Tuesday, April 23, 2013

5x5 Comics: Bwah-ha-ha redux

So, I announced last quarter at my college that I would be leaving "The Deans' Hallway" - relinquishing my position as Dean and returning (as tenure permits me) to the ranks of teaching faculty. One of my deaconal responsibilities was the supervision of the Instructional & Classroom Support Technicians - the lab techs in the science department. I had hired most of them and we had a great relationship. One of them attended Emerald City Comic Con with her brother (I think they were going just to see Patrick Stewart) and for a sort-of-going-away present to me she picked up three old comics:

Justice League #4 from 1987 and Justice League Europe #6 & #7 from 1989. I think she got them just because of the back-to-school theme of the cover shown above.

I'm not going to actually review these issues because who cares, but the perspective from 25 years or so on has some interesting aspects.

1. Someone needs to go back in time and mess with the notes of the guy inventing flexographic
printing so that it never becomes viable (like Dirk Gently interrupting Samuel Coleridge so he never finishes Kubla Khan). The image in these books are muddy and dark; readers raised on today's bright digital publications would feel like they were reading medieval manuscripts.

2. Man, there was some good drawing back in the day. These artists knew anatomy and there were no Escher Girls to be found.

3. The comics are filled with superhero action as opposed to gratuitous violence, and the sexual references are of the Three's Company, wink-wink, nudge-nudge variety. The former was a refreshing change from current comics; the latter was a change as well, but less refreshing.

4. These comics had words. Lots of words. It actually takes time to read them, there's so many words. Words that matter. Words that advance both plot and characterization as well as mood. There has been a trend to accentuate the undeniable but not universal similarities between comics language and film language to the detriment of the textual component of comics. Part of this impetus is artistic, a post-Watchmen privileging of the "realistic," whatever that is. Part of it is commercial: in the scramble to produce comics that really hope to be successful movie pitches, the visual is emphasized over the verbal. These forces combine to ensure that the textual aspect of most comics is given short shrift. It was nice to see text flowering here.

5. That said, the humor in these books did not age well.

Time-travel done. Thanks, Alex, for the memories.

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