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Superhero Last Supper



The Superhero Last Supper

As much as ten years ago I had envisioned the Last Supper involving superheroes. I came to see the apostles themselves and Jesus as superhero characters who influenced western thought and culture in the past, every bit as much as many people believe comic book characters influence the present, or at least embody the sensibilities of many of these historic and significant religious characters.

It always intrigued me which characters would play each disciple; and who would play Jesus? Where would the event take place?

It ended up being Superman, to be the obvious choice as the first and foremost superhero. As the first superhero to be published regularly in his own series, Superman possesses many Jesus-like qualities. Like Jesus, Superman displayed miraculous and powerful feats even beyond that which the other superheroes are capable of. Like Superman, Jesus was more than a man even as Superman is more than a superhero. How many times has Superman sacrificed himself for the world? Like Jesus, Superman has also died and resurrected. Like Jesus, Superman was sent by his father to help the world.

In my interpretation Superman is betrayed by a trusted hero, one of his own colleagues exploiting two of his most significant weaknesses; the first is physical (the Kryptonite, which can be fatal) and the second is emotional (Superman's nobility, purity, and trusting nature).

As for disciples, I made Spider-Man play John because he was addressed as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" as is quoted from scripture. It is also said that John was the "youngest disciple" and I suspect that as Peter Parker, Spider-Man may well be the youngest superhero at the table, probably as young, or even younger than Robin. John is also a key figure in scripture; according to the scholars John, under the influence of the Holy Spirit wrote the Book of Revelation. He alone is the witness to the end of days and final battles between the forces of good and evil; and of all the heroes, Spider-Man is the everyman, the one lucky and crafty enough to survive to tell the tale.

Being the physically largest characters, Hulk is Bartholomew and Hawkman is Simon the Zealot merely to balance out the painting and anchor the other figures into the composition. Thor is James son of Alphaeus and Iron Man is Andrew expressing bewilderment and shock at the betrayal of Superman.

Wolverine played a pivotal role in the modern age of comics by being one of the pioneering characters to blur the lines of morality by freely embracing extreme violence, and having no qualms about taking a villain's life. Wolverine ushered in the new era of the "anti-hero'; when killing criminals is embraced and accepted as the norm; since then many similar, darker superheroes have been introduced into comics. Wolverine represents a stark contrast to the nobility and grace of Superman, who would strive to use humane methods to subdue evildoers rather than using extreme force to take their lives. Thus I felt it appropriate for the controversial Wolverine to portray another controversial character; the infamous Judas Iscariot, one of the most sordid, if not interesting and misunderstood characters in the scriptures. In a way, Judas contrasts Jesus (in servicing himself) as opposed to Jesus' selfless sacrifice (for mankind) as sharply as Wolverine's questionable morality contrasts Superman's idealism. Another way to look at Judas would be as the man who had to step up and betray Jesus so that God's will could be fulfilled; in a way Judas is as much a sacrificial lamb as Jesus. As both men fulfill biblical prophecy, in which Judas sets in motion the events that would lead to Jesus's crucifixion as both men shared the same goal; to fulfill the redemption of mankind through Jesus' fate. This could be parallel to Wolverine and Superman fulfilling their own common goal; to act as heroes, saving innocent lives however at odds their methods may be. Like Judas, Wolverine tips over the salt container with his elbow (symbolism for "spilling the salt", which means "betraying one's master")... Obviously the bag of coins clutched in Wolverine's fist symbolizes materialism, greed, monetary wealth, opportunism and the comic book industry's effort to capitalize on whatever new sociological trend is popular (violent heroes, giant robots, big guns, hyper-sexualization, zombies, whatever is popular, etc). Perhaps symbolizing the degradation in storytelling and cheap commercial gimmicks that negatively affected comic book sales in the 90's (multiple cover variations and other cheesy frills such as "gold" covers, "silver" covers, and other money-making schemes).

Just as Peter held a knife (pointed away from Jesus in Leonardo Da Vinci's masterpiece), foreshadowing his violent reaction to Jesus' arrest in the garden later than evening, Captain America holds his shield. Peter would later become the leader of the Apostles, the Rock of the new church of believers, and Jesus's most reverent supporter. In a way Captain America is very similar in beliefs and noble, wholesome ideals as Superman (truth, justice and the American Way, etc.). The Captain is a true believer in right and wrong, black and white, every bit as much as Peter was convinced that Jesus was "the way, the truth and the light". If DC and Marvel were united as one common universe, there would be no doubt that Captain America would be Superman's most stalwart supporter.

Thomas is played by the Green Lantern, who (as in Leonardo's masterpiece) portrays a clearly upset Thomas' incredulous, skeptical nature by holding his finger up indignantly at Superman (Jesus), only to show his famed ring glowing with defiant power.

Wonder Woman (as James the Greater) looks stunned, her arms in the air as the Flash (portraying Philip) appears to be denying any involvement in the current predicament.

Batman portrays Matthew the tax collector; as he and Robin (as Jude Thaddeus) turn towards a perhaps confused Hawkman (Simon the Zealot) to attempt an explanation. Despite outward appearances Batman and Matthew's each share an analytical mind which serves Batman well in fighting crime and Matthew in collecting taxes. They is also a sense of mistrust against them; all the other heroes do not fully trust the dark, enigmatic Batman and question his methods of inducing fear and intimidation into the "superstitious, cowardly lot" just as the much as the apostles did not trust Matthew because of his profession as a tax collector, who were regarded with contempt and revulsion for using intimidation and fear; threatening legal penalties and harsh punishment (such as Roman flogging) on defiant citizens.

Well this short essay pretty much explains my thought process behind the painting. I didn't want to just throw these characters randomly into the composition. I wanted to stay true to Leonardo's work as much as possible. For example, I didn't want to complicate the painting by putting in an elaborate table setting. I feel Leonardo's focus was the on the characters, not so much the setting. I did want to pay homage to the Hall of Justice from the cartoon series, which holds nostalgic sentiment to me.

Hope you like this. Thank you for reading and viewing! I'm happy to bring enjoyment to the viewers that appreciate this and are fans of the arts.
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© 2012 - 2024 luismhernandez
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JOSUEHDEZ2001's avatar

interesting how you have explained the comparisons, God bless you