Finishing off Giganta in D.C. Universe Online this week, I was treated to this scene, and a reminder that no matter how much the medium matures, comic books' emotional attachments are made in your youngest and most vulnerable years.
For those not playing this video game, in D.C. Universe Online you create a super character, then send him or her off to fight against and alongside D.C. Comics' most recognizable characters. Many missions build to a crescendo where you take down a principal adversary. After that success, you get a cinematic as a kind of payoff.
Spoiler alert: If you're playing the game and want to see this for yourself, don't watch the clip below or read any further.
To this point, all the cutscenes I'd watched were told from the perspective of the defeated villain, in a biographical tone that justified their megalomania and reasons for world domination, over a montage of comic book panels.
This one plays quite the wild card. It's narrated by the teenage Wonder Girl, whom I freed from the clutches of Giganta, the nemesis of the Amazons. And Wonder Girl is telling us about it not in a comic book, but in the medium of her generation: a personal blog.
One of the most poignant things about reading comic books as a kid is the sense of identification, however vicarious, they give to you at an age when you really don't know who the hell you are, much less what you'll become. You're an incomplete, very emotional person with this vague hope, masquerading as a faith, that you'll become someone who matters. And the primary-color, transdimensional struggles comic books present are not so much allegories for the woes of the world at large; they speak to your more prosaic conflicts, ones you typically encounter in school.
Fakes and liars. Cheaters and bullies. Manipulators and oppressors. They are the enemies of the world, no matter how old you are. It's a cosmic indictment rendered in the profound vocabulary of a high school yearbook. And Wonder Girl's kicker, her goddam-right punchline, set to that music, gets me every time.
I'm a 37-year-old man, nowhere close to whom this presumably speaks to, and when I saw this I jumped out of my chair, stabbing a No. 1 finger in the air. This is why I created a superhero character and lived the past 10 days through him. I felt like I was 13 again, a dumb kid caught in a study-hall daydream. I'm running down the street and straight into the air, flying in to save the day, to defeat the oppressors, the manipulators, the bullies, cheaters, liars and fakes, all of them. Wherever or whoever they are.