Geek Culture doesn’t provide all the answers to all of life’s tough questions. Or, at least, I try to tell myself that … and then, without thinking, I’ll draw a parallel to a real world issue from an old Batman story or a Star Trek episode.
Like so many Americans, I’m horrified by the divisiveness of the upcoming elections. As a country we’re more than 200 years old, but still so many of our political conversations start with drawing lines and contentious finger pointing.
It’s the same on the local level. For over 25 years, I’ve lived in the great little town of Ridgewood. It’s a mix of Smallville, Camelot and Twin Peaks (on a good day). In Ridgewood, our Village Council eschews the standard Democratic/Republic affiliations. You’d think that would help sand off the rough edges of politics, but lately our village has been facing a perfect storm of municipal issues – and there’s a lot of ugly divisiveness popping up everywhere.
So with all this division, I was thrilled to get an email from my pal Larry.
Readers of this column probably know Columbia University Prof. Laurence Maslon, best for the brilliant PBS Documentary/Random House Book – Superheroes: Capes Cowls and the Creation of Comic Book Culture. He’s also a great dad, and explained to me in the email that he was sharing this Walt Kelly image with his son. Although this illustration was created years ago, it’s an insight the nation, and Ridgewood, could benefit from now.
In 1967’s War of the Quatix and the Bimphabs, writer Dennis Marks chronicled one of Aquaman’s rare interplanetary adventures. The government’s satellite discovered an all-water planet, so they recruit Aquaman, Aqualad and their pet walrus, Tusky. (Hey! No eye-rolling: it was the Sixties!) for a space trip and a three hour on-site exploration. http://www.toontube.com/video/9232/Aquaman-32-The-War-of-the-Quatix-and-the-Bimphabs
I recall their journey to this distant planet, Q344, was shorter than a car ride with my mom to the local Woolworth’s.
Upon arriving, Aquaman offers some great advice to his young protégé. Having been attacked by alien invaders in just about every other episode of their cartoon show, he thoughtfully tells Aqualad to “Remember, here we are the aliens.”
As a dad, when I took the kids somewhere different, like a vacation spot or a college campus, I’d remind them that we were the outsiders there. They just thought I was nuts.
On this planet, the heroes find that two extremist groups, the Bimphabs and the Quatix are arguing over very important things that seem trivial to the viewer. Likewise their differences, though clearly delineated, seem small and entirely surmountable to the viewer. Even to a young viewer who was slurping his Saturday morning cereal and fighting with this brother (but the brother always started it), these lessons were pretty clear.
Fast forward to today. I haven’t grown up as much as I should have. To use the Aqua-vernacular, I’m clearly a Bimphab. I always vote Bimphab. And I find the positions of the Quatix (the other political party) to be preposterous and perplexing. But maybe reading more Walt Kelly or Aquaman stories will help me grow up a little before it’s time to vote.
PS – Oh, and yes, I know I had written last time that this time I’d run the second part of my look at entrepreneurs at Valiant Entertainment. We’ll push that back and prepare that for next week. It’ll be good one and I think you’ll like it!
PPS – I’m really looking forward to the new WB JLA cartoon this fall too.