Most superheroes are depicted standing so tall and straight that they almost arch their backs backwards. Meanwhile we sit at desks all day, curled up with almost the opposite posture, yet we are so engaged by these images. Are we trying to tell ourselves something?
I started the day so well, with my first yoga lesson in ages. A new teacher and a new type – much mellower and slower than I’ve ever done before, since I’m only at the 5 week mark with my sprained ankle. But I didn’t need to worry, it really was very relaxed, definitely yoga for old people, (and that is not a complaint, I loved it!) I came out of that lesson feeling simultaneously relaxed and energized, it was fantastic.
Of course since that healthy start to the day I have been sitting at my desk working, browsing, eating lunch, and accidentally watching a depressing movie about a gynecologist in a concentration camp (terrible combination, by the way. I have this bad habit of leaving the TV on while I work and only half watching until I suddenly notice something intense is on, like today.) So here I am, 8 hours later, nearing the end of the my day, all slouched and achey from slumping in front of the computer. Unfortunately, there’s no point in being too disappointed with myself because this is what I do most of the time, just like everyone else. Comic book readers and creators alike, we’re all in the same boat of abusing our bodies by sitting in front of screens a little too much.
It suddenly strikes me then, as particularly strange that a lot of the comic books we read are basically about the polar opposite of a desk worker. We spend all this time and money to look at depictions of people with exaggerated physiques and such over-emphasized perfect posture that they’re practically bending over backwards.
Most of us spend an inordinate amount of time in front of computers, whether for work or for entertainment, everyone reading this uses one (if for nothing else but to read this!) including the people who create the comic books we love. People use computers to write and draw comic books, sitting hunched over desks so that other people can buy these depictions of super powered humans, channeling all of our attention and energies into the act of forgetting our sedentary corporeal existence. Superhero posture is almost a caricatures of a healthy adult posture. It is ironic then that most of the superhero comic books we enjoy are so filled with people in various states of activity. We pore over these scenes of superheroes standing, running, leaping and fighting while we spend the bulk of our time curled up in front of computers. I can’t imagine that anyone would want to create or read a comic book about someone who does little outside of staring at a computer, it just wouldn’t be very interesting to look at. I tried it out, I drew a comic book version of myself sitting in front of the computer (below right.) It is rough, but you get the idea, not much is happening and sadly, that is what a comic book about me would look like. Even the bloody Social Network had two fit men rowing like Vikings!
When I was a kid I studied fine art, but we couldn’t afford life models for figure drawing, so I used to sketch myself or my friends for practice. Because I read comic books, and because the quality of the art wasn’t what it is nowadays, I used to try to draw people in superheroic poses to see what the poses should look like in real life (and at this point, I’m going to sound like something out of a Monty Python skit, but you have no idea how good you have it now, the standards of art are generally so high.) Anyway, these drawings were a lot of fun to do, but they were never true to how we really stood because none of us were particularly active. Perhaps if I’d been friends with some athletes it might have been closer to reality. Back then, I assumed that one day in the future we’d all be moving around more, not less.
After a few years of attending a few comic conventions and meeting a lot of the people who make comic books, I realize that most everyone making comic books does nothing but sit at a desk all day just like everyone else. Then after work most people slump on a couch to watch tv or play a game, which is basically more of the same. I once dated a guy who, on discovering my love of Elektra, asked “Why don’t you want to do any of that?” which seemed insane to me, but in retrospect I can see that since he had been an athlete, he was legitimately confused as to why I’d never learned to be a ninja in real life. (The fact that I just laughed when he suggested it didn’t do our relationship any favors, but at the time I really thought he was crazy to wonder why I was so inactive.) For most of us, it is frighteningly easy to be sucked into an increasingly sedentary life, so here we all are, comic book readers and creators united by our common physical indolence and I’m starting to think that the gradual rise in the popularity of the superhero might be a reaction to this.
There is a dichotomy between the superheroes we like reading about and our own bad working posture. Maybe part of the attraction is a sort of subconscious aspiration, where our bodies are trying to ask us to stand up straight by drawing us to depictions of it. I’m sure my body would prefer that I spend more time running and leaping, or at least standing up straight! The attraction to looking at comic books filled with people doing so has to speak to a sort of subconscious plea from our bodies. We spend all day ignoring the aches from sitting, only to keep looking at drawings of people with great posture. Maybe our bodies are crying out for a healthier posture by drawing us to these images of postural perfection?