Saturday, July 25, 2015

Sometimes I Feel So Deserted





It was a big week for comics over at the AV Club, for whose annual Comics Week I contributed a few articles of note to faithful readers.
I wrote a brief(ish) history of one my favorite superheroes, Ant-Man. Even at 2500 words there was still a lot I had to leave out.

I contributed five write-ups for this week's comics panel, dedicated to the week's theme of "Loser Superheroes." I think we each approached our entries differently - I went for the yuks, mostly. I supposedly got one of my editors to snort milk all over her keyboard, so there's that.

I interviewed one of my favorite comics people - and one of two great inspirations for this site (along with Abhay Khosla) - Jon Morris, in celebration of the release of his first book, The League of Regrettable Superheroes (which I also reviewed here a few weeks back). One thing I didn't get the chance to ask Jon about, because I only found out literally the day after the interview was posted, is that his book (or a special edition thereof) was selected for this month's Loot Crate. Given the type of sales boosts we usually see for Loot Crate orders in the Direct Market, I think its fair to say The League of Regrettable Superheroes is doing pretty well, and a sequel might not be entirely beyond the realm of possibility. Still, if you haven't purchased your copy yet, you should do so at your earliest opportunity.

Even though it's connection to comics is tangential at best, my review of The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker / Pinhead obituary was inexplicably published under the "Comics Week" banner as well. If you like my writing on Hellraiser - of which I am still the Comics Blogosphere's #1 Authority, lest ye forget - this one's for you.

And don't forget to check out my unfairly neglected exclusive excerpt of Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman, while you're at it. Personally, I don't understand the big controversy - makes sense to me.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Go Set A Watchman







Chapter One


It was a quiet southern night, hot and humid like a woolen blanket pulled over the head of a sleeping person. It was comfortable but it was also not comfortable, a little bit like being suffocated by pudding.

Jem sat on the porch looking at the fireflies dancing across the lawn. He was holding a mason jar filled with sweet tea, the kind made just for sipping while sitting on the porch looking at the fireflies dancing across the lawn. The whistle from the evening train sounded in the distance as the locomotive pulled out of the station on its way to Macomb or Atlanta or another location somewhere in the South.

From a distance there appeared a figure walking on the road towards Jem's house. It was a woman - a female - carrying a suitcase. She appeared to be about the same height and build as Jem's sister, Scout, on whom he had been waiting to arrive home on a trip from the North, where she had settled after leaving the South. She didn't live in the South anymore, because she had left for the North, and had lived there for a while prior to her returning down South for what she had told him was a short trip. On second examination, however, it actually was Scott herself just then, carrying a suitcase and walking down the road.

"Howdy, Scout," Jem said to his sister Scout as she walked up the walkway to the porch.

"Hello, Jem," she replied. "What are you doing on this fine southern night?"

"Just sitting on the porch looking at those fireflies dance across the lawn. Thinking about things, you know. About the South. About history, and the wages of prejudice, and why men cannot be good to one another, as one does."

"I see nothing has changed here in the South, brother."

"One could almost say that the South was a region where history never quite moved forward, almost," he replied, "at least that is the conclusion that I often reach on my musings about the unique historical destiny of the the region we call home, the American South."

Scout sat on the porch swing next to Jem (Jem was sitting on a porch swing) and laughed. She was four years younger than her brother, but in many ways she was wiser. One of those ways was that she was smarter than him.

"Silly Jem, always worrying." Jem was, in fact, often worrying about things.

"Well, you know, Scout, we didn't all leave for the fancy North."

"No, we all didn't," Scout concurred.

"But since you ask, I was thinking about our childhood, and the events of our childhood. Do you remember that Atticus used to tell us that you should never kill a mockingbird, because it is a sin to do so?"

"Why yes I do, Jem. In fact, I remember it often because father spoke of it often."

"Yes. It was such a resonant and thematically significant statement."

"But like many things relating to our beloved father, Atticus Finch, I see now that the sentiment was flawed."

"Why, how is that, sister?"

"Because it is not factually true that one should never kill a mockingbird. There are circumstances under which it is in fact permitted to shoot a mockingbird."

"Such as when, Scout?"

"If a mockingbird is on your land, you can shoot it because it belongs to you. If you see a mockingbird on someone else's property, you may not shoot it because then it is not your property."

"But Scout, I don't believe Atticus was referring to who literally owns the land on which the birds are sitting."

"If he wasn't," she replied, "he should have been. All rights are merely extrapolations of property rights, after all, and without clearly delineated property rights we exist in a state of criminal anarchy."

"But there are lots of things that don't have to do with property, Scout."

"Like what?"

"Well, like justice and kindness, and being nice, and humid evenings in the South."

Scout laughed again. "Jem! You are very funny! But don't you know 'justice' is a myth and kindness is weakness?"

"I do not, because that goes against everything we were taught by our father Atticus when we were very young."

"'Justice' is a lie told by the weak in order to justify their resentment of the wealthy. The belief that the coercive power of the state can be used by the poor to even the score with the capitalist class is Communistic."

"I don't think I follow you, Scout."

"Jem," she said after pausing for a moment, "do you know about the Makers and the Takers?"

"Why, no."

"There are two kinds of people in this world. There are people who make things, who exert their will on the world in order to wrest order from chaos, to create and to guide the advancement of the human race. Do you follow me?"

"Yes Scout, so far."

"Well, the other kind of people are the Takers. They resent Makers because they are jealous and know they do not have the strength necessary in order to create things and steer the destiny of nations. So they band together in order to use the sum of their weakness to topple the strong from their position of natural superiority."

"But that doesn't make sense, Scout. There's lots of people who don't have much, and they're not all bad people."

"I don't think you understand what you're saying, Jem. If they were strong, robust, physically capable, and mentally focused, would they be poor?"

"Well, you know, some people fall down on bad luck -"

"Luck is an excuse used by Takers to describe inequality, when the only true source of inequality is nature itself. If you are wealthy, you are already strong, robust, physically capable, and mentally focused, or else how would you even be successful?"

"Well, I guess that makes sense . . . "

"Of course it does. It's self-evident - the strong rule because they are strong. A child can understand that."

"But that's not justice, Scout. Justice is . . . well, justice is right and wrong."

"Jem, what is right?"

"Why, you know. It's what Atticus told us about being kind and decent and never judging a man until you can walk a mile in their shoes."

"We were indoctrinated as children to believe that compassion was a source of strength, when in reality compassion is the wellspring of weakness."

"Well, I know that's not true."

"Why do you know that? Because Atticus told us?"

". . ."

"Think about this: you may think charity is a form of compassion, but isn't charity more accurately described as a form of slavery?"

"I really don't understand, Scout."

"It's not hard! To act selflessly - why, there is no greater obscenity in the world! To act for someone else - it's a contradiction. If a person acts against their own interests, why, they're insane. Self-interest is the highest motive of civilized mankind. Far from virtue, charity is the greatest possible sin."

"But what about kindness?"

"Just what is kindness?"

"Why, it's being good to one another, being nice and courteous and helping one another."

"Helping one another? Help yourself, brother. If you give other people the opportunity, they will take everything from you. And if you let them, well, you deserve every bad thing that happens."

"I don't believe that."

"Well, whether or not you believe it, it's the self-evident truth. The Takers are always going to be waiting to catch you when you fall, which is why you must be ever vigilant against their depredations. Never live for another, or you will find yourself their slave."

"Well, I guess if someone steals from me, they're bad."

"And it's worse still to invite the thief into your house and tell them to make themselves comfortable. You pay your taxes, right?"

"Why, of course I pay my taxes, Scout."

"We all have to pay our taxes, because the criminal government holds an advantage over us in physical strength. Through coercion, they can steal a proportion of our hard-earned assets, and the proportion of our assets they can seize with impunity is the proportion to which we are made into slaves by the criminal government."

"But taxes pay for things like roads, and bridges, and schools."

"All of which could be handled far more efficiently by the private sector. If bridges need to be built, an entrepreneur will invest the time and resources to build that bridge, and it's a certainty that his bridge will be more effective than any bridge the government could build. And if he takes the risk necessary to build the bridge, isn't it only natural that he be allowed to profit off his invention?"

"Well, I guess so . . ."

"You guess correctly! The government is in reality a cartel dedicated to corruption and wealth redistribution, and it is the responsibility of the sovereign individual to resist this act of theft however they can."

"But what about things like courts and police officers?"

"We need courts, obviously, but I don't see any reason why private institutions couldn't establish and maintain courts a lot more efficiently than the government. After all, wouldn't a private court be far better able to adjudicate contracts?"

"But it seems to me that if courts were private, the person who could buy the court would be able to get any kind of rulings he wanted."

"Exactly! So the person most deserving of 'justice,' to use your word, would be guaranteed to receive justice in 100% of all cases."

"But what about police?"

"The same principle applies. Police exist to maintain the inviolability of property rights. Therefore, it makes sense that a private police force would be better positioned to protect property rights, as opposed to a public police force that must, perforce, naturally follow the illegitimate interests of the criminal government."

"Well, that's fine, but what about murder? Surely, no one can buy the right to murder?"

"Can't they, though?"

"I really don't follow you, Scout."

"Why, it's absurdly simple. Murder is an act of killing, an act wherein one sovereign individual consciously and without hesitation takes the life of another sovereign individual, therefore depriving him of life and limb. Right?" "Well, I guess so."

"So doesn't it stand to reason that truly exceptional individuals, individuals gifted with the natural strength and intelligence that places them above the ordinary run of man, already can murder as they wish?"

"That doesn't make any sense!"

"It's difficult to grasp, perhaps, because it's so simple. You agree, don't you, with the simple proposition that A=A, right?

"Well, of course, that's just common sense."

"Exactly! And so if one thing is always equal to itself, then doesn't it follow that the ability to take a life freely creates its own justification for doing so?"

". . ."

"There should be no gap between impulse and execution. Deliberation is for the weak who require rationalization to excuse their actions. The ability to act creates the necessity of action. To act otherwise is . . . why, it's just unnatural. Makers have the responsibility to act in accordance to their wills. To believe otherwise, to be swayed from self-actualization by the 'logic' of the Takers, well, that's ludicrous."

"But but that reasoning, I can do anything and claim it's right simply because I can."

"Now you get it, Jem! I knew you understood what I was saying. Does it make any sense to you that even an infinite number of negative numbers can ever equal a positive number?"

"Well, of course not."

"Then why should the will of the majority - the mass of slaves, the Takers - ever be able to counter the will of the Maker? Shouldn't the righteousness of one powerful man always be greater than the mass of parasites known as 'society'?"

"Alright, I follow you so far, but what about prejudice?"

"What about it?"

"How do these ideas eliminate prejudice?"

"They can't! Prejudice is, at its core, a market inefficiency."

"OK, Scout, I really don't understand now."

"Markets work best when all actors can act according to the best knowledge they possess, right? Therefore, acting out of prejudice, if we accept the premise that prejudice is a kind of ignorance, simply hurts those who do so."

"Well, I guess I see that . . ."

"And if the victim of prejudice can't overcome that kind of market inefficiency, well, aren't they really victims of their own weakness?"

"I don't know, Scout . . ."

"The worst thing you could do is to accept the solutions presented by the criminal government for redress in the case of racial prejudice. You can't legislate the market. The only way you can conquer the market is through strength of will."

"That seems harsh, to me."

"Maybe it does, but maybe that kind of 'harshness' is the real justice. Have you ever thought of it that way?"

"I guess not! But I still don't understand how it isn't a sin to kill a mockingbird. I mean, all they do is sing and bring music to the world, with no hope of recompense."

"A mockingbird is an animal. It is incapable of conscious thought and action. Can a mockingbird excavate the mountains and the earth to bring forth iron and stone with which to express its will through the act of creation? Can a mockingbird build factories to create smoke to blot out the sun, to serve as a reminder of the glory and strength of man? Or is a mockingbird essentially a Taker, living on your land, eating the fruit of your garden, subject to your rule?"

"I guess so!"

"If the mockingbird is alive on your property, then the mockingbird is your property. Therefore, you have every right to kill or not kill that mockingbird as you wish. If someone else kills your mockingbird, however, then they have committed a sin against you, by violating your property rights."

"Well, you sure are smarter than me, Scout. I guess you've learned something up in the big city after all. But there's one thing I'm still confused of - just how do you protect your property from the Takers who are always trying to tear you down?"

"Well, in this case, the answer is simple: if someone keeps killing your mockingbirds, you should go set a watchmen to protect them."

"It all makes perfect sense now."

"It sure does, Jem. It sure does."

Monday, July 06, 2015

Meet the New Boss





Hey, kids, do you like punk rock?

Remember back in the halcyon days of this morning when the comics internet was up in arms that DC had hired a coterie of aging white male comics writers to create new series featuring some of their signature characters? You know, like Marv Wolfman writing Raven and Len Wein writing Swamp Thing? Dan Didio has already been execrated for saying that "[their] task was to 'freshen up and contemporize' . . . We want the best writers working on our characters, and these are the best writers for these characters." If he had simply said that these were the best writers for the characters at hand, that may still have been a questionable point, but it would at least be an arguable point. You would have a hard time arguing that Len Wein, for instance, wasn't a good choice to write the character he co-created, after all. But he went a step further and said that these writers were tasked with "[freshening] up and [contemporizing]" - which brings to mind the idea that perhaps these original creators aren't the best choices to go when looking for something new. It's simply disingenuous to assert that these men are the best people for that job.

Which isn't to say the books might not be good. They could very well be. But whether or not they are fresh and contemporary remains to be seen.

And then the other shoe dropped and it was announced that Grant Morrison would be taking over as the new EIC of venerable hesher institution Heavy Metal. All well and good, you might say.
“We’re trying to bring back some of that ’70s punk energy of Heavy Metal, but update it and make it new again,” says Morrison, 55, adding that his first comics work, in the Scottish comics mag Near Myths, was directly inspired by Heavy Metal. “One of the things I like to do in my job is revamp properties and really get into the aesthetic of something, dig into the roots of what makes it work, then tinker with the engine and play around with it."
The average age of the writers hired by DC to head their new "fresh and contemporary" initiative is 62.3. Grant Morrison is 55, but it's that 7.3 years that makes all the difference - the difference in this case being whether you roll your joints on a Hawkwind LP or snort amphetamines off a Plasmatics 7".

But what other secrets does the press release have to offer? "Morrison plans to write comic strips and prose material for the bimonthly magazine, too. He says he’s just beginning to reach out to talent in hopes of recruiting them. On his radar: Past collaborators Chris Burnham (Nameless) and Frazer Irving (Annihilator)." When asked to name future contributors to his magazine, he lists off two artists he knows personally, both competent journeymen mainstream comics artists, neither of whose personal styles would have seemed particularly out of place in the old Heavy Metal:



If posting promotional materials from their respective Batman runs seems like a cheap shot, well, it is. Instead of occasionally interesting if mostly puerile European imports, the magazine is going to be giving us the cream of the American mainstream's occasionally interesting if mostly puerile creators, now free to draw all the tits they want.

Is that a cheap shot, too?

Grant Morrison has never been a professional editor. He likes to put his face and his name on things - books, movies, conventions, and apparently the cover of Heavy Metal. Probably more important is the announcement that Brian Witten will be the new President of Heavy Metal, the company. Witten is a Hollywood producer with copious experience in genre film - stuff like the 2009 Friday the 13th reboot, and 1997's Spawn. He got his start in Hollywood by partnering with Rob Liefeld, so he has lots of experience working with egomaniacal flakes.

Morrison doesn't have the best track record in looking outside the bubble of his immediate surroundings. His Heavy Metal - inasmuch as we will be able to call it "his" since the actual day-to-day editing work will almost certainly be someone else's responsibility - will probably not feature an influx of new indie creators ready to take real chances. This won't be Kramer's Ergot 2015 - nor should we expect it to be. It'll be a facelift designed for the express purpose of leveraging a soggy brand name into a "bleeding edge" IP farm. It will be very interesting to see when and if the new Heavy Metal contracts leak - who will own what rights, and for how long? They wouldn't be hiring someone like Witten if they weren't poised to write a new business plan as a prelude to a capital influx, and inevitably what investors are going to want is not to be attached to a creatively ambitious white elephant futurist magazine, but an established brand name with ambitions of being an adult version of Marvel Studios.

And oh, hey, what else does the EW press release explicitly say?
While Morrison works reinvigorate Heavy Metal magazine, [brand owners] Krelitz and Boxenbaum are looking to build up Heavy Metal in other media. There’s now a Heavy Metal record label with BMG. There are television shows in various stages of development. And Krelitz is mapping out a bold plan for a shared movie universe, comprised of different Heavy Metal-branded franchises, analogous to the Marvel Studios and DC Entertainment philosophy. Where Marvel and DC make PG and PG-13 films, Heavy Metal will make PG-13 and R-rated films. The goal is to develop live action movies, in the vein of Avatar, not animated films. Says Krelitz: “It’ll be a series of films leading into a Heavy Metal movie, with another series of films leading into a another Heavy Metal movie.”
Grant Morrison is a past-his-prime creator who has in the past shown great sympathy for corporate properties at the expense of the creators themselves. (The original point was made by Matt Seneca, who apparently deleted his blog a while back, which I either missed or forgot at some point.) I would seriously suggest that any creator, veteran or new, take a close look at any contract they might be offered by the company going forward.

So this is Morrison completing the career arc that began when he accepted a pseudo-editorial position at DC, finally stepping behind the lines to become The Man, an editor, fully committed to getting his pals on board to create original IP for a burgeoning content farm explicitly styling itself in the mold of Marvel Entertainment - only "for adults." Morrison built a pretty good Brand, and it works for him because he's become what he always wanted to be: a marketable meme ready to be consumed by unsuspecting customers eager to take a ride with a talented showman.

Punk rock? Actually, yeah, pretty much.



Friday, May 29, 2015

SIR





Convergence #8


To begin, if we can be said to begin, we must ask the question, what is the superhero?

If, as perhaps we are likely to conclude, the superhero is a figure, a human figure, clad in brightly colored clothes and set loose upon a Manichean universe in order to impose an understanding of justice outside the boundaries of law, through the exercise of force - is there any more apt figure to illustrate our idea of justice? In order to enforce justice we must create an collective imaginary in which justice actually exists, and can furthermore be grasped, fondled, manipulated by creatures whose ethical advancement lends them the appropriate authority to do so.

So before we begin, before we can even ask the question of what the superhero is, who he is, what he is (is it a he?), we must establish the means by which the superhero can exist. The premises we must accept are simple, in fact, they number only one: that a man can be right. Every other consideration pales before this assertion. If, as we might posit, a man could ever for a single instant consider himself right, then the laws of nature themselves would bow before him, would prostrate themselves. So impossible is the premise of a tangible eruption of justice in the world, even a momentary glimpse of such an ideal, that it is nothing less than the perfect fantasy. Of course, if we could know the form and figure of justice, we would not balk at a man flying, or a man carrying an automobile over his shoulders. Such feats would simply take their place in a long line of miraculous eruptions - but if we lived in this world of miracles, the extraordinary would itself long since have become surpassingly quotidian.

So then the superhero himself, does he have a name? A face? A story? Or is he merely a shifting locus of ideas, attributes, impulses, and abrogations? Because they do not exist we can posit any manner of virtues they might possess, if they did, in the same manner as we can imagine so many dispositions for celestial beings, safe in the knowledge that we will never be disproven. But any virtues aside from that singular, spectacular rightness are secondary.

Because there are no superheroes we can imagine as many as we like, with as much overwhelming variety as we can conjure. Therefore we come into intimate contact with the immateriality of our own imaginations. There is an ideal. We can measure the means by which various characters rate in accordance to this ideal - how they fall short, how they struggle, how they wince in the sunlight of their imperfections. How do we define this ideal? This ideal cannot exist, and yet persists, une certaine connaissance of an object that exists nowhere else but in our minds. Superheroes, like justice itself, exist as a singular ideal refracted through a multitude of lenses, a lens for each spectator. We refer to the idea of "the superhero" and expect that our singular impulse towards ideality is shared by our audience, are certain that the form we envision is coeval with those of so many others. But there is no universal justice.

There is only one superhero. When we refer to multiple figures, we define these phantoms by their distance from the ideal, the central image we project from the mechanism of our own inadequacies. We place a label on this one superhero: the Superman. It is he who holds pride of place, he from whom all others are derived, he whose primary-colored costume serves as a model for so many others. This division of red, blue, and yellow, clean and precise, enacts a fable of impermeability. It is the painter's palette at its most basic, unadulterated. The Batman by comparison is a mere shadow, a grey and black blur ensconced in the cracks between certainty and frailty. The painter has mixed his colors into a desultory mush, and if we see ourselves reflected in this imprecision it is on account of our own failure to attain the impossible.

But this superhero, this Super-man, does not exist. There are many - hundreds - thousands - of incarnations of the Superman. Different interpretations. Different shades of red and blue and yellow. The original, imaginary Superman is undiluted by the myriad shades. The original, imaginary Superman that we envision never appears, and so is never supplanted. If we must put a name to this Superman, the invisible ideal that is always already present but never arriving, perhaps we can say that this originary figure is the Supurman. Phonetically, there is no difference in the pronunciation. But to speak Supurman is to trace the ghostly demarcation of the idea as distinct from the reality (or "reality"). Here there is graphological evidence of the undetectable originary: the replacement of the er with ur recalls the Germanic ur, the primitive, the original. Supurman exists prior to our conscious understanding of Superman: from the first, he is the theory of rightness that we cherish, even as we grow to acknowledge the impossibility of justice. The primary colors never blur or smudge in our minds.

Supurman is constructed from fragments and shards of stories, a grab-bag of moments and memories, isolated scenes from motion pictures and cartoons, single panels of dialogue or discrete action sequences. The Supermen who appear in the pages of comic books may at times approximate this image, but only briefly. The very instant of specification, when the idealized form of Supurman becomes embodied in the figure of a fleeting Superman, he begins to die.

Creators may try to approach the Supurman, but in doing so they reveal the impossibility of his incarnation. A text such as All-Star Superman strives to iterate the most universal notion of the Supurman, but fails. It does not fail for lack of effort, it fails because the very attempt to animate the character's most iconic tendencies instead results in tragic exsanguination. An icon is an image, a still image, a symbol that carries far more weight than any individual specimen. It is a static image. The comic book can capture the infinitesimal duration of a single moment as an illustration, and in that instant the icon is revealed in its resplendence.

But one image gives way to a succession of images, to compose a sequence and then, out of multiple sequences, a narrative. In order to become a dynamic force in a living story, a Superman must move. The act of movement rends the illusion of iconicity, and so even if we may have believed for a moment to have captured, finally, a glimpse of the Supurman, he is gone before we have registered his presence. Perhaps in the single still image, the pin-up or the cover, we can come closest to imaging the ideal of Supurman: one picture, shorn of context, containing all the infinite potential of the fantastic, suspended in a moment just prior to actual engagement. In that isolated moment justice shimmers tentatively, still defiantly un-impossible. Through this brief intimation of justice we can imagine the Supurman as a true contingency in our own lives.

And so we must be unsatisfied. All the many, many Supermen who exist are merely shadows. As the genre continues its march towards senescence, it is common to see multiple Supermen appear side by side, multiple reflections. For all the Superman who exist, there can never be a definitive interpretation, because the orignary idea exists beyond the realm of interpretation. The Supurman exists in a state of permanent abeyance, his place filled by a succession of stand-ins and substitutes. If you dislike one, wait a moment and another will appear. Attachment to any one Superman is revealed to be a perverse adherence. You can have 10 Supermen in a single book, 100 Supermen, an infinite number of Supermen, all unique and yet all derivations, and still be no closer to the unconcealment of the one, true Supurman, who exists only at the border of our peripheral vision, locked in the Phantom Zone of our Ideal-ich, inaccessible save through intimation.

Not so with the Batman, Superman's eternal shade. There is no ur-Batman. There are many Batmen, each equally entitled to represent the idea of Batman. The Batman is changeable, perhaps, because he does not represent the ideal of justice as Superman does - rather, the Batman is premised on an engagement with the actual, the impossibility of justice; he represents the necessity of accommodation (an ontological necessity observed by Batman mostly in the breach). The child-like Bruce Wayne's desire to impose order on an inherently chaotic world emphasizes the impossibility of such an act, whereas Supurman is a liminal figure, existing in the perpetual potential of order to assert itself, for the world to be remade as utopia through the exercise of ethical force. The Supurman is revolution.

It does not matter what form these characters may take, what specific incarnation may survive or perish in the duration. Every Batman remains equally solid, and every Superman remains equally ephemeral. We are all of us in the shadow of Supurman, whose perfection - contra Anselm of Canterbury - is predicated on his nonexistence, a necessary condition of his absence. He remains the first and only superhero, the absent father whose prophesied arrival still carries the promise of peace.



Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Top Ten Things I Learned from David Letterman





10. The Best Things in Life are Worth Staying Up For

David Letterman has been at CBS since 1993. Even back in the 90s when the so-called "Late Night Wars" were at their peak, there was a sense that late night TV was a dying enterprise. When Johnny Carson retired, it was clear that he could never be replaced, and not simply because of his talent or personality. The culture was already moving past the idea of three-network dominance, appointment viewing, late-night button-down white guys sitting behind a desk telling jokes. It wasn't just Arsenio Hall, and it wasn't just cable, but those were big parts of it. The idea of a monolithic American culture apparatus (if such a thing ever existed outside of the idea itself) was already splintering, and would not leave the decade intact.

In that sense, at least, David Letterman was a perfect fit for the times. He wasn't Carson, and would never have the ability to reach across demographics the way Carson had done. He was rough, with too many sharp edges, and - fatally - without the ability to reassure his audience that they were always in on the jokes. He was cool in a way that appealed to college kids and city dwellers. He took risks to be funny, and part of those risks was alienating people who weren't willing to meet him halfway.

It's odd to think of it, now - he had a nightly talk show on NBC for over a decade, but the media landscape was such that he could still be considered a cult proposition. Your dad or grandpa turned the TV off when Carson was over, and that was when the kids turned in to Letterman. It wasn't quite like that in my household. My parents were always fairly agnostic on Carson (they are both - from my perspective - remarkably anti-nostalgic in regards to the pop culture of their youths), but they were Late Night fans from very early on, and they passed that on to me. So this was the game: Friday nights, holidays, and Summer vacation, it was time to stay up and watch Letterman. Maybe if I was lucky I could make it through the monologue, the Top Ten list, and the first guest. I figured out how to use the VCR (which wasn't that easy) so that I could record the show when I wanted, when the TV Guide said there was a good musical guest. There's a chance that old VHS tapes containing episodes of Letterman with They Might Be Giants and Richard Thompson as musical guests still remain hidden somewhere in my parents' house.

And this was what the cool kids did in the 1980s. And if that sounds facetious, it wasn't, not at all. Irony had not yet conquered the world, but Letterman was the prophet.

9. It's OK to be the Smartest Guy in the Room

Letterman didn't give a fuck what you thought about him. That, especially, is hard to discern now: it's not like his attitude has appreciably changed, but he's become an elder statesman by default, avuncular and deeply respect and beloved even by the kinds of people who slept through his 80s heyday. But if you go to YouTube and watch any of the old episodes of Late Night archived there, you immediately see the difference.

He was born in Indiana but every bit the New Yorker. He spoke fast and thought faster. He wasn't afraid to filet any guest who dared cross him. Of course that would have rankled people. If you were used to Carson's kind patience with guests of all stripes, from the A-list to 15-minute-famous civilians, the idea that a talk-show host might bite back must have seemed not simply strange, but utterly mean-spirited.

But the rules were simple: if you came to play, Dave was more than happy to play. If you weren't on board with that, you might be in trouble. Tony Randall was one of Letterman's greatest guests, and not just because he happened to live in the neighborhood and could always be counted on to fill-in for a last-minute cancellation. Randall liked to play, and Dave liked having someone on board with whom he could spar for fifteen minutes. It was unpredictable and sometimes disastrous, but when it worked it was sublime. Guests who would have been completely DOA on another format - folks like Andy Kaufman, Harvey Pekar, and Crispin Glover - were welcome to be as cranky or unpleasant as they could be, because the understanding was that a disastrous interview was more memorable and enjoyable than a mediocre chat. Even late into his CBS run he was able to conjure up magical moments like Joaquin Phoenix's dada interview, humiliating on the face of it but riveting for the obvious relish Letterman still enjoyed at being able to sharpen his wit against a moving target - who had, regardless of his motivations, obviously come to play.

He nourished long-term public feuds with the likes of Cher because it was funny, and the rough-edges were part of the appeal. If Letterman hadn't existed, it would have been necessary for Madonna to invent him - the perfect rascally foil, unwilling to play the same old celebrity game with someone so obviously adept at playing that game to their own advantage. His later attempts to manufacture a spat with Oprah, while less engaging, were still funny because they proved he was still adept at leveraging other celebrities' supposed strengths into surprising vulnerabilities. For Letterman, there was and remains nothing more absurd than the idea of being a celebrity, and if you didn't get that, you weren't going to get on well with Dave.

8. It's OK to be a Smartass

Letterman is an intelligent man and the impatience with which he sometimes confronted his guests was matched by the impatience he approached much of the rest of the world. The banality of stupidity has always been one of the major motors of his comedy. That's one reason why even his most absurd bits carried a bite. The world is a pretty silly place, and sometimes the only rational response to this kind of silliness is to become silly yourself.

This is the worldview of the smartass, the guy cracking wise in the back of the classroom because his mind is working twice as fast as everyone around him and he just can't be bothered to slow down or pretend not to care. It's a form of cynicism, sure. But cynicism has a bad rap. No one wants to be called a cynic, but there's nothing dishonorable in holding fast to the belief that humans are often motivated by greed, ignorance, or self-regard. That observation is central to most forms of comedy, certainly most memorable comedy, from Aristophanes through to Richard Pryor. So while Letterman has often been criticized for being a prime contributor to the rise of irony in the 90s, and the corollary culture of cynicism pilloried by conservative and centrist ideologues for the past few decades, any critique that focuses on the negative effects of cynicism ignores the root cause of such cynicism - that is, the deep gulf between ideal and reality, and the corrosive effect of hypocrisy. Don't blame Letterman for ushering in an age of ironic disconnection (as per David Foster Wallace), blame the age which mandated the use of irony as a necessary survival mechanism.

7. Tradition is Important, Except When it Isn't

As much of an iconoclast as Letterman has always been, he is also a sincere traditionalist. He was Johnny Carson's anointed heir, after all. For over thirty years he used his shows as a venue to introduce new talent, both comedic and musical, in much the same way as Carson had done for him. He deeply respected longtime broadcast fixtures like Regis Philbin and Jack Hanna. He never missed an opportunity to spotlight older comedians who had influenced him. He loved nothing more than spotlighting older artists who had perhaps been left behind, figures such as Warren Zevon and Darlene Love. Even though he was an Indiana Presbyterian, he maintained a vital connection to the tradition of New York Jewish comedians of the kind who rose to prominence in Vaudeville and the resorts of the Borscht Belt. He was careful with those jokes, because they were antiques.

But his respect for these traditions was matched by his willingness to warp and break convention when necessary. Although he worshiped at the alter of Carson, his show was largely defined by the conscious attempt to break away from Carson's mold, a necessity bred by the network's insistence that Letterman avoid simply replicating Carson's formula an hour later. Late Night, especially in the early years, was defined by an enthusiastic desire to break from formula, to take conceptual risks, to potentially alienate anyone who wandered in simply because they didn't feel like turning off the television after the credits rolled on The Tonight Show.

6. Humility First, Last and Everything in Between

Letterman has never been shy about broadcasting his anxieties and insecurities regarding his own abilities. He's a notorious grump, a tendency born from an oft-repeated conviction of his own shortcomings.

With this in mind, Letterman's most endearing trait is his willingness to lean into his own imperfections. He gets a lot of mileage out of his face, not conventionally handsome by any standard, gap-toothed and curly haired, a face made for radio if ever there was. Gaffes and bloopers, both his and others, became one of the show's most enduring preoccupations. Even after he had moved to CBS and the show became a much slicker, far less (intentionally) ramshackle affair, he still maintained a looseness that belied the slick craftsmanship required to produce a nightly talk show. This was a stroke of genius, as it allowed him the freedom to embrace accidents when they occurred. Even through to the very end, Letterman maintained an air of wry dissatisfaction, a faux-ironic exasperation that you might associate with a man who long ago made peace with his status as an imperfect creature in an imperfect universe - "trapped in a world he never made."

5. Living Well is the Best Revenge

The Late Night Wars seem in retrospect like the silliest pop culture phenomena conceivable. Two larger-than-life TV comedians fought a brutal dynastic struggle over possession of The Tonight Show. NBC gave the spot to Jay Leno, despite Letterman's success in the 12:30 AM spot, and regardless of Carson's own probable preferences.

As awful as it might have seemed, NBC made the logical choice. Letterman wasn't quite ready for prime time, certainly not in a way that would ensure a smooth continuity between Carson's tenure and that of his successor. Jay Leno was at one point a very funny man, highly respected by his fellow comedians. But when he accepted the job as Carson's replacement the understanding was that he would continue to steer the ship with the same kind of centrist mass appeal that had made Carson such a beloved figure. And he did. Sometimes he was even still funny.

The problems for Leno were twofold. The first obstacle was that, despite his success as a host and brand caretaker, he accepted the job as a kind of poisoned chalice. For most of his tenure he maintained a respectable lead on Letterman, capturing the larger part of the mythical "middle American" viewer who simply disliked Letterman on principle. But for critics and fans of comedy, he was forever branded, uncool at best and a betrayer at worst. He may have been consistently more popular than Letterman, but he could never close the "cool" gap.

The second problem was a media landscape teetering on the brink of seismic change. The age of monolithic consensus figures in American broadcasting was coming to a close. Johnny didn't need to be "cool" and he never suffered from being "uncool" - he simply was, in the same manner as Walter Cronkite. (I'd argue that the closest we still have to such a figure, oddly, is Alex Trebek - his eventual departure from Jeopardy will represent almost as significant a shift as Letterman's goodbye.) But suddenly there were choices, and in a world of choices the very idea of centralized media landmarks became laughable. Jay Leno was no Johnny Carson. The culture no longer needed Johnny Carson.

Fast forward to 2010. Regardless of his success, Leno's broadcast career shuddered to a close in the most dismal manner possible. Despite a well-intentioned attempt to avoid the same rancor that had marked Leno's ascension to the post, his retirement from The Tonight Show proved even more contentious than Carson's. Leno publicly named Conan O'Brien as his successor. He left amicably and O'Brien took over. The problem was that O'Brien was even more of a niche figure than Letterman had been, and ratings fell accordingly. NBC tried to stem the bleeding by giving Leno a new slot at 10:00 PM, essentially an opportunity to do The Tonight Show an hour earlier, to appease affiliates desperate for a stronger local news lead-in. The attempt failed. O'Brien was fired. Leno returned to The Tonight Show for another four years, before retiring again in 2014, his reputation obliterated.

Because Letterman was widely perceived as having been betrayed by NBC in 1992, he had the moral high ground throughout the decades of his competition with Leno. He grew in stature while Leno shrank. He leaves The Late Show universally adored and respected, a towering figure in American broadcasting history. Leno leaves no legacy, save as a cautionary tale.

4. Don't be a Creeper

Unfortunately, Letterman fell victim to his own vices. If he had more professional integrity than Leno, he occasionally overstepped the bounds of personal propriety. He has an uncomfortable history in regards to his treatment of attractive female guests. Sometimes it was all fun and games, and sometimes he veered into shady territory - as a respected male authority figure, sitting across the desk from some of Hollywood's most attractive starlets, crossing boundaries in a manner that seems more regrettable with every passing year.

Of course, some of his strongest bonds were forged with female guests with whom he shared a sincere affection, and even attraction - stalwart friends such as Teri Garr, Julia Roberts, and even Blake Lively. But sometimes his randy old man schtick became too much, and because of his authority the behavior passed mostly unremarked.

3. When You Do Wrong, Fess Up

It seems perverse to praise a man simply for apologizing when caught in the act of wrongdoing, but that's the world we live in. Considering the degree to which almost every celebrity or political scandal is met with evasion, obfuscation, lies, or legal action, the spectacle of a famous man - one of the most famous men - stepping in front of the scandal and admitting his mistakes in the most candid manner possible was remarkable. It remains remarkable. What should be regarded as the rock bottom of human decency - the willingness to admit wrongdoing and meaningfully apologize - is so rare that Letterman's principled admission immediately became the gold standard for public accountability and integrity. It could even be argued that the novelty of his admission deflected a great deal of legitimate criticism that might otherwise have further corroded his public image.

But whatever else can be said about him, Letterman abhors hypocrisy. He couldn't stand the idea of being a hypocrite himself, so much so that when cornered by the evidence of his own malfeasance he faced the consequences as boldly as possible. He hurt a lot of people and acted terribly, but rather than compounding the problem by prolonging the conflict he simply admitted his liability and expressed his contrition. It's not our responsibility to forgive him, but his actions in the years since the scandal reveal a chastened man, deeply dedicated to his family and conscious of the ways in which his abusive behavior nearly cost him everything. Better men have lost their careers for less, but his unexpected apology saved him. He'll always have that asterisk on his legacy, but it will be paired with another enduring lesson: the virtue of a man lies not in perfection, but his confrontation with imperfection.

2. Even Pioneers are Forgotten

Last week I was having a drink with friends and mentioned that, since learning that Letterman was leaving, I had set a recording on my DVR and was watching every show leading up to the finale. The folks I was out with were just a few years younger than me - but just a few years was enough. No one at the table understood why Letterman was a big deal, had been one of the most influential personalities in the history of TV. Wasn't he just another old white guy behind a desk?

Of course, in the heat of the moment you can never find the words to marshal the perfect rebuttal. I stuttered out something bland about being "influential." Nothing particularly convincing. But in that instant it clicked for me that in order to understand why David Letterman was important, you needed to have been alive and paying attention during a surprisingly narrow window of time. Letterman made his name in the 1980s, and although he's been consistent and consistently good for most of his career since, the reason people who know speak with such reverence is that they remember when there was nothing at all like him on the television. Now, everybody is like him, in some way or another. No one with an ounce of conviction wants to be Jay Leno.

His medium was transient. He never had a string of best-selling comedy records that new generations can rediscover for years to come. He never did movies. He hasn't done stand-up in decades. The innovations he introduced over the course of many years have been so subsumed into the television landscape that simply just explaining that he was the first to do or say or be something or other isn't enough - there's no existing context for how strange it was, at the time, to put a TV camera on the back of a monkey, or get into shouting matches with belligerent guests, or pay a weird old man with coke-bottle glasses to stand there and scream at the camera. There was no such thing as viral video back then, so if you saw something truly special on Late Night the best you could do was hope to pick it up on summer reruns, or find a friend who just happened to have been recording the show on their VCR. Because that's something we did back then.

But that's OK. Even if talk shows are the most ephemeral of all television programs he'll be remembered for a while to come, even if the specifics of his career and influence eventually fade. For historians and scholars, he'll remain important. The people who were inspired by him will, in turn, inspire others, and so on for the foreseeable future. Those of us who remember his prime will cherish the memories for as long as we're around, but our children will cherish other memories, and that's OK, too.

1. The Only Safe Target is Yourself

It's been remarked so often that it threatens to become a cliche: comedians should always punch up, never down. Letterman, in his decades-long crusade against hypocrisy, did a good job of observing this rule. Sure, there were jokes at the expense of small-town yokels and clueless tourists, the usual late-night fare. But he always reserved the larger part of his scorn for politicians, corporations, ignorant celebrities, and other men and women of influence. If you were famous, if you took yourself too seriously, you were fair game.

But the biggest target was always himself. His insecurity, his anxiety, his goofy looks, his shortcomings as a comedian and a host, his moral and ethical lapses - the cruelest wounds were self-inflicted. And this is vital, if you appreciate Letterman for no other reason, you must remember that as scathing and cynical as he could be, he was never more critical of anything or anyone than of himself. That imprinted on me at a very young age. You can't be critical of others if you can't be critical of yourself. Honesty in regards to your own faults is disarming. Self-critique can also become a means of protection. If you broadcast your faults with honesty, you're cutting your critics off at the knees.

Making fun of yourself is endearing because so few people do it effectively, and it can also make people uncomfortable when wielded strategically. Maintaining control of a situation while acknowledging the element of unpredictability is one of the most valuable skills a person can have. Loyalty matters. Acknowledge your elders before rejecting them. Make time to thank everyone. Enjoy every sandwich.



Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Excelsior





It's a familiar story. I'll bet you've heard it before.

It was the late fifties. The comic industry was still in a state of suspended animation following the dramatic events of the anti-comics backlash of the Wertham era. Atlas was a small outfit whose greatest asset in a rapidly shrinking marketplace was the business acumen of its publisher, Martin Goodman. Atlas' in-house distribution company had been shuttered due to lack of volume. Their second distributor, American News, collapsed in short order. Goodman made a deal with National's distributor, Independent News, to piggyback on the company's newsstand access.

But Atlas was still dying. Almost the entire staff had been laid off following the discovery that the company had enough unpublished inventory to run for the better part of the year. Even that wasn't enough to keep the doors open. And so, the story goes, a man named Jack Kirby walked through the doors. He had just split with his longtime partner Joe Simon, after their publishing company had collapsed. (1954 was not the most auspicious year to start a comic book company.) He couldn't find work at National (later DC) on account of a failed lawsuit. Kirby and Atlas were both grasping at straws in an industry that, aside from major publishers such as National, Dell, and Archie who emerged from the Wertham era relatively unscathed, was circling the drain.
I came in [to the Marvel offices] and they were moving out the furniture, they were taking desks out — and I needed the work! ... Stan Lee is sitting on a chair crying. He didn't know what to do, he's sitting on a chair crying — he was still just out of his adolescence. I told him to stop crying. I says, "Go in to Martin and tell him to stop moving the furniture out, and I'll see that the books make money".(*)
Or so the story goes. Kirby later on had reason to emphasize his significance alongside Lee's impotence, just as Lee had his motivations for denying Kirby's dramatized version of events. Lee was also 35 when Kirby returned.

The important facts are this: Atlas had been a company named Timely. The company had been founded by Goodman, primarily a publisher's of men's magazines and pulp adventure books. Stan Lee was Goodman's cousin by marriage. He joined the company at its start, working as an assistant at age 16, and editor by 19. Aside from a stretch in the army during the war, Stan Lee never worked for another company besides Marvel. It was the family business. Imagine his chagrin when, years later, in the flush of over a decade's worth of sustained success, people began asserting that his company's success was due to Kirby, alongside Steve Ditko and others. How galling. Lee had been there from the beginning.

Marvel Comics is the offspring of Stan Lee's perpetual frustration. For all the dispute over credit that has dogged Lee and his company for over fifty years (even further if you consider Simon & Kirby's unhappiness regarding Captain America), the character of Marvel Comics was all Stan. This was the myth you bought into when you became immersed in the books. They were hip, they were happening, they were cooler than Brand X. Marvel was what cool college kids read - literally, your older brothers' comic books, not like those staid Superman magazines you read as a child. Marvel Comics was on the verge of world domination, and Stan was the man with the plan.

It was an attractive myth because everyone but young children knew it was just that - a myth. Marvel was cool and the books were better than National - and all their later imitators - and all that was true, at least for a while. But they remained stuck playing the role of perpetual underdogs even after the reality had shifted. Even into the 1970s, long after Marvel had escaped their distribution deal with National and become the dominant force in the marketplace, they still nourished the illusion of outsider status. It was a great thing to become a Marvel fan: it was like becoming a member of a secret club, and long after you should have known better, the identification somehow stuck. DC, for their part, (somewhat unwittingly) embraced their status as the Evil Empire: DC was a place where men wore suits and ties to work, with offices staffed by old pros who consistently dismissed their upstart competitor until it was too late to reverse the damage. Marvel was the place where a few crazy middle-aged men had accidentally created a counter-culture incubator, as the company became increasingly dominated by younger men (and even a few women) who had grown up reading the books and very much wanted to be a part of the clubhouse Stan had built. The company depended on the perpetuation of these myths to maintain forward momentum.

As successful as Marvel became, the company never outgrew Lee's frustration. There was a ceiling to the company's relevance. DC was bought by Warner Brothers, and Warner Brothers in turn produced a few successful (and not so successful) movies based on DC's IP. Lee spent many years after leaving day-to-day operations of the company trying and failing to sell Marvel's IP to Hollywood, with very little success. A handful of cartoons. A few live-action TV shows, only one of which ever amounted to anything. One big-budget debacle that ruined the company's name in Hollywood for years after. But above all else, the main product of these years of mostly wasted effort was dozens and dozens of hints and half-promises made in the pages of Stan's Soapbox over the course of decades. James Cameron was going to direct a Spider-Man film for something like a decade. Lee first announced the development of an Ant-Man film in 1990. That never happened, obviously.

The history of Marvel in Hollywood is a history of near-misses and missed opportunities. Lee never gave up hope. Even after he ceded control of his own company, even after the company changed hands, even after a lifetime of creative controversies began to take a serious toll on his public image, he persisted as "Mr. Marvel." And to a degree, at least, he personally remained something of an underdog: the man who had co-created the Marvel Universe, the guy whose uncle had founded the company, adrift in a larger, indifferent world. He never got around to writing the Great American Novel, and he never made a movie with Alan Resnais, and he never got out of Marvel's shadow. Why would you want to? He was The Man.

At their creative pinnacle in the mid 1960s, Marvel succeeded creatively by being both more primitive and more sophisticated than their rivals. But in terms of their business, Marvel succeeded the same way they always succeeded: they flooded the market and undercut the competition. As soon as Marvel regained distribution capabilities in 1968, they expanded precipitously. In 1971 they tricked DC into shooting itself in the foot by faking out the competition with a (seeming) line-wide price hike from 15 to 25 cents. DC responded by doing the same. Marvel's price hike lasted one month, after which they reduced prices to 20 cents, but DC was stuck with the 25 cent experiment for months afterwards. In the time it took DC to course-correct, they permanently lost market share. Marvel began to franchise their most popular characters into multiple books. By the late 80s, soon after Jim Shooter left the company, Marvel set out to flood the market in earnest. This was the beginning of another disastrous boom/bust cycle - a boom made even worse by subsequent mistreatment of prominent talent, who left the company to form a third major publisher, Image. (The books continued to sell after the talent left, once again reinforcing the idea that the Marvel brand would always be bigger than any individual creator.) There were a number of factors involved in the mid-90s industry breakdown, but Marvel made the worst mistakes, and the mistakes were big enough that they barely survived.

Marvel 2015 is still fundamentally the same company it was back in the mid-50s, when Martin Goodman found a cabinet full of inventory and used it as a pretense to fire everybody for six months. For all the criticism aimed at Isaac Perlmutter, he's still playing from the Goodman / Lee handbook: flood the market, undercut creators, and pray you survive the next bust. With Disney at their back they no longer need to fear the bust, and have proceeded accordingly.

Left unchecked, the company has recreated the entertainment industry in its own image. The occasion of Avengers 2 has provided movie critics and industry observers another opportunity to bemoan Marvel's success, and its not hard to see why they'd be so resentful. As bad an industry as Hollywood has always been, Marvel is worse in almost every way. Instead of franchises taking two-or-three years between installments, Marvel has figured out a way to keep successful franchises in theaters twice a year. They've proven so successful that every other entertainment conglomerate is changing their business model to compete - even Disney itself is looking to Marvel as a model for its resuscitation of the Star Wars franchise. Right now Marvel Entertainment has a hold on the popular imagination, and the imagination of the industry, that simply defies comparison: there's never been anything like it before. Even if the superhero bubble burst tomorrow, the structure of the entertainment industry will already have been permanently altered.

And it's no accident. They got to where they are today by importing Lee's playbook intact from the company's heyday. Marvel isn't a company, it's an experience. If you buy a ticket for a Marvel movie, you're buying into the experience of being part of something larger than a single movie. Everyone loves Marvel, and if you love Marvel too, you're part of a special club. People cheer when the red Marvel logo comes onscreen, and they get excited about recognizing obscure plot points from comic books they've never read, but have read about.

People have been predicting the end of the superhero movie boom for almost fifteen years - as long as there have been superhero movies, basically. The gloomiest predictions always seem to come from comics fans themselves, who recognize in themselves an incipient exhaustion with the genre that simply has not yet manifested in the general public. There are decades worth of stories left to strip-mine for basic parts. If Marvel keeps a tight ship they'll be in a good position to ride the bubble in perpetuity. If they (and Disney) are smart they'll be able to pivot when the market goes south, leaving their competitors holding the bag, selling the equivalent of 25 cent comics in a 20 cent market.

But what about Stan?

Stan lived to see his company take over the world. After decades of trying and failing to expert Marvel, it finally happened after he was no longer directly involved. He's still the figurehead, naturally, and for so long as he lives he will continue to receive his rote cameo in every Marvel movie and TV show. The problem is that the ideology Lee cultivated in the 1960s, when Marvel was a legitimate underdog in an industry that had spent the past decade trying to run his family company out of business, doesn't carry the same meaning. Marvel isn't the dark horse anymore, they're the heavy favorite. They are owned by the largest entertainment company on the planet, and they are possibly the most valuable arm of that conglomerate. The grasping ambition that Lee once cultivated was charming, in its day, part and parcel of a fantasy where Marvel was in a state of constant siege. They were self-effacing and ironic, and it was them (and you, True Believer!) against the world. The problems began when Lee started to believe his own press, and were compounded when his personal insecurities were inflated into a corporate ethos. This is the world he and his uncle made, whether or not they foresaw the consequences.

Marvel Entertainment are not nice people. They like having an avuncular mascot to trot out and reassure people that these entertainment products are made by the same kind of people who hand-crafted the original comics, but that's a lie. It's not about people at all. It's about a company with a seventy-five year track record of scorched-earth business tactics doing everything they can to maximize their leverage on largest scale possible, the kind of scale not even Lee himself could ever have imagined.

You can't root for Marvel anymore. It's like rooting for McDonalds. Once upon a time Stan Lee believed himself to be Ray Kroc, but for a while now he's been Ronald McDonald.



Sunday, May 03, 2015

The Hurting's Party Jam Podcast #56



And remember, you can always listen to this and lots of past mixes by clicking the link in the sidebar!

The Hurting's Party Jam Podcast #56 by Timoneil5000 on Mixcloud