This is embarrassing. I hit the wrong button.
Click in haste, repent at leisure. Honestly, one of these days that post is gonna make it up, and stay up.
“Some Circumstantial Evidence Is Very Strong, As When You Find A Trout In The Milk” – H.D. Thoreau
This is embarrassing. I hit the wrong button.
Click in haste, repent at leisure. Honestly, one of these days that post is gonna make it up, and stay up.
…And they’re all dead as doornails, naturally. So welcome, friends, to yet another discussion of scale, science, and the saddest thing in the world, this installment focussing on the ONE THING that nobody ever bothers to notice about Creationism…and I don’t know why no one ever does, because it’s a lot more critical than Creationism’s fumble-fingered attempt to undo evolution, and yet so much easier to defend…and along the way in defence of it, you pretty much can’t help but drop a million-volt razor-wire fence around evolution, too, just as a necessary consequence…
So where’s Richard Dawkins when you need him?
The answer to this: somewhere over yonder letting Creationists frame the “debate”, is where he is. But this is not really something he deserves blasting for (although I confess in the past I’ve quite enjoyed letting loose the occasional blast at him), because the mistake he makes is the same one you or I might make, and to the degree he looks foolish it’s only because he ‘s been suckerpunched the same way we might have been, were we Richard Dawkins instead of him.
Here is how it happens: a bunch of Creationists start “questioning” evolution. Of course we know that they are not just “questioning evolution”, that in fact they are not even primarily “questioning evolution”…we know that’s just a cover, for their distinctively American cultural and religious agenda…not that I tar all Americans with this same repulsive brush, but “distinctively American” is just the sort of evil poison these fuckers believe in, so I figure to hoist them with their own petard…but then having seen through that thin-skinned deceit of theirs (I mean, do they think we’re idiots?), we go out and do battle with them on the fields of biology anyhow, not taking our time enough to see there’s an intermediate step here. And thus we receive the suckerpunch: as we allow ourselves to get charged up with righteous biological ire.
But there’s something more fundamental at stake, here, than mere ire, or mere biology…than mere evolution, for that matter.
Because a Creationist worldview is also (I hope you will recognize) deeply hostile to astronomy…
…And through that hostility it gets down to an intolerance so basic that there is no Bill Of Rights on this planet (or any other!), that would possibly ever come to its defence.
Simply put: it’s the measure of distance that’s at stake here.
Which is the one thing in the universe we simply cannot ever do without…!
…And which is the basic tool of astronomy, too, and hence the conflict. Because the funny thing about astronomy is that there isn’t any such thing as a sub-discipline called micro-astronomy, that it supports. No. It’s not just all about distance, but it’s about all distance…whether it’s relatively big, or relatively small. And there’s the stumbling-block right there, you see. Creationists love to make the artificial distinction between “micro” and “macro” evolutionary principles all the time…if you breed up corn from a plant the size of a baby’s thumb to a thing suitable for stuffing an exhaust pipe with, that’s micro…that’s just Man exercising his God-given dominion over the world, because the corn still started as corn, if you see what I mean. Macro, on the other hand, is saying that what we call “sight” is something that began with the pseudopod. Thus, the creationist moves to exclude the scientific by making a show of accepting the empirical…but only so far, and no farther. Say whatever you want to about corn, so long as you don’t say corn isn’t corn…
Which is, it must be admitted, a neat trick. Try it with astronomy, though, and you’ll whang yer thumb with the hammer…because astronomy’s all about telescopes, all about “how far away is that shit?”, and the first understanding it requires is that most of the time, corn isn’t corn. Because “cornness” is rin the eye of the beholder, cornness is relative, all part of the continuum of distance measures; in other words part of the most empirical thing in the world, a set of observations stretching back to ancient Egypt…but these observations all have consequences, and all the consequences have consequences, and in the end science is impossible to exclude from it all. If you want to debunk Einstein you’ll first have to debunk the hands of the clock; if you want to assert that the sky’s a dome covered in flaws, through which God’s magnificence shines through, you’re going to have to mean it as a metaphor…because that’s exactly what it’s been discovered to be. And, because astronomy is old. The Amish know about heliocentrism, for heaven’s sake. Therefore one cannot stand up in public and say “I don’t believe the Earth goes around the Sun” without Amish people ridiculing one for one’s stubbornly reactionary ways…
But, too: accept one thing, and you must accept all the rest of it.
Let us consider stellar distances. The speed of light has been measured, and the “standard candles” identified — and we conclude it is a pretty big universe, that we live in. So: problem! If it is big, our distance measures tell us it must also be old…much older than six thousand years. I mean you can deny the fossil record if you want to…you can say that anybody can make coal with a couple of pounds of moss and a pressure cooker…you can even say that all the organisms arrived miraculously, fully-formed for Man to enjoy and use, about three hundred generations ago. But what will you make of the light of a distant star, that our measures of distance tell us must have taken four hundred generations to get here?
Or, four hundred thousand generations to get here?
Easy enough to say it’s a miracle. God made it so that the universe looks older than it really is. All right, fair enough: let’s say he did.
Given that, is it still as big as it appears, though?
I mean…is he just making us see a whole bunch of objects that aren’t there, or is he miraculously bringing us their light ahead of time, just in time for the end of the world…
Or is the REAL miracle that none of that matters shut up all inconsistencies are divinely reconciled by pure grace…!
Which would be fine by me!
If only someone would just say it…
But oh, I don’t want to ask too many difficult questions, you know. Truly, no Christian theology goes this far, although all the best Christian theology anticipates these questions…generally. And not specifically. But really quite brilliantly in general terms! But then I don’t want to harp on that so much, because none of that past brilliance would tolerate Sarah Palin’s belief, you know? And yet I don’t want to slag Sarah off just like that, because I want to say my piece about why she’s completely wrong. In other words: I just want to point out that we’re outside the realm of “the scientists haven’t done their job correctly” in these questions of how God gimmicked the universe so our observations would eventually come a cropper. Because yeah, it’s gimmicked: because there are no macro- or micro- distance measures. If we think we know how far away Betelgeuse is, there’s no competing theory telling us we’re wrong, there’s just “sorry, bud, an angel did it”. And, as I said: that’s fair enough. Maybe an angel did do it. But the question is, then what else did the angel do?
Or in other words: what else must the angel have done?
Jupiter is about forty light-minutes away, and the Andromeda Galaxy about a million light-years away…and it takes about one second to bounce a laser off the Moon. But are all these things equally non-miraculous? Or is there a point at which we hit a “ha-ha” barrier, run into the Truman Show boundary where there are no more distances, just illusory projections of distances…I mean I’m willing to accept it for the sake of argument, but where is it, eh?
Does the domain of distance end at the heliopause?
It would be a damn funny thing if it did; because Pioneer 10 already went PAST THE HELIOPAUSE…!
Unless that was an illusion. But how are we to tell if it is? And if it is, what practical difference does that make anyway? And in any case what are we saying here, just how arbitrary is this universe? Just how many theophysical epicycles does it need, to produce what we see through our telescopes? Is it as big as it appears, only somehow invalidated or screwed with or “miracle-ized” in time? But time and space are one, at least so Professor Einstein says…and, MAN! Well does it all exist, or doesn’t it? “Yes, it exists now…but not so’s you’d know.” “It exists in space, but not really in time”. Jeepers, this is a rather hard cosmology though, isn’t it? Mindbending. And there’s not even anything in the Bible to suggest it; nothing to say “extend your intellect as far as you like, but sooner or later you’ll pass a veil where you can’t trust something even as basic as how you can tell how far away things are…”
Well…except, perhaps, there’s one way to suggest this.
I fear the Amish would ridicule it…but there is one.
“Jesus ascends bodily to Heaven”.
Listen, here’s the problem: everything we know about astronomy is what we’ve reasoned out from what we’ve seen. Distance. The concept of distance is the whole and entire root of astronomy. “How far away is that thing?”
And as with any problem, there are two ways of finding a solution to it. One is the Infinity Road: expand knowledge, explode assumptions, accept the innumerability of unknown factors…and give up all notion of control…
…And the other is the Zero Road, wherein one also gives up all notion of control, except it’s done by arriving at a conceptual point-source upon which all thought, or need for thought, is compacted ’til it gives up its structure utterly…and thus there is no longer any need for control. Note that I do not say one road leads to Enlightenment because the other does not…not to get all Rudy Rucker on you, but once you arrive at one of these transcendental poles, you’re no less in the transcendental realm than if you’d come at it the other way. HOWEVER.
We’re not talking about walking through the gates of ivory or of horn, we’re talking about what Sarah Palin might say if she looked through a telescope.
If she chose to walk the Infinity Road, she might think: “shit, that’s one motherfucker of a big universe out there…I might need a God with bigger interests and ambitions to explain it!”
But if she chose to walk the Zero Road, she might think — but never say! — “look, there are four angels circling the planet Jupiter…that must be where Heaven is, BECAUSE JESUS ASCENDED BODILY TO IT, SO IT’S GOTTA BE FUCKING SOMEWHERE UP THERE, I MEAN C’MON.”
Bloggers, do you you think maybe there are people out there — a silent majority! — who pay lip service to astronomy but nonetheless think “look at the angels, look how they shine with the light of their own righteousness” when they look through a telescope?
Well, here’s a funny thing, then: if there are such people, their belief is protected by no law of this land…and no bloody history or tradition of it either, which may very well be why they’re somewhat fearful of speaking it out. All these battles have been duly fought and won and lost, minimum three centuries before the Native Americans ponied up turkey to the bloodshot-eyed sin-vigilant Mayflower crowd. Today I’m free, of course, to start a religion that doesn’t believe in the existence of coffee ice cream, or snorkels, or the emotional component of the sex act…no one will interfere with me. But some things are not just plainly contrafactual, but also basic and important, and belief in their necessary non-existence therefore merits no tolerance, even in a tolerant society. “Arithmetic is an invention of the Devil, meant to mislead the faithful!” “There is no such thing as sugar!” “Whenever you see a basset hound, it’s time to change your name and hop a freight!” I mean, by all means build your church. But don’t expect tax-free status, and don’t expect anyone to be polite to your belief. “All parallel lines will meet if you just extend them far enough!” “The question-mark is really the true period!” “All wrenches are really just retarded hammers!”
“It’s time the heliocentrists admitted that they DON’T have all the answers…!”
The key thing is here: there’s a limit.
And we can find it in astronomy easily enough. Arguing about evolution with creationists is actually kind of stupid, if you ask me.
Instead, ask ‘em to POINT TO WHERE JESUS IS IN THE SKY.
And then ask them how far away that is.
Personally, I think they would throw themselves into the cold Alaskan waters, rather than answer.
Although if you think about it, there is a good answer.
But surely the matter of whether one’s beliefs are worthy of respect, must hinge upon whether or not you know that one good answer.
Really, just know where to point to.
And so here we are, here I am — just went through a huge whole day of commemoration of the moon landing. Good God, I couldn’t be happier that people actually remember it. And still know, as it were, where to point.
I swear to God, in my capacity as occasional oracle…we will get there, and we’ll learn a lot. But it’s going to be the most MASSIVE scientific/engineering project since 1969. It’s going to be by far the most EXCITING shit human beings have ever gotten their noses into. The physical conditioning the astronauts will have to undergo will be enormous, but worth it. Several very well-known people will probably say something deeply dumb about it…
…But it will lift the spirits of all mankind, even despite the activities of the famous.
I’ve been waiting for a time like this my whole life. I felt like hope was put on hold, from about the flight of Apollo 17 ’til now. This is my scene, I’ll tellya.
So pay attention when I say this:
If you can give me an honest cosmology that includes both God and the Universe…both God and Fact, without any painfully-obvious bullshit…
Then I’ll probably convert to your stupid religion.
But here’s what’s really stupid.
Why don’t we have any new religions?
Yes: why not.
But here’s my suggestion: watch that Discovery Channel “Japanese Hi-Def MoonView” show, with the sound off…and wait ’til the Earth creeps over the horizon.
This post may be subject to revision. I will give it one day, though.
That post isn’t dead, in other words; it’s just sleeping. Needed a bit of refinement.
It’ll be back before long.
Everybody’s reading this, right?
You can find my old buddy Jesse Reklaw on the sidebar under Slow Wave, and of course there’s Jim Woodring, the local god of this place — pour out a couple drops for him, won’t you? — but Rick V. is so gifted at slapping up dreamstuff, we should all be reading him, I mean oh God listen to me, like I need to tell you guys about Rick Veitch. Army@Love is awesome, by the way…
Okay, if you read nothing else, it should be the strip where Alan Moore finds Rick a river-demon to get high off of. Honestly, I believe he dreamed that.
And I’m envious…
…Because for myself, in my life I’ve hardly ever done a thing that was a decent piece of drawing. Just once or twice, that’s all. But I do have probably more than my fair share of coherent story-type dreams, and their driving forces are very difficult to capture in words, it’s a real challenge, and sometimes I have to collapse their dreaminess a LOT more than I would if I could draw.
But of course Rick can’t just draw…he’s one of our very big drawing talents.
Anyway I’m enjoying “Subtleman” so much, I thought I should say it out loud. And do look for that river-demon one — I swear to God you hear what Alan Moore sounds like in Rick Veitch’s head.
And you know, this post was pretty spontaneous…but I think it’s given me an idea…
On which more later.
Meanwhile, Happy Summer!
This is from memory.
…So this friend of mine was heavy into Alien Legion, and basically lent me the whole run. This was in the days when I smoked a lot of hash and stayed up all night reading comics in my parents’ weirdly-yellow basement.
He got me just at the right time.
Could it be an Archaia publication today? Hmm, maybe…it certainly rides the knife-edge of randomly ripped-off crap, and awkwardly-involving true-ringing overwrought emotion. It could be an amazing Verhoeven movie. It could be Chris Claremont’s younger brother writing the story in a basement somewhere, in the middle of the night, close to an stove with knives stuck into it that his friends figured out how to plug in without his parents knowing. It may be the most awesome outpouring of pure adolescent emotion onto a comics page I’ve ever witnessed, and I neither say that lightly, nor mean it harshly. Comics for kids? I’ve gotcher comics for kids right here: and it merits the very strange name of not as sophisticated as Dreadstar…
I only read it the one time. But I thought it was quite remarkable, and now it seems to me like such a fabulous thing of its time that even if I hadn’t found myself loving it when I read it, I’d love it now for just how crazily Eighties it was. When the mainstream American comic-book factory had just graduated from high school, but had not yet managed to find the real job its Dad was always bugging it about getting. So it all becomes just a chemical-soaked daisy-chain of bad parties and puking, and you lost that girl’s number, and everything is just so important, and slowly but surely you’re fucking up, you’re losing your hold on the rope, you’re breaking through from the Sixties to the Seventies against your will, you’re moving uncomfortably and perhaps somewhat unwillingly from acid rock to prog-rock because you are the emblem of a generation of slightly-paranoid ex-cliquoids who’ve just figured out that all your old dearly-held fascinations have run out like the sand in the hourglass, like the Days Of Your Lives…
And lucky you, you’re the grains of sand themselves.
And this is the escape from that. We turn from the bad breakup or the shitty family situation or the inability of other people to understand (which is, in other words, our own inability to fit in or figure out), and concoct a marvellously bourgeois dream ornamented with pastiches of Gunga Din, The Magnificent Seven, Have Space Suit Will Travel, Alien, the X-Men, and The Breakfast Club. Oh, how we tend to unconsciously fetishize our own experiences, when we’re young! We don’t even know we’re doing it. We haven’t really learned what the benefit of experience is, yet, because we haven’t had enough of it to experience it as experience. You may recall, as I do, the romantic and anomic days of feeling cut loose from everything, unsupported by anything, the days of working without a net…you may look back on the days when you lived in that trailer or slept in that car or suffered below that window or rooted through garbage cans in that alley…or just, let’s be frank, worked at that crappy photocopy place but it felt the same anyway…and still think of it as a good twenty percent counted towards your total grade of Experience…
But likely it was only six months, an evanescent time, and in fact you’ve forgotten most of it, forgotten the slightly-crazy passion and the rage, the door-busting urgency that drove your weird and wild and inchoate behaviours…
…Even forgotten what that girl looked like: your missed opportunity.
Maybe even forgotten the kind cool strangers who picked you up and set you back on your feet afterwards. And then for two months you live in an abandoned driftwood shack on the mud-flats, collecting oysters and sighing, guzzling somebody else’s whiskey in that fast hot westerly wind. One night you take your watch off your wrist and throw it down on the crappy barnacled planks and stomp on it, and scream…and then the next day you’re mysteriously gone, and they all wonder what the hell happened to you, you just took off, hell they never even knew your real name.
And maybe they’re still back there. Still wondering. Still the same.
But it doesn’t matter, because you’ve long since picked out, unknitted, that piece of memory’s thread. And you don’t remember that’s ever who you were.
Which is normal: because it’s normal (at least in this general time and place) to find yourself relying on strangers, on new people, once in a while…and then when you get yourself back on your feet, you forget all about that essential BREAK.
A good way to remember it again, though: read turgid, romantic, tough, misbegotten and peculiarly loveable Alien Legion. Escapist literature, never has SF book or mainstream comic been so accurately named, unless it was some Lois McMaster Bujold book, look let me tell you: this is where romance and SF and comics first truly crossed over, and it is awful. Awful enough, I hope and pray, that its creators made some good money from it…I couldn’t give them enough money to repay them for the way they brilliantly articulated the concerns of my stupid, adolescent, hash-addled mind…and then comforted it with pretty martial lies. Your group’s deserted you? Hey, man, don’t join the army…
Read this instead.
This is from memory. I remember the art being great, fully anticipating “momentism” and “F@#K YEAH!” and “OH GOD NOW LOOK IT JUST SUDDENLY GOT QUIET AROUND HERE, HO-LEE…!” Primitively consensual reactions, all. Hey, if I’d had a different dislocated-me diary to read, I would’ve read it. Well, and I guess I did; but I read this too. Because there was something guiltily grabby about it, honestly.
Once when I was in school, I stumbled across an excellent citation for a dumbass paper I was writing. This is true. There was a psychologist who prescribed her depressive patients a steady diet of soap operas. Maybe that sounds a bit nuts? And yet the depressed brain very often craves a sinking into thoughtless routine, a chance to rest…this is what many drugs give us, the chance to rest. This is the whole purpose of certain drugs, to relieve tension, and let the brain heal and cool down.
Soap operas, this shrink maintained, do much the same thing, except they’re not physically addictive. And they have other, more sideways benefits: the most important of which is that even a depressed person gets up for their “stories”…and this all by itself provides some structure to a life dangerously lacking in it, or at least dangerously lacking in structure it can comfortably take into itself and accept. Then, also, there is the phenomenon of people talking back to the screen — “Don’t do it, Katy! Can’t you see he’s only after your money…?!”
Why do people do this?
My thesis: because by so doing they heighten the impact of the bogus face-to-face relationship they’re enjoying with the characters onscreen. They don’t think the characters can actually hear them…! They’re not crazy…!
…But instead they are rationally pursuing a need for human contact that they find difficult to manage in the real world. Through no fault of their own, and not for want of trying.
And such should perhaps give us pause, genre fans…
…But we’re not done yet.
Because to enjoy bogus face-to-face relationships with soap opera characters not only expands your circle of social interactions (though the weighting is like Canadian Tire dollars, each seeming bill is worth perhaps a sixth of a penny — but just get enough of them…!), but also adapts you to the idea of winning through to the other side of emotional pain. I mean, just look at what these characters go through: Johnny no sooner finds out that his wife’s really his sister, than he’s struck down by a bolt of lightning, then he gets amnesia, then when they take the bandages off he’s a whole different person, who even looks different! Parents with young children send them off to the daycare one afternoon, get them home at the age of twenty from college that evening, and they’re eyeing you with suspicious sexiness. And maybe there is no boat so pretty that it can’t deny the current of the river? Meanwhile the husband you adored yesterday disappears from the marriage bed…only to show up a week later as an eyepatch-sporting destroyer you must warn your father-in-law about, if he would only listen, just freakin’ listen for one second…!
So Kafka and Philip K. Dick and every Hitchcock movie ever made, they’re all here. Logan’s Run is here. Hell is here.
And yet, more often than not, the most identifiable characters triumph over these mindbending odds…and even if they don’t, they still manage to go down to Tony’s Cafe every day and shoot the breeze with their friends. They don’t get deserted, and they’re never alone. Sometimes they may think they’re alone, but that feeling never lasts. They’re back at Duke’s Club by the end of the week, where he promises them he’ll never let anything happen to them or little Anna…
…And so you see…if you watch these things, if you identify with these characters…
…Then, no: you won’t be able to handle a truly slippy psychologically-nightmarish landscape as cavalierly as they do…
…But if you’re just depressed…if that’s your problem…
…Then maybe you’ll be able to follow their example enough to make it to the store and buy a carton of milk, without solidly freaking ten ways from Har Megiddo. French researchers claim that “happiness” consists in eighteen semi-regular interactions with other human beings that are successful. Wave at the guy walking his dog at the same time you walk yours: that’s successful, and that’s social. Nothing went wrong, and you get to own that. You made that “nothing-went-wrong”.
Well, it beats a narcotic dependency.
Which brings us back to Alien Legion.
A story in which — like all stories that glamourize the Total Institution — all social interactions are successful ones, because the ones that are unsuccessful are the ones you turn the zap-guns on. Willy-nilly. Mind you this glamour is as hard to do here, as it is in The Naked And The Dead…unconscious consequences are everywhere, for every action. Everyone’s blind, or bleeding, and eventually every log on the river gets lifted by a surge, and carried downstream. Actually if you want to know what I think, I think Norman Mailer must’ve been plenty pissed when Catch-22 came out…it’s so much better, so much cleverer. However there are things in The Naked And The Dead which Catch-22, for all its enormous virtues, can’t touch.
And those would be the deaths.
There’s hundreds of them.
Christ, I sound like Christian Slater in “Pump Up The Volume” all of a sudden, I think.
Fast wind blowing tonight. Dust from the Eastern side of the world.
We hardly ever get that.
And so my song is concluded.
Don’t know if I’ve done a good job of convincing you to read Alien Legion, though. Well, hell.
What I mean is, the Eighties…those were a time, like any time, when the future seemed pretty ripe. But as time goes on, it seems, future falls from the tree; is harvested. Turned into pie or cider, or crushed underfoot. There will probably never be another comic as naive as Alien Legion. Those days may be gone for good.
Like sand through the hourglass…
…Which question is otherwise known as being a list of my Emotional Reactions to my Wednesday Comics, God how I love them so…
But I apologize, Bloggers. Here I am, back in town for a day or maybe two, and I really should be attempting to polish off my voluminous Seaguy post. I really should be writing the post called “Throwing Out The Laundry List”, about what it’s like to be a lazy third-generation TV writer. In fact I really should be doing all sorts of things. I could write a little something about the Denzel Washington/Robert Townshend vehicle “The Mighty Quinn” (for example), and how televisual doors that were opened practically instantly by “The Big Easy” took ten years longer for “The Mighty Quinn” to open, and by that time it was all fucked up anyway…because in the first instance the tenor of the times demanded that the slice of American oneirogeography commonly referred to as “New Orleans” be populated by intelligent black people, who were full of individual agency, while in the second instance it seemed much easier to corral good-looking white people for the purpose of having them recite to the viewing audience things that the audience ought to’ve been able to see for themselves anyway…
If there weren’t so many goddamn tourists clogging up the joint…
And to be honest, I think it was, straight-up, a failure of will.
I speak, of course, of the shows called (respectively) Frank’s Place and Going To Extremes…gak, what an awful title that last one’s got, it’s like naming a child Car Payment or Kevin Costner Movie…but as I said, I won’t speak of them at length today. Just don’t have the energy. On the other hand…well, I suppose I’m a bit of an unreliable narrator on this blog, surely you all have picked that up by now (wanna know how I got these scars?), so maybe my reluctance to talk about these shows is sort of belied by the way I bring them up in the first place. Maybe I do have something to say about my Wednesday Comics that does involve them slightly.
But I still won’t be long about it. Frank’s Place was the only successful program to come out of the long-forgotten and rightly-dreaded Dramedy Belt of American television…the only one that was artistically successful, that is. You may recall an awful show called thirtysomething out of that time-period…if you’re very unlucky you may recall the goddamn show about Mr. and Mrs. Hippie-Bear waking up one morning and deciding they’re really yuppies after all, and having a giant Big Chill party in the guise of a TV show to celebrate their rather stupid attachment to their own cultural and personal stasis. The Waltons was a more relevant show; heck, even thirtysomething benefited by comparison with this solipsistic monster. Shoulda been called Griffith Observatory…
Really awful. I suppose I could try to sum it up this way: that it was to the Molly Ringwald/Lauren Graham/Jenna Elfman program Townies, as Townies was to the movie Mystic Pizza. Or, am I being too obscure? I hate to tell you all: Townies was a thousand times better than Mystic Pizza, and it came along at the right time too: just at the final trailing boundary of the Dramedy Belt, the ship almost out of danger. But dear God that Lauren Graham used to annihilate well-made shows! I was beginning to think she was cursed.
Until Gilmour Girls came along and proved me RIGHT. Wow, what impressively pointless and ultimately somewhat creepy worldbuilding that show indulged itself in! I honestly thought Green Lantern was going to show up one day and free them all from their Black Mercy. Rip Hunter was going to collapse out of nowhere in the town square one day, and Lorelei was going to take him in, and then oh what would come of it. Like every TV movie about an amnesiac girl with a stalker starring Yasmine Bleeth, Gilmour Girls suffered from never being able to deliver the Big Twist that it was constantly teasing…like Grosse Point Blank with the guts out, like indeed Northern Exposure, it never had the courage to say what it bloody well HAD to say, to be a fully-formed sentence in the end, with a proper period on it.
Still, I was happy for my girl Lauren G. You can’t say she killed that show, anyway…!
But where was I. Oh yes.
In the Dramedy Belt, waiting for Hari Seldon to show up…but when he did, we didn’t know what the hell he was talking about.
So this is what happens when a very large artistic enterprise spawns a great number of extremely clever fans-turned-pros…the talented ones yearn to shake off the yoke and truly free themselves to operate on the past they came from — they would free themselves from mere “cleverness” if they could — but very large forces are constantly operating on them, to make sure that they don’t actually get the chance to be innovative in the way they combine their ideals, with their influences, with their talent. And it isn’t really anybody’s fault. It’s just the way things work. The Dramedy Belt was an awful and soul-destroying expanse of American TV production: it’s where geniuses went to ruin their careers for all time. No Fred Silverman ever bet so much, and lost so badly, and looked like such a punk, as the once-future Steven Spielbergs who pissed away their credibility on crap shows that weren’t about anything else but kind of HATING the characters.
For every Frank’s Place, ten Days And Nights Of Molly Dodd…for every Townies, a thirtysomething…one might suggest, for every Hooperman a Cop Rock…and it was unfair how they all blended together, all tangled one another in the same ropes, that sank towards the bottom of the ocean at the same speed…but it happened.
Flash forward and sideways to the world of comics. You all know my pal Andrew Hickey — he wrote a review of “Wednesday Comics” that was answered — very civilly and good-naturedly! — but answered! — by a lot of the artists and writers who’d worked on “Wednesday Comics”. And this is the thing, that the Big Two comic companies might occasionally pretend to want to be popular in a strict sense, in an old-timey sense, but in fact they really do not want to be. If they wanted to be in 7-11s they could be. They don’t want that.
But, that’s where all the — as they would call them — “content creators” come from, and that’s where THEY’D like to be! Kurt Busiek will never now be allowed to write a DC comic for five million kids to buy at general stores…Brian Azzarello will never get the chance to write a Sunday Supplement Batman for real. Not going to happen.
But they get “Wednesday Comics” as a temporary dream, a temporary fulfillment. I honestly don’t know why they get it. It doesn’t make particularly fabulous business sense for them to get it.
Unless for some strange reason DC Comics wants me to buy things they print again (but aren’t they just a copyright farm for Time-Warner? Isn’t that what we all believe?), there’s no reason to make this “Wednesday Comics” thing.
But I bought two copies of it today. I’m going to buy two copies of it for the next twelve weeks. Maybe I’m just like Kurt Busiek or Dave Gibbons or Kyle Baker or Mike Allred, but this is what I want, this is what I love, I could commit to this, give me all you want of this, I’ll take all you can make. This is Frank’s Place, and it can’t last for long, but while it’s here it delights me. I’m giving my extra copies to the library. I’m giving them to some kid on the street. I’m wallpapering my bathroom with them. I’m HAPPY.
…But before I review “Wednesday Comics”, I just wanted to talk about what else I bought today.
The Phantom #1, from Moonstone: I am not sure I want to support Moonstone, as a publishing company. I know, I know…I’m old and tired. Go to bed, Grandpa! Yes, I’m aware. But as some of you may know, The Phantom is my weakness. I think The Phantom is just about the coolest idea ever to be made into a comic book or strip. And hardly anyone does it right.
This one was really not too bad. There were questionable bits, to be sure. But Phanty was badass and proactive (as the kids say), the Phantom mythology was well-addressed, and elliptically-addressed — which is how it oughtta be — there were pirates, in these days where piracy is once again topical — in these days when piracy is once again seen for what it is, by the rich folk of the Fortunate Lands — and yet there was a fictional mystery as well that was bound up with it. I don’t particularly care for the nature of the mystery. But that it is one is something terrifically desirable. As time goes on, Phanty’s job gets tougher, that’s an idea that’s built right into the original concept. And as time goes on, who he is gets to be a weirder and weirder role…and it’s weirder and weirder to be a person who can commit to it. Let’s face it, this is a character who’s infinitely updatable, except the one key thing about him is that he can’t escape his origins...so just to make me even care at all, wow. There have been a thousand Phantom reboots, just like there have been a thousand Shadow and Doc Savage reboots…all I want is for one of them, just one of them, to work.
And this one could work…!
The new Buck Rogers I didn’t buy. I don’t know, Buck is a problematic figure. I fear a new Buck Rogers strip. I mean it could be done…after all, Roy Thomas and Gil Kane made a John-fucking-Carter strip worth reading in the Seventies…
But man, I just don’t know. It’d be a helluva trick, really.
So I passed it up. I wuz scared, I’ll tell you frankly. What’s Buck Rogers without the racism? Like Wonder Woman without the bondage. But it’s pretty goddamn hot stuff to handle.
Do you see a pattern developing, here?
I bought the J.H. Williams Batwoman. I had to buy it! As Sean says, this is the Steranko of NOW, there’s every chance we might not see this guy’s work in genre fiction again, he is taking extraordinarily slight matter and whipping it up into something that just needs to be seen. Care about Batwoman. Don’t care about Batwoman. What in the world is happening to DC Comics, it’s like they’re decided to have a segment of WE CARE in their business. Williams could do anything, of course. He’ll be Alan Moore one day, in the sense that he can just go to some company and say “I want to do a Western” and they’ll say “holy shit, we can’t believe you’re asking US. For God’s sake YES. Flo, call the bank, tell ‘em we’re gonna be making a deposit.” He’s that good. Of course a lot of people are good, very good, and have you gone out and bought your Army@Love yet? Shit, Veitch just freaks me out, everything’s a dream…
But only Williams is Williams, and he’s really fucking SOMETHING. Just on a visual basis, I give a shit about fucking BATWOMAN. Now that is some magic straight out of Ideaspace, don’t tell me it isn’t. The Dracula thing, the tits-as-fangs, the hair-as-blood…that all sounds so stupid when you say it, but MAN it comes together in an adventurous page layout. It’s serious business, this stuff. This guy’s a Jack Cole-level talent, and it’s a fucking honour to be able to buy a stupid superhero book he’s working on. No offence to Rucka. I like Rucka. And a comic book’s a collaborative enterprise. But we’ve got another Ditko here.
Also bought LOEG Vol.I again, since Ed has the original floppies. And can I ask you this, Internet? How does Alan Moore manage, with his insane scripts, to get such a fantastic simpatico with his artists? I mean has the man ever worked with anyone who didn’t flip expectations inside-out, who didn’t put a big-ass thumbprint on the reader’s imagination, that’s pretty well indelible? Grant Morrison’s had hellishly good luck too — The Invisibles is an excellent example of how a passionate writer puts fire into collaborators, in its way as good an example of that as Sandman is. But, for the most part Grant seems to need a…
Whoops, my apologies: anticipating another post.
Let’s get back to this one. I also bought Mazzuchelli’s Asterios Polyp, for three big reasons.
One, it really wasn’t that expensive.
Two, I was thinking about how you cannot get “Rubber Blanket” for love or money…and yet Derik Badman put the love of that thing into my heart for real. Maybe when I’m a millionaire.
…I made the mistake of flipping through it. COULD NOT get it out of my head.
…And, a further report later, but let’s see if we can unboil this water with a bit more heat. WEDNESDAY COMICS.
Here’s my review:
Contra Andrew, I love the Batman piece, because it had such great understated menace to it. You can’t possibly have Two-Face’s origin in this modern time, but you can have Batman and Gordon failing, you can have the simple execution of a pinched nose…to me this breathes Batman. 1940′s Batman. I’ve seen good and bad from Azzarello, but his good is really quite quite good, and I suspect this will be one of those. It’s one page, and it’s a cliffhanger. I would judge it excellent. And of course Risso’s art — well, this is all about getting great art, right? So I shouldn’t say any more about it.
Except I will have to, because he really delivers. Is it possible that this isn’t a pure labour of love for any of the artists involved? Surely that’s amazingly and irruptively what it is, and it shows. And now, here, Kamandi: Ryan Sook’s already a favourite, and he doesn’t disappoint here. This is grabby stuff: did I mention the passion of artists before? There is some subtle and joyous shit in his page of Kamandi: sure, the drowned world, the birds taking flight, the door into the bunker. I’ll spend a while looking at this, it’s really terrific, and the whole Prince Valiant thing, why it couldn’t have been planned better in a million years. Also, as a writer one has to admire the freedom here: there is simply more space to use lettering as a graphic device on a page this size, and Dave G. I think lets his artist flag fly in this respect. Just look how the lettering controls the reading, the way the eye falls through the images. And it’s casual, it’s normal, it’s just another part of doing the job…but man what fun it must be!
Deadman is so unbelivably sweet I can barely find a thing to say about it. I care about Deadman for the first time ever, and it isn’t because he has this great amazing character, it’s because he’s a Chandleresque detective, only with a slight superheroic tinge in that the source of his special powers is his special ethicity: the two are one and the same. Now, by God, this is how to do it right! Because I truly don’t give a damn about who the character is, I only care about what the character goes through…and I confess I never understood it before, but that’s what Deadman’s best at.
The Superman strip I’m going to wait on. Andrew feels the art is too static, and that the story’s too decompressed, and possibly too trite. I’m going to admit freely that I’d be over the moon if Andy Kubert was drawing this thing, but to me coming upon the Superman story here, I don’t hate the look of it at all, it is not my personal preferred look, but it’s got a certain Richard Corben-ness to it, and I find that funny and perky. In fact I’m not sure it isn’t brilliant — I do believe it’s going to move very swiftly from “Superman as world’s greatest puncher” to “Superman as Nazarene negotiator of ethical conflict”, which I must say isn’t a Superman I always like (I’m primarily a Jerry and Joe fan, myself), but sometimes I like it, sometimes I really do…and the glossy super-rendering, Heavy-Metal-style, could explode into some trippy Kirby/Starlin shit…I think…
But anyway it isn’t my favourite, but it’s mighty far from being something I dislike, and I’m eager to see where it goes. Andrew might end up being right about the decompression. The triteness I don’t mind, though. If it’s done right.
But then I’m a Phantom fan!
There’s really only one story!
Pardon me, now I have to talk about Green Lantern. And look at those colours, for God’s sake, eh? I think if I had that kind of art backing me up, even I could be Kurt Busiek. I said the word passion, obviously — Jesus, reading this thing is like watching Top Chef. “Here are your ingredients, peanut butter, pomegranates, olive oil, blood oranges…now build a car out of them!” No problem, if you love the ingredients enough, if you fall asleep counting pomegranates. God, and if Green Lantern isn’t essentially a strip that’s about how COLOUR IS AWESOME, I’ll eat my hat. Look how we start out super-chummy here: we’re part of the action. We’re part of the fun time of the Ferris Aircraft employees. Listen, we’re brought into it. For a reason, too. I think this is very fine scripting by Kurt, that will blossom into something really swell, a great and potent transition of perspective on every page, a flip-around at the geometrical centre of the page…
…And hey, who’re these Quinones and Brousseau guy, anyway? You flippin’ well HAVE TO LOVE the deep reds here. This is somebody thinking it through, creating backgrounds for a reason. Terrific job. But of course it’s the passion…
Metamorpho I have nothing to say about except that it is exceptionally brilliant already, note-perfect in every respect, Allred is of course jaw-dropping on this, Neil absolutely excels…I mean what can you say? I crave a sight of Element Girl, I imagine we we will see what really happens to her to put her hiding in her room and wanting to die, but we’ll see it as it looks in the Allredverse. Holy Joe, I just don’t know how that one’s going to shake out. Mike has a deceptive style, he can get heavy…and Neil can trick you that way too, at the speed of sound. But oh man, so long as Metamorpho can turn his leg into iron chains for a shark to bite on…
I want this to be the new Sandman. Just Bob Haney adventures knitted together by Neil, given wonky emotional oomph by Mike. Lovely stuff. Not one thing wrong.
Teen Titans. I liked the art a lot, I liked the colour, I like how it draws you in and looks different, lighter, more like ice cream than the other strips…but I absolutely detest the rah-rah mythologizing of the corporate property, I don’t like the “Friends” aspect of it all, “they became a family”, I never did, this is just my personal and visceral reaction and I know this writer didn’t make it up, but…God, it beggars the suggestion of comic-book danger, doesn’t it? “I am finally the serious villain, and I will KILL the Teen Titans.” Well, heck, I could kill them, to kill them doesn’t take a supervillain, just an asshole, and to be frank Teen Titans has become way too much of a home for the “what if the villains got serious” kind of villains, way too much of a home for the “in the future I’m a bad guy!” semi-plot, I mean even teenagers aren’t going through a fucking Breakfast Club experience all the time, I mean come on, I think I’m really going to hate this, I want to like this, but YOU SAY IT YOURSELF…!
They should’ve grown up and drifted off.
I can’t see a kid — any kid — reading this story more than once. And isn’t that exactly the problem with the Teen Titans?
Adam Strange: It’s Pope. ‘Nuff said.
Supergirl: It’s okay, and I like it. No joke. Miss Amanda can DRAW.
Metal Men: Oh my God, it’s a little boring! Because the tension’s defused at the end of the page, duh. Doc putting his hand to his head and saying “yeesh” does not a cliffhanger make. And I don’t like the interpretation of Mercury. But…
The Metal Men disguised as human beings, always wanting to get involved, and Doc doesn’t want them to, their uncontrollably heroic nature…and especially the silliness of them going to a bank on a field trip, gee whiz…! These fundamentals are sound, and the art’s (once again) just plain swell. I’m down.
Wonder Woman: Absolutely great idea, the art is crazy, how many panels are there here…? I’d read this story, except parts of it are so hard to read…! I honestly don’t know what to advise. It’s absolutely gorgeous. I really love the one-page story. I think this may be a Wonder Woman I can care about. But jeez.
I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe it’s just too beautiful and too perfect. [EDIT: and too goddamn hard to read!] But we’ll see next Wednesday.
Sgt. Rock. DC Comics, just give this trademark to the Kubert family. They do it better than anybody. I don’t have questions, I don’t have opinions. This is the land of Kubertism. Although if it were me, I would’ve had ‘em do Weird War. How fun would that have been? “Okay, Dad, see if you can draw THIS, you old so-and-so…!” “Oh, g’wan little man, sure you can do better than THAT…!”
God, I truly love those Kuberts.
Flash: it’s all I want in a Flash story. Angles and perspectives. Everybody living inside their thought-balloons. Can we just have this, DC? And a wee bit of Grade Nine science class. I don’t know what to say. I’m extremely happy, and isn’t that what you want from Flash readers? Scipio will tell you Iris is a horrible person. Actually I like the way her horribleness is acknowledged here…she said goodbye, she left a note, but she don’t remember what she wrote. Then she realizes “Christ, maybe I was a bit of a bitch, there, oh no!” MUCH more interesting when a character like that discovers her husband’s the Flash. This story bloody well INTERESTS me.
The Demon and Catwoman. No, just stop. Honestly, this one stuns me just to look at it, this IS bloody well Prince Valiant, my God. THIS. IS. AWESOME. Just keep this one going, please. I don’t even know what to say, it’s a genius idea, it’s goddamn GORGEOUS to look at, I don’t understand how such an intense Brave And The Bold comic as this doesn’t already exist. My hat’s off, gentlemen!
Hawkman: looks great and is DEEPLY ANNOYING. Sigh. I’ve never read 300, and I haven’t seen the movie either. I gather “we flap” is a whole 300 thing? I never thought I would have to say this to Kyle Baker, of all people…
But Kyle: honestly I don’t care at all about 300, and truly honestly don’t give a flying fuck. And what is all this insular communication shit, anyway? I thought you hated that. Okay, you were making a joke. Well…such is my esteem for you, I don’t care.
But MAN, this is the best Hawkman comic I’ve seen in thirty years, even if you were making a joke I don’t get. It’s Hawkman as the Phantom of airplanes and airspace, right? And Great Creepy Christ you make it look good. My my.
Hey, just in case anyone’s reading this: I plan to buy two copies of this per week.
I would, wouldn’t I?
And here’s the big sheep-shank of it. In comics, the idea of appealing to a mass audience, though people pay lip-service to it, is outmoded and counterproductive. However, to let the talent go apeshit every once in a while is fine, and in fact necessary. These horses can be bridled, but every once in a while they gotta run free! And the comics company is just the trademark farm, but every once in a while you get a Luthor, every once in a while you get a Venom…I mean I simplify, and also it’s a vexed matter in more ways than one, but…that’s the thing, no one ever knows what people are going to like. You never know when you’re going to stumble upon a new trademark that might work for you. Or just a new approach to something that people like. Or a new Iron Man script-in-the-making. Or indeed just an idea, fleeting fugitive idea, will o’ the wisp IDEA…! You never know, it might mean something, or resonate with somebody. Well, you don’t know.
I think this Wednesday Comics thing is the most perfect idea DC’s had in a while. But here’s my question, Bloggers…
Do you think, maybe, just slightly, that we had anything to do with it? Us with our memes. “If There Could Only Be Fifteen Comics Titles tout court, what would they be?” “What Characters Don’t Have A Series Now, That Should?”
I don’t know if you’ve noticed.
But we’re into third-generation comics-makers now.
And a lot of our best talents grew up in the Dramedy Belt. Free Traders; well, just really people who’ve spent their lives thinking Hari Seldon would show up, and approve them.
Imagine their shock!!
But perhaps it’s something you and I should think about.
…Aaaaand, I’ll fix this later, but for now I deeply want to hit “publish”, so I will.
Hey, Internet: more later from me.