What Was the Question Again?
(Soundtrack: The Fastbacks — The Question is No)
Oh Vic Sage–what have they done to you? Well, if you believe Tim O’Neil and friends (and their friends are legion, it seems, if the blogosphere is at all indicative of comicdom as a whole), they’ve done a terrible thing indeed–they’ve “violated your sanctity” as a character…or maudlin words to that effect (if you want some more ammo of this kind, go hunt down the TCJ writer who composed that magazine’s ten millionth piece about the “rape” of Jack Kirby’s corpse). It’s almost as if Rick Veitch broke out the ol’ “b-mod machine” or something… A=B? Obscene! We know what A equals, right Ditko fans? (remember now–I am a Ditko fan!) Right now the formula dropping from many commentators lips is “Veitch=asshole”. The guy didn’t even have the decency to wait for the Sturdy One to croak before embarking upon this sacriligious spree.
Chris Butcher, whom I don’t often agree with, seems to have summed up the current problems with the reception of the book, in this brief aside, from Previews Review:
Been enjoying this quite a bit. I have to admit to being somewhat surprised too, as the reaction to The Question’s dialogue patterns was pretty extreme and made me a little skeptical before I even picked it up. Still, I should’ve been tipped off to the validity of the criticism by comments like “They’ve turned The Question into Rorschach, and that’s not the way it’s supposed to be!” which is a subtle variation on “Nothing is as good as it used to be when I loved it most”.
Well no–they’re upset because the Question is no longer Rorschach, but the rest of that paragraph makes a lot of sense.
And here again, I think it’s time to reiterate my plea for the historiographic interpretation of continuing characters. So, you know, I wasn’t angry about Meltzer’s use of Jean Loring in Identity Crisis because he changed her–I was angry because of the way in which I interpreted the particular changes he made… When you take a perfectly self-possessed career woman and turn her into a “jealous bitch”; and you take one of the most successfully, and sensitively, resolved divorces in the history of the DC universe and turn the whole thing into an elaborate ploy on the woman’s part to regain the male protagonist’s full attention–well, there ought to be some questions about what you have done… The use of continuing characters amps up the resonance of the story–ie. there are tons of “movies of the week” with characters like Meltzer’s Jean–but none of those characters have a 40 year backstory that helps to foreground the importance of the choices that the author of the current piece makes… And that, my friends, is why continuity is a goddamned fascinating adjunct to the storyteller’s (and the reader’s) art…
Now, getting back to The Question (which I, too, am enjoying quite a bit–Tommy Lee Edwards’ art is almost Colanesque in its oddly focused haziness, and Veitch’s beatnik antics amuse me…if there’s one thing comics as a whole can use more of, it’s verbal experimentation–and no, I’m not saying that Veitch is the new Ginsberg…although, if you’ve read Walker Percy’s brilliant The Moviegoer, you may have noticed a certain similarity between the Question’s new relationship to places and Binx Bolling’s, who even has a kind of conversation of his own with Chicago, late in the novel), which I don’t want to go into in too much detail, because we’re only a third of the way through the series, I think it’s at least fair to say that the author must have had a point in transforming the Objectivist into a mystic. Why not think about what it might have been (i.e. is he saying that Objectivism is an–unselfconscious–brand of mysticism? that’s my guess, right now), instead of longing for Ditko’s characterization? Unless you are a dedicated Objectivist yourself, and are reading this as a (fictional) comrade’s renunciation of “the true faith”, why not give it a rest, hunh?
I’ll have more to say about this series in three months…
Good Day Friends!