Thursday, July 10, 2014

SILENCE DAY


“I have come to sow the seed of love in your hearts so that, in spite of all superficial diversity which your life in illusion must experience and endure, the feeling of oneness, through love, is brought about amongst all the nations, creeds, sects and castes of the world.

In order to bring this about, I am preparing to break my Silence. When I break my Silence, it will not be to fill your ears with spiritual lectures. I shall only speak One Word, and this Word will penetrate the hearts of all men and make even the sinner feel that he is meant to be a saint, while the saint will know that God is in the sinner as much as He is in himself."

Avatar Meher Baba

54 comments:

  1. Rick here. JM, it's time for me to move on from PS, as a cancelled series (but not your newer stuff). Nonetheless, I thought I had figured out where you were going. So while I am not looking for spoilers,... here are my thoughts. I tried to follow "writer's rules" by sticking to character limitations and arcing concepts (e.g., a character's fate is pre-determined; the way it is to occur can be changed).

    PS is not the betrayer of Judas. One of PS's roles is to act as a catalyst allowing the Presence to personify his divine aspects. PS did it with Jesus, Spectre and Chris. But in the case of Jesus, he was not permitted to complete his work because the Presence had previously decided that Jesus had to die. PS saw that his work was not going to be completed, had the equivalent of a nervous breakdown, and decided he was Jesus' killer. He then withdrew into his shell. Eventually, the Presence decided it was time to use PS again, see if time had healed him, to help "fix" him, and test him. He first had PS create the Spectre. That went a little badly, because the Spectre thinks he's the wrath of God instead of the hand of divine justice. So, the Presence waited a while longer. He then tested PS, who passed the tests by being willing to be dam'ned for eternity; be obliterated by bringing back Dr. Light, and deciding that Chris should be brought back ("a wise choice"). Chris Esperanza means "Chris[t] Hope", the new redeemer. By bringing back Chris, and having him "work" properly, the Presence has decided that PS is spiritually sound again. PS doesn't get this yet, and he must now overcome his personal demons--undeserved guilt. This leaves PS plenty of time to do other things he is meant to do, like acting as mankind's conscience, while his true origins remain unknown.

    One completely unknown question is why someone my age is doing this. I guess the little kid in all of us never goes entirely away. Rick

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    1. I can't get into the details, Rick, but some of what you hit on here is very much in line with what I was hoping to do. Some of it is off the mark (but very interesting nonetheless).

      As for why you're doing this? Well, you wouldn't be a comic book fan if you didn't have an open heart, an active imagination and a mind that likes to explore the universe in all its varied forms. Am I right?

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    2. I figured some unknowable part of it would be off the mark, but I was hoping I would get somewhere close. Nevertheless, PS really should move away from the strict Judas angle. It's too much of a turn-off for a lot of people. I will hazard a guess, however, that the Question is a better being than he appears to be.

      I am never one to refuse a pat on my own back, so you are absolutely right about what you wrote. :)

      With that said, I think one reason that people move away from comics is that they learn that life is a lot more complicated than it seems and they want to find solutions to what they find. But, putting in too much of real life into a comic can be uncomfortable for those who don't face life very well. It's a tough balance.

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    3. Well, if you're talking about super hero comics, perhaps that's true—but we're dealing with an art form that can tackle life in all its complexities. Of course the audience for those stories isn't necessarily the super hero audience, but I think there are plenty of people out there who walk in both worlds.

      That said, I totally get your point!

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    4. I'd say comics are better equipped to deal with life's complexities than people give them credit for.

      Comics are perhaps the world's most compressed storytelling medium, and as such, force readers to 'fill in the gaps' between panels. We instinctively jump from one panel where an ax murderer stands behind Batman grinning to the next where Batman has ducked and the axe is in the wall. We do it so often we don't even think about comics train us to fill those spaces, which is why comics readers are (generally speaking) such great critical thinkers.

      --David

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    5. Good points, David. Limiting what comics can do is like limiting what movies or novels can do. It's just a FORM of storytelling...what we can do with that form is limitless. That said, I think there are limits to what the mainstream superhero comic can directly tackle. Doesn't mean we can't have these things as interesting subtexts, we can certainly bend the barriers—but the genre can bend just so far before it breaks.

      This from the guy who's written mainstream stories about everything from sexual abuse to politics to the nature of God!

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    6. I get what you're saying, JMD. I'd argue, for instance, that while Denny O' Neil's Green Arrow/ Green Lantern run was great for conversation, it wasn't very good for its heroes. Some would say that's because a superhero book isn't big enough to sustain serious political discussion, but I'd reverse the argument and say the politics were too small to hold Green Lantern's philosophy.

      --David

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    7. That book was so much of its time. It clearly wasn't aiming for subtlety...but it had such energy, such enthusiasm, and we hadn't seen anything like it before.

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    8. For me personally, it's the mystical stuff like SWAMP THING, TOMB OF DRACULA, and HOUSE OF MYSTERY that really embody the best of that era. But I'm not as well read in the 70s as I could be!

      --David

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    9. SWAMP THING and ToD were classic...and real groundbreakers. But the 70's had so many incredible seres: MASTER OF KUNG FU, Kirby's NEW GODS books, Thomas-Smith CONAN, Jim Starlin's WARLOCK and CAPTAIN MARVEL, just about everything by Steve Gerber, Englehart's DOC STRANGE, BATMAN and JUSTICE LEAGUE...and others. As you can see, most of those aren't superhero books. They're more mystical and cosmic and pushing the barriers of mainstream storytelling.

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    10. I love Englehart's work, especially Batman! But I'm also a big fan of his Cap stuff, which seemed a better fit for politics than Green Lantern. But I have my own biases coming at these stories not in the 70s but much more recently.

      --David

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    11. Oh, yeah: I forgot about the CAP stuff. What a wonderful run! And the always-amazing Sal Buscema did a superb job on those stories.

      God, the 70's were a great time for comics.

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    12. "I'd say comics are better equipped to deal with life's complexities than people give them credit for."

      I don't think I agree with this. Where I think comics excel is in their ability to take a single or small group of ideas and use the dramatic emphasis of art and timing to force the reader to focus on them. Let's say Superman decides to help a charity by demolishing an old building. There is no way that a comic looks at all the ramifications of this act of kindness: impacts on workers who lost the ability to make money doing the work, the risks of air-borne asbestos, the risk of flying debris hurting people, the violations of building and zoning regulations, the list goes on. Books and movies convey more information and are better at being subtle. But, any one of those after-effects can become the whole focus of a comic story line while the writer pushes everything else into the background.

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    13. You're focusing solely on superhero comics, Rick, and, as noted, comic books are so much more.

      At the same time, I think that pop culture can deal with any issue. Can we look at it from every angle? No. But does a movie? A novel? Even the news doesn't do it (in fact, in some cases, the news, so-called, does the worst job of all).

      In the end, I think that fantasy and science fiction works best in metaphor—TWILIGHT ZONE being the perfect example of a show that dealt with every issue imaginable through the power of metaphor and symbol. But the comic book FORM is unlimited and can do as good a job as any art other art for; and, perhaps, in its intimacy and immediacy, it can do even better.

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  2. (3 of 3)(Rick)

    I remember the 1970's when it happened, and frankly it wasn't that great a time. There was a lot of experimentation, but there were also a lot of cancellations. And, some of those cancellations were really well deserved. Remember the DC Implosion? The list of cancellations is pretty high--40 percent of their titles. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DC_Implosion#1978_cancellations_unrelated_to_the_DC_Implosion.

    I think what saved the industry were a new Dynamic Duo: the Superman movie and the X-Men.

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    1. There are always cycles when sales tank, Rick. The 90's crash is another example and, quite frankly, sales now are nothing to shout about. In the 80's at Marvel, any book that dipped below a hundred thousand was on the chopping block: most books now are far below that. Only the higher cover price that's helping.

      Sales aside, the 70's was one of the most magical and creative times for mainstream comics and fed the creative expansion of the 80's. For me as a reader, the 70's were Comic Book Heaven.

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  3. I seem to recall Jim Shooter saying that the only thing that saved Marvel Comics was getting the Star Wars license.

    I love the weird and wonderful stuff from the 70s, though I'm not that well read in them. But it's strange and sad that superhero comics had to be at their weakest for books like that to thrive. And it seems like they all fell apart when Shooter perfected the superhero comic in the 80s. Shooter took mainstream heroes to a new level without sacrificing what made them great in the first place, and Hollywood is just now catching up to what he always knew.

    --David

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    1. Shooter was they person who opened the door for me at Marvel and I learned a lot from him. A very smart., hugely talented—and, yes, often controversial—guy.

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    2. Shooter is, in my humble opinion, the greatest editor-in-chief Marvel ever had. He understood the storytelling and the business side of things, and I think having one foot in both worlds is what made him so effective and controversial.

      To creators, he was often "The Man," the face of corporate politics, and to corporate accountants he was the crazy dreamer trying to sell Hollywood on superhero films when everyone knew Superman was a fad and no one wants a Spider-Man movie...

      I've also heard that Marvel wasn't run like a business in the 70s, and one could walk into their offices and find writers smoking pot and drinking in the halls. I'm not sure how true that is, but I can see why such a dramatic shift in culture would lead to conflict. I mean, when some guy in a suit tells an uncompromising ar-teeest in a French beret that he's got to take his joint to the break room, things get ugly by the time Secret Santa rolls around!

      (I hope it will be noted that I take everything I've heard with a grain of salt and am having a bit of fun with it...)

      --David

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    3. I have NEVER heard ANYTHNG about people smoking pot and drinking in the halls of Marvel. I can imagine something like that happening once and the mythologists out there blowing the story up to ridiculous proportions!

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    4. And keep in mind that Stan was still in New York in those days. I can't see him putting up with anything like that. Ever.

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    5. The account comes from Sean Howe's book MARVEL COMICS, THE UNTOLD STORY. Here's the relevant excerpt which I found at http://grantland.com/features/an-excerpt-sean-howe-marvel-comics-untold-story/

      "Roy Thomas’s hands-off, see-what-sticks approach had ushered in Marvel’s most unpredictable — and often downright subversive — era. Young creators, eager to refract the superhero world through a prism of boomer values, kept parading through. 'It wasn’t a corporate environment,' said one former Cadence Industries lawyer who’d occasionally visit the offices. 'I remember stepping over people sitting in the hall, smoking pot, ‘getting inspiration.’ "

      So there you have it, JMD, and really, why would a lawyer ever lie? :)

      --David

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    6. Right! And we all know that, just because it's in a book, it HAS to be true! : )

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    7. In defense of my fellow lawyers, you ought to hear some of the crap which our clients privately tell us and insist it's the truth. Then, we have to come up with a legal argument based on it.

      By the way, yes, there are some dishonest ones, but it's less than you might imagine.

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    8. We were just having a little fun, Rick! You know how it goes: nobody likes lawyers until they need one!

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    9. That's okay; I wasn't offended.

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  4. Comics, of course, cover more. Look at Maus. My son has it on his required reading list in school. Or, consider American Splendor. In College, I had a course which used a comic book format for Latin to teach one of the writings of Plautus (the source for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum). But, what's so bad about that kind of company? Different media have different advantages, that's all.

    I would agree with you that comics do an excellent job at intimacy and immediacy. Let me add that they are better at permitting the reader to set his own pace. With a book, a reader can read various sections quickly or slowly, but there are no real indicators of what is coming up next. With a movie, a viewer has to pretty much accept the director's pace, but, the viewer has a good idea of what will happen immediately afterward (not the whole story, just the next few minutes). Comics let a reader speed up or slow down, while also cluing the reader in to the next few events. That lets different readers create their own "mini-stories" by focusing on specific elements. Rick

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    1. And let's not forget Will Eisner's amazing body of work, Rick. A CONTRACT WITH GOD opening my mind in so many ways when I first read it back in the 80's.

      Good point about the pacing: It's a unique, and powerful, art form that, in many ways, has yet to be fully untapped.

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    2. Glad we settled that so quickly, JMD. Creation Point: where controversy comes to die! :)

      Great points on the strengths and weaknesses of the superhero genre, Rick. I'm not sure I have anything of worth to add...yet!

      --David

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  5. I once had a dealing with Shooter, and he earned my respect. I had come up with an idea for a superhero which I sent him. He was kind enough to send me back a personal letter. While he declined any interest, he told me I had created the ultimate Marvel superhero. I always appreciated that effort. Rick

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    1. It's amazing, and heartening, how a small act like that, reaching out directly instead of sending a form letter, can have such a profound effect on someone.

      Jim really took me under his wing in my early days at Marvel: even before I was "officially" aboard, he gave me several interesting jobs, including one that found me working in Stan Lee's office for a couple of weeks, while Stan was in California. Talk about Geek Heaven! I should really blog about that one of these days.

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  6. I read A Contract with God when it came out (I bought one of the limited edition signed copies--I hope it's still in good shape).

    Obviously, it was ground-breaking. It was the first graphic novel, and a really personal exploration by the author of a subject not brought to modern readers. I thought the pacing was a little slower than it should have been--and he was the master of that subject, but, it has been a long time.

    The one thing I did not like was the page size. Some of the scenes had great emotional impact which the small pages did not do justice (but hey, paper does cost money). Rick

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    1. A signed CONTRACT WITH GOD? I'm sure you treasure that, Rick.

      For me, CWG is as perfect a graphic novel as has ever been done. And Eisner remains one of the most inspiring figures in the history of the medium.

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  7. On a more light-hearted subject, who came up with the design for Asa when she isn't occupying a human being?

    I can't decide whether the model was a Giant Anteater wrapped in a stainless steel samurai warrior's armor or whether it was a tribute to Cerebrus the Aardvark. At first, I was leaning toward Cerebrus, but those hands would make great tools for digging out African termite nests. Rick

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    1. Demon-Nurse was designed by Mikel Janin. one of the most talented artists working in comics today.

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    2. Even armor-plated anteaters need a little love. :-)

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    3. I think the print run on the signed edition was about 250.

      I once had an original art page from the Spirit that I bought at auction, but it was ruined in a flood. Those things almost never went up for sale (I think it was around $400 in 1983). It's been well over 10 years since it was ruined, but I think it was an inside splash page.

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    4. If you still had it, you could probably pay off your mortgage.

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    5. I did the next best thing. I divorced my wife.

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  8. So Dematteis, you have championed kids comics, the question is how do you define it? \

    Seriously, the old EC books were largely read by kids, but they got even gorier than even some of the modern comics that people say is too violent. For that matter, many of the old fairy tales are too ark for kids today. So, how do you define it? What do you need to do or not do?


    Jack

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    1. Fantastic question, Jack...SO good that I think I'm going to forgo answering here and write a new blog post on the subject.

      Thanks for the inspiration!

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    2. I think we all know what makes a gory book suitable for children--bad puns! :)

      --David

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    3. One bad pun is worth its weight in...children.

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    4. LOL! I love it. You should narrate a line of children's horror comics, JMD. It will get the kids all worked up, I kid you KNOT...

      --David

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  9. So a lot of developments coming out of Marvel recently have got me thinking. It seems to me like there's been a major shift in the way Marvel approaches continuity, and whether it's better or worse is a matter of opinion. But I think most writers now approach these characters with an epic 'hero dies/disabled/replaced' story in mind--something that, God willing, could fill one or two ominbuses, and then reset back to the status quo for the next guy to do the same.

    Up until recently, it felt like more of a pass the baton thing. The writers didn't plan that far ahead, which made it harder (but at the same time, maybe a bit more fun?) for the next guy to start running with whatever he'd been given. "Steve Rogers is now an artist living in an apartment with a new supporting cast...go!"

    There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. It's probably--at least in part--shaped by the knowledge that everything is immortalized in a collection now, and comics are no longer 'disposable' entertainment.

    But I also think many writers are now patterning themselves after Brubaker and Morrison, both of whom had very popular and critically acclaimed 'mega'arcs' that can be read as an epic with a beginning, middle and end.

    The advantage is that when done right it makes for a very satisfying (and arguably complete) experience. But that sense of completion can also be a downside, because once you've read your own personal favorite three year 'Character X' replaced mega-story, everything that follows will seem either inferior or redundant.

    --David

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    1. I wonder if it's the writers thinking that way, David, or the marketplace dictating the kind of "event" story lines that follow this pattern. It seems these days unless the readers (well, certain readers) hear "THE STORY THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING" they don't buy books.

      But even if it is the market dictating it, if it happens enough it becomes a template, then it becomes EXPECTED.

      Me? I miss the days when you could just go in and tell good stories without worrying about "mega arcs" or "events." And I think, if the audience would buy books like that, you'd see a huge change in what DC and Marvel were putting out. From my POV, it's not the companies (or the writers) saying "We want to do this," it's the companies responding to the market, finding the best way to put out quality product that sells.

      Of course these kinds of things can evolve naturally, too. My infamous "Captain America becomes a pacifist, gets assassinated and is replaced by either Black Crow of the Falcon" storyline—the one that was shot down and never saw print—came solely from character. And the fact that Marvel DID shoot it down shows how much things have changed.

      Captain America assassinated? The Falcon as Cap? Never happen!

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    2. Very true, the format is guided by the market!

      As for your crazy story idea, LOL! Yeah, never happen. Now one asks if Cap could go a year without being killed or disabled.

      I'm kind of sad that not much was ever done with Jesse Crow. Gruenwald used him to good effect at the end of his Cap run, but other than that, I can't recall seeing him pop up anywhere.

      --David

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    3. Jesse is a character I'd love to bring back, given the opportunity.

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    4. Funny thing is, about the only way to get a newer character going--and this has been true since the wave of 90s replacements--is to have them stand-in for a hero and then reassume their own roles. If Jesse had been Captain America in the 80s, we would probably see a lot more of him than we do now! But really, the concept of a Native American hero tied to Captain America speaks for itself...

      --David

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    5. Seemed like a good idea at the time, David! The first Black Crow story—"An American Christmas"—remains one of my favorites out of all the Cap stories I wrote.

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    6. "An American Christmas" is arguably your Cap run in a nutshell.

      --David

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    7. Which makes it VERY difficult to read. "Honey, can you get me the nutcracker, please?" (Sorry: couldn't resist.)

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    8. Ha! No apologies necessary, that was pretty good as far as corny jokes go. And here I was pondering what kind of traumatic experience made this issue so difficult for you to read...

      BTW, the FOREVER EVIL Blight story is up for pre-order on amazon, and it's a little less than $20 for twice the normal TPB page count. Pretty impressive selling point!

      --David

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    9. That's great. Thanks for alerting me!

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