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.