By now, those of you who probably greeted with thudding indifference my first regular post here last week may be whining (privately) about my tone.
As of this writing, that piece hasn’t gone up yet, so I haven’t yet read the comments I probably won’t get. No doubt some of you will slanderme as a cranky old fart. I would prefer that you read me, if you read me at all, as Grumpy Cat with alopecia and a litter box that looks like a Mylar snuggie.
My purpose here is mainly to provoke thought, but in this overcrowded blogosphere, what that means is, one has to provoke, period. So I also try to entertain by trying to be funny. (I have some experience with this, having been paid to do so on several occasions.) I’m counting on there being ComicMix readers who know that “shock jock” doesn’t have anything to do with Lightning Lad’s penis.
Which brings me to my subject today (Why Patton Oswalt Is So Lonely At Comic Book Conventions). Fanboys have no sense of humor? Well, why the fuck not?
You like to laugh, right? And you love comics, right? Where is it written that loving something means you can’t see its absurdities? (Oh, wait. Married Geeks = a minority. Forgot.)
OK, now that we’ve solved that problem…
Assuming you do like laughing and you like comics…WTF have you got against a one-and-done, and getting both fixes from the same place? Why do so few of you have any interest in comic books that aren’t populated by characters so teeth-grittingly grim that they always look like they’re on the crapper and constipated? Is it too gross to contemplate the idea of a comic book that tries to make you laugh?
Where have all the funny mainstream comics gone? Plastic Man has either gone all deadpan or invisible; Kyle Baker’s given up on the Big Two; Joe Quesada probably doesn’t even know WTF Not Brand Ecch was; and Mike Richardson won’t be blowing any money on another Instant Piano anytime soon. But when did the industry get so risk-adverse? When did their commitment to product diversity become so transparently lip-service?
I know being married to the floppy is a burdensome job, but let’s all learn to lighten the load by leavening it with laughter, aight? In the grand scheme of things, comics aren’t really that important, yo. Your school, if you’re unlucky enough to go to one, will still have textbooks designed to turn you into a Marching Moron. Or it will keep you in debt till long after comics have ceased to exist.
Your job, if you’re lucky enough to have one, will still suck, and the fries that go with it will have been reconstituted, blow-dried, flavor-sprayed, and frozen by a 12-year-old Chinese girl in one of those two-cents-an-hour laborers’ dormitories that gave Mitt Romneya hard-on. And even if you don’t get around to reading this till September, your phone company will still be letting Black Ops guys look at pictures of your junk.
Me, I will recklessly continue trying to bring smiles to your lips, despite your dogged resistance. If I and like-minded writers can’t be funny in comic books, I, at least, will defiantly and unapologetically try to be funny about them – as I did here, and got hugely trolled for it by a lot of Geek jobs who sounded like they were about to cry.
We first meet Sandy on the television. She’s down in the Caribbean wreaking havoc on Jamaica and the other islands. We are warned that she might come to the East Coast. Most people shrug. A panicked populace does not yet raid the supermarkets.
By Sunday the East Coast governors are declaring states of emergency. There is a run on staples like water, milk, and bread at stores. Home Depot and Lowe’s do a banner business selling generators and gasoline cans. Batteries are sold out in five minutes. Coastal areas are being evacuated. Alix and Jeff come to stay with me.
The bitch Sandy, a swirling 800 miles-wide apocalyptic force of nature’s vengeance, comes, sees, and conquers the megalopolis of New Jersey and New York, and covers West Virginia with a blizzard. Millions are without power. I lose power on Monday afternoon. It is like Little House On The Prairie, I say. What would Laura Ingalls Wilder do? Alix, Jeff, and I light candles, drink prosecco and play Uno. Alix and Jeff sleep in the hallway, away from the shuddering windows. I bury myself under a quilt and read by flashlight, as if I’m a child again hiding from the boogeyman.
Tuesday we huddle in the living room, listening to the radio. Sandy is still outside, vicious, refusing to leave. Hundreds of thousands are without homes. My apartment building shakes, and it is frightening, but I tell myself I am like the third Little Pig who lives in a house made of brick. Others are not so lucky. Sandy’s winds and surging tides destroy hundreds of thousand of homes. Beaches no longer exist. Boats come to rest on city streets. Raging fires break out in Queens and coastal New Jersey Fire departments cannot reach them because of the raging waters. Lives are thrown into turmoil.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie praises and works with President Barack Obama, who has stopped campaigning to lead the country through this disaster. Both are tireless. President Obama’s opponent, Governor Mitt Romney, who has made millions outsourcing jobs and thus rendering millions jobless, reaches into his pocket and donates $5,000, one-half the amount he offered to bet Governor Rick Perry during the Republican primary. He also tells people to donate a can of soup. Oh, and Governor Christie (finally!) gets the chance to meet and hug Bruce Springsteen.
Still, the Presidential election goes on. I call Mike Gold three times during the evening, freaking out that Obama was going to lose. He tells me that John Ostrander also called him doing the same freaking out. Mike is also incredibly calm – I accuse him of bordering on a Romney smirk – as he keeps assuring me that Obama will win.
I keep switching the channel to Everybody Loves Raymond because I can’t take the suspense. North Carolina goes with Romney. Then – the other battleground states start reporting results. Virginia for Obama. Colorado for Obama. New Hampshire for Obama. Iowa for Obama. Pennyslvania for Obama. Nevada for Obama. Wisconsin for Obama. And around 11:00 P.M. EST, all the networks, including Fox, call Ohio, and the election, for Obama!!
Megan Kelly takes the cameras to the polling room at Fox and demands to know if the statisticians are standing by their call. Karl Rove goes apoplectic and argues with Chris Wallace, who is anchoring. Romney’s campaign is saying they will not concede Ohio. At around 12:00 midnight Romney makes a – yes, it was short, sweet, and gracious – concession speech. Obama has won 304 Electoral College votes, Romney 206. Obama has also won the popular vote. We are still waiting on Florida. Donald Trump tweets, calling for revolution.
Wednesday. Sandy has left, though outside the skies are dark with clouds and there is no feeling that the storm is over. Alix and Jeff have gone home – they are lucky; although they have no power, their house is dry and safe. I get to work about 9:00 a.m. In the staff lounge I watch TV, and see for the first time what Sandy has wrought. It is as if a war has been fought over the last two days. Some houses are not even there; all that is left are grey concrete foundations. The PATH trains are flooded; the New York subway system is at a standstill. The Holland, Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and Midtown Tunnels are impassable, also flooded. The Stock Exchange is dark. The mighty New York City megalopolis, the city that never sleeps, the center of the financial world, is closed to business.
Though President Obama has won re-election, Florida is still undecided. We learn that Mitt Romney never wrote a concession speech. We learn that when he was told he had lost Romney was in a state of shock. We learn that the Secret Service booked immediately upon hearing the result, and his son Tag drove that Mr. Romney home. We learn that Romney’s campaign workers were told to pack their bags and go home, and oh, by the way, here’s the hotel and food bill. Colorado and Washington State vote to legalize marijuana. Maine, Maryland, and Washington State vote in favor of same-sex marriage.
Wednesday night Sandy’s cousin, Nelly Nor’easter hits New Jersey, New York and Connecticut with wind gusts up to 50 mph and up to 12 inches of snow. Also on Wednesday: Karl accuses the Democrats of stealing the election through voter suppression.
Thursday we learn that Obama won Florida. Thursday we learn the final Electoral College tally: Obama 332, Romney 206. The pundits are blaming Chris Christie for working with Barack Obama. The pundits are blaming Sandy. Bill Maher tweets, “Magic underwear, my ass!” Texas Republicans are advising the public to buy guns and are recommending secession. It is an ironic bit of synchronicity that Spielberg’s new film, Lincoln, is opening tomorrow.
Thursday afternoon the sun has come out; snow is already melting. Alix and Jeff’s power has come back. The trains are still out but they are both able to work from home, and so don’t have to face the hours of commuting into the city. My usual route to work is blocked by fallen trees and telephone poles; I must drive though unknown winding roads. I am glad I never took off my snow tires.
It will take months, if not years, for the great megalopolis to recover. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York warns that Sandy was just a warning, and that if we do not plan and prepare and stop global warming, the next storm will be worse. It is suggested in the New York Times that “the city and coastal areas build “waterbreaks – like firewalls – to help prevent future massive flooding.” FEMA has come; there is an office here in my city, operating out of the city’s historical museum. Chris Christie continues to work; his stamina is amazing. EMTs and firemen and policemen haven’t been home in days, have risked their lives, and still risking their lives; utility companies from as far away as New Mexico have sent their own to aid their brothers and sisters in rebuilding the broken infrastructure that powers this vast metropolis.
There is a promise in Friday’s sunrise. I look up to the sky as I walk to the car. The crescent moon is ablaze with silvery light, and Venus sits just off its lower horn, shining with the light of tomorrow. Tonight Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Christine Aguilera, Brian Williams, Jon Stewart, and others will hold a benefit concert.
And I know that there are heroes. They may not fly. They may not have super-strength, or X-ray vision. They don’t come from far away planets. They’re not born with mutated genes.
1. The slogan should no longer be “Forward”, but “Excelsior!”
2. This piece is just crying out for Mitt Romney as Syndrome. Or perhaps $yndrome. And I suppose there’s space there for Joe Biden as Frozone. Of course, if you do that, you have to show Mitch McConnell as the Underminer…
That’s the day when the Bush Tax Cuts are scheduled to expire. Right now, the current rate on income from corporate dividends and long-term capital gains is 15 percent. With the Bush cuts gone, those numbers would jump to 39.6 percent on dividends and 20 percent on gains.
George Lucas founded Lucasfilm in 1971 and is the sole shareholder. So all the long-term capital gains go straight to him. He would stand to pay an extra 5% on the purchase price, an additional $202.5 million dollars in taxes if he delayed the transaction to 2013.
Now, it should be noted that one of the few things Mitt Romney’s told us about his tax plan is that he plans to keep the 15 percent maximum rate on long-term capital gains and most dividends for taxpayers with income of more than $200,000 per year. So if Romney wins the election, Lucas doesn’t get a bigger tax bill.
But Lucas isn’t doing that– he’s acting now. Ergo, he thinks there’s a significant chance that Romney will lose and that the risk is too big to take.
Ever since we resumed our sundry weekly columns I’ve asked our writers to keep their focus on our popular culture in general and, as often as possible, on comics in specific. I have no problem linking the events of the day to our culture; indeed, that usually brings a nice contemporary perspective to our cheap thrills. At worse, it makes for a fun rant.
I commend our ComicMix columnists for their faithful cooperation and effort. And so, now, I’m going to violate my own edict. I’ve done this little rant ever since those hallowed days of the real First Comics three decades ago. Somehow, I even managed to get away with it at DC Comics. So, true to my Ashkenazi roots, I am going to maintain this tradition.
Next Tuesday is election day. In telling you this, I’m assuming your teevee set is broken. We get to pick us all of our Congresspeople, a third of our senators, a petulance of governors, a shitload of local officials, and, oh yes, a President of the United States. All are important in that each winner will have his or her foot on our necks and his or her hands in our pockets. We are given the holy right to choose our oppressors.
“But Mike,” you might say (if you’re being polite), “if they’re just going to oppress us, why should we bother?”
Because somebody is going to win. Good, bad, and otherwise – and it will be good, bad, and otherwise – as of this writing either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney is going to win. You might think they are both jerks. Maybe so, but one of those jerks will be sworn in as President this coming January 20th. That’s an absolute fact.
And odds are overwhelming that the winner will be choosing the next member of the Supreme Court. Maybe the next two.
You know the Supreme Court. The folks who are the last word on all of our laws and who, for years now, have decided a great many things by a one-vote margin? Yeah, those folks. They even decide elections. Whoever wins the election next week is likely to bring about a fundamental change in our nation’s laws and procedures, one that will have an effect for decades and decades to come.
Are you opposed to abortion? How about our medical care laws? Corporations-as-people? Super-PACs? Incarceration of marijuana users? Next Tuesday is your big chance to put your left foot in, your left foot out, your right foot in, and shake the nation all about.
I do not care whom you vote for. Well, that’s a total lie; of course I do. But that’s not the point here. No matter whether you’re smart enough to agree with my politics or you’re some kind of stalking Neanderthal, this Tuesday get off your ass and vote!
If you decide not to do so, you lose your moral right to bitch. And that, dear friends, is among the greatest of all pleasures.
Next week, back to life’s more important matters.
Mike Gold is ComicMix’s editor-in-chief, and this was a bone fide editorial.
So, the first Presidential Debate of 2012 is over. Romney appears to have won it, President Obama mostly didn’t show up, and moderator Jim Lehrer took an early retirement. So what’s the big take away from the event?
Mitt Romney wants to deep fry Big Bird.
What Romney actually told Lehrer was “I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS,” adding, “I like PBS. I like Big Bird. I like you, too.” Earlier this year, he told Fortune magazine “Some of these things, like those endowment efforts and PBS I very much appreciate and like what they do in many cases, but I just think they have to stand on their own rather than receiving money borrowed from other countries, as our government does on their behalf.”
Of course, the fact is that the government doesn’t borrow from other countries specifically to pay for NPR and PBS. They borrow mostly to pay for the war in Afghanistan or, as they have in the past, the war in Iraq which they did to a very large degree. As Neil deGrasse Tyson trenchantly tweeted, “Citing PBS support (0.012% of the budget) to help balance the Federal budget is like deleting text files to make room on your 500 gig hard drive.”
But let’s leave that aside for a moment. Let’s leave aside all the policy wonk moments and the substantive issues and who lied and how much. This is a pop culture column so let’s focus on the pop culture moment – Sesame Street. Big Bird. That’s what they’re really talking about on Twitter, Facebook, and the blogosphere. And the message is that Romney wants to kill Big Bird.
That’s not what the man said. Agree with him or not, he doesn’t think that public funds should go to fund public television. I don’t happen to agree with him (any of you who don’t understand that I’m a liberal and support President Obama haven’t been paying attention) but I understand his view.
It seems to me that the comment was an off-the-cuff remark made in an almost jocular manner. After months of preparation (some would say years), Romney appears to have made an off-the cuff-remark and shot himself in the foot with it and then inserted the foot in his mouth. From the response, you’d think that Big Bird had replaced the eagle as our national emblem. And a reasonable question is – why?
One of my favorite moments in Oceans 13 (the second best of the Ocean films) is when a very irate Al Pacino is telling a very cool (as always) George Clooney that he’s going to get some guys after Clooney’s Danny Ocean and they know how to really hurt a guy. I’m paraphrasing all this but Ocean replies, “I know all the same guys you know and they like me better.”
That’s the deal here. Romney personalized his opposition to funding certain endowments. He could have left his point with the concept that he didn’t think the federal government should help subsidize things like PBS and, hence, Sesame Street. Instead, he adds Big Bird’s name to the conversation. A whole generation has grown up with Big Bird. Moms have planted kids in front of Sesame Street for several generations. They trust it. And the message that got carried was that Romney will make it go away.
Romney doesn’t get the impact of Sesame Street or of Big Bird. He certainly didn’t grow up watching it (neither did I; different generation) and maybe his kids didn’t, either. It’s not of real value to him and so he sees no problem if it disappears. Twitter, Facebook, and the blogosphere are suggesting that it matters to a lot of people.
To paraphrase Danny Ocean, we know Big Bird, Governor Romney, and we like him better.
Movies are full of great lines and memorable quotes. Some are even wise and insightful, but some are just filled with stupid wisdom. I have in mind John Wayne’s line in John Ford’s 1949 western classic She Wore A Yellow Ribbon: “Never apologize and never explain – it’s a sign of weakness.”
It sounds great and even may make sense within the context of the story; Wayne’s character is a military commander and the troops need to obey the commanding officer without question so apologies and explanations could interfere with that. Unfortunately, some people take it out of context and take it literally and try to apply it to everyday life.
I have in mind the GOP and Mitt Romney over the past few weeks. The candidate shoots from the lip about the death of our ambassador in Libya in order to score political points. He gets his facts wrong. Then a surreptitiously filmed video made at a $50,000 a plate fundraiser for Romney held in Boca Raton emerges. In it, among other things, he dismisses 47% of the electorate as lazy and dependent on the government and says they will never vote for him. If you missed it, you can see it here.
The best “explanation” Romney made on the latter was that he phrased it “inelegantly.” Someone in the GOP camp has taken John Wayne’s movie wisdom very much to heart: never apologize, never explain. It’s a sign of weakness. The title to Romney’s 2010 book is “No Apology.” It’s also part of what appears to be the GOP strategy: attack, attack, attack. They’ve also taken to heart a line from the movie Patton: ‘We’re gonna keep fighting. Is that clear? We’re gonna attack all night, we’re gonna attack tomorrow morning. If we are not victorious, let no man come back alive!”
To my mind, that’s the problem. Your opponent is not just a political opponent; they have become the enemy who must be vanquished at all costs. These political operatives engage in a political equivalent of a scorched earth policy. Anything that might be of use to the opponent must be destroyed by any means possible.
Last week, the Veterans Jobs Corp Act of 2012 failed to pass in the Senate. The GOP justification for it was that they didn’t feel it was properly funded; the war that put these soldiers in harm’s way and that the GOP okayed was also not properly funded but that was all right. The GOP also kept up their filibuster that prevented Obama’s $447 billion dollar jobs program from even reaching a vote.
The basic reason for both failures is that the GOP doesn’t want anything that might reflect well on President Obama this close to the election. Never mind that veterans might benefit, never mind that ordinary middle class citizens might benefit, the key was to make sure that the President didn’t benefit. The GOP announced four years ago that they intended to do everything they could to make Barack Obama a one term president and they have worked hard at it. They will never apologize for that because, to them, that would be a sign of weakness, as would compromise.
Except – apologies are not a weakness. No person and no nation is 100% correct 100% of the time. When you have done or said something wrong, the brave thing, the strong thing, is to apologize for what you’ve done wrong. Ali McGraw’s character in Love Story famously said, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Anyone who has been in love, who has been in a relationship, knows this is another bit of stupid wisdom. If you’re stubborn, if you have to be always right, then good luck to you and that relationship. The political equivalent seems to be “Politics means never having to say you’re sorry.” That’s also boneheaded.
Look, I’m not naïve. I was raised in Chicago and I know how rough and tumble a game politics can be. I understand that, if you don’t get elected, you can’t institute any of the changes or programs that you think would be good for the citizens of this country. However, if your only goal is to get elected, to beat the opponent by any means necessary, then you have no program, you have no vision, for this country other than winning. All you’re going to have is the next election and you’ve provided the next opponent with the game plan and blueprint for how to conduct it – win by any means necessary. All you can then do is keep fighting and governing falls by the wayside.
Everyone makes mistakes. I have my own thoughts and beliefs that I try to put into practice but I never assume they were written on tablets of stone and handed down to me by a deity. I do the best I can and, when I’m wrong and see that I’m wrong, I try to apologize. I’m not as good at it as I should be. I do, however, approach things with the possibility that I could be wrong and a philosophy of never apologizing, never explaining, attack attack attack, does not allow for that possibility. And that’s why, in my opinion, it’s stupid wisdom.
To quote Dennis Miller back when he was more sane, “I could be wrong. . . but I doubt it.”
One of these individuals has good looks and a certain amount of charisma, but has no empathy for the lower classes of society. He has designs on the presidency, and will cut odious political deals to make that happen, all while being fawned over by right wing pundits and a segment of the voters who are convinced that he will save us from “the Beast”.
The other, of course, is a character out of the comic books.
For further comparison, consider this page from Transmetropolitan #41 (reprinted in Transmetropolitan TPB #7: Spider’s Thrash) and remember that this first came out over ten years ago. It certainly sounds like something Ryan has in his campaign platform…
Here, let me transcribe it so the other spiders can get to it:
You have to understand that the care system of the country cannot be taken for granted. It is not American to swaddle you in cotton wool from cradle to grave. It is the mark of a mature country that you, too, take responsibility for your life and the lives of those around you.
We are not big government. We do not own you. These streets are your streets. Therefore it is you, in your greatness as Americans, who must care for your streets.
And the people on them.
Care for your community. Because we can’t do it for you.
To paraphrase Warren Ellis, the only future worth talking about in science fiction is the future we’re living in.
You’d think with the Olympics going on and all that sloppy security Mitt Romney told us about, the authorities would have more important work to do than to count the number of penises (peni?) Howard Chaykin can squeeze into a single comic book. But – obviously, since I’m writing this – you’d be wrong.
I got an email from a British comics shop owning friend of mine, subsequently confirmed by our pal Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool, that Chaykin’s Black Kiss II #1 was the only title missing in his shipment from Image Comics. Knowing I have a long-standing friendship with the writer/artist (and, ahem, edited his American Flagg! and Blackhawk), he thought I’d be amused.
He’s right about that. Howard’s pushing 62 – not quite as hard as I am – and he’s still raising a ruckus. He’s more than my friend. He’s my hero of the week.
With the Olympics in town, perhaps the Brits are simply wallowing in testosterone and can’t handle Chaykin’s multitude of peni. Perhaps they can’t tell the difference between Black Kiss and Beano. Or maybe they’re simply very insecure.
Howard’s response to me was “And I can only hope Canada is next!”
Black Kiss II #1 goes on sale tomorrow at the more sophisticated comics shops across the nation.
A few years ago a demonstrable moron of a moviegoer raised a brief public stink about Peter Jackson’s movie adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s THE TWO TOWERS, claiming that this was a sneaky reference to 9/11 and that Jackson was clearly making light of the tragedy.
Informed that the book had existed for forty years and that it was an international cultural phenomenon before the hijackers were born, and that the title was therefore established, the fool doubled down. The existence on an unassailable timeline had no effect on him. He preferred his conspiracy theory, even if it was disproved by facts nobody could possibly counter. The conspiracy theory was more fun, more satisfying and (to him) more empowering.
Clearly an absolute moron, right?
So we now have Rush Limbaugh, claiming that the villain of the new Batman movie, Bane, is clearly lib’rul Hollywood’s sneaky slam at Mitt Romney, just because Romney used to work at a company called Bain.
(This is a connection made by Jon Stewart too, but Stewart, at least, knows it’s a joke.)
Okay. So forget that Bane the character has been around for years and years and years — since 1993, in fact — and that he in fact appeared in a previous Batman movie, during the Clinton Administration; you can argue that this is the kind of thing only stone geeks would know, and no doubt that argument will be made, in defense of Limbaugh’s sloppiness.
But you don’t even need that kind of specialized knowledge to tear this idiocy apart.
See, movies don’t take five minutes to make.
They require time for screenplays to be written, then rewritten; time for the cast and crew to be hired and to gather, time for the sets to be built, for the movie to be made, time for it to be scored and edited. Everybody knows this. Everybody also knows that Mitt Romney has only been the presumptive candidate for a few months. Nobody, but nobody, knew for sure that he was gonna be the guy, when the movie entered production.
Christopher Nolan, beginning to plan this final movie in his trilogy, did not suddenly have the brainstorm, “Gee! I don’t know who’s going to be the Republican nominee in 2012, but just on the OFF-CHANCE it’s Romney, two years from now, I’ll take this one Batman villain whose name is similar to a company on Romney’s resume and everybody will be so stunned by my clever political barb that they won’t vote for him!”
You discern even more stupidity when you realize that Romney’s doings at Bain have only been big-time controversial for a matter of weeks…since long after the movie was in the can. More alleged clairvoyance from Nolan.
And there’s even more than that when you take this into account: if the hero fighting Bane were Marvel’s The Black Panther — a charismatic black guy, and one LITERALLY born in Africa, who has a name of an organization that some idiots think Romney’s opponent supports — then he might have a case. But it’s Batman, a billionaire and a law unto himself. HE’S the Romney surrogate, if you have to believe that Romney has a surrogate in the movie. Thus, the metaphor Limbaugh thinks he sees doesn’t even survive simple knowledge of a character created in 1939, for crying out loud.
What gets me is that even the folks who ditto everything Limbaugh says, who might be able to spot the sheer appalling brain-dead stupidity of this particular claim, will not make the logical leap that he might have his head equally as far up his ass on some of the other things he says.
Seriously, folks: is there anybody out there who contends that this is the only time Limbaugh has just made stuff up? Or is this just the most recent, and obvious?