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Intentional or Unintentional?

Here’s a new game! I show you an instance of something in comics I found hilarious, and you tell me if the humor was intentional or unintentional! Unintentional humor is mainly the stuff that places like What Were They Thinking? and Superdickery specialize in. You know, like some innocent enough panel from 1955 that, looked upon in the context of 2007, seems hilarious.

Today’s entry? Last week’s Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man Annual #1, detailing the origin of the Sandman. (Read more to see the details, so you can make your pick)

In the issue, young William Baker is seen building a sand castle with his drunkard mother, who has passed out on the beach while he makes his castle. He naps next to her, and when they awake, she remarks that “the sandman came to visit you? That’s nice.”

However, he soon finds that the sand castle has been destroyed by the sea. He is distraught.

Her reaction? “Well…that’s pretty much the way of the world, honey. Nothing lasts. Not art. Not relationships. Nothing. Everything goes away sooner or later.” Thus, young William Baker determines that he will create something that “won’t be washed away by the sands of time.”

Later on, a little older, William is shown creating sand sculptures in art class. He is a gifted sculptor. Some bullies destroy all his sculptures in front of him and beat him badly.

He then spent time at the beach, examining the sand at the beach, and seeing how it interacted with water, changing shape to move with the water. He spent “the next month, every spare moment, practicing moving like sand and water.”

So then, when the bullies tried to beat him up again, they couldn’t catch him, because William has practiced being like sand. He thinks to himself, “You can’t hurt me. Every time you think you have your hands on me I slip through your fingers, like water. Like sand.”

That’s basically it for the sand references. The comic, as a whole, is pretty good, only hurt by the hilariously lame sand references (which is a pretty big drawback, though). Once the sand references cease, I’d say the comic was actually quite good. David did a really good job establishing Sandman’s early years as a crook, and his relationship with his father was interesting AND tied into recent issues of Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man (but not overtly so, which was nice).

Anyhow, so here’s the challenge – Peter David is certainly a funny guy, so it is clearly possible that he placed all those silly sand references in the comic as a joke. But what do you think? Did he add those sand references seriously, or did he add them as a joke?

Do you think that the humor of all the sand references was… Intentional or Unintentional?

35 Comments

intentional without a doubt.

Intentional, yes, humor, no. I think he was going for foreshadowing and parallelism. Or something of that nature.

Symbolism, that’s what I was searching for. He’s turning the image of sand into a contextual symbol for William Baker’s life. It’s really no different from the bit in Batman Begins about Bruce falling into the pit and being attacked by bats. Or Die Fledermaus being the opera his parents take him to when they get shot.

Actually that superdickery website has some insight into the story below about storytelling engines–look under Stupid Comic Covers.

Intentional, but not really that appealing to me. Actually, it’ll likely prevent me from picking up the issue.

Remember, the question is whether it was intentional HUMOR or not, not whether David intentionally made sand references, because that much is obvious, right? You don’t accidentally make nine sand references in the first seven pages of a comic book.

Rohan Williams

May 30, 2007 at 5:11 pm

Hahaha! The fact that you have to point that out is awesome. From what you’ve said, I’m gonna go with unintentional- partly because David wrote the Spider-Man 3 novelization, and from the making-of stuff I’ve seen, the idea of sand as a metaphor for Flint Marko’s personality was taken pretty seriously by the movie folks.

BizarroBeachHead

May 30, 2007 at 5:14 pm

I’d say it’s definitely UNINTENTIONAL humor. I don’t feel bad for not reading FNSM. I thought I would, but stuff like this reaffirms my decision.

“Or Die Fledermaus being the opera his parents take him to when they get shot.”

The Tick’s hispanic superhero friend has his own opera?

No, der fliedermouse is german. You’re thinking about Bat Manuel.

I’d go with unintentional. The humor in David’s stories usually comes in the form of witty reparte or Star Trek references.

Off topic but what’s with those weird cross-hatched, cornrow hair styles that characters only have in Spider-man comics?

Unintentional humor is what What Were They Thinking specializes in.

Cluelessly mistaking intentional humor for unintentional humor is what Superdickery specializes in.

You probably already know my vote, Brian, but just to make it official: unintentionally hilarious.

My theory: Peter David must have had trouble meeting the deadline for some reason and asked Meltzer to ghost write an issue, because that hamfisted, heavy handed symbolism is much more in keeping with his writing style than David’s. I vote unintentional humor.

MarkAndrew – heh. Thanks, but I can do clueless too.

I’d vote that this is a failed attempt to be “meaningful” or to “foreshadow”.

The Mad Monkey

May 31, 2007 at 12:15 am

Batman’s parents took him to see the movie, “The Mask Of Zorro”.
That is, unless that little tidbit got Superboy-punched out of continuity.

The Mad Monkey

May 31, 2007 at 12:15 am

Oh yeah…
Intentional.
It’s Peter David.
C’mon.

To crib a line from West Wing:

“If this is a joke, it’s both funny and well-executed, but I think we both know that it’s not.”

Batman’s parents took him to see the movie, “The Mask Of Zorro”.
That is, unless that little tidbit got Superboy-punched out of continuity.

In the comics they did, not in the movie ‘Batman Begins’ which they were talking about.

I’m sorry, I can’t comment on this because you didn’t mention Comics Make No Sense in the same sentence as What Were They Thinking and Superdickery… :-)

Unintentional . . .see, when PAD tries to be funny, he fails miserably. It’s only by accident that he succeeds.

The Mad Monkey

May 31, 2007 at 10:23 am

Well, there you go.
I thought we were talking about canon.
Apparently not.
How silly of me to even think that canonical references would apply.

this could have been the funniest comic of the year if in the end it turned out the flashback sequences weren’t about Sandman, and were actually about, like, Paste Pot Pete.

^^ Very true, Anonymous–the Simpsons, in last season’s episode that was a parody of the “Up” documentary series, did a similar bait and switch with the Sea Captain and Disco Stu. Funny!

Intentional humor. Oh, you meant the sand references? I thought you meant the fact that a kid has a widows peak.

“No, der fliedermouse is german. You’re thinking about Bat Manuel.”

He was Bat Mauel in the live action series, he was Die Fledermaus in the cartoon.

Intentional? Yes.
Humour? No.

How does he write with such heavy hands?
O the symbolism!
O the etch-a-skething!

Cornrows are ace!

Intentional.

I assume most professional writers know what they’re doing, ya know?

FunkyGreenJerusalem

May 31, 2007 at 8:15 pm

Remember, the question is whether it was intentional HUMOR or not, not whether David intentionally made sand references, because that much is obvious, right? You don’t accidentally make nine sand references in the first seven pages of a comic book.

How did it feel to have to type that out?

Because the irony of it had me in tears.

How did it feel to have to type that out?

Because the irony of it had me in tears.

I’ll admit, it was surprising to find myself feeling the need.

I really don’t know how to vote on this – how can I vote “intentional” or “unintentional” when I’m not even sure it was humor? It didn’t strike me as funny in the least. Awkward? Yes. Forced? Yes. Humor? Really, humor? You thought it was funny?

He was Bat Mauel in the live action series, he was Die Fledermaus in the cartoon.

Yes, and only one of them was Hispanic, which is how the conversation started.

Well, there you go.
I thought we were talking about canon.
Apparently not.
How silly of me to even think that canonical references would apply.

And how silly of everyone else to think you’d actually read what you’re responding to and thus know what you were talking about. Foolish, foolish Everyone! They should have known better…

Awkward? Yes. Forced? Yes. Humor? Really, humor? You thought it was funny?

It’s funny because it was so awkward and forced.

No, I don’t think it IS funny because it is akward and forced. I think its just kind of sad.

The sand is one thing, and that is stupid enough, but when you bring the stuff with him being in love with his teacher (last name Flint) and chosing the name “Marko” because he wants to leave his Mark… there is some seriously lazy, bad writing going on.
I’m assuming David is doing it as a parody and trying to make it as over the top as possible. Personally, I think its par for the course for him, utterly hysterical to himself a handful of people and just stupid and a waste of time for everyone else.

-Oh, and the Coleen Doran back-up? A story thats been done no less than 3 times before? Thanks for phoning it in Peter, I would have just wasted that $3.99 on gas otherwise.

The reason only characters from Spider-Man have that strange hair-style is because it was a Ditko thing. As the first artist on the book he was the one that created the look of so many characters, and all subsequent artists have had to follow his lead, even with all his artistic eccentricities. (And that’s a good thing, because it means the major Spidey supporting characters all have distinctive faces, and they don’t all look like the same bland pretty face with different hairstyles added.)

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