Tagged: Martha Thomases

DENNIS O’NEIL: Percy’s Inspiration

Our story thus far: Percy the comic book artist has gone to the South Street Seaport seeking influences. There he meets a mime and:

The mime stared directly at Percy and asked, “Looking for an influence, numb nuts?”

Gobsmacked! That’s what Percy was, absolutely gobsmacked! How could this white-faced bozo know what he, Percy, was after? It’s not like he was wearing a sign that said: Will work for influences.

“Pay attention,” the mime said and:

Was transformed into a little boy who is creeping down the stairs and sees a box and eagerly, eagerly unwraps it, flinging aside paper and ribbon and looks inside and is horribly disappointed and…

The mime transformed into himself again and, moving his face to within inches of Percy’s, growled. “You influenced?”

Percy stared at his shoes and mumbled, “You’re not even an artist. You’re just a guy who…I dunno what you do but how can you influence me…”

“Go to a museum,” the mime said and when Percy raised his eyes, the mime was gone.

A museum?

Well, Percy knew that there were a lot of them in Manhattan and he’d always kind of planned to visit one and he’d even got close to the big one on Fifth Avenue once when he was girl watching in Central Park…Okay, he’d go to a museum because, really, he had nothing better to do – in fact, he had nothing at all to do.

He found the right subway and got off at the right stop and went up wide, concrete steps past some columns and then he was inside a museum. Big. Crowded. Intimidating. He wandered into a gallery full of large paintings and scoped them out: saints – the people with halos – and characters from mythology –that’s what the little cards told him– and just people, all engaged in activities that were recognizable and interesting. Pretty cool, some of it, but…? “What does any of this have to do with comics” he said aloud, to no one.

“It’s about storytelling,” said a man standing nearby – a man who looked oddly like the mime if the mime had gotten rid of his whiteface, was sporting a huge, waxed moustache, and was wearing a tuxedo. “What these painter chaps do,” the man continued, “is imagine how their subjects would appear when their faces and bodies are at their most expressive and render that in the purest possible manner. Rather like what those buskers in the park…the silent ones who seem to be forever walking against the wind, poor devils.”

Gobsmacked – really, really, no kidding gobsmacked – Percy shuffled from the museum, took a bus downtown, entered his building, and slept a very deep sleep. The next morning, he skipped breakfast and went straight to his drawing board: the mime, the paintings, and what they did, how they communicated – his task was clear. Percy wasn’t satisfied with his first effort, or his five hundredth, but eventually, he got close to what he wanted. Then, he began winning prizes. But that is a story for another time.

Note: Thanks to Martha Thomases for “gobsmacked.”

FRIDAY: Martha “Gobsmacked” Thomases

DENNIS O’NEIL: “I Am An Artist”

Percy looked up from the newspaper he had liberated from his neighbor’s welcome mat and had an epiphany. He knew what had been missing. He knew what he needed. About time.

The story, in the paper’s arts and leisure section – the only section Percy ever bothered with – concerned a major comic book publisher’s revision of its product line. It was a straightforward news piece, with no snarky asides, and it was the third or fourth such piece the paper had run in the last month or so – further proof that comics were an accepted and respected part of the arts community. Which, since Percy was a comic book penciler and inker, made him an Artist. In his imagination, he saw that word – Artist – in neon letters as big as a Times Square Billboard, with a brass band playing beneath them, and Mom and Dad there too, beaming, and also the little hottie from across the alley who had always ignored him, fluttering her eyelashes.

“I’m an Artist,” he said to the empty apartment. Not too convincing. The problem was, Percy had gotten a lot of attention with a self-published comic that he’s written, penciled and inked and then made copies of on the machine in his dad’s office after everyone had gone home.

“That’s nice, dear,” Mom had said when he’d given her a copy.

“Uh huh,” Dad said, nicely disguising his enthusiasm.

His buddies told him the book was cool.

“Yer a frickin’ artist, guy,” an uncle said.

And he was, no doubt about it. But he’d been in New York for six months and hadn’t gotten past any publisher’s reception desk and he’d taken his samples to all the comics publishers and a lot of other kinds of publishers because, well, you never know.

Okay, he was an artist. But, given his lack of success, he must be missing something. What? Then he remembered the art history class he’d taken during his one semester at the community college…what had the instructor said? Artists had…influxes? No – influences!

Epiphany, Part Two: Percy needed influences.

He wouldn’t find them in his apartment, unless they came in the form of roaches, so he put on his Yankees baseball cap – bill aimed behind him, of course – and emerged from his building into a sunny August afternoon. He turned left – south – and began walking. Would he recognize an Influence when he found one? He had to assume that he would.

He turned east on Chambers – no particular reason – and continued to the river. Turned south and soon found himself at the South Street Seaport. On a fine summer afternoon like this, the area was crowded with tourists ogling the Nineteenth Century sailing ship and drifting in and out of the restaurants and shops and glancing up at the steel-and-glass skyscrapers to the west and buying mystery meat from the food carts. Percy joined the few people who were watching a mime doing the usual mime stuff – being inside a box, walking against the wind and some other action Percy couldn’t decipher.

Suddenly the mime stopped whatever he was doing, stared directly at Percy and asked, “Looking for an influence, numb nuts?”

To be continued

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

DENNIS O’NEIL: Prematurely White

By now you know, unless you’re a fan who really reads nothing but comics and sees/hears nothing that’s not comics related: we had us a storm, we north easterners, and it was a humdinger. Lots of snow – lots! – before Halloween which royally screwed things up hereabouts and drove Mari and me onto the wet and gleaming roads looking for a motel with a vacancy because our house had neither heat nor light. Main problem seemed to be that the trees still bore leaves and their weight, added to the weight of the snow, caused the timber to fall, much of it across power lines. Cue music:

Away in a manger

No crib for a bed,

Poor little Denny

Lay down his bald head…

Okay, wrong holiday and we did a bit better than Joe the Carpenter and his family. We found a Holiday Inn near the Jersey border that had suffered a cancellation and so we didn’t have to spend the dark hours in a cold house, a car, or a manger.

And you know, I’m not complaining! I choose to live here, partly because I like the seasons and, as Diana Ross admonished, “take the bitter with the sweet.” Mari and I can consider the whole thing an unexpected little adventure, though if the power hadn’t returned this morning, I’d probably be calling it something else.

Of course, if I lived in Peter Parker’s New York I wouldn’t be bothered by meteorological matters. Same would be true if I lived in Metropolis, Star City, Gotham City…anywhere in comicbookland. There’s seldom snow there, or much rain, not a lot of wind or heat or humidity, and that’s a minor league shame.  Not that I’d want Pete’s Spidey suit sticking to his armpits, or Batman have to put on galoshes over his boots. But in a story, weather can be a tool. It can add texture and realism to the fictional settings, complications to the hero’s various quests (and without complications, those quests aren’t terribly involving). It can even be a major plot point, one that drives the action of the narrative. Or a source of humor. Or a reflection of the protagonist’s psyche. It can establish mood and it can help to establish locale. It could give a city character, as fog does for London and San Francisco or rain does for Seattle.

What is the weather like in Star City? Does the local television weather guy begin every report with, “It looks like another bland day here in our area…”

The exception, as is so often the case, is Central City, the New York doppelganger where Will Eisner’s Spirit fought whatever Eisner thought up to give him problems. It rains there. And snows. And gets warm. And the stuff is a joy to read, and if you’re looking for some recommended reading, well…most, if not all, of the Spirit stories have been reprinted. What I’m saying is, no excuses.

But for now…Hey look! A tree has fallen across my front yard. That hasn’t happened since…the damn hurricane a few months ago.

Maybe I should move to Metropolis.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

MINDY NEWELL: Chest Hair Or No Chest Hair

Walking home from food shopping, thinking about this week’s column. Thinking about all the “news that’s fit to print” (and some not) about the portrayal of women in comics. And I thought, has anyone written about the portrayal of men in comics? I’m talking down and dirty, hot stuff, glistening muscle, chest hair or no chest hair?, blue brown or green eyes, skin-tight costume, hunky super-duper M-E-N.

Distaff geeks unite!

I’ll start. Off the top of my head, and in no particular order:

  • Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine. Chest hair. Goddamn, he’s sexy.
  • Dick Grayson, a.k.a. Robin in New Teen Titans written by Marv Wolman and drawn by George Pérez. He looked like a guy I had a crush on in high school… and for years afterwards.
  • Clark Kent, a.k.a. Superman, drawn by Curt Swan, Jerry Ordway, John Byrne, and many others, up to and including Rags Morales and Jesus Marino.
  • Hal Jordan, a.k.a. Green Lantern. Just read recently that Julie Schwartz wanted him to look like Paul Newman. Explains a lot.
  • Scott Summers, a.k.a. Cyclops. Who’s behind those Foster Grants?
  • Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man. It was Revenge of the Nerds, thanks to J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita, Jr!
  • Adam Strange. Why can’t a Zeta-beam land him in my bedroom?

Now for the “live-action”:

  • Christian Bale makes delicious eye candy and engenders dirty thoughts as Bruce Wayne/Batman. But isn’t it odd that the comic version doesn’t make my “off-the-of-my-head” list?
  • Of course the true superhero, Christopher Reeve. “Easy, miss. I’ve got you.”
  • And I have always, always, always had a thing for Robert Downey Jr. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched Iron Man. Even sat through Iron Man more than twice just to look at him. Special mention for Sherlock Holmes.
  • Not so much for the blondes, generally. Though there is Chris Hemsworth as Thor. And Robert Redford (“See ya, Hubble”) in The Way We Were. And Jason Lewis as Jared Smith on Sex And The City – the scene where he shaves his signature long, blonde, thick hair in solidarity with Samantha as she loses her hair due to the chemotherapy, well, every man who has ever questioned why his girlfriend or wife left him should be chained to a chair ala Malcom McDowell in A Clockwork Orange and forced to watch that scene over and over and over until he screams Igetitigetitigetitigetit!

uh, sorry ‘bout that. where was i? she said sheepishly.

  • John Wesley Shipp as The Flash on the too-soon cancelled TV series.

No quibbling allowed on the next four. I am the columnist. I am allowed my all things Buffy. Anyway, maybe they started out as live-action characters, but they all appear in comics now. And don’t give me any lip about any of them not technically being superheroes. I don’t see you fighting demons and vampires and saving the world over and over again.

  • David Boreanaz as Angel, first on Buffy and then on the eponymous TV series. Broody, morose, dark and tragic. A vampire Hamlet.
  • Alexis Denisof as Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. I envy Alyson Hannigan.
  • James Marsters as Spike, a.k.a. William the Bloody. Just for the record, I’m one of those who believe in Spike and Buffy 4 Ever. S.W.A.K.
  • J. August Richards as Charles Gunn. He almost didn’t make the list, ‘cause his selfish actions led to the death of Fred, but I can’t deny that bod’!
  • Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles. Loved him ever since the Folger commercials. ‘Sides, I’m a sucker for British accents. Ask John Higgins.

What’cha think of my choices, fellow geek women? Who are yours? Martha, y’ wanna start?

TUESDAY: Michael Davis

DENNIS O’NEIL: Comic Con Meets Greystache

It’s happening as I sit here typing, on a Thursday, about 30 miles due south of the village where I happily abide, and, barring as always the unforeseen, I’ll be in the midst of it sometime tomorrow, mingling with armies of strangers, gazing at exhibits both exotic and banal, almost certainly meeting folks I have known for decades but seldom see whelmed by noise and flashing lights and color and celebrities and hucksters and the breath of chaos…

I refer, of course, to the New York Comic Con. (You thought I meant Armageddon? Naw… but maybe next week…) This is the younger, but extremely vigorous sibling of the monstrous (in at least two meanings of the word) San Diego Comic Con, but it is no wimpy little brother. Like Athena, springing from the head of Zeus, the NYCC arrived burly and mature, though a bit disorganized, three years ago and has been growing ever since. I’ve heard that 75,000 attendees are expected at the con site over the next four days. (At the San Diego shindig I attended last year, there were 130,000 or 140,000 con goers, depending on who provided the information.) That this event, and its west coast equivalent, could not only exist, but prosper, is yet another sign of how much comic books, that lowly, despised publishing stepchild, have changed and gentrified since I shuffled into the office of Marvel Comics about 45 years ago.

There were conventions then, sure, but they were miniscule compared to the current iterations – a few hundred or later, and at most, a few thousand avid fans who were there, not to ogle celebs or buy cool t-shirts, but to share a love of a certain kind of storytelling. You may have heard me describe (at a convention?) accompanying Flo Steinberg to my first con at the McBurney YMCA in Manhattan: maybe a hundred citizens of various genders and ages wandering around the Y’s gym, a few tables bearing stacks of old comics for sale, and the afternoon’s big deal, a group of comic book professionals on the stage discussing…well, discussing something. I was among them, and that, of course, was to laugh – me, in the business a month or two, sharing an audience with men who had given joy to me on many a summer afternoon and Sunday morning, who shaped the medium in which I labored. I wonder what I said. Probably something. Ah, the arrogance of youth…

The biggest attraction, at the Y that day, was the presence of a genuine movie star: Buster Crabbe, the screen’s Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers, in the flesh. If I hadn’t been a blasé college graduate and Navy veteran who’d actually been to a foreign country, yessir, or if I’d had any sense of what popular culture is, I’d have been impressed.

But hey! I’m no greystache lamenting the good old days when, dang it, things was the way they oughta be, decent and proper. Things now are different, but they’re as decent and proper as the universe allows them to be.

Somebody say amen.

Recommended Reading: Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. Hey, have you ever actually read it? Or read it since you had to do so as schoolwork?

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases


Oh, alas. Rest your sorrowing gaze on the gap, the fracture, the breach, the crack, the cavity, hole, crevice – might it even be a lacuna? – and join my lament.

And what, exactly, is that lament? And the gap/fracture/breach and the rest…what are we referring to here?

Well, in case it’s not obvious by now…we’re complaining about the absence of superheroes in the television season that’s a’borning. Not that such an absence is exactly novel. Since Superman made his video debut in 1952 – the Man of Steel was TV’s first costumed superguy – there have been more years without broadcast superheroes than years with them. But they have been sprinkled throughout the schedules in an odd, here-and-there fashion.

Some of them may have been among your favorites. Remember Captain Nice and Mr. Terrific? The Hulk? Electra Woman and Dyna Girl? Shazam? Isis? The Flash? The Greatest American Hero? How about Sesame Street’s Super Grover? If you can tolerate your superheroes minus costumes, the list can be expanded: The Six Million Dollar Man and his female counterpart, The Bionic Woman; The Dark Angel, which introduced many of us dirty old men to Jessica Alba – and yes, we are grateful; Buffy the Vampire Slayer (more gratitude from the DOM squad); the SyFy channel’s Alphas

I’m not going to insult you by mentioning Batman, but do you recall the show that was apparently meant to capitalize on Batman’s popularity, The Green Hornet?

This list is, I’m sure, incomplete, but you get the idea. Superheroics have been almost television staples for a long time – not as constant as cop action or goofy folks doing goofy things in the sitcom universe, but pretty familiar.

Not currently, though. We thought we’d have an adaptation of one of the classic comics characters to amuse us in prime time and I, for one, eagerly anticipated the new Wonder Woman, as presented by David E. Kelley. Mr. Kelley – he deserves the honorific – is, arguably television’s best scripter, especially now that Aaron Sorkin’s gone elsewhere. I’ve been aware of him ever since Picket Fences in the 90’s and I think Boston Legal was a small weekly miracle. (His current show, Harry’s Law, is pretty damn good, too.) One can’t help wondering: what would Kelley, whose previous work never got near fantasy-melodrama in any form, have done in such unfamiliar territory? I can’t say that we’ll never know because, these days…DVD? Limited cable exposure? YouTube? But we don’t know now. (Or do we? Do you have information that I lack?)

Life is tough.

Know what would be swell? To see Wonder Woman as I first saw Superman 1952. Not knowing that some of the scenes depicting the destruction of Krypton were borrowed from theatrical movies, or noticing that the special effects were less than awe-inspiring – did they even qualify as special effects? No, just looking and accepting whatever was there, without judgment, being amused or bored as the occasion demanded.

But I’ve seen and read and written so much much much…and hell. I’ve even been an editor. I don’t have the capacity to look with an innocent mind at superheroes, or anything else, and that’s the real fracture in my life.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

DENNIS O’NEIL: Superman, Captain Midnight and Me

Yeah, that’s him, little Denny, aged six or seven (or maybe even five), dragging the kitchen chair across the linoleum and putting it next to the icebox. He climbs up on it and then he’s close to Mom’s radio. He knows which knobs to turn, he knows how to find what comes from the speaker, what is very important: his programs.

Every weekday afternoon, after school, from 3:30 to six – dinner time, Dad’s nightly return from Work (and work is also very important, though Denny doesn’t know why) – Denny listens to Tom Mix and Superman and Hop Harrigan and Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy (what other kind of boy could there be?) and what may be his very, very favorite, Captain Midnight. Mom has her programs, too – Ma Perkins and Young Doctor Malone and some others – but Denny thinks they’re no better than okay. But his programs…danger and excitement and air planes and fighting and now and then goofiness: a wonderful world coming from the top of the ice box into Mom’s kitchen and Denny’s mind.

Denny has other things he likes. On Friday night, Mom and Dad let him walk alone to The Pauline Theater to see a cartoon, some previews, and two pictures – usually but not always pictures about cowboys. And there are the comic books, the ones that Dad buys at the little store on Union Avenue along with milk and bread after Sunday Mass, and the ones he gets by trading Dad’s gifts with other kids who also have comics. Sometimes, the same people are in both comics and programs and its fun to hear what Superman sounds like and to see what Captain Midnight looks like.

But comics and picture shows are once-in-a-whiles, and not completely reliable: he didn’t know what comics would be on the Union Avenue rack, and maybe The Pauline would be showing one of his favorites – Tim Holt, Sunset Carson or the King of the Cowboys himself, Roy Rogers (and his golden palomino Trigger and, oh yeah, Dale Evans, the Queen of the West)–or maybe the pictures would be about cowboys or detectives Denny didn’t care for as much, picture-people he might forget about entirely in oh, say, 66 years if he were an old man writing about a child. But he knew when the radio programs would be on and how to find them and that was certainly good, did little Denny.

And that old man…might he be a mostly retired comic book writer, you think? And might he not wonder if the radio broadcasts influenced the work he stumbled into more than the comic books he consumed on the front room floor or the back porch? Because listening to the programs, he had to supply his own imagery, to imagine how the battles were being fought, the planes flown, the horses galloped. He had to puzzle over words and ideas he couldn’t quite understand. The world that came from the radio into Mom’s kitchen became his world.

Then, some 20 years later, in another city, he sat down to write a comic book script…

ADDENDUM: If you enjoy vintage radio drama, or are just curious about it, let me call your attention to the annual Friends of Old-Time Radio convention, to be held this year on October 20, 21, 22 and 23 at the Ramada Plaza in Newark, NY. Email: E-mail: JayHick@aol.com

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

DENNIS O’NEIL: The Original Reboot

All hands brace for a confession….Yeah, you got me. I admit that all the noise surrounding DC Comics’ reboot or relaunch or reinvention…whatever you call it, all the dust raised by this activity has caused me the occasional twinge. I worked in the comics trenches for a lot of years and some of it I still miss. Not all, oh no, but – sitting with bright, talented, convivial people in a room and doping out stories to tell…that was one of life’s joys and I’m guessing that the stalwarts at DC have spent a lot of time recently doing just that.

But they aren’t the first to redact the company’s pantheon of superheroes. Way back before you were born – most of you, anyway – Julius Schwartz did pretty much the same thing. The year was 1956 (I told you that you weren’t born yet) and comics, and their primary contribution to pop culture, superheroes – they’d been sickly for about a decade, ever since some politicians, editorial writers and assorted busybodies had convinced a lot of citizens that comics were spawns of evil. (To be fair, changing publishing and retail realities had something to do with comics’ decline, too.) As Julie told me the story: he and his fellow editors were having a meeting and someone decided to revive The Flash, a once-popular character that hadn’t been seen for years. Julie’s words as I remember them: They all looked at me and I said, I guess I’m it.

They did, and he was. He didn’t merely produce a carbon copy of the original Flash, though. With writer Robert Kanigher  and artists Carmine Infantino & Joe Kubert, Julie gave the world a new Flash – new costume, new origin, new identity. He left the original concept intact – the world’s fastest human – and altered everything else to make The Flash and his world reflect this, the world we non-fictional beings in habit. Julie and his merry men taught those of us who followed them how to do it: leave whatever made the character popular and unique alone, and modernize the rest.

There was no particular fuss over Julie’s work, back in 1956. For him, it was just another day at the office. The network of fan publications was at best just a’borning, as were conventions, and websites, like this one, weren’t even science fiction because, as far as I know, nobody had even thought of them. Sure, some dedicated readers may have reacted, but the world at large…yawn. And that may have been where Julie had an advantage over his editorial descendants.

Imagine doing this complex task with hordes of the curious looking over your shoulder, waiting to see if you fail, some of them, human nature being what it is, maybe hoping you’ll fail. And of course, regardless of how well you perform, a lot of your audience will find fault because they’ve been establishing an emotional attachment to these characters for years – for decades? – and any significant changes is going to seem…well, dammit, wrong! Pretty daunting, huh?

I haven’t read any of the new stuff yet. Have I just convinced myself that I shouldn’t?

Recommended Reading: The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America by David Hajdu

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

DENNIS O’NEIL: Superman’s Two Daddies

When Jerry Siegel first conjured up Superman, some time in 1934, he really didn’t tell us much about the Man of Steel’s doomed homeworld. We were informed that it exploded and that only baby Kal-El survived the big bang because his father, Jor-El, shot him into space in a prototypical spacecraft which, for reasons not really explained, had room for only one subsize occupant. This was after Jor-El had appeared before some governing body or other and warned of impending doom, and was ignored.

Not a lot of information there. For openers, we might ask where, exactly, Krypton was located. I’m betting that Jerry had our solar system in mind, and why not? In the early 30s, not even degree-bearing scientists knew their way around our sun and its planets, much less a kid from Cleveland. If Jerry were doing his creation today, he might mention alien stars, or distant galaxies, and worm holes and space/time warps, and then he’d have to explain how someone so far away could know about Earth and an ecosphere capable of sustaining Kryptonian fauna. (Or maybe he’d just ignore the whole question. If so, he’d get no scolding from me, my friend.)

Jerry gave no hints about Kryptonian socio-politics, geography, religion, or customs. We don’t even know if the planet had any moon(s). Nor do we know why Jor-El was the Kryptonian version of Cassandra. (Remember Cassie, from Greek myth? She could foretell the future but was cursed to have nobody ever believe her.) Lately, I’ve been wondering if Jerry was himself a prophet, albeit of the accidental variety.

Let me elucidate:

We begin with raw speculation, but, not having information we can be forgiven for trying to fill in a few blanks ourselves. Let us, then, suppose that at the time of Jor-El’s Cassandra number, the Els had been recently removed from office – the Els being, or course, the legislative clan Jor belonged to. They were replaced in the chambers of Krypton’s odd government by their age-long rivals, the Les. (Long “E.”)

Among those who scoffed at Jor:

Chain-Le: Chain was an industrialist-turned-politician who saw an opportunity to enrich himself and his cronies by blaming the symptoms of impending doom on secret weaponry unleashed by another nation and having war declared on these presumed enemies.

Rev-Le: Rev was a clergyman who said that according to scripture, the world wasn’t supposed to end until half-past the next millennium and so, not only was Jor wrong, he was a heretic who should be stoned.

Iggy-Le: Iggy was another politician who thought these scientists, like Jor, were just a bunch of snooty eggheads who ought to be ignored, though Iggy thought that maybe Rev-Le had something with that stoning notion.

Geo-Le: Geo, the most powerful official in the legislature, didn’t actually join in the condemnation of Jor because Geo was a puppet. It seems that ancient and ill-understood Kryptonian custom allowed hand puppets to occupy the position of head-of-state if the electoral process somehow became hopelessly subverted. The only explanation for this anomaly was written in a long-dead language and has been translated as: Why not?

We could possibly go on but…hey – is it just me or is it globally warm in here?

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

DENNIS O’NEIL: Read This Column Or We’ll Shoot– Okay, We’re Lying

DENNIS O’NEIL: Read This Column Or We’ll Shoot– Okay, We’re Lying

Cheeseface on the cover of National Lampoon.

Image via Wikipedia

Let’s get the anecdotal/name dropping portion of this blather out of the way up front:

Five, maybe six years ago, I was leaving the British Broadcasting Company’s offices in Manhattan, where I’d been brainstorming a kids’ show with a producer and some writers, including Sean Kelly, who was accompanying me to Third Avenue. Sean mentioned that when he was editor of the late, lamented humor magazine, the National Lampoon, and the Lampoon shared a midtown building with my usual employer, DC Comics, he considered asking me to contribute something to his pages, but that someone told him that I wouldn’t be interested.

Now, let me take a deep breath and aver, emphatically, that I would have been delighted to have my work appear in the hippest and funniest magazine on the racks. I don’t know and don’t want to know who Sean spoke with, but it’s fair to say that this mysterious person did me a disservice with an untruth.

So yes, experience allows us to state that falsehoods, whether malicious or innocent, do affect people and events, and we can’t console ourselves by thinking they have no consequences. And they piss us off: some squiggle deep in our brains probably perceives them as threats and we want to react, we want to strike back and avenge and bring low the foe.

Not easily done and maybe not wisely done, either. I retaliate and the foe retaliates to my retaliation and there are arguments and side-choosing and and and and…

The unhealthiest part of the relevant egos, foes’ and mine, fattens on anger and vengeance and, yes, hate, and validates their existence with our sorry conflicts.

Redress by law? Hey, ever been privy to a lawsuit? There’s no guarantee of satisfaction from a process that can drag months in its wake, maybe years, and break the bank and chew up and spit out one’s life…

I’ll stop waxing metaphorical now, take another deep breath and, head bowed, admit that I have recently been on the receiving end of some brickbats that make whatever was said to Sean Kelly, decades past, seem like powder puffs. (I said I was done with metaphors, didn’t I? Sorry.)

A final deep breath and–my friends: I believe the First Amendment to be the best thing in the Constitution and I believe John Stuart Mill’s essay On Liberty should be required reading for everybody (or at least recommended reading) and I wish there was some way of reprimanding politicians and journalists and pundits when they deviate from the truth but…we pay a price for our most cherished freedoms and allowing the publication of rumors (or worse) is the ugly cost of freedom of speech.

This can be, I admit, a paltry consolation, and at the moment it is indeed feeling pretty paltry ,but it will have to serve.

Recommended Reading:

  • [[[On Liberty]]], by John Stuart Mill.
  • [[[Saints Preserve us: Everything You Need To Know About Every Saint You’ll Ever Need]]], by Sean Kelly and Rosemary Rogers

 Friday: Martha Thomases