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Nexus Graphica
by Mark London Williams

Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
Shadow and Light
Le Donne
So Long, Peter Parker


Hi, all. For you regular / long-time readers (Rick and I were surprised to find we're heading in the sixth year of writing our "new" column), you know that we end each year with a two-part round-up of "ten best" graphic novels or comics -- things that have struck us most profoundly in the ever-more-quickly passing year that wound up in our rearview mirror.

And for a long time, the rotation was that Rick wrote the "first" column of each month, and I wrote the mid-month edition. But having switched those posting duties, relatively "recently," in terms of the NG timeline, I am now the part of the dynamic duo who files "firstly."

Meaning the new year's column is now mine. So where to begin? Do we need to start the year with a tradition, to bookend the one(s) we finish with? Should I predict the ten books I will like best by year's end, and see how the actual final list compares? (Actually, that could be kind of fun, if I really had the vaguest notion of all the things I'll wind up reading as we make our annual trek 'round the sun)

Instead, I had several different columns in mind, and I've decided to kick things off with -- well, not resolutions, exactly, but "tidbits." Touching on themes I'd like to expand on in the months to come, ideas for future columns (reader feedback welcomed and encouraged), and short reviews of recently launched series, or books I've just begun dipping my toe into.

So here -- in the manner of the Walter Winchell/ Herb Caen column styles of yesteryear -- is my three-dot road map to the year ahead for Nexus Graphica, or at least my side of it. Or, as we say in time travel circles, some clues to one various possible timelines:

That's not a sub-header I ever wanted to write, but of course the Newtown massacre occurred over the "holiday" stretch as well. I was wondering how to write competently about such horror in this humble column, after reading the first two issues of Bedlam (from Image comics; written by Nick Spencer, art by Frazer Irving). Rick and I are often scrambling to keep up, but I was stunned [SPOILER ALERT!] to find the series opening with the massacre of schoolchildren on a field trip. Of course the creators knew nothing of what lurked ahead, collectively, when they wrote and drew this. They were after a way to ratchet up their Joker-esque lead sociopath, in this case named Madder Red. So by going to a place that few dare to tread -- showing the killing of children -- instant horror, villainy, and shock value are achieved. And the comic's larger story -- about the ostensible rehabilitation of such a figure -- would then also weigh more heavily, one assumes. Yet it's hard to keep reading Bedlam after its particular opening, simply because the real thing has now been visited upon us. In a way, any statement made by the creators has been outstripped by real events, and the comic (so far) falls short of providing any kind of salve, balm or insight for our own raw feelings in the wake of such an event. How could it? But in fairness, there are some issues yet to go.

I was then thinking of combining such a discussion with what I had originally mused on writing about -- a frank look at sex comics. Starting the new year with some Eros seemed apropos (I don't mean the comics imprint), and a discussion could ensue about the degree to which comics can aid in, or fuel, arousement, fantasy, etc. Perhaps such a column would touch on why some topics or images can be "embarrassing" compared to what we usually discuss, viz. comics, which tend to be stories with violence, fighting, death, etc. You can bleed in a mainstream comics story, but you can't cum. Just like mainstream movies or TV. Why is that?

SHADOW AND LIGHT (Vol.1) BEDLAM Such thinking was occasioned by the arrival of two books from NBM, the reissued Shadow and Light (Vol.1) written and drawn by the artist Quinn, on their Amerotica label, and Le Donne, by the renowned Italian artist Liberatore, on their Eurotica label. I was wondering how I'd write about the now-retro hairiness of the genitals in Quinn's work (and how and why did body hair become so "retro" anyway?), or the successfully conveyed hungriness of the participants in his on-page fantasies (which are geared, primarily, to straight readers, and mostly men at that). or whether it's jarring to see a female nude by Liberatore if the style suddenly puts you in mind of his RanXerox character. I was wondering about all that when Newtown happened, and then I read Bedlam, and then I thought -- now what?

How do I write a comics column that takes all this in. Should I? Can I write about the need to touch, to love, to fuck, in a world mostly geared toward death (not only the obvious slaughter of children here, but the less reported slaughters, either directly -- drone attacks, say -- or in slow-motion, as with methane outgassing and climate feedback loops -- in this very modest corner? Is that what a comics column should even be about?

Then again, if comics aren't about something -- that doesn't mean they always have to be "heavy" -- why bother reading them? Fun? Maybe. But the distraction is also oppositional -- fun taking us away from what? And then isn't the stuff being taken away from also worth making stories about?

There is much more to say about all that, about the dance, everywhere, between Eros and Thanatos, and what the role of comics might be in that, but then I thought maybe it would be easier to write about:

The Amazing Spiderman #700 THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN #700
Writing about this presumed conclusion to Peter Parker's run as Spiderman might be easier than either testing the limits here with a bunch of R-rated words in a sex column, or trying to make sense of the embedded, chaotic violence in the American psyche. I could write about how [SPOILERS!] the Spidey team of writer Dan Slott and artist Humberto Ramos have completed their recent plot arc, so that dying Doc Ock has successfully switched bodies with Parker, who is the one who dies in Ock's body, while the bad guy inhabits Spiderman's living corpus. Except that too many of Parker's memories flood back, turning Dr. Octopus... well, good. More or less. Kind of. Making him, now, The Superior Spiderman, debuting this very month.

I could write, I thought, about how -- to my surprise -- I'm reading more Marvel in general these days, occasioned mostly by my also comics writing/reviewing son (apple? tree?) who sends me more recent Marvel single issues than I'd normally scare up on my own. So I could talk about the interesting Avengers re-boot, or the more interesting Thor re-boot, with its opening "God-killer" storyline.

Or I could write, as I've touched on before, about the whole notion of comics continuity, and maybe superheroes should die more often -- as they probably would in "real" life. And yet, weirdly, there's some resentment when a Peter Parker is knocked off, because, well, in that uncertain actual world we live in -- where real kids are really murdered, and climate change really will affect our lives, etc., -- perhaps we need to know that on that plane of ridiculous, comforting fantasy, Parker -- and Wayne, Kent, et al, -- are still there, when everything else is so up for grabs. So uncertain.

What is a comic for?

Well, I guess it can be for a little bit of everything.

More to come in the year ahead. Glad to see you here with us in Two-Aught-Thirteen.

Copyright © 2012 Mark London Williams

Mark London Williams wrote the Danger Boy time travel series, and info on his work can be found at The new year will bring, at least, the release of the conclusion to his "Danger Boy" time travel series, "Fortune's Fool." Meanwhile, his story "Greystone" recently appeared in the "Magical Mayhem" anthology. Mark gets Twittery @mlondonwmz.

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