March 21 - Heya! Well, as I sit by the window, looking out at the snow storm that is covering our first full day of Spring with a new, white layer of this-is-still-Wisconsin, I realize that I owe you all some more of the oh-so-popular Comic Book Misconceptions. Some more days have passed without WOMP-Bloggerings, so I suppose I should get back to it. Hmm. Well, here's what I had intended to post on...
"March 14" - Batman is/isn't a superhero. Ugh! This is one of those arguments that has for decades tormented the comic book geek within me. On the one hand, there is the public consensus that Batman is, indeed, one of the two or three most recognizable "superheroes" ever. On the other hand is the Nerd Nation view that, because of his lack of extrahuman abilities, he is, instead, a "masked adventurer" or something along those lines. Of course, I've already argued earlier this year that being a multi-millionaire is very similar to having a sort of superpower (remember?), but, beyond that, comics geeks have long held that, by some imagined technicality, Batman is not a superhero, just a super hero. And I've been on both sides of this argument over the years. As a kid, a team of NASA scientists couldn't dissuade me from the belief that Bats was a superhero. By college, I held adamantly to the opposing view. Now, older and w...well, older, I feel that Batman is a superhero. I know, I know...this just opens the "super" door to folks like The Shadow, Tarzan, or even Luke Skywalker, which is going to make comic book purists flip-out, but hear me out. Just as has happened to other words, the definition of "superhero" has changed over the years. Although I'm not absolutely convinced that the title originally was meant only for characters who had powers and fought evil, I think that it's a fair statement to say that "superhero" now means something slightly different. So, yes, both misconceptions are right, and both are wrong. Weird, huh?
"March 16" - Comic book fans are all guys. This is another one of those things which has become less true over time, but it was never even 75% true anyway. Heck, one of the most famous of all comics fans ever is the fabulous Comics Buyer's Guide matriarch, Maggie Thompson. She's not a guy. Speaking of fabulous women, comics fanship has included everyone from Brooke Shields to Hillary Clinton. The male-centric misconception is particularly upsetting to female comics fans themselves. Comic book blogger Karen Healey, of the appropriately named Girls Read Comics (And They're Pissed), wrote a bit on this subject last month (see that HERE). Anecdotally, I can add that, based on the comic book conventions I've attended recently, it may even be true that the slight majority of comics fans are girls.
"March 19" - Comic book fans are all nerds. Call them nerds, geeks, spazi, whatever. For at least forty years now, they have been the publicly perceived faces of comic book fandom. I readily admit that I have done little, personally, to dispel this misconception. I couldn't! With my awkward mannerisms, ever-slipping eyeglasses, goofy social skills, and enthusiastic embrace of all things fantasy and science-fictiony, I am a living embodiment of the classic comic book nerd. So, too, were my first comics-related friends, including Brent Frankenhoff and Bill Waite (sorry guys, but I calls 'em as I sees 'em). In fact, at my first Chicago Comicon, in about 1982, Bill and I laughed aloud as we saw hundreds of alternate versions of ourselves wandering the show floor, right down to hairstyles and even the same clothes! Today, though, it's almost hip to be a comics fan (almost). At the last Chicago comic book show I attended, old-school geeks were in the minority. Instead, hipsters, Emo kids, models, and other cool people swarmed the floor. Look at comic book devotees Samuel L. Jackson and Nicholas Cage. These are pretty cool comic book fans. Maybe they once emerged from some sort of earlier, geeky fanboy pupa stage, but no-one now could call them "nerds."
"March 20" - Periodical comic books come out monthly. Some do...for a while. Many aren't even supposed to be monthly, like the weekly 52 and Countdown to Final Crisis. Others, though...well...let's just say that the ideal is a monthly schedule. Considering the number of people involved in what is essentially a creative collaboration, it's a wonder that they ever hit the stands when they're supposed to. I guess that's why they're called periodicals.
And that brings us to tonight's misconception...except that, between the "March 20" above and now, I have nearly cut my finger off! ACK! I was opening a can of cat food, when the razor-sharp lid sliced deeply into my right pinky finger, basically lopping off the top of the last knuckle! There was blood everywhere as I frantically tried to reassemble the tattered pieces. AND IT HURTS! EEEYOW!! Now, with a rudimentary bandage blotting the gory pulp that was once part of my drawing hand, I want to wrap this up quickly. So, that in mind, here's your Comic Book Misconception of The Day - A comic book artist's "style" is a conscious decision. As far as I've been able to tell, the individuality and specialized uniqueness of a cartoonist's style is 10% deliberate, and 90% happenstance. As well as being a mash-up of other styles and influences, what comes out of an artist's head and onto paper is often more a natural extension of life experience. For example, Ross Andru had some sort of unfortunate eye problem that caused him to draw lopsided (he'd often have to flip his work over, ink a corrected version on the back with the help of a lightbox, then flip it back again to lightbox the correction over his original drawing). William Messner-Loebs lost his right arm to cancer when he was a baby, so his artwork has a unique look that is, no doubt, reflective of that. These are, perhaps, extreme examples, but they serve to illustrate that all artists have their own "things" to deal with (some physical, most not), which naturally affect their work. Right now, I dare say that my pinky-trashed hand, and the brain ultimately attached to it, would draw in a manner quite different than they did an hour ago. I guess I'm about to find out, too, because I have to get back to it. See ya tomorrow (if infection doesn't get me first!).