Comickry, part 1

20 Jan

I have more to say on the subject of comic books in a little while, but not a lot of time right at the moment. And I am feeling very Ellison-esque in my grumpiness toward the internet at the moment. And I need to go find somewhere to sell an article I wrote logically deconstructing the whole Loch Ness sea serpent business (although Loch Ness is not the only place they are “found,”)

So for now, I give you:

 Jack Kirby, talking about comic books and his characters. The video is introduced, as is the way of things, by Harlan Ellison (who, I will aside to say, is neither rage embodied, or a bitter old man. He wears his heart on his sleeve. If I spoke about my frustrations in an honest manner, like he does, I suspect I would come off exactly as enraged.)

Jack Kirby  was important for a lot of reasons, and one of those reasons was that he predated authors like Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore, and he came into comics wanting to tell bigger stories about myth and gods and legends. That’s important. At a certian point, super-hero stories need to transcend. The ultimate failing of a Superman story is when you take him out of his mythic context, when you break down the iconoclast which surrounds him. Clark Kent segments only worked in the hands of the most capable authors, and even then, they only ever worked because we were all in on the joke: bumbling, ineffectual Clark Kent is also Kal-El, the invincible last son of Krypton, who is Superman. It was the utter failing of a lot of comics during the 1990’s that Clark Kent became big and had a pony-tail and was cool and got sweet dates and all that. It was utter rot. It didn’t have to be, but it was handled poorly. And despite the general improvement of comics in recent years, their one failing is still Superman stories, which are infrequently told well or told that matter. All-Star Superman (by Grand Morrison) is doing a good job right now. Previously, A Superman For All Seasons was the best Superman story to come at us in a long, long time, and it was absolutely pitch-perfect (it’s available in graphic novel form, of course. Go read it. You won’t regret it. It’ll be the only worthwhile thing done with Superman since Doomsday killed him).

Comics have improved because they have gained depth and breadth. Because we have started treating these heroes as real. And yet, this does not always work. And it is not always necessary. It has greatly benefited Marvel Comics, whose heroes were always more in-step with the world, more grounded. Over at DC comics, they are in a muddled middle ground, unsure of where to go in any direction. DC comics have always been mythic and epic. Batman does not exist on a REAL street-level, he exists in a very legendary and mythic Gotham City, if you see what I mean. I know Christopher Nolan does, he’s doing it perfectly in his Batman movies.

Superman comics tend to resort to him fighting giant insects, abstract blobs, things like that. It’s worthless. The best Superman stories — and the best Superman villian, of course — were always Lex Luthor things. And that was because it was sheerly a matter of brawn versus brains, versus innocence, something which Superman had and Lex Luthor never did.

Right. And that’s all I’ve got to mutter about at the moment. I have a short story what needs writing. “Last One Out the Door,” is the title, although I think that title’s suggested a whole different story. So now I have two short stories to write.


Posted by on January 20, 2008 in Uncategorized


5 responses to “Comickry, part 1

  1. Shadow Ferret

    January 20, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Kirby’s comments that he knows those people before he ever starts writing, that they’ve lived in his mind and he knows their background, that’s how I feel when I write my stories. The characters spring to life fully developed as if I’ve known them all my life.

    And that self-portrait of Kirby at the drawing board surrounded by all the Marvel characters and the Human Torch lighting his cigar is my wallpaper. I like that pic.

  2. Pete Tzinski

    January 20, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    I have a picture like that with Steve Ditko, in the back of some old Spider-Man issue, but I no longer remember which one, or even where it is.

    I thought it was a great video. He’s interesting to listen speaking, because he’s very intense. He’s considering heavily before he talks. And I like how he admits that, despite all the mythology and the characters and the gods…he wanted to make sales. He needed to make money.

    A very, very practical (and genius) man. I think he was bigger than his time. I wish we had him now, truthfully.

  3. Shadow Ferret

    January 21, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Anyway, addressing your comments, although I liked the Lex Luthor intelligence vs. braun stories, my favorite Superman always seemed to be the ones where he battled oddities, like the Bizarros and Bizarro Superman. Or Solomon Grundy. Or even that Mr. Mxlphxlheods (whatever his name was). Those are the ones I remember most.

  4. Pete Tzinski

    January 21, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    But when battling the oddities, it came down to his brain, sooner or later. Sheer brawn against Mister Mxyzptlk never worked, Superman had to realize that he had to say the name backward.

    And the brawn stories (he had “braun” stories, Ed? He had water filter stories?) I’m talking about are the ones where he fights a giant crystal-monster thing which doesn’t really talk, and he just beats it up a bunch.

    All the brawn stories — Bizarro, Solomon Grundy, my second favorite Superman villian, Parasite, and my favorite Superman story/villian, Doomsday — had a resonance to them. An emotional background that a “creature feature” of the week doesn’t, you see?

  5. Shadow Ferret

    January 22, 2008 at 7:03 am

    I was thinking baseball. Our third baseman, Ryan Braun. :p

    And yes, I understood your reasoning.

    I just remember Superman from the 60s and he seemed he had become a caricature of what a comicbook superhero should be. Like you said, a “creature feature” of the week, or month. Totally formulaic and uninteresting until the 70s when DC finally went relevant.


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