O Say Can You See: The Greatest Patriotic Super Heroes of All-Time
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
New In Bookstores: Speaking of old guys and celebrating our history, the latest All-Star Companion is finally hitting the bookshelves.
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.
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.
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.
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…
…. 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) –
– 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…
…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.)
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.
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.
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 –
– and sitting down.
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.
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.
….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…
…and then the little guy never uses it.
And Hawkman? Has to stand in the back of the room.
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.
You might say it was the icebox ANSWER.
See you next week.
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