Monday, June 09, 2008
Three's a Charm
Today's the day I talk about Trinity!
First, I want to say, I applaud the concept of the DCU trinity. Now, it should come as a surprise to no one who has read this blog for any length of time that I like the idea of a set of characters that anchor (or, perhaps more accurately, "pillar") a literary universe. Things like "trinities", "pantheons", and the like are very mythic, and we love the mythic here at the Absorbascon. It ennobles (enriches? justifies, LOL?) our comics when they have mythic dimension and symbolism. It easier to tell stories that mean something when the characters in them already mean something.
I also like that, for DC, that set is a trinity. That's not really a necessity, you know. For the longest time, DC has actually been a duumvirate, of sorts. As Geoff Johns has the Toyman say in the most recent issue of Action, "You're either a Superman person or a Batman person." The "World's Finest" has been the paradigm DC's operated under since Batman and Superman first appeared together, I suppose.
It's been productive and useful in many ways, but it has drawbacks. It's needlessly adversative; you're naturally led to pit one side against the other (at least, if you're Frank Miller, you are). It's also rather shallow. One of the worst faults of the news media is their natural tendency to create or simulate conflict by reducing everything to two opposing sides or positions (whether it's appropriate or not); the world's usually a lot more complicated than that. I can accept shallowness in my news media, but not in my comic books. And it's tediously lacking in variety. When you've got only two basic elements to work with, you just have to compare and contrast them over and over and over again. If you read Superman/Batman you know exactly what I'm taking about. With three basic elements, you can compare and contrast them individually or any pair against the remaining element; that's a huge leap in variety from the one-note two-step dictated by the world of World's Finest.
There's another advantage to a trinity of characters (or concepts, or whatever): it generally feels more stable, more complete. It's no accident that most rhetoric (including the paragraph that precedes this one) tends toward triadic presentation, that we countdown from 3 rather than 2 or 4, that we (particularly Aristotle but excluding Geoff Johns) think of stories as having a beginning, and middle, and an end. If you doubt the stabilizing power of the 3, sit at a four-legged table versus a three-legged one, and ask yourself which one wobbles more.
I also like that the Trinity is Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Now, that may seem like a foregone conclusion, but like the general concept of a trinity itself, it's by no means a necessity. They aren't the three most powerful heroes in the DCU (although they certainly aren't slouches, either!), nor even the best sellers. Instead, they are the three most culturally significant characters, whose images are most widely recognized and whose meaning is most generally understood. That's appropriate and shows that DC has an eye on more than just its short-term, fanboy interests.
I've heard people complain that including Wonder Woman into a trinity of heroes is uneven, awkward, forced. It's felt that there's not enough substance to her symbolism, that what she represents is unclear, that, currently, she's not their conceptual equal. Perhaps. But even if that is so, that's all the more reason to do it. You can't abandon an important opportunity to put Wonder Woman on the same conceptual level as Batman and Superman simply because... she's not already there! That makes as much sense as when my companion Ken misspoke this weekend, saying, "I can't drink when I'm sober."
I demand Equal Conceptual Rights for Wonder Women. Being included in the trinity will help -- already is helping -- speed up the process of solidifying, elaborating, and publicizing who Wonder Woman is and what she stands for. Even in the first issue of Trinity, we see that her approach to having a secret identity is very different from that of the Last Son and the Dark Knight. Similarly, her interpretation of their shared dream is used to distinguish her from "the Boys". It's my fervent hope that her exposure in Trinity will lead to something I strongly believe she needs, a second title (Sensation Comics, I assume).
In so many ways, "the Trinity" makes more sense than "the World's Finest". Superman, always super; Wonder Woman, super in costume and normal without; Batman, always normal. Superman, with two parents; Wonder Woman, with one; Batman, with none. As I have mentioned before, Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Focus, restraint, and balance. The city, the country, the city-state. Adoption, creation, self-creation. Admiration, fear, respect. Etc., etc., etc. And that doesn't even begin to explore the two-against-one combos: native versus alien, modern versus ancient, male versus female, privilege versus poverty, super versus non-super.
I am all for Trinity, the concept, the choices, and (so far) the execution.