Saturday, March 29, 2014

RE; Superhero, Dying Twice

            Every child grows up with someone they look up to; a role model, a parent, a sibling, relative, and sometimes even a superhero. In the rather bizarre case of Jimmy Corrigan, the same hero that Jimmy looks up to also brings the death of his childhood. These dynamic events can be proven to be instrumental on many of Jimmy’s major character developments.
            The strange story that surrounds Jimmy Corrigan starts with depictions of Jimmy’s childhood. While Jimmy is absent of a father, he seeks immediate satisfaction in the hero Super-Man. Jimmy’s thirst for a role is evident at the car show his mother takes him to. He enters the room in a hurry and skips passed images of scantily dressed women and a vague sign that says “pussy”, all to find his role model, Super-Man. It is finally his moment, here it is, and Jimmy gets to meet the man he looks up to, the best male figure in his life to date. Jimmy’s life only got better as Super-Man fended off his angry mother when she approached. Unfortunately for Jimmy, it was only downhill from there. The next morning as Jimmy realizes his mother and his idol had ‘relations’, he was still young so let us not assume he knew what sex is, his world was broken. The look painted in his eyes was disappointment and sadness. Once again, Jimmy is left without a role model. Studies done by The Prince’s Trust Macquarie Youth Index indicates that young males that grow up without a male role model can show signs of depression later in their lives. The studies show that with positive reinforcements from the same gender, can help a child better understand how they can shape their futures. The findings of this study explain Jimmy Corrigan’s strange life filled with depression, intimacy problems, and lack of self-confidence.
            The story quickly shifts from a young Jimmy to adult Jimmy with no middle ground or preparation. The comic shows his apathetic lifestyle as he just drifts through life day by day noticing close to nothing and doing nothing except talking to his mother on the phone. While the death of his childhood was apparent after Super-Man slept with his mother, Jimmy hold onto his youth with his, what seem to be, daily phone calls with his mother. Jimmy proves to be so shut out from the world yet he still makes time to talk to his mother. Although he shows frustration with his mother’s nagging, Jimmy still makes the effort to communicate with the only person he seems to actually care for. The sudden jump in the story of childhood to adulthood for Jimmy could reflect his immediate and short time to mature. Because of his short lived childhood, Jimmy tries to find aspects of his life that connect to his youth, like talking to his mother and even the Super-Man sweater he wears when he first meets his sister. A specific panel was dedicated to showing the large red ‘S’ on his shirt. This precise moment is exceptionally influential because it’s the meeting of two children of the same father, who lived out separate childhoods. The single thing bringing them together is the person who played a major role in causing the downfall of Jimmy’s life and created a life Amy was blessed to have.
            The Super-Man image resurfaces multiple times throughout the comic in many significant forms. One of the most noteworthy images of Super-Man is the suicide scene that Jimmy watches from his window at work. One day while Jimmy is coasting through life noticing most of nothing, he glances across the way to view a man in a Super-Man costume as he jumps to his death. Ware emphasizes this scene with the size of the panel on the page. In the comic, many pages contain more than five panels; the suicide has two very large images, one before he jumps and a second with the Super-Man lying face down on the street outside Jimmy’s work. This death scene once again reflects the death of Jimmy’s childhood; moments after Jimmy essentially watches his childhood die, he is once again connected to his past when his mom calls to continue to nag him. Jimmy’s disconnected personality again gives short responses to his mother as he seems to be distracted and annoyed.
            Faster than a speeding bullet, the Super-Man images return to Jimmy’s life. Thankfully for Jimmy, the mail truck that hits him is less powerful than a locomotive. When Jimmy finally goes to meet his father who had abandoned him much earlier in his life, his encounter becomes more awkward as he gets hit by a mail truck in front of his father. After being knocked unconscious, Jimmy begins to open his eyes, he is staring up at a man with what appears to be a red face mask, Super-Man has returned. A few blinks later, Jimmy realizes it is not Super-Man but actually just the mailman who hit him. This trick of the eyes that fooled Jimmy was his own desire for a heroic rescue. Jimmy did not want a ‘regular’ person to come to his rescue, he strived for the heroic entrance of Super-Man to swoop in there and save the day and make everything better. Sadly for Jimmy, none of that happened. His father however, did partake in the act of “saving” Jimmy. Directly after the accident, Jimmy’s father took him to the doctor, where further Super-Man images were formed. As Jimmy’s appointment comes to an end the doctor tells him to “take it easy Super-Man” (Ware 122). Jimmy’s parallel lives of stagnant adulthood and wishful child hood are once again brought to surface. Jimmy’s imagination takes flight once again as he gazes at a bird on the window sill; imagining himself flying in the sky, much like a super hero. Like the sudden end to Jimmy’s childhood, the bird suddenly flies into the examine room window and Jimmy is brought back to his sad, gray reality.
            Although the absence of Jimmy’s father gravely changed his life, Jimmy shows intense character development in the end of the novel as he begins to cry as he finds out about his father’s death. Jimmy is even at the hospital with the iconic “#1 Dad” shirt, that played a major ironic part in the discovery of Jimmy’s father. In a way, his father’s death represents the final nail on the coffin of Jimmy’s childhood. Having watched Super-Man jump to his death earlier in the comic and his father dying now, Jimmy is left as an adult with no one to look up to, no one to seek advice from, and no one to call a role model.  To add insult to injury, even Jimmy’s own mother is done with him. When Jimmy returns to Chicago he meets with his mother to finally see her after he continues to ignore her. To Jimmy’s despair, his mother plans to remarry and Jimmy is replaced as his mother’s main man.
            The continuous image of a heroic super hero figures in Ware’s story show the death of Jimmy’s childhood, just like the death of Super-Man via suicide. Through the death of Jimmy’s childhood we can extract why he is so uncomfortable in almost every social aspect and almost mentally unstable as he envisions death, suicide, and murder on multiple accounts. The final scene Ware provides the reader with is an image of Super-Man flying off into the sky cradling Jimmy. Although Jimmy’s life is eroding in front of his eyes, he still imagines and wishes for the one heroic act of rebirth to his childhood.  The ever resurfacing Super-Man image reflects the death of Jimmy’s childhood and his ever trying ability to balance a real life.

The Prince's Trust. "The Prince's Trust Macquarie Youth Index." N.p., 2010. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.

Ware, Chris. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. New York: Pantheon Books, 2000.

1 comment:

Adam said...

Is Jimmy really sad the morning after? Remember how he puts on the mask and greets his mother after "superman" leaves? I feel like you're not really attending to the relevant details very much. Now, clearly he does suffer from the absence of a father - but this much is obvious, even superficial. The value that you bring will be in your reading of the details - in moving *beyond* the basics.

You do have interesting things to say abou tthe abrupt switch from Jimmy's childhood to his childish adulthood. Still, superman's death as the death of Jimmy's childhood seems a little easy to me. It's not like he suddenly becomes more adult - or are you arguing that superman's death foreshadows the real death of his childhood in the coming pages?

"Jimmy’s parallel lives of stagnant adulthood and wishful child hood are once again brought to surface. Jimmy’s imagination takes flight once again as he gazes at a bird on the window sill; imagining himself flying in the sky, much like a super hero. Like the sudden end to Jimmy’s childhood, the bird suddenly flies into the examine room window and Jimmy is brought back to his sad, gray reality." I really like the first line here, and the whole thing is pretty good. One thing bothers me, though - why is Jimmy so attached to a childhood which was seemingly so miserable? Rather than just go through all the references to his childhood, I'd like you to take a more complex quesiton like that - what is the *power* of childhood to him?

The last several paragraphs don't really add anything. You've talked about the centrality of the death of Jimmy's childhood in the book. Some of the details are good, but the whole thing is also repetitve. I'd like to have seen it expand in a more ambitious direction. How does the death of childhood relate to Amy (for instance, to the shove at the end)? How does it relate to the tension between "the end" and epilogue that we talked about in class? If the death of Jimmy's childhood is so central, is the main importance of the chicago section that it contains the death of another childhood (the death of childhood at 9 vs. the death of childhood at 36?). Your reading is fine, but it doesn't really progress or lead to a compelling conclusion.
Also, importantly, your research is neither good nor relevant.