Posts Tagged ‘Denny O’Neil’

Live Free or Blog La-Z


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Tuesday, November 3, 2009


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I had planned a better post, but scanning problems are delaying things a bit, so here’s a few links to tide things over.

You know, there’s a prominent comics link-blogger who likes to go on and on about how hard it is to put these things together, but based on my limited experience, it actually seems like a great and incredibly easy way to post stuff online, even when you’re busy with a day job, a baby, election day, scanner foul-ups, early morning meetings, etc. If I was actually paid to do this every day, I bet I could get a routine going with my RSS feeds where it took me less than an hour to round up links to all of the “important” comics blogosphere blogonet sites every morning. Kind of fun!

1. Austin English is a great guy and all, but he has weird ideas about what’s ugly and what isn’t. (And seems to compare Denny O’Neil favorably to R. Crumb, an aesthetic crime that should not go unpunished. (Jk Austin! Sorta.))

2. I knew about Talking Lines, but didn’t realize there was another interesting looking new R.O. Blechman book out.

3. Birthday tributes to Steve Ditko weren’t even a dime a dozen yesterday, unless you pay way too much for your internet service, but this one, despite its brief length, was particularly provocative and original.

4. Naoki Urasawa talks process. [via]

5. A too-rare interview with Peter Blegvad appears in the new Believer. [via]

[UPDATE: And I didn't realize it when I originally posted, but the issue includes a TON of good comics material that I should have mentioned.]

6. Almost every post Jog writes these days is worth linking to, but since everyone already reads him anyway, what’s the point? That said, this review of J.H. Williams III and Detective Comics is unusually thorough and well-wrought, even for him.

7. And here is an insightful appreciation of last week’s Chris Ware New Yorker work. Click on it; it’s not boring.

8. Finally (but not leastily), for those of you who didn’t notice, this weekend brought the grand debut of our newest online team member, the great Jason T. Miles. Please make him welcome and stay tuned for more. I don’t want to ruin his next post by giving anything away, but it sounds pretty awesome.

That’s it. I hope you found at least most of those worth reading. Nothing is more annoying than linkblogs full of garbage. On second thought, I have to admit that maybe this isn’t that easy to do exhaustively if you hope to maintain any kind of quality control. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m finding less and less of interest in the actual comics blogosphere blogonet these days. Writers outside it seem more thoughtful lately. Still, ninety minutes tops.

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The Bunk Starts Here, or, Ground Well Trod, Trod Once More


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Sunday, June 18, 2006


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Superheroes and social issues usually don’t mix well. Whether it’s Superman crying because he’s unable to prevent famine in Africa (which actually seems like the kind of problem he could solve if he really wanted to), or the Justice League coming face to face with the fact that being raped by a supervillain can turn a woman into a psychopathic killer (for those who don’t follow superhero comics, that story was actually published, just last year, as DC’s flagship title), their engagement with complicated “adult” problems is generally puerile, hystrionic, and more likely to belittle the issues involved than to clarify them.

This kind of superficial treatment of complicated ideas in superhero comics saw its apotheosis in the 1970s, when writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams (who currently moonlights as a plate tectonics skeptic) teamed up for a series of Green Arrow/Green Lantern adventures, with the heroes joining forces to confront such social ills as racism and drug addiction.

These stories are still celebrated in some circles today as somehow breaking important ground, though they are basically the embarrasingly dated equivalents to the “very special episodes” of bad sitcoms.

Basically, the quest to depict superheroes as “all grown up” is just a bad idea at the outset—so far, to my knowledge, this artistic strategy has worked exactly once. (And no, I don’t consider The Dark Knight Returns to be “grown-up”; that book works best when the reader is fifteen years old. And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that.) Superheroes are the vehicle for adolescent power fantasies, more or less by definition.

Which is not to say that the superhero story is a bankrupt genre or that its tropes are incapable of being used to great effect; it’s just that like any other genre, superhero stories have built-in limitations. Steve Ditko and Stan Lee’s early Spider-Man stories do a remarkable job within those limits, as do Frank Miller’s later Daredevil comics, at a slightly more sophisticated level.

(More obliquely, Chris Ware has shown that the iconic value of Superman can be used quite effectively to very different purposes in his early Jimmy Corrigan stories, and more obliquely still, Ursula K. Le Guin has shown the very complicated and profound ramifications of power fantasy in her original Earthsea trilogy, despite the fact that it features wizards instead of super-powered aliens. (Anyone interested in the potential triumphs and pitfalls inherent to fantasy for young adults should pick up a copy of her essay collection The Language of the Night posthaste.))

I’ve rambled on far too long already, so I’m going to end this here for now. So far I’ve just been leading up to what I really want to talk about, a sixty-year-old superhero comic that deals extremely successfully with a grave political problem. On Wednesday, I’ll reveal the masterpiece in question. If you can’t wait (and I’m sure most of you can’t, this is so exciting), I’ll leave you with a one-word hint: Shazam.

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