Tagged: Stephen Bissette

Martha Thomases: The Horror! The Horror!

It is more than a little likely that, as you read this, I am getting a root canal.

Dentists terrify me. Not on purpose — they are not the stars of It — but, nonetheless, they fill me with dread.

I’m sure that most people who go into dentistry as a career are motivated by a desire to help others, and yet, when I go to the dentist, I can’t help thinking about this movie and this scene.

A lot (not all!) of horror fiction is about the fear and loathing of our bodies. As children, they frustrate us with their limitations. We can’t fly, and we are not tall enough to reach the cookies. As adults, they frustrate us because they no longer do the things they did when we were younger, like stay awake all night on purpose, or digest spicy food.

I’m not really a fan of horror fiction. My life as an informed citizen has enough horror non-fiction. However, I understand that fiction provides a way for humans to process our fears in a healthy way. And I enjoy Stephen King books, not because they are scary, but because he has a gift for creating characters he seems to really care about. If we didn’t care about them, we wouldn’t be frightened by the threats they face.

(A friend of mine was in a rock band with King, and he says the conversations on the tour bus focused on body functions a lot.)

The horror and thriller genres are, to me, most effective in prose, when I can imagine the threats, or in movies, where a good director (and script) provide surprising jumps. Comics can’t do that, at least not in the same way. Comics can give the reader some vivid imagery, and there is no limit to the amount of blood and gore and mucus the artist renders on the page, but, in the end, it’s just a flat picture. We, the readers, come at these images at our own pace. We can rip them up or throw them across the room if we like.

For me, the primary exception is Alan Moore. From his first Swamp Thing stories, with Stephen Bissette and John Totleben, he made stories that haunted me long after I finished reading. It wasn’t just the insects (although they gave me the icks), but the way he treated the characters’ perceptions of their bodies. The stories inspired not only fear, but disgust and mistrust.

More recently, Moore has explored these issues and this imagery in Providence. I confess that I’m not a big Lovecraft fan, so these books are not my jam. Still, Moore, with Jacen Burrows, gets plenty creepy and ominous, and perhaps you will enjoy it.

There are scary stories about ax murderers and the like, but it is those with threats from within that freak me out the most. As a culture, we especially fear women’s bodies. In modern film, from Rosemary’s Baby to this week’s debut, Mother!, it seems that the men who make most movies are terrified about women’s ability to have babies. What if women decide they don’t want to? What if women want to have babies, but with somebody else? What uncontrollable forces inhabit the bodies of women that allow the creation of other beings?

There aren’t many horror movies from the perspective of the women who might have children, especially when they don’t want them. The closest I can think is Alien and, this day, I can’t watch those movies because I read the comics adaptation first. A monster who plants a fetus in my body against my will that bursts from my chest? No, thank you.

The lesson I learn from horror fiction is that I am responsible for myself, especially my own body and what happens within it. Nothing will make me immortal, alas, but the choices I made about food and exercise and how I go through life are my own. This is why it is so important to me to support Mine!. Without access to health care, people cannot make the choices necessary to live the lives we want. We need to get PAP tests and STD tests and mammograms and birth control. We need pre-natal and post-natal care. Today is the last day you can pledge, and I hope you will.

Any other being that grows in and comes out of my body should only do so with my permission. The alternatives are too frightening.

Mindy Newell is Just Ramblin’ On

Swamp Thing

Sometimes a writer can sit in front of the computer screen for hours, fingers poised on the keyboard, and – nothing happens. Not a word, not a syllable. Not a random thought, not a brainstorm. There’s not one single idea that can be expanded upon, not a hint of anything that seems at least remotely interesting.

Hmm, here’s something.

Did you read Denny’s column last week, the one about the Mighty Marvel Method? This writer came late to that particular game; in fact, I didn’t even know it existed, and the first time I heard the words “Marvel style” – another way to describe the “method” – I didn’t have a clue, though I was familiar with what a “script” was, having read numerous plays, including a whole lotta Shakespeare, in high school and college. I do think that, for novices, the best way to learn how to write a comic is by the “full script” method, which helps (forces?) the writer to understand pacing, hone dialogue, and think visually, because in the full script the writer is describing the artwork in each panel. This can be pretty easy to do in an action scene, but what if it’s basically just two people talking? Then the writer has to think like both a director and a cinematographer, and keep the “camera” moving and the “light” interesting, because otherwise a “talking head” interlude, no matter how important it is to the plot, how crucial to moving the story forward, is just plain b-o-r-i-n-g.

Either way, as in a football game, it’s a team effort. The writer may be the quarterback, but without a trusted receiver – Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Peyton Manning and Demarylius Thomas, Tom Brady and Julian Edelman, Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson, Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr. – he or she won’t reach the playoffs, much less the Super Bowl. I’m thinking Alan Moore and Stephen Bissette on The Saga of the Swamp Thing, Marv Wolfman and George Perez on The New Teen Titans, Frank Miller and David Mazzucheli on Daredevil, our own Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams on Batman. Neil Gaiman and Sam Keith on Sandman. And, of course, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby on Fantastic Four, The Mighty Thor, Captain America, et.al. Of course, these are all classic pairings; YMMV.

Did you read John Ostrander’s column yesterday? John is rightly furious. What’s happened in Flint Michigan is a fucking disgrace. Oh, and one thing John didn’t mention. The fucking Republican Ohio Governor Rick Snyder wouldn’t ask for federal aid or for the President to declare a federal emergency because, you know, Obama’s a Kenyan Socialist Muslim Anti-American Democrat. And he’s black. Thank God for Rachel Maddow, Michael Moore, and the Detroit Free Press. And above all to Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Flint pediatrician who blew the whistle.

Yesterday I finished semi-binging on The Man in the High Castle on Amazon – semi-binging because I didn’t watch all 10 episodes at once, but divided it up into two “showings” – so I wasn’t aware of the release of the American prisoners from Iran until about 5:30 or 6 p.m. MSNBC and CNN were both covering the story. I turned to FOX, because I was wondering what they were saying about this windfall from Obama’s policy on Iran; no matter what you think about the nuclear deal with that nation – and I’m still on the fence about it – our people have been released. Would Fox, the bastion of fair and balanced reporting” at least celebrate that? Nope. They just kept replaying and replaying the Republican debate from Tuesday night until the other stations turned to other stories. So fucking typical. Meanwhile, the sixth prisoner, Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent who allegedly was in Iran on a covert CIA mission (according to ABC News) and who disappeared in March 2007 is still missing. I told Mike Gold that I think he’s dead.

By the way, The Man in the High Castle is a brilliant and engrossing adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel. I heartily recommend it.