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Nexus Graphica
by Rick Klaw

Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
Multiple Sclerosis
Legion of Super-Heroes
DC Archive Editions
DC Goes Ape
Herbie aka The Fat Fury
Stardust the Super Wizard
Holy Sh*t!: The World's Weirdest Comic Books
The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics
The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation
Recent Books of Interest

Holy Sh*t!: The World's Weirdest Comic Books by Paul Gravett and Peter Stanbury (St. Martin's Press) Holy Sh*t!: The World's Weirdest Comic Books
This fascinating and at times terrifying small format hardcover is a guide through the bizarre world of wacky comics including Steve Ditko's stark ode to Objectivistism, Mr. A. (1973), All Negro Comics #1 (created entirely by African-Americans in June 1947), the blasphemous underground comic Tales From the Leather Nun (1973), the pre-Brokeback Mountain unexpectedly manly love story Trucker Fags in Denial (2004), strange romance tales, and even public service publications. With over 100 entries, the graphically-intense surreal adventure makes for a near perfect bathroom book.

The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics edited by Paul Gravett (Running Press)
Long before Frank Miller created Sin City, crime stories infiltrated the graphic form. In this massive (479 pp) collection of 25 stories, The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics re-introduces contemporary readers to the extraordinary talents of Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Will Eisner, Dashiell Hammett, Jack Cole, Alex Raymond, and Jordi Bernet. Editor Paul Gravett has compiled one of the greatest anthologies of graphic stories ever produced, regardless of genre or subject. At $17.95 ($19.50 Can), the doorstop beauty is an incredible bargain as well.

The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation written by Jonathan Hennessey and Aaron McConnell (Hill and Wang) The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation
Just in time for the U.S. elections, Hennessey and McConnell's eminently readable, graphical history hits the shelves. Rather than just reprinting the original text, the duo wisely relies on a m effective combination of words and pictures to place the Constitution within its fascinating historical context. Not only do they explain the document itself, they also reveal the story behind many of the amendments as well as the struggles between the federalist and anti-federalist camps. This riveting, all-ages graphic novel clearly explains and relays the exciting origins of the defining document of the U.S. Government.

[Editor's Note: This column was written before the recent revelation of a neo-Naz assassination plot.]

The Happiness of Imagination

This morning a friend revealed his Obama presidency fears to me. While he stands firmly with the candidate, desiring a change from the Republican rush to ruin of the previous eight years, he fears the neo-Nazi racists of the extreme far right, fermented by the assertions of neo-cons and their new poster child, Sarah Palin, that the black, falsely-labeled Muslim, pro-choice, baby-eating (OK, I made that one up), Barak Obama and his "terrorist" friends will destroy the so-called "real" America of the pro-life, gun-toting, evangelical Christians. My friend worries that shortly into Obama's term, one of those nutcases will assassinate the president, and plunge the U.S. into decades of political and civil strife. This unlikely scenario lies beyond my friend's control, yet it paralyzes and consumes him.

I understand the instinct to freeze when confronted with the overwhelming. I encounter a similar situation every day, albeit without the additional pressure of a potential disaster some months away.

Every morning when I wake up, my left side feels numb1 from the tips of toes to the top of my head. I see double: two images at a roughly 45 degree angle. As my day progresses, overwhelming fatigue joins the party.

One day nearly sixteen years ago, my morning began with an unexplained numbness on the balls of my feet. Within two days, I had lost feeling along my entire left side all way to the middle of my chest. A few weeks later, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS).

MS, a chronic auto-immune disorder, afflicts some 2.5 million people worldwide. My white blood cells view portions of my myelin sheath (the covering over the nerves) as a hostile invader and attempts to destroy it. As the sheath heals from the attacks, scar tissue impedes the flow of information among the nerves, causing various neurological symptoms. While there is currently no cure, several drugs exist to slow the progression of the illness.

Most days I manage the MS and my accompanying anxiety quite well but on those occasions when that everything overwhelms me, I really on a long trusted method. I turn of my computer, ignore the phone and TV, and read super-hero comics. As a child when I felt ill or, more commonly, got hurt I took solace in comic books.

One of the first series I relied on, Nova, or The Man Called... as the covers proudly proclaimed, related the adventures of the teenage Richard Rider after he acquires his power from a universal protector. Basically a cross between Spider-man and Green Lantern, the series lasted for 25 issues, and the character has recently developed a cult following. I read those issues until the covers fell off. I eventually replaced the entire run with newer copies, which I still own and re-read on occasion.

One of the earliest teenage super-hero groups, the Legion of Super-Heroes (LSH) premiered in Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958), and blazed a path for popular creations such as Spider-man and the X-Men. I first encountered the Legion while vacationing at twelve in Mexico with friends when I discovered a tattered issue for sale cheap (1 peso) in a junk shop. Little did I know that I would need some comfort before the trip ended.

Twelve year old boys eat like dogs, always ravenous and often not stopping until they get sick. The morning after I bought the comic, we ate at an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. For whatever reason, I consumed the equivalent of two dozen eggs. I must have visited the buffet ten times. Ever eaten 24 eggs? I recommend against it. To this day, I have never been that sick. I spent most of the rest of the day bent over a toilet or groaning in bed. Thankfully, the LSH was there to see me through it.

Eventually, I collected every Legion comic and appearance from 1958 through 1990, when I finally lost interest in the series. I own the first seven hardcover DC Archive Editions, which take the characters through April 1968, and the remainder as individual comics.

Goofier super-hero adventures remain among my favorite distractions. Guaranteed to offer comfort for many years, the recently released DC Goes Ape collects many of the publisher's finest simian-featuring, super-hero tales of 1959-1999. Giant apes with Kryptonite-vision, nefarious mind-controlling intelligent gorillas, super monkeys, living beast bombs, mod simian criminal bosses, outer space gorillas, Shazam chimps, and brain transplants abound throughout this strange journey.

The bizarre adventures of the Richard E. Hughes and Ogden Whitney creation, Herbie aka The Fat Fury, with his power-wielding lollipops and skewed vision of reality, transported me from the realities of my mundane, worrisome existence. Speaking of different views, the very unusual artistic perspective of creator Fletcher Hanks and his the superhuman hero, Stardust the Super Wizard, engaged me in gravity-altering, head-shrinking tales of vengeance.

This happiness of imagination allows me to overcome my physical limitations. The ensuing freedom actually empowers my body and my overall quality of life. So the next time you feel the urge to laugh at someone who is reading some extremely goofy comic, remember things are not always what they seem.

1 The numbness feels like I'm wearing a rubber suit. I can feel pressure and temperature changes, but not light touch.

Copyright © 2008 Rick Klaw

Rick Klaw produced four years of the popular monthly SF Site column "Geeks With Books", and supplied countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications including The Austin Chronicle, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Moving Pictures RevolutionSF, King Kong Is Back!, Conversations With Texas Writers, Farscape Forever, Electric Velocipede, Cross Plains Universe, and Steampunk. MonkeyBrain Books published the collection of his essays, reviews, and other things Klaw, Geek Confidential: Echoes From the 21st Century.

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