So, kind of on a whim, I popped up to New York last week for what turned out to be a pretty great panel on superheroes’ relationship to New York. And because I’m a crazy workaholic, I wrote it up for The Atlantic, and added some thoughts about the necessity of urbanism to superheroics:
It’s impossible to visit the top of the Empire State building for the first time, particularly on an unseasonably warm, clear night in early spring, and not believe something momentous is about to happen. Is that the buzz of biplanes harrying an oversized and misunderstood ape? Namor the Sub-Mariner tearing off the building’s spire in an act of spite against New York’s land-dwellers? Spider-Man catching a breather on the spire? A young comic-book artist experiencing his first kiss with the man who plays his most famous character on the radio?That sensation was particularly strong last week after I left a presentation at the New York Center for Independent Publishing. There’s no denying the case that comics artists Danny Fingeroth, Frank Tieri, and Billy Tucci, and long-time comics commentators Gene Kannenberg, Jr., and Peter Gutiérrez made at the forum — that New York City has played an extraordinary role as a backdrop, home, and battleground for superhero comics great and small. But New York’s persistent role in the comics raises an intriguing question: can there be superheroes without cities?
Really do check it out: the panelists were excellent, and I always enjoy the big-picture stuff on the comics. Art Spiegelman’s multi-hour History of the Comics lecture is one of the best things I’ve ever been privileged to attend. And a travel note, the Empire State Building at night on a weekday is astonishing: relatively uncrowded, quiet, and astonishingly gorgeous once you get to the top. I’d never been before this trip, and when it’s not packed with tourists, the lead-up to the elevators is like the world’s biggest and most elegant movie theater: yards and yards of velvet rope, deco details on the walls, decorous elevator operators.