America must learn to love that hot dog.
We’re in the third year of the New 52 and the second Man of Steel movie is coming down the pike, so this contemporary incarnation of Superman probably isn’t going away any time soon. It’s even beginning to show up in the merchandise and marketing, fighting for shelf-space with the classic Superman look. It’s still Red Pants on fruit snacks and party supplies, but Tin-Plated Tights is making headway with the toys and vidya games. If this were comics, they’d call this a “Clash of Titans” …
I didn’t expect it to bother me, to be honest, my interest in modern mainstream comics is nil and I’m not skint on older material which I can happily revisit if needed. A few months back, though, Target had a Justice League banner on display featuring the new52 incarnations of the characters and Superman in his molybdenum onesie, the first time I saw the new costume “in the wild”. It made my heart ache.
There’s an inarticulate and histrionic type in fandom who scream “my childhood has been raped!” every time their pre-adolescent idols are changed in the slightest (even if only cosmetically) but while they grate on my nerves with their constant sense of outrage and surprise, I also sympathize with them. They’re confronting an unfortunate mortal reality, possibly for the first time, that one day they will have to leave the room and their exit may go unnoticed.
It’s a reality of growing older – the next generation will have their own popular music, their own movies and books, ethics and culture. They’ll pave over our favorite stuff, cherry-picking a few things from the previous generation but mostly starting from scratch. All the perfect versions of important ideas which we carry around in our heads will be overwritten by the next generation’s perfect visions of important ideas, just like we did to the generation before us, and somewhere in there you confront the idea “Will anyone even miss me when I’m dead?”
Of course, this generation AND ours are being served by corporations, the only entity we “allow” to create the official canon of what we arguably ought to consider folk tales. This makes the changes all the more distinct and oftentimes shocking, because it’s in a corporation’s best interests to revamp whole franchises in a single go, to sidestep and disallow the evolution of an idea. There’s not a lot of looking back and saying “and in this way, Transformers became the story it is today,” but rather you can pinpoint a date on a calendar and say “And this is when the reboot was launched.”
For Superman, the point of the reboot was apparently to make him “cool” (as determined by a passel of middle-aged, middle-class mostly white men, no small percentage of whom keep showing up to publicity events wearing baseball caps, for God’s sake). They had to jettison all the uncool stuff – the red pants, the glasses, the spitcurl. Make him lean, get some alien armor on him, make everything darker, give him a wolf, wolves are cool, I’ve seen ‘em on tee-shirts.
The thing about Superman is I’m not sure he’s supposed to be cool. For all of his power, he stands for the everyman, he represents the underdog; Clark Kent is a working slob, a nine-to-fiver with a crush on the office hottie and still wearing the same sorts of clothes he wore when he was a teenager. He wears glasses, he grew up on a farm. If you want cool, go see Batman, that guy’s in charge of things, he represents authority. Batman’s old money, landed gentry, he’s combing pussy out of his bat-beard, he’s got a sweet ride, even his dog is badass. Batman can afford to be cool. Superman’s dog is a mutt who chases hot dog-shaped promotional blimps, cool isn’t in the cards.
The contemporary incarnation of Superman is familiar to me, even intimate. I remember him, he was the version my friends and I made up when we were in college, staying up til four in the morning to talk nonsense about dumb shit, drunk or high or self-impressed with our own intelligence. We were nineteen years old and embarrassed to like Superman, so we took it upon ourselves to make Superman cool. We got rid of the underpants, darkened his costume, diminished the Clark Kent role, lost the glasses. We made him bleak, decided he would shun human company. We spent hours justifying his super-powers, his flight was telekinetic and sometimes debris would fly alongside him. We tossed out his morality – if he had to kill, well, he had to kill. Lord, we even declared that his costume was Kryptonian armor.
I can prove it, I still have the drawings, only we stopped short of transforming Superdog into a Kryptonian War Hound. Well, sort of – we decided that Comet the Super Horse was now a Kryptonian War Horse. He grazed in the pastures of the Phantom Zone. That was one of mine.
I don’t regret any of those ideas, I’m not even embarrassed by them, but I do recognize that we were missing the point of the character – Superman’s not a shiny new Lamborghini, he’s a Mustang with a squeaky CV joint and leopard print seat covers. It makes him better to let him be imperfect, a little goony, ridiculous, uncool, unfashionable, awkward – like people are, basically, to make him more like us, so we can better imagine what it’s like to be more like him.
All of which is off the table for the foreseeable future, I suppose, if not forever. Superman’s getting Batmanned right now, and you can’t really blame his legal owners for trying to capitalize on the latter character’s success. I can’t think of the last time we went a year without a Batman cartoon on TV or a Batman movie in theaters, or with no line of Batman toys on the racks. Superman’s not been as lucky or persistent in the marketplace over the last three decades – personally, I like to imagine that’s because he’s more successful as an idea than a possession, but I have a feeling that’s one of those perfect concepts I have about the character which will disappear with me down into the dirt someday.
Action Comics vol.1 No.388 (May 1970) is a slightly notorious Cary Bates-scripted story where a scientist (Named, of all things, Dr.Nurd) accidentally replaces the Earth with a messed-up duplicate of Earth. Some of the changes are, I dunno, stoner humor - Mxyzptlk’s hat is too big instead of too small! Hilarious! - but mostly Lois Lane turns into a manic pixie dream girl. She’s actually got a ukulele in that top panel, I couldn’t believe it. How adorably unconventional!
I guess the weirdest part of the story is that this is just a duplicate of the planet Earth, but … it has a 30th century? The Legion of Super-Heroes shows up at one point, traveling back from the future, and doesn’t that imply that this world persists in lieu of Earth for at least another thousand years? I dunno. I want a copy of that newspaper, though. Hell of a headline.
The Negajinx ad, 1981, promises to permanently destroy every one of your Jinxes. Handy offering for those of us who suffer from the heartbreak of multiple jinxing.
Someone had reposted my recent commissions post and made a comment inquiring why I don’t just quit my job to do art full time. I’m sure there was no slight intended, hell it was probably complimentary, but this comes up from time to time. The short answer is this: "because i’m an adult with debt & responsibilities who realizes walking away from 40k a year job to doodle for others is selfish". I’ve never understood how steady income, insurance, etc is seen as failure. Chase dreams but sleep comfortable I say. The fuller answer tho I think is worth a share, so if yer curious read on for
THE ECONOMIC REALITIES OF BEING AN ARTIST IN THE YEAR AFTER THE YEAR OF LUIGI ACCORDING TO RUSTY after this here jump
I heartily endorse this whole shmear, but this paragraph in particular speaks to me:
"Yes but if you were serious about your art" AHHAHAHAHA yeah that, that’s baby talk for "you are not being the artist I want you to be per my parameters.". Art shouldn’t be dictated by rules, and the only ones I go by are the ones I make. That is the most freeing thing humanly possible.
I’m currently on the receiving end of a lot of otherwise well-meaning folks who nonetheless are barking down my snorkel about how I’m spending (or “wasting”) a lot of my time doodling a buncha goofy shit and old comic book characters. What they want me to do instead is make my “own characters”. Nerds, I made my own characters, I did original comics for ten years, I got an Ignatz*, I’m fine thanks. Right now I’m really into doodling any dumb thing I want, it makes me happy.
I gotta be honest, I’ve recently started getting back into creating comics because, for the first time in a long time, I really feel like I want to make comics - and that’s in spite of the (like I say, well-meaning) boosterism. None of the “y’oughtta”-ing I ever got from anyone ever made me feel enthusiasm about doing comics, it made me feel guilty and put-upon. Every time someone said “I’d love to see you do something original instead of just drawing Hoppy the Marvel Bunny and stuff” it just made me regret ever letting them see my drawing of Hoppy the Marvel Bunny in the first place, you know?
I realize I run the risk of sounding ungrateful when it’s folks merely trying to say, in a clumsy (and unintentionally patronizing) way, that they want to see more of my work. Thanks for that, honestly, but let me pick where my passion lies, thanks.
Having known about the Vigilante movie serial since I was a little kid (Books about comics history were always as interesting to me as actual comics, so it was either Les Daniels or Ron Goulart who hepped me to it), I always assumed that its existence meant that the Vigilante must have been incredibly popular in his day.
It only recently occurred to me that, no, probably he got a serial because he was a cowboy character and they already had a bunch of cowboy stuff lying around which they could easily (and cheaply) pair with some equally available gangster stuff for the movie.
I would expect the same to be true for Congo Bill’s movie serial, although I’ve seen neither of these (Don McGuire’s “Ugh, this is BULLSHIT” posture, stride and delivery make me really want to see the Congo Bill one, though. Every scene, he manages to make it look like Congo Bill is extremely put out by all this fucking bullshit goddamn it). At least for Blackhawk they had to make a uniform and stuff.
Atlas-Seaboard was a mess across the board, but you cannot fault the original art teams. Here, John Targitt - aka Man-Stalker, a hero who wears a target on his chest and whose superpower is that he solves every problem with guns, including but not limited to opening doors - is rendered in delirious black and white by Howard Nostrand (top) and Frank Thorne (bottom).
Check out the figures in the bottom of the splash panel, Nostrand had a style which seemed to recall Jack Davis. Just from the hand and head on the bottom left, I might’ve thought Davis was framing the piece…
Went to an Art Car show over the weekend and only snapped photos of these two cars, because I started feeling, like … that’s enough art cars, surely?
This is satisfying on so many levels.
Everyone will please stop what they are doing and take 20 minutes to watch this clip of Young Peter O’Toole arguing about Hamlet with Orson Welles from 1963.
I was surprised when, eleven minutes in, Welles suddenly drops the bomb that the greatest modern interpretation of Hamlet is “Sons of Anarchy”.
drlarrysalt said: Could you re-do the lyrics to the Beach Boys' Kokomo and use references to Avengers characters instead of tropical getaway locations? Thanks.
Sure, just let me drink this whole bottle of Drano drain cleaner first. As I chug it down, here’s an interesting fact, according to Kurt Vonnegut the chemicals which make up the human body are basically identical to the chemicals which make up drain clogs, so ghurrrhgle gughgulg gguglglgllg**