What do you imagine “Ultimate Conspiracy” might have been about?
Archive for January, 2008
Well, I was going to write my review of Ghostface Killah’s Supreme Clientele here — that’s right, you heard me! — but I got off-track through reading a bit of John Seavey’s excellent blog, specifically this.
What got me going was a discussion in the comments about whether or not the SHRA is a “realistic” development in the Marvel Universe.
My response, too long to post there:
“It probably bears mentioning that in the early days of the Marvel Universe, many of the most high-profile heroes swiftly developed official government contacts and sanctions. The FF were public figures with known identities anyway, not to mention government ties…the Avengers ended up with their official clearances in a tearing hurry, on Nick Fury’s speed-dial just a little while later…even Professor X had a friend at the FBI. So my position is that we would not have the SHRA in the “real” world if said real world’s superheroes looked anything at all like the ones in Marvel comics…what we’d have instead would be a decent double-handful of duly authorized (if technically autonomous) superfolks who do very little else but encounter “unregistered” super-powered people and where possible befriend, neutralize, recruit, train, and socialize them…having some notable success even with ex-supervillains. And the few superfolks who don’t enjoy these close ties/rehabilitative duties, like Spider-Man and Daredevil, are basically never even seen except when they’re saving somebody’s life…the Daily Bugle’s headlines notwithstanding…except of course that the Avengers and the FF eventually end up knowing them well enough to vouch for them anyway, because that’s their job. Then you’ve got the Hulk, who’s a sick, sick man, who in fact both superheroes and military task forces have gone after repeatedly so I don’t see how anyone’s screwing up too badly on that front. Then you’ve got the supervillains, who you shouldn’t be worried about registering so much as you should be worried about putting in jail. But you kind of need the Avengers, FF, or X-Men to do that for you…gee, good thing you’ve got such a solid relationship with them…because they’re kind of your front line…
Basically, I’m saying this all worked pretty well already, and was as realistic as anything else. In a similar fashion, the Illuminati also tries to make a big deal out of something that already worked just fine: because the FF were already the Illuminati. Close ties and friendships with the Avengers, Inhumans, X-Men, and the demi-monde represented by any number of folks like Dr. Strange, as well as intimate connections in the scientific community, the military, the police…people in other dimensions…Galactus…I mean come on, who’s left? Just Namor? Magneto? Who? The only major superhero who ever acted relatively free of oversight was Iron Man anyway, and this was probably because Tony Stark could be thought of as his oversight, so you can see how the powers-that-be might have let that one slide. In fact I believe you could argue that Tony Stark, Reed Richards, and Professor X already had been doing a whole lot to preserve the heroes’ nominal autonomy (thereby making the government happy as well), practically since they first showed up. Basically running “shops” on the government’s behalf — the Avengers shop, the FF shop, the X-Men shop.
So SHRA = unnecessary. Hell, even the system of oversight portrayed in Invincible isn’t necessary, in this set-up. In fact in order to get the SHRA you had to have several characters written as they’d never been written before, you had to have the New Warriors vain enough to be on a reality TV show, you had to have heroes that previously saved the day on a regular basis fail spectacularly at it in a wholly novel way not part of the regular superhero storytelling toolkit at all…in other words the whole thing was jimmied-up like crazy from the very outset, and it’s still jimmied-up. Not realistic, just a standard-issue “crowd turns against them” story that was rigged by Marvel editorial so that unlike the dozens of stories just like it in the past, this one blows up real good instead of resolving satisfactorily.
Whoof! Thanks for letting me get that off my chest, John!”
You see my point, I trust. It’s all been thought of before, and more carefully — it’s all been done before, and without extradimensional gulags, an adolescent’s understanding of politics and the law BLOWN UP HUGE, or gimmicking things so that your superheroes must fail. Not to mention that bit about the Hulk killing puppies (look it up!) and the main characters all being written as they have never, ever been written before. The structure of the MU’s society that was laid down back in the Sixties actually seems a pretty durn healthy one, actually, for all that it lacks black-ops superfolk who “stay frosty” and commit badassery, just before turning on their handlers when their partners get killed or WHATEVER. Although you’d never know it from reading the Q continuum’s constant avowals that if they were in the crowd outside the Baxter Building they would be the ones who wanted to lynch them! Me, I’d be going: “right on, it’s the Human Torch, he’s my fave!” Which means I would be the one having the Invisible Girl bandage my forehead later, so nyah nyah. But my point is, from reading these explanations of how it would all work in the “real” world, you would think Stan and Jack and Steve never even thought to make any Atom-Age connections with their monstrous romantic superfreaks at all, wouldn’t you? Nope, no subtext there…subtext? Don’t know what you’re gibbering about, my friend, say what’s this Cuban Missile Crisis thing you keep referencing, anyway? I mean it’s absurd. Red paranoia, howzat again? Sorry, didn’t hear you.
Kee-rist. What chowderheads.
It’s kind of interesting to view the superpeople and their teams through this lens, I think. What were the Defenders, but a secret team of scary esoteric non-persons that the government had no clue were even out there? Only the Avengers and the FF knew, and one presumes they kept that secret to themselves. What were the Champions but a team some official probably looked at tapes of and said “ohhh crap, I really do not want to try and deal with Hercules again, did I ever tell you about that thing with the train…?”
Then his buddy says:
“Hercules is an Avenger.”
“Hercules is an Avenger.”
“So…doesn’t he have some kind of super-priority card or something? Doesn’t that take him right out of our jurisdiction? In fact are we even supposed to be seeing this tape? Couldn’t it be, like, Top Secret or something?”
“…You’re a genius.”
“I know. Now c’mon, let’s go to lunch.”
I can see it happening that way. Anyway I know Professor X was very distressed when his contact at the FBI retired (or whatever it was)…maybe the guy shredded the X-files (forgive me) just before he cleaned out his desk? I don’t think anybody ever did anything with that. Hmm…it’s bugging me, I can’t seem to remember that guy’s name…
Also I do believe there is just nowhere near enough attention paid in the modern Marvel U. to the fact that some people are not American nationals. This is really going to screw with Doctor Doom’s diplomatic immunity, I think — “oops, I just remembered I have no problem with arresting somebody for the crime of trying to take over the world, and I don’t care about whether he’s the monarch of a foreign country or not!” Boy, Reed really has gotten absent-minded, hasn’t he? Quick, somebody register the Silver Surfer, Clea, the Black Panther, the Titanium Man, the Super-Skrull! And stick ‘em in the…
Wait, in the Negative Zone?
Uh…guys…the Negative Zone is kind of, how does one put this, not safe to be walking around in. No, really: look, you can check these Marvel comics about it…
Here’s what I think (stealing liberally from another comment I made on John’s site): the desire to put gaudily-coloured superfolk into these particular type of “realistic” situations over and over is basically a kink, at this point. I mean yeah, okay, it starts with you making a bit of harmless fun. “Pervert suits”, aren’t they silly…but then after a while it starts to look a bit like you’re not really here for the hunting, you know? And how long ago was Miracleman #15, anyway? You know what I’m saying? These ideas are not exactly what you’d call original. I mean, Mark Millar is doing a bunch of PR about this new series he’s got coming up that’s set in a dystopian future where the villains have killed all the heroes, and then there’s all these, like, supervillain gangsters running the…
Oops, sorry. Guess I nodded off there for a minute. Now, what was I saying?
Oh yes. Mark Millar’s writing this edgy sort of dystopian fu
zzz…snort…wha? Wha’ happen? Oh my God, that shit is like Nyquil, isn’t it? Although I suppose there must be somebody who finds it, uh…what’s the word…you know, for when something wakes you up…
All I have to do, is MEEE-EE-EEME, MEME MEME MEME MEME…
Two things, Bloggers (well, three if you count the SF radio thing that I plan to return to in my next post): one, pick a famous writer/penciller/inker/colorist/letterer team that you know of, and say what comic title they would’ve rocked the world by working on.
I’ll give you examples: Roy Thomas and Neal Adams on Iron Man.
Steve Englehart, Gene Colan, and Tom Palmer on The Incredible Hulk.
Claremont/Byrne/Austin on Legion Of Super-Heroes.
Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz on Dr. Occult.
And two: just to annoy Brian Cronin, give me your line-up of ideal Avengers. I dare you to go nuts on this. Go crazy!
This was a drunken post by me — nevertheless, let a million poisoned flowers bloom!
Suppose you were a farmer, with an ordinary crop of wheat in your fields.
Suppose someone offered you a crop of super-wheat — hugely inflated yields, pest-resistant, the stuff practically harvests itself…
But every single plant was the clone of a single superplant.
Would you be cool with that?
I have recently gotten the notion that today’s comics buyer (me included) is a superclone like this. Have some money now; don’t mind buying a big-ass GN collection that costs a million bucks or something, if I want it…
But as a clone, if a disease comes along that can wipe out the parent, it’s a lock that I’ll fall before that exact same disease too.
I’m the type of guy who might buy a big fat super-expensive repackaging of an old comic that hasn’t seen print in a number of years. I might spend like a hundred bucks on it, hundred and fifty. I might even do that every couple of months.
But, what if something happens to me?
It might happen to everybody else who’s like me, too.
Just a thought.
Or: “Secret Secret Wars”
If you were waiting for it, here it is. Fair warning, though: not only is this ground well-trodden, but it’s been well-trodden by people a lot smarter and better-educated than I am, and honestly I’m not sure I’m up to the task of covering it. It’s actually much too big a topic for me. Why it would take someone like Dave Fiore to grapple with it for real…
However. I will endeavour to do my best. So…
It begins, as these things often do, with an ending. Sometime in the late Sixties, by all accounts I’ve read, Stan Lee had the nerve to ask Jack Kirby this fan-fic question:
“What would happen if the Fantastic Four fought God?“
I recently viewed the Nineties re-issue of the 1967 Thor cartoon feature, prefaced by some remarks from Sneaky Stan, no doubt located someplace near the Grotto of the Playboy Mansion at that time…in which he said that it was his idea to wonder about what some “New Gods” would look like, translated into comics form…
And let me blow your mind for just a minute, Bloggers: because is it not possible, even considering Jack Kirby’s own reminiscences, that it was freakin’ Smilin’ Stan who put that idea into his head, or at least supplied the accidentally-missing puzzle-piece to what Kirby had been working up to all along?
Is it so impossible to believe that Jack thought “ridiculous, Stan…but wait HEY WAIT A MINUTE…!”
Anyway we have the Galactus Trilogy, probably the most reverberative Marvel Comics ever made. Space-Jehovah appears in the sky like the detonation of an ideational bomb, and pieces of conceptual debris fly off everywhere…susbsequently, they rain down on everything. I, too (declares the Silver Surfer), can unleash forces that can never be leashed again…
And so: FIRST PAGE SPLASH! In which we introduce our thesis, i.e. that it’s a degenerate fiction only, that can release the seeds of future imaginative fruit. By rotting away their membranous cage, you see? Or perhaps I should say: beyond the obvious potency of the disciplined narrative, focussed, rigourously discursive, and intentional, there’s a whole world of para-values whose only yardstick is the ordinal measurement, where though the compass spins in search of its attractor, the cardinal directions have fallen off of its dial. A world without degrees: a world comprised only of a million unlogged associations.
And language in general is like this, too. I’ve mentioned synaesthesia before — the most common form of which is the artful (I say artful because I feel it’s artful) confusion of numbers with colours — but part of the reason why I’ve decided synaesthesia is a lot more common than we generally believe it to be is that words are also subject to synaesthetic confusions — “artful” confusions — that may be the result of a multitude of untracked associations, or may not. Take, for example, the word “shark” — to (at least) native speakers of English, this word verges on onomatopoeia: maybe it’s the combination of the sibilant “sh-” and the hard “k”…or the near-homonym it makes with “sharp”…or maybe it’s even the “r” in shark, which so nearly evokes the utterance “hard ‘k’” all on its own…but shark sounds sharp, to us. Shark sounds like jagged teeth tearing at crunchy meat. And, is this all that surprising? In evolutionary terms, we commonly assume words to have come out of primate sound-cries (Sound-Cries Of The Living Dead Man!), sounds compelling alertness to environmental (or social) changes…kind of like sign language for the mouth. Some basic signals from this part of our animal heritage probably survive unaltered even in our more evolved suite of human expressions: we still point at objects we wish others to take note of, for example. We still yell to get attention. Okay, so we don’t try to tell anyone there’s a forest fire by doing a big dance that acts out what the fire does, or by making “fire sounds”, but even if our use of worded language now depends almost exclusively on associational (and inter-associational!) cues we pick up in our early childhood, it seems silly to argue that poetry (for example) operates independently of the Weak Onomatopoeic Principle I’m advocating here. “The silver reaches of the estuary“, I would tell my tut-ees, when I’d exhausted every other approach to enabling their comprehension of poetry. “Doesn’t that sound like something to you?”
With art, it’s pretty obvious: things that look like things, act on our perceptions in the same way as do the things they look like. Association is straightforward, in art.
In language, though, it’s a little more shifty. “Shifty,” now what does that sound like? Unlogged, untraced influences are everywhere in our linguistic associational matrix: in the neural network (for that’s precisely what it is!) of our speech-decoding ability. But, if that’s all there were, couldn’t anything mean anything? But then what of the silver reaches of the estuary?
Synaesthesia seems to me to be the same thing. There are associations to be made in the purely sensory range, too: a kind of almost-language, if you will, of shapes and colours and attachments of relationship.
Or, okay: it may be a matter of the origin-points again. People have favourite colours, for example. But why should we have favourite colours? It’s a question that evolutionary biology can’t yet answer. There is the ability to associate, perhaps ultimately arising out of the evolutionary necessity of being able to recognize faces, or to theorize about the inner states of other social animals…which is rooted in our common bodily construction. But then there is also the infinite webwork of preferences, even of aptitudes, which is not necessarily rooted the same way. Music is the best example of this: music is universal, but some perceptual translations of music are common, and some are rare. And you can’t put that down to the neural net of inter-association, at least you can’t do so with any confidence. At a certain point, the origin of our response to qualia becomes utterly mysterious: we cannot say that it is associational, but we cannot say it’s instead something called “cannot-say”, without really saying nothing at all into the bargain.
In short, there will always be something to us, which is left undiscovered.
Well, the complexities of our sensory/apperceptive suite were built up over a few billion years of blind incremental accident, so it’d be foolish to expect anyone not to be bored with any off-handed attempt to sum them up, I guess. Suffice it to say that all of us who actually use this suite (rather than attempt to tweeze apart the layers of its mechanism) should be familiar with the realization that there are conventional patterns of association, as well as unconventional ones, and that they’re all nonetheless covered by the big umbrella of human “pattern-making”. And even in Arcadia, you know…well, here we are. Cogito ergo sum. The pattern is us: man vs. world. Somewhere outside deconstruction and semiotics, outside philosophy and science and religion and history, there’s the fluctuation of the ocean, the emptiness of the desert, the gloom of the necropolis, the poignancy of the night sky. The taste of dirt; the sound of rain; the yellow eye of the Sun. The silver reaches of the estuary.
A kind of chaos, to which we supply a kind of order. By the magic trinity of sight, choice, and accident.
Jim Woodring says everybody sees ghosts, you know: flashes of green faces, at the periphery of vision.
I say the number “eight” is coloured indigo, calm and cool.
We all share the tearing jagged teeth of “shark”. And the knowledge that “Clair De Lune” is beautiful.
And then there’s the love of pretend stories that never happened. Which is beyond universal.
Hold on, I’m about to get somewhere.
In his excellent “The Cheese And The Worms”, Carlo Ginzburg recounts the history of an Italian miller jokingly called “Menocchio” by his friends and neighbours: a literate man with a passion for books, who nonetheless couldn’t help decoding the written word in the style of the oral tradition he was born into. Confronted with a hundred different texts saying a hundred different things on the same subject, to him it seemed supremely natural to sift them together, and find the “real” meaning that together they concealed, as the broken pieces of glass in a kaleidoscope together conceal the “real” image of the thing beheld. But then this also led him to novel conclusions absolutely unintended, and frankly unimagined, by the authors of the books he studied. So novel were his ideas, in fact, that he was tortured by the Roman Inquisition for them: they wanted to let him go, you see, but he just wouldn’t recant. He couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He thought he’d found The Answer. He insisted that (for example) the Holy Spirit entered the Host of Communion. Crazy talk, Menocchio. It’s the hot iron for you, I’m afraid. Poor deluded bastard.
Of course, centuries later Philip Jose Farmer would create “Doc Savage: His Life And Times”, Stan Lee would create the “Fantastic Four Fan Page”, Warren Ellis and John Cassaday would create “Planetary”, and Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill would create “League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier” (actually Alan created a bunch of stuff like that, but let’s just limit our examples, shall we? Otherwise we’ll be here all night).
Followers, all. But! In a grand tradition.
That is to say, in the tradition of fiction itself. Because Menocchio was by no means the first, nor was he the last, to be caught in this snare…all of our fictions begin as transgressions, it could be argued (and indeed that is exactly what I am arguing), as all our religions began the same way, and all of our psychological theories too, our art forms and our philosophies, our sciences and our histories. None of it is “true”, in the way that the image beyond the kaleidoscope is “true”: because we never get to see the image beyond the kaleidoscope. The image beyond the kaleidoscope has, in a way, not existed yet.
And so it’s become necessary to invent it.
So where the heck is this “truth” character, anyway? That guy still owes me fifty bucks…!
Anyway let’s return to comics now, that most degenerate of all literatures, and most fractional of all genres. Most marginal, if you see what I mean. Because the more marginal the fiction, the more freely transgressive it’s permitted to be. Just so long as, you know, it doesn’t actually go outside the body of gross cultural permissions…
Just so long as it stays trash, in other words.
Trash culture. That’s an interesting thought, an interesting designation, don’t you think? “All that is not important”: and my God, the scope of that! It’s amazing. Because “important”, as we know, means all that is part of the hierarchy, all that composes the structure of the golden ladder to Heaven…all that is canonical and regulated, all that would suffer a complete collapse if not understood as order and focus…”importance”, the very spine of culture. Where intentions and interpretations are judged, and with an exceedingly fine edge too.
Down here in the muck, meanwhile, anything goes. No one cares. We all can be Menocchios, down here. It’s freedom, baby, yeah! And no fine edges to be found anyplace: therefore the reader simply overwhelms the text. Let alone the writer. “Open” readings, talk about your “open” readings! It’s almost too open. There’s no Capital-S SOCIETY at all down here, just so long as the Good Guys do, in fact, win at the end of the day. That’s really all “what’s important” requires of us, that the good guys win — because they don’t expect us to know any more. Because another word for trash, naturally, is juvenilia — so while established forms like the novel are replete with characters who supply their own moral (and a grim one it usually is), the world of the juvie is liberated from the necessity of accomodation with fate — in the world of the juvie, transgressions are not paid for, but forgiven, even as in the social world the transgressions of juveniles are not to be paid for as strictly as the transgressions of adults. Cheap expiation of sin is everywhere, and it doesn’t matter what numerical majority chooses to engage with trash fiction or trash entertainment, here: this is about the rules, and the rules say that the preoccupation of juvie fiction need not be with the price of morality, but only with the identification of it. In other words, morality is supplied from without, not within: so do the good guys win? Then fine, trash culture; so long as that rule holds true, you need not bother Higher Society with the details of your disgusting habit. Expiate away.
Therefore, think about it: for the most part we escape analysis, but for our own analysis. Even Mark Kingwell only turns his high-powered philosophical armamentarium on us in order to comment on the analytical method he’s using while he does it! Only we, who care for the more-than-half-accidental meanings that shore up our lake of crapola enough to try to sense where their currents run, are authorities down here.
And, outside of the good guys winning…
No one’s watching.
Hence: freedom baby, yeah. What we lack in discrimination (note how many of our stories exalt simplistic “heart-following” — this is not a mature commentary on the human condition, nossir), we make up for in the virtues of strange community…polymorphous, democratic, nutso-inclusive, that’s us! Look over here: Kirk/Spock slashfic. And look over here! Harry Potter “shipping”. This is reading that goes beyond even the boundaries of the page. I remember once seeing an interview with Martin Amis in which he protested “…but the reader is an artist too“, and maybe it’s not quite what he meant — well, definitely it’s not what he meant — but we absolutely prove that, down here. Where we’re close to fiction’s transgressive roots. Where “fandom” is something people claim, even fight over the boundaries of…well, said boundaries not even having an existence independent of their fighting, of course, because that’s the imaginative exercise too…to self-identify through imagination (“simple” imagination, like “simple” heart-following), to develop camps and clades, to find a space in which to talk therapeutically, ritualize behaviours, fetishize attractors, develop affections and enthusiasms….
Where we can, perhaps, more clearly see the difference between the mysterious origin-matters of instinctual response, and the fallout of massive inter-associational attached meaning.
This goes deep, Bloggers; maybe all the way to the bottom. It may in fact be a matter of “Our Fan-Fic: Ourselves”. Because is not all trash fiction of a piece with the lowliest fan-fic it inspires?
One day Stan says to Jack: “hey, what if the FF fought GOD?”
Or to put it another way, who would win in a fight, Jesus or Superman.
These are debased questions, degenerate questions. Questions that don’t follow the rules, questions that challenge the ability of the imagination to transgress. God and Superman are not commensurable characters; they exist in completely different conceptual milieux. They can’t be rationalized together. They can’t be. It isn’t allowed!
But imagination finds a way, and so we get Galactus.
More exactly: we get an expression of imagination which seeks to reconcile incommensurable ideas, which is (I put it to you) another word for imagination’s mythological impulse or affinity. That stupidly, illegitimately creative thing! That maker of loopholes that don’t exist! That junk-bond trader of the psyche!
What it says doesn’t make any sense…but it insists it’s making new sense.
Tolkien does that too, by the way: except in his case he insists he’s making old sense, not new, though it’s obviously pretty postmodern either way. Look: Glorfindel beats the Nazgul rider because he’s all elfy. But then what does that mean, for heaven’s sake?
Well, Tolkien fans understand very well what it means, though the hierarchy would be angry with the lack of logic evident in that understanding of theirs. New loopholes. Old meanings. Or to put it in terms understandable up on the Ladder: mythological thinking. And it seems quite out of left field, but this peculiar transformation of wish to sense to explanation that Glorfindel’s “elfy-ness” represents…arbitrary…postmodern…magical…is nevertheless not unjustified, just because it’s illegitimate. Indeed justification is the whole point of it, the whole point of the mythological imagination’s exercise, the whole point of what that illegitimacy is being used for. Justification is the whole point, the whole meaning, of the meeting of the ford in the first place! Psychologists will tell you that a meeting at a ford is a meeting at a ford, is a meeting at a ford, and all meetings at all fords are all the same, and they’re so right…and yet it was Jung himself (I use the elfyness for my own purpose here: “Jung himself“) who pointed out that the archetypes don’t vibrate all by themselves…but it’s the way they’re taken up into the psychology of the individual (hello, Bully!) that mobilizes and activates them. Now, you can believe in Jung or not, it doesn’t matter for this: because you can’t find me a psychologist anywhere on Earth these days who’ll deny the value of interpreting a dream to understand what it’s “telling” you. It simply doesn’t matter if they’re Freudian, Jungian, or whatever: it doesn’t even matter if they believe a dream has anything naturally to “tell” after all. But a dream’s a dream, and whether it has intrinsic meaning or not, its symbols “vitalize” when they are made sense of by the dreamer. But Jung would’ve added something to that formula of vitalization, crazy semi-mystic postmodernism-anticipator that he was:
“Of course, by being understood, the dream gets vitalized too.”
Justification, conversation, refreshment…ahhh, refreshment. For therapy as for mythology, it’s always the main thing. Because we never will get to see the image beyond the kaleidoscope, will we? And so we must be satisfied with what refreshment we can make up for ourselves. And this works a little bit like what George Clooney’s character was saying in “Three Kings”: “first you do the thing you’re afraid of…then you get the courage after.”
“But that’s not fair!”
And justification works the same way, in these meetings by the ford: justification comes first, not after. The leap of faith comes first!
Just as it does in the grammar of shapes and colours, or in the formation of notionally-onomatopoeic words (which kind of aren’t, really…I mean, “molybdenum”?)…it comes first.
Because imagination doesn’t see, but it makes.
Except, that is, when it’s seeing: here, look, I already gave you the dictum that some perceptions are conventional, and some are not…now what’s the bigger mystery, between the two of them? Gaze on some weird, unforced narrative orderliness for me, if you will: Becky Cloonan goes for Joss Whedon with a big sword, and the fucker is FROZEN; Dick Hyacinth is a VAMPIRE and Barry Kitson is a PALADIN (wow!), and “Bully = Minotaur; easy one”…ah, but Piaget might not have agreed, you see…
Waid vs. Simonson!
Aragones as a D&D monk!
Walt Kelly as Group Scientist!
Eisner vs. Eisner! Tom Brevoort’s telescoping arms!
So let’s get serious: how much of that is seeing, and how much is making? Careful! If you answer either way, you lose your own Buddha-nature…
And here’s a true story for you: when I used to play a lot of solitaire, I used to bliss out and imagine that some face cards liked each other/hated each other more than other face cards…
Which I freely admit is kind of weird…
Or, is it? Because don’t you know that all the face cards are supposed to reference august personages of semi-mythical times past? Hector, Charlemagne…one takes another, red on red, black on black…sixes and fourteens…
But then again, it’s all fan-fic. Read your Bulfinch’s: Hector’s sword? Became Roland’s. And who did Roland become?
Jesus, it’s just like solitaire…
Could Superman beat up the Nazgul? Would Lancelot take Hector, or Hector Batman? Grendel vs. Gilgamesh, bets anyone? How about Tom Swift vs. Jonny Quest vs. Joe Hardy vs. Sock Jones? Bets? Bets?
Like the man said, once: who makes the world?
Or: which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Jung tells us (yes, Jung again) that when a symbol is doubled or repeated (Batman vs. The Phantom vs. Tarzan vs. John Carter vs. Doc Savage– bets?), it’s because the archetypal information is still struggling for clear expression…which in the context of this discussion here we might take to mean: yes, those two magical complementarities, justification and refreshment. And they’re always trying to get out. But onto what?
Who will lay it out for them?
I dunno, could Oprah beat Howard?
Should it be Harry and Hermione, or maybe it should be Hermione and Bashir instead? Yeeeaaaaahhhh…
Dracula vs. Captain America?
If a dog and a monkey had a fight, who do you think would win?
What If…The Beatles Had Become The Fantastic Four?
I know that the ease of such pattern-matching seems trivial to some. Not to me. Because up on the ladder, above the muck, none of these questions have answers. Heck, they don’t even qualify as questions, up there. But down here, answers proliferate, sometimes align, sometimes diverge…we actually have more answers than questions, I sometimes think. And it’s all very mysterious. It’s all very exciting. It’s all very fun. But do we even know what we’re doing?
I think we’re rotting out the skin of the fruit, so that the seeds can get free.
But that’s just me.
And of course, your mileage may vary.
Goodnight, Bloggers! I had some bad news today, and so this has been therapy. And so it’s maybe not been as nice and neat as I would’ve made it otherwise, but you’ll forgive me, yes? And I have not put in any links, but if someone’s tremendously interested I’ll strive to put them in to order. Anyway I must take off for a few days. See you soon.
Mary Jane Watson?
A fucking supermodel?
Give me a break; that’s when I knew the professionals had left the building, and been piled into the dumpster.
Funny how no one EVER questions “Supermodel Mary Jane”. Well, natch! She’s a fucking supermodel, who would question that? Hey loser, what’re you trying to prove?
It kind of makes me sick.
We wouldn’t even be having these RETARDED discussions if she wasn’t a fucking supermodel, now would we? I mean who would care? Oh, gosh, Spider-Man’s fucking MARRIAGE! Woe is fucking ME! So debilitatingly HARD to write stories about THAT, about him being married to some girl from QUEENS…!
Here’s two things: one, JMS’ decision to make Peter Parker a high-school teacher was SELF-SERVING and WRONG — actually let’s not blame JMS — NO, LET’S BLAME HIM! — no, let’s not blame him, that’s silly. There were times, after all — TIMES! — when he made it work. Well, but anyone can make anything work in a comic-book, for God’s sake, and so what? Jesus Christ, I’m surprised Joey Q. didn’t physically tackle him in the hallway. What makes Spidey look older, and therefore (by Q logic) more boring? Having a supermodel wife? (oh my God, she never will live that down, will she?) Or being some old fucking coot telling kids about the way thing were when he was young? Seriously. SERIOUSLY.
I hated the marriage.
I hated the unmasking more.
And I hate this. Harry Fucking Osborne. You know, I always loved Harry. I loved his hair. I loved his skinniness. He was a great character. That I learned about through reprints in the early Seventies!! When he would boast about his new fucking jalopy. Christ Almighty, am I really being asked to go through that AGAIN? Holy Jumpin’ Shit, if you ever wanted to see that this new Marvel has no fresh ideas at all…
Of course JMS’ whole thing was new fresh ideas. And, did he deliver? Tell you what, I thought JMS treated the marriage squarely, sometimes delicately, often beautifully. He did a good job. He made it new. Overall, I thought his run was less than stellar, but he never took a knee where the marriage was concerned, and you can give him that, and that’s a fair bit.
But I don’t care abouut the marriage anymore. That was — what? In the Eighties? — a long time ago, anyway.
Don’t care about it. Choose to have stopped paying attention to it. They broke up? They’re back together? Whatever, just stop the chain-yankin’.
I despise the “Mad-About-You”-ism of having MJ always know Peter was Spider-Man. To put it plainly: it’s not in continuity. Or if it it is, Mary Jane is a bitch in the Seventies scripts of just about everyone. No, seriously, the Enchantress has got nothing on her. MJ ain’t too nice in some of those Spider-Man scripts, and I can live with that, but if she knows the big secret then she’s a huge cow. Really an awful person. No good. He should not be with her. She should not be with anybody. I mean even with her not knowing the secret it was borderline…
But no one cares, do they?
Okay. On to One More Day.
It’s bloody stupid.
You mean I exerted myself for you, so as to tolerate the new status quo, and now you want me to go back?
Tell ya what: NO.
Fuck, is it 2007 or what? And pardon me for being a bastard, but isn’t this really about aging married comic-book geeks wanting to fuck the Black Cat? I mean, when you boil it all down. The word is unseemly. It’s fucking unseemly. Why it’s so unseemly, it’s practically unseelie. Anyway, whichever way you look at it, it’s wrong. Wrong to make me try to care, when I don’t. When I forgot how to, years ago.
“Hail the conquering hero!!”
“Oh, Petey…I call you Tiger ’cause you’re not.”
I’ll stick with my MJ, thanks. And, oh yeah, forgot to mention, my goddamn Peter Parker!
Hey, Marvel, guess what?
That’s not blood you’re hemorrhaging: it’s my goodwill.
Oh, but maybe I’m not being fair.
Well, fair to who?
To One More Day, Brand New Day, whatever, I say:
You lost me at hello.
Actually, you lost me at “The Other”…now what the fuck was that huge pile of nonsense about?
Okay, goodbye, Spider-Man. I’m blocking your calls. Fool me once, and all that.
When, oh God? When will I finally learn that NuMarvel, that once brought me back, is over?
It’s really over.
Welcome to the Nineties, people. You can have your old room back, too.
And naturally, I have Alan Moore to thank for it. I just read four pages of Black Dossier, and ran to the computer, and sat here (where I’m still sitting) for two hours madly typing stuff out.
I think he and I may be connected through Ideaspace.
Anyway, for all you folks who weighed in on my Open Conspiracy, I’m happy to tell you that I’m almost finished writing the follow-up post for it…I would finish it right now, except a) I’m out of beer, and b) I have to get up and be functional for a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. Oh, and wouldn’t it be just great if I walked in there in a subhumanly hung over condition. “Oh my God, Nurse, get me forty million cc’s of…of…!” No, it’s fine, Doc: I just have a comic-book blog.
I can’t promise it tomorrow. Hell, I can’t even promise that it’ll be any good. But I can promise it won’t be too much longer a wait. You’ve all been very patient, thank you. So here’s hoping you get rewarded.
Oh and by the way…Happy New Year. You think this is the year we’ll finally get the jetpacks?
Because that would be cool, don’t you think?
Christmas reviews coming soon. By the way, I bought Lost Girls. Ya ta!
Just reading what the Keeper’s been writing about Matt Brady, Joe Casey, Steve Gerber, and the relaunch of The Defenders…
My comment there is in moderation-turnaround, but I won’t repeat myself here. Instead, I’ll just wonder aloud: what the heck do people even think The Defenders are?
And, why is it so hard to keep them in print?
I think the answer is that it is not very hard to keep them in print, but it is hard to keep track of what they are, and aren’t. Whenever I hear someone talk about reviving them, I groan inwardly — okay, outwardly — because I’ve seen the franchise “rebooted” several times, now, and I’m beginning to think the reboots are the problem.
Because, what is being rebooted?
Kurt Busiek and Erik Larsen (hope I’ve got the spelling right, there) did as fine a job as I could’ve wished rebooting the characters and plotlines of the Englehart and Gerber runs from back in the Seventies, and believe me, I’ve got no complaints. I loved it; I thought it was great. But, was it just nostalgic pastiche? Oh…I don’t know, y’know? Does it really matter? These are superhero comics we’re talking about, here, so do we really need to blow up the baby’s bathwater with a hydrogen bomb? BOOOOOM…!
No, probably not necessary.
Then there was the Giffen/DeMatteis/Macguire run, even more tongue-in-cheek, although I think those guys always do a nice job leavening the humour (isn’t that supposed to work the other way around?) with a little bit of ominous dramatic looming. Another good job! And holy crap can that Macguire guy draw!
But neither of these things worked out in the long term.
Is it the characters, do you think? Do they perhaps resist each other, repel each other?
No, no, no, that’s ridiculous. Of course they don’t. They’re fictional, for God’s sake. Holy jumpin’ catfish, what a cop-out. “These characters just don’t work together.” Oh, come on. Sure they do. Why wouldn’t they? And if they don’t, why do you keep trying to make them do so? Is this some kind of alchemical riddle, or something? Is it really supposed to be a search for some kind of elusive magic formula of ultimate Dr. Strange/Sub-Mariner/Hulk utility?
I mean, for heaven’s sake…it’s already been done.
A few times.
But it didn’t work. Didn’t “work”. Apparently.
Except it did work, and anyway what’s “work”?
The Defenders concept. I love it when people talk about this. Not “the work of Steve Gerber and Sal Buscema”, not “the work of Dave Kraft and Keith Giffen” — no, the concept. That’s what’s making this all so hard, I guess. It’s difficult to update the concept.
Except, it isn’t. Because what were the Thunderbolts, but an updating of the Defenders “concept”? And then the new Thunderbolts…yes: though I miss the old Thunderbolts, this new batch is, again, an updating of the “concept”. And, need it be said: a updating of some vitality. Hey, even the New Warriors (though I never liked them) I think could easily be read as a “Defendersish” team, could easily be read as “vital”: in his Newsarama “interview”, Casey absolutely nails it to the “wall” (sorry, been reading Kirby) when he talks about his Defenders being like the Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans — because a superteam’s a superteam, but some superteams are “utility players”, and sometimes you need that, because it makes for a broader focus, a more unpredictable approach to superhero subject matter. It’s been tried with The Outsiders; it’s been tried with the Doom Patrol. It’s been tried with the freakin’ X-Men. It’s not that hard to do. It is truly the most basic of the superhero structure stuff. Hell, it isn’t even the X-Men: it’s the A-Team. Buncha loners, with different skills. Don’t necessarily get along. Fightin’ tha evil.
So, what’s the problem?
The problem is, it’s the environment, stupid. Not the characters. Not the concept. The problem is, here is your blank canvas, and you can do anything you want with it: street-level story, cosmic story, time-travel story, feelgood story, wolf-in-the-fold story, any story (just keep the underwear on the outside)…so what story are you after the telling of?
Hey, Warren Ellis knows what story he’s telling…
So, here, have Dr. Strange, the Hulk, the Sub-Mariner, even the Silver Surfer…hey, and we’ll throw in Nighthawk, Valkyrie, Hellcat, Son Of Satan, Daredevil, oh heck, whoever you want, just to keep you from getting bored, okay? You want Moondragon, you got Moondragon! Angel and Iceman? Go crazy! Gargoyle?
I just want you to be you!
(Psst…lose the Gargoyle thing, it doesn’t work.)
But here’s what’s what, in my opinion: the only way to follow (say) Gerber’s work on Defenders is to do it as well as he did it. That’s all. It’s just gotta be good. The Defenders, under Gerber’s pen, were…oh, what’s the stupid word we have for that now…oh yeah, quirky. They were quirky, I guess! But you don’t have to be “quirky”, you know. Maybe you don’t feel like “being” quirky. So, just write the “hell” out of it, then! Quirkiness be “damned”!
And then watch your editorial supervisors jump at any chance to kill it, no matter how “good” it is.
Because the Marvel braintrust of today doesn’t need the excuse of poor sales, when they’ve got the excuse of poor vision. Look, there they go, mining the back catalogue for things to reboot, to “update”…and they would love, for more than just one reason, to update and reboot the Defenders…but y’know what?
As the Defenders, the Defenders don’t fit the current corporate culture. The current editorial environment. Sales would be squeezed anyway (there’s a reason most old Defenders covers feature the Hulk so prominently), but more important even than sales (!) is the fact that it’s awfully hard to make this particular bunch of misfits, this particular A-Team, work within the current fictional structure of the “Marvel Universe”. You’ve got a philosopher with a crystal ball, a monster with purple pants, a king with an attitude problem, an alien Hamlet, and some girl with a stainless-steel bra chased by some fruit-loop in a bird costume, and just exactly what story is there for you to tell with any of these people?
A reboot of the (shudder) Secret Defenders — yes, that I could see. Because it would be a good marketing gimmick.
The historical Defenders, though, were a marketing gimmick that found a way to rise above — or perhaps more accurately slip beneath — both marketing and gimmickry.
But, in a very particular way.
And it’s not the way of today. Today it’s Thunderbolts that rises above by slipping beneath. Yesterday it was X-Statix. Joe Casey, I’ve got a lot of confidence in your ability, but the only people who want to see Dr. Strange, Nighthawk, and Valkyrie together again sipping tea with Clea and Hellcat are guys like me and you, who don’t buy Marvel comics anymore. Today they want badasses. And even with the Hulk, the Defenders aren’t badasses.
Because the Defenders are a kinder, gentler non-team.
And that sort of thing’s a bit out of fashion these days.
Maybe because we expect less from our outsiders, than we used to?
I want you to be you; but don’t you see, what they want is that “edgy” revamp of Count Chocula, Frankenberry, and Booberry? That’s what The Defenders oughtta be, to them.
And look: there’s Warren, busy giving it to ‘em.
But I liked First Family quite a bit, so I’ll check out your Defenders. Just like I liked Invincible, so I checked out…
I mean, just like I liked Dan Slott’s Thing, so I checked out…
Just like I…
Damn. So is it the new editorial direction that’s making all this happen, or isn’t it? Or maybe it is that zeitgeist shit, after all, that’s responsible.
(Psst: lose the zeitgeist, it doesn’t work.)
Okay, end of rant.