Look Back At Gerber

Or, as I might have called it…

FLASHBACK! To “A Trout In The Milk…!

Although possibly I am a little late with that, but then you see it was a very strange Winter Festival Period around these parts:  my little nephew was born, for one thing.  And I guess I got myself a little distracted.

A lot distracted, okay.

Hell, I’m still distracted…

But late as I am, while it is still the middle of the month of Janus I can’t be completely too late, and this is a very good thing because I have just one or two things to say.  Since it’s about five years plus a little bit since the Great Girlfriend Meltdown, five years minus a little bit since I yammered on at Jim Roeg about Batman Begins and realized it might be more fair on him to just start my own blog…and now here we all are, Bloggers, all together and conveniently somewhat close to the turn of the year, the turn of the screw, the turn of the tide, the turn of the page…the Big Hinge.

Hey…thanks for coming!

And don’t worry, I’m not quitting, so you don’t have to sit through any happy-birthday-to-me-ing, at least not very much, and not in any too-general sense.  Not that I disdain that sort of thing, you understand — not by any means! — and not that I don’t have many, many. many people to thank for this enormously-prolonged, almost tantric Sting might say, and so very rewarding, Big Conversation.  But for one thing, there’s a reason my blogroll is labelled “You Know Who You Are”…and for another…

Well, y’know…

Once, not long ago (hm, actually quite a while ago, now that I think of it) I was all prepared to write a post called “On The Lifespan Of Blogs”, my own little survey of how people get into it, and then sometimes out of it, and how sometimes that takes and sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes even looks like it’s doing one when it’s really doing the other…but then I thought “no, maybe I’d better save that one for when I retire from blogging, if I do”, and then I thought “well, maybe if I stop wanting to do this so much I might just simply tail off, and not bother marking the occasion”

And then finally I found myself thinking “well, maybe I just plain missed my opportunity to write that post”, and now finally, finally, here we all are and not only have I missed the post but I’ve missed the chance to quit.  Meaning I missed the chance to quit what I was doing and start something else, because I just did start doing something else but lazily failed to mark the occasion, and in retrospect that marking would have been a making, actually, and so since I missed the making at the time I now couldn’t mark where it happened if I tried…

…Because it didn’t happen, and so there’s nothing to see on that downslope, no place where I fell and got up again, no scar I left in the scree, no footprints, no tracks.  Which in a way is a shame, from a certain non-perspective — because I do miss that post’s existence, now.  I had so much to say about how one gains an audience, loses it, gets it back again or changes it in, how one peters out and pumps in and re-buys and levels up on the shifting sands of Internet attention which one is also part of…just so long as one is here.  But then after that post came another new versional perspective called “The Restaurant At The End Of The Internet”, and then I let that one go too, and now I’m not sure I could even muster up any such final statements, not sure I could manage to erect any such data-cairns or Internet roadsigns along my way.  In part, it’s age that’s probably working against me there:  as my brain gets less plastic I switch from seeing trees to seeing forests anyway!  And so find it much harder to distinguish where I’ve been from where I am, as all old tough sailors do when they’re far away at sea

And no, that’s not me playing…

…But it is my manifesto, at least as much of one as I’ve pretty well ever been able to get, and by a very peculiarly happy fault in this particular rendition it is even a bit more mine, than it would’ve been otherwise.  Eh?  Because YouTube doesn’t play Dylan anymore I guess, but Dylan’s still gone friably through the prism into public life, and thus become really and nicely liminal;  that song won’t be public domain for going on another century or so, and that’s good, because I only want to sing it off the karaoke machine anyhow, I don’t want to fully own it any more than I want to fully hijack it, I just want to play with it in the space between, where it only kind of belongs to the whole world…

…Where it is neither inside nor outside, of course. No, I’m not meant to be the guy singing at this link, but then neither is the character in the song meant to be Bob Dylan himself, though undeniably it was only Bob who had the dream

…But then this is my dream, and so what good would it do me to link to Dylan anyway?  I like that guy doing the cover in the link:  he seems so happy, doesn’t he?  Playing just to play, playing something we all know the words to.  I’m not singing along with him, as I would be if it was shaggy old Bob up there, but instead in a way he is singing along with me;  and in a manner of speaking he is even singing this song for me, since I couldn’t find the original in any case.  So there’s no money here, because there’s none of the sort of authenticity that can make money…but on the other hand, that isn’t the only kind of authenticity there is, either.

Is it?

So, making money…no.  But that guy’s making my gratitude, anyway;  just as all of you have been doing too, obviously, lo these five-or-so years while I myself have been playing “just to play” out on this soggy Internet soccer field.  A fan press;  a fan conversation, about all that we have in common.  Even if most of it was made by others, and owned by others still.  I dunno, really, folks…maybe it is all about the ludic nature of the reading, and maybe indeed the ludic reading is also a kind of ludic habitation:  a claiming of the waste spaces and the fallow fields, for new purposes-in-common.  Yeah…because there’s authenticity, and then there’s authenticity…right?  You know at times I really do feel like my voice comes unstuck on this blog, like it is not really about anything, like it is not really me speaking…because in fact “me” is a thing to be about, “me” is a thing that lives in the centre of someplace and bends straight lines into a circle around itself:  “me” is another name for a kind of purpose, but this blog never was made for any purpose other than diversion, even in the earlier funnier posts that were probably much better written.  So it’s just a journeyman effort, a space like a Purgatory, untented and possibilistic…heck, I think that’s what drew me to it in the first place, the strange marginal promise of all that:  that maybe it was made to avoid all the normal attractors, just so in the act of such diligent avoidance it could end up being a sort of an attractor too, somehow.  And:  maybe even its own special producer of Art?  Now you’re like me: expanding out laterally, horizontally, peer-to-peer.  Growing to include what you imply, as all fractal patterns do — even, inevitably, taking in the outside observer.  I never watched Lost myself (only, as I’ve said, the last episode), but I watched the folks watching it, and I watched its weird occupation of the particular fan/reader eco-niche that fascinated them all so, and that was quite interesting, actually.  Our little sector of Blogland is such a knowing sort of place, eh?  Everyone is so obsessed with the relationship between Art and Constraint, and the problem of creating new space…like the problem of salvation?  Less religiously:  like the problem of independence in a very prescriptive sort of world, a world bound around in convention and consensus — and fairly deep matters of ownership and value, that slink around in the darkness outside the campfire-circle of desire.

But then, don’t listen to me! You all know how I like to try getting the conversation to chain, when in comes to topics in fantasy!

Honestly, I’m absolutely terrible that way.  I don’t know how you stand it.  It’s just a blog, right?  It doesn’t really need all this lugubrious crap squeezing down around it like an accretion disc, and getting overheated.    I mean, I already said it:  I’m not going anywhere.  So why don’t I just write something about something already, and get on with it?

Well…since you invite so prettily, I’d be pleased to.  As it happens, I do have a couple things simmering away on the back burner, that are pretty much ready to serve…and whether they’re a whole lot different from all the crap I’ve been serving all this time remains to be seen (“Sleet!  My favourite!”), but I think I can promise that we will, at any rate, see them…

But in the meantime, before the old time’s all run out, let’s take a bit of another look backward, shall we?

Specifically, at my old weird project the Seven Soldiers Of Steve, a tribute to the late great Steve Gerber’s massive maxi-series that was perpetrated on 1970s Marvel Comics, and what I called way back at the beginning the longest graphic novel ever, though I think I’m pleased to say that over the last five years Grant Morrison may have broken that record at DC using a similar “comics intranet” strategy…the creation of a private Morrisonspace within the corpus of mainstream shared-universe comics, something I’d hardly believed possible anymore:  the carving-out of new territory and new possibilities from the moribund-seeming coal face of established superheroic fiction, and O LORD, did I just mix those metaphors, AGAIN…?!

Christ, I am such a slob.

But the project is still going on, happily:  our old friend Mr. Disharoon, surely the very happiest recipient of the blessings of blogland that I know, whose two current contributions can be found down at the bottom of the SSoS links on my sidebar, is even working (so I am told) on a third essay about the Gerberverse’s most lovable denizen, that same Ruth who was James-Michael Starling’s frustrated nurse in Omega The Unknown…a project that reminds me strongly of Ed’s old notion for the very last Narnia book possible to be written, the biography of Susan Pevensey…

And of course Ed’s piece on the Headmen/Nebulon sequence of The Defenders is still one day to come…so, no, we’re not finished by a long shot, but there is still something to say here, at this time, looking back on how we’ve arrived at where we are.  Which is:

I fancy it’s almost become a truism in the world of elementary physics and astrophysics both, peculiar twinned disciplines of Biggest and Smallest, that the best description of our Best Descriptions might best lie in the descriptions of the things they describe:  the Study Of Path-Making, you might otherwise call it, where “spacetime” is just a convenient higher-order summation of otherwise-indescribable particle freedoms — where in fact “geometry” becomes “languaging”, to tie together the bunched sheets of those oddest of bedfellows, computer science and feminist lit-crit — but, dude, you knew those guys had to get together sometime, with the way they were always going at each other! — in which all the fields are only fraternities, and all the objects only affections.  That’s what elementary physics is now, dear Reader, really:  a mathematical soap-opera, a shifting histogram of kisses traded, handshakes accepted or declined, desire lines worn into trails, letters mailed or sent.  With reference to an old strange enthusiasm of mine, turned now to high-schooly metaphors:  the Kissing Force and the Note-Passing Force, those are the forces passed when teachers and parents aren’t looking, the Desire Forces…and then there’s the Hand-Holding Force and the Same-Car-Riding Force, the ones active in the sight of parents and teachers that are just as important:  the Declaration Forces.  In between those forces’ various mixtures is found the concept of Relationship…or as the Ancient Greeks and I call it, the mystery of Matter and Motion.  Meaning, of course…

…That all attempts to group similar things together, are attempts to similarize things by putting them in groups.  Just as Steve Gerber’s Defenders, naturally enough, but also like some larger groupings too…

…For, what’s a field without its particles?

Or what, for that matter, is space and time?

As the margins don’t exist without the border, nor the border without the margins, nor any of it without the centre nor the centre without any of it…but it’s all just one big Hilbert space of hopes and fears and maybes.  Nothing real except the changes:  as above, so below

A motto proven out nicely in astrophysics too, as it happens:  where once again there’s not really any core nor any hinterland, no centre and no no outskirts.  The universe, in the classic modern formulation, is not an expanding cloud but the skin of a balloon being blown up:  the planets and the galaxies only like dots marked in felt pen on the balloon’s surface, and thus the only real  “centre” is outside the space we live in.  And the space the centre is expanding into is outside the space we live in, as well.  Everything we see and everything we know is of the border, things neither inside nor outside, the ever-expanding locale that cannot exist apart from its manner of habitation.  Irreducibly interrelational:  because in 4D or perhaps even (of necessity) 5D space there may be such things as True or False, Real or Unreal, Yes or No, Off or On…One or Zero…

…But those things aren’t like what WE are like, quite fundamentally.  Because we stalk the margins.  We are of the margins.  We define the margins.  So we’re cursed, right?  Or:  blessed, right?

Cursed or blessed, you would think it’d have to be one or the other, but those absolutes are just a reverse-holographic illusion that the state of being neither one fully creates.  In other words, Grant Morrison has got it all so gorgeously backward, so beautifully precisely backward…

…That it couldn’t be any righter!

And hey, well:  maybe that’s worth thinking about, you know?

But in the meantime it’s The Defenders we”ll be thinking about, because it happens there too — maybe even begins there.  In all these essays, the main theme has appeared to be “pushing outward”…except it hasn’t, because none of these essays has a centre either, you see.  Because their subject doesn’t have a centre.  Look at the titles on the sidebar, none of them betrays any meaning but “end”.  End, and end, and end again…a finality that never comes is baked deep into every perspective, not just the feeling that finality never comes, no:  nothing so logical as that.  But the concept of “finality” as something that never itself comes, never becomes so much as a viable scan or gloss of the world;  never is more than an abstraction that doesn’t apply:  that’s what this is all about.  Epilogue followed by revised epilogue, a failure to conclude followed by a deuterocanonical failure to “really” begin, and then even in the very beginning is explicitly an end, for heaven’s sake…!  And yet we just keep going.  We’ll never run out.  There will always be wiggle-room;  room for things to seek a resolution without finding it.  Sunk deep within the event horizon of the Mandlebrot Set, deep within the complicatin’ forry of the world-as-is you-broke-it-you-bought-it, we are fascinated by higher-dimensional intuitions of definiteness, belonging, being one or the other, on or off, one or zero, and no two ways about it.  True identity.  The pure teleology.  The revelation of the mystery of Cause

But…well…

There really is no such thing, though:  which is probably what’s so bloody fascinating about it.

And that — I think — is what I wanted to say here.  There is no centre and no Cause, thus no borders and no End.  From somewhere the balloon inflates, and the marks move apart, turning themselves into distance as they go.  “Centre”…that’s only the name of the ultimate fiction, the one we extrapolate from reality because we feel we must.  But there really is no centre.  There really is no antipodal position, either.  There’s really no space between, or inside, or outside, or (even!) neither inside nor outside.  None of this stuff is written down anywhere, by Nature.  It actually doesn’t have to make sense.  It’s all just theoretical.  All just language.  We’re the only centres there are, to any of it:  people, personalities, powers.  Oh yes:  just you watch, I’m going to tie the whole thing up right here, this will be bloody James Bond or my name isn’t “That Guy Who Reviewed Final Crisis Without Having Read It”…!

…Because, I don’t know, I’ve got to try to get it out of my system or something?  Not that I’m changing this blog’s focus, you understand, but…I mean, what was the reason I got into this blogging game in the first place, really? It was to write some stuff about my first comics love, the Fantastic Four.  But now I don’t care about the FF at all anymore, and I’ve got to look at that fact as the taking of some kind of temperature…don’t I?  I’m so turned off by what the shared-universe concept has become, at DC and Marvel.  And y’know, I used to be turned off while still keeping up, but I haven’t been doing that for a while now either.  I have written so much about the symbolic ordinal relations in both fictional and non-fictional “space” — maybe you’ve noticed? — and how the conversation between the two sparks how each gets inhabited (how both get inhabited?), that now I can barely stand to look at places where fallow space is aggressively co-opted before it can even be revitalized, which means I can barely stand to look at a lot of places that are available to be looked at.  Yes, how I would’ve loved it if my local video store, or newspaper, or bar, or downtown strip had been allowed to find a new way to thrive, in a new set of relations, before someone had swooped in and smothered, occasionally even strip-mined, its newfound and rejuvenating narrative!  Even so it is with Marvel and DC and their universes, I just don’t know anymore…caring even slightly just seems like good money after bad, these days.  Most of the time.

Though not all the time.

No, by no means all the time…

Or didn’t you notice that All-Star Superman #10 is Grant Morrison’s response to Laurie looking into the snowglobe, at the little Martian castle inside, where a little tiny Jon watches a little tiny Laurie throw the perfume bottle, and break everything to bits?

Even Amy didn’t get that one, if I recall right.  And so you see, new space can be found, even in the frozen lattice of the uttermost centre.  And even especially there.  The principle of opposition becomes the principle of harmony at last, and All-Star Superman as that which finally, finally picks up the gauntlet of Watchmen, yes:  I’m going to say it.  But only, y’know, because it’s true

…Even if it probably isn’t quite enough.

But then again, maybe it is.  Nothing ever ends?

It doesn’t have to, you know.  When you break it down, philosophy is nothing but an ordering of verbal propositions, but even though the order is externally-imposed, that still doesn’t mean it’s imposed from the top down.  And even Wittgenstein doesn’t insist we pass over that which we can speak of, and weird old Godel would (I think) agree:  if the field shapes the particle movements, and the particle movements form the field, then since neither one is dictated to by the other our conversation may not come to any end, because there is no end out there waiting for it…because no end has been made.

And perhaps nothing is made…

…Except to go on and on, much as this blog.

But, maybe that’s a story for another time.

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11 responses to “Look Back At Gerber

  1. I’m sorry I’ll never get to read your “why people retire” post, since it probably go a long way toward explaining my own Internet behavior over the past few years to myself.

    Just felt a need to blow things up and decompress a month or two, I guess.

    At any rate, glad you haven’t gone down a similar course.

  2. This is NOT the “universe” post, by the way…although it does indeed have a little bit to do with David Allison…

    The Universe post comes four posts from now, after we go down the wandering path a little.

  3. Good point about things not having to end. Why did the guy who succeeded Gerber on The Defenders have to wrap up the Elf with a Gun thing? That could have been spun out for years, perhaps decades, perplexing and infuriating readers…

  4. There are a lot of general rules for how to conduct oneself on the internet, most of which fall under the heading of “netiquette”, but one of the lesser-known ones that I’ve come to believe in is this: never say goodbye.

    Lots of times it happens that someone wants to stop posting on a message board, or something, and writes a big long farewell post (either angry or not, depending on just why he/she’s leaving), and everyone else reads it and responds, and there’s closure.

    And then four months later the person is back on the message board anyway.

    I mean, people should do what they have to do. Need to take a break from the internet? Quit it entirely? All fine. But you might as well leave the door open for yourself to come back, because the door *is* open, and why put yourself in the position of going back on something that you said? (“All I have in this world is blogs and my word.”) You don’t *have* to come back to the message board or the blog or whatever, but let’s face it… you might.

    So I might not have swallowed a “goodbye” post anyway. “Au revoir,” sure.

  5. David: Thanks! I was not altogether sure I didn’t stumble pretty badly…but then that’s why it’s marked “Personal”…

    Chris: Ha! I’m not quite sure if you’re joking? Personally I liked the way Kraft decided to perplex and infuriate readers with his end for the Elf…and it could’ve gone on, if it weren’t for…please say it wasn’t DeMatteis, who revealed the Elf to have been some sort of “Chronal Protection Agent”? And throughout the timestream, zillions of Elfs With Guns, sigh…

    And Matthew: Yeah, I think “saying goodbye” is a thing bloggers don’t really do anymore, thank goodness. Also, I think we may have seen the end of “the comics blogosphere is DEAD!” pronouncements…or at least, I hope we have. Remember those things? That’s what “The Restaurant At The End Of The Internet” began its short life commenting on…

    For me, though…I don’t know, I may have already done my “au revoir”-ing and come out the other side. In the last five years or so I’ve done a LOT of commenting on Superhero Structure Stuff, the Vitality/Transgressiveness of Junk Culture, and whatever else I could find that plausibly fell between those poles, sometimes finding pleasantly emergent themes that wound their way through three posts or ten…that was pretty delightful on occasion, but I’m not sure I’ve got so much left to say on that topic. At least, for the moment.

    Also, a lot of things that might’ve found their way into posts seem to get bled off into email a bit more than usual recently…and of course there’s Twitter, which they call “microblogging” but which is really a bit more like micro-emailing…and then there are also the ‘zines, and then various writing projects on the side, both Internet-related and non-, now that January’s started back up. My Internet use is just changing a little, I guess. So, I kind of hope to do a bit of a “2.0” thing here, really, give some of my usual hobby-horses a rest and get onto some of my other usual ones…

    But, I guess we’ll just see how that all goes…!

  6. Hey, has that kid got a name yet?

    I think blogging about superhero comics is hard when you’re not currently reading them. I think it’d be easier to motivate myself to write more essays if I could buttress them with commentary and punditry on the topics of the day, but I haven’t been to a proper comics store in about a year and a half, so like…I don’t even really have an opinion about the Jason Aaron/Alan Moore thing other than “Well, sorry you FEEL that way, I guess…”

    Anyway, count me in as also very glad that this was not a Goodbye Forever post.

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