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CSBG Archive

Friday bits and pieces

This was another one of those weeks where there wasn’t any ONE thing to write about. So you get a lot of little things instead. Were this week’s column a Jeopardy category, it would be “Potpourri.”

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A last couple of words about Steve Gerber, and such losses in general: There have been many, many eulogies and remembrances erupting all over the internet since Mr. Gerber’s passing, and it does my heart good to see that there were so many of us that felt so strongly about his work and what it meant to us. (I especially wanted to call your attention to the memorial up at The Savage Critic, if you haven’t seen it yet. That was the one that seemed to say it all and say it exactly right, at least from a reader/fan standpoint.)

Mark Evanier has continued to maintain Steve’s blog and I really would recommend checking out the comments and reminiscences there.

The unworthy thought that often crosses my mind, though, whenever we lose one of the great ones, is: where was all this worship when the guy was still alive? With this kind of love in the air for Steve Gerber’s work a couple of years back, Hard Time would have been the hit it deserved to be.

If you haven't bought this already, you really should. And how about collecting the rest of it, DC?

Granted, not realizing what you have until it’s gone is part of the human condition. I understand that. But it’s so blatant in comics, and so stupid. This rankles me especially at every convention I’ve ever been to. There are always huge lines for the Hot New Flavor of the month. Hallways are jammed with people fighting to get in to a gigantic ballroom just to see a B-list Hollywood star making nice to us through gritted teeth in an effort to flog some new movie.

Oh how that smile hurts. We actually saw this panel. We were cringing FOR her.

But our older creators are usually hanging out at the obscure end of Artist’s Alley, reading a book or shooting the breeze with their tablemates, with no line at all. Fans bulldoze right past them in their zeal to get a Jim Lee sketch or see the new Iron Man trailer or whatever.

Step aside, Grandpa!

Look. We have an extraordinary gift, with the comic-book medium — a great many of the guys that helped START it are still around, and they have amazing stories to tell. These folks are our living history, our Greatest Generation. Think what an extraordinary opportunity it would be for movie fans to just walk up to a table and chitchat with Alfred Hitchcock or John Ford about what it was actually like for them, doing the work that was changing the face of an artform.

That’s what we have. It’s astonishing to me that fans routinely shrug that opportunity off because they’d rather get in line for some guy who’s been working less than three years. I’ve actually heard these same younger pros chewing out the fans for it, bless them — “Why the hell are you in line for ME? Don’t you know Nick Cardy’s here? That guy’s a GENIUS!” And the fan just stares blankly back.

Cardy IS a genius, by the way.

What’s more, quite a few of the old guard are still as good at doing comics as they ever were. What I notice is that almost always, the editors who will talk your ear off about how this or that story changed their lives at age thirteen, blah blah, you know how it goes — but what makes me crazy is that when it comes time to talk about assigning a story, those same editors won’t even take a phone call from the guy that did their special beloved classic.

Not to go off on some old-guy rant, but Jesus, people, get it through your heads that these folks aren’t going to be around forever. Let’s show them a little love while they’re actually here.

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New In Bookstores: Speaking of old guys and celebrating our history, the latest All-Star Companion is finally hitting the bookshelves.

Now at a bookstore near you! But online is cheaper.

Considering the current interest in DC’s multiple-earth idea, this is a fun sort of catchall project for those that are interested in finding out where it all came from. I talked to my old friend Kurt Mitchell in this space a while back about his involvement in the series, and he was busy working on this third volume way back then. It’s nice to see that it finally has threaded the labyrinth of DC’s legal department and gotten all the clearances taken care of at last. (Kurt told me wryly, “DC apparently has time to sign off on Wonder Woman in Playboy, but it took them forever to get off the dime and clear this book.”) You can get it at your comics shop but you might do better to order it directly online from TwoMorrows, they are currently offering a discount. Link here.

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Comixtravaganza YouTube Can Be Good: When Ellen Forney did her talk at the Seattle Public Library, she closed with a hilarious exposition-slash-reenactment of how she came to create the strip “The Final Soundtrack,” included in I Love Led Zeppelin.

This comic is AWESOME.

What I was not aware of is that same little snippet of the talk is available on YouTube, and though I’m afraid my web-fu is not strong enough to embed it here, I certainly can link you to it; and here it is.

You can download Ellen’s entire talk– audio only, sorry– by clicking on this link here.

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Icebox Questions: I read our other Greg’s post with great amusement, here, a few days ago. As it happens, it reminded me of a similar phenomenon I’ve been meaning to talk about for a while now, called “icebox questions.”

The expression comes from the late great film director Alfred Hitchcock, who cited it as one of the hazards of working in the horror-suspense genre. I’m paraphrasing from memory here, but it went something like this: During the film, the viewer is swept up in the action and doesn’t bother about such things…. but once that viewer has gone home and had a chance to think, the sudden realization of a contradiction in the plot will come upon him like a bolt of lightning as he rummages in the icebox for a midnight snack — “Wait a minute, that couldn’t have happened, because…”

Hence, “icebox questions.”

A classic example for Trekkies might be how Khan managed to recognize Chekov in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan…

Ve haff VAYS of dealink vith Cossacks that hog the bathroom.

…. when Chekov’s character is nowhere to be seen in the original “Space Seed” episode. Walter Koenig got so tired of answering this question at conventions that he finally invented a rude answer for it: the night of Khan’s welcome party (– in act two of “Space Seed,” c’mon, you remember) –

Little-known fact -- Khan was really having tummy trouble at this dinner.

– anyway, according to Walter Koenig, Chekov was working the night shift and he inadvertently kept Khan waiting too long for the restroom. Been THERE. I’d remember a jerk who did that to me, too.

Alan Moore points out one that’s both of more recent vintage and closer to home, when he wonders how in the world no one involved with the season one finale of NBC’s Heroes understood that…

Does no one at NBC understand what 'Nuclear Airburst' means?

…a nuclear air-burst is actually a far more devastating explosion to an urban target than a ground-based one. (I confess I knew that and it still slid right by me.)

Uh, Nathan? This actually means a lot MORE dead people....

But that’s what makes it an icebox question. It’s okay with you while it’s happening, but later, you think about it, and it all collapses.

Superhero comics have a rich history of skating right over this sort of thing, all the way back to the silliness of Clark Kent’s tiny, wire-framed glasses actually serving as a disguise, on through to today.

Look at how tiny those specs are.

Though in recent years there’s been a near-obsessive number of efforts at “explanation” stories and so on, you’ll find there’s still no shortage of hey-wait-a-minute moments that we’ve never bothered to question…

…until you stop and think about it.

Here’s an example: Lord knows there have been pounds of explanatory stories written about Hawkman over the last decade or so. Geoff Johns almost made a second career of it for a while there.

Yeah, like this guy's EVER going to get to sit in an office chair dressed like this.

But there’s a key question that never got cleared up in all those various retcons and re-imaginings, that I’ve wondered about for years.

As a member in good standing of various superhero groups, Hawkman attends meetings. Both in the JLA and the JSA, Hawkman was often pictured doing his duty, conscientiously showing up for roll call –

Sitting with the wings on? What's that all about?

and sitting down.

Sure LOOKS like he's sitting.

With his wings still on.

How the hell does that work? Doesn’t it hurt? Those things are huge.

Seriously. Look at the action figure and you’ll see it’s impossible.

There's no way Hawkman's butt ever touches the seat of his chair. He might as well be on a meat hook.

His ass doesn’t even hit the seat of the chair. There’s no way. With that harness, sitting like that, he’d be strung up by his armpits.

Most of the time artists draw him standing, which is an acceptable compromise.

Okay, standing sort of makes sense. But why not just take the things OFF?

….but really, why not just take the damn wings off? Where’s he going to fly to anyway? How high are the ceilings in the JSA brownstone?

Nevertheless, I read JLA and JSA books for years and never thought about it… until one day it hit me out of nowhere. Where do the wings go when he’s sitting? Now it’s the FIRST thing I think about in any JSA meeting-room scene. I can’t help myself.

You gotta figure it really pisses Carter off that the League actually built a special chair for the Atom…

...how the hell does the Atom rate a special chair?

…and then the little guy never uses it.

Where's the Atom? Not in his damn chair, that's for sure.

Ungrateful punk.

And Hawkman? Has to stand in the back of the room.

Hawkman's starting to look a little pissed about the chair thing.

Sucks to be him. No wonder he quit.

I gotta wonder, Geoff Johns spends so much time thinking about this stuff, he managed to solve all the other Hawkman problems… how’d he let that one get by him?

But on the other hand, whenever one is tempted to reflect too long on such fictional inconsistencies, it’s best to remember that in addition to coining the term “icebox questions,” Alfred Hitchcock also had a permanent solution for people who asked about these various nitpicky things.

Hitch knew there was really only one GOOD answer to nitpickers.

You might say it was the icebox ANSWER.

See you next week.

26 Comments

Oh never mind Hawkman! How the hell did Warren Worthington conceal HIS wings under a coat? I know that Jack Kirby came up with a harness, but really now, we all KNOW that it wouldn’t work.

As for Hawkman, couldn’t he just spread his wings a little bit to go on either side of the chair, overhanging the arms? That way his feather don’t get mussed.

SanctumSanctorumComix

February 22, 2008 at 8:04 am

I always figured (same thing goes for Warren Worthington III – aka ANGEL) that the wings were LIGHTWEIGHT.

Y’know… made of FEATHERS with hollow supports.

As for how they’d FIT in the chair, they’d be fairly flexible (like a real bird’s) and could sort of flip to the side a bit by the arm-rest (or slide behind (or between) the chair and armrest).

The big “poufy” parts of the wings would actually make a great head and back-rest.

Soft and comfy.

So, no. The wings never bothered me.
Except when ANGEL had to strap them in to wear clothes.
THAT made no sense (how do they NOT give the appearance of a hunch-back?).

Although the same can go for Captain America’s SHIELD.

I always had a problem with how HAWKMAN was able to have his EYES at the top of his forehead.
(look at nearly any Hawkman drawing)

No way should he be able to see outta that thing (at least how it is usually drawn).

Oh, wait. DRAWN. Not real. “Suspend the disbelief”. Gotcha.

;-)

I’m good then.

~P~
P-TOR

The chair is made of unstable molecules and conforms to the shape of his wings when he sits down.

I will never be able to read a comic featuring Hawkman again without pondering this the entire time. Thanks.

I will never be able to read a comic featuring Hawkman because I don’t know what his origin story is. ;)

And re: The Heroes episode . . . My friend and I were watching and wondering when the whole “everyone in NYC gets cancer” story arc would be happening. We figured well into season 4.

Come on now, is the Clark Kent/Superman thing that big of a question? Seriously.

First off, how many people really get a good look at Superman on a regular basis? Probably not that many. Certainly not a lot of people who also know Clark Kent.

Second, let’s say Superman were real. How likely would you be to think that the nerdy guy in glasses in the next cubicle is actually Superman? Not very likely.

It really isn’t that hard to believe.

The Hawkman thing is pretty funny, though. I never thought about that.

Far creepier to me is how they turned Snapper Carr into Black Canary in those last two pictures.

A comedian whose name I can’t remember did a bit about the whole Superman glasses thing, pointing out that if a non-glasses wearing co-worker showed up one day wearing glasses, your response wouldn’t be “Who the hell is this stranger?” It would be “Why is Bob wearing glasses today?” So yeah, the glasses as a disguise is kind of hard to believe.

Roy Thomas addressed the Hawkman question in ALL-STAR SQUADRON, both with Hawkman commenting on how impractical the wings were for sitting down, and with Hawkgirl actually removing her wings to sit during meetings.

Excellent point regarding the older creators in general and Nick Cardy in particular.

What I wonder about the Chekov/Khan “icebox question,” is why the fans didn’t just go with the simple “Ah, they must have run into each other offscreen at some point.” Were they genuinely too stupid to think of that, or were they just so anal they couldn’t accept it unless it came from an “official” source?

Were they just so anal they couldn’t accept it unless it came from an “official” source?

That’s the theory I’d go with.

I remember the night I realized the truth about the flimsiness of Clark Kent’s disguise. A friend of mine and I were watching an episode of Lois and Clark and she said, “You know I just don’t get Superman. How can someone hide their identity with a pair of glasses?”

The thing is, I had been reading comic books all my life and I was *23 years old* when I finally made the connection. Which goes to show you: if I can suspend my disbelief for that long then Superman must be doing something that works!

The JLA Mail Room logos are really cool– I never thought about how DC production staffers kept retouching it as the League’s membership kept changing (and yet everyone has the same pose!) I love how they swap out Jonn Jonzz with Batman and Black Canary with Snapper Carr!

“What I wonder about the Chekov/Khan “icebox question,” is why the fans didn’t just go with the simple “Ah, they must have run into each other offscreen at some point.””

Not that I’m defending it, but the hang-up for people is that Chekhov wasn’t in the crew of the ship until the next season; it’s more than just that he wasn’t in the episode, or never interacted with Khan onscreen.

The JLA Mail Room logos are really cool– I never thought about how DC production staffers kept retouching it as the League’s membership kept changing

Actually, looking at it again, it’s been completely redrawn by Murphy Anderson but using the exact same composition Mike Sekowsky used! That’s brilliant.

Not to belittle your point about the classic creators, but your use of Jim Lee is a bit dated. He’s been a major artist in the industry for 20 years now.

Not to belittle your point about the classic creators, but your use of Jim Lee is a bit dated. He’s been a major artist in the industry for 20 years now.

I’m old enough that he still feels like one of the new kids to me. But feel free to insert your own candidate in his place; I think the point still stands.

I’m old enough that he still feels like one of the new kids to me. But feel free to insert your own candidate in his place; I think the point still stands.

I predate him in the industry too, and remember when he was the hot thing. Ed Benes maybe?

I’m with Tekende- the Superman thing isn’t that hard to believe. It’s not just the glasses- it’s the posture, the hair, the voice, the personality. There’s a classic issue of John Byrne’s run I’m sure you’ve read where Lex Luthor’s staff conclusively proves that CK is Supes, and Lex refuses to believe it because, seriously, why would Superman waste his time working the 9-to-5 as a reporter?

Then there’s the whole issue of whether or not people even know that Supes has a secret identity – why would they not think he’s just Superman all the time?

I can buy the general public not getting the Superman/Clark Kent connection. In fact, in Giffen’s JLI, they had a mock issue of SPY magazine, complete with their “Separated at Birth” feature. The three pairings were “Clark Kent and Superman, Lex Luthor and Big Sir, and Guy Gardner and a pineapple.” Lots of famous people resemble each other, right? (Like Huey Lewis and Joe Montana – maybe Joe Montana is secretly Huey Lewis!)

But I could never forgive Lois and Perry for not seeing it. Aren’t these two supposed to be the sharpest investigative reporters in America?

OK, so Lois pursued it for years, but more based on the “Clark’s never around when Superman is here” angle. And they did some nice scenes occasionally with shape-shifters helping Clark get photographer with himself.

In the back of my mind, I’ve always explained Perry by assuming that he’s known since Day One, but respects Clark so much that he politely doesn’t mention it. “He’ll tell me when he wants to tell me. As long as he does a good job.”

Lex’s disbelief of why Superman and Clark can’t be the same person was one of the worst moments in comics. I remember reading that comic and being so disgusted I never looked at it ever again.

I totally agree with you about the general disinterest in older comics creators and how sad it is; one of the high points at DragonCon 2006 for me was being able to shake Al Feldstein’s hand and tell him just how much MAD Magazine affected me as a kid. (He responded with, “Well, I’m sorry to hear that.” :) ) One of the low points was when I was doing an extended interview with Marv Wolfman, whose table was right across from Mr. Feldstein’s, and seeing him get almost totally ignored by passers-by for the entire length of the interview.

These guys are legends, and they’re not going to be around forever. I only got to meet Julius Schwartz once. I treasured it, but I feel like I could have talked to him so much more. So yes, go talk to the great creators. Listen to their stories, of when giants walked the earth (like Jack Kirby.) It can be a heck of a fun experience.

Greg, I’m there with you. To me, Jim Lee is still a “new” creator, if only because it was when he and his Image ilk changed everything that I lost interest in comics for 15 years.

Oh, and as far as the CK/Superman glasses disguise: I normally wear contacts, but one night I walked into a favorite bar wearing my glasses and EVEN MY FRIENDS didn’t recognize me at first.

So it’s not completely unreasonable.

Okay, I’ll agree that I never thought of the “Hawkman Conundrum” until now. But, when you showed the scene of the JLA giving the Atom a special chair it made me think of my own “icebox question.”

In every JLA meeting scene, they always show Atom in his shrunken(is that even a word?) form. And, as you showed us, they even made him a special chair for meetings. WHY DIDN’T THE GUY JUST STAY NORMAL-SIZED FOR THE MEETINGS?!?!?!? I’m just sayin’…

It would be like the Martian Manhunter staying invisible for every meeting and forcing the group to come up with some special goggles for everyone to wear in order to see him.

Atom stayed miniaturized in those old JLA stories for a pair of excellent reasons: 1) his costume, mask included, became invisible at full-size and 2) the Leaguers didn’t yet know each others’ true identities.

I’ll give Jennifer Tilly 3 things:

1) She’s hot, even pushing 50
2) She got an Oscar nomination once
3) She’s had the good sense to change her career to professional poker.

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