January 30 - Looking at the names I posted as "Dead Comic Book Characters" at the end of the last post, it struck me that many superhero origin stories prominently involve the death of a loved one. Ben Parker, The Waynes...heck, the entire planet of Krypton; it seems as though it takes a traumatic death to prompt someone to take truly extraordinary action (reaction?). I suppose it's commonly believed that to really deal with the feelings of helplessness and loss that accompany an untimely passing is difficult and life-changing, sometimes beyond peoples' coping abilities...and that's especially true for young people. Even if one has not yet experienced such a loss first-hand, just the thought of what it would be like to suddenly be "on one's own" can engender sympathy and fear. Add to that mix of powerful feelings a rage at the unfairness of it all, and anyone can imagine dressing as a bat to beat on "bad guys," or, in just slightly more extreme cases, becoming a "bad guy" oneself. It's curious to me that so many of our most famous fictional superbeings might have taken different paths if only they'd had a good grief counselor at just the right time. Of course, as characters, they were never truly meant to be "real" in their reactions anyway. If anything, they are meant to be "worst case scenarios" played out for entertainment purposes. Real people dealing with loss don't dress like bats because they have to deal with the real world. In the real world, people soon realize that no-one ever really recovers from unexpected loss. They just move on. In the real world, they carry the "bat" in their hearts.
Hmm. So, in light of my own sudden loss a few days ago, that all sounds rather dark and sad, but it was already on my mind when I chose the "Dead" theme at the beginning of the month. Circumstances (irony?) just have brought the subject into deeper focus. In the same way that one seems to hear nothing but love songs on the radio when in the crush of new romance, the shadow of loss seems to be everywhere when one is grieving. In fact, that seems to be part of what makes it "grief" rather than "sadness." With grief, everything becomes magnified through the lens of loss. Even innocent, seemingly unrelated things - like a crying baby, a single bird in a bare tree, or a burnt-out lightbulb - take on unexpected, existential meaning. That process of...well, I want to call it "enrichment," but that implies some sort of added value to such experiences, rather than a sort of darkening or deepening...that "whatever-it-is" then, inevitably, refocuses the grief inward, over and over, until it is either internalized and absorbed, or leaked out as tears or actions. Or all of the above. Or none of the above. There really is no one way to deal with grief. Hmm. One thing, then, that comic books have gotten right with the death-spurred super-origins is the emotional truths of terrible, unforgettable, unforgivable loss.
And, again, this may seem like a somber, perhaps even maudlin discussion in light of recent events, but it's not meant to be. The timing is just a weird coincidence. I mention that again because, upon review of what I've just written, I was afraid that people might worry about me. If that had crossed your mind, thanks for the thought, but I'm actually OK. No reason to be alarmed. In fact, on that note, why don't I just get back to my countdown of...
The WOMP-Blog's Biggest Stories of 2008
Number Two - IMNXQB!
Even though it's been more than twenty years since I was there, I find that my single year at The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art may have been the most influential of my life. Just the act of having a month-long discussion (in August) about those days brought back not only strong memories and emotions (some bad, most good), but reconnections with some of my former classmates (Joey Martinez and Dan Lietha) and peers (Asmund Berge). I also heard from XQBs from other eras, like Joe Moore, Alan White, and Kim DeMulder (who is now a prominent member of the JKS teaching staff). That was pretty cool. I hope it was interesting for WOMP-Blog readers, 'cuz it sure was nostalgic fun for me. Still, I feel like I cheated all of you a bit. While I talked all about the people I knew back in the good old days, I never told you about what has happened to all of them since 1985. Where are they now? Well, while it is by no means a complete list (and there's no way I could summarize twenty years in the lives of hundreds of people anyway), I offer below a handful of cool update-links for many of the people with whom I spent a lifetime in New Jersey one year...
Peers (other 1984-85 students not in my actual class):
So, I'd better get wrap this up. Next time, I'll post the biggest (WOMP-Blog) story of the year...but it might be a little late. The 31st is the day that I draw caricatures all night at the local Heart Disease and Cancer telethon. Wish me luck! Here are two days' worth of Dead Comic Book Characters of The Day - The Flash and Cerebus!
**ANOTHER WOMP-BLOG EXCLUSIVE** - I've talked about it often, but here below, on public display for the first time in decades, is my Kubert School assignment artwork featuring characters from The Wizard of Oz. Enjoy (?)!
(...and that's all there was...it's just a snippet)