Filing Cabinet of the Damned

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Fanboy Schisms, or, Is Dan DiDio the Pope of Avignon?

Comic fandom is, as many dedicated groups are, split by numerous ideological schisms. This is not a bad thing. It reflects the many facets of human nature. However, it leads to boring nonsense on a lot of online comic message boards and blogs.

Me, I think it’d be damn useful if folks on comic book message boards simply declared their allegiances to particular sides of issues right in their names. Like a party affiliation for politicians, knowing what a fanboy believes helps everyone place his comments in context.

Not every fanboy has a side in each and every schism, and there are always qualifications to an allegiance. Yes, yes. But dadgumit, I’m out to ruthlessly simplify and strip away nuance! So can yer misgivings and pansy-ass equivocations and start affiliatin’! Grr!

Below are my suggestions for a code to be used, abbreviations to tag the ends of fanboy online names to announce the issues one cares about and what stand that person takes.


Nostalgia vs. Novelty (NOS/NOV)
Should comics be as they always have been (at some time in the past), or should there be frequent change, even for its own sake?

Hey Kids, Comics vs. Comics Should Be Grown Up (HKC/CSBGU)
Should mainstream comics be created with an eye towards a juvenile audience and try to recapture the youth market, or should they be more adult-themed?

Yay Superheroes vs. Tights Are For Dopes (YS/TAFD)
Are mainstream comics, almost all superhero books, worthwhile, or are they the Dipstick Cousin Larry of the industry and should be shunted aside for something else?

Continuity Is Hugely Important vs. Continuity, Schmontinuity (CIHI/CSch)
Is story continuity a great thing or a hinderance to good stories? Corollary: Is continuity a great way to lure in readers, as it makes them curious about what’s going on, or is it a boondoggle that scares and bores away new readers?

Marvel Partisan vs. DC Partisan vs. Indy Partisan vs. Non-Partisan (MP/DP/IP/NP)
Do you have a particular brand loyalty? One of the big two, or perhaps a fierce loyalty to anybody but the big two? Or do you have a committed practice of non-loyalty?

Satan’s Cabana Boy (SCB=)
Do you despise one comic creator or editor with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns? For example, the writer Brian Michael Bendis is considered by many fans to be Satan’s Cabana Boy. Other common choices are the editors-in-chief of the Big Two publishers, Joe Quesada and Dan DiDio, and creators John Byrne and Chuck Austen. One who can do no right in that fanboy’s eyes.

God’s Second Child (GSC=)
The reverse of the SCB: a creator or editor beloved with great fervor. One who can do no wrong in that fanboy’s eyes.

This is off the top of my head, so I may be missing a few.

Let’s see how this would work. Imagine you opened a messageboard and found an entry by KewlDood44. Aside from laughing at the name, you don’t know if his raves about X-Men: The Pantsing is based on a pro-Marvel fixation, or if it’s a rare step out of the ordinary for a fanboy who normally loathes the work of that book’s writer.

If instead his name were KewlDood44-NOS, CSBGU, SCB=BMB, you’d know that he’s a fan of older-style comics, yet wants them to be for grownups (a not-uncommon paradox), and that he loathes Brian Michael Bendis. This would put his comments about Wolverine’s struggles with his Haggar Action Slacks in a bit better perspective.

To put my affiliations out there, I’d call myself Harvey Jerkwater-CSch, NP, YS. I don’t much care for continuity issues (and loathe crossovers), I’m aggressively uninterested in what company produces what, and, um, I love superhero crap. Soy el dork grande.

No SCB or GSC? Nah. I don’t have a grudge against anybody. Bendis, Quesada, any of those guys are fine by me. None of them ever punched me in the gut or spread raccoon entrails across my lawn.

‘Course, none of them ever bought me a drink, either.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Great Moments in Comic Book History: That Ain’t Schwag

Ah, Marvel Comics of the seventies. When sense went bye-bye and comics grew pleasingly insane. All it took was a quarter to sample healthy doses of Wacky Comic Goodness. Seventies Marvel gave us Howard the Duck, the Hypno Hustler, super-villain Richard Nixon, and The Defenders.

The Defenders were a loose-knit superteam of the odder Marvel heroes. In the beginning, their core consisted of Dr. Strange, the Hulk, and the Sub-Mariner. From the git-go, they fulfilled their unofficial slogan: “We Ain’t the Super-Friends.”* For proof, check out The Defenders #6, June 1973, A Great Moment in Comic Book History.

The story begins with an assault on Dr. Strange’s Greenwich Village mansion by a minor mystic, the boringly-named Cyrus Black. Strange and the Defenders wallop Black and his minions in record time. Black himself barely escapes.

Cyrus returns to his crappy apartment, hoping to recover his energies and think of a new plan to revenge himself upon Strange. He lights a brazier filled with (and I’m not making this up) “Jamaican incense” and lies down on his bed.

Yep. Incense. Yep.

After falling asleep, Cyrus finds himself attacked by his pet rat Nebuchanezzar, who had grown to enormous size. Aiiiee! Just as Big Rat Nebbie chows down upon his former master, Cyrus realizes it must be a dream and wakes up.

And there, in his a giant freakin’ rat. The rat soon shrinks back to normal size, and Cyrus gets an idea. The incense fumes...hmmm...

Soon the Defenders find themselves under assault by a series of mythological monsters. They defeat the monsters, only to be confronted by a huge muscled version of Cyrus Black. Big Daddy Cyrus is now too much for them. He slaps the Defenders around, cackling all the while.**

The Sub-Mariner saves the day when he figures out that the Big Daddy version of Cyrus must be a fake. He convinces Cyrus that this is true, whereupon the muscled magician vanishes.

Black wakes up on his cot, freaked out.

Das Ende.

That’s some”Jamaican incense.” Yep.

Did you know that if you read Defenders #6 with the stereo on, it synchs perfectly to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon?

Far out.

*”Unofficial,” in this instance, means “I just made it up.”

**This is why being a villain would be fun. Heroes never get to cackle.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Trying Something Different

My policy on this blog was to try to be a critic, not a reviewer.

But dagnabit, I have all sorts of lame opinions about comics that I'd like to inflict on people.

Thus, I have joined with Comics Should Be Good to supply 'em with the occasional review. My first post is a review of IDW's Smoke #1. (Apparently, I'm the only comic fan in the world who wasn't wowed by it.)

I'll still post to Filing Cabinet, o' course. Most of what I write for this blog wouldn't make sense at CSBG anyway.

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Monday, July 11, 2005

When Theory Meets Blood

Since I’m still having scanner trouble, the Jimmy Corrigan technique analysis will have to wait a bit longer. Dadgum software.


Comics are laden with symbols. Superman’s fish-shaped “S.” The Bat Signal. The fishnet stockings worn by many superheroines.* Most of the symbols are either crude (the Superman “S”) or semi-conscious (the fishnets). One of the best and most famous symbols in comics was neither.

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen is regarded as one of the great comicbook works published.** It begins with the murder of a superhero of sorts known as the Comedian, and spins out rapidly into a story about history, vigilantism, utopianism, and the ludicrousness of donning a set of tights to punch out muggers.

Conceived as a closed story, Moore and Gibbons were able to work in coherent themes and symbols throughout the work. The most famous of the symbols was the smiley-face badge of the Comedian with a smear of blood dotting its upper left. The very beginning of the story focuses on this smeared button, the blood coming from the murdered superhero. Throughout the story, the shape of the smear recurred.

Given that the story begins with the image, as well as its frequent recurrence, the smear must signify something important. But what?

The characters in Watchmen who drive the plot are all driven by ideology. The vigilante Rorschach dedicates himself to a brutal black-and-white morality of retribution and punishment. The villain of the piece, Ozymandias, slaughters millions of innocents in the utopian belief that the mass murders will prevent the Third World War. The Comedian was a nihilist, happily killing. His belief system was symbolized by his smiley face badge.

Start with the happy face itself: a circle, two oval dots, and a curve. Simple and direct, reflecting the Comedian’s simple idea that Nothing Matters.

The smear of his own blood compromises the simplicity and injects something else into the symbol. The blood smear across the badge represents the intrusion of humanity onto simple ideology.

As evidence for this theory, look at where the smear appears:

--The very beginning of the story, the Comedian’s murder. Late in the story, Moore and Gibbons reveal that the Comedian’s nihilism had broken down when confronted with the horrific plan of Ozymandias. His simplistic philosophy was overwhelmed by his long-denied humanity. The result? A bloody smear across the plain symbol of his ideology.

--When the Comedian’s face is scarred in Vietnam. Just before leaving Vietnam, the Comedian was confronted by a woman he’d impregnated. Fulfilling his simplistic ethos, he told her he didn’t care and that she should get lost. Her reaction was to slice open his face with a broken bottle. When she did so, a spot of blood appeared on his badge. The spot, hard to see in the panel, is the same shape as the recurring smear. His “pure” way of thinking collided with her messy humanity.

--Across the happy-face crater on Mars, the remains of Dr. Manhattan’s shattered glass construct. As he lectured his girlfriend on the irrelevance of humanity and she herself came to realize truths about her past, she broke down and shattered the glassworks. This act touched the Doctor, giving him a brief reconnection with his lost humanity. We see the glass form a smear-shape as we hear the impassive positivist Dr. Manhattan decide to help.

--The splash page of chapter eleven, where Ozymandias explains his whole history and scheme. The page shows the outside of Ozymandias’s Antarctic greenhouse from close up. The image is all white, except for a smear-shaped opening revealing flowers and butterflies within. In this chapter, Ozymandias lays out his utopian ideology, then punctuates it with mass murder. The neat and clean ideals he employs are shown to have enormous human costs.

--The final page of chapter eleven, as Ozymandias’s master plan annihilates most of New York City. A pair of figures, a newsstand owner and a young man, who have appeared throughout the story as a minor dickering Greek chorus, are swallowed by a white light. The last we can see of them is a shadow in the shape of the smear.

I’m probably missing a few smears, but Dorian over at just put up a post about the blood smear on the cover of the Watchmen volumes, and so I gotta throw this thing up now while it might give the illusion of being slightly relevant. Hopefully it’s at least semi-coherent.

Thoughts from you folks in internet-land? Other interpretations of the smear? Other locations it turns up?


*They’re a symbol. Yep. There for a reason.

**I can’t call it a graphic novel. I just can’t.

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Monday, July 04, 2005

Gone Fishin'

Due to a great deal of wackiness in my personal life, it'll be a few more days before I post again to Filing Cabinet of the Damned.

Once things quiet down a bit (and I can get my dang scanner to behave), I can put up a post that's been rolling around in my head lately. My prior carping on Chris Ware and Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Boy in the Universe felt a bit cheap. To see if I was short-changing Ware, I reread it a few days ago. While I still don't care for the story per se, the technical skill involved is so damned impressive I have to give it the respect it deserves. Ye gods, that man has krazy mad skillz (tm, pat. pending).

A big ol' post on Ware and the snazzy techniques of Corrigan will be along in a few more days.

Meanhwhile, today is July Fourth, America's Day of Independence.

I love this day. Meat! Explosives! Baseball! Fire! Steel! Beer! Aaaarr!

Have a good one, and try not to blow off any body parts. This year.

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