Month: January 2008

Gangway!

Gangway!
(X-Men #22 & #23–see also Paul O’Brien, here and here)

As I mentioned earlier–it’s 1966, okay? We’re less than five years into the Marvel Saga here, and already we’ve got Count Nefaria crooning “yesteryears”? (and what’s he doing on this cover anyway–auditioning for the role of “monocled carnival barker” in a Fellini film?) This may seem demented, but it’s actually par for the course in American pop culture during the period in question (I’m thinking of stuff like The Bagdads’ “Bring Back Those Doo-Wops” or The Penguins’ “Memories of El Monte”–both of which pine for the glory days of 1958, in the early sixties!) Comics editors, in the fifties, expected 100% turnovers in their readerships every 5 years, and Hollywood studios like Warner Bros. made a habit of remaking movies like Tiger Shark and The Strawberry Blonde at about the same clip–the assumption being that people would welcome these narratives like old friends. That’s just how this stuff works–Marvel was no more dependent upon popular nostalgia than their contemporaries (across the various media) were.

However, Marveldom had begun to distinguish itself by the meticulousness of its
accounting for the interest generated by its collective memory banks. And, again, this was Roy Thomas’ doing, more than anyone’s… Now, I’m aware that my investment in “dynamic stasis” makes me love the weirdness of Marvel’s “sliding time line” in a way that most of you can’t possibly condone–so I won’t ask you to join me in cheering Roy on as he crams FIVE lame-assed villains into six pages of Central Park, singing songs of themselves, to the tune of scholarly footnotes–but, come on! this pretty cool!



(Actually, for some reason, the Porcupine DIDN’T get a footnote, but he did get an appreciative welcome from Hank McCoy:

)

My point, with the whole dynamic stasis thing, is that what appears, on the face of it, to be a forgetting machine is actually a memory machine deluxe. Yes, it may seem like madness for a text to ask us to believe that all of the times that the FF have faced Doc Doom, or the Thing has been cured of his affliction, or Professor X has stood up and sat back down again can/must fit on a five-year chart–but the upshot of this practice is that it  takes the emphasis OFF of the characters (and the canons of “realistic psychological development”) and places it squarely upon the readers, who are then given carte blanche to ponder the events of the current issue in juxtaposition with EVERYTHING that has ever happened in the unclassifiable Marvel past, rather than being forced to accept the current author’s diachronic power play–it’s historiography without history! It’s wonderful! (this, by the way, is why I HATE reboots, which are nothing but diachronic power plays–Marvel was a lot better off under the old dispensation…)

Okay–I think that’s all I have to say about these issues–although people who actually read them will note that Roy again makes much of the fact that these X-Men are completely anonymous, as far as the public is concerned, and are therefore particularly vulnerable to identity theft, supervillain style. But check back here soon, ’cause the next issue (which contains Roy’s first wonderful addition to the Marvel roster) was one of my favourites, back in the day, and I don’t expect that’ll change this time around!



Good night friends!
Dave
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Dearly Belated: Postscript

Dearly Belated: Postscript

How did I forget this letter? It’s like it was written just to spur me on! (and to demonstrate that readerly “production” goes hand-in-hand with the sense of belatedness/distance from the characters that the Roy Thomas era ushers in). Anyway, here’s the letter, written by Dick Glass of UC Santa Barbara, published in X-Men #20:

Congratulations on X-MEN #17! I like your new corner cover logo, which, added to the sanguine, monochromatic cover, made quite an impression. The story held quite a lot of promise, since ol’ Lodestone Lips is supposed to be on another planet with the Stranger. As much as I never could stand Magneto’s gang, I do like Magneto and I hope he plays a single this time around. I enjoyed the beautiful four word description of his character– “I? I am power!” I can’t wait to see how Iceman saves the day. The fellas at the dorm think I’m ape over Marvel comics, but that’s because some day I hope to be part of the comics field, and I figure studying the best of ’em is a good way to get the feel of the medium. We write to the men responsible for giving the characters life and vitality, not the characters who are merely the concrete expression of their creative genius; to men who know what the “adult” comic reader wants, who listen and act on readers’ suggestions, who do not hide behind the front of “editor”; men who are recognized personalities! An integral part of the Marvel magic is the fact that the mags are done as conversation between you hip, fun-loving, romantically-optimistic, roll-with-the-punches bunch of fellas, and us readers who like to see one ray of hope shining through the mushroom cloud which hangs over our future — (yes, Virginia, there will be a future) — and who like to have someone honest and frank to talk to. Both the bullpen and the reader know that mag is entertainment, but that doesn’t mean it should insult one’s intelligence. The bullpen knows that the fans read as relief from studying for that vital exam, or to recapture one small bit of their childhood happiness which the world snuffs out these days. And the readers know that the bullpen is out to make money (a noble ambition–keeping America strong through the practice of its foundation–capitalism), but both have fun doing what they do, and a pleasant symbiotic relationship is formed. Pardon the philosophy gang, but I have my week moments. Didn’t say too much about the X-Men–what kinds letter of comment is this? Just keep your great stuff coming for those of us who appreciate greatness.

[Could there possibly be a more perfect demonstration of the “dialectics of excitement” in action? (Although I’m a lot more interested than Dick in the possibility that this particular capitalist process could generate a critique strong enough to stand in for the proletarian class-consciousness that we know we’ll never see…)]

good night friends!
Dave