9/11 Report – A Graphic Adaptation: One important funny book

When I initially heard that there would be a comic art adaptation of the events of 9/11 I was instantly skeptical, as I imagined that it was yet another cynical attempt to take money from the gullible by manipulation of emotion and patriotism. Then I read that the adaptation was going to be a summary of the report prepared by the 9/11 Commission so I ordered it right away.

While I’m not up to providing in-depth review let me just say this: This is one important funny book.

The 9/11 Report itself is a difficult read, couched in the usual government terminology. The report is not written at a 9th grade reading level and if you want to teach kids, young adults and easily-distracted adults about the Commission’s findings then this book is a must.

For some baffling reason Stan Lee gets a bit of space on the back cover of the book. I guess if it looks like a comic book then they call up Stan. He praises the work and asserts that the adaptation “should be required reading in every home, school, and library.” I agree that one if not several copies should be available to students and the public. Hopefully, schools and libraries won’t allow the Wingnuts to censor or limit the exposure of it to people by requiring permission slips from a parent or guardian.

As far as I can tell the adaptation is free of editorializing. If one administration appears to have stumbled more than the other in dealing with Al Queda it is not a direct attack on that President or their organization by the report. If you want to get technical about it, every administration since 1920 has mishandled the Middle East. Given clarity of hindsight, it is…what it is.

That may not stop those with an agenda from attacking it as they did the original report. In fact, some attacks on the adaptation have already begun claiming it is variously official propaganda for one administration or conversely, an assault on same. I guess it depends on what side of the political fence you stand.

Sid Jacobson wrote the adaptation, distilling the text to a readable format from the Commission’s report with a minimum of fictionalizing. Comic veteran Ernie Colon should be lauded for the amount of work he did illustrating over one hundred pages of the book. He was also professional and mature enough to keep the real-world graphic scenes of violence understated and not crib layouts from his work on Marvel’s Damage Control series. There are a few scenes where the bad guys appear “Mwa-ha-ha-Evil” but given the medium it may be unavoidable. There are some familiar comic book sound effects thrown in and some dialogue that was created because there is no way of knowing what was actually said, but remains in the tone of the events. A few other panels show scenes of tragedy and if not for the knowledge that they are based on real events one could dismiss them as typical comic book illustrations and not taken seriously.

Pulitzer material? I don’t know. This should definitely receive some sort of recognition but it is different than Maus, which is one of the few mainstream books in similar format that the public is familiar with.

You can find the adaptation from many sources on the net or at your local comic book store. You can also read the original 9-11 Report on line.

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The Mighty One, Jack Kirby

It’s Jack Kirby’s 89th birthday and in recognition of that I present The Tablet of Revelation from Kamandi #29 (May 1975).

All of us fans build our own comic continuity in our heads, keeping bits of lore we like or think should be included and discarding those we feel do not do justice to the characters and their history. Kamandi #29 by Jack Kirby is one of those episodes of lore I keep as a character’s true story.

As far as I was concerned Jack Kirby tells the legend of the true Death of Superman in Kamandi #29. In the story it is revealed that The Man of Steel did not die in a fight scene against a creature that should have been a Highfather clone sent by Darkseid (but wasn’t). Kirby had Superman die as a real hero, preventing the planet Earth from destroying itself and being destroyed in a series of cataclysmic events that included World War 3 called by survivors as “The Great Disaster”. Though the Earth was saved the task proved too much for Superman and he later died. Years passed and all that remained of Superman and an Age of Heroes was his indestructible costume that a cargo-cult of semi-intelligent gorillas worship as a religious talisman. Kamandi, The Last Fanboy On Earth, has his own ideas for the use of the super-suit. He is desperate for a symbol for the beings of his world to rally around and rise above post-apocalyptic barbarism.

Kamandi was convinced that one day Superman would return to fix things and killed a gorilla who desired to misappropriate the costume for his own selfish ends by dumping him into lava. Interestingly, Kamandi was correct that one day Superman would return, however briefly. In a nice hat-tip to Jack Kirby, Jeph Loeb had an alternate time line Superman appear in Kamandi’s earth in Superman/Batman #16 (Feb 2005) and reference the story.

Crisis on Infinite Earths pretty much erased the fate of Superman that Kirby penned but the recent Infinite Crisis brought the possibility roaring back. In an industry where creative teams sniped at each other and rendered invalid another’s work with regularity no one refuted Kirby’s account of the death of DC’s cornerstone character.

That says a lot about the respect Jack earned.

Don’t forget to visit the Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center online!

Never learn parenting skills from comic books

Comic books can teach you many things like the difference between right and wrong, good and evil and how to recap the last few months of your life while falling 20 stories. But apparently common-sense in regards to good parenting is not one of those things.

Kind of an out of context panel from Miss Beverly Hills of Hollywood #1 (Mar-Apr 1949)

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Talk of the Teen: Don’t bogart that uterus, babe

From Scribbly #5 (Apr-May 1949), the book with infamous menage-a-trois animal-rape cover.

I would never eat anything billed as a Moo With Goo as it sounds like rotten meat. Chow Hound is still in use today and Suffering From Shorts has evolved a bit but can still be heard as Short On Cash, et al. Today’s street racers could be called Boulevard Cowboys as they are certainly reckless, but I prefer the term Stupid [Expletive Deleted] Selfish [Expletive Deleted] Dumbtards.

Calling a woman’s purse a Salvage Depot is humorous, condescending and it makes sense it would enter the language during the post-War era that knew of scrap drives and rationing. The contents of my wife’s many purses were unmanageable until she picked up one of those handbag organizers with the built-in flashlight.

The best panel in the feature is the one with the Mothball insult. It features the female stereotypes that those who watch Scooby-Doo know well. It has The Daphne (fun, pretty and social) hurling a casual, soul-crushing insult to The Velma (who wears glasses, is smart, studious and has no time for a boyfriend because she may be a lesbian). Calling a woman a Mothball is infering that her reproductive organs are in “storage” against use by males and by the cultural expectations of 1949, she is worthless as a female, wife and mother because she is not using her uterus as God and the patriarchy has commanded.

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Why wait for Civil War?

If you can’t wait for the next installment of Marvel’s delayed big cross-over event then just pick up a trade copy of Captain America’s 1970’s battle against the Secret Empire, as written by Steve Engelhart.

The classic Cap arc just seems to me to be wholly recycled, updated a bit and turned into Civil War by Bendis and Marvel, anyhow. May as well get some 70’s Marvel goodness while you wait. Plus, in the Secret Empire story Nixon commits suicide.

– Page from Captain America #171 (Mar 1974)

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Shakespeare for Americans

Originally printed in Heavy Metal magazine from 1981-1982, Shakespeare for Americans is a comment on American pop-culture accomplished by the team of Howard Chaykin, Walt Simonson and sometimes Peter Kuper. Running as one page gags of dumbed-down adaptations of the classic stories, the team lampooned what they saw as pop-culture’s ability to transform even the loftiest work into generic garbage devoid of originality and soul and the amazing willingness of the American public to eat large heaping plate fulls of multi-media refuse and beg for more.

I recall being vaguely insulted by this short series when it was initially published until I remembered that I don’t particularly like Shakespeare and that in spite of the snooty upper-crust reputations the plays enjoy now, the stories of Shakespeare were originally written to appeal to the lowest common denominator of the unwashed, illiterate and entertainment-starved masses of the era. Irony, thy name is Bill.

The scene from Julius Ceasar drawn by Frank Miller may be of particular interest to fans of his early work. You can see the entire set here in the Shakespeare for Americans flickr set.

Talk of the Teen: All Sex Issue

Here’s another Talk of Teen filler feature where DC shows how relatable they are to all the cool cats who read comic books. Bobby-soxers in 1960?

From Lois Lane #21 (Nov 1960)

Out of all the phrases supposedly in use since this feature was published in 1960 only the first is still part of the lexicon and is directly related to not getting sex. Boot Me can mean something completely different in the computer age and Broom sounds like modern street slang for a shotgun. Sugar Report sounds vaguely familiar as if I heard it used somewhere once and is probably related to corporate business. If used today, She’s Wearing Heels seems to imply the opposite of the inaccessible female and instead suggests a woman of lose morals.

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Lanterns on the Loose: Gullivar Jones and Kyle Raynor

In the early 1970’s, seeing the success of such publishing franchises as their adaptations of Conan the Barbarian and the revival of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan and John Carter of Mars novels, Marvel was seeking properties other than Conan and Kull to turn into what they would hope would be another popular fantasy character. After a search for suitable (and presumably inexpensive) characters to promote, Marvel and Roy Thomas chose the long-forgotten character of of Gullivar Jones, from the 1905 book Lt. Gullivar Jones: His Vacation by Edwin L. Arnold. By most accounts the book, when originally published, did not sell well. It soon was remembered only by science fiction aficionados as having pre-dated the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars by several years. SF historians still debate if the earlier book influenced the latter due to similarities in the stories. If nothing else, Arnold’s book sales probably suffered from poor marketing caused by a title that was far less dynamic and sexy than the Burroughs novel.

Beginning in 1972, Marvel showcased the character of Gullivar Jones, Warrior of Mars in issues #16-21 of the reprint anthology title Creatures on the Loose, which later featured the likewise-forgotten Conan-clone Thongor and Man-Wolf, who has a pivotal role in current issues of She-Hulk.

The parallels in the work of Arnold and Burroughs are best left to nit-picking literary scholars. I am much more interested in the similarities in the work of Arnold and Green Lantern scribe Ron Marz, who unfortunately gave us the Green Lantern known as Kyle Raynor.

While re-reading some 70’s Marvel goodness to re-ignite my love of comic books (the flame of which has been snuffed by months of ho-hum-nicity) I noticed that there are striking parallels to the origins of Gullivar Jones and the Kyle Raynor Green Lantern.

Here is Gullivar Jones’ origin as a Warrior of Mars, from Creatures on the Loose #16 (March 1972).

And here is Kyle Raynor’s origin as an intergalactic law enforcement agent from Green Lantern #50 (March 1994)

Interesting, yes? Let’s go down the checklist…

  • Disaffected protagonist leaves club: Check!
  • Enters spooky alley: Check! (though Gullivar probably entered the alley for different reasons than Kyle).
  • Visited by extraterrestrial: Check!
  • Given gift of Scienti-magic talisman: Check!
  • Charged with mission to save worlds: Check!
  • Alien dies: Check!
  • Reluctantly accepts said mission: Check!

Taking into consideration that Ron Marz is known as a big fan of Burroughs (Green Lantern Annual #6 with its Pulp Heroes theme is very ERB-inspired) I am doubtful that he was not aware of Gullivar Jones. I don’t think Marz ripped off the Jones origin, and if anything it’s a subtle homage to the genre, but still these are oddly similar stories.

You can also check out the pages here on my Lanterns on the Loose Flickr set.

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Civil War: Reboot delayed

Delays to big, fun comic events, especially after they have been in the planning stages for a freaking year or two (Hello, Infinite Crisis), bug the heck out of me. And now Marvel is actually forcing readers to wait for the trades?

Good for Amazon, bad for Your Local Comic Book Shop.

Anyway, here’s my delayed Civil War banner. Sorry it missed the meme-wave. You know how tough deadlines can be.

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