Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Secret Oranges

Aunt May's first ever panel and she's hideously stooped with age!

I was writing a comment on Jordan's post below and it was going so long I deciced to make a new post and park Jordan's underneath it. Because while reading Spidey's origins I suddenly recalled a key element in my dislike of origin stories, and here it is:

I never read any of this crap!

Let me explain:

First, I don't actually think it's crap; I just couldn't resist the obnoxious poetry of that statement.

Second, I got into comics in 1985, when the "oh my gosh comics can be sophisticated" trend was only a few years in. My comics mentor Sherm leant me back issues of Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing, Chris Claremont's run on X-Men (both of which were still going at that point), Frank Miller's run on Daredevil, and Steve Englehart's run on Detective Comics (in which the Joker was first transformed from a goofy clown to the homicidal maniac we love today). This was after I cut my teeth on Howard Chaykin's American Flagg, which has faded into obscurity but was totally awesome. So I was right there for Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns in 1986 and everything that followed.

But prior to that? Everything from the mainstream that had decades of backstory going back to the 60's or 30's? To me at age 16, that was the goofy crap that I had no desire to read.

When I was a kid it was all about dinosaurs and monster movies and Star Wars and Thunderbirds and Space: 1999. My experience with comics was a couple fat books we got from the library (about Superman, Batman and the DC Captain Marvel), and three comic books bought for me for various airplane flights: an issue of The Defenders, an issue of House of Mystery, and another one that was Marvel and cosmic-y, maybe Captain Marvel.

Aside from reading Jon Byrne's run on Fantastic Four I've never really gone back to read anything else regarded as classics, especially in the Marvel Universe. It's possible I've actually never read the Spider-Man origin that Jordan just posted (I know I've read his story, but the art seems unfamiliar to me, so I probably read a recap). The bulk of the work done by Stan Lee, Neal Adams, Jack Kirby, Walt Simonson (to name a few) is stuff I've never seen.

I've got no love for the Planet of the Apes franchise for the same reason: no experience of it in a certain key age window. I respect the magic that Jordan's talking about and I understand that everything I do like about comics is built on it -- and most importantly I do enjoy reading it, but I can't divest myself from a level of detachment from the material. I can't give it a pass because of its age.

Anyway, that's my own self-indulgent perspective. It's an amusing reversal of the way my tastes and Jordan's typically fall. Usually it's Jordan who prefers his action/sci-fi/etc have an armature of sophistication (e.g. Alien), while I often champion the sillier stuff (e.g. Sucker Punch, not that I'm inviting a fight between those two movies). This probably explains why we fall on different sides in our opinion of the debut years of Image Comics.

As for Spidey's original origin story, which I recommend everyone read, I will admit there's more sophistication there than I tend to give it credit for. There's even better justification for my least favorite part of the story, the part where the thief who Peter allows to escape is the same guy who kills Uncle Ben.

Like any respectable nerd who lands on top, Peter was turning into a dick after being on TV. I don't think I ever knew that pre-crimefighter Spidey had TV and newspaper coverage. I mean, yes, it's ridiculous that he would "play to a packed house" and "win a showbiz award" and never once take off his mask, make any money, or sign anything that would make him accountable when he quit, but whatever. He has to go from dick to hero and all the better if he's really turning into a dick, right?

But... ack. I still can't get around the Same Mugger business. It's a plot point worthy of an ABC After School Special.


Octopunk said...

To his credit, JPX was trying to hip me on to X-Men way before 1985.

JPX said...

X-Men #150 was the first comic book I ever purchased!

Jordan said...

I'm traveling so I can't easily bang out paragraphs of text (to everyone's chagrin, I'm sure) but I love this whole thing and I'm planning to get deeper into it later.

Jordan said...

See, looking at older comics is like reading early Tintin or watching the first season of Star Trek (another thing that I was surprised to find that you, October, weren't as into as I was; I think I remember you saying that you weren't even sure if you'd seen all of the classic episodes, whereas I, like Tom Hanks, know the names of each of them).

I go through the same thing with my friend Arthur, who's taught me a tremendous amount about 1930s movies. Even compared to 1940s movies (which are much more modern and less primitive than the early Sound period). It's very important to align everything along a historical access; in each case, you're looking at something that's had decades of innovation and sophistication and technical know-how stripped away. It's like going from a big city to a charming small town: your expectations of (say) the restaurants changes completely. In a Scottish pub, you're not going to get anything quickly, and they don't have an international wine list, and you won't be getting any sea bass or pasta. But you can smell the earthen moss and the stone, and the ale comes out of a barrel and the bread's probably made from wheat that grew a mile away.

The Spider-Man origin (and most of those early great early Marvel comics, when they were going bananas stitching the "Marvel Universe" together, have a similar electricity. It's like Robert Johnson's famous "woodshedding" techniques; sometimes you've just got to get back to the taproot, and underneath all these ILM-filled blockbusters and Alan Moore experiments and animated series are these big Bristol-boards, invisibly rushed and messy, covered in India ink and white correcting paint...the bang of the manual typewriters and the smell of the paste Midown Manhattan in the summer of 62. You don't HAVE to like it for those reasons, but if you want to like it, those are good reasons to like it.

Octopunk said...

Nicely put. You really should read Cavalier and Clay. At least the couple of chapters where one apartment full of guys births comic books as we know them.