A Sense of Doubt blog post #1391 - It's About Family: If extraordinary, add the ordinary: POP!
In reading an article on Incredible 2 in Entertainment Weekly, I was struck (Eureka! An Epiphany!) by a quote by Samuel L. Jackson.
"Ordinariness of who you really are is as interesting as this super thing you can do," Jackson insists. "These are movies about a real family with real family problems. Being a superhero doesn't put food on the table. You have to do something else to be part of real life."
But the comics for which I have enduring love are all families: Fantastic Four, Teen Titans, the Legion of Superheroes, the Avengers, The Uncanny X-men.
And it's that Chris Claremont rule that Marvel often forgets. After the X-Men have been romping out in space fighting the Brood for six issues, then show them at a picnic playing Baseball. They need R&R and we need a break from the cosmic diaspora.
The best comics do both at the same time. They build the family stuff and the relationships while keeping the action high, during the epics, and then showing down time in between.
Like this classic:
The extraordinary fits itself around the edges of the ordinary. Because Reed Richards has to (or at least wants to) bathe and shave. But who knew the Thing needed to scrub his rocky hide? Well, we did as of this splash page by Stan Lee and the GREAT John Buscema for Silver Surfer #5 published back in 1969.
In fact, for many fans (all fans?) it may be the ordinary activities that we can relate to best. I have not fought the Brood in space and faced down the planet-eating majesty of Galactus, but I shower every day and I have played a few games of backyard Baseball.
Besides, fans like to endlessly debate things like who hits a home run father the Hulk or the Thing?
How different would a game of Baseball be by the X-Men with some or all of them using their powers?
And here, thanks to Samuel L. Jackson (Thanks, man, you're a mensch), I have hit on the thing that had me stymied for a series of books that I am writing called POP!
For this task I am drawing inspiration from Terry Pratchett's DISCWORLD novels (of which I have read about 20) and various comedies and parodies that I like, holding myself to be a bit less silly than Monty Python or Mad Magazine and yet both parody the superhero genre and the world around us in terms of politics, culture, consumerism, and mass media.
And yet, I have not made much progress in the years since I conceived the idea. Partly, the slow progress is due to time: work, career change plans, going to school, married and family life, and more have not always lent me the time I want for writing. Even this blog, which was supposed to galvanize my fiction writing -- so much so that I years ago thought about releasing Pop! in monthly or even weekly episodes on this blog -- has become more of a main activity, one that I enjoy immensely and need for self-care, but one which does not always allow me the time to produce very much (or any) original content.
And yet, when I did spend time on Pop! I felt like my process was not yet yielding the results I wanted. I had chosen a comic to use a basis for parody -- THE LAST GALACTUS STORY -- and my process was to rewrite it with an eye on satire and then once I had a core plot banged out, I would dress it up with tinsel and garlands, trick it out with a subwoofer and some chrome hub caps to make it less like the original more of my thing.
It's a strong foundation, and I have a lot good ideas and some good stuff written, but something has been missing.
What's missing is a focus on the ordinary, which is also a staple of the Discworld books.
And then Samuel L. Jackson reminded me of how important the ordinary is when juxtaposed with the extraordinary.
In the 1990s, I made a major push (major for me) to start publishing comic books with an idea that I called Night People, an idea from my friend Steve Curl about people who come just at night, which to me seemed to be about the UNDEAD and the classic movie monsters that I love so much.
Since Seinfeld was big at the time, my idea was to do a comic about class monsters "doing nothing," much like Seinfeld promoted itself as a show "about nothing." I wrote a first issue script and a Bible for the series. I worked with an artist, and we started the thing, hit some conventions, generated some interest, collected some emails and postal addresses for a mailing list (this is 1994-1995 after all), but the work fizzled. My teaching work ramped up as I took on extra classes while my freelance writing career really took off and I was writing for reference books, newspapers, and magazines.
But I liked the idea, I still do. Not to ape Seinfeld note for note, I would mix up the formula, but the dialogue rich discussion of the little things of life with snappy comebacks and amusing anecdotes intrigued me. It's definitely something to think about with POP!
And then there's the problem that superheroes are already so chimerical and surreal that they are almost parodies of themselves anyway and in fact sometimes the comics ARE parodies of themselves. But that's a conundrum for another time.
For now, I renew my support for what I love best about comics: the sense of FAMILY.
And along with the bonus content imagery, here's some bonus content thoughts on this book series from my journals in which I free-write ideas.
SOME POP! NOTES
I think of POP! As a kitchen sink kind of thing. I want to pack in as much as I can and amp it all up for comic effect, which is why using THE LAST GALACTUS STORY as a basis for the first POP! Series is a great idea.
I was reminded of this last night as I was reading Charles Stross’ Accelerando: (bottom of page 227): “...the phones on the front desk are already ringing with inquiries from attorneys, fast-food vendors, and a particularly on-the-ball celebrity magazine...” And this reminded me that the media machine’s gears spin and churn all the time. There’s no pause for the system that never sleeps. This is the world of POP! It’s total immersion in AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH. It’s a boiling pot of everything and the kitchen sink, which is what is perfect about use of the Galactus story as a spoof. I need to tour the entire POP! Universe.
In reading my new book from the Church of the Subgenius, Revelation X, The Bob Apocryphon, I came across a list on page 116 that intrigued me. It’s a list of near-future prophecies, some of which are just silly, like “As a backlash against animal rights fanatics, Cruelty Plus^tm products introduced.” And though that’s funny, it has no ring of truth. But others caught my eye, especially “Definite link between eating disorders and F-Rays (TV) established. Legislation passed requiring video viewing permit for all citizens over twenty.”
It was the “video viewing permit” that caught my attention. What would the world be like that required a permit to be entertained, to watch TV?
|Legion of Super-Heroes celebrating Christmas. Art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.|
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