Since the movie came out, I've found myself having to explain why Watchmen is important and interesting. Despite being the most revered comic book of...moreSince the movie came out, I've found myself having to explain why Watchmen is important and interesting. Despite being the most revered comic book of all time, it never really entered the mainstream until the film. Now, people are rushing to read it in droves, but approaching Watchmen without an understanding of its history and influences means missing most of what makes it truly special.
The entire work is an exploration of the history and purpose of the superhero genre: how readers connect to it, and what it means philosophically. Moore stretches from fond satire to outright subversion to minute allusion, encasing the once-simple genre in layers of meaning. Even as he refines and compresses the genre, he also constantly pushes its boundaries. Watchmen is unapologetic, unflinching, and most miraculous of all, freed from the shame which binds so many comics.
Moore never stoops to making an entirely sympathetic character. There is no real hero, and none of the characters represents Moore's own opinions. Superhero comics are almost always built around wholly sympathetic, admirable characters. They represent what people wish they were, and they do the things normal people wish they could do.
It is immediately gratifying escapism, which many people attach themselves to, especially the meek who lead tedious, unfulfilled lives. Many people also do the same thing with celebrities, idolizing them and patterning their own lives on the choices those famous people make. But in this modern age of reality TV and gossip media, we know that celebrities are not ideal people.
Indeed, their wealth and prominence often drives them mad. While everyone else views the world from the bottom up, they view it from the top down, and this skewed perspective wreaks havoc with their morality and sense of self. Moore's superheroes represent something even beyond this celebrity. Not only are they on the top of the heap, but they are physically different from other human beings. Their superiority is not just in their heads and pocketbooks, but in their genetics.
They are not meant to be sympathetic, they are meant to be human. They are as flawed and conflicted as any of us, and while we may sometimes agree with them, as often, we find them distant and unstable.
Many people have fingered Rorschach as the 'hero' of this tale, but that is as flawed as pinning Satan as the hero of 'Paradise Lost'. Following the classic fantasy of power, Rorschach inflicts his morality on the world around him. But, since he is not an ideal, but a flawed human, we recognize that his one-man fascist revolution is unjustified.
We all feel that we see the world clearly, and everyone around us is somehow confused and mistaken. Often, we cannot understand how others can possibly think they way they do. Sometimes, we try to communicate, but there is often an impassable barrier between two minds: no matter how much we talk or how pure our intentions, one will never be able to convince the other.
We all feel the temptation to act out--if only those disagreeable people were gone, the world would be a better place. While this justification may be enough for most comic writers, Moore realizes that the other guy thinks everything would be better if we were gone. Rorschach lashes out because his ideas are too 'out there' and he is too socially insecure to convince anyone that he is right. He is unwilling to question himself, and so becomes a force of his own violent affirmation.
Most who sympathize with him are like him: short-sighted and desperate, unable to communicate with or understand their fellow man. Many are unwilling even to try. Rorschach becomes a satire of the super hero code, which says that as long as you call someone evil, you are justified in beating him to death. This same code is also commonly adopted as foreign policy by leaders in war, which Moore constantly reminds us of with references to real world politics.
The rest of the characters take on other aspects of violent morality, with varying levels of self-righteousness. Like the British government of the 1980's, which inspired Moore, or the American government of the beginning of this century, we can see that equating physical power with moral power is both flawed and dangerous. Subjugating others 'for their own good' is only a justification for leaders who feel entitled to take what they can by force.
The only character with the power to really change the world doesn't do so. His point of view is so drastically different from the common man that he sees that resolving such petty squabbles by force won't actually solve anything. It won't put people on the same page, and will only create more conflict and inequality. Dr. Manhattan sees man only as a tiny, nearly insignificant part of the vast complexity of the cosmos. Though he retains some of his humanity, his perspective is so remote that he sees little justification for interference, any more than you or I would crush the ants of one colony to promote the other.
The ending presents another example of one man trying to enforce his moral solutions upon the entire world. Not only does this subvert the role of the super hero throughout comic book history, but reflects upon the political themes touched on throughout the book. Man is already under the subjugation of men--they may not be superhuman, but still hold the lives of countless billions in their hands. It is no coincidence that Moore shows us president Nixon, a compulsive liar and paranoid delusional who ran the most powerful country in the world as he saw fit.
Moore's strength as a writer--even more than creating flawed, human characters--is telling many different stories, which are really the same story told in different ways, all layered over each other. Each story then comments on the others, presenting many views. His plots are deceptively complex, but since they all share themes, they flow one into the next with an effortlessness that marks Moore as a truly sophisticated writer.
Many readers probably read right across the top of this story, flowing smoothly from one moment to the next, and never even recognizing the bustling philosophical exploration that moves the whole thing along. The story-within-a-story 'The Black Freighter' winds itself through the whole of Watchmen, and for Moore, serves several purposes. Firstly, it is another subversion of comic book tropes: Moore is tapping into the history of the genre, when books about pirates, cowboys, spacemen, monsters, and teen love filled the racks next to the superhuman heroes before that variety was obliterated by the Comics Code (yet another authoritarian act of destruction by people who thought they were morally superior).
But in the world of Watchmen, there are real superheroes, and they are difficult, flawed, politically motivated, and petty. So, superhero comics are unpopular in the Watchmen world, because there, superheroes are fraught with political and moral complexity. These are not the requisite parts of an escapist romp. We don't have comic books about our politicians, after all. We may have political satire, but that's hardly escapist fun.
So, instead they read about pirates. Beyond referencing the history of comics, 'The Black Freighter' works intertextually with Watchmen. The themes and events of one follow the other, and the transitions between them create a continuous exploration of ideas. Moore never breaks off his story, because even superficially unrelated scenes flow from one to the other, in a continuous, multilayered, self-referential narrative.
I continually stand in awe of Moore's ability to connect such disparate threads. Many comic authors since have tried to do the same, but from Morrison to Ellis to Ennis, they have shown that striking that right balance is one of the hardest things an author can do. Most of Moore's followers end up with an unpalatable mish-mash instead of a carefully prepared and seasoned dish.
Unlike most comic authors, Moore scripted the entire layout for the artist: every panel, background object, and action. Using this absolute control, Moore stretched the comic book medium for all it was worth, filling every panel with references, allusions, and details which pointed to the fullness and complexity of his world. Moore even creates meaning with structure, so that the size, shape, and configuration of panels tell much of the story for him.
One of the volumes is even mirrored, so that the first page is almost identical to the last, the second page to the second last, and so on. That most readers don't even notice this is even more remarkable. That means that Moore used an extremely stylized technique so well that it didn't interfere with the story at all.
But therein lies the difficulty: if a reader isn't looking for it, they will probably have no idea what makes this books so original and so remarkable. This especially true if they don't know the tropes Moore is subverting, or the allusive history he calls upon to contextualize his ideas.
While many readers enjoy the book purely on its artistic merit, the strength of the writing, and the well-paced plot, others disregard the work when they are unable to recognize what makes it revolutionary. One might as well try to read Paradise Lost with no knowledge of the Bible, or watch Looney Toons without a familiarity with 1940's pop culture.
It is not a perfect work, but there is no such thing. Moore's lead heroine is unremarkable, which Moore himself has lamented. He did not feel entirely comfortable writing women at that point in his career, and the character was forced on him by the higher ups. Luckily, she's not bad enough to ruin the work, and only stands out because she lacks the depth of his other characters.
His politics sometimes run to the anarchic, but often this is just a satire of violence and hubris. Moore gives no easy answers in his grand reimagining. His interlocking stories present many thoughts, and many points of view. In the end, it is up to the reader to decide for himself who was right or wrong--as if anyone truly could be.
Moore never insults the intelligence of his readers, and so creates a work with more depth than anyone is likely to plumb even after numerous readings. Likewise, he does not want you to 'hold on for the ride', but expects that you will engage and question and try to come to terms with his work, yourself. No one is necessarily the hero or villain, and many people find themselves cowed and unsure of such an ambiguous world, just as we do with the real world.
Watchmen is not instructional, nor is it simply a romp. This book, like all great books, is a journey that you and the author share. The work is meant to connect us to the real world, and not to let us escape from it. This is Moore's greatest subversion of the superhero genre, and does even more than Milton to "justify the ways of God to man", for many men delude themselves to godhood, yet even these gods cannot escape their fundamental humanity.
Smith's evocative and energetic drawings tell an enthusiastic and deeply-felt mini-epic. His simple chiaroscuro backgrounds create a fantastical but v...moreSmith's evocative and energetic drawings tell an enthusiastic and deeply-felt mini-epic. His simple chiaroscuro backgrounds create a fantastical but very real world. His strange cartoons mix with caricatures of realism to produce an easy-to-understand psychological reality.
However his very strong characterization sometimes falls prey to simple archetype, which weakens the story and the suspension of disbelief. Otherwise a thoroughly enjoyable, funny, endearing, and exciting read.
Fun and exciting. A worthwhile story to be told, though the omission of the Thespians and other abuses of artistic license mark the fault of Miller's...moreFun and exciting. A worthwhile story to be told, though the omission of the Thespians and other abuses of artistic license mark the fault of Miller's sensationalism. Like the four-color comics before him, Miller takes archetypes and symbols and drives them full throttle to the epic, gun-blazing climax. Unfortunately, character and emotion suffer. This is not quite the liability that it could have been, as the Epic tradition is often purposefully guilty of the same and 300 fits into this tradition (or the modern swords & sandals permutation).
However, when Miller is forced to give up some of his control, the improvement of realistic emotion shows how good his work can be. In The Dark Knight Returns, he had to keep much of the character's past and could not transform him entirely into an unfeeling, heroic killing machine. Likewise, in the film adaptation of 300, the actors and director helped to infuse the characters with more emotion and depth.
All in all, 300 isn't a long enough read for Miller's drawbacks to really hurt it, and he picked a fittingly manly story to showcase his histrionic machismo.
I struggled for a long time with the growing notion that conservatives simply aren't funny. At first it seemed a silly idea, since conservatism draws...moreI struggled for a long time with the growing notion that conservatives simply aren't funny. At first it seemed a silly idea, since conservatism draws from sources as varied as progressivism: all levels of intelligence and wealth, all kinds of people from all walks of life--yet none of them are funny.
Certainly they can tell jokes and be charming, but not satirical, not biting. Subversion doesn't come naturally to them, and it should have been clear why: Conservatism relies on ideals, on grand heroic notions which are to be believed in. Progressives (or Liberals) rely on deconstruction of these notions, which is in itself a subversion.
That might not entirely explain the sad discrepancy between Doonesbury and Mallard Fillmore, but it's a start. I feel like this difference in mode is also to blame for some of the more common critiques of Alan Moore's work.
He's recently achieved notoriety as a Hollywood Gold Standard--and as the scowling, bearded mascot of rebranding 'Comics' as 'Graphic Novels' (despite the fact that Moore, Gaiman, and I all prefer the original term). As a product of this new visibility, he has been discovered by new readers, some of whom dismiss him as a subversive anarchist.
I agree that he is subversive, and that he is interested in exploring violent anarchism in his works, but he has too much subtlety to be saddled with the views of some of his characters. Critics can quickly identify attacks on their ideologies, but seem less skilled at seeing how an apparent 'progressive' like Moore simultaneously attacks his own representation of the agents of change.
Rorschach in Watchmen is a parody of the superhero staple of morality by violence (or is it the other way 'round?), a parody the film version completely fails to recognize. Likewise, 'V' is meant to be flawed, fraught and difficult, and Moore invites us to question his philosophies and methods.
Moore always gives his characters motives because his characters operate by their psychology: their history, their disposition, their experiences. But in 'V', Moore is giving us a background to establish a motive, which is why we might end up on V's side (beyond the David and Goliath trope).
Moore gives us this motive so that he can communicate his ideas clearly. We see that V's actions are accountable personally, which leads us to ask whether they are accountable socially, morally, or ethically. It is, after all, a story concerned with the nature of politics, power, subjugation, and resistance. Like a philosopher hashing out his ideas, Moore explores his theme by setting limits to focus the hypothesis.
Whether V can be excused or praised outside his personal motivations is another argument, but the fact that Moore has isolated and located this argument at a point in narrative space shows his thoughtful, deliberate mastery of the form.
Like Watchmen, the film version mostly strips out this layer of complexity, and is content (like the majority of action films or violent dystopias) to let this personal struggle be the end of the moral question, thus reducing V to a violent hero (or antihero). This idealized 'personal morality' is common not only in action movies, but in cape comics and conservatism--yet focusing on a wholly personal response precludes observing how politics works, or any grand social scale which is necessarily defined by the impersonal.
The personal is simply not important, not viable, and in the end, gets lost in the mix. The billions of personal elements counteract one another into a kind of Brownian Motion, stirring without direction, while the real forces of power move above them and alongside them, shaping the world.
Think of all the people acting out their personal moralities, proud as peacocks. You hear people talk about turning off the water when they brush their teeth despite the fact that more than ninety percent of water use is industrial. People buy free-range organic despite the fact that the money still goes to the same five companies (and the term 'organic' is entirely unregulated). People get self-satisfied about their Prius when five shipping tankers produce as many tons of emissions as all the cars in the world.
It is not that these personal beliefs cannot change things, in fact they often come to the forefront, but this change is momentary and complex, and hence, no great theory could be made to predict it, so it cannot be harnessed, only taken for granted by the forces of power. The more people act personally, the more they will be taken advantage of, impersonally.
It isn't surprising that critiques of Moore tend to focus on these personal, symbolic journeys, but that's simply not how Moore operates. Sympathy for his characters should be mistrusted, just as we must mistrust Milton's Satan; even with all his charm, it is the utmost foolishness not to recognize him for who he is.
You don't have to look hard to see these little subversions--these clues that something isn't right--but you do have to look. There is a fast-paced, exciting, complex plot atop it all, and it's easy to get caught up in Alan Moore's stories. Unlike some authors, Moore won't spell it out for you, but calling him an Anarchist is an oversimplification.
In interviews, Moore has said that an Anarchist state is one where the powerful rule the weak by fear and force of arms, noting that this describes every government and nation in history, no matter what florid terms are used to make such governance more appealing. Moore may use V to present the ideal of the Anarchist, but we must remember: he doesn't believe in ideals.
Which is why Alan Moore is funny. When you are quite sure that he is being serious, you can be certain that he is being funny. After all, the surest sign that we have ceased to think clearly about something is that we can no longer laugh at it. So remember: if you aren't laughing, you aren't thinking; and if you aren't thinking, then you definitely won't understand Moore.
Comics have been going through a very public struggle with maturity for some time now. They were well on their way to catching up with other art forms...moreComics have been going through a very public struggle with maturity for some time now. They were well on their way to catching up with other art forms until they were hit with the 'Comics Code' in the fifties. The code was an outgrowth of reactionary postwar witch-hunting a la McCarthyism, and succeeded in bowdlerizing and stultifying an entire medium for thirty years.
For example, all crime had to be portrayed as sordid, and no criminals could be sympathetic. There goes any comic book retellings of Robin Hood. Good always had to triumph over evil and seduction could never be shown or suggested. In trying to write around these and other rules, it's not surprising that code era books got a little weird in their search for original plots. 'Superman's Pal' Jimmy Olson was forced to marry a gorilla no fewer than three separate occasions.
When they finally did shake off the yoke, following trailblazers like Steve Gerber and Alan Moore, authors were a bit over-enthusiastic, full as they were of pent-up stories and themes. What followed is colloquially known as the 'Dark Age', where all heroes were bad dudes, everyone had guns, and Wolverine guest-starred in twelve comics a month.
The release of all that pent-up violence and sexuality hit the industry like a ton of bricks, and soon, anyone who was anyone was penning stories of decapitation and prostitution, until someone titled a comic Youngblood Bloodshot Deathmate Red: This Blood's For You! and everyone decided it was time to go home. The authors seemed to assume that the inclusion of mature themes made for mature stories, when in reality, they were about as mature as a high schooler's marginalia.
And this struggle is still going on, to one degree or another. At the low end, Liefeld is still out there writing the same action plots, and somewhat better is Ennis, whose Preacher is a love letter to swearing, gross-outs, and bromance. Transmet (for brevity) also has its share of sex, violence, and puerile humor, but for Ellis, this is more than just an exploitation romp, it's a means to an end.
Though underground comics were rife with subversion and political satire, mainstream comics have shown up rather late to the party. Moore's comics are often political, especially his early works, Watchmen and V for Vendetta, but these were rather serious takes, coming from the school of post-modern realism.
In Transmet, Ellis is coming at the issue from a later vantage, that of subversive culture-jamming, most evident in his nods to Hunter S. Thompson's 'Gonzo Journalism'. In the sixties, writers of varying stripes adopted this style in rejection of the repressive fifties, but it took longer to spread to comics.
We can see the same form in action in Transmet, in Ellis' protagonist, Spider Jerusalem, a post-cyberpunk stand-in for Thompson. Most of the time, Spider is following a spiral of madcap self-destruction, doing ridiculous, violent, amoral, childish things in order to break people out of their daily ruts. The first step of this kind of subversion is always to break through assumptions, refusing to play within the system because house rules favor the house.
There is a good deal of humor and adventure in these romps, and their childish unsophistication is part of their charm, and their power. He's an unpredictable, moving target, and though all his actions are focused on specific goals, he makes sure that he is dangerous and entertaining enough to make his mark.
This is where the second step comes in. Once you have grabbed their attention and torn down their expectations, your audience is primed to listen to you with fresh ears. This is the whole point of bombast, wit, and humor. Comedians and Court Jesters are funny because it command attention and allows them to approach issues obliquely, sidestepping the usual thought-terminating cliches.
When Ellis gets these moments, he doesn't put them to waste. As a writer, he is capable of a biting vibrancy that few other authors can match, in comics or sci fi. He hits some of the high points of his impressive career in this book, but then, perhaps that's not so surprising.
This book is relying on two very powerful writing traditions: Gonzo and Cyberpunk, which both use similar methods of witty, idiomatic information overload to communicate their message. What saves this book from the cartoonish violence of a book like Preacher is what always saves cyberpunk: the pure strength of writing.
Both styles share an obsession with synthesis: creating a complex mix of disparate social elements and theories without growing too focused on any particular element. That is why the baroque high-water mark of revolutionary psychadelic writing shares the same location as the birthplace of cyberpunk: Philip K. Dick and Illuminatus!
Gibson really blew everything else out of the water with Neuromancer, and the attempt to pick up the pieces is called 'post-cyberpunk'. It's a collectio of disparate writings sharing a theme and a setting, but widely disagreeing on most everything else. Gibson's book was so prescient (and still is), that everyone else is trying to prove themselves the next technological and social prophet.
There have been a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon, but Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash stands out as one of the most interesting, complex, and purely enjoyable of the lot. Consequently, I spent a lot of time trying (and failing) to find another book that could match it, but with little luck. Not even Stephenson's been able to live up to it.
But there is a lot in Transmet that meets that desire for another Snow Crash, and maybe that shouldn't be so surprising, since Snow Crash was originally scripted to be a comic. It's almost as full of ideas, it's as unpredictable and enjoyable, and the writing has that precise mixture of intellectual and pulp action.
That being said, sci fi is not Ellis' strong suit. This is a soft sci fi if there ever was one, and Ellis' society doesn't hold up to the originality and perverse plausibility of Stephenson's. Ellis gives us sentient nanoclouds next to still frame cameras activated by button. It's not as bad as Star Trek, where you can disintegrate and remotely reintegrate people but can't fix a broken back, but it's not a hard sci fi built around the changes technology brings.
Ellis is more concerned with his characters and his politics, but luckily, he tends to hit his mark with them. Spider, like most of Ellis' protagonists, is a black-hearted, cynical bastard who lives by his own code and leaves a swathe of destruction behind, but as usual, he still manages to make him sympathetic. At his best, Ellis manages to remember that Spider's flaws are flaws, though sometimes, and particularly as he wraps the story up, Spider gets to be too much 'crotchety hero' and too little 'amoral force of nature'.
But it's a good comic, and more than that, it's a good piece of sci fi, though more on the 'Speculative Fiction' end, since it's more concerned with exploring the question of 'what makes us human?' rather than 'what makes travel above c possible?' It's sad and unfair that it never got an Eisner; it surely deserved it.
In fact, it's a crime that this great sci fi series ended in 2002, and that same year, the Nebula and Clarke awards went to a rewrite of 'Flowers for Algernon' whose sci fi elements were superfluous to the story. But then, it's usually too much to hope that a book will both be well written and get accolades.
Robertson's art is also solid, though I'm hard-pressed to think of any interior artist who could match Darrow's covers, but Robertson does admirably. His vision of the future is amusingly detailed and unusual enough to transport us away, and his sense of pacing is strong.
It's worth noting that it took the world twenty years to catch up with Neuromancer, with the premiere of the first Matrix, and that this series predates that landmark social event by several years. As we move closer to The Singularity, and technologies are developed more and more quickly, predicting the future will become more and more difficult. Already, sci fi is shifting to predicting next year instead of next century.
But Transmet looks further than that, because like all great thinkers, Ellis recognizes that to look forward, we must look back. His update of the dystopia to revolutionary politics post WWII is inspired, especially as it is twisted with Gonzo Journalism and Post-Cyberpunk. The best ideas are never one idea, and though Spider's politics sometimes grow to dominate the series, Ellis still contrasts them with a multitude of concepts, leaving us with a pleasing depth of insight.
I can only hope that more comic authors will realize that sex and violence--even at their most over-the-top--can be vital, complex parts of a story, but only if they have a point. There is no story element too outrageous for the arsenal of a talented, driven author.
As usual, it's a joy to see Ellis' madcap style, as he plugs the dangling cords from the cyberpunk machine into the rusty dystopian engine until the whole thing lights up like a 500-channel cold-fission laser-guided Christmas tree. You could do worse.
I really enjoy Scott McCloud. He is insightful and funny and his analytic method is always useful in dissection of concept. I find that the conscienti...moreI really enjoy Scott McCloud. He is insightful and funny and his analytic method is always useful in dissection of concept. I find that the conscientious author tends to be the superior author, and for this reason, McCLoud is indispensable.
Another thing that is refreshing about McCloud is that he takes the medium very seriously, and reminds us, as creators, that we have a responsibility to the art to do everything we can with it, and not simply accept the given standards.
In a lot of ways, this book feels like an update of Understanding Comics, but with a greater mindfulness of the creator, and less for the pure history and development of the art. 'Making Comics' is an inspirational work which avoids treading the ground of other 'how to's, instead focusing on asking 'how might you'?
'Kill Your Boyfriend' came out a year before Columbine. The eponymous Columbine. The tragic and fearful Columbine. It would be understandable in this...more'Kill Your Boyfriend' came out a year before Columbine. The eponymous Columbine. The tragic and fearful Columbine. It would be understandable in this post-Columbine, post-Vtech, post-9/11 world if a reader might have difficulty with some aspects of this story, but if art is war on another battlefront, Morrisson is a sniper behind enemy lines.
Like a sniper, his work is rarely pretty to see, skilled as it may be. It reminds us of the suddenness of this big, ugly world. Sometimes Morrison misses his mark, usually when he grows overly self aware. However, the lighthearted and straightforward tone of this book means he has little chance to derail his own story.
Morrisson is a prophet by way of pessimism. It seems that by expecting the worst from mankind, we can rarely be disappointed. However, like Chekhov, Morrisson is tempered by a firm belief in a single person riding over that bloody tide by strength of personality.
This need not mean the unattached, humorless anti-hero that is so often cast as Nietzsche's Ubermensch; Too often, we forget that Nietzsche was the philosopher who told us to love and seek beauty and dance, and that skepticism can free us from the static even as it reminds us why our heart aches.
Morrisson tells of growing up confused, self-unknown, with a need to scratch an itch without a place. Morrisson tends to find that place in an unlikely locale--be it a cybernetic dog or a homicidal teen girl.
Morrisson's search for beauty in all things horrific and horror in all things beautiful comes from his need to be different at any cost. In The Invisibles, this often interferes with our empathy or even our comprehension, but it is not so forced here.
If it upset you that 9/11 turned into the unquestioned Iraq war, or that the Vtech massacre will more likely result in a new book by Dr. Phil than in any change in how we treat each other, then perhaps it is time to take a little revenge. Perhaps it is time to sit back for a moment and wonder what it might be like to Kill Your Boyfriend.
It can be really difficult to critique a work like this. Calvin and Hobbes stands as perhaps the greatest strip ever, along with grandpappy Peanuts an...moreIt can be really difficult to critique a work like this. Calvin and Hobbes stands as perhaps the greatest strip ever, along with grandpappy Peanuts and the bizarrely inimitable Little Nemo. Of course, as a child, I never knew that Calvin was a man who thought heaven was a lottery or that Hobbes was the father of rational political philosophy. However, truly great children's literature should never be inaccessible to adults. If it is, then its popularity amongst children stems merely from its ability to mesmerize their ignorance.
It was not only the philosophy of Calvin and Hobbes, not only the many levels of both meaning and humor, it was the exploration of reality itself; sometimes funny, sometimes poignant. One thing that many grownups seem to forget is that the world is vast and strange and that, often, the only way to come to terms with it is to strike out (in one's own idiomatic style) and have a bit of adventure. There can be no complacency in this world. Not in a world of dinosaurs, spacemen, and cardboard boxes of infinite technological capability.
I suppose I should mention the beautiful and evocative art for a moment, which had a sense of movement, gesture, and impressionistic reality that never failed to jump-start the mind just enough to get it going without limiting the open philosophical questions that we could never quite answer.
I think there must be something to be said for any strip where the most memorable moments were those of inaction and silence. It shows that Watterson expected a lot out of his readers, especially children, and that when we did the work of connecting the dots for him, we were really doing something invaluable for ourselves.
I guess Watterson is off living with his family now, and painting landscapes. I have an idea why he left. Gary Larson, too. I often wish they were still here to help us through these strange and difficult times. Whenever some new horror of inhuman humanity crops up, I want somewhere to go where I can laugh at it, where I can see the big picture, where everything isn't so simple.
In Watterson's comic, it was always the world that was impossibly wide, complex, and unfair. The only simple, rational part--the only important part--was you.
A sort of reversal of the film 'Children of Men', Y the Last Man is sometimes difficult to take seriously. The storytelling itself is not bad, though...moreA sort of reversal of the film 'Children of Men', Y the Last Man is sometimes difficult to take seriously. The storytelling itself is not bad, though it sometimes falls into the faults of Lost, with endless, predictable hardship. It is an interesting concept, and Vaughan at least connects himself tangentially to the literary tradition, but these connections are often too flimsy or too coincidental in construction.
The worst crime of all may be that one keeps feeling that Yorick is standing in as an author surrogate; he is the last man on Earth, after all. Of course, anyone writing this story would have to come up against this challenge, but by not really addressing the character's sexual conflict, or his motivations in general, it can begin to feel like an escapist harem romp.
I think this story is probably the most successful example of 'random' or 'disconnected' humor amongst the numerous (mostly terrible) attempts I have...moreI think this story is probably the most successful example of 'random' or 'disconnected' humor amongst the numerous (mostly terrible) attempts I have come across.
The real problem with such a construction is that it denies a basis, as Morrison himself denies the influence of metaphor or allegory. I cannot stand the oversimplifications of didactism or allegory in writing, and prefer the presentation of a case by showing many views and ideas, and leaving the conclusion to the reader.
However, when a writer denies such effects and tries to write outside of them, he runs into another flaw: that his imagination and writing abilities are based in reality and specifically in the literary world with which he is familiar. Any piece of writing, be it fiction, poetry, or whatever, is a critique of other works that have influenced the author.
Even in the cases of the pulps, critics who later took those authors seriously were able to find symbolic meanings, especially in early sci fi. What Morrison does here works very much like those pulps, in that it embraces what is 'fun' and interesting and not what is socially and politically popular.
The author must also be careful not to replace those cultural messages with their own identity. This is a problem both of established but untrained authors and of authors trying to escape their own patterns. Morrison falls to this bleed-through of personality and opinions in some of his other works, but the apolitical nature of this one mostly spares him his usual fault.
Thanks to Andre for inspiring me to write this.(less)