IVP - Strangely Dim - Desperately Seeking Dissemination

March 28, 2005

Desperately Seeking Dissemination

Help! I've written an article about Batman Begins, a guaranteed blockbuster film coming June 17 to a theater blissfully near me. I've written it, of course, as an attempt to hitch my book's wagon to this Clydesdale of a movie, but I'm having a hard time figuring out what publications to approach with the article. I've already approached a couple of online magazines, but I have yet to hear back and I'm not sure they're right for the piece anyway.

That's where you come in. What follows is an excerpt--the end of the article, which is tentatively titled "Everything Silly Is Serious Again"--and I'd love to hear from you what magazines or online forums you think would be game for such an article. The two thousand-some words that precede this excerpt focus on the history of Batman, who's gone through a regularly repeating cycle of serious devolving into silly, then back to serious.

Get the drift? Our comment posting capacity is going to be disabled for a few days, so chew on this for a while: Where would you expect to read an article like this one? What would you expect to learn while you read it? Who do you think would invest the fifteen or so minutes it would take to read it in its entirety? Also, and please be gentle: What's wrong with the part you've already read, and how would you fix it?

Of course, if you know someone who regularly publishes such stuff, feel free to cut and paste and make my case. The draft is fully written, but I wouldn't expect anyone to want to publish it until close to the movie's release.

Thanks for your help! If you can't wait till Friday to comment, shoot me an e-mail at dzimmerman@ivpress.com.

If I Don’t Laugh I’ll Cry
Today’s Batman, in film and on television as well as in print, is typically dour, obsessive, efficient and generally unfriendly. He remains so focused on his mission—to combat crime and seek the welfare of his city—that he remains isolated even from those closest to him. He has, as such, become a bit of a laughing stock to other superheroes. His seriousness is now largely held in clear tension with the silliness that haunts the medium. Hyperseriousness in any situation, after all, is itself rather silly.

The genre has clearly learned from Batman’s history. The principle of the dual audience has expanded to a triple audience: the young are courted through animation, merchandising and age-specific stories and formatting; the adult fanatics are honored with surgical misreadings of characters in a variety of formats; and the adult mainstream is guaranteed a laugh with winks of self-referential humor and with storytelling that acknowledges the silliness of simply being human. So, for example, the X-Men are represented in toy stores and on the Cartoon Network, they’re reconceived by postmodern storytelling juggernaut Joss Whedon, and they mock themselves in film with jokes about spandex and code names. Films that fail to acknowledge this triple reading, such as 2004’s The Punisher and 2005’s Elektra, are given negative reviews by fanatics and perform poorly at the box office.

The fact of the matter is, stories about superheroes, much like stories about all of us, can hardly avoid a simultaneous mix of seriousness and silliness. Fundamentally, after all, stories about superheroes are supercharged stories about us. The agony these heroes feel over the wrongs done to them may, from an objective distance, be clearly overdone, but with a sympathetic viewing they can be seen to be true expressions of how people struggle through the life they’ve been given. With a clear head we can laugh at ourselves for the ways that we react to others, for the things we give our hearts to. And yet, we can remove ourselves from our own lives for only so long before we have to deal again with the agony as we experience it. Our pain would be silly if it weren’t so sad.

An author has clearer sight than his characters; he can see the absurdity and the agony all at once. Authors who have over time told Batman’s stories, along with all his contemporaries in the various superhero universes, have chosen to emphasize either silliness or seriousness, but virtually no Batman tragedy is told entirely without humor, and virtually no Batman comedy is told entirely without the subtle weight of pain. We can sympathize with Batman even as we’re tempted to laugh, because life itself is such a subtle mix of tragedy and comedy that we don’t always know whether to laugh or cry. And there—somewhere between the tragedy and the comedy of it all—lies the truth.

And for the record, I wore the tights—and they’re fabulous.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at March 28, 2005 8:26 AM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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