Tuesday, November 30, 2010
I thought of this when I heard Irvin Kershner had died, which goes to show you the psychological damage a lifetime of comic book reading can do. Kershner, of course, inevitably prompts some funnybook consideration; as director of The Empire Strikes Back, he picks up the considerable baggage of the asserted comics influence on Star Wars, while his direction of Robocop 2 — the first R-rated movie I ever saw in R-rated form — implicates more contemporary notions of translating a cartoonist’s style (i.e. errant screenwriter Frank Miller’s) to a big-money action movie.
Then again, these days the most direct Kershner/comics connection is in fact specifically wedded to psychological damage, in that he served as director for the notorious 1955 horror comic books episode of the television program Confidential Report, currently on a dvd included with the Abrams ComicArts release of The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn’t Want You to Read! While mostly comprised of awkward interview footage of, say, children recounting various horror comic plots or a reformed cartoonist indicating where touch-up artists made the breasts on his romance comic heroine larger, the meat of the program is surely its energetically cut (and rather patently staged) footage of kids romping out to the woods to take in some fine graphic literature, after which they engage in the unsubtly sexualized (if okay-for-’50s-television) assault of a hapless local boy.
It’s weirdly harrowing stuff — flaunting its journalistic license to loll in content abjectly harsher than usual for its era and style — boasting a centerpiece of delirious kitsch wherein narrator/creative force Paul Coates, like a proud graphic novelist perched at the podium of his spotlight panel at a art comics convention, recites the narrative captions of a jokey, she’ll-rip-yer-heart-out horror poem one-pager with all the cold gravity of Signal 30, after which one of the featured boys rises immediately to his feet and begins driving a pocket knife over and over into a nearby tree. I read comics that make me feel like that too.