Tagged: Doctor Doom

Mike Gold: Doctor Doom Is Obsolete

gold-art-140115-150x127-1516171A great many of our finer super-villains in the heroic fantasy world are bent on world conquest. Admittedly, a few simply want to destroy the planet, but at Lord Cumulous said to Prince Chaos in Warp, “Destroy the planet? Where are you going to live?”

For the life of me, I don’t understand why anybody would want to run a single nation, let alone the entire blue marble. Nonetheless, everybody from Doctor Doom to Ming the Merciless have tried time and time again. That’s how we know they’re insane: they keep on trying, and they never succeed.

These people spend a lot of money on their sophisticated Jack Kirbyesque machinery and even more money on henchmen. I’m sorry; henchpeople – just because you are evil, you don’t have to be sexist as well. And, by the way, are your henchpeople covered by minimum wage laws? How about health insurance? Obamacare? But I digress. Add the cost of your hidden lair, costume design and manufacture, those little flying television cameras that allow you to read the hero’s word balloons (today we call them “drones”), and you’ve spent the gross national product of Latveria and then some.

There is a better way to take over the planet. It’s probably less expensive and its got the benefit of being safer than, to site merely one example, the stunt the Masked Meanie pulled on Wonder Wart-Hog (Help Magazine #26) where he dug a hole several miles wide and as deep as the center of the Earth, filled it up with gunpowder, and lit the fuse.

If you’re a super-villain-in-training and you’re thinking about taking over the world, here’s what you do, in eight easy steps:

1) Start a Super-PAC http://www.fec.gov/pdf/forms/ie_only_letter.pdf.

2) Decide which of your henchpeople will follow your orders in the Senate and the House. You’ll need at least 60 Senate seats and 218 in the House. Make your henchpeople trade in their villain costumes for Brooks Brothers suits.

3) Use your Super-PAC funds to get your henchpeople elected.

4) Abduct and terminate the vice president.

5) Have your henchpeople vote you in as the replacement vice president.

6) Have your House henchpeople impeach the president and then have your Senate henchpeople vote to remove the president from office.

7) As president, go to the next U.N. opening and, during your welcoming speech, have your henchpeople slaughter all the representatives.

8) Declare yourself “King of the World!” Don’t worry; James Cameron won’t sue you. You’re king of the world! Tradition dictates you have a crown and you place that crown on your own head. It’s also a swell image on the teevee.

It’s just that simple. No muss, no fuss. And it has the benefit of not destroying the place where you live.

Any villain can do it.







Mike Gold: Comics Creators Kick Ass

Gold Art 130821Excuse me if this week’s profundity seems a bit more extemporaneous than usual. It’s been one of those weeks, and at 3:00 yesterday morning Roscoe The Cat literally saved my life and I’m still twitching over that one.

I listen to music all the time. Literally, all the time. I have a very wide range in taste, but most of what I listen to falls under the exceptionally broad category of “kick ass rock’n’blues.” It’s a phrase I use on Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind, my weekly radio indulgence on (ahem) www.getthepointradio.com. Right now, I’m listening to Sterling Koch’s 2010 effort, Steel Guitar Blues. Kick ass music energizes me and takes the pressures of the day and it puts them over there, wherever there is. Music is my drug of choice.

A lot of my friends in the comics racket have a similar relationship to rock’n’blues – it’s crack for those of us with short attention spans. Topping that list is my Team GrimJack mate and awesomely dear friend, Timothy Truman. He’s turned me onto more great music than anybody outside of the amazing disc jockey Terri Hemmert (WXRT; they stream live and are on most of the radio apps). The difference is, it’s Terri’s job to turn us on to music. Timbo’s job is to sit at his drawing board and his computer and knock out the greatest comics the world has ever known.

The energy and the ambiance of kick ass rock’n’blues is reflected in Tim’s work – every damn panel of it. He’d probably do more comics work if he weren’t the artist for The Grateful Dead, and his work as graced the cover of many a recent GD release. He’d probably do less comics work if he had decided to make his career commitment the guitar: he’s one of the finest guitar players I have ever heard. That’s a lot to say, as I spent more than three decades in Chicago and I lived near many of their classic blues clubs. Timothy has jammed with Carlos Santana and Bill Kirchen and sundry of the Dead and a million others and, let me tell you, from the tapes I’ve heard nobody ever had to carry him.

Having worked with him on a zillion projects in the past 30 years – that’s 30 years this year – I can now reveal a secret: I stole Timbo not from TSR, where he was employed prior to Starslayer and GrimJack, but from the world of rock and blues… and for this, I feel guilty.

There are others whose work reflects the energy and spirit of the sound. Lots of so-called underground guys like George Metzger and Rand Holmes and Greg Irons. Erik Larson has more than a bit of that going for him. Howard Chaykin, but not so much rock’n’blues as Hoagy Carmichael and Billie Holiday by way of David Bowie.

Gold Art 130821-BBut no one ever captured the spirit and the energy of kick ass rock’n’blues the way Jack Kirby did. You could see the shift in his style around the time rock’n’roll hit the airwaves in the mid-50s (check out his Fighting American), and when it came time to co-create the Marvel Universe, well let me tell you, Galactus and Doctor Doom and the Silver Surfer and the negative zone and… well, you get the idea. Pure rock energy that carried over to his Fourth World stuff at DC.

Here’s the part that I find overwhelming: there is no recorded evidence that Jack Kirby was a fan of this music, or that he even liked it. He met a few rock’n’rollers; he met Frank Zappa, for crying out loud. But if this isn’t the creative coincidence of all time, then there was something in the air that only Jack Kirby and a couple thousand musicians could inhale.

It was intuitive, the way good comics should be. It was intuitive, the way good music should be.

By the way, I’m now listening to the new album by the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Made Up Mind. And yeah, Timothy Truman turned me on to them. Then, I think some rockabilly. Or maybe Bo Diddley.

(Poster artwork by Timothy Truman in promotion of a 2009 Grateful Dead tour, and the Simon and Kirby piece is from Fighting American. Both are probably copyright by somebody appropriate. Oh, yeah. All Rights Reserved. So watch yer ass.)




Emily S. Whitten: It’s All About Me! …And You!

Whitten Art 130528You guys! You guys! Hey you guuuuuyyyyysssss!!! …Otherwise known as “wonderful ComicMix readers.” Guess what? Go on now, guess! Naaaaah, you’ll never get it. So here it is:

I am one year old!!

Well. If by “I” I mean “this column,” and if by “one” I actually mean “one year and a few weeks.” But still: can you believe it? I’ve been writing this here li’l column for over a year now. That’s fifty-seven columns to date! Holy cannoli! (Aaaaand now I want a cannoli. Great.)

Anywho, I meant to post this column on my Actual ComicMix One Year Anniversary, but you know how it is: you’ve got interviews with awesome people like Phil LaMarr and Billy West and Nick Galifianakis to post, and film festivals and documentary screenings to write about…and those are way more exciting.

However! On this, my one-ish year anniversary, I want to send a big thank you out to anyone who reads my columns, shares them with friends, comments on them, or discusses them with me. I get a lot of joy out of writing these columns, whether they are the ones where I’m ruminating on the vagaries of pop cultularity; or the ones where I get to talk to extraordinarily talented people or review excellent art; or the ones where my mind runs whimsically through a field populated by ridiculous stuff like superheroes celebrating the holidays together and antisocial vigilantes answering dating advice questions. And although part of that joy comes from my passion for the subject and for writing in and of itself, a big part of it also comes from the experience of sharing my thoughts and knowing my writing is engaging others in thought or discussion, or providing a bit of enjoyment (I hope!).

I’m always interested in whether what I’m writing resonates with readers, and in writing on topics that others want to read about. Therefore, even though technically this column is about me and my one year of writing around here, what’s it’s really about is you, my readers! So that I can write more things you want to read, I’d really like to know more about you: like how you first found my column; what you’ve read; what you’ve most enjoyed reading; what you didn’t care for, and what you want to see more of. To help me with this, you can answer the quick survey below!

But before we do that, here is a brief reminder of some of the sorts of things I’ve written (And all fifty-seven columns can be found here):

So now that you’ve had a little reminder of what I write, on to the survey!

If you have any further feedback, please feel free to leave it in the comments!

Thank you for taking the time to help me write more things that you want to read; and until next time, Servo Lectio!




Mike Gold: My Brain Hurts!

Gold Art 130320Yesterday morning I received an e-mail from my pal/ComicMix partner/Secret Santa Glenn Hauman with a link to a three-month old piece in The Atlantic  and the comment “You simply must write this up!”

Must? Glenn never says must. He knows I’ll twist and turn any demand challenge into the pretzel from hell – you know, it’s a living – so he usually makes polite suggestions.

I was thinking about writing in detail about exactly how to fix the comic book industry and how easy it is and how it won’t take any additional money to pull it off, but evidently Glenn thinks this is more important. So be it.

I believe the brilliant political satire The President’s Analyst (James Coburn, Godfrey Cambridge, and Wasteland contributor Severn Darden) to be even more relevant today than it was when it was released in 1967. I don’t want to do any spoilers but if you haven’t seen this movie, do so. Yeah, it’s got some hippie stuff. You can deal with that. But the ending of the movie, where the happy Doctor Doom of the piece, Pat Harrington Jr., explains his evil scheme is far more believable today.

For the past 46 years I have been proselytizing this nefarious scheme shall come to pass, and now, according to The Atlantic, it has. That’s because they know what magnetic resonance imaging neurofeedback is. I didn’t, and now that I’ve read up on it my brain hurts real bad. The funny thing is, if this magnetic resonance imaging neurofeedback thing works you might not have to do the heavy reading.

“Simply” put, magnetic resonance imaging neurofeedback allows you to learn how to do visual stuff by having the information zapped directly into your brain. Boston University in Boston and ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Japan figured it out. I won’t explain the process – I can’t explain the process, at least not until I undergo it and I doubt it’s covered in my über-lame health insurance plan.

I find myself in metaphor hell. I don’t know whether to allude to The Matrix or to The Manchurian Candidate. Both, probably.

Here’s the scary part. This procedure has most effective when applied to subjects who don’t know in advance what they’re supposed to be learning. Think about that for a minute. If somebody wanted you to, say, murder somebody and they chose you because of your access to that person, if you actually knew about this in advance your moral predilections might get in the way. Well, they might.

Of course, all of this is still in the experimental phase.

At least, that’s what they want you to think.

ComicMix Editor-In-Chief Mike Gold also writes a weekly, much more political yet somehow still whimsical column each week at www.michaeldavisworld.com, where Martha Thomases, Marc Alan Fishman and Michael Davis also try to annoy the masses.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases


Mindy Newell: Lord Of The Sith

Newell Art 130318 “The megalomaniac differs from the narcissist by the fact that he wishes to be powerful rather than charming, and seeks to be feared rather than loved. To this type belong many lunatics and most of the great men of history.”

Bertrand Russell

Why Is It Always About You? The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism:

1. Shamelessness: Shame is the feeling that lurks beneath all unhealthy narcissism, and the inability to process shame in healthy ways.

2. Magical thinking: Narcissists see themselves as perfect, using distortion and illusion known as magical thinking. They also use projection to dump shame onto others.

3. Arrogance: A narcissist who is feeling deflated may reinflate by diminishing, debasing, or degrading somebody else.

4. Envy: A narcissist may secure a sense of superiority in the face of another person’s ability by using contempt to minimize the other person.

5. Entitlement: Narcissists hold unreasonable expectations of particularly favorable treatment and automatic compliance because they consider themselves special. Failure to comply is considered an attack on their superiority, and the perpetrator is considered an “awkward” or “difficult” person. Defiance of their will is a narcissistic injury that can trigger narcissistic rage.

6. Exploitation: Can take many forms but always involves the exploitation of others without regard for their feelings or interests. Often the other is in a subservient position where resistance would be difficult or even impossible. Sometimes the subservience is not so much real as assumed.

7. Bad Boundaries: Narcissists do not recognize that they have boundaries and that others are separate and are not extensions of themselves. Others either exist to meet their needs or may as well not exist at all. Those who provide “narcissistic supply” to the narcissist are treated as if they are part of the narcissist and are expected to live up to those expectations. In the mind of a narcissist there is no boundary between self and other.

Sandy Hotchkiss & James F. Masterson (2003)

There are a lot of megalomaniacal, narcissistic bad guys in the comics world. Some of the classics are Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. The Kingpin, Johann Schmidt, a.k.a. The Red Skull, Victor Von Doom, a.k.a. Doctor Doom, and Lex Luthor, a.k.a.…well, Lex is so megalomaniacal and narcissistic he doesn’t bother with a codename. They’re the perfect foils for their arch-nemeses – and our heroes – Daredevil, Daredevil, Captain America, Reed Richards (and the rest of the Fantastic Four), and Superman.  And we like them, and sometimes we even root for them, because they reflect our unspoken and unconscious thoughts, desires, and dreams in a healthy, subliminal manner. Meaning that we’re all a bit megalomaniacal and narcissistic; otherwise we’d never get out of our beds to face the world. (Just as our heroes reflect our need to set right what we perceive to be wrong.)

But when pathological megalomania and narcissism invade the real world, we get Scott Peterson. We get Bernie Madoff (and what a perfect name for the guy who redefined the pyramid scheme). We get Jack Abramoff. We get Osama Bin Laden and the Ayatollah Khomeini.

We also get Dick Cheney, or as Jon Stewart calls him, “Darth Cheney.”

I watched The World According To Dick Cheney on Showtime this past Friday night. TWATDC is a quasi-documentary by R. J. Cutler (who is also responsible for The War Room, about Bill Clinton’s 1992 Presidential campaign), by which I mean that it is basically one long interview with the former Vice-President.

I wasn’t expecting a mea culpa, and there isn’t one, ala Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War. (See The Fog Of War: Eleven Lessons From The Life Of Robert McNamara, which won the Academy Award for Documentary Feature in 1993)

I mean, I always said that Dick Cheney was a scary guy, and that he was the Shadow President running a shadow government during Dubbya’s term of office.

But, holy shit, man, it’s one thing to know it….

And it’s one thing to know it.

Know what I mean?

If you don’t, I suggest you watch The World According To Dick Cheney.

Go ahead.

I’ll wait.

Newell Art 2 130318

Now you know.

I’ll take my pathological megalomaniacal narcissists in four-colors, please.

Not in the real world.




Mike Gold: The Nerddom Intelligentsia

Gold Art 130213There’s a new sun rising up angry in the sky

And there’s a new voice saying we’re not afraid to die

Let the old world make believe it’s blind and deaf and dumb

But nothing can change the shape of things to come

We all know how our mass media portrays nerds: people who are brainy, obsessive, with a penchant for wearing merchandising-related merchandise. We come in two sizes: gangly or Christie-clone. We couldn’t get laid at an orgy on the dark side of the moon. We have a life-long lust for our popular culture and cannot distinguish between low-brow and high-brow.

Actually, I’m rather proud of that last bit. Cultural elitism really pisses me off. But this is America, where the bottom line justifies everything. The day nerds became bankable was the day we became legitimate.

We helped. Picking up a lesson from my fellow hippie freaks of 1967, we have redefined the term “nerd” simply by accepting it as a reference to ourselves. My fellow ComicMix columnist Emily S. Whitten embraces this wonderfully, in nearly everything she writes for this site.

The Simpsons helped quite a bit. Comic Book Guy exposed a previously hidden reality: a goodly percentage of those who hang our at the comic book shop are members of Mensa, and more would be if we had even the most rudimentary social skills. Mind you, I’d only been to a handful of Mensa meetings and I found them pathetically tedious, but they were at the University of Chicago so I was probably asking to be bored.

The fact is, comic book reading among those older than nine used to be associated with stupidity, arrested development, and the complete lack of a social life. Now many understand that it’s the upper end of the brain rack that finds this stuff appealing.

Nerds might not be cool, but then again, why is it that nerds invent all the cool stuff? We might have very short attention spans and we’re easily attracted to that which is bright and shiny, but we’ve taken over the popular culture and we’ve taken over technological innovation and, quite literally, our toys have become the tools of revolution all across the world.

Remember Doctor Doom’s little flying teevee cameras that would allow him to view his mayhem all over the world? He borrowed them from Ming the Merciless… but that’s not my point. Today, for good or for bad or for both, we’ve got our flying cameras. They’re called drones. Some of them are capable of bombing people back to the Flintstones. We’ve got GPS in our pockets, transponders in our cars, cameras at most of the traffic lights and highways and stores and office buildings and not only do “we” know where you are, but we know where you have been.

Hey, I didn’t say nerddom was a force for good. It’s a human force. And it’s mainstream.

And we’ve got these massively overpopulated conventions all over the world. We can organize.

We can take over.

Maybe… we already have.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil


Martha Thomases’s Extra Heroes

Thomases Art 130125If you were to come by my place for one of my fabulous dinner parties, you would be disappointed. My kitchen table is covered with file folders and copies of every bill I paid in 2012. Yes, it’s tax season! Every person has a different set of issues with the IRS, and mine this year are especially weird. Is an ambulance deductible?

Naturally, in an attempt to avoid this tiresome chore, I’m wondering what super-heroes who find themselves in this situation do.

I mean, I’d assume that the fabulously wealthy, the Bruce Waynes, the Tony Starks, the Oliver Queens, have accountants who can write off their gear as R & D expenses at a corporate level.

And Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Doctor Doom are heads of state of sovereign nations. Whatever they might owe their respective governments, they aren’t writing checks to the IRS.

But what about the average working schmoe? Just because you can bend steel with your bare hands doesn’t mean you can deduct your spandex pants. That’s only possible if being a hero is your business, and you need your costume as a business expense. Hooters waitresses can claim their t-shirts, Grant Morrison’s Superman can’t.

It is, I think, a major problem of our tax code that this is true. Why should Anne Romney’s horse be legally deductible as business expense when Comet is a taxable money-pit.

The reason that Rafalca is a legitimate business expense is that raising her is a business, with profit and loss. Similarly, if the Romney’s chose to donate the horse (or, more likely, a piece of artwork or simply cash) to charity, they would be legally entitled to a deduction for the value of their gift.

This is a good thing. I’m in favor of philanthropy. I’m in favor of tax laws that encourage charitable giving. I might quibble with an individual’s choice of charity, but then, I quibble with my own choices, and that’s what makes a democracy.

This should also apply to heroics. If Peter Parker is saving New York from the Green Goblin, he should be allowed to deduct his web fluid. That matters more to the city’s quality of life than a dozen socialites giving their used wardrobe to the Metropolitan Museum.

And Peter needs the deduction more. He’s a working stiff.

Similarly, there are all kinds of people who do good without any fancy outfits. Working people who use their own metro-cards to help tutor at-risk kids, or work at a soup kitchen, or a thrift store. They don’t have money, so they donate their time. It would be great if we lived in a world where these problems were taken care of at a macro level by the government. Until that happens, it would be nice if our tax laws encouraged its citizens to pick up the slack.

We can use the extra heroes.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman and Something About The New 52


Emily S. Whitten: Marvelously Disney

When I was deciding on a topic for this week’s column, I tried hard to think about what in the comics world I wanted to tackle next – but instead, my brain just kept going, “Whoop Whoop Whoop Disney Disney Disney Alert Alert Alert You’re About To Go To Disney Wheeeeeeeeee.”

Yes, my brain really does do that. Especially when I’m about to go jaunt around Disney World (and Islands of Adventure and Harry Potter World, eeeee!) for four days straight. Between the excitement of being about to finally try real butterbeer, the knowledge that we’re arriving at Disney and Epcot smack in the middle of the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, and the fact that Universal Islands of Adventure now has four Marvel rides, including a re-vamped Spider-Man ride, I can barely string sentences together at all. Considering the last time I rode the Spider-Man ride at Islands of Adventure it turned me into Little Plucky from Tiny Toons (“I wanna do it again, I wanna do it agaaaaain!!!”), I expect incoherent excitement will also be my constant state once I get there.

But since I don’t think I could convince Editor-in-Chief Mike that jumping up and down in place while clapping is a valid substitute for a written column, I’ll try to contain myself long enough to be vaguely articulate and stuff over here. That doesn’t mean I can’t keep thinking about my upcoming trip, though. In fact, given Marvel and Disney’s close association these days (despite the fact that Universal continues to hold onto the licenses for their Marvel rides thus far), my trip is totally Relevant to Our ComicMix Interests, and I can’t help but wonder when we will start to see Marvel rides appearing at Disney World. Thinking of this mash-up of worlds has inspired me to new heights of column-writing silliness. Therefore, I give you:

If Marvel Characters had Disney Origin Stories

[Wherein we re-imagine the origin of a Marvel villain featured in an Islands of Adventure ride, with the assumption that he was born into, not the Marvel universe, but the Magic Kingdom. Surely this means his story will be full of cheerfulness and light, right?]

Meet Doctor Doom

Born into a family of Parisian gypsies, one of whom hangs around with a hunchback all the time, young Victor and his father (no mention is made of his mother, because this is Disney, and mysteriously missing a parent at a young age is common) lose track of their caravan and roam the countryside together trying to find it until, through a tragic misunderstanding, hunters searching for food accidentally shoot his father, thinking he is a deer (oh no!). Upon losing his father, Victor wanders far and wide, but comes to rest in a small country town where he makes friends with a group of stray Dalmatian puppies who bring him bits of food in exchange for him patching up their hurt paws and ears.

Unfortunately, the Dalmatians all run away after a tall lady with crazy eyes and an extreme fondness for black and white clothes wanders into their alley hideaway making grasp-y motions, leaving the adolescent animal doctor on his own to wander again. He is very sad, because he likes puppies, and now he has none. But as luck would have it, upon reaching the sea nearby, Victor encounters a kindly-seeming purple-skinned sorceress who recognizes that he is gifted with extraordinary magical abilities. Offering to take him under her tentacle and teach him the ways of magic for the low price of just a couple of toes, she and Victor have many wacky adventures (like when he tries to use her magic hat and broom to help him with the chores and the water just gets everywhere).

But just when all seems well again in the young man’s life, he discovers that his mentor was actually responsible for his father’s death – she had sent the hunters out to bring her fresh meat because she was really-super-tired of eating fish! Oh no! Enraged to learn she was responsible for his earlier loss, Victor loses control of his magic and sets a nearby oil slick on fire (thus teaching us a valuable environmental lesson about how bad it is to have oil slicks lying around just everywhere in the ocean) which sadly scorches his face. In a fit of teenage rebellion he puts on a soothing metal mask his teacher has just lying around (because who doesn’t have one of those?) and storms out of his apprenticeship, taking the ol’ sea witch’s favorite big black pot with him too, just for spite.

Now alone once more and getting thirsty, Victor tries to magic up some tea in his new crochan – but instead of tea filling the pot, a voiceless version of himself climbs out! Deciding this is better than tea, he makes enough Voiceless Victors to play a good game of football with him. Disastrously, one of the VVs kicks the ball into a farmyard, where it whacks a big white pig in the head, which makes the pig-keeper angry. The pig-keeper, whose name is Reed, vows to get even, and chases Victor all over the countryside trying to beat up his football team and break his pot. At which point Victor, parentless, mentor-less, pet-less, slightly toe-less, vaguely face-less, and still really, really thirsty, decides that he’s just about had it with this nonsense, and says the hell with it; he’s going to create an army of Voiceless Victors and take over the worrrrllldddd. And thus, a new evil villain is born.

…But he still likes puppies.

The End

This column has been brought to you by the letters M and D, and way, way too many endorphins. Please forgive it for being kind of ridiculous.

And until next time, Servo Lectio!



Martha Thomases: Could Obama Rescue Michelle From The Joker?

Deadlines being what they are, I’m writing this before the first Presidential debate, and you are reading it after. By now, all the various news agencies, pundits and comedians will have picked out the most salient points and decided who “won.” I’m sure I also have opinions by this time, and I assure you that I am right.

However, this has nothing to do with pop culture in general, nor comics in specific. And I’m having trouble thinking about anything else.

As the kind of nerd who was on the debate team in high school, I’m a little bit affronted that they call these televised events “debates.” There is not a thesis, and it is not set up so that one side argues for it and the other side against. There are no definitions of terms. Instead, there are specific questions, defined amount of time for each candidate to answer, the other candidate to respond, and so on, for an hour and a half. Everything is micro-managed, from the height of the podia to the lighting, and both sides have minions who will run out and declare their respective candidate the winner, no matter what is actually said.

It’s about as spontaneous as a Papal mass. And about as persuasive.

You know the debates are boring because, when they are presented in popular entertainment, suspense has to be added. For example, in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, when they depicted the famous Lincoln/Douglas debates, they added, well, vampires.

What if candidates for elected office debated the way characters do in comics? You know, with fighting?

My personal favorite examples of this are the Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories by my beloved Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams. The two main characters argue about their respective world-views while shooting arrows, leaping over rooftops, flying through the air, and, sometimes, facing off against little blue aliens.

It would be wonderful if there were similar obstacles presented in our political debates. We would have the opportunity to not only hear the different viewpoints of the candidates, but also observe their problem-solving skills in action. Obama might have rescued the auto industry, but can he rescue Michelle from the clutches of the Joker? Romney boasts of his business experience, but can he fend off a hostile takeover from Intergang? Forget Ahmadinejad, would either man allow a Doctor Doom to speak at the UN?

And after they fight, can they team up and solve the problems together? That would not only increase the ratings for the debates, but improve our level of discourse.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman and the Old Guys League of America



You guys know what the word “bardo” means, right? You don’t? Oh gosh, I’m sorry. Last week I threw a Catholic factoid at you and this week I’m hitting you with something from Tibetan Buddhism which, for pity sake, isn’t even Christian! (What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just pass the test, toss the text, and cruise down to Steak’n’Shake like the rest of the kids?)

Never mind. Here is a definition of “bardo” provided by my favorite oracle, Wikipedia:

The Tibetan word Bardo means literally “intermediate state“ – also translated as “transitional state” or “in-between state” or “liminal state.” Used loosely, the term “bardo” refers to the state of existence intermediate between two lives on earth…The term bardo can also be used metaphorically to describe times when our usual way of life becomes suspended, as, for example, during a period of illness…

The jury is still outway, way outon the “two lives” business, but the bardo concept is a useful expression of something most of us experience, sometimes often. The in-between place. The “what-happens-next” region.

This time of year is bardo territory. Between the seasons. Between warmth and cold. Holidays are past and…now what?

My personal bardo? Well, last fall the Brigade of Evil Kidney Stones attacked and sent me to the hospital four times and resisted counterattackwe’d say “valiantly” if they were the good guys. State-of-the-art medical science has been only partially successful against them. I imagine the last one, who may or may not be still lurking in my innardsthe X-Ray is yet to comestanding boldly and snarling, You throw sonic waves at me, puny mortal? I spit on your sonic waves!

Doctor Doom, eat your heart out.

I began teaching my NYU course last week, thus hauling myself from the between-semesters bardo.

The world of comic books is also emerging from a bardo, kind of. DC’s relaunch of its entire superhero pantheon is past. The new stuff is making its way apace, with, already, a few casualties and a few replacements. Both DC and Marvel seem to be doing some kind of reorganization. (Full disclosure: This is a guessless than a guess: I couldn’t be further out of the loop if I lived on Pluto.) The effect of the new technology on our favorite narrative medium is still a big question mark. (By the way, I’m having difficulty learning about said technology. Wonder why.)

It’ll all be resolved, soon or late, and the bardos will come and go…

But look! Down there! The space between the end of this column and the beginning of the next! What the heck is that? Do you think it could possibly be…?

RECOMMENDED READING: I first encountered the word “bardo” as part of a title “The Bardo Thodal, often translated as “The Tibetan Book of the Dead.”  My sketchy understanding of it is that this is a set of instructions for the newly dead to help them negotiate the afterlife. It had a vogue among the counterculture in the fabled Sixties and then dropped off my radar. So maybe this is not a recommendation, but rather a mention; now you know the thing exists.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases