March 31st, 2008

The Zombie

March of The Misconceptions

March 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, and 31 -  Let's do the Timewarp again!!  As I told someone recently, I've done little more these last few days than work at my dread "real" job, work on art commissions, and sleep.  And I'm still running late with those commissions.  Not that bad, but definitely not good, either.  Even so, I really feel like I have to wrap up "March" with some final Comic Book Misconceptions.  Here are some quickies...

"March 26" - Stan Lee is the devil.  I've heard it all before.  Supposedly, Stan is a manipulative jerk who'd throw his best friend in front of a speeding car if that would sell more comics and make more money.  Much of this seems to stem from what's been written - or assumed - about his relationship with Jack Kirby.  While Stan's no saint, I suppose, I think the truth is something closer to an observation that O.F.O.WOMP Kyle J. Bertelsen made many years ago.  He said that "Stan Lee is our generation's P.T. Barnum," and I think that's pretty much the most perfect comparison that could be made.  Barnum was a cunning exploiter, intuitive showman, brilliant entrepreneur, classic wit, genuine philanthropist, and an undeniably influential, larger-than-life American icon.  There are even parallels between Barnum's relationship with Tom Thumb and Lee's relationship with Kirby.  In both "partnerships," there were obvious issues of manipulation and lop-sided profit distribution, but not malice nor indifference.  No, Stan Lee isn't the devil.  At worst, he's Mephisto.

"March 27" - Comics are cheap entertainment.  Have you bought a new comic book recently?  Gone are the days when the true comparison could be made between modern comics and their ten-cent-cover-price ancestors.  How much could ten cents buy in, say, 1938?  A loaf of bread?  A gallon of gas?  I just bought a loaf of brand-name bread last night for $2.49 (which seemed exorbitant), and gas at $3.29 per gallon (which, you know, seemed like just the first step on the way to $4.00 or more per gallon soon), so $2.99 cover price comics seem to be within those same general parameters, but...but most of us aren't earning enough money to get all three, are we?  Not to mention that the "good old days" of comics coincided with the "bad old days" of lax child labor laws, which at least allowed kids to have their own meager discretionary income.  Today, paper carriers, newsstand operators, shoeshiners, and such are all adults...adults who need those jobs to live.  Any trickle-down that kids get is generally spent on other entertainments, like music downloads and video games.  And the price of comics seems ready to jump to $3.50 or $4.00 soon.  Cheap?  Not for me, at least.

"March 28" - Comic book movies stink.  C'mon; this is more of a comics geek complaint than a misconception, but those geeky complaints have filtered down to the general populace, who have accepted them as gospel.  While the average movie goer may have enjoyed the recent Spider-Man films (and the box-office takes seem to endorse that), it is still accepted wisdom that, because they "don't follow the comic," they stink.  First, I have to say that NO film is going to follow a comic 100% of the time.  If it did, it would be a reprinted comic book, not a movie.  The transition from one medium to another requires some shuffling and condensing, if only to convey the many important comics-story elements within a single motion picture.  Still, while this has angered fanboys and geekgirls worldwide, it isn't a sign that the films themselves actually stunk, just that they didn't live up to the expectations of obsessive shut-ins.  For example, I actually liked the Ang Lee Hulk movie (yes, I'm the one)...once I divorced it from my lifetime of Hulk fandom.  In fact, I found it to be a truly moving and powerful film (and, of course, I'd gladly watch a two hour film of crossword puzzle solving if it featured Jennifer Connelly).  If I got hung up on all of the ridiculously off-canon elements (like the, ugh...Hulk-Hounds), I too might join the throngs of Hulk haters.  Heck, even the absolute worst comics derived films (The Perils of Gwendoline, Judge Dread, Batman & Robin) are at least interesting.

"March 29" - Grandma doesn't know that old comics are worth money.  Are you kidding me?!?!  In this eBaycentric world, there is no human left alive who isn't under the impression that old comics are valuable.  Heck, I did a joke in my John Woe comic strip - twenty years ago - about the death of the last old man who didn't think that comic books were anything more than moldy, bound newsprint.  Today?  Try convincing someone that an old comic book isn't worth thousands of dollars.  I guess that naturally leads us to...

"March 30" - All old comic books are worth thousands of dollars.  Uh, no.  And people take it personally, like a slap to the face, when you break the news that their beat-up, coverless copy of Dotty Dripple #17 is worth maybe two dollars...and that's only to someone who really needs a copy to temporarily fill a gap in his or her collection.  A ten cent cover price does not necessarily translate to a four-figure pay-off.  Sorry.  Oh, and speaking of that...

"March 31" - DC Comics owns Superman.  Have you been following this?  I thought it was an April Fools joke when I read that a Federal Court Justice ruled that the heirs of Jerry Siegel are the legal owners of half of the copyrights to Superman...and that they have been since 1999!  I, along with comics fandom and the entire comic book industry, nearly fell out of my chair.  That Joe Shuster's family is poised to literally follow suit could spell curtains for The Man of Steel...or will it?  No-one seems to be too sure just what all of this means.  By law, I think the Siegel family actually only owns half the rights to the contents of Action Comics #1, from which all Superman comics are derived...but DC still owns the Superman trademark, without which no Superman comics can be legally made.  Does this mean that the Siegel and Shuster heirs could sue DC for copyright infringement?  Could DC prevent the heirs from capitalizing on the Action Comics material by legal injunction?  Will Superman soon become 100% public domain anyway?  And which Superman are we talking about?  Today's Man of Tomorrow looks only remotely like his 1938 namesake...and one Superman or another has died a few times anyway, so maybe his "rights" died with him...er, them.  And what about Superboy (separate or derivative?)...or Lois Lane (also in Action #1)...or Captain Marvel (absorbed by DC to settle a lengthy legal battle...in which Fawcett was sued by DC for infringing on the Superman copyright)...or any DC character descended from Golden Age creations?  Sheesh!  Talk about "The New Frontier."  We may be less than a generation away from a Justice League line-up that features "the big three" characters of Booster Gold, Blue Devil, and G'Nort.

Well, that retroactively wraps up March, I guess.  Writing about Comic Book Misconceptions was a strange idea, but I'm glad I did it.  When I did it, that is.  If I was adding a bonus misconception, I suppose it would be that "I can do it all."  This month has reminded me that, well, no...no I can't.  I didn't think that I'd bitten off more than I could chew, but I also couldn't have foreseen that I'd get so freakin' tired just chewing it.  As I always say to my seven-years-younger wife when she notes her own sudden aches and mysterious pains, "Welcome to old!"