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Posts Tagged ‘Grant Morrison’

So I’ve been listening to a lot of comics podcasts lately. Maybe it’s because I’ve been working on a novel set within the comics fan/creator vortex… maybe it’s just because these microphone-slingers are having so much damned fun with the material… whatever the reason, I could use some of what they’re having!

For the record, here are some of the people I’m talking about. Go and listen to them right now!

Tom Vs the Flash (covering Barry Allen’s Fast Times in Central City)

Super Future Friends (a chronological look at the Legion, beginning with Adventure #247)

From Crisis to Crisis (Superman from 1986 to 2006)

Amazing Spider-Man Classics (from the bite until they bite the bullet)

Tales of the Justice Society of America (they’re into All-Star Squadron–a lifelong favourite of mine)

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll ever be a podcaster. Lord knows I love to talk–but recording and editing? There’s no way. Also, I hear it costs money. I don’t have money. Do you have money? Can I have some of it?

So I think I’ll do the next best thing. Grab a fistful of half-assedly preserved newsprint (with any luck, an entertaining one) whenever the mood strikes and make with the fun!

We’ll call it prosecasting.

This is where it starts–Strange Adventures #180 [Origin & 1st app. Animal Man]!

If you’ve read my scribblings elsewhere, you’ll know that I have a long history with this character… but…

We’ll see…

We begin with the essentials

Title: “I Was the Man With the Animal Powers”

Script: Dave Wood (who?)

Pencils: Anagramsci favourite Carmine Infantino

Inker: George Roussos

Colors: No Man Can Say

Letters: Stan Starkman

Query: Can gorillas actually do this?

The cover says yes. My gut says no.

Clearly, however, a “gorilla sock” is doing something to this amazing Infantinophant on the splash page!

Who is this man? How did he wind up in this predicament? What ails this poor elephant’s mind?

All I know is, I hope it ends in a hug…

Page 2: The man’s name is Buddy Baker. He’s just your basic guy who can’t quite work up the nerve to propose to his girlfriend (Ellen), and takes out his frustrations on our friends the animals (with a gun and bro named Roger). One day, while out scouring for things to kill, Buddy is laid low by an origin blast! We are now 4 panels into the story! On the 5th panel, a tiger slinks toward the poor defenseless man.

Miraculously, he finds that he’s more than up to the challenge of defending himself. In fact, he’s THE MAN WHO APPROPRIATES ANIMAL POWERS!

Buddy adjusts to his new condition as only a silver age hero can! Get in the ring motherfuckers!

He gives the animal kingdom a taste of its own medicine:

The Tiger!

The Gorilla!

That elephant (named “Bimbo”, apparently)!

A child-eating fuckin’ Sea Lion!

Bobby’s fine, don’t worry…

Buddy Baker mans up to this menagerie of evil (actually just a group of frightened zoo animals, freed when their train went off the rails)

But he’s not done!

Apparently there’s a weird “Hulk” on the loose, a Xemnu-the-Titan-looking-guy who ALSO got animal powers from the blast. This is my favourite part of the story. Who the fuck is this creature? An alien? A mutated animal? No explanation is offered. Apparently, he’s just your basic heartland yeti, crazed by animal powers. Perhaps he too has been working up the nerve to propose to his hulk-mate?

Buddy can’t overpower him, because the “hulk” absorbed more radiation (making him the Man-or-whatever With MORE Animal Powers). Luckily, our hero has it all over the hulk in the brains department. Having reasoned things out with the remarkable, some might say pathological, lucidity of an anthology freak, he knows what his next move must be! The man who had begun his tale by worrying about his rodent-like romantic powers saves the day by scaring the hulk off a cliff with “mouse fear powers”!

You don’t have to take my word for it–here’s the proof:

Oh good job, Buddy–you fucking maniac. I’m glad I met Grant Morrison’s version of you first. Oh yeah, then he proposes to Ellen (we 1980s kids know THAT)–and faints!

But there’s more to this issue!

Palisades Park!

Environmentalism!

The goddamned “G.I. Joe Club”!

Don’t join!

A “Kat” who wants you to build cars (and get “cooled”? that doesn’t sound healthy)

And there was even more for your 12 cents that fine September!

A text page detailing the “Strange But True” saga of a six-schooner pile-up which occurred off the coast of Australia in 1829. Apparently, every crew member and passenger aboard these ships survived and the entire group was rescued within a few days. The affair reaches a satisfactorily “strange” conclusion when it is discovered that a sailor from Yorkshire and his long-lost old mother are huddled together amongst the survivors. Had fate engineered this oddly beneficent multiple disaster solely to unite their little family?

I guess so.

And then there’s the “back-up story”–“One Monster, Coming Up” (penciled and inked, apparently, by George Roussos). This one tells the tale of a bunch of “wildcatters” who get way more than they bargained for when they try drilling for oil on consecrated “Injun” ground… Disgraceful… I can summarize this one in one crazed cross-sectional panel:

Awesome.

After a lot of rampaging, they finally get the thing under control (with the help of some fancy magic relics–and a lot of golden “Indian treasure”).

Do these fuckers learn their lesson?

In a wink: No.

good night friends!

see you next time (probably with more King Vidor posts… but I’m also hoping to do some posting on the immortal 1973 Super Friends! series… I’m talking about the one with Wendy, Marvin and Wonder Dog. Accept no pointy-eared substitutes!)

Dave

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We’ll begin with overstatement–just so you know it’s me:

Grant Morrison’s  entire career has been a sustained meditation upon the problem of free will.

In the boggiest regions of the oeuvre (i.e. The Filth), the very notion of a “self” is boiled down into a kind of broth salted by otherness. These narratives strain out those chunks of essentialism that have choked so many thinkers (leaving many a bouillabasketcaisse in their wake), culminating in a briny kiss on the lips that you have the gall to call your own.

In some ways, Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye adopts a similar course, leading the reader on a merry chase through a whole bunch of “comfort zones” that are half sanctuary and half sham. The sets are rearranged with such speed (and just enough convenient sloppiness) that none of them ever quite seems “normal”–but these are habitable worlds, just like ours (I’m talking about Canada here–obviously, it’s quite conceivable that your world isn’t bearable at all).

Viewed through this interpretive lens, the Seaguy saga reads like an amusing game of solitaire in which the author rambles through the deck, reorganizing the cards he’s placed on the table until good ol’ Seaguy turns up in a suit that fits neatly onto Queen She-Beard.

Make no mistake about it–that is one thing that’s going on in this piece.

However, there’s much more (or, more accurately, much less) to this story than that. It’s almost a regression to naive existentialism. Almost. Somehow, Morrison has found a way to tell a classic liberation story without crashing into the ontological wall that invariably rises up to knock all sense out of these tales. And, as usual, he achieves the impossible by burrowing into the hoary conventions of the genre.

His weapons of choice on this adventure?

1. the costume

2. the binary code that powers all superhero tales:  “team-up” or fight

The first trope blossoms into something quite wonderful when the book’s protagonist (in the guise of the bull-dresser “El Macho”) sheds his clothing in issue two, ending the confrontation with his raging adversary. The scene delivers all of the delirious charm of “Selfhood–dramatically regained,” without tying the tin can of Monolithic Identity to the moment. It’s an old saw that the clothes make the man, but Morrison and Cameron Stewart prove that a lack of clothes can unmake (and disarm) a world (without, of course, freeing anyone from the need to step into another–equally spurious, but perhaps more congenial–environment and identity). Nakedness, in Seaguy, isn’t revelatory, or REAL–but it can hold up a mirror to an equally contingent Empire (the episteme has no clothes).

The second runs through the entire piece from the beginning of volume one–and of course Morrison is always on the side of a team-up, whenever one is possible. The book is an endless parade of decisions about friends and foes (Carl Schmitt calls this the only real political decision)–made, revised and re-made (with Death the only really consistent enemy)–all leading up to the climactic (and very Dickensian–as Morrison often is) call (which is not made by the supposed protagonist, but by She-Beard… kind of makes you wonder if we’ve been following the wrong story all along, doesn’t it? In any event, by letting go of her sword, she proves herself every bit the equal of the man who dropped his pants in the arena… and if this is really a story about killing machismo, she obviously had the most work to do).

Great stuff, all around.

More soon. Comics. Movies. Poetry. Fiction. Music. Whatever.

Count on it.

Dave

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