I’ve Done Paul McCartney Wrong, by Mike Gold
Back in my DC Comics days, I was sitting in my office pretending to work when Mark Waid stuck his head in. “Hey, do you know when Paul McCartney wrote ‘Silly Love Songs?’” he asked.
“Pretty much his whole damn life,” I replied without looking up.
That about summed up my feelings about Paul McCartney. I was a John Lennon guy, although I’ve come around to really appreciating George Harrison’s stuff even more. He spoke softly but carried a big stick. “Taxman,” “Piggies…” great stuff.
I’ve had cause to reflect recently, and I think I’ve done Mr. McCartney wrong. He did this great song called “Give Ireland Back To The Irish,” which took a stand on the England / Ireland situation that one might expect from a guy named Mc-anything. And the BBC, owned by the British government, promptly banned it. So did Radio Luxembourg and ITV, effectively removing it from all venues of British broadcasting. His record label, EMI, said they wouldn’t release it. They wanted safe little silly love songs that said nothing and inspired no one but the vapid.
McCartney followed “Give Ireland Back To The Irish” with a reggae version of “Mary Had A Little Lamb.” It got lots of airplay.
So it is with this community. Comics creators used to work out of their need to earn a living. The pulps were dying, they couldn’t get work as illustrators (particularly if their last name sounded Jewish), newspapers started their half-century of death throes by slowly dropping continuity comic strips, the type that bring the readers back the next day to find out what happened. Writers and artists like to eat, sleep and reproduce, and therefore must earn a living. It was tough, particularly during the 50s when their efforts were equated with those of child molesters. Not to say that their heart wasn’t in their work; often it was, with some of the creators.
Today, creators have greater luxury. They have more options; they have a wider range of creative opportunities. They can work from the heart and pay the rent at the same time. Few will get rich, but, hey, that’s show business.
So when I fall across what, at first, might seem like a truly stupid idea for a comic book story, these days I think about all those silly love songs I so callously dismissed. We have a wide range of creative fare out in the comics medium these days, greater than we’ve ever seen in America. We don’t have to look at movies or television for legitimacy. We can look to the reviews in major publications, we can appreciate the fact that works in this medium are receiving serious, contemplated analysis and acceptance by the world at large.
We can make a statement when we want to, we can tell a rip-roaring story when we feel like it. And as readers we can enjoy a work that says something directly, indirectly, or just indulges in pure escapist fare. As Jules Feiffer said in his play Little Murders, that’s all right.
This is the golden age of comics, folks, where our choices can range from a reggae version of Mary Had A Little Lamb to something as bold and – to some – as offensive as Give Ireland Back To The Irish.
And don’t forget to support your favorite rabble-rouser.