March 27th, 2016
If you don’t know Joel (or to give him his Mindless name, Go Complex!) from his work on the Kraken Podcast/London Graphic Novel Network, that’s okay – this is the first of three guest posts so you’ll have plenty of time to get used to his chatty, digressive style!
What I’d say about him – this is Illogical Volume here, hi! – is that in addition to being a nice guy with a lovely face, he’s also the sort of person who makes things/thoughts possible that might not have occurred without him. Joel arranged the SMASH comics events that The Beast Must Die and I spoke at, and when he’s not bringing Ellis bros and Maid of Nails into conflict over whether the portrayal of Kaizen Gamorra is racist or exposing a hundred plus folks to the wonders of hurricane Ramzee, he frequently manages to make me want to pick a fight with my phone while I’m in the middle of the street just by having opinions about things.
If this sounds like a diss, it isn’t. Even when I find myself arguing with Joel – whether this happens in my head or
in real life on the internet – it’s almost always productive, so regardless of whether I agree with him or not I’m always glad to have encountered his brain.
Anyway, that’s enough of my blether – take it away Joel!
Have you read Prophet? Brandon Graham?
Basically: it’s the perfect metaphor for the current state of our capitalist entertainment complex. Or whatever. Neo-liberal blah blah etc.
Speaking of which: Let’s talk Star Wars.
(Altogether now! “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”)
My two cents: The Empire Strikes Back is Batman. Return of the Jedi is Superman. And The Force Awakens is Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man (Miles Morales not Peter Parker).
Truth be told: I’ve never really been all that into Star Wars. I was always more of a Star Trek kid which makes sense because – come on – science fiction is way better than science fantasy, right? Mostly, the J.J. Abrams Star Trek not included, Star Trek is actually about stuff (even if it’s not exactly what you could call subtle) while Star Wars is simple, clear-delineated between battles of good versus evil. (One of the many many things that would have made The Force Awakens would have been just Finn actually saying “Wait – are we the bad guys?”) Which is nice and everything but doesn’t really give you all that much to sink your brain teeth into – we’ll leave aside for now how thinking of terms of people being good or evil is basically at the root of a lot of our problems as a species because you already know that already right?
Saying that – I do have memories of watching the Ewoks cartoon a lot as a kid, and I’d like to imagine that was my first contact with the Star Wars universe if only because – how cool would that be? You grow up thinking of the Ewoks as their own separate contained universe, and then the first time you actually watch the Star Wars films and you get to Return of the Jedi and Endor you’re all like “wait a second – are those The Ewoks?” And then your mind is blown and nothing is ever the same.
I’m not saying that didn’t happen (and that sure would explain a lot) I just don’t have any real memory of it.
But yeah: seeing how The Force Awakens was coming out and there was no chance that I wasn’t going to see it (it’s a “yet film” you know? Some films when people ask you if you’ve seen it you just go “no” while “yet films” are the ones where when people ask you if you’ve seen it you go: “no I haven’t seen it yet”) I thought it would be cool to watch the Original Trilogy with some friends.
So – A New Hope. Well – A New Hope is kinda boring. I mean – the end where it’s a bunch of little guns flying around trying to blow up the big gun. I’m sure it was exciting at the time but now it’s 2015 I mean – there are more interesting ideas / cooler stories to tell – right?
The cool stuff about A New Hope are the bits where it all isn’t quite Star Wars yet. I mean: especially the first 20 minutes or so where it’s basically just the R2D2 and CP30 Show and there’s bits where it’s like an avant garde Hungarian art-house film or something:
In fact – the best thing about watching A New Hope was watching this once it was over (John Williams is important you guys!).
Anyway: let’s get on to my little home-grown theory about The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi and how the first is Batman and second is Superman and how that basically explains everything.
At the risk of being too simplistic about two characters that are pretty simplistic: the typical way to cash them out is that Batman is all dark and brooding and whatever (NO PARENTS) while Superman is American cheesecake – light and sunny and happy and delicious. You know – it’s the classic opposition between Bat and erm Super (or something?).
But the main point is – Batman is cooler. Kids/teenagers/over-grown man children love stuff that’s dark and brooding and all that. Standing out the rain in the middle of the night on top of a gargoyle is apparently what it’s all about. Because well – all sorts of dumb psychological reasons I guess? And everyone looks good in black?
And yeah – Empire is all about the angst and the pain. Don’t get me wrong it’s also a good film. What I like about it most is that it takes everything Star Wars did and then just makes it all more complicated. Being a rebel is more complicated. Being a jedi is more complicated. Darth Vader is more complicated. It’s all like – added wrinkles. But mostly the way it’s ended up being thought of is: it’s the dark one. Shit gets real. Hands get chopped. Everyone loses. It’s the second act. And you’ve got to go down before you go up.
If Batman had a favourite Star Wars film it would be Empire. Obviously.
And then there’s Jedi. It’s happy and upbeat and cheerful and kid-friendly and there’s all the celebrations at the end and all is well. So (do I need to spell it out?) it’s Superman.
Before we had our little Star Wars Original Trilogy re-watch, if pressed I would have been like “oh yeah – I guess Empire is the best one isn’t it?” Because it’s all grown up and mature and dark and stuff (or in other words: Batman). The big surprise of watching them was coming out with a new-found love for Jedi, because yeah – basically Superman.
When we talked about All Star Superman on the London Graphic Novel Network Tari said something that kinda stuck with me:
I love Superman.
He was a boy who grew up on a farm, with friends and family. Like any fairly normal kid. He was raised with good moral values, like we all are, and had a stable positive relationships to support him, like most people do.
Coming from a background like that would generally create a fairly well put together individual.
Most people have some sort of insecurity that fuels their ‘dark side’ and negative thoughts. Having good upbringing and stable relationships helps to steer you away from that darkness.
To fold things back into themselves a little, we all get why the dark side is so attractive. I mean – come on: Darth Vader is one of the greatest badasses the universe has ever seen. Hands down. The mask. The theme. Even how he breathes is cool (and he’s probably the only character that you could ever say that about). But also: well – you know: that stuff isn’t good. It eats you out from the inside. Negativity isn’t a positive you know? The clue’s in the name.
And The Empire Strikes Back is the dark side.
While Jedi is Superman. And Jedi is Ewoks.
(I told you they’d be back).
Oh man – it’s all so perfectly perfect. Maybe George Lucas is a genius after all? Because if I asked you to play the word association game only with you drawing the first image that came to your mind (so if I say “James Bond” you draw a penis or whatever), if I then said “Star Wars” I’m guessing the first thing that springs to your mind is either: Darth Vader or The Death Star or an X-Wing or a Tie-fighter or a Star Destroyer or R2D2 or CP30 or an AT-AT walker or Scout Walker or a lightsaber or etc.
I guess maybe you could have thought of one of the characters – Han or Yoda or whatever – but I think if you’re watching Star Wars for the characters/characterisations, maybe you’re doing it wrong? You know – Luke Skywalker isn’t cool because he has father issues and is really into power converters or whatever, he’s cool because he’s got a lightsaber and flies an X-Wing and blows up the Death Star. Point being: Star Wars is all about the machines. From that very first shot where the camera lovingly caresses the underside of that big long beautiful spaceship (ooooh! Feel the length!) it’s all about the technology porn.
And the Ewoks? I mean – the Ewoks are the opposite of that. They’re big cute fat teddy bears living out in the forest. At one with nature. Avatar etc. Basically the antithesis of everything that Star Wars is about. Which: yeah totally explains why your average Star Wars fanboy hates the Ewoks (and is kinda right to do so: considering their active anti-Star War-ness). It’s like: Star Wars is a bunch of boys sitting around playing with their space ships and blasters and robots making noises like “Phew! Phew!” and then – when it comes to the big final climatic battle that they’ve all been building up to – someone’s little sister comes in with her teddy bears of the forest and destroys it all. I mean – it’s not just me – that’s kinda perfect right? Of course Star Wars can’t destroy itself. Of course it takes something from outside the system to bring the system down. Of course fucking Ewoks. Of course.
Don’t even get me started on The Emperor’s: “Everything that has transpired has done so according to my design.” Old evil warmongering white man failing to take into account the indigenous population? I mean – it’s all so perfect.
So yeah – basically: go Ewoks.
As for the Force Awakens. Well yeah – see the top of the post – that’s Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man. You know: wow. Cool. Something where it’s not just “the continuing adventures of straight white men”. Shout out to Rey and Finn the Stormtrooper – the two most cool and exciting Star Wars characters since well: I dunno. I mean Han Solo is alright I guess?
Only, same kinda thing with Miles Morales: the diversity/representation/whatever thing is cool, but it’s a lot of a let down to then have the characters going through the same motions as Luke and Han / Peter Parker, you know? The structural rigidity that inhibits any real movement or real sense of adventure. Let’s blow up another Death Star. Let’s have another superhero fight. Hands up – I’m (for all intents and purposes) a straight white(ish) guy and so maybe I don’t have the right to complain. And maybe for the non-straight non-white non-men people out there – that’s enough? Only I wish that seeing how there’s going to be more Stars and more Wars there was an effort to show us things that we haven’t seen before?
Oh my god – imagine how cool it would have been if all of the Force Awakens was just the Search for Skywalker? Fey and Finn acting as detectives, following leads, questioning aliens and etc. Only I guess that might have made things just a little tougher to follow than “blow up the big gun”– it’s all about making the best (easiest to digest) possible product isn’t it? So…
What does all of this have to do with Brandon Graham and Prophet? We’ll get to that in a bit, but first we need to bring in my fellow Kraken Mazin in…
IN THE NEXT EPISODE!
- Joel and Mazin talk about The Force Awakens
- The holy name “Ursula Le Guin” is invoked in the defence of Ewoks
- Disney: Right-On Avengers, or Guardians of the Existing Social Structure?
- & so on…