Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Contract with God

To say the term "Jewish Comic Author" is often fairly redundant. Most of the earliest comics creators are incredibly Jewish, but the most Jewish of all is Will Eisner.

I just finished his "A Contract with God", which is a collection of 4 short stories centered around life in the Bronx tenement of Dropsie Avenue. It is wonderful. The characters are lively yet heartbreaking. Each story is brilliantly written and illustrated in Eisner's signature style. I can't help but think of Walt Disney work whenever I see it.

His writing just feels very Jewish. I love it, to say the least. The idea of "A contract with God" is so incredibly Hebraic I can't even begin to gush about it. He knows what he is doing. He is a man who knows how to tell a story and then to draw it perfectly.

This is literally a graphic novel, which is what makes it so revolutionary. This man, Will Eisner... Oy, what a mensch.

Superheroes in Court- what's the ruling

So this is a thought I had a bit back: is evidence obtained by a superhero admissible in court?

Superheroes have appeared in official proceedings in costumes, like when the Flash was on trial for murder or when Spiderman was in a Senate hearing (his testimony stricken from the record because of his mask, however). Often times, however, it's harder to see them in an official prosecution role because they are not officers of the law. Regardless of what any superhero does and whatever authority they may have, the vast majority are not officially part of any government organization that would allow them to act in the capacity of, say, a police officer.

Also, consider the fact that in most canon, Batman and many heroes are considered to be "dangerous vigilantes" and their actions are technically illegal. Batman is an excellent example. He does a lot of illegal things. Most of his evidence would be questionable because he would be constantly taking the fifth since most of his actions are incredibly illegal, such as dragging a man down the streets of Gotham with his face inches from the asphalt in order to get information. He is a private citizen and not bound by police rules, but at the same time his inherent vigilante nature does really cloud anything he could provide because of the questionable legality of how it was obtained.

It's a weird sort of thing, since yeah, cops do end up arresting Luthor and Doc Ock and then going into the dual process, but can Spiderman be called to the court as a witness? He seems like a hard guy to Subpeona, and wearing a mask to court is usually against the rules.

More later, this is something that demands research.

Hey now, you're an All-Star (Superman)

God bless you, Grant Morrision. Er, pan-dimensional hyper-being grant you favor, Grant. All-Star Superman is beautiful. That's it. That is all there is to say. I'm not going to lie. I came cross to crying. The way Superman faces the unavoidable reality of his death while still managing to be the epitome of heroism is the truest representation of Superman's character and what makes him THE Superhero.

I am moved by this work. I really am. It is a wonderful, meaningful idea that communicates the brilliant character of Superman. There are so, so many things to talk about, but at the end of the day the most important is going to be Superman. He is just so damn Super. Over the course of the run he manages to do more than I have ever seen him do, and that is why Grant Morrison does such an incredible job whenever he writes the character. He reminds us time and time again just what kind of person Superman is.

And there in lies the brilliant irony of Superman. He has all the best traits of humanity. He is brave, caring, selfless, inventive, and compassionate. He is of an entirely pure heart, despite being the most powerful being on the planet (at least in Grant's universe). He is the best of earth despite his Kryptonian heritage. There is an incredibly moving scene where Clark speaks at his fathers funeral and we can see just how he was molded by a loving family.

People always razzle Supes because of his indestructibility and lack of humanity. Superman is at his most powerful in this story yet despite this he is at his most vulnerable. He reveals his secret ID to Lois Lane, (who never believes him) and really shows his softer side despite having bulletproof skin. He isn't even hurt by Kryptonite anymore. He is like a Super-Superman.

I want to rant more but I think I'll save that for later. It's just so, so, so good. Grant Morrison, you may be insane, but you do damn good work.

I think this story carried a lot of weight for me personally because of the recent death of my Grandmother. She as so brave and so bold facing her cancer. It reminded me a lot of her.

Future Family

I have only dabbled in Fantastic Four. I am well aware of their stories and villains and importance to the genre, but I just never got too into it. I've read enough to understand them and everything, it's just that I never had the time or money.

To sum up, the Fantastic Four are a nuclear family. There is the workaholic dad, the loving mother, and two bickering brothers. Though the roster has shifter around and members have been added, that core four has always been a big deal. Mr. Fantastic, the Everlovin' Blue-eyed Thing, the Invisible woman, and the human torch have been constants in the FF's run.

Cut to now, where the Human Torch fallen in action. This is kind of a big deal. Not to say whether or not it's a publicity stunt and he is going to come back within the year, the Fantastic Four is sort of a four-thing. The Thing and Invisible Woman have lost a brother, and Reed has essentially lost a son. Again, this is a big deal.

However, due to Torch's request, they bring Spider-man onto the team. There's a great moment when he swing onto the roof of the Baxter Building and the Invisible Woman welcomes him inside. It echoes the first issue of Amazing Spider-man where he tries to join the FF and is locked out and gets into a fight with them. Now he's welcomed inside.

Of course, it's still super-awkward. Ben is not a fan of Peter being there, and when they gather round for the Fantastic Family dinner, he's the only one with a mask on. He knows he still doesn't belong here. Though he had a rocky history with the Torch, he and Johnny were friends. The whole dinner set-up is powerful and reminds us of the family idea of the Fantastic Four.

I'm very interested in where this is going to go. I just may be a Fantastic Four Fan yet.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Is Hellboy a Christ Figure?

This is an idea I've been kicking around for a while. Hellboy is by no means Jesus. In fact, he is possibly as antithetical to Jesus as one can get. I mean, for all intents and purposes he is the beast of the apocalypse. He is prophesied to end the world at the head of a demon army. HE HAS A CROWN OF FIRE. THAT IS PRETTY ANTI-CHRIST RIGHT THERE.

And yet, Hellboy is a self-sacrificing hero. He constantly stands up for his friends. He is, as Tolkien would say a "Eucatastrope". Note the roots of the word- Eucharist and Catastrophe. He is constantly getting his big red ass handed to him in the name of saving the world. It's rather heroic for a guy with horns and a tail.

Let's also look at Hellboy's origins for a second. He has a divine (ok, demonic, but whatever) father and a Human mother. Furthermore, just as Jesus was the descendant of King David, Hellboy is the descendant of King Arthur. He is often tempted by Devils and the like to give into the temptation of his nature but says no, often with punching. I'm pretty sure that happened to Jesus too when he was in the desert (punching depends on which translation of the bible you have).

Another key aspect of the entire christian mythos is that whole resurrection thing. In Strange Places, Hellboy actually spends some time dead and comes back. In fact, he's been mortally wounded many, many times. Hellboy is deathless. He is incredibly hard to kill, and even if you manage to get him he comes back. And to add more to the parallel, after he leaves the BPRD he spends time wandering around helping people. His gun is called "the Samaritan" for a reason.

And, one final point, is that one of the ways Big Red can save the world is by simply ceasing to exist. Getting rid of his right hand of doom solves a lot of problems, but he wouldn't be there to save people. It's a big dilemma, to be sure. It's his cross to bear, if you will.

So Hellboy is Christ figure to be certain. But if we accept that there is a whole new question. Can a demon be a good dude? Well, this brings into question ideas of Nature vs. Nurture. Hellboy was raised by Trevor Bruttenholm, who is always shown as a good father figure. Despite his demonic origin, Hellboy has been raised by humans much like Jesus was. If Jesus had been raised by someone evil, how might he have turned out? Jesus may be the son of God, but he's often referred to as the "Son of Man". Hellboy and Jesus may both have had parents who were divine, but the ones who were their human parents. Mary and Joseph and Trevor were the ones who took the time to raise their kids right. Otherwise, who knows?

It's easy to turn the Big Red Ape down for Christ figure status. After all, he is a horned, hoofed demon with a tail and a gigantic stone fist. No one would blame you for saying that he is more of an anti-Christ figure given that whole Anung-Un-Rama great destroyer thing, but at the same time he's done a lot of good works in distinct contrast to and as an attempt to escape his destiny. I for one give the guy some credit. He's a good bro at the end of the day, and his human upbringing and resistance to temptation shows his true character better than a pair of horns.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


So yesterday I picked up Alan Moore's new thing, Neonomicon. I don't know what to say. I should have been concerned when I saw the ads for Crossed (about rape zombies) on the back. I like horror comics (as evidenced by my recent gushing about Hellboy and B.P.R.D) but this wasn't really doing it for me. It's not that it's bad, it's just not the quality I would expect from someone of Moore's status, especially after reading League of Extraordinary Gentlemen that same day.

I am by no means an anti-Mooreite, but I'm just not feeling this one. It feels forced in places, and like they are deliberately trying to startle. Whereas I am genuinely concerned for Hellboy and the members of the B.P.R.D, I really don't have that much empathy for the characters in Neonomicon. I'm going to keep looking into it because it's Alan Moore, but I don't want the same thing to happen here that did to Nemisis. I have a great respect for Alan Moore and his incredible writing, but in all honesty if it was any other writer I would not be continuing with the series.