In honour of MLK day, I’ve posted my essay “Frederick Douglass and the Complexion of Liberalism” at PleaseMo… it’s an exploration of the Douglass-Garrison relationship, “double consciousness”, and Douglass’ immortal “July 5th (1852) Speech”…

NeilalieN points the way to this thread, which asks the important question–“Did Watchmen Kill the Superhero?”

Odin Son wonders:

…tell me how any new comic book since Watchmen or Born Again has done anything but either try to conform, rebel or turn the clock back on those books?

This is the Geoff Klock thesis–which I’ve dealt with before–all over again… And again I say–it’s all true, if you read comics the “Jack Kirby way”… But you don’t have to read superheroes that way! You can read them as a subgenre of the American Romance tradition–and that tradition ain’t dead by a long shot…

And with all due respect to Shawn Fumo and Jim Henley–“closure” is the last thing that will save the superhero! What we really need is for Grant Morrison to return to his Animal Man form (possibly with some help from Roy Thomas on letters pages/historiography and Stan Lee on bulletins… I know, I know–this is starting to sound like the Public Enemy line-up: who gets to be media assassin?) The genre’s greatest strength is its capacity to embed the “Uncanny” (through recurrence) in a skewed “continuity” that collapses an entire human life span into a zone of prime awareness… (we get to deal loss and memory–unobscured by the tired narratives of aging and “progressing toward wisdom”–on a scale that no finite medium can approach) Every new monthly issue has the potential to add to the greatness of a series, and there’s no reason ever to stop the cycle (because it never really gets started)–it’s a serial “jam session”! As I was saying yesterday–the Gwen Stacy clone is the corpse-Image that the early modernists were seeking!

As Ezra Pound would say: “See, they return”.

I’d like to engage this in more detail, but I’m about to begin reading an awful monstrosity of a poem called The Saint-Lawrence and the Saguenay–pity me!

Good night friends



  1. What is the “Jack Kirby way,” exactly? I’ve not read Klock, but this idea that Watchmen and other such texts continue to overshadow the entire body of superhero comics texts seems very silly to me. I mean, guess you could say X-Statix is derived from Watchmen because it’s also about morally corrupt superheroes… but why?

    OK, I’m looking at that thread, and this Odin Son just wasn’t paying attention while reading New X-Men and Bendis’s Daredevil.

  2. Comics that aren’t just reactions ot Watchmen and Born Again? Powers comes immediately to mind. Warren Ellis’ run on Excalibur, and Grant Morrison’s on New X-Men. The Dark Knight Strikes Back. There’s a fair quantity of work like that.

  3. Steven,

    Bruce is certainly pointing in the right direction with some of his nominees… mine would be Morrison’s Animal Man and Gruenwald’s Captain America (#307 to 443?)… I posted some stuff on this a couple of months ago, but I’ll get back to it, trust me!

    As for “the Jack Kirby Way”–well, I’m sure it’s many things–but, as far as I’m concerned, it’s primarily a way that lends itself completely to Klock’s critique of power and thus, I’m agin’ it!!! Which doesn’t mean that I don’t like some of the things Kirby did… Forager and I had quite a bit of back and forth on this subject back in the fall as well… (but the Klock book is very much worth your time Steven!)…


  4. Right… I’ll go with New X-Men and Powers as not being mere reactions to Watchmen and/or Born Again. Actually, I can’t think of any superhero comic I’ve read that’s particularly a reaction to either of those stories.

    I was just talking about that crazy Thor proposal from the Comics Waiting Room blog over on my own blog, and I mentioned I don’t find the “critique of power” readings of the superhero genre interesting and generally ignore them in my own reading. I would like to read some good critical work on Watchmen, so I’ll have to put Klock on my list of things to look into when I don’t have quite so many books piled up to read.


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