Purple Haze, by Martha Thomases
Originally, I wasn’t supposed to have a column.
Mike Gold wanted to have regular writers contributing during the week, Monday through Friday. He had the list of people he wanted to include – comics veterans like John Ostrander, Denny O’Neil and Michael Davis, plus popular blogger Elayne Riggs – and he wanted a soapbox for himself.
Me? I’m the publicist. I’m supposed to draw attention to the product, not to myself. The best publicist is the one you don’t see.
However, I’m also a team player. And an egomaniac. So, when the website started, and we didn’t always have a lot of content, I started to write. I wrote short essays that could get thrown up on the site when we were short on material. I’ve only been reading comics for 50 years, so there was always something on my mind.
One day, Mike said that, since I seemed to be writing regularly, perhaps my writing should have a name and a regular time slot. And so was born Brilliant Disguise, named for one of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs, from one of the more depressing Bruce Springsteen albums. It’s about love and loss, and the lies we tell ourselves so we can take care of each other through the tough times. How appropriate.
Comics are part of the popular culture, and pop culture reflects our hopes and fears, our loves and our lusts. In my youth, we used rock’n’roll (and folk music and jazz) to talk about Viet Nam. Kids today (with the cell phones and the hair and the clothes!) use rap and hip hop, but it’s the same impulse. Movies and television and comics eventually caught on, usually at an underground level at first, then through metaphors and allegory at the corporate level (thanks, Denny!).
I find it impossible to talk about comics without talking about politics, fashion, religion and history. I find it impossible to talk about politics (and sometimes fashion, religion and history) without talking about comics.
So much of our conversation in this country is based on the assumption that there are two sides to everything. You’re DC or Marvel. You’re either a Mac or a PC. You’re a Democrat or a Republican. You’re white or minority. You’re male or you’re female. You’re saved or you’re damned. You’re Republican red or you’re Democratic blue. And if you like something that doesn’t fit into this dyad, you’re treated like a fringe-hugging lunatic because we don’t understand anything beyond the binary.
Some of us don’t fit neatly into a slot. Some of us are more fluid. Some of us are Jewish and pagan and agnostic all at once. Some of us use whatever computer is in front of us. Some of us like super heroes and Alison Bechdel.
And some of us are purple.
This next week is going to make history. Those of you who are legally registered have an opportunity to vote for a President who will lead this country through one of its most difficult times. If you’ve been reading my previous columns, you know which candidate I support (here’s a hint: it’s not McCain). However, even if you don’t agree with me, I want you to vote. The more people who participate in our government, the stronger it will be.
This column has been a way for me to fuse my obsessions, and for that, I’m very grateful. There is too little pleasure and joy in the world, and it was my goal to point you towards those things that cheered me, hoping that they would also make you happy. It’s been wonderful to chat with you in the comments section, especially those who disagreed.
Be excellent to each other.
Martha Thomases, Media Goddess of ComicMix, is looking for a few new altars.