Tagged: Jon Stewart

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.




Dennis O’Neil: Puzzles

O'Neil Art 130110Show of hands: who here works the New York Times crossword puzzle? Okay, put ‘em down. Those of you who raised your hands, and you know who you are (though I don’t) might have a definition for the word “olio,” which has been known to appear in the puzzle now and again, and nowhere else that I’ve ever seen. The rest of you? Well, maybe I just shrugged. (How can you ever be sure?)

Anyway, today’s blatherthon will be a bit of an olio.

Which we’ll begin with an item about, yes, a crossword puzzle. The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart enlisted the puzzle’s editor, Will Shortz, in helping him propose to the lady who’s now Mrs. Stewart. Together, they concocted a puzzle that contained the proposal and gave it to the object of Jon’s affections. You can guess the rest. And is this not one of the coolest proposals ever?

Had lunch Saturday with my old pal/colleague Carl Potts, who informed me that another one-time colleague, Bobbie Chase, has joined her old boss, Bob Harris, in the enchanted precincts of DC Comics editorial suite. I knew both Bob and Bobbie when I worked for Marvel Comics long ago. The comics biz thus continues to be a revolving door kind of enterprise with many creative and editorial serfs going from one company to the other and maybe back again. Yet both companies have managed to retain their identities. Curious, huh? Any business majors looking for a thesis topic? Or do you disagree? Could I be wrong? Did I just shudder? (How can you ever be sure?)

Notice the italicized word in the previous paragraph? If not, maybe it isn’t there and Crankus, the evil god of technology, has struck again! Italics were absent from a sentence in last week’s blatherthon, spirited away somewhere between this computer and your screen. Gone! Pfut! And does this mean that some did not get the joke the italic was supposed to serve, and did legions weep?

Notice the exclamation point in the previous paragraph? You did. Ah, Crankus is napping. But did you know that when I crept into the comics business 47 years ago, give or take, we writers were instructed to end (here comes another italic) every sentence with an exclaimer? Enough to make a (punctuation-loving) grammarian gag, isn’t it? Newly minted young snot English major that I was back then, I bristled, but so slightly that no one noticed and besides, the guys in suits (italics alert!) did have a reason for the rule. We were told that the printing was so crude that ordinary periods might not transfer onto the page.

About those guys in suits: that was pretty much everyone who had a desk job. First day, I got my orders: suit and tie, though maybe nice jacket and tie might have eked past muster. Bit of a problem for me because, though I was used to wearing ties, I didn’t have a suit. Roy Thomas took me to Macy’s and I dropped a fast thirty bucks or so on new haberdashery. At last, the big time…

RECOMMENDED LEARNING EXPERIENCE: The Spiritual Brain: Science and the Religious Experience. Lecture series presented by Dr. Andrew Newberg, from The Teaching Company/Great Courses.

Friday: Martha Thomases Gets Soapy


Mindy Newell: Trust Me, This Is About Comics. Really.

There’s a lot of hogwash being said by Republicans these days concerning women. Legitimate rape. (What the hell is that?) A woman has the ability to shut down her ovaries if she doesn’t want to get pregnant. (Gee, I wish I had known that.) Contraception should not be covered by health insurance. (But Viagra and other anti-erectile dysfunction drugs are.) A mother’s life is no longer at risk when pregnant, so an abortion to save her life is not necessary. (Placental abruption, preeclampsia, eclampsia, peripartum cardiomyopathy and other cardiac problems, thromboembolytic disease, diabetes, seizures, bleeding disorder, genetic disorders.) A woman has no right to equal pay for equal work. (She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, Invisible Woman, have you checked your paychecks lately?) Women in binders. (Nobody puts Baby in a binder.)

I personally cannot understand any woman voting the Republican ticket right now. Which got me to wondering…

What side of the aisle do some of the women of comics sit on?

Lois Lane: Journalistic integrity is her middle name. I imagine Lois being a frequent guest on MSNBC, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert, as well as having guest-hosted SNL more than once. She’s also friends with Joan Walsh of Salon.com, Maureen Down and Gail Collins of the New York Times, Candy Crowley and Christine Amanpour of CNN, not to mention Andrea Mitchell, Katie Couric, and Rachel Maddow. Voted for Hillary Clinton in 2008, proud of Hillary’s work as Secretary of State, and a strong supporter of Barak Obama. Decision: Registered Democrat.

Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel): Hmm, this is a tough one. Given her Air Force brat upbringing and her own service in the United States Air Force, the natural inclination is that Carol is a staunch Republican, as the Republicans have long been believed to be the stronger party on defense. However, Carol’s heroes are Amelia Earheart, Jacqueline Cochrane, Geraldlyn Cobb, Sally Ride and now Colonel Jeannie Flynn Leavitt, the first female fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force, and I can’t see her being behind the Republicans these days because of their stance on women and women’s rights when it comes to equal pay for equal work. And I’m positive she doesn’t want anyone sticking an ultrasound probe up her vagina if it’s not medically necessary. Still, I’m sure she’s voted Republican in the past. But I think she also admires Obama’s tough stance on terrorism and his ability to quietly and efficiently green-light the hunt for Bin Laden, which resulted in his (good riddance!) death; and although I think she’s confused about what happened in Libya (just like the rest of us), she knows that fuck-ups happen. Decision: Independent.

Susan Storm Richards (Invisible Woman): I’m sure Susan, along with her husband, is heavily invested in technology in the market, and I’m betting the Richards (not to mention the entire Fantastic Four team) lost mucho dineros in 2008 when the market crashed. Still, I bet her hubby sits on the boards of some of the major defense contractor industries, such as General Electric, JPL, and Boeing. Still, while her husband may be strongly pro-Wall Street and a staunch Republican, I’m thinking they have a marriage like James Carville and Mary Matalin, only in reverse, with Susan, with her strong feelings about women’s rights, especially equal pay for equal work and pro-choice advocacy, working behind the scenes for Obama, throwing fundraisers and donating money. Decision: Democrat.

Wonder Woman: This one is easy for me, since I believe Wonder Woman is firmly against abortion. Not that she can vote, since she’s only got a green card (I presume.) Decision: Republican.

Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk): Jennifer is a lawyer. She’s probably met Elena Kagan and Sandra Day O’Conner, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she knows Gloria Allred, Judge Judy, and Nancy Grace. I’m thinking she believes in the idea of the Constitution as a living document, able to mature and grow, so she’s s definitely not a fan of Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, or Robert Bork. Chief Justice Roberts’s decision on the Affordable Health Care Act as constitutional probably surprised her as well as everybody else, knowing his legal record. I’m thinking that she believes Roe vs. Wade is now the de facto law of the land, so she would never work for a client who wants to overturn it, though I’m not sure if she’s pro-choice. I think she hates the way the Tea Party, which has been absorbed into the Republican Party, quotes the intents of the Founding Fathers as if they were there. She thinks Sarah Palin is a joke and feels sorry for John McCain, who ruined his long and honorable career by picking her as a running mate. (She would have voted for him otherwise.) Has voted Republican in the past, but leans Democrat these days. Decision: Registered Independent.

In closing, there’s terrific video over at Jezebel.com that I recommend every woman reading this to watch – and pull up a chair for the man (or men) in your life. It’ll make you laugh…

And think.

Oh, and for the record, I’m a registered Democrat.

As if you couldn’t guess.

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten Watches Green Arrow

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis… We hope.


Dennis O’Neil: Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing?

We’ve been pretty grim, these last couple of weeks, so I thought maybe I should lighten up. What I thought I’d do, last night, was take my place at the computer and spin some wordfluffle suitable for submission to ComixMix and then…what? Continue existing? But before I could get to it, I saw the news window on the screen and learned that some lone gunman – anything familiar in those words? – had killed six Sikhs in a Wisconsin temple before being himself gunned down by police. We don’t yet know why. We probably won’t be too surprised when we do.

The politicians – no surprise here – beat me to the fluffle. The same dreary litanies we hear so often: hearts and prayers going out to and deep sadness and troubled days ahead… Democrat, Republican, independent all saying the same thing and in so doing actually saying nothing.

Look: I get ritual. I don’t much like it and I’m no good at it, but I think I understand it. Somebody dies or gets married or gives birth and you recite some variation of a limited set of sentiments and it’s not the words that have meaning, it’s the act of saying them. We use these formulae to console and rejoice and lament because, really, language isn’t up to these primal needs and so we let the clichés act as signifiers to express what resists expression. And that’s all good.

But when ambitious strangers say the words? When they claim that a tragedy that happened to strangers makes their hearts heavy? Allow us, please, to doubt. Allow us to at least suppose that the ambitious ones are using tragic occasions, at the very least, only because the recitation of the words is expected of them or, even less admirably, to further their own agendas. The word for this is hypocrite.

Let’s agree that hypocrisy stands pretty far down in the catalogue of major transgressions, and I’d have no serious quarrel with it if it were followed by action of some kind. Any kind. We’re not advocating anything draconian here. We’re not even advocating a program of legislation and, to be honest, I doubt that any single law or even set of laws will solve the problems that lay deep in the senseless acts of violence that are happening again and again and again.

But shouldn’t we start? Somewhere? As Jon Stewart pleaded, let’s agree to discuss everything, openly and honestly, with nothing withheld from consideration. Then maybe the hollow words will begin to have meaning.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases and the Fanboy Politicians


DENNIS O’NEIL: Doonesbury Envy?

Doggone that Martha Thomases, anyway! I was all set to use this week’s column to dissertate on Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury comic strip, but Martha stole my idea before I even had it and wrote a piece on the same subject. Probably did a more thorough job, too, but now we’ll never know, will we?

Happy, Martha?

For those of you who have spent the whole of the last week in your local theater watching and rewatching John Carter and so have missed the news cycles, what that scamp Trudeau did this time was to use the platform his strip affords him as a venue for bleak humor about the indignities forced by Texas poobahs – those are male poobahs – on women seeking abortion. Trudeau wasn’t attacking the right-to-lifers per se, but only an unnecessary and humiliating “medical” procedure done down where the stars at night are big and bright.

Trudeau isn’t new at this kind of activity. He’s been doing it for the past 42 years, ever since his work began gracing the nation’s funnysides. He was once called an “investigative cartoonist” and he is that, often calling attention to stories local newsfolk might have neglected. (There’s additional detail in Martha’s piece so go on, read it! I certainly don’t care!)

Trudeau is more than a cartoonist, though – he’s something very valuable; he’s one of our national jesters. I’d nominate him, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, and Stephen Colbert for jesterhood and I bow to them all and aver that this quartet is worth a long ton of conventional pundits. They use humor to help us swallow some pretty bitter pills. We laugh, but we also swallow.

One example: From Stewart’s Daily Show, I learned that GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum claimed, publicly, that in the Netherlands, the elderly were being euthanized against their will – a lie so egregious that it should have immediately disqualified Santorum from elected office. I didn’t see it anywhere else (though surely Stewart wasn’t the only source of the item. But it wasn’t splashed big in my local paper – the one that’s banished Doonesbury to a website – and it should have been).

These entertainers have a long and honorable provenance. Remember King Lear’s jester, all you English majors? He was a teller of truth in clown’s clothing. And Shakespeare didn’t pull the character from thin air: In Renaissance times, jesters were given license to both jest and criticize their masters. It’s said that Queen Elizabeth the First once chastised a jester for not being critical enough.

You think Rollickin’ Rick got on the horn with Stewart and said something like, “Hey, Jonny, what’s the haps? You should’ve reamed my ass”)?

No, I don’t either.

RECOMMENDED READING: As I’ve mentioned in an earlier column, I try not to recommend books I haven’t read. I don’t know if there’s a Doonesbury collection somewhere in this house, but since I’ve been reading the strip on and off for about 40 years, and a lot more on than off for the past decade, I feel confident in urging you to hurry to your local bookstore and get anything with Garry Trudeau’s name on it. If you really scamper, you might get there before Martha Thomases…

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases (go figure!)


MINDY NEWELL: What Would Wonder Woman Do?

On Thursday, February 16, 2011, in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Foster Friess, one of the billionaire funders of the Super PAC (Political Action Committee) backing Rick Santorum, said, “Back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”

Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. LOL! ROFL! Hee-hee-hee! BWA-HA-HA-SNORT!



Definitely not.

Defiantly not.

Watch this video from The Daily Show in which Jon Stewart masterfully attacks the crap coming out of the Republican’s mouths these days.

And this one.

The Republican Party has really stepped in it this time. They are so desperate. It would be funny if it weren’t so scary. Now they’re trying to switch the argument into one in which Obama is attacking Catholics. According to the Republicans, Obama has been a Muslim plant, a communist, and a socialist, a Kenyan (as in not born on American soil), anti-Christian, anti-Israel…

What next?

How nuts is the Republican’s newest election campaign? Watch Megan Kelly of Fox News, newly returned from maternity leave, as she defends the “entitlement program” maternity leave against right-wing radio pundit Mike Gallagher, who calls maternity leave “a racket.”

Several columns ago I talked about why I believed that Wonder Woman, a.k.a. Princess Diana of Themiscrya, would come down on the side of pro-life in the abortion debate.

I never considered about how she would feel towards the use of contraceptives.


What I think is that, at first, she wouldn’t understand it. As I said, coming from a place where natural procreation has been unknown for 3000 years and more, Diana would have a true reverence for pregnancy and birth – not to mention children.

However, as she became acclimated to the modern world – I don’t use the word “assimilated” because it is my writer’s conceit to think of Diana as a continual “stranger in a strange land.” I believe she would come to accept the importance of a “woman’s right to choose” contraceptives, based on her own experiences growing up on a island in which there are no men to place a “glass ceiling” on women’s abilities and/or aspirations. After all, her own mother, Hippolyta, is Queen in every sense of the word, a queen with the power of a king, such as this world has not seen since Elizabeth I of England. In Diana’s world, there is no question that a woman has the capability to be a front-line warrior or a priest – it’s a fact. It just is.

And I also think she would come to realize that using contraceptives – obviously – drastically eliminate the need for abortions. Yes, I still believe she would stand firm in her pro-life stance.

A final point. Diana comes from a theocratic society. However, it is an enlightened theocratic society that does not impose its religion on others. I believe she would find it inappropriate that those campaigning for the Presidency of this country are actively working to impose their faith’s beliefs on others.




Extremely dangerous.

TUESDAY: What Would Michael Davis Do?

REVIEWS: “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan”

20th Century Home Entertainment continues to explore their library, releasing Blu-ray editions of popular and important films. Recently, two of Woody Allen’s best films were released and are worth a second look.

Allen as a comedian was a witty, smart writer and performer, coming from a literate line of humor that was in rapid decline by the 1960s. In some ways, he was the bridge between that era and today when men like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert carry the mantle. His early films were very funny and as a director, he was learning the ropes, figuring out what worked while entertaining the masses.

That culminated in Annie Hall, his 1977 serious comedy featuring his then-paramour Diane Keaton. The movie was a quantum leap in sophistication, partially from the smart script co-written with Marshall Brickman, but a most self-assured hand behind the camera. Allen shows a maturity as a filmmaker that proved to audiences and critics alike he was more than just a funny and funny-looking guy. The movie went on to earn four Academy Awards including Best Picture (besting Star Wars), Best Actress, Best Directing and Best Screenplay. (more…)

MINDY NEWELL: O, Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum!

The Christmas tree. Big, small, authentic or fake, the object of worship at Rockefeller Center for New Yorkers and tourists, the spindly little tree that Charlie Brown adopts, and always, always, beautiful, I do hope you know that the evergreen tree (fir, spruce, or pine) didn’t grow in the hot, dry, climate of Bethlehem and Nazareth. (But the Egyptians did have a midwinter rite – see below.)

Courtesy of The History Channel and my fascination with pre-Judeo-Christian religions – I’ve delved a little bit into Wicca – here’s a brief history of our favorite symbol of the season, the Christmas tree.

For centuries in Europe and England, before the introduction of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people. To ward off the ghosts, witches, and evil spirits, they made wreaths of, and hung branches from, the fir trees that were “ever green.” During the winter months, as the days shortened and the world became dark and cold, it was believed that the sun god had turned their face from them. On the winter solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year, the people would celebrate the return of the sun god, dancing in a sacred circle around a chosen evergreen tree (fir, spruce, pine) and light fires to bring back the light.

By the way, fellow comic geeks, in the Germanic and Scandinavian regions, the tree was called Thor’s Oak. Hey, Marvel, how about a Christmas Special featuring the tree and the Asgaardian?

Another origin has been proposed for our favorite Christmas image, that of the “Tree of Paradise,” which was used in the medieval plays performed on Christmas Eve to tell the story of Adam and Eve. It was decorated with apples – some say pomegranates – to represent the forbidden fruit, and Eucharist wafers to represent God’s deliverance; later on, in the 16th century, the Germans began placing the trees inside their homes, and the apples were replaced by shiny red balls.

So what were they doing at this time of year in the Fertile Crescent of the Mediterranean? Well, the Egyptians prayed to the Sun god, Ra, who would annually come near to death as the winter progressed. On the day of the solstice, when the sun – Ra – began to strengthen, the Egyptians would bring the green leaves of the palm trees into their homes, which symbolized Ra’s victory over death. (Hmm…palm leaves. Eternally green. Symbols of another resurrection one that is central to the Christian faith.)

The Romans celebrated the Saturnalia on the winter solstice, in honor of Saturn, the god of farming and agriculture, because they knew the shortest day also marked the return of spring and summer, when the land would be fertile once again.  The Saturnalia, by the way, was converted to Christmas, to mark the birth of Jesus by the Emperor Constantine, after he experienced a vision and ordered the conversion of all Roman citizens to Christianity. (And did you know that Biblical forensic astronomers believe that Jesus was actually born in the spring, according to the position of the stars at that time?) Anyway, the Romans also marked the Saturnalia by adorning Saturn’s temples and their own homes with branches of the evergreen trees that grew in that region.

The Celts of England, Ireland, and areas of northern Europe also celebrated the winter solstice with evergreen trees, to them also a symbol of eternal life. They would select a tree about which they danced, and lit bonfires to encourage the dark gods to leave.

When did the Christmas tree as we know first appear in America? Well, the Puritans – of Thanksgiving fame – felt that Christian worship had become frivolous and full of pagan rites. They believed that Christmas was a sacred, awesome – not as in “Awesome, bro!” but in its original meaning of “God-fearing and awe-inspiring” – outlawed the celebration of Christmas with trees, and even carols; those who dared were put in the stocks or worse!

The Germans, especially those who settled mostly in Pennsylvania, are credited with bringing the Christmas tree to America in the mid-19th century, but most Americans of the time were still heavily influenced by their Puritan roots, and believed the tree was a pagan symbol and refused to raise one either in their communities or their homes

Then, in 1846, Queen Victoria of Great Britain and her German-born consort, Prince Albert, appeared in the Illustrated London News celebrating Christmas with a tree. Like Anglophiles today who faithfully follow the affairs of the Windsors – and comic fans who believe that only the Brits know how to write comics – anything that came from across the pond was immediately declared fashionable and de rigueur.

O, Tannenbaum, O, Tannebaum!

And now for my weekly political comment:

If you watch either Jon Stewart on The Daily Show or Bill O’Reilly on The Factor, you know those two are at their annual “The War on Christmas” shenanigans, with Stewart poking fun – and getting pissed off – at one of O’Reilly’s favorite topics, as he rages against the ridiculous, “pinheaded” political correctness of the season.

And you know what? I totally agree with O’Reilly on this one. Oh, not on his overblown rhetoric – although that’s O’Reilly’s raison de guerre – but essentially, I believe he’s absolutely dead on regarding this one. The celebration of Christmas is an American rite of passage, which should be holy and sacred to those of the Christian faiths, but more often, these days, a commemoration of that other American religion – buying on credit and going into debt.

War on Christmas? Who’re you kidding, Mr. O’Reilly?

Next week: My Christmas, Chanukah, and Kwanza shopping suggestions.

TUESDAY: Michael Davis

The Simpsons and the Sex Pistols

The Simpsons and the Sex Pistols

With The Simpsons Movie opening today, you just might be wondering which superstars are going to appear on the show next season. Well, if you weren’t, you shouldn’t take them for granted.

Guest stars for 2007 – 2008 season include Glenn Close, Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten (as in The Sex Pistols; trust me), Jon Stewart and Dan Rather covering the Springfield elections, and opera star Placido Domingo. I don’t think Placido will be jamming with the Sex Pistols.

They’ll all look good in yellow.

Dennis O’Neil: The Fanatic Conclave, part two

Dennis O’Neil: The Fanatic Conclave, part two

About 370 million years ago, give or take, swimmy little critters biologists now call lobefish developed appendages that were helpful in getting around the bottoms of the ponds and lakes where they lived. Their descendants eventually flopped onto land and those appendages evolved into things that are useful for tap-dancing, kicking field goals and, attached to the likes of Jessica Alba, drawing admiring glances.

Comic books began as a low-common-denominator, novelty entertainment and became an industry and, arguably, an art form. Lobefish spawned, among other phenomona, karate and Ms. Alba’s thighs and comic books spawned, among other phenomona, comic book conventions. These were, at first, quite modest affairs, as described in last week’s installment of this feature, but, like the lobey appendages, have evolved into quite something else. They’re, some of them, held in gigantic auditoriums – the San Diego Convention Center and New York’s Javits Center, to name two – and attended by tens of thousands of participants. And people far more knowledgeable regarding showbiz than I am say that anyone wanting to launch a fantasy or science fiction-themed movie or television show is well-advised, if not required, to do so at one of these mega-soirees.

They have become an integral part of the huge modern monster media and I wonder if they’re not more influential as that than as places for hobbyists to gather and share enthusiasms. Further – I wonder if some folks forget that the “comi” in comicon refers to these visual narratives still being published in glorified pamphlet form.

A lot more entertainment seekers will see the forthcoming Fantastic Four movie (starring our friend Jessica, by the way) than will read any years’ worth of Marvel’s Fantastic Four comic books. And how many of the millions of ticket buyers who made Ghost Rider the box office champ for two weeks running, despite iffy reviews, even realized that the character had been born as a Marvel superhero?

I think it’s clear that the term comic book is in the process of redefinition, though what it will mean in 10 years I don’t know. It certainly won’t be merely a noun referring to the aforementioned pamphleted narratives. Nor will it any longer be a modifier meaning low, dumb, semi-literate, borderline immoral, as it has been until recently, and might still be in some venues. Probably it’ll describe a genre, or combination of multi-media genres. Or, could be, it’ll be entirely forgotten. After all, we don’t call legs lobes, do we?

And now, in the spirit of Jon Stewart, who on The Daily Show has his moment of Zen, we have our Recommended Reading: Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre, by Peter Coogan. Full disclosure: I wrote the book’s introduction. But I won’t profit if you buy it. I recommend it because it is, quite simply, the best treatment of the subject I’ve encountered.