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Archive: January 2004

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New X-Men: Liberal Interventionism

[The Three-In-One sez] In our dreams we have seen a new Dark Age. Seen all history set back by a thousand years of ignorance and war. Seen, worse than all these, a terrible flaw at the heart of things. How did this happen so quickly?

[Wolverine sez] I guess no one thought Rome could fall, either… those guys had a postal service that could deliver mail across 170 miles in one day. They had indoor plumbing, the women were free, they had art and science and a communications network that spanned the civilized world.

Within a hundred years, it was all debris and lice.

Sometimes ya gotta take care of what you got. (New X-Men #151)

Then Sean Collins sez:

Now, I may just be desperate to find a fellow liberal-interventionist defender of civilization against theocratic fascism and nihilist terrorism out there in the great big wide world of funnybooks, but what alternate explanation for this passage by Grant Morrison can you offer?

Well, I haven’t read this particular issue of New X-Men yet, but I can think of a few alternate readings of the passage other than as criticism of moral complacency in the face of “theocratic fascism” and “nihilist terrorism.” E.g., as criticism of the moral complacency of liberal-interventionist defenders of “civilization” who’ve decided they’ve got this “civilization” thing down better than so-called “theocratic fascists” and “nihilist terrorists.” Or even better, you could read it as a criticism of moral complacency just in general.

(N.B. You needn’t read this as a critique of Sean’s politics, which I don’t know a lot about since I’ve not read many of his blogging on politics. As far as I know Sean is a perfectly non-complacent liberal-interventionist defender of civilization, self-aware and capable of self-criticism.)

New design

If anybody’s been trying to read the blog in the last hour or so, sorry about all the craziness. Internet Explorer fucks up the design a little (surprise), but it’s still readable and I’m not inclined to try to accomodate browser stupidity right now.

Freudian readings of Spider-Man

Spider-Man is standing on Mary Jane’s head. And Mary Jane looks a lot like May from Trouble, doesn’t she? Didn’t it turn out in Trouble that Aunt May is Peter Parker’s real mom? Now here’s Mary Jane looking exactly like the young Aunt May, and standing right next to Aunt May! This is clearly a subtle reference to the buried Oedipal subtext of Spider-Man.

Superheroes in neverending serial publication have a big problem with Oedipal trajectories—they can’t complete them! Unless they stop being profitable and get a resolution, I guess. Poor Peter Parker got married and still couldn’t complete his Oedipal trajectory (if he’d completed it, he would have settled down and quit trying to save the world all the time—he’d just live with Mary Jane and have babies and grown-up stuff). Can’t complete his Oedipal trajectory and saddled with a wife—it’s tragic!

Actually, reading serial superhero comics in terms of the Oedipal trajectory would probably be very interesting.


I’ve changed the URIs of our syndication resources, but the old URIs still work if you’re using them.

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GN/TPB Elaborations and Parentheticals.

[Edit 2004-01-12 2:30 am UTC]

To respond quickly to Dirk Deppey’s response to my response to him, I think (and thought then) that we are basically of the same opinion, but I haven’t dropped my quibbly attitude.

As far as I could tell from a cursory reading of John Byrne’s rant (and I wouldn’t want to give it more thought even if I were able to think beyond when I can take another decongestant pill and whether I’ll be able to breathe clearly enough to sleep tonight) the entire focus of the argument was on trade paperback collections of mainstream comments “mainstream” comics. Even the passage Deppey quoted, Byrne’s statement that trade-only publishing would be too expensive for companies to handle and have too little return in terms of drawing in new readers, need not be read as talking about anything more than the mainstream “mainstream” comics market. I assume Byrne does realize that people are buying and reading Blankets and Persepolis and that this is just not what he’s talking about. He’s questioning whether I would have paid $20 to buy Batman: Hush, had it been on the shelf beside Persepolis. In this case, he’s right. I, although not John Byrne’s Platonic Ideal Comics Reader, would be more likely to buy a $3 pamphlet or a minicomic to see if I can get a taste for a creator or story before investing more money and time into it. However I’d be even more likely to pick up a promising trade paperback or graphic novel for free at the library, where pamphlets aren’t readily available, and have bought books based on that. This is how I deal with much of my word-only book purchasing as well, since I want to buy books I’ll lend and read again.

To get back to Dirk Deppey rather than John Byrne, the point I was trying to make and, I think, didn’t is that different genres (or whatever word you’d like to use) employ different marketing strategies. Graphic novels don’t have to be composed of previously released smaller parts, but that’s one way to do it. I’ve read plenty of novels that began as short stories, or that contain previously published short stories, sometimes because I enjoyed the initial story so much that I sought out the larger context. In choosing the examples he did, Deppey actually gave a good implicit rundown of possible alternate, pamphlet-free routes to the graphic novel, which is what he was trying to do. I just think that they’re not what John Byrne was arguing against, and I was saying that having cartoons in Time or multiple reviews and interviews in The New York Times or a highly acclaimed first graphic novel can be seen as (loosely) functional equivalents to having previous pamphlet stories act as teasers for a trade paperback. I just still don’t think this makes what John Byrne said about mainstream superhero trade paperbacks wrong. I’m fully willing to believe he is, although I don’t know the economic details to know whether he’s right on that front, but I still don’t think the existence and success of graphic novels that appeal to a real mainstream readership, or at least some interested subsegment thereof, as opposed to “mainstream” superhero comics readers is actually a refutation of his argument at all.

Search string fun

Some actual search strings that brought people to our web site:

dog semen
That one’s my fault, for writing about American Wedding on the previous version of our blog.
how to eat semen
Yeah, my fault too. One wonders who would need a how-to guide for this.
postmodernism inflatable
This is what happens when you store your blog archives with multiple posts on each archive page. One post on this archive page from our old blog contains the word “postmodernism,” another contains the word “inflatable.” Result: somebody searches for “postmodernism inflatable” and Google returns a nonsensical link to our site. Now I want to know why somebody was searching for “postmodernism inflatable.”
violent stiletto heel school girl
I bet this is a hentai manga.
superpowers stiletto heels
i am curious (black) superman
It warms my heart that somebody somewhere is looking for information on this excellent comic book.

Lois Lane #106

Site updates

Some new stuff on the blog:

  • The breadcrumbs script is fully functional—navigate around the site and watch in amazement as the little bar across the top of the page tells you exactly where you are in the site’s organizational hierarchy!
  • There’s an archive page, which actually isn’t terribly useful since the archives are already listed in the sidebar.
  • Archive pages don’t show the full text of posts, they just show an excerpt/summary with a link to the full post.

The Dark Tower

[Edited 2003-01-05 5:21 am UTC]

I’ve just finished the new revised and expanded edition of Stephen King’s The Gunslinger. I detect a lot of the changes—much of the dialogue has been rewritten in the distinctive dialects developed in subsequent books. Several references (to LaMerk Industries and North Central Positronics, among others) are in this text that I don’t think were in the original, but I could be wrong. Oh, and there’s a reference to nineteen which I don’t remember from the original, but I could be misrembering. There’s only one change I noticed that I really regret: the second sentence of the original text is something like “The desert was the apotheosis of all deserts, standing to the sky for what might have been parsecs in all directions.” Now that sentence reads, “The desert was the apotheosis of all deserts, standing to the sky for looked like eternity in all directions.” Damn, but that sentence in the orignal was great. You’ve got your Clint Eastwood gunslinger trekking after the man in black through the alien deserts of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns (as a kid reading The Gunslinger for the first time I’d never seen a Sergio Leone movie, probably didn’t even know very well who Clint Eastwood was, but Leone and Eastwood’s Westerns are deeply enough embedded in pop culture that I instantly got what King was evoking), and that word “parsec” immediately disturbs things. “Parsec” isn’t a word you generally expect to find in the second sentence of a Western story or a non-sf fantasy story, what’s it doing here?

I guess can see why King might have wanted to take it out—the narration is focalized on the gunslinger, and parsecs are not a concept he’s probably familiar with. Nevertheless, I would rather King did a little narrative cheating than lose a classic line like that. But maybe King was right to take it out… the story doesn’t necessarily gain anything from giving away its sf influence so soon, and maybe it makes it more interesting to find out in the middle of the book that this story is more ambitious than a spaghetti-Western-influenced quest fantasy, when we learn that the gunslinger knows about atomic power (but doesn’t know what a TV is). Oh well, I’m just sad the book lost one of its great lines.


The Dark Tower is very much a story about telling stories—Most of the first part of The Gunslinger is narrated in flashback as Roland tells a story to another character. He spends a fair amount of the second part telling stories to Jake. When he finally meets the man in black, the man in black spends a long long night telling him stories. Wizard and Glass is almost entirely a story that Roland tells his companions. At least a third, maybe more, of Wolves of the Calla is one character, Father Callahan (who is also a character in Salem’s Lot, which I’ve not read), telling Roland and Co. the long story of his life. I bet there are many stories told in The Drawing of the Three and The Waste Lands, but it’s been long since I read those books and I don’t remember a lot of them. Related to all this tale-telling, The Dark Tower also seems to be a story about how a character who begins with no name and no story gains both. “The gunslinger was not a man to dwell on the past; only a shadowy conception of the future and of his own emotional make-up saved him from being a man with no imagination…” (p. 91 of the revised edition) He has a past, a story, but seems not to have thought much on it until events in this book forced it on him.

The subtitle of this book is “Resumption,” and the man in black surprises Roland by saying he has resumed his quest—the gunslinger never stopped questing, so how could he resume? Is it because the gunslinger had drifted without a name or a story (without an identity) and only now events (orchestrated by the man in black) in this story force him to make decisions and sacrifices which bind him to his quest? There are maybe other things in his past which bind him, but they’re revealed in subsequent books, they come later in the narrative order of the story. And in a story such as The Dark Tower in which narratives are so centrally important, might the flow of the narrative take precedence over chronology?

Well, I don’t know where King is going with these narrative-related themes, but I’m interested.

Oh, and it really bugs me that the gunslinger is now named at the end of the first part! It was very cool and tied into the “Man with no Name gets a name and a story” theme that Roland is named only in the (increasingly frequent) flashbacks until the end of the book when the man in black names him in the narrative’s chronological present. Now that’s been negated.

X-Men: Research help

Dear Readers, I need some quick research help. I want to map out how the X-Men high concept has evolved since its beginning, but I don’t want to have to buy and read every X-Men book ever—I just need the highlights. The only X-books I’ve read are New X-Men and X-Statix, so I’m look for other books of interest w/r/t the evolution of the X-Men high concept and the metaphors used in X-books. By “evolve,” I don’t mean “improve,” I mean “adapt to its current context.” E.g., the X-Men began as the Children of the Atom, I believe with the implication that mutation is caused by atomic radiation (surprise, everything is caused by radiation in that era of Marvel). How has the portrayal of mutation changed over the years? And just as importantly, are there stories (preferably ones available as TPBs) that exemplify various stages of the evolution of the mutation concept? I know I should look for the Marvel Masterworks or Essential X-Men. I’m also interested in the evolution of the metaphors in the X-Men. We’ve discussed that some already on the blog, w/r/t race, feminism, geek pride, more general political metaphors. Anything else interesting I might look out for? Are there 1960s-era stories that are especially metaphorically interesting?