Thee Comic Column #135: A Death in The Family

Batman_426In the same way Chris Claremont’s Days of Future Past storyline in Uncanny X-Men has inspired scores of Days of ___ ___ variations since it was published in 1981, so too did Jim Starlin’s epic Batman story A Death in the Family inspire its fair share of homages in the caped crusader’s family of titles since it was published in 1988-1989. Like the storyline Blind Justice that I wrote about in last week’s column I happened across ADITF a few weeks ago in a seldom-opened long box and found myself called upon to finally re-read it for the first time in probably close to two decades. I’m planning on covering several more of these late 80s Batman arcs in the coming weeks because this is what interests me at the moment, reliving these stories I grew up with. This admittedly “First World” luxury is, to me, the point of having a ‘collection’ to begin with. I’ve never been interested in my collection as an investment monetarily speaking – an idea that was essentially beaten out of comics in the 90s with all of its “manufactured collectibility” – but to have a historical collection; a reservoir of story that you can go back to in a month, a year or a decade to revisit and reengage with the stories that have been a part of your experience in this life.

Thee Comic Column 134: Before Bane there was Bonecrusher

BonecrusherIn 1989 Batman fever settled over pop culture. The iconic yellow and black Bat-insignia T-shirt became ubiquitous to the point of being legitimate fashion; so did a number of other bat images: Joker’s hair-grabbing hahahahaha, Batman posed on a rooftop gargoyle-style; the list went on. The imagery, like Bat’s presence in pop culture, seemed endless. This was, of course, all part of a massive tie-in that primarily celebrated the release of Tim Burton’s initial Bat-film, but also, perhaps not as widely known in the mainstream but certainly heralded in the comic shops and specialty stores was the fact that it was also Batman’s 50th birthday. At the age of 13 and a die hard comic fan I was not excluded from this Bat-steria; I’d never out and out followed a Batman comic on a monthly basis, however I’d dabbled a bit here and there and it was during this frenzy of celebration that I picked up Detective Comics #598, 599 and 600, a now largely forgotten three-part arc titled Blind Justice. I followed the story as it was published and with each issue it felt exponentially bigger and more important to the Caped Crusader’s mythos in long-standing way. Energized by this I continued to buy various Bat-books here and there for about the next year and then slowly faded back out – at 13 my title consumption was primarily decided by my meager allowance, and that was cinched up tight with Hama’s GIJOE, Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men and an ever-changing rotation of “important” arcs and issues of just about everything under the sun. Also there was the increasingly present need for snacks and sodas on the ramp-up of my burgeoning teenage social life, namely trips to the mall with my friends. Batman soon got left behind.

The Joup Friday Album: The Cure – Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me

The_Cure-Kiss_Me,_Kiss_Me,_Kiss_Me_(2006)-FrontalSadness is, I have long maintained, very similar to a drug. A nasty, hurtful and yet still strangely alluring drug, whose effects both damage and enthrall. And there is a way to enjoy sadness. Yes, I know that makes me sound Goth and I suppose although I’ve never felt the need to dress according to the parameters of any particular social group, there is indeed a large component of the ‘Goth’ ethos in this thing I call Shawn. That said the uniform is weak; adhering to the jurisdictional lines of social strata isn’t what defines our tastes, it’s the feeling that inspires those conventions. And The Cure – although they once pioneered the ‘look’ and in current times pretty much lampoon the same – are all about those feelings. And while previously I have always enjoyed 1987’s Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me I never quite thought of it as one of their ‘sad’ albums, probably because my experiences with it have always felt a bit more anthological than conceptual to me, in the way it seemingly swings from joy to sadness to sexy to frightening. This uneven tone in both theme and composition render the record a slightly less solid emotional statement than other Cure records, Disintegration and Pornography for example. That said, two nights ago I discovered this record’s true majestic statement on sadness and, pardon the vulgarity, it fucking fucked me up.

Thee Comic Column 134: Star Wars The Force Awakens – A Reaction

Nien AckbarThis past Friday night I did what millions of other people did the world over – I watched the Star Wars: The Force Awakens footage that came out of SDCC. And, based on the reactions I’ve seen online and in my friends, like a lot of people out there, I teared up when I watched it. The point of this piece is to discuss the why’s and wherefore’s of that reaction – not because I inherently think it needs to be questioned; I actually think my reaction makes perfect sense if you take into account where we are as a culture relative to our relationship to Story (i.e. what some would call ‘entertainment’). That said, I feel that someone should ask if our relationship with our fictions is a healthy thing for a society or if it’s a product/symptom of trouble. This questions then leads into a lot of other, more nuanced issues that I’ve been thinking about lately and, while this isn’t an something catalyzed by regret or shame at my often intense geekiness, I have always been a fairly self-aware person and think that it is a healthy practice to balance any behavior or interest that defines your life with a frank understanding of it in the context of the world around you.

Thee Comic Column #133: Dark Moon

dark moon 1I love Twitter. More than any other social media outlet, Twitter is something that yields a lot of unexpected results, often from very little work at all. Case in point: two weeks ago I received a notification that Dark Moon Comic had begun following me. The juxtaposition of these three wonderful words and what they promised once combined had my fingers moving over the keys in a matter of seconds. And the moment I saw the first image from Dark Moon I knew I had found something awesome. Something not like most things, if you catch my drift.

Thee Comic Column #132: Sons of the Devil

SOTD-01-COVER-C-d11d2I have an enormous love of movies, music and news in or of the age of American history that the media retoractively refers to as “The Great Satanic Panic”. There is a very particular tone that accompanies the stories – both real and imagined – of the era when baby boomers, confused and in some cases devastated by the collapse of their own spiritual enlightenment in the 60s, pitched themselves into a frenzy fearing that Satan and his evil influence lurked everywhere around them and, more terrifying I’m sure, around their children. Satan was in comic books, video games, movies, and Satan was most especially music.  What’s more Satanic cults existed around every corner, and really, any one you know might secretly be a “devil worshipper”. If this sounds like lunacy now, it’s really just another iteration of what happens when people have too much time on their hands and not enough ability to take responsibilty for the world around them. The Great Satanic Panic was no different than the Salem Witch Trials, McCarthyism and the Communist witch hunt or nowadays, our obsession with terrorists. And while a widespread cultural fear that the devil was corrupting the youth of the country is itself terrifying in what it says about humanity’s missing DNA link to sheep, it tends to make me smile at the same time that I groan. This is because I have always liked imagery that accompanies the devil as a character, much the same I like Batman and Gotham City or John Constantine and his own associated imagery. I do not believe in the devil – except usually for about 2-3 days after a viewing of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist – I like his story and the stories that he has been used to tell since. This is why, even though I knew absolutely nothing about Sons of the Devil when I saw enountered it on the shelf at The Comic Bug, seeing that wonderful Paolo Rivera variant cover it had to come home with me. I NEVER buy a book based on its cover so I did so this time with my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t regret it. After reading it the first time, not only did I not regret buying it, but I found myself enticed at the subject matter and the precipice of the way the story was going to unfold.

The Joup Friday Album: Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Mature Themes

mature themesEver since reading Grant Morrison’s Invisibles I have wanted to build a time machine. Why? Not, as one might think, so I could go back in time and choose alternate, diverging paths paths from that which I originally did; not to alter regretful decisions – I have none; and not to kill Hitler (although that one is tempting). No, my interest in a time machine would be to go back and re-experience certain things from my past. Now, these are not key “life events” that I’m interested in, rather moments that have haunted me since their occurrence; moments that I would like to go back and witness again in a newer, informed capacity. I would do this in an attempt to understand how some random, seemingly inconsequential events have stuck in my heart and taken on an import greater than the sum of their parts. My trail for these adventures would begin with the fact that these iconic memories almost always occur when particular places and people coalesce with music; perfect moments crystallized in time by my relationship with the world around me as it becomes set to music.