Wednesday, May 21, 2014

BOOK NOTE: 12 Comics Thoughts

1. If you need an occasional reminder that comics aren’t just superhero stories, check out things like Palookaville #21 by sensitive cartoonist Seth (as I did on Brian Doherty’s recommendation) and see Seth recount things like his contemplative and strangely timeless-feeling walks and his childhood of constantly relocating to new dwellings (a pattern of his dad’s he swore not to repeat, though he also confesses to moving twelve times in his adulthood), plus offer another chapter of his ongoing tale of feuding has-been sibling businessmen. Good, intelligent stuff.

2. I haven’t forgotten superheroes, of course, though sometimes you’re better off forgetting some of the old, dopey stories, like the ones in the little “Blue Ribbon Digest” of Best of DC Comics Presents: Superman that Malinda Boothe kindly gave me.

Collected in 1981 -- a time when broaching liberal themes in comics, even in the most heavy-handed way, still seemed kind of edgy -- these tales pit Superman against, successively, self-doubt, anti-Kryptonian bigotry, faceless non-democratic masses on another world (plagued by demons that cause poverty and ignorance), an oil tycoon secretly masterminding an attack on the Twin Towers (in 1981, really), and, yes, dolphin-men who because they reproduce by cloning and have no females have never learned to love and thus attempt to destroy the world by melting the polar icecaps.

All this proves, I think, that we were already far gone as a culture way back in 1981.

3. The accompanying Best of Supergirl digest from that same year is remarkable mainly as evidence that twentieth-century comics didn’t just make a mockery of physics, they also routinely scoffed at logic and, most unsettlingly, basic psychology.

Watch as a teenage boy keen to learn Supergirl’s secret identity throws a dummy of himself off a cliff soaked in chemicals that will burst into flames if she looks at it with her X-ray vision!

Gasp as Supergirl’s head sorority sister grows to hate her so much she drives them off a cliff in her car but lands safely on haystacks!

Scratch your head in mystification as Supergirl, caught in her secret identity accidentally lifting a 500-lb. dumb bell, super-speedily forms a diamond drill from a charcoal briquette and tosses it such that both ends of the dumb bell are pierced and ground up, draining them of all metal, which she inhales into her lungs and then back out again in a split second with no one noticing so that she can pretend the now-light dumb bell was just papier-mache all along!

Vow to read stuff meant for grown-ups next time!

4. I guess Forever Evil #7, the final issue of the just-ended, most recent DC Comics mega-crossover miniseries, sort of counts, or at least, like most Geoff Johns comics, it has more cinematic pacing and dialogue, plus more violence, than comics did back in Supergirl’s heyday.

Whether its big final-page revelation of the conflict that has been brewing throughout the DC Universe for three years (since its big 2011 reboot) is evidence of knowing maturity on the part of the powers that be or severely arrested development is debatable.

But here is that final page, for the select few competent to judge such things.

6. As former DC Comics editor Dan Raspler taught me, every comics story needs some sort of conventional dramatic/psychological arc regardless of the superpowered and cosmic pyrotechnics, and in Forever Evil it was essentially the redemption of Lex Luthor, who you may be startled to learn is a world-saving advisor to the heroes -- especially Batman -- as of Justice League #30, also out this week.

Given how much the comics and films work in tandem these days, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out Lex and Bruce are former pals in the 2016 movie, which incidentally now has its full official title: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

7. Meanwhile, the Justice League of America comic has ended, the team replaced by Justice League Canada, I kid you not, just as Canada rises above
the U.S. in most-free-market-countries rankings. These are the end times.

8. Comics veteran Val D’Orazio certainly understands that comics and politics can work together, and she’s gotten a lot of attention for her new comic on the life of Edward Snowden.

Confused historians might one day peg me and D’Orazio as the secret founders of Occupy Wall Street, since years ago she reported on my wearing of a V for Vendetta mask at a political protest, which last time I checked Wikipedia was purported to be the first day those masks were used in real protests.

In other feminists-in-comics news, I see that vicious anti-Janelle-Asselin insults led to the complete nuking of the ComicBookResources message boards by the editors, with the nuking here shallowly celebrated as a victory without regard to the vast amounts of info and community thereby lost.

There has to have been a better way, though I do not say that as a defense of goons making rape threats.

9. And for more politically-themed pop culture output -- of an even more libertarian bent -- do remember to check out

10. Or if you sort of (self-)hate pop culture, join me at the Bell House in Brooklyn (149 7th St.) at 8pm to see a live performance by the awful-old-pop-culture-archiving folks at Everything Is Terrible!

11. There is non-terrible pop culture, though, like this short comic based on the “Sabotage!” video by the Beastie Boys (h/t Laura Braunstein)...

12. ...and of course the movie X-Men: Days of Future Past, which I’ve waited for for over thirty years. If I could time travel, I’d tell my younger self that all would one day be well. And that day is Friday.

In my next blog entry, we will discuss that and take a look at my YouTube chat about it with Gerard Perry.

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