intimidating."
I'm reminded of Robert Heinlein saying that the main difference between his "juvenile" SF novels (Rocketship Galileo et al) and his work for adult markets was that in the works for young readers he didn't shy away from unusual words and difficult scientific concepts because young readers, unlike adults, weren't frightened at having to look up a word or struggle to grasp a new idea.
Also, the real science factlets were presented in such a way as to set a clear boundary between "this is real" and "that's just something we made up for a story" and this never ruined the suspension of disbelief necessary to fully enjoy the latter. No such boundary exists in, say, Morrison's endorsement of Masaru Emoto -- and he may very well believe that quack theory is true, and that his use of it was equivalent to Gardner Fox making a reference to four-dimensional spacetime. If so, that makes me very sad.
Also, the subtitles are kind of stacked on top of each other and collected together, as if they really were positioned in word balloons.
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