Thursday, September 09, 2004
Margot Kidder, the Lois Lane of the 1970's and 80's, is going to be on Smallville!
She's not playing Lois Lane, but it's great to see her getting involved.
Here's the article from SupermanHomepage
KryptonSite have learnt that Margot Kidder will be making an appearance in the fourth season of "Smallville". Superman fans of course know Margot Kidder as Lois Lane from the Christopher Reeve "Superman" movies. It appears that Margot Kidder will be playing a character by the name of Bridgette Crosby, an emissary to Dr. Virgil Swann (Christopher Reeve).
Scheduled to appear in at least two episodes, Margot Kidder will first appear in the premiere episode of this new season, before returning again in the sixth episode. 8:08 PM |
Tuesday, September 07, 2004 Comic Books, Comics Scholarship and a Terrific Reading List for People Who Want to Get Into Comics but Think Superheroes are Dumb
Several days ago, Jim D. sent me a FAX at work. Apparently Jim is auditing HNRS 3161 (02), Comic Book Novels and Their Culture
The class is being offered at Lamar University, and is one of the growing crop of courses being taught by guys who, in 1986, stopped while reading The Dark Knight Returns and said to themselves: this is way better than that dumb book I'm reading in school. And thusly, Comics scholarship was born.
I find the readings interesting. I've read almost all of them.
Art Spiegelman's Maus Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Alan Moore's Watchmen Daniel Clowes' Ghost World Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan
I have not yet read Neil Gaiman's Violent Cases
The idea of comics scholarship is an odd one. On the one hand, it offers people a chance to see the potential of the graphic medium for storytelling, and offers the potential to lay the literary establishment on its ear as comics are recognized to be a viable mode of storytelling within the hallowed halls of "those who know better".
On the other hand, who is going to register for this class who isn't already clued into the world of comics? My guess is, everyone in that class will have already read at least Dark Knight and Watchmen. The guys in the berets will have already read Ghost World and Jimmy Corrigan. A few will have read Maus because they thought they probably should. There might be a few indie rock girls who read Ghost World, but I don't think this is going to get popular with sorority girls looking for an easy-A.
The readings are the list of comics I'd give to my English Major friends when they say that all you need to know to know everything about comics is, "comics, oh yeah. Well, everyone knows Batman and Robin are closet homosexuals."* So aside from some assertions made by the late (and perennial fan-boy whipping boy) Frederic Wertham, what do these books have to offer?
A pretty wide array, if just from this small sampling. Ghost World and Jimmy Corrigan live in a microcosm, live and breathe with small characters living in a small world. The characters are real people, instantly recognizable as people from your high school or maybe from the post office.
Clowes' art is instantly recognizable, being simultaneously a red-headed step-child of 1970's indie comics and perhaps the master of this slice of a slice of a genre. He doesn't do much to fuzz with the use of sequential-art storytelling in Ghost World (not as he'd later do with Eightball #23, "Death Ray"), but his characters are utterly believable to look at, and their dialogue, etc... is painfully familiar.
Jimmy Corrigan is going to live on for decades as the culmination of a world-class obsessive compulsive disorder and a microscopic eye for detail. Confession time: I'm not a huge fan of Jimmy Corrigan. I can appreciate what Ware is doing, and I actually am very happy to have a copy of the book just to marvel at the work put into it, but the story didn't really do much to either move me or grab me. That said, from a scholarship standpoint (and that's what we're discussing here, right?) this may be one of the most important comic books ever published. Without getting all esoteric on you, Ware's understanding of use of the panel and sequential art may be unparalleled and shows a unique genius for conveying time, depth, emotion with the simple use of time compression and expansion in those tiny spaces between the panels. His art is sharp, clear and industrial, and, honestly, I have no idea how he does it (but I suspect he's using a Mac).
Ware had a strong follow up with Quimby the Mouse last year. I bought a beautiful hardcover copy, which I immediately f**ked up in my suitcase on the plane on the way home from Austin.
Maus gets mixed reviews in the comic book fan-world, but in literary realms, the book is pretty much universally praised. It is NOT an allegory, but a mix of semi-autobiographical material and recollections of stories of Art Spiegelman's father. Essentially, Maus tells both the story of Art Spiegelman and his father as they work on their relationship in Art's father's twilight years. Meanwhile, Art is collecting stories from his father who was a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp.
For reasons I'll leave for the reader to decide, the characters are mostly portrayed as mice, with Nazis portrayed as cats. It's not Animal Farm (as I said, it's not allegory, really). Instead, Maus uses the unique format of comics to bring implied understanding and meaning to the situation with animal-themed visual cues.
Regarding scholarship, Maus has been infiltrating literature classes for years, so omission from the list of readings would be considered a gross oversight. Again, if we're studying comics as a unique art form, we're not looking just at the pictures alone, nor just the story, but the collaboration between the two. Maus's use of animal imagery is largely where the success of the medium comes into play, as well as well-timed beats and juxtaposition of Art's father's matter-of-fact recounting and the way in which the actual scenes are depicted.
Curiously, the complaints from comic fans seem to stem from a dislike of the animal-imagery, and a general feeling of distaste for the subject matter, being too serious for some readers, or somehow not connecting with them. This particular debate is, to me, a curious beast, as I don't feel Maus is in any way overly complicated.
I'll forego my usual gushing comments about Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. What I will say is that these two books are considered the pinnacle of superhero storytelling, and that's different from just successful comic-form storytelling.
The instructor for Jim's class has wisely avoided adding too many superhero comics (the money generator of the comics' industry) in favor of quality comic books which can appeal to a wider audience. This is a double-edged sword as most comics are super-hero and sci-fi based, but the selection of readings also gives a chance for people who are super-hero adverse to explore the medium. However, the instructor has included two comics which use superheroes and the ideas behind superheroes to explore issues of power, abuse of power and character exploration of larger than life characters in a way which your average comic may not do.
The impact of Watchmen and Dark Knight irreversibly changed the way in which superheroes are looked upon by their own greatest fans, and has given way to innumerable new stories looking at the ways in which those in power must behave responsibly. Prior to these efforts, the clunky moralism of early Spider-Man and perhaps the 1970's Neal Adams efforts on Green Lantern/ Green Arrow were significant efforts and an interesting approach to unwieldy topics usually left out of comics altogether.
Dark Knight and Watchmen asked only that their characters have motivations and behave according to those motivations. The publication of these two books cemented a path toward an adult readership which continues to this day.
I am very surprised by the omission of Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, which is, perhaps, best read by folks already exposed heavily to the comics medium (I always believed web designers would get a kick out of it, too).
Also, both Will Eisner's "fictional" work (Fagin the Jew, A Contract with God, The Spirit) and his instructional manuals (Comics & Sequential Storytelling)are completely overlooked despite their importance within the industry.
I think work from either McCloud or Eisner would be absolutely necessary for such a class, but I'm not teaching it, so...
Look, obviously comics are my great obsession. And I could name a dozen more books totally deserving to be on this class's must read list (Rocket Raccoon, hello? anyone? No?), but I'm just thrilled to see this sort of course making it's way into the great halls of learning.
I am not suggesting that comics are as important as, say, Government 101. But comics originated in the US as a true art form, and probably have as much right to have their own class as the History of Elvis Presley class taught here at my employing university (I seriously want to take that class). Additional courses could include European comics, Japanese comics, or "Why can't anyone tell Clark Kent is Superman?"
Discussing comic scholarship within the comic fan community is an utter nightmare, if message boards are any indication. Many fans do not appreciate folks like Ware and Clowes entering into their realm without an idea for a caped and masked avenger in tow. Many complain the books are boring, and there's a general sense of "who do these guys think they are?", which almost suggests that these readers don't, ultimately, believe in the comics form enough to think it can hold up under the weight of stories which are not flights of fancy.
Many, many of these posters, to nobody's surprise, just do not appear to understand the stories they have read. I know. That's a little harsh, but there are some real knuckleheads on comics message boards.
I wish Jim good luck, and I look forward to hearing all about the nonsense with which his instructor fills his head.
*quick note: There is a whole field of study regarding the sexuality of superheroes, stemming mostly from Batman and Robin. Look, if that's how people want to read it, go for it. There's a similar situation with Star Trek and Kirk and Spock. I could care less. Just keep in mind, Wertham and his book in the 1950's almost shut down the whole damn industry.
7) go to the gym at least twice - well, once. But I took Mel for two lovely walks.
8) Eat some grilled chicken and wild rice - Uhmmm... not quite, but I did okay. Chicken fajitas. God bless McCormick's and their little pouches of spices. Also, I busted out the grill at Jamie's request. We kicked off our Fall tradition a few weeks early (as it was an unnaturally low 95 degrees) and had brauts.
I gotta say, I liked Hero quite well. As I told Jamie, it's nice to walk out of a movie and to not to have to dig for a compliment, settling upon "yeah, that was cute." Beautifully shot, incredible combat choreography, and a solid story to boot. As I was mostly reading subtitles, I guess the acting was good, but it's tough to say.
The movie did leave me with a few nagging questions which had nothing to do with the actual movie itself, but the point it made. Anyway, good movie, and it didn't have any aliens OR predators to make it stink.
JLU was also an interesting episode. I've been a fan of "The Question" since back in the 80's, and I loved the take on him they had in JLU. A boy-band humming nutjob martial-artist/ conspiracy theorist...? It's so close to a description of my dad, I had chills. Anyway, I know The Question won't make too many more appearances, but it was great to see the DCU's resident nutjob on TV. BTW, I have no idea who this Galatea person is, but she sure looked like Power Girl to me... any one else?