Tagged: John Ostrander

Mike Gold: The Magic Of Comics

At MoCCA this past weekend – that’s one of my favorite shows, by the way – a surprising number of people asked me about how I felt about DC Comics Entertainment Periodical Publications moving to the Left Coast.

It amuses me to note that only one of these people actually worked at DC, and he was being sarcastic.

In its 80 years DC Comics has moved more frequently than a family of vaudevillians. I worked at only three of their locations; I know many who worked at five or six. Every time DC moves, they relaunch Aquaman. They are now a fully integrated part of Warner Bros., so moving to LALALand is a no-brainer.

And I hope my friends at Marvel are paying attention.

Once Marvel joins Disney out in Hollywood, only one comic book leaflet publisher will be left in New York City proper, that being Valiant. (If I’m missing anybody, forgive me – you really can’t tell the players without a scorecard, and, besides, I haven’t seen Jim Shooter in about a year). If you consider the entire New York metropolitan area, that number grows to… what, two? Archie Comics is in Westchester County. If ComicMix returns to leaflet publishing, and, yeah, we’re considering it but then we collapse in a fit of giggles – then that’ll make three. The combined output of the New York comic book leaflet publishers wouldn’t amount to a fart.

For the record: I think it is absolutely great that we have comics publishers all over the nation. There’s no magic to publishing comic books in Manhattan, despite what lazy publishers told poor cartoonists between the middle of the Depression until the election of Ronald Reagan.  Actually, I think it is great that we have so many comics publishers that they can be all over the nation.

I admit: the first time I dropped my butt into my chair at 75 Rockefeller Plaza – that’s four locations and 40 years ago – I was in fanboy heaven. It was a great feeling. Jenette Kahn offered me the job at a moment when, as they say in the business, I was “between radio stations.” In 1976, stations were changing their pretty much after every third song and I saw the handwriting on the wall. It said “Work for Superman.”

The fact is, most of my best and most enduring friendships have been formed while in the comics racket. I’ve lunched with Steve Ditko, I’ve worked with Will Eisner and Peter O’Donnell, I intervened in a, ah, friendly discussion between Stan Lee and Joe Orlando. Great stuff. ComicMixers Glenn Hauman, Martha Thomases, Denny O’Neil, Mindy Newell, Bob Ingersoll, and Robert Greenberger? These folks have been my friends forever, and I met them all through comics. Yes, they have amazing intestinal fortitude.

John Ostrander is different. (I can’t tell you how much I wanted to end this paragraph right here.) I’ve known John even longer, through our common interest in both theater and comics. I brought him into this business – at his own request, so he can’t complain.

I have absolutely no doubt that there are a ton of people just out of school out on the Left Coast who will put in their time at DC Comics and come out of it exhausted but with plenty of great friendships.

And for me, that is the magic of the comic book racket.

 

Mindy Newell: Do Not Fold, Spindle, Or Mutilate Me!

Yesterday I ran into a friend from high school as I was leaving the supermarket. He told me that he is moving to a smaller place and so he’s trying to sell off his comics collection, which runs into the thousands and thousands. He’s going to keep some of them because he loves them, and for posterity, and for hopefully great value in the future. But he hasn’t been able to offload most of them – which I said probably has something to do with the economy, because even if the Dow is over 18,000 and the unemployment rate is under 5.5%, most everyone is keeping their Washingtons and their Lincolns and their Benjamins in their wallet or under the bed. He also told me that once DC’s two-month limited series Convergence is done in April, he’s also going to be done with comics.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because all it is now is one big cataclysmic event leading into another,” he said. “It’s boring, it doesn’t mean anything, and I’m not wasting any more money on the shit.”

Yeah. I get it.

PowBack in the eighties the comics industry was experiencing a boom in great visual storytelling that was busting down all the preconceived notions about comics. No more pop-art balloons. No more women whose only aim in life was to become a Mrs. fill-in-your-favorite-single-super-guy here. No more “*choke* *gasp* *sob* How ironic!” neatly wrapped up endings. Stories became more complex; the superheroes weren’t always red-white-and-blue American good guys who always saved the day.

Yes, Marvel had been doing this since the introduction of Spider-Man in Amazing Fantasy #15, cover-dated August 1962, but across the country there was an explosion of energy in the eighties: the independent market took root and prospered, the Comics Code Authority seal vanished from covers, the Brits launched a second pop culture invasion, and people were openly reading comics on the subways, on the buses, at work, and at school. The story ruled, man!

Comic historians can tell you when it exactly happened, but I know that it was after Crisis on Infinite Earths and Secret Wars and, especially, The Death of Superman, that the story disappeared and the event took over.

Ah, The Death of Superman – everyone was buying multiple, multiple copies and stowing them away in attics and cedar chests and shoeboxes because everyone knew they would be worth $$$$$$ someday. Only of course millions of issues were printed and of course DC wasn’t going to really ice their licensing giant and of course the public’s ability to be sucker-punched was infinite (pun intended). So of course it will be about 500 million years before a mint copy of the issue will be worth gazillions. But of course DC made money, lots and lots of money, and generated lots and lots of publicity, including a Time magazine cover.

And so of course, the people at the top of the corporate DC ladder wanted to do it again. And again. And again. And again.

And so they did.

And Marvel did it as well. I think they started (but again, ask a comic historian for the exact stats and dates) after Secret War I with the expansion of the X-Men line, which led to crossovers, which led to X-Men crossovers, which led to Iron Man and Thor, and Punisher expansions which led to crossovers and then to across-the-line events.

Oh, and let’s not forget the variable covers with Mylar and special graphics and holograms. And there were “3-D” pop-up pages, and double-page fold-outs and…

Dig it, man. These were all events.

But what happened to the story?

It went elsewhere…to the comics that nobody really noticed (and so got cancelled), to the book publishers who started graphic novel lines, and, especially in Marvel’s case, to the movies and television. (Although, as Marc Alan Fishman recently noted in his column last week, DC’s Flash is gettin’ it.)

John Ostrander’s column yesterday reflected on the wonderful world of robotic (computer) storytelling. He noted that these stories, and I’m using shorthand here, suck big time. Grammatically correct and all that, but no heart. No soul. No emotion.

But the Cylons evolved, and I’m guessing so will these programs, John.

Maybe not in our lifetime, old friend, or yours, but one day there will be an X-Men or a Superman or a Daredevil or a Batman written by a computer.

And it will be an event.

 

Martha Thomases: Killing The Killing Joke

Another week, another kerfuffle. This one, involving a variant Batgirl cover for the “Joker Month” promotion at DC comics, is actually a little bit more interesting than most.

(Please note: I actually find most of these events interesting, which is why I write about them so frequently.)

In this case, the usual knee-jerk assumptions don’t apply. Artists were assigned to create a cover that featured the title character (in this case, Batgirl) and the Joker. The assignment was made, not by each series’ editor, but the marketing department. Rafael Albuquerque, the artist, decided to create an image that paid homage to one of his favorite Joker stories, The Killing Joke, by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland.

I really like that story. There are people who have issues with it, and I understand their concerns, but, to me, it is a phenomenal meditation on the nature of madness, and those who have to live with it. I wasn’t happy about how the rest of the DC editorial office reacted to the show, deciding that Barbara Gordon was the only superhero ever to suffer an injury (or death) that wasn’t curable.

(Side note: I did like the way Kim Yale and John Ostrander took what I considered to be an unfortunate editorial decision and made Barbara stronger than ever, as Oracle. I still resented that Batman’s back could be fixed, but not Barbara’s.)

Anyway, all this changed with The New 52. Barbara Gordon can walk again. Barbara Gordon can do the kind of amazing acrobatics that require usable spines and lots of training and talent. More recently, the editorial office and creative team decided to recast the character as younger, hipper, and more girl-friendly.

The creative team was not happy with the Joker cover. A lot of fans of the new series, perhaps too young to have read The Killing Joke, were not happy with the Joker cover. Rafael Albuquerque, when made aware of the reasons for the controversy, was not happy with the cover.

Finally, DC withdrew the cover. And that’s where this gets interesting.

There was also a lot of saber-rattling about censorship, which shows how little the public understands the word. The creative intent of the people creating the comic book was not supported by the variant cover, and they didn’t want it used. The only people who thought the cover was a good idea were those in marketing.

I do a lot of marketing work. I’m not opposed to marketing. That said, no one defending free speech has ever asserted that the needs of the marketing people should determine artistic expression. If anything, those of us who appreciate artistic freedom (even of work we don’t like) tend to prefer marketing people to butt out of editorial decision.

During the run-up to withdrawal, there were a lot of tweets and Facebook postings and other internet conversations about the issue. And, as so often happens on the Internet, some people got verbally abusive and threatening and there was name-calling and unpleasantness. DC alluded to this in their press release.

If you read the comments about this on the Comic Book Resources article (and I only read the first page or so, because I have a life, but not so much of one that I could stop thinking about the comments that I read), you’ll notice something unusual. After lots and lots of discussion about censorship and artistic integrity, the commenters are horrified that someone would threaten the artist. How could a difference of opinion about a piece of artwork justify such behavior? Isn’t the terrorism of an Internet threat more violent than the image in question?

Except no one was threatening Rafael Albuquerque. The threats were directed to those people (most often women) who didn’t like the cover. How could a difference of opinion about a piece of artwork justify such behavior?

It doesn’t.

It would be lovely if those who like the variant cover, who thought that it was horrible of the “social justice warriors” to threaten an artist, would 1) apologize to those they wrongly accused of making threats and 2) perhaps direct their outrage to those who actually do make threats, even if they agree with them otherwise.

 

Mindy Newell: IDIC*

“Oh, my. The simplest would be to say, ‘Languh yoren osta lebn.’ It’s a typical Yiddish expression. Parents say it to their kids. It means, ‘You should live many years’.” • On the Jewish roots of “live long and prosper”

“There was a very small crowd – miniscule compared to the crowd that he gathered later – at a private home in Los Angeles. And we were standing on the back patio, waiting for him. And he came through the house, saw me and immediately put his hand up in the Vulcan gesture. He said, ‘They told me you were here.’ We had a wonderful, brief conversation and I said, ‘It would be logical if you would become president.’“ • On meeting Senator Barak Obama during his first Presidential campaign

“I have been, and shall always be, your friend.” Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan

On the wall to the right of the corner in my bedroom where my computer is set up is a plaque given to me for my birthday by daughter Alixandra when she was in high school. It reads, in emboldened and etched script:

STAR TREK: TO BOLDLY GO WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE

It’s a picture of Commander Spock of the U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701.

It’s a totally fangirl-geek-nerd piece of cheap convention claptrap, for which she probably overpaid and with no monetary value whatsoever in the collectibles market…

And I love it.

I love it because it’s from my daughter.

I love it because it tells me every day that my daughter gets me, that she got me then and always will.

And I love it because it’s a marker that some things do cross-generational barriers, that, to paraphrase John Ostrander’s eloquent words from his column here yesterday, it helps me to remember the past, to appreciate the present, and anticipate the future.

Languh yoren osta lebn, Mr. Spock.

And may your katra be with God, Mr. Nimoy.

*Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations

 

Mindy Newell: Bits and Pieces

I’d like to welcome Molly Jackson to the cacophonous, crazy, crackling, close comradeship that is the corral of ComicMix columnists. Molly’s first piece is on Star Trek: Voyager. She, like, me is a devoted fan of Captain Katherine Janeway, Commander Chakotay, Lt. Commander Tuvok, Lieutenant Tom Parris, Lieutenant B’lanna Torres, the Doctor, Kes, Neelix, and Seven-of-Nine.

In fact, I think that every columnist here is a fan of Star Trek, in its various incarnations…or at least one particular series or movie. (Hmm…is it a prerequisite?) Anyway, as I responded to Molly in the comments section, it’s a weird bit of synchronicity that her first column is about Voyager. Last week I finished binging on the entire series courtesy of my DVD set. I was so into reliving it that I was actually pissed off as the final episode ended!

Molly, you’re so right – it was a great, great piece of ST mythos (im-not-so-ho)! Kate Mulgrew – I can’t even imagine Genevieve Bujold in the role – as Katherine Janeway put as strong an indelible mark on her character as Shatner, Picard, or Brooks. (Bakula, im-no-so-ho, got shafted by the network – he never really got a chance to “quantum leap” Archer out beyond the original series bible.)

My only complaint is that final scene in the final episode. I wanted more. We should have seen the crew actually set foot on Earth again after seven years. Do you think that the surviving Maquis members would be arrested and dragged off to the jail? Do you think that Janeway’s fiancée would be there – and would he leave his wife home? Do you think they’d start an affair? How would Seven of Nine integrate in society? At the very least, we should have seen the reunion between Admiral and Lt. Tom Paris…and the Admiral’s introduction to his new granddaughter.

I forgot to mention last week that the January 16 issue of Entertainment Weekly (the one with Paul Rudd as Ant-Man on the cover) had a very nice piece in the “News + Notes” section on Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Faction as “The First Couple of Comics.” The very complimentary – and deservedly so! – story had a sidebar listing other “power” couples (as EW termed them) in the four-color world – Terry and Rachel Dodson, Mike and Laura Allred, Stuart and Kathryn Immomen, Walter and Louise Simonson, and Amanda Connor and Jimmy Palmiotti.

When I read the piece, I said to myself, “Hey, what about John Ostrander and (the late) Kim Yale?” I meant to send off an e-mail to EW, but being a lazy, procrastinating shit, I never got to it.

However, someone else did.

This week’s “Oscar!” issue of EW, dated January 30, letter writer Beth Rimmels of Long Island, New York, said:

“Loved the piece on Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction, but when listing other power comics couples you omitted John Ostrander and the late Kim Yale. Their run on Suicide Squad put it on the map and influences the upcoming movie. Ostrander’s still turning out good writing, and Yale influenced many women who followed her.”

Amen, Beth. A-men!

Oh, and I think the casting of Paul Rudd as Ant-Man is brilliant.

There’s also a story in this week’s EW on Richard Selzer, a.k.a. Mr. Blackwell of the infamous “Hollywood’s Worst-Dressed List.” Alumni include Elizabeth Taylor Cher, Raquel Welch, Madonna, Dolly Parton, Whoopi Goldberg, and Lindsey Lohan. Got me to thinking of how the inheritors of critiquing celebrity fashion choices, like Joan and Melissa Rivers, who owned the red carpet for the E! network at events like the Oscars, the Golden Globes, and dissected star fashion on Fashion Police for the same network, would do at assessing the “costume” choices of the superhero population. Lots and lots of comments about wearing their “underoos” on the outside, I bet!

Sounds like an idea for next week’s column.

See you then.

Marc Alan Fishman: Suicide Squad’s Sinister Sextet

Hello movie lovers! Tis I, Marc Alan Fishman, resident ComicMix snark-do-well. I figured I might as well get at least a day out from the legendary John Ostrander on the topic that most presently has the comic book fanboys all a flutter. What’s that, you say? The recently announced Suicide Squad movie from DC Entertainment now has a cast? Well, what better to do then but react to each of the specific castings of the sinister sextet of seriously spiteful sinners.

Jared Leo as The Joker

I know what everyone is thinking. “Boo! Hiss!” they cry. Well, not me. Casting the clown prince of crime with yet-another slightly slick looking actor, with plenty of dramatic chops, seems apropos. Look kiddos. When they announced Heath Ledger, the outcry could be heard for miles around the Internet. All up until footage started leaking in dribs and drabs. And then when The Dark Knight debuted, every nerd with no-good in their hearts shut their yaps at light speed. Ledger’s Joker was a performance that will never be replicated. But with Requiem For A Dream, Dallas Buyers Club, and several smaller parts in good movies, Jared Leto is honestly not a bad choice. But, put a pin in that, because I’m going to wrap up everything with a nice neat bow before we’re done today.

Will Smith as Deadshot

Well, I think this comes as the shocker, no? Will Smith is a conundrum of an actor. Sometimes, he hits them out of the park. Lead roles in Men In Black, Ali, Independence Day and countless others cement him as being more than capable of balancing humor with a serious side. Of course for every spark in his IMDB file, it comes balanced by serious fizzles of failure. Hancock, After Earth, and Wild Wild West do plenty to make me waiver on how this casting catches me. Suffice to say I could care less about the issue of Floyd Lawton being black. What I’ll care about most is if the script calls for a equal amount of cocky humor with deadpan deliveries in between.

Tom Hardy as Rick Flagg

Dude. It’s Bane being the badass good guy. And there’s almost no chance he’ll have an indecipherable accent and a mask covering his mouth! Count this one as being just fine by me.

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn

Hmm. Really? I don’t know if I’m skittish more because Ms. Robbie hasn’t been in anything I’ve personally seen, or because we’ve already hit on the fact that The Joker is in the picture. No offense, but when the two of these kooks share a screen, Mark Hamill and Arleen Sorkin have set the precedent. Call me a closet cheerleader for good roles for men and women, but something about having this twosome announced makes me hope that Leto is in and out, allowing for a Harley that’s allowed to be more than something nice to look at.

Jai Courtney as Boomerang

What, he couldn’t be a captain? Damnit. Mr. Courney’s resume is very action-heavy. So it bodes well that the once laughable Digger may have a bit more of an edge to him. That being said, if the dude is still hurling boomerangs, no amount of black leather and cool one liners will quell a common moviegoer.

Cara Delevingne as Enchantress

Ms. Delevinge is too new an actress for me to know whether she can play an uncouth sorceress supreme. As with everyone else announced here, I’m less worried about the name attached to the role as much as the role itself.

You see, John Ostrander’s original series pitted C-Listers on missions that could easily wipe them from continuity. I highly suggest you go read his run, if you haven’t already. Looking over this announced cast – complete with three known names – begs me to ask the heavier questions beyond the frivolous. The Suicide Squad comprised of well-seasoned villains, as played by the likes of Leto, Smith, and Hardy, feels like “suicide” isn’t anywhere in the game plan. More to the point, if you believe The Joker has a chance at biting it on the big screen then you don’t know good business. Hmm, given DC’s track record now and again, maybe he will die.

The key to Suicide Squad being a success lay firmly in the hands of the writers. As a comic book fan and writer, I’m still trying to wrap my head around how one would ever choose The Joker to be on anyone’s team. And will the desire to give Will Smith a few too many quips come to pass? And isn’t the Enchantress a bit overpowered for a team consisting of muggles?

On top of this, rumor has it that Lex Luthor will be making an appearance. Hmm. A known Superman, Batman, Flash, and Wonder Woman villain all being united for a team. Seems like the through-line to Justice League is right here.

At the end of the day, all I personally care about is a good story. If the characters are presented in a form agreeable to their pulpy roots, I don’t mind how modern things need to be presented. With a trio of powerhouse actors on board, there’s no lack of talent. But there’s something to be said about having too much of a good thing. With a bloated cast (remember in addition to the sixth known cast members, and Luthor… there’s also Amanda Waller, as well as whatever heroes may exist in the flick) and seriously over-qualified villains leading the charge, color me holding my breath this picture doesn’t chomp down on the cyanide pill long before the ending coda is playing to an empty theater.

 

Dennis O’Neil: Crossovers – And That Ostrander Bozo!

Before we get into this week’s topic, if we ever do… Who does this Ostrander bozo think he is? In a recent Facebook post, he told the world that he was about to start preparing a holiday meal. He was preparing to do this only about a month after undergoing bypass surgery.

Well. It so happens that some 12 years ago I had some bypass action and a month later, was I cooking up a feast? You kidding me? A month later I was mostly lying around catching up on my sloth. Wasn’t in the kitchen, wasn’t taking out the recyclables, wasn’t down here in the office tapping at the keyboard. Nope. Just sprawled on the couch, being torpid.

But Ostrander is being a chef and doing a weekly column and for all I know, writing comic books and for all I know, swimming the Hellespont. I have to admit, I’m a little hurt. I guess I expected better from a fellow midwesterner.

Spoiler alert: completely different subject.

Which is this week’s crossover event. Not in your newest comic book. Crossovers in comics have become so common that they hardly qualify as worthy of notice, however much marketing departments might wish it were otherwise. But crossovers between television programs remain still relatively rare.

Before we soldier on, a bit of clarification: a crossover is not a mere appearance of the lead character from one venue in another lead character’s venue – Batman popping up in an issue of Superman, for example. That’s a guest appearance. A crossover happens when a story is begun in one place and ended in another. Lex Luthor blows up Gotham City in Detective Comics and Superman pastes it back together in Action Comics. As noted, pretty ordinary in panel art but not elsewhere. But not unheard of. A few weeks ago, some evil stuff was done in an episode of the venerable Law and Order SVU and the story wrapped in Chicago PD and if memory serves – and won’t that be the day! – an oldie, Homicide: Life on the Street, once did a similar stunt with the Law and Order franchise.

Now, the crossover trope has, in a way, come full circle. Characters who started life in comics are doing comics-type crossovers on television. On Tuesday, if my TV listing is accurate, Arrow and some compadres will visit the Flash and on Wednesday the Flash will operate on Arrow’s turf.

I leave it to the brainier among you to mine this programming for significance. I will allow myself only this with which to close: I think that our television brethren know, really know, how to do superhero material in their medium. It’s been a bit of a learning curve as they encountered and solved the narrative problems we comics guys have been bumping into for decades. The comics-begotten shows are all honorable entertainments and one of them, Gotham, is, I think, more than that.

The only question left to ask is, does John Ostrander agree? Or is he too busy building a garage?

Mike Gold: Committing Suicide

So now we’ve got most of the Suicide Squad movie cast – Tom Hardy as Rick Flagg (who probably won’t be turning into Bane), Will Smith as Deadshot, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Cara Delevingne as Enchantress, Jared Leto as The Joker and maybe – just maybe – Oprah Winfrey as Amanda Waller. Jai Courtney will be playing Captain Boomerang, not to be confused with Nick Tarabay, who plays the part on the Arrow and Flash teevee series.

Warner Bros’ dedication to the complete separation of television and movies is why they’ve been the go-to studio for such great superhero movies as Catwoman, all but the first two Superman movies (and only half of the second), the third and fourth Batman movies, Steel, Jonah Hex, Green Lantern, and, oh yeah, the theatrical version of Constantine. Maybe Tarabay’s Boomerang will take a vacation from the Flash and Arrow shows (et al) around the time of the Suicide Squad movie, but the actorectomy will still annoy the faithful… as will the different Flash and Green (or not) Arrow performers. It is the faithful who now drive the bus. Our hyper-excited word-of-mouth makes for nine figure opening weekends.

They can change Amanda Waller performers all they want. They’ll never run out of black actors, and thus far they’ve employed so many in the role they can fill all the empty seats at New York Jets games.

In fact, I’m very pleased to see the Suicide Squad getting the big-budget treatment. It’s a good concept, one that came out of the Legends series I named and edited. This version was created by ComicMix columnist and massively talented writer John Ostrander, who also created the aforementioned Ms. Waller. And for the record, ComicMix reviewer Bob Greenberger edited that book. So expect to see the ComicMix crew at the mandatory night-before screenings.

I’m not the only person who has raised the question of how much is too much. I can’t fault Hollywood for Hulking-out on a fad: that is what Hollywood does. Can the market support all this? Even if the “product” is uniformly great – and good luck with that ­– there’s only so much of one thing to go around. I just hope we get excellent Wonder Woman and Doctor Strange flicks.

Warner Bros. must learn the lesson that has worked so well, so fantastically well, for Disney’s Marvel Studios. They must respect the source material and they must show that respect on the screen at all times. It’s not good enough to simply have wonderful CG – we get that on Doctor Who. It’s not good enough to have name actors. You have to play the material for the faithful – establish your characters and treat them sympathetically.

Of course they’re creating their own reality. We do that all the time. But to quote another ComicMix columnist, Dennis O’Neil, “sure it’s phony science – but it’s our phony science.”

When it comes to writing from the sense of wonder, truer words were never spoken.

 

 

Marc Alan Fishman: If I Could Be A Super-Hero…

… I’d probably opt to not.

It’s that rare question kids pose to one another in an effort to ensure they can field their own Justice League at a moment’s notice. Why else do many of us turn to comic book heroes as children if but to live vicariously through their adventures – and in turn relish in the delight of super-human abilities?

Prior to the race to space, pulp heroes were more often than not akin to modern-day Batmen minus all the swearing, gravel-voiced threats and plucky pre-pubescent sidekicks: human beings granted the time, energy, and personal wealth enough to be at peak physical and mental strength. Around the time we split the atom. science fiction boomed, and, Superman and the mighty demi-gods of the day were joined by sets of super-powered show-offs in sparkly suits. I’d like to think shortly after said boom, the schoolyard became a breeding ground for adolescent aspirations for astronomical abilities.

But then, we grow up. For some of us, we still cherish these previous flights of fancy. We chase windmills, and exorcise our personal demons (a great example by my compatriot, John Ostrander, wrote about last week). I’d like to think that every time I’ve put written word to page (as few as that’s been, all things considered), any character involved who happened to be beyond human has left me that opportunity to think of the world through eyes that can’t exist. And each time I’ve concluded the story, I’ve been thankful that I didn’t live in the world I’d created – even when it ended on the happiest of notes.

If I were to have a super power, I’m realistic about the end results. Super strength? Useful if I had to move furniture. Otherwise, it’s a burden. I imagine a life where I try not to decimate private property when my boss asks me to redesign the company holiday card for the third time, or to have to command the muscle control enough to ensure patting my son on the back doesn’t leave him a cripple. It exhausts me just thinking of it.

Perhaps telepathy? Certainly the lure to peer inside the minds of everyone I know would lead straight down a path of inconsolable anguish. For every fleeting thought about me I’d take as positive might then be trampled by a mental shudder when I lumber by. I need to lose a few pounds, and being forced to hear it idly from every passerby with a working brain would drive me up a mountain to never return again.

Super speed? Well, if it came with the metabolism, I’d sure love to be lithe. But if I didn’t immediately go public with a display of my powers in order to snag some celebrity endorsements? I’d run myself straight into the poorhouse trying to stay sated. Also? I hate running.

And flight? Well, I’m pretty sure Southwest Air would still be cheaper, and they give me a Diet Coke.

The reality of the world we live in – the one where innocent men can be murdered by those we pay to protect us, and walk away without punishment or remorse – is simply too real to handle the surreal. Ration and logic dictate that any person with a power comparable to those that exist in our funny books would be subject to no known amount of stress, guilt, and responsibility. Plus Heroes kinda showed us that most people would keep it a secret and end up serial killing time travelers who couldn’t hold our attention for more than 13 or 14 episodes. But I digress.

Uncle Ben’s wise-words for his young ward can’t hold any truer for our society. With great power comes great responsibility. Yet, those in this world with actual power, use it and abuse it without a second thought. Philanthropy walks hand-in-hand with lobbying, and self-interest. No good deed is done in our world without a litany of trolls ready to refute it.

Remember when we all dumped buckets of ice water on our heads in an attempt to raise some money and awareness for a terrible disease? Of course you do, because you live in California, and you saw folks wasting precious drops of water, and how dare they! The cynical response to every mitzvah (look it up, goyem) weakens our mutual calls for peace and prosperity. Every election is a slap in the face to the party that “loses.” Every man we’ve voted into office (even if he didn’t win the popular vote) is held to impossible standards and is eventually eviscerated by pundits and bloggers alike. No one can do right without immediately being told they are wrong.

And Rao help us… if a man stood above all others and used his powers for good – say curing the sick, feeding the hungry, and preaching that the world should spend more time loving, and less time killing – well, I get the feeling he’d end up on the cross for even attempting it.

 

Our Ostrander Update!

John OstranderArtist Mary Mitchell informs us our pal ComicMix columnist, noted comics writer, actor, playwright and all-around swell fellow came through his triple bypass surgery with flying colors (or maybe that part was the anesthesia). Within 24 hours, he was walking with only minor assistance, having meals with Mary, making the hospital staff laugh their asses off, and thinking as clearly as before. At least.

I can’t even begin to tell you how happy we are. Continue your speedy recovery, John! We-all love you and miss you.