MAN AND ULTRAMAN: a PowerPoint presentation
Back in 2008 I was asked by my friend, poet and Elder Bard of Ynys Witrin Wes White, to take part in some events in celebration of Attack!!!!, the zine he edited back then. These took place at the now-famous Cafe Oto in Hackney and at the now-closed Croft in Bristol and featured appearances by the likes of the spectacular Holly Pester and the ingenious Anthony Hall. For my part, I created a performance called Man and Ultraman, which consisted of a PowerPoint presentation contrasting the experiences of a normal (fictional) human man with those of a supernatural (fictional) superman.
I had read a lot of superhero comics as a kid and I stayed interested in their mythologies as an adult: where they come from, why people like them, what we're really talking about when we talk about superheroes. It's something I'm still thinking about, perhaps more so now that the superhero genre has turned into a cinematic leviathan.
I don't know if I would come up with something like this now but its examination of what you might call 'toxic masculinity' (or maybe just 'masculinity') still seems relevant. Do certain traditions of 'masculinity' stem from the same mythic tradition as superheroes? I'd be keen to know what you think.
Picture credits: I'm afraid I didn't take these down at the time I made the presentation. I think I considered it unimportant since I was only going to perform the thing live and only once or twice. In putting together the film version for this blog, I've done what digging I can to repair my historical negligence:
The 'man' is a photograph from around 1840 which some believe to be a young Abraham Lincoln. As far as I can tell, the photographer is unknown. The portrait of the guy in a suit holding a revolver towards the end is a production photo of actor Ralph Meeker from the 1955 film Kiss Me Deadly, directed by Robert Aldrich. I don't know who owns copyright for the image. There are stills from Richard Donner's brilliant Superman (1979) of Christopher Reeve and Margot Ruth Kidder (Clark Kent and Lois Lane) and Marlon Brando and Susannah York (Jor-El and Lara). I also seem to have used the poster image from Guy Maddin's 2003 film Cowards Bend the Knee - a circular black and white image of two people in some sort of tangled embrace (the hand of one squeezing the cheeks of the other). I have no idea how I came across this rather brilliant image and again, I don't know who made it, though I assume it might be a still from the film and therefore credited to Maddin. I haven't seen Cowards Bend the Knee (and would have no idea this is where it came from if the image file name hadn't mirrored the film's title) but based on Wikipedia's description, I think I might have to. There's also an image from the 1963 autopsy report on John F. Kennedy's body - a drawing, by illustrator unknown, which I've anonymised with a white circle.
That's all I can offer at the moment. If you recognise an image as belonging to you or someone you know please let me know.