Saturday, February 20, 2010

Comic Book Philosophy Lessons

One of the benefits of having a big brother when I was a young teenager was access to his comic book collection. You know, as long as I was careful not to crease them and return them to their plastic envelopes when I was done reading them. One of my favorite series was the Marvel What If...? comics. These were comics that took the Marvel super hero mythology and created alternate scenarios. What if Peter Parker hadn't been bitten by the radioactive spider? What if Jane Foster had found the hammer of Thor? What if the world knew that Daredevil was blind? The idea of taking Marvel history and offering an alternate reality for it spoke to my inner philosopher. It probably helped that the series had a philosophical alien called The Watcher to introduce the issues.

Several years ago, I was reminded of What If...? when one of my children's favorite cartoons, Ben 10, did something similar. They redid their first episode and had Ben's cousin, Gwen, finding the omnitrix, a device that turns the wearer into different aliens. She handled the bracelet much better than Ben. It was an interesting twist and very reminiscent of the old comic book series.

If you think about it, there are many opportunities to think about the what ifs of real life. There are many scenarios where you can think about what might have happened if. What if Hitler had been killed in World War I? Would the second world war have happened? What if Lincoln had decided to stay home instead going to the Ford Theatre on April 14, 1865? Would he have finished his second term, or only momentarily escaped his fate? What if Columbus had landed in North America rather than the Caribbean? What if? What if? What if? It's an interesting exercise. Does the journey of one person make such an impact on our world, or does society create several people with similar qualities to set along particular paths?

In some of the comic series, the original hero eventually gets his power anyway. Thor gets his hammer. Peter Parker eventually chooses to become Spiderman. Although the Watcher considers this destiny, I consider it more an act of free will. Proving my point, Daredevil chose to give up his secret identity and fight the bad guys as district attorney. Instead of becoming a hero by chance, they enter knowing the risks, choosing to be true to themselves, whether or not they choose to wear the mask.

Note: I found the What If series is available digitally through Marvel. Unfortunately, there is an annual subscription rate. Just so you know.


Stephanie aka The Stark Raving Bibliophile said...

I am always intrigued by these questions, too!

Vicki said...

I'm going to have to look through our comic collection for these. James's favorite comic is Groo. George's is the Knights of the Dinner Table.

Inner Elder said...

There was a Star Trek TNG featuring Worf where there were thousands of alternate realities. All existing in parallel universes which had become entangled together in the present. So I guess as long as you keep them all apart, you can have limitless possibilities. However, I think this is a great tool to getting students thinking and talking about history. Love, Mom

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