December 8th, 2011
In the great play, the play of the world, the one I always return to, all emotional souls occupy the stage, whereas all creative people sit in the orchestra. The first are called mad (alienated); the second ones, who depict their follies, are called sages (philosophers). The eye of the sage is the one which lays bare the follies of various figures on the stage. — Denis Diderot
August 11th, 2009
or Crisis? What Crisis? (part one)
Think of him as 2000AD’s awkward cousin. He and Tharg used to get on great for a bit, but while The Mighty One went into his teens still drunk on the heady surge of Thrill Power, Crisis was always a bit serious. Self consciously so, you could say. You know the routine: went veggie. CND badge. Amnesty membership. Morrissey lyrics sung at high volume to that face in the bedroom mirror. Didn’t make friends that easily, and sometimes seemed to try hard not to be noticed at all, but on rare occasions he’d come out with something that would really be worth paying attention to.
February 16th, 2009
Sometime in the nineties the cry rang out: Marvel was gonna put the “character back into comics”.
This was news to me.
As far as I was concerned the Marvelverse, with the possible exception of the X-Men, was still firmly rooted in a pre-Watchmen era. It was only the energizing touch of the man Miller that rescued the company from my utter contempt. DC on the other hand, was, in my rather woolly analysis, the natural home of adjectives like mature, and visionary, the only company where character was likely to flourish. My case rested upon little more than DC’s willingness to publish The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke, and Arkham Asylum, and the serious moonlight cast over the DCU by Watchmen, and the Vertigo imprint.
While I’m now well versed in the legacy of Marvel’s legendary creators, if I’m honest I remain skeptical about Marvel’s claims to the concept of character. I grant that Lee and Ditko’s willingness to subordinate super to man was likely revolutionary back in the late sixties, and that they quite possibly changed the landscape of comics, but the reality is that while character is certainly the focus of many Marvel titles the characters in question have seldom been allowed much more than superficial depth – the MU as a place of histrionics rather than history. That, even as its best, seldom produces character studies with more going for them than I’d expect to see in a well realized soap opera. Don’t get me wrong, I think good soaps have their own virtues, and, and this is important, I’m not sure that I want to see rigorous character studies in (many) superhero comics, but I think it’s worth pointing out that by treating the term character as a monolith, and not admitting to its multiple meanings – the different ways in which the centrality of the concept can be approached, from Dynasty to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe – Marvel, and its die hard fans, are perhaps heaping undeserved glories on themselves. I mean, we’ve all read the Ultimates, right?