When I proposed the idea of writing a section on Comic Books for
I-Mockery, my first question was, where the hell to start!? I
began reading comics soon after I learned to read at all, which means it
was around 1969. To my great shame I have been reading them ever since.
They cost 15 cents an issue. There were relatively few books on the
market and since I was only interested in Superheroes the number of
books that concerned me was quite small. It was possible to follow every
character and every event going on in the two main publisher's
"universes". In addition, my brain was younger, more supple and
manageable than it now is. I recall a point about three years into my
reading when I had a toy chest bursting with comics, several hundred,
and with a mere glance at the cover I could summarize the story. To my
great shame, I did, to anyone willing to listen. I can only hope that I
was not as loathsome and pitiable as children I have seen do this trick
since, but it seems doubtful.
Despite the calcification of my brain, or perhaps because of it, I can
no more forget the vast storehouse of useless information that uses the
Neurons where I might otherwise store important phone numbers, the
birthdates of my immediate family and images of athletic, naked women
with eye patches...
...than I can stop buying
the damn things which now go for between $2.25 and $5.99 depending on
what the exact tipping point of your stupidity is.
All of this returns me to the question: Where to start!?
Should this be a History of the medium? No. Many fine writers have
already done this. I have nothing particular to add to the body of this
scholarly work. In addition I mean to crib from it, and also I can't be
bothered to do real research or even check the accuracy of my writing.
Should this be a memoir?
Good question. A sort of tour of my life as recalled through the comic
books I read. No. For a few reasons. First, that sounds like a good idea
and I'm saving all my good ideas for the day someone wants to pony up
some serious scratch. I don't know how many good ideas I'm capable of
generating, and I've already used up a lot of them on images of
athletic, naked women with eye patches...
Second, I think we can all
agree most memoirs are pretty damn gay.
Does an interest in Superhero comics spanning more than thirty years and
costing several thousand dollars mean you're gay? Surprisingly, no. I
myself am almost entirely not gay. It is more possible to be drawn to
stories of men in very tight clothes grappling with each other...
...and be heterosexual than it is to enjoy Broadway Musicals or the work of
ABBA. Recognizing this, many of today's comic books feature improbably
large breasted women in what can only be called Fetish Pornography for
the Very Lonely Semi Pubescent Boy set. In my day, almost all the
superheroes were men with huge pecs, good legs and a habit of solving
all their problems via grappling. I don't know why there is not a huge
gay comic fan subculture, like the Judy Garland subculture or the Jeb
I can only say that if comic books had the power to make you
be unbelievably gay by now. I mean the kind of gay that's so off the
gay meter it can be seen from space like the Great Wall of China,
How About Batman? Gay? The Batman suffers from a driven, compulsive
personality that leaves him very little time for sex. During that time,
however, he'll screw anything that moves...
Ask anyone. I mean, come on.
'Boy Wonder'? 'Dick'
Grayson? 'Aunt' Harriet? But don't believe a word Ace the Bat Hound
says. That dog is a pathological liar.
So what will this column be about? Something different very time. See,
stupid as comics may be today, they were unbelievably stupider back when
I started. And like 'Star Trek V' and Intestinal Flu, sometimes the
worse it is, the better it is. Except for intestinal flu. The worse that
is, the more likely you are to die of dehydration.
I'll give you a 'for instance', and it's the big 'for instance'. In
1985, Writer Marv Wolfman and Artist George Perez began releasing multi
issue miniseries called "Crisis on Infinite Earths".
Its intention was to take the very confusing continuity of the Universe
of DC comics (Superman, Batman, Wonderwoman) and simplify it to the
point that new readers could jump on board without an Encyclopedia
Dorkanica. It also aimed to explain how Superman and Batman, who at the
time had been around as adult crimefighters for more than forty years
were able to fight crime without Bat-walkers and Super colostomies.
It took a lot longer to shake things out than planned (about a decade)
but for the most part, they achieved those goals.
That was twenty years ago. That means many (oh, screw it, probably all)
of you comic fans reading this grew up in this current 'post crisis'
(oh, Christ, I'm totally going to hell for knowing terminology like
that, let alone using it) continuity.
In this new continuity there are some things that make nice, tidy sense.
Buckle up your dweeb belts for a second. The 'Golden Age Flash', Jay Garrick (looks sort of like the FTD florist guy, but less naked) was the
first Flash, in the 1940's. He's still around. Apparently running around
at near light speed is really good for your health. During a brief
period of retirement, a new guy, Police scientist Barry Allen (blond, Crewcut, real square, daddy-o) got super speed, updated to an all red
jump suit with a mask, and he was the Flash. He got a kid sidekick
(Wally West) which in the sixties you had to have, just like how NAMBLA
cardholders need one now. When this second Flash kicked the bucket, Kid
Flash became The Flash. It's generational. We understand it. We follow
in our father's footsteps. Better still, it can keep working. When I'm
getting fed pabulum by an angry Haitian whom I think is my daughter at the
Poorly Funded Old Age Home of the Not Too Distant Future, DC comics
won't need to explain how the Flash is 80 something and still beating on
punks. They'll have a new one. Hell, they'll probably keep all of them
around because they don't know a good plot device when they've got one.
Also, no one stays dead in comic books. I'll do a whole feature on that
some other time.
There are also some things about the new continuity that don't make much
sense. Superman? Not so super anymore. Follow me, and incidentally, if
you find yourself caring about this anywhere near as much as I do, shoot
yourself in the head. Historically, Superman is the first costumed
Superhero. You want to argue about The Phantom, The Shadow, The Scarlet Friggin' Pimpernel, be my guest, but that would mean you've already
tumbled off the tightrope I walk over the Geek abyss and I don't like to
talk to the squealey voiced, overweight, lonely arse, Flying Walendas
your local comic shop is brimming with. Listen, if you don't feel at
least a bitter needle in the spine of shame just reading this column, I
don't want a damn thing to do with you. It's not a guilty pleasure
without the damn guilt, okay?
So we agree Superman invented the superhero. It's the only way that
makes sense. He's the allfather, he's Odin, that's the only thing that
keeps him from being a miserable all-powerful bore. But in the current
continuity, he's not the first; he's just the best. He's like, the
Michael Jordan of superheroes, he came into a well-established game and
he's recognized as the best. Which is fine, but not Superfine. I mean,
okay, you come to Earth a strange visitor from another planet with
powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men, what the hell are
you gonna do? Be a really terrific Dentist? Look, up in the sky, it's…
...Uh… Green Lantern and Starman and Hawkman
and Bullet Man and by Christ Airwave and a zillion other Joes flying
around in capes and brightly colored underwear with stupid names. 'I
know! I'll do that too!' That's Super? Same with Batman. "I'm like that
Mr. Terrific Guy...
...except way meaner and I don't have the words "Fair Play" written on my
tummy, because that only strikes fear in the hearts of guys what do wire fraud.
"The Wonder Woman of Today? The original Wonder Woman's daughter.
She made her out of clay. Like a dreidel. Thank God today's comic book
writers are so much better than they used to be.
None of which is my point. My point is, that continuity may be all
messed up, but it makes a sort of sense and it's yours. It's not mine,
even if I want it to be. Because when I started reading comic books, it
worked like this:
The Original superheroes my dad read about? They lived on a parallel
Earth in another dimension that occupied the same space as ours, see,
but vibrated at a different frequency. And that one, the first one, was
Earth 2. On Earth 1, we had the Superman, Batman, Flash, etc I grew up
on who started being introduced in 1962 (The year I was born, I'm sure
that means something) and at the start were mostly revamps of characters
who'd stopped being published in the late '40's early 50's 'cause no one
was reading them. See, that was a continuity rewrite too, just like
Crisis, but little kids like me didn't know crap about some Green
lantern that wasn't Hal Jordan and who didn't belong to a cosmic police
force. And at first, they didn't even tell us anything! Then they
started sneaking old comic books into the new comic books! The Flash,
see, he was reading old issues of "The Flash"! My Flash, the real flash
was inspired by the comic book Flash my Dad would have read if he'd been
a nerdy little sociopath like me instead of a Swarthmore Pre-med from
Brooklyn. And then, okay, see, the comic book Flash shows up in the real
Despite dialogue, the audience for comic books is surprisingly
And he's real too!! From another damn
dimension! And Pretty soon the heroes are going back and forth, and the
Justice League is having annual hoe downs with the Justice society, and
Heroes who get all bent out of shape on earth 2 over some tragedy or
whatnot come live on Earth 1, and wait, wait, don't forget Earth 3 where
the Crime Syndicate hangs out, all the heroes over there, see, they're VILLIANS! And on Earth X? That's where all the heroes DC bought the
rights to when Quality Comics went out of business live, Uncle Sam and
The Ray and Phantom Lady who wore less clothes than any other costumed
hero besides The Sub Friggin Mariner!
And on this world, GET THIS, BRACE YOURSELF, The NAZIS
WON WORLD WAR
II!! HOLY CRAP! And then, there was this earth where the real guys who
actually wrote comics lived, I have no idea what world that was, but
every once in a while the superheroes they wrote about would should up
in their world which was presumably MY ACTUAL REAL LIFE WORLD which
meant SUPERHEROES REALLY WERE REAL!! JUST FROM ANOTHER DIMENSION!!
I swear to God it was enough to give a kid in 1969 a nosebleed of sheer
joy. It was so blissfully stupid and I'm sure it would never fly today,
but here's what I'm saying. It was great. And it was great in a way
that's never going to happen again. The paper quality is too good, the
coloring, good lord, you can hardly look at the comics I grew up on...
they're so pale and feeble and white. They cost too much. No one, no one
is going to put up with the heroes of Earth 14 who look like our heroes
but the sexes are reversed and they're all werewolves and Nixon beat
Kennedy if it costs $3.99 an issue. That is, at best, a 25-cent conceit.
Eighty Page giant, one new story, three reprints from the Golden Age.
That's a lot of comic book for a quarter, and it doesn't all need to be
So, what else is this little corner of I-Mockery going to be? I don't
know, what do you want? I'm kidding. I'll start caring what you want
when you start paying me. And I don't mean the publisher, he pays me
what he can from time to time... I mean you. I'll do this. You have a question?
I'll read your email and if it interests me I'll write something on it
for the column. But if its about your poopy, forget it, and most of the
emails I get through this site are about people's poopies. Think I'm
kidding? I wish. From time
to time I'll review single issues, series, or collections, both current
and from the past. Beyond that, damned if I know.
Until next time, SO LONG, DORKS!
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