Like so many other questions, asking What is a superhero? seems like it used to be so much simpler. They were the good guys (or gals). Even when comics were in color the superhero world was black and white. That’s what makes this gallery of pictures by Indonesian artist Agan Harahap so intriguing. He’s added various superheroes to wartime photos, making for some surprising juxtapositions. According to the Telegraph article,
He says there’s no political motivation behind his work and if the heroes ‘really’ attended the events they would probably just pose for a photo and take off
And yet it’s hard not to draw political conclusions, at least looking at some of them, such as the one of Captain America between Himmler and a concentration camp prisoner. Looking at the one of Batman talking to US soldiers on June 5, 1944 I can’t help thinking he’s giving them a stirring pep talk but, unlike Henry V, he’s not about to lead them into battle. And unlike Henry V he couldn’t come to the camp the night before in disguise. That’s one of the paradoxes of the superhero: the identity protects their anonymity, but it becomes their public face.
Others are just goofy. What is Darth Vader doing at the Yalta Conference? Well, he is standing right behind Stalin, so maybe he’s planning to take out the competition, although, as a friend of mine said, shouldn’t he have been carrying a real light saber and not a cheap plastic one?
The Joker standing on a Moscow hotel roof is the one I like best. The composition makes it look like someone just happened to be up there with a camera and caught the super villain just as he popped in. It’s unnerving, but it makes me think that it’s easier to define a villain than a hero. This is wartime, but there’s no question which side The Joker’s on. He’s on his own side, taking advantage of the chaos of war.