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27 March 2013 @ 11:26 pm
Writing Wednesday: Victorian Max  
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I actually remembered to post this week! And I have something cool! We have to write a journal every week for my Brit Lit class and the professor is pretty open on what the journals can talk about as long as they somehow relate to our discussions in class. Last week we read Tennyson's "Tithonus" about a man who fell in love with a goddess and my professor asked "Do superheroes ever get married?" to get us thinking about the lives of god-like figures, so I took that and ran and here's a whole journal tying Victorian literature to Magna-Man.


I’m glad you brought up the topic of superheroes in class last week because I’ve been working on a story about one and so anything I learn anywhere finds a way to somehow connect back to him, but our recent literature has been especially pertinent to this character.
Metal-controlling Magna-Man has been the top hero in Arch City for most of his life, beloved by everyone except the supervillains, and even they have to admit some respect for his work ethic and reliability. The mayor can always count on Magna-Man to fight off all threats – mostly because she guilt-trips him into doing so. Behind his mask and trademark red “M” lays Max Morales, mysterious bachelor son of the city’s leader Carlotta Morales. As soon as his powers displayed themselves at a young age his mother started grooming him for heroism and no other path. Constant training exercises took up all of his time outside of school and sleep and Max was forced to think of himself as a career man before he was even out of elementary school. The official tenure as a superhero started when he was in his late teens and over the years Magna-Man has saved the lives of thousands of people and given the city a symbol of hope and unity, but Max has become exhausted, isolated, and intensely stressed out in the process because his mother holds him to his duty to always put the city’s needs before his own, no matter what the personal cost.
I could immediately relate to John Stuart Mill because of this. (Well, I couldn’t, but I’ve spent the past few months writing about someone who can.) Like Carlotta’s insistence on putting Max’s abilities to their full potential with superhero training, Mill’s father wanted what was best for his child in pushing him towards an exceptional education but failed to show concern for “emotional well-being and development,” as your notes say. Both sons are “pushed too far, too hard” and struggle to see the benefits of their constrictive lifestyles. Mill writes that “Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing” (1096-7). Mill eventually broke out of his father’s system and starting living on his own terms, but Max doesn’t see this as a possibility – if he doesn’t do the job he’s supposed to, innocent people will likely die. He feels that this responsibility takes away any chance for choice or free will in his life.
Max Morales doesn’t have much in common with the life of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, but he can connect to some of that author’s poetry. In “Ulysses,” the title character says that his people “know not me,” (ln 5) and Max can say the same. Magna-Man, like most superheroes, can’t reveal his true identity for fear of villains going after his loved ones, especially with his mother in such an important political office. The citizens of Arch City know his face and his actions and they know that they love him, but no personal details ever escape. Max feels like a stranger to them. Ulysses says “I am become a name” (ln 11) in regards to his loss of self in comparison to the growth of his legend, which Max also suffers from. There are only two people in the whole city that know Max, his mother and one trusted reporter, and he is Magna-Man to everyone else and Magna-Man is a persona. He doesn’t feel like Max is that much stronger of an identity either: his whole life has become a cycle of fighting crime, sleeping, and making cursory appearances at political functions. He doesn’t really have personal details because he isn’t really a person. And just as Ulysses gives the throne to the voiceless Telemachus without asking him or considering what his son wants, Carlotta was always focused on what Max could do instead of what he wanted to do, what the city needed instead of what he needed.
Max is like Tennyson’s “Tithonus” in that he has a “gift” that permanently separates him from other people and also “curses” him to keep going no matter how tired he gets. Arch City has become “homes of happy men that have the power to die” (ln 69-70) and Max, who did not ask for any of this, wonders “why should a man desire in any way to vary from the kindly race of men” (ln 28-29). He is forced to deviate from the system of leading a normal human life because he is not a normal human, and to do so would be deviating from the system of the superpowered. He has powers, he must use them for good, he must fight evil, and that’s a major consumption of time and energy. You asked if superheroes can ever get married and I suppose that comes down to if they see their first priority as a human or a superhuman. For Max, as long as the mayor pressures him to rightly save the city and thwart the evils that need to be thwarting, his superhuman responsibilities must always come before his human needs.
 
 
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