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.
Copyright © 2012 Mark London Williams
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:
SEX AND THE RECENT SHOOTING HORROR
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?
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
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.
Mark London Williams wrote the Danger Boy time travel series,
and info on his work can be found at marklondonwilliams.com.
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.