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The Friday We Messed Around With Jim

This was a real conversation. It’s been about ten years since it happened, so my memory might not be accurate in every detail, but I will vouch for most of it.

It took place at the San Diego Comic-Con, sitting around an evening campfire at Mission Beach. Though I’ve omitted the names — you’ll see why — I can tell you that it included several professional writers, some remarkably talented artists, a couple of engineers, and one or two others that are normally very erudite. And me.

Also? No one was drunk. Honest.

*

“That is the dumbest song I ever heard.”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“Seriously? ‘You don’t tug on Superman’s cape. You don’t spit into the wind. You don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger and you don’t mess around with Jim.’ That doesn’t even make sense.”

“So? What’s the big deal?”

“Of course you can tug on Superman’s cape. What’s he going to do?”

Pause.

Go ahead. Tug.

Go ahead. Tug.

“Well, he’s Superman, he could do all kinds of things. He’s got super-speed, heat vision, he could–”

“No no no! Think! He’s SUPERMAN! He’s not going to hurt you! He’s just going to say, ‘Excuse me, did you need help?’ And that’s all that would happen. It’s a bullshit lyric.”

“Wait, though–”

“No, he’s right. Superman would be all ‘Greetings, citizen.’ You don’t tug on Batman’s cape. Then you’re in trouble.”

There's two cape-tuggers that'll have some respect in the future.

There's two cape-tuggers that'll have some respect in the future.

“Or the Spectre. The Spectre would really fuck you up, dude.”

No way in hell you tug HIS cape.

Tug the Spectre's cape and lose your hands. That is HARDCORE.

“What about Dr. Strange’s cape? Isn’t it, like, sentient or something?”

“No, it just levitates. The Cloak of Levitation.”

“But Dr. Strange controls it telepathically, it’s not like it floats away like a balloon.”

“So what? That means you can’t still tug on it?”

“It’ll bitch-slap you into the Dark Dimension, dude.”

Tuggable? I think not.

Tuggable? I think not.

“No, dark dimension was the other guy, the blackness guy….”

“Brother Voodoo?”

“That was blaxploitation, not blackness.”

“You are an asshole. No, the guy… he was dark and she was light…”

“Obsidian?”

“No–”

“Obsidian was a blackness guy–”

“No, I mean that Mantlo thing.”

“Cloak and Dagger!”

“Yeah! Yeah, that was it! Cloak!”

“What about him?”

“He had a cape that was, you know, it was like a dimensional gate. Like a cloth TARDIS.”

“A what?”

“It’s a Dr. Who thing.”

“So can you tug it?”

“The TARDIS?”

“No, the cape. Cloak’s cape.”

“Cloak’s cloak.”

“Whatever. Can you tug it?”

Pause.

“Uh…. I think so…?”

“Didn’t Hannigan sometimes draw it where he was kind of hanging on to it?”

Is actual tugging taking place here?

Is actual tugging taking place here?

“Does it count if it’s Cloak himself or does someone else have to be tugging on it?”

“Somebody else, I think.”

“Yeah, gotta be somebody else, man.”

Pause.

“I can’t remember.”

“Me either.”

Pause.

“What happens if you tug on it? Do you, like, fall in, or what?”

“How the hell do I know? I didn’t read that book. It was a dog.”

“It was okay.”

“It was Bill Mantlo trying to do Frank Miller and failing utterly! It was every dumbass vigilante cliché in comics! It was crap!”

“The art was good though.”

“Hannigan’s always good.”

“Who cares anyway? Are you really trying to tell me that it’s a better song if it says you don’t tug on Cloak’s cape?”

“Cloak’s cloak!”

“Dude, it didn’t get the laugh. Let it go.”

” ‘You don’t tug on Cloak-the-OTHER-blackness-guy’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind–‘ ”

“No, you gotta have three syllables. Cloak doesn’t scan right.”

“Doctor Strange has three syllables.”

“Nobody knows who he is.”

“Doctor Fate.”

“Oh, nobody knows Doctor Strange but they’re going to know Doctor Fate.”

“It’s got three syllables!”

“Doctor Fate would mess you up, too, he’s as bad as the Spectre.”

“No way. Fate wouldn’t turn you into a log and buzzsaw you.”

Would Fate do THIS?

Would Fate do THIS?

“He might if you tugged on his cape!”

“Doctor Doom!”

“Doom would vaporize your ass!”

“Oh hell yeah. ‘None may touch the cloak of the Latverian monarch, fool!’ Ka-ZAM! Grease spot.”

Several voices rose in song. “You don’t tug on Doctor Doom’s cape. You don’t spit into the wind, you don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger and you don’t mess around with Jim…”

Pause.

“It doesn’t sound right.”

“What about Dracula’s cape? That’s three syllables. Everybody knows who he is, right?”

Even hot girls have to abide by the no-tug cape rule.

Even hot girls have to abide by the no-tug cape rule.

Again the song experiment was tried. “You don’t tug on Dracula’s cape… you don’t spit into the wind… you don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger…”

Pause.

“I dunno.”

“It could work.”

“But then you lose the comic book connection.”

“Lone Ranger, dude!”

“Hello? Tomb of Dracula!”

“So what? No one thinks of comics when they think of Dracula.”

“I just did.”

“You’re an arrested adolescent that flew three thousand miles to hang out with a bunch of comic book nerds. You skew the sample.”

“Not in San Diego, not this weekend.”

“Geek pride, baby.”

“Represent!”

I bet Jim never thought he'd be THAT messed with.

And that’s why, to this day, every time that Jim Croce song comes on the radio, I start to giggle.

*

See you next week.

35 Comments

That’s a really amusing anecdote, and one that seems to underline the fact that, like many of the newer artforms (comics, film, rock and roll), there are a ton of people working within and engaging with the same sensibilities and shared past to draw upon when they’re talking about comics. It’s something you don’t seem to quite get as much, even when you’re talking forms of newer media, because everything tends to get more diverse (i.e. literature majors can discuss British, American, Italian, French, even Canadian stuff, and find that they have nothing to say when they talk about things with people outside of their specialty, while comics during a certain time span, say, 1930s to 1970s, seems to be very much focused around the American stuff, for the most part).

It’s also the reason I would like to go to a con one day, not to get deals on back issues, sit through ego-stroking promotional panels or get autographs, but just to sit and BS with writers and other fans.

Oh lord, I remember that conversation!

That was hilarious. Thank you for posting it.

Peter David wrote about this in one of his “But I Digress” columns, but only went as far as to say Batman (sorry, The Batman) is the one whose cape you shouldn’t tug.

There was an issue of (Action? Adventures? Superman?) back around 1990 in which Guy Gardner tugged on Superman’s cape, which prompted a response of “Don’t. Touch. The. Cape.”
So at the very least it will result in him telling you in a very scary fashion not to do it. I think it effectively leaves the “or else” up to your own imagination, which is likely going to be more terrifying than anything Superman would actually do.
Beyond that, I always took the lyric to mean that it’s just something that’s not done. It isn’t that there will necessarily be any consequences to doing it, but it would just be…improper.

“There’s two cape-tuggers that’ll have some respect in the future.”

That line made me chuckle. Great article Greg.

Haha.. yeah, that was awesome! XD

Heimdall–But it was GUY GARDNER. Not -everyone- would get the same response. It’s like.. assuming that a woman hates men based off of one response to *ahem* comment or action by Plastic Man.

If you interpret the line as a suggest of respect, then it does make sense.
Of course, that would make the spitting in the wind lyric pretty stupid–you don’t spit into the wind out of respect for the wind?

I dunno, I think it makes sens, you don’t tug on Superman’s cape Just. Be. Cause. You. Don’t.

Brilliant. I did in fact laugh (okay, chuckle) out loud.

Thanks, Tony. I knew I’d read the first part of this conversation somewhere else.

Sadly, a few years after that song came out, someone DID pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger.

Perry Holley

May 7, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Weirdly, that song probably had a different lyric in the DC Universe, as Superman wouldn’t have been active when it was written. In the DCU the original lyric was probably “you don’t tug on the Spectre’s cape (because you know that some of that stuff he did back in the 40’s is still the stuff of urban legend, decades later). In more recent years, the Foo Fighters would have done a cover of the song, and inserted Superman into the lyrics, just to be topical.

Hmmm, but how well-known was the Spectre in the DCU? Does he fall into the “urban myth” category like Batman?

I’d have to think “You don’t tug on Green Lantern’s cape” might be the best fit. Everybody knew Alan, right?

Great conversation! I love this kind of stuff.

And Jim Croce was a great songwriter – such colorful, scrappy characters.

Oh and I don’t think Ed Hannigan ever drew the Cloak & Dagger comic series. He co-created them with Bill Mantlo and was the artist for their first appearances in Web of Spider-Man, but the spin-off mini-series was written by Mantlo and drew by Rick Leonardi.

Are you *sure* no one was drunk or high?

John Trumbull

May 7, 2010 at 5:26 pm

OK, how’s this for an alternate interpretation? You don’t tug on Superman’s cape or pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger not because they’ll mess you up badly, but because it’s disrespectful and the wrong thing to do.

I know it doesn’t quite work with the intent of the song, but it works better with the characters’ established personalities. And for geeks like us, that’s more important. :)

Actually, Cloak & Dagger debuted in Spectacular Spider-Man, not Web. But Corey’s otherwise correct, the limited series was drawn by Leonardi, and I believe most issues of the first ongoing series were, as well.

Are you *sure* no one was drunk or high?

None of us has ever needed artificial help — or, really very much outside encouragement at all — to be silly. At least four of us there were teetotallers. Most of the conversations at our annual SDCC gatherings were like that. I thought about writing up the one we had about how “clearly working in comics makes you insane” with its attendant list of examples, but I decided that one was probably libelous.

Greg, that anecdote is wonderful– it made me laugh a lot, but i think the best part was just the tone– it really felt like the conversation flowed in a friendly, goofy, teasing way (as opposed to the fanboy stereotype of one-upsmanship or whatever around comic book characters) and sounded like it was a lot of fun.

Also, what story/stories are those Spectre pages from? I’ve never read his books, but those excerpts made me really curious. Hardcore indeed!

Also, what story/stories are those Spectre pages from? I’ve never read his books, but those excerpts made me really curious. Hardcore indeed!

The Fleisher/Aparo run in the 1970s. Collected in Wrath of the Spectre.

Really funny stuff!!!

Now is there a way to take “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” and apply it to comics? That would be awesome!

I don’t know if Leroy Brown could be applied to comics, but the other Greg might be thrilled to know it can be applied to wrestling. Many years ago, I saw a poster advertising wrestling matches in Oklahoma, and one of the wrestlers listed was called Big Bad Leroy Brown. I don’t know if he was ever a big star or not, this was the only time I ever heard of him. But I did wonder at the time if he was badder than old King Kong Bundy and meaner than the Junkyard Dog.
(Those were some very famous wrestlers back in the olden days. They would’ve had to have been, for me to have heard of them.)

Spectacular! That’s right! Thanks, Mary!

Another sorta-kinda-not-really comic-related:

Jim Croce also wrote a song called “Speedball Tucker” about a lead-footed truck-driver with a beat-up rig.

funkygreenjerusalem

May 8, 2010 at 12:19 am

Comedy gold.

There really is nothing better than talking rubbish with your buddies.

Is actual tugging taking place here?

If it is, that picture needs to be labeled NSFW.

No scan of when Molly Hayes tugged on Cloak’s cloak?

“Doctor Doom” doesn’t quite work because the emphasis is on the third syllable (“Doom”). The emphasis should be on the first or second syllable. “Dracula” or “The Spectre” would work. Also “The Batman.”

lol. thanks for posting the thing for found it hilerious that the part of whose cape you do not tug in do not mess around with jim would lead to such debate between comic proffesionals. for one no one would ever get close to even trying to tug super mans or batman’s cape without figuring a confrontation with the two. as for tugging on the spectre cape one would have to be totaly nuts in the dcu to even try something like that for the spectre is suppose to be a ghost his cape could not be touched. also loved the cloaks cloak part. some one could do a parody of the song with those lyrics

I don’t know why I referred to ‘Other Greg’ earlier, when I knew that Chad is the one who really likes wrestling. Maybe I should avoid ever mentioning anybody by name here. I’m always getting people mixed up. At least I haven’t ever confused Kelly with Sonia. Yet.
My apologies to both Gregs and Chad.

[…] May So I was surfing around the web a couple of days back, and noted over at Comics Must Be Good a rather familiar line of thought.  In this essay, it’s stated that the refrain in Jim […]

[…] here, Greg Hatcher was kind enough to put them together in one blog post recalling a funny conversation […]

funkygreenjerusalem

June 14, 2010 at 6:12 am

In Superman/Batman #50 – just reprinted in the collection of that title that just came out – a little kid tugs on the cape, and Superman just turns to look, though the kids mother cautions him tugging on the cape.

Of course, it doesn’t make sense that Superman, an icon of justice, a father figure, and a person who protects all that is in his charge, would hurt you if did something like just pull his cape.

It seems like the narrator of the song thought that these icons of right and might also had an abusive, human side. Maybe he believed that the Lone Ranger, Superman and others, were no better than the Jim of the song (You don’t mess around with Jim). Could it be a Freudian slip revealing Jim Croce’s own experience?

I meant that he was no better than Slim or Jim. If pulling Superman’s cape represents a show of personal disrespect to Superman, I can’t imagine he would really care about that. But he would care if someone else was getting hurt.

It’s fairly obvious in the song he’s not talking about a little kid. He’s saying specifically don’t do these things in malice. Well never spitting into the wind, malice intended or not, is good practice.

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