2 November 2018
All Star Superman, Book Review, Calvin and Hobbes, Comics, Daytripper, death, Fabio Moon, Father-Son Relationship, fathers, From Hell, Fun Home, Gabriel Ba, graphic novel, Jammer Talks About, Joshua Jammer Smith, King, Life, MAUS, mortality, Reading, The Adventures of Captain Underpants, The Plot: The Secret history of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, The Sandman: The Doll's House, Watchmen, Writers
In this video I provide a brief review of the graphic novel Daytripper. This is a book that, in my estimation, is one of the most underappreciated graphic novels in the ever growing canon of what Scott McCloud refers to as Graphic Art. Books like Watchmen, The Sandman, and MAUS consistently appear on lists of truly great and wonderful graphic novels yet Daytripper is left from such lists for some mysterious reason. The reader doesn’t need my validation however, nor does the book and so in this video I try to just discuss a few of the themes addressed in the book.
The graphic novel is about the life of the writer Bras de Olivas Domingo who, before he publishes his first novel to great success, works as an obituary writer. His father is a world famous novelist and throughout the book Bras mourns the fact that he and his father do not always have the best working relationship, however beneath this I believe as a fascinating glimpse into father-son relationships. Every son in his own way tries to live up to what he believes to be the supposed expectations his father establishes during his life. Looking at Bras part of that standard is creating something out of his life, and so his novel, and then eventually his life, becomes that very means.
Daytripper is a book that explores life in all of its absurdity and mundane reality, and while each chapter ends in death, the larger creative goal seems to be to demonstrate that life is not purely beautiful or purely meaningless. Instead Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon try to show the odd magic that makes up life without resorting to clichés. This last word is important because when you say “the book is about life” the reader may summon up images of Once-A-Day-Faith Calendars or else platitude ridden Valedictorian speeches. There are many works which try to tell readers that life is wonderful and strange, but Daytripper is unique amongst this bunch because it actually shows them this through Bras’s first kiss, meeting the woman who would become his wife, being a spectator in a home invasion, writing close to a hundred obituaries for a Plane Crash, discovering he has terminal cancer, and losing his friend to madness.
Daytripper doeesn’t take the life of a superhero or a mythic being as its protagonist. Instead it finds an individual man who is trying to find some sense of meaning or purpose in his life. That should be a universal appeal enough to convince the reader that this book is made of magic. But if it isn’t hopefully this video, and the two essays I’ve written about it will.
The books used in this video are:
Daytripper by Gabriel Ba & Fabio Moon (Vertigo)
All Star Superman Vol. 1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (DC Comics)
Death the Deluxe Edition by Neil Gaiman (Vertigo)
The Plot: The Secret History of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion by Will Eisner (W.W. Norton & Company)
King by Ho Che Anderson (Fantagraphic Books)
The House of Secrets by Various (DC Comics)
The Sandman: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman (Vertigo)
From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell (Top Shelf Productions)
Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (DC Comics)
A Contract With God by Will Eisner (W.W. Norton & Company)
The Complete MAUS by Art Spiegelman (Pantheon Books)
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin)
The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey (Scholastic)
Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Waterson (Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC)
If you have any questions, suggestions, or requests for books you would like to see me review, please feel free to comment below.
Thank you for watching.
Joshua Jammer Smith
TO WATCH THE VIDEO FOLLOW THE LINK BELOW:
Alison Bechdel, Bechdel Test, Book Review, Comics, Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, Faith, Fan Culture, Fans, Feminism, Ghostbusters, graphic novel, Harbinger Vol. 1, Kate McKinnon, Kristin Wiig, Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Narratives, Sandman, story, Stranger Things, Valiant, Watchmen, Zephyr
The other day a friend of mine wanted to know my feelings about the new Ghostbusters film, specifically if I wanted to see it because I was a feminist. I explained in my first response that the reason I wanted to see the film was not solely because I was a feminist, but because I love the Ghostbusters franchise period. Anything that mixes working-class mentalities with science fiction have always fascinated me, and while the characters in the original film were mostly college professors their work ethic, coupled with a desire to make a little bit of money along the way, reminded me a lot of my mom and dad who operated their own business. The film was one of a handful of Robin Williams and Bill Murry VHS tapes my parents seemed to have an unlimited supply of, and Ghostbusters was fun to watch because both Mom and Dad had memories connected to the film, and when I was younger I wanted to be like them. The film was also, let’s be fair, really fun to watch(except for the scene where Sigourney Weaver gets groped by the hands in the chair before the dog pops up, that scene freaked me out).
Looking at the new Ghostbusters movie I was compelled to see the film because, the awful looking CGI aside, the film was a Ghostbusters movie and it also sported four actresses who’s work I appreciated immensely: Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and best of all Leslie Jones. My friend understood my qualms, but argued, at length, that the film wasn’t really helping feminism. There were still other issues like wage inequality and workplace harassment, and having a lousy movie with an all-woman cast wasn’t going to actually contribute any real solutions to the problems women face.
To this I didn’t have any objections because there wasn’t anything to object to. The only argument I could make in favor of the film having an all-female cast was not so much about economic feminism, but rather cultural feminism.
The reader at some point may have heard, or come across in something they read, of something called “The Bechdel Test.” I could write out the explanation of the test, but since I adore Alison Bechdel (obsession is probably a different and far more applicable term) and relish every opportunity to show off her work I thought I would just cite the actual comic that created the test in the first place. It’s a panel from her comic series Dykes to Watch Out For:
This ten panel comic has had a tremendous impact upon film criticism, much to the annoyance of some film experts and fan boys online. The usual attack against the Bechdel Test is that it is designed to create a gynocentric film industry that seeks to eliminate men from film, and the other is that several great films fail this test while other lousy films win it. Looking at the first criticism of the test I can only laugh due to the sheer absurdity of the premise. Looking at the second complaint I’m a little more sympathetic. The problem with the Bechdel Test is that it can quickly create an eschewed perspective that if a film fails the test that it is faulty, but looking at a few films this becomes absurd: The King’s Speech, All the President’s Men, Pulp Fiction, Duck Soup, Reservoir Dogs. All of these films share the common characteristics of having largely all male or mostly male casts, but looking at the first film it won best picture in 2010. A film like Planet Terror in direct contrast, a film which involves zombies and a Go-Go dancer with a machine gun for a leg, actually passes the Bechdel test and this is the point.
I offered up an assessment to a friend of mine who works at the library and who was helping me find some books, that the Bechdel Test is not designed, or should not be designed, to shame films or suggest certain films are crap. The test is designed to challenge the individual who tries the test against most of the films they watch to see how well women are represented in said films. The test tries to help show that often the largest problem with women in cinema is not a lack of presence, it’s a lack of real representation.
Looking back to my friend and Ghostbusters this was the argument I offered up to her as to why a film like Ghostbusters did offer a vital feminist statement. It doesn’t matter if the cast is all women, what matters is that this all women cast offers up the chance to widen the representation of women in film which is often lacking. Thinking of this I thought of a book I’ve been reading lately that offers up a similar avenue of discussion, for like film, the medium of comics sometimes lacks in accurate and honest representation of female characters, particularly in the form of real body types.
I became aware of the character of Faith when my friend Michael lobbied for a Valiant book to be the book of the week of the Graphic Novel Appreciation Society. This would eventually become a joke in the group since every week his “Happy Thing” usually has something to do with Valiant, and whenever we do a Valiant book he wears a t-shirt of one of the characters from the universe. Faith appeared in Harbinger Vol 1., a book that I enjoyed but didn’t love, and it’s a testament to her character and the writing that she remains the brightest part of that graphic novel. Valiant recently got around to giving her her own book and so I finally bought it actually exited to dig into the material.
Faith is a psiot, an individual capable to manipulated the space and natural laws around her with her mind. In the case of Faith, superhero name Zephyr, secret identity name Summer, she is able to fly, create psionic shield barriers and even push people as if manipulating the wind. Think sort of a Mrs. Fantastic from Fantastic 4, only, well, interesting and interested in Dr. Who, STAR WARS, and Star Trek. The book Faith is about her settling into a journalism job in Los Angeles, where she actually works on Click Bait reviewing reality shows and celebrity scandals, where she uncovers a plot by an ancient race of aliens who despise humanity for their bland and wanton destruction of the natural environment. Did I mention the aliens were plants? Because that’s kind of important, but not really.
Much like the graphic novel Flashpoint, which I reviewed for my own site a while back, my ultimate assessment of Faith is that, while it may not be an artistic effort in the same caliber as Watchmen or The Sandman series, it is a good story that doesn’t feel weak after reading it. The metaphor a few of my friends will use is “popcorn movie” in honor of films like Star Wars and Jaws, both films that, while they may not be in the same vein as their contemporary periods greats (Taxi Driver, Deliverance, Network, Easy Rider, etc.) they do a damn good job of entertaining the audience and occasionally giving the viewer something to think about. Faith is about being a superhero, but throughout her book her love of nerd culture is the central defining character trait she possesses.
Faith is not Batman in terms of genius, Flash in terms of super speed, or even Wonder Woman in terms of making you wish there was more of Wonder Woman in Batman Vs. Superman, instead she’s just a woman who enjoys watching science fiction shows on television and trying to be a good person. Best of all the fact that she doesn’t look like Wonder Woman or Scarlet Witch or Catwoman or Harley Quinn isn’t even discussed.
There’s one page however that offers a beautiful moment, not just for Faith personally, but for the reader experiencing her story:
Faith lost both of her parents as a child, so perhaps she’s not that different from Batman, but before they passed they shared with her their love of comics, science fiction, and general nerdity, and as the last panel demonstrates that love of stories kept their memory alive in her. Growing up my parents watched Ghost Busters and Star Wars with me, and while I would watch the movies (and memorize them to impress friends and family later) I would ask my parents what a movie was like in theatres, or if they enjoyed the movie when it came out, and so these stories would assume surrounding or satellite stories that connected more emotion and meaning to me personally.
With that in hand I look back to Ghostbusters and my friend’s comments. I didn’t get a chance to see Ghostbusters in theatres (my wife adopted a puppy and my best friend started up a YouTube channel he wanted me to help him develop) but even after the film comes out and I’m disappointed or pleasantly surprised by it, I’ll stand by my argument. A lot of young men grew up watching the Ghostbuster’s movie with their mom and dads and created nostalgia around it, but so did plenty of young women who have grown up now and would like to share the film franchise with their own little girls.
A book like Faith doesn’t solve the nuanced problems facing millions of women in the workplace, nor does it resolve the amount of sexual assault that takes place in the United States Armed Services, nor does it provide a blueprint for fixing the fact that only around 50 women in the United States congress have to represent half of the nation’s population, but begin your pardon no book could do that. What Faith does is present a real woman, without gimmick or hype, who is in fact one of us: a nerd, a dork, a geek. For girls who grew up and weren’t cheerleaders, or beauty queens, or star athletes, for girls who simply wanted to hang out, play some D&D or watch Star Trek, Faith is a real hero because she does something more important than trying to solve all the problems in the world: she just tries to be a good person and have a little fun watching Stranger Things with her boyfriend.
A hero can’t save everything or everyone, but they can, in their own way, represent us in ways so that we realize we may not need heroes. We may find out we’re the hero we always wanted to be already.
While Stranger Things isn’t actually brought up in the graphic novel, in fact Faith was written at least a year before that show came out, I could still see Faith watching it because how could you not that show is amazing. Seriously. Watch it….Why aren’t you watching it? Stephen King likes it and he’s freaking Stephen King!
"arrow of time", 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Brief History of Time, A Brief History of Time: From The Big Bang to Black Holes, Abram Adams, Alan Moore, Back to the Future, Bender, Bender's Big Score, Book Review, clocks, Comics, Cube, Dave Gibbons, Divinity, Dr. Manhattan, evolution, Film, film review, Fourth Dimension, Futurama, geometry, graphic novel, H.G. Wells, Human evolution, Literature, Math, Novel, Perception of Time, Philosophy, Reality, Role of Science Fiction in society, Science, science fiction, Space, Stanley Kubrick, State of Being, Stephen Hawking, The Monolith, The Time Machine, The Time Traveler, Third Dimension, time, Time Travel, U.S.S.R., Watchmen
I’ve tried once to explore the fourth dimension, but only in writing. I was taking a creative writing course and riding the high of being one of the few top writers in the class. This wasn’t ego on my part, because if it hasn’t been made apparent at this point in my life my fatal flaw is my inability to sing my own praises. Whatever the case most of the students in the class would confide in me and tell me that they thought I was a great writer and the teacher seemed to support this sentiment, and riding that high I thought about Stanley Kubrick.
Kubrick is a bit of an acquired taste, and sometimes I do honestly believe some critics sing the man’s praises because they want to make other people think that they understand his creative ethos, but being a teenager I suffered the delusion that I would be a film director and so I began watching interviews with film makers who would often drop the man’s name. On a small tangent my desire to be a director shifted after reading Slash’s autobiography and so for a number of years I suffered under the delusion that I could be a rock star. This faded when I remembered I had little to no musical talent. Kubrick was a film maker that I enjoyed because his narratives were so eclectic. Looking at just few years he made in respective order: Paths of Glory, Sparticus, Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, and Barry Lyndon, and to put this in perspective he moved from a World War I epic to a gladiator rebellion, to a Pedophile capturing a young girl, to the Nuclear apocalypse, to a science fiction philosophy opera, to a dystopian nightmare, and finally to a period piece about an Irish peasant ascending to the British Nobility.
2001: A Space Odyssey is probably one of his best known films, though often because many people in the 70s got stoned and watched it with their kids. What they missed in their induced state was that in his own way Kubrick was attempting to do what I tried in my own small essay about how we tell stories.
Human beings exist in the third dimension, and if I can remind you of your brief high school geometry class the third dimension’s quality is that it allows figures to move through space. In the first dimension objects and organisms could only move to the left or right, whereas in the second objects could then move up and down left and right. The Third dimension allows objects and organisms to move forward and back and they do this by moving through space. Human beings exist and interact with a three dimensional reality, and it needs to be made clear this is a simplistic breakdown of a complicated philosophical, mathematical, and psychological problem. Many scientists turned philosophers have mused about our three dimensional reality, and looking to inspiration from science fiction authors, the next frontier seems to be to understand if it possible to break into the reality of the fourth dimension who’s defining quality and nature is time.
Steven Hawking, the noted theoretical physicist and part-time Simpsons character, explores this in his book A Brief History of Time. When I first read the book I was fresh out of high school and it should be noted that at the time I understood little if any of the actual text, however over time this changed. That’s a bad joke so I’ll move on. In a chapter dealing with wormholes, pockets of space in which it is believed human beings might, and a big emphasis on might there, be able to move through large stretches of the galaxy relatively quickly Hawking writes:
Because there is no unique standard of time, but rather observers each have their own time as measured by clocks that they carry with them, it is possible for the journey to seem to be much shorter for the space travelers than for those who remain on earth. But there would not be much joy in returning from a spae voyage a few years older to find that everyone you had left behind was dead and gone thousands of years ago. So in order to have any human interest in their stories, science fiction writers had to suppose that we would one day discover how to travel faster than light. (161-2).
It’s important to note that, while Hawking is an unapologetic science fiction fan even once appearing on an episode of Star Trek, the passages immediately following this quote explains why these writers’ descriptions of travels through space and time were rather inaccurate or else impossible. The problem of human beings entering or attempting to move through the fourth dimension is either plagued by the actual science, or the fact that actually passing into that dimension requires individuals who are willing to do so without concern of what they’re leaving behind. As such I look back to Kubrick, but before I do I look to H.G. Wells.
Hawking actually bothers to mention Wells at the beginning of the chapter from which I received the previous quote, and the reason for this is Wells’s small novel The Time Machine. The book is a slim narrative but contained within its pages is in fact some of the earliest inclinations of the science that men like Steven Hawking would write into reality. Wells, it should be noted, is often considered one of the “founding fathers” of science fiction, and while it should be noted that there were other writers writing into similar territories and ideas, Wells work boosted the aesthetic of science fiction into something concrete and often inspired future engineers and scientists. Looking at just the opening pages of The Time Traveler it’s incredible to see the man’s foresight:
“Can a cube that does not last for any time at all have a real existence?”
Filby became pensive. “Clearly,” the Time Traveler proceeded,” any real body must have extension in four directions: it must have length, breadth, Thickness, and—Duration. But through a natural infirmity of the flesh, which I will explain to you in a moment, we incline to overlook this fact. There are really four dimensions, three which we call the three planes of Space, and a fourth, Time. There is, however, a tendency to draw an unreal distinction between the former three dimensions and the latter, because it happens that our consciousness moves intermittently in one direction along the latter from the beginning to the end of our lives. (4).
The” arrow of time” is a concept that is explored even outside the studies of physicists and mathematicians for poets and writers have been relying on that damned symbol almost since the first arrow was painted on a wall. It should be noted that part of the reason for this is that the shape is incredibly phallic, but I don’t have the time to explain that all of history is just men measuring dicks.
The Time Machine made its first appearance in 1895 and, according to some, effectively established the genre of science fiction though this last point is debatable. What’s still incredible about the book is how well Wells managed to explain out the idea of dimensions in just one paragraph. Employing the “arrow of time” in order to convince his companions about his ideas concerning the fourth dimension, The Time Traveler, who is never named by the narrator thus launching him into the territory of archetype, manages to begin the first question: can man step out of his comfort in the third dimension in order to see his potential.
That last word has been chosen carefully as I get closer to my later conclusions.
But along with his observations of the abstract concept of time the Time Traveler also makes a fascinating observation about human beings:
“Well, I do not mind telling you I have been at work upon this geometry of Four Dimensions for some time. Some of my results are curious. For instance, here is a portrait of a man at eight years old, another at fifteen, another at seventeen, another at twenty-three, and so on. All these are evidently sections, as it were, Three Dimensional representations of his Four-Dimensional being, which is a fixed and unalterable thing. (6).
From here the Time Traveler makes his argument that it would be possible for man to break free from the “arrow of time” from which he is forever caught by his perceptions, and, given the supposed hypothetical conditions, almost anything could be possible, specifically time travel. Because this is the late Victorian period and science had only proceeded so far The Time Traveler produces the Time Machine, and it’s important to note how that dates the book, but not necessarily in a bad way. It’s through an external device or machine that man is going to be able to achieve his destiny and this idea of man riding a kind of time traveling vessel is not outdated for the Back to the Future movies proved that this concept is still alive and well. What changed over time is revealed in this second quote.
The Time Traveler notes that human beings are three-dimensional beings but that is only because they haven’t unlocked the ability to see and observe their true potential. This is actually a brilliant idea being expressed that, while it has enormous philosophical implications, seems to counter act the very necessity of a time machine. Simply put, human beings are Fourth-Dimensional creatures they just haven’t realized how to actually tap into that reality. Human beings typically perceive their existence like a three dimensional cube. They recognize the length, width, and girth of the physical space they occupy, but because they can only perceive time as an arrow moving through time they don’t recognize that they are actually able to be a four-dimensional cube, a shape that, in its true form is malleable and constantly regenerating itself. I don’t want to suggest that this is immortality, but the direction two science fiction narratives have taken seems to be just that.
I had no real intention of reading Divinity because before I saw the advertisement in the back of Faith Vol.1 I had no idea that it actually existed. The image of an astronaut, later revealed to be a cosmonaut, caught me because despite my trepidation I do actually enjoy science fiction stories they just have to be grounded in or around planet Earth or its history. I asked my friend Michael (one of the three Michael’s I know and talk to regularly) what the book was about seeing as how he is the go-to Valiant expert. His exact description was: “I mean, I liked it. If you ever watched 2001 and were like “man, this sure would be better as a superhero comic”, well, that’s Divinity in a nutshell.” Given the fact that I loved 2001: A Space Odyssey (though let’s be fair I really like the idea of it far more than the actual film) I was intrigued and so I bought the book a week later and devoured it in four days. The only reason it took four was because I tend to read books one chapter at a time per day; it helps me get through a lot of books.
Divinity is about a cosmonaut named Abram Adams who assigned a top secret task of being launched into space. The U.S.S.R., desperate to defeat the Americans launches Adams to the very edge of the galaxy and when he arrives at his destination after years of isolation and Cryogenic stasis he encounters an energy force, a plane of white light that some would call god and other might refer to as the ground of being, that enters his body and alters his consciousness. Abrams effectively becomes a god but what’s most important is the fact that the story is told is a splintered fashion. Rather than follow Adams and then show MI-6 sending in The Eternal Warrior and X-O Manowar to take him down, Matt Kindt writes the book so that events are taking place in the past, in the present, in the future, in individual’s imaginations, and in people’s memories all at the same time.
Abram Adams hasn’t just become just a superhero, his has accessed his fourth dimensional being.
Reading Divinity I was struck by how much I thought of the graphic novel Watchman and my favorite character from that book Dr. Manhattan.
Watchmen was published through the years of 1986 through 1987 in twelve installments, which is rather fitting given the clock imagery deliberately inserted throughout the book. If the reader has never read it before that’s a terrible shame because there really are few great books in existence and Watchmen most certainly fits that category. The graphic novel follows a group of superheroes in the year 1985 right after one of them, the sociopath ex-government agent The Comedian, is thrown from his apartment window and killed. From there the characters Rorschach, Silk Specter, Night Owl, Ozymandias, and Dr. Manhattan each in their own way try to discover who is trying to kill former superheroes and why, while in the background a nuclear war is looming against the U.S.S.R. and President Richard Nixon seems only to be baiting and encouraging it. There’s also a pirate comic book that’s being read throughout the text but that’s for another essay. While each hero has at least one issue dedicated to them, it was the Dr. Manhattan chapter that always intrigued me (Rorschach’s is really fun too, though I use the word “fun” loosely) because it’s written from his perspective after he retreats from planet earth to live on Mars. Dr. Manhattan is more or less a god and became so after he was working on a particle physics experiment that went horribly wrong and ripped every atom of his body apart. He eventually pulled himself back together and became Dr. Manhattan, but what’s most important about his character’s chapter is its narrative structure.
Like Divinity, Dr. Manhattan is experiencing the past, present, and future seemingly all at the same time and looking at just a few passages from the book it becomes clear that his perception of time far exceeds human understanding.
I should finally address my contester however, for they remind me that most people cannot or will not perceive anything outside their own dimension. What the point, or why should I care about books that are written about people outside of my own perception? It’s impossible for human beings to break free from the “arrow of time” and spending your life trying clearly will only leave you isolated or destroyed or alienated from society, so why not try and enjoy your life?
These are all excellent points, and to be fair I’m not sure I have a satisfying answer to them. Carpe Diem, or seize the day, may be a platitude but it’s one that leaves average people generally satisfied and happy with their lives. Human beings have yet to reach a point in their evolution so that they would be able to access the Fourth-Dimensional being that they are, and it’s likely that such a stage is hundreds, if not thousands, of years away anyway, but books and films like Divinity, The Time Machine, Watchmen, and even 2001: A Space Odyssey try to offer up ideas of how human beings might access that next level. For the most part it seems that humans will have to wait until a supernatural entity, whether it’s the black monolith or the white plane, arrives and bestows knowledge of being to them, but at least in the case of Watchmen and The Time Machine there’s an idea that, through their own devices, humans might make the next step themselves. Even if it is through technology, humans might be able to expand their awareness and being and that’s an important idea, because in many ways we’re already trying to do just that.
Steven Hawking ends A Brief History of Time with a thought concerning the future of physics, philosophy, and possibly that of mankind:
Up to now, most scientists have been too occupied with the development of new theories that describe what the universe is to ask the question why. On the other hand, the people who business it is to ask why, the philosophers, have not been able to keep up with the advancements of scientific theories.
He concludes then:
However, if we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question why it is we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason-for then we would know the mind of God. (191).
The purpose of science fiction is largely to ask questions either about the nature of human beings, or their future. While many have taken the opportunity to explore thought experiments and the more morbid conclusions concerning the future of humanity a few select have decided to question what if human beings could become more and explore a new dimension of being? A while the general conclusion is that the result of this experiment would result in alienation or some kind of self-destruction I would argue that that reaction is rooted more in those left behind than those moving forward.
The closest success human beings have made in understanding this new state of being is fiction, and that’s perhaps the most telling but also the most encouraging. Scientific enterprise depends upon imagination, and as more and more writers explore the notions of time travel and accessing new states of being, so too will scientists who will change our world in ways we can’t possibly even imagine.
Though if we ever get to the point where we start sending Bender back in time to steal precious masterpieces, we may have taken it a step too far.
While I was working on this review I found this essay on The New Yorker Website. Enjoy:
I’ve included links to three videos below. The first is the “star gate” sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey
The second link is the final three minutes of the film in which the astronaut Dave ascends to a new state of being:
I’ve also found a small documentary a YouTuber produced in which he explains the Monolith. This interpretation, as he notes, created a bit of a controversy because many fans loved the idea but certain film scholars didn’t. I’ve posted Part 1 here:
All Star Superman, Aquaman, Art, Back to the Future, Batman Arkham Asylum A serious House on Serious Earth, Blurb, Book Review, Comics, Cosmic Treadmill, fable, Flashpoint, Futurama, Geoff Johns, graphic novel, incest, narrative, story, The Flash, The Sandman, Time Travel, Watchmen
Whenever people talk about the hypothetical of going “back in time” it’s usually so that they can kill (or not kill) Hitler. The other hypothetical condition of time travel, based upon the Back to the Future series and Futurama, is usually incest involving either the mother or grandmother. Looking at both of these I wonder why nobody wants to go back in time and get drunk with Faulkner or get coffee with Voltaire, I mean that sounds like fun to me, but I guess you have to pick your time travel reasons for yourself.
This set-up provides a nice segway into Flashpoint, for while Barry Gordon doesn’t go back in time to pork his mother, he does so in the effort to save her. Spoilers.
I recently had the opportunity to read the graphic novel Flashpoint because I’m part of a book club that reads nothing but graphic novels, and with the release of DC’s Rebirth issue the topic of Flashpoint was on everybody’s mind, including out Big Cheese Mr. TJ Rankin. I was actually pretty interested in the book because, while I haven’t been reading as much superhero comic books lately, The Flash has always been a character I liked but never actually read. I missed the meeting when the group covered the first volume of The New 52 run, and independently I’d never actually read a book dedicated solely to his character. I liked him in Geoff Johns Justice League Origins, and I also appreciated his role Identity Crisis, but still there was no work that centered principally on Flash himself.
If the reader has never actually read Flashpoint the plot is not simple by any means. The story starts out with a narration by a character the reader is at first supposed to be The Flash. We find out later that it’s actually Thomas Wayne, the father of Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman. Barry Allen wakes up in police station where he works, but when he tries to run and hop into his suit he discovers he has no super powers, and that his mother is a live. Not only that but Superman is absent, Aquaman and Wonder Woman are fighting a war over who gets to control Europe, Cyborg is attempting to unify the superheroes to beat them back, Batman is really Thomas Wayne because it was Bruce who was shot by the gunman in Crime Alley, and that all of his memories of his previous reality are slowly slipping away as memories of the new world begin to replace them.
Now anyone outside of the regular superhero comics reading community will probably look at that plot synopsis the way they look at their mother or aunt who watches soap operas regularly and has to listen to them explain why Nicole is really the victim of Stefano’s mind control plot. The plot’s of these structures are similar because unless the viewer or reader has a history with these characters the plots seem outlandish or Kafkaesque (fancy-pantss word for overly complicated) and too be fair even I recognize that this description sounds ludicrous at first glance. To say that this book offers nothing of value however is to miss an important opportunity.
Flashpoint is not art in the way that Watchmen, All Star Superman, or Batman Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth is art. The way a friend of mine who owns the comic book store where our group meets up described it aptly as a “Popcorn film/book.” It’s not that the book is bad, in fact by comic book standards the story does everything it needs to and there is little weakness in the text. The conflict is the book is driven by plot alone and that keeps it from pushing into that strange and complicated terrain called art.
The way I break it down works thusly. “Stories” are narratives which serve the purpose of entertaining alone. They occupy our time for a period but the once they have finished the listener/reader/viewer then moves on with their life. “Fables,” “fairy tales,” “allegories,” and “myth” are narratives designed to teach. There is a didactic lesson or truth about the human condition that is taught through the narrative so that when the viewer/reader/listener has finished with the narrative they process the lesson of said narrative into their philosophies and world views. “Art” is a careful combination of this working pair. The reader may object that that may be a gross oversimplification of what “art” is, and in many ways they’re right. Art is expression and creativity which is subjective and there is nothing so dangerous as someone trying to bring objectivity into creative expression. Still the cultural products that last over time are those that offer up “lessons” about the human condition while also balancing some form of entertainment whether that be a rigid plot structure or else an abstract puzzle that pushes and challenges the reader/viewer/listener.
Flashpoint does attempt a kind of didactic lesson in its presentation, however the larger effort seems to be to entertain. The reader is supposed to be intrigued by this new universe which has been, as they discover during the climax, created by The Flash after he used the Cosmic Treadmill to go back in time and keep his mother from dying. Rather than focus on the Butterfly effect and explore the philosophy implied by the physics contained within the work, the writer Geoff Johns (a man who holds my undying respect for reminding the world why Aquaman was always cool) simply tries to show what would happen to the characters.
Flashpoint is a great story and I loved every moment of it but I can’t in good conscience call it art the way The Sandman series is art.
The reader may then offer their final rebuttal then: does it really need to be art? Everything can’t always be intellectually stimulating and entertaining. Sometimes you do just need a good story.
For once I’ll leave my reader’s rebuttal as is and agree. Sometimes a great story is all you really need, and Flashpoint definitely delivers just that.
Batman: The Animated Series, Cartoons and Romantic studies, Citizen Kane, Family Guy, H.G. Wells, I wandered lonely as a cloud, Jasper Fforde, Kubla Khan, Le Morte d’Arthur, Madam Xanadu, Olivia Newton John, Orson Welles, Ozymandias, Popular Culture, Romanticism, RUSH, Samurai Jack, Songs of Innocence and Expierience, The Eyre Affair, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Lamb, The North American Society for the Study of Romanticism, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The Simpsons, The Tyger, TV and Romantic studies, Watchmen, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Xanadu
This essay was originally published on The North American Society for the Study of Romanticism’s blog. The full essay can be read on their home page by accessing the link at the end.
There’s a scene in an episode of the animated series Samurai Jack where the Scotsman encounters an old man in the port who wishes him to tell him a tale. When the Scotsman asks what it is there’s a long pause before the old man cackles out, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner!”
The Scotsman then bellows, “Heard it!” and shoves him out of the way.
As a kid you recognize the dismissal as the base of the comedy and don’t dig too far into it. It’s only when you watch the show ten years later, because of course the cartoons you watched when you were a kid were better than the cartoons that exist today everybody knows that, you pause on that joke and, hopefully, still laugh. You get the context of the joke because your sophomore level English instructor had you read the poem and you get that it’s a play on the set up and…I’m ruining the joke aren’t I? Sorry about that.
I was going originally to write about John Keats’s To Autumn or Ode to a Nightingale, but I’ve decided to leave that for December for rhetorical reasons (assuming NASSR doesn’t fire me or Grad school doesn’t kill me, check back in in a month I promise it will be worth it). Since I saw I only had two weeks until my next post was due I thought it would be interesting to discuss popular culture and it’s response to the Romantics. Now the possibility for such an essay might at first be an in depth analysis to the cultural habit or re-imagining previous texts in order to build upon the shoulders of giants, not to mention establish an interest for young viewers so that there’s hope to become young readers. That’s the possibility, but not necessarily what I’m going to do here. I thought it’d be fun to just look through several examples of where we can find allusions to Romantic poetry.
Now because there’s so many great examples of references to the Romantic Period in Popular culture I don’t even know where to begin.
Let’s start with Family Guy.
TO SEE THE FULL ARTICLE FOLLOW THE LINK TO THE NASSR BLOG HOME PAGE HERE: