Sean Collins pointed me in the direction of Zak Smith’s essay on Bronze Age superhero comics and DnD. It’s worth a read. I perhaps didn’t have the revelation that Sean did because this is kinda familiar territory for me. Smarter people than me, awhile ago, pointed out that “respectability will kill superheroes” and they’re right. Grant Morrison also said it when he said that “superheroes are inherently goofy.”
And yet they’re not entirely goofy. They’re entirely capable of addressing mental spaces and concepts that are too squirmy and uncomfortable to look at otherwise.
But then there’s the time that they’re simply gloriously, as Mr. Smith recalls in the quote “The future burns all around you, Amazon!” What the hell does that mean? Who knows? Why is Man-Thing a tentacle-faced monstrosity with blank ruby pools for eyes and Alec Holland is almost recognizably human? Same character, only not. What’s the psychic nerve that’s being drilled into, producing not pain but an ecstatic sense of wonder? And why is that largely being discarded.
A friend of mine, sitting in a very much smaller Grant Morrison profile panel at SDCC in 2004, I think, used the moment not to ask a question, but to make a statement. “I don’t know what I’m reading half the time, but I can’t stop reading it.” Now, I don’t know what’s going on maybe only ten percent of the time, but all the same, I can’t stop reading it. Brandon Graham’s work does something of the same thing. So does Paul Pope when he’s really hitting it. Why does everything else make so much damn sense and, consequently is often pretty dull (or callously manipulative in an effort to “mean” something)?