Archives for the month of: December, 2012

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Like many adults into comics, I am a born-again superhero enthusiast. My childhood relationship with superheroes peaked shortly after Todd McFarlane stopped drawing Spider-man. In graduate school, I picked up the Invincible trade paperbacks from my university’s library, which is a practice I think more universities should engage in. Graphic novels belong in libraries. Most graphic novels can be consumed easily in a day and then passed on. If you read graphic novels, you should be in a graphic novel sharing community. If yr. friend’s buy Batman, you can support an independent comic or at least experiment with yr. tastes, trade with yr. friend, and read twice the stories. I loved Invincible and still do, but the superhero love returned slowly. Again like many other people, the blockbuster movies, animated stuff, and tv shows fertilized the flowering plant. Probably more influential than anything else though, I started dating my wife and she really likes comic books. She prefers non-superhero comics- she goes more for stuff like Jason, Charles Burns, or Marjane Satrapi. She also likes a lot of Japanese comics. For superhero comics, I found my way back to the primary documents with some Silver Age Batman and Green Lantern collections, the Batman Hush trade by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee, and All-Star Batman and Robin by Frank Miller and Jim Lee. My wife actually bought me the Hush TPB and I have to give that book a lot of credit for lighting the dynamite of my recent superhero obsession. I started to comics as an academic, consuming mad quantities of them, looking for a pattern. Academically, there are a lot of ideas from Green Lantern that I’m working out in my mind and I don’t think it would be totally unreasonable if I added Green Lantern Scholar to my business cards.

Last Spring, I taught courses on the histories of both superheroes and Islam. To teach both courses, I tried to bulk up weak expertise in both subjects. After all, I’m neither a Muslim nor a superhero. To be honest, I did not feel comfortable talking about two superheroes specifically. Also I must admit to still being largely ignorant about the rich legacy of Islam. The two superheroes that made me so nervous were Superman and Wonder Woman. To be a decent comic book historian, you really should know a bit about those two. Wonder Woman’s hard because her story’s always changing and you have sift through a lot of mediocre stuff to find the gold. Her life outside of comic books has a greater resonance than her life in the panels. She’s Marston’s radical gender experiment. She’s the Ms. magazine cover girl. She’s a TV star. She’s not my favorite, but she’s grown on me. I think her book in the New 52 is one of the best. I’m okay with what’s going on in Justice League even though he belongs in Lois’s arms.

Much more familiar with Superman than Wonder Woman, I felt the need to know the Man of Steel intimately and felt more comfortable in his world than Diana’s. I’d really enjoyed the Hush TPB, so I read a lot of Jeph Loeb’s work when I first got back into comics, so I read not only his run on Superman-Batman, but the entire series. It’s a good reintroduction to Superman. As I consumed more and more of the Superman narrative, I began to treat the research similarly to the research I was doing on Islam. While still looking at both subjects intellectually, I allowed myself to enjoy the spiritual element of the scholarship as well.

The spiritual content within the Superman myth is phenomenal. Not only is the story laden with religious archetypes, it functions in many ways as a faith, but uniquely. Unlike most major religions, the Superman mythology is growing and changing. Amidst this growth and change, the faith can be readily challenged because its followers know it’s contrived. We know Superman was conceived by Siegel and Shuster, but we accept Superman as something larger than the creation of those two gentlemen. With the internet, challenges to the Superman legacy can be voiced in a democratic forum and can have genuine consequences on the development of Superman, who he is and how he functions culturally. In this way, Superman is an organic spiritual institution.

Superman is a virtual religion in the DC multiverse. He is a cultural icon that has acquired metaphysical capital, an idol. At his strongest, he is an extraordinary religious parable.

His world is set up much like a religion, ornamented with easily recognizable iconography that is very often sentimentalized to such extremes as to resemble relics. This iconography includes the ship from Krypton, the Fortress of Solitude, the Daily Planet building,  the bottled city of Kandor, and the phone booth. In the first pages of Superman #1 in the New 52, the story opens with a fetishization of the Daily Planet glode. The symbol for the House of El, that unmistakable S, functions similarly to the Star of David, cross, or swastika. Like Jesus had his disciples and enemies, the Superman story features a pretty regular cast of recognizable characters. The characters in Superman are again more flexible than Jesus’ disciples, but one can imagine that an Elseworlds Bible would probably still have Judas collecting his purse.

Superman’s status as world savior and last son of Krypton add tremendously to the religious nature of Superman. Born in the heavens, Superman serves ungrateful even though we are weaker than him. Additionally anyone who grows up near an Abrahamic faith and misses the obvious similarities to Moses probably has trouble finishing poems that are greater than one page in length. Superman spirituality develops best when its subtler.

I particularly receptive to:

1) Paul Dini and Alex Ross’s Superman story “Peace on Earth” in The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes. In this story, Superman struggles with his ability to have an impact on world hunger.

2) The experience of Lois Lane not knowing Clark Kent is Superman. Much like us on the dim side of metaphysical knowledge, Lois does not realize her salvation is right in front of her.

3) Despite his service, Superman is an alien and is thus persecuted. As a former Peace Corps volunteer, this strikes at the core of my self-reflective arrogance and my White Christ complex. There is something almost universally spiritual about being hated for helping people. It’s the legacy of Dr. King, Gandhi, and other people better than me.

4) Despite his service, Superman is superior to us and that frustrates us. I think a lot of people have a relationship with their higher power that more resembles Superman and Lex Luthor than Superman and His Pal Jimmy Olsen. Exploring that relationship, that jealousy of the gods, provides great fuel for spiritual wrestling matches. I really like Lex’s breakdown at the end of All Star Superman…okay, I love everything about All Star Superman.

This Christmas, I bought my father, a former minister, a few pop culture gospel books, published about the same time he performed the Lord’s work. ImageImage

In addition to the Superman study, I also got him one that sought the Message in Peanuts.  The author of this work considered Superman to be a “perversion.”

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boredred

boredom

I died from an accelerated fashion sense.

I was a victim.

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While we have spent several Christmases together, this year will be our first Christmas together in a predominantly Christian country and our first Christmas with a Christmas tree. The tree is artificial, a hand-me-down from my sister. Decorating it has been a joy.

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This photo shows the tree is its earliest stage of transformation from simplicity to fabulousity. Note the faux amanita muscaria mushroom placed on the bottom of the tree in honor of Santa Claus’s Siberian roots.

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The star on top of the tree symbolizes the star that led the three kings to Nazareth where they were informed “THANK YOU, WISE MEN! BUT OUR SAVIOR IS IN ANOTHER MANGER!”

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This Superman figure sits near the top of the tree. It is based on a cover by Jim Lee.

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An anti-Themyscira/pro-Atlantis button. We scored a lot of Flashpoint buttons for free from Oxford Comics in Atlanta. I think they’re still have some. They’re giving them away until they run out. I really like this button and the weird fantasy world misogyny connotations that come with it. It would’ve broken my heart to see to Aquaman marry Wonder Woman because it would break Mera’s heart; she and I share a psychic bond, but have different allergies.

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Our friend made us these two ornaments to commemorate the special relationship between People’s Republic of China and the United States of America. One world, one dream!

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Recycling the season’s classic Naughty-Nice dichotomy

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Batman with a pink grenade, dreaming of pink lemonade

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The penguin shall lie down with the bat.

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August 1st (八一 ba yi)

The Chinese Army

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Bob-Omb Over Bethlehem

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Batman spying on Mario spying on a sheep’s little butthole

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Edible ornament, like a string of popcorn

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Deathstroke as a a circle, Norin Radd as a bear

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The Koopa is uncomfortable with the D and everything it stands for.

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Pink-skinned Toad, possibly boiled

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When we visited New York last summer, we saw many of my dearest friends. Of course, we brought many gifts with us. For one of my friends, who is a bit of psychotic pervert, we brought a very creepy cat mask from Japan. The mask continues to make him the envy of every other psychotic pervert he knows. His lady-friend also gave us a gift. She’s Dominican and wanted to share some of her culture with us, so she gave us a couple magic Catholic voodoo bracelets. One of these bracelets appear in the photo above. Both bracelets appear on the tree, warding off evil spirits like birth control and hard work.

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We hosted some of our friends for dinner last week and they brought us this fun home-made ornament. From its design, you can tell that our friends are winos.

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Is it a ghost? an arctic sloth? a klansbaby? an adorable snow demon? one of those naughty gremlins from Family Circus?

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Yuanyuan made these when we lived in Chongqing. The two big ones are Russell and 2D. The two little ones are Murdoc and Noodle.

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Domo: “Words are very unnecessary. They can only do harm.”

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Another link in exposing the U.S. imperialists’ hidden legacy of interference in the Mushroom Kingdom

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Detail of Mario’s eyes’ shiftiness

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A carton of milk, a fire flower, and Donkey Kong walk into a bar. Donkey Kong orders a banana beer and the bartender asks him why he didn’t order anything for the other two. Donkey Kong shakes his head and says, “I intend to barter the milk for the beer. If you refuse, I will use the flower to burn down your bar.”

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Monkey

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My neighbor Totoro and a cat biting his style

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Ninjabat from Uglydoll

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Twas the night before Christmas, when the virgin was due,

Not a creature was stirring, not even a Boo.

The stock market was fixed by the Illuminati with care

to distract the masses from pillaging billionaires.

The children were medicated for their ADHD

with anxiety meds and methamphetamine.

Ma in denial and me in withdrawal

Had just signed a check to cover it all.

When straight out of Compton arose such a clatter,

I neither created nor destroyed any matter.

A mouthful of Windex, I smelled like I felt,

bored out of the shutters and hungry as hell.

The movie star’s breasts aroused even the snow

as she jumped up and down on the television show.

When, what to my wandering eyes should appear,

but her tits fell out of her dress and so did her rear!

With a little search engine, so lively and quick,

I found a site where I downloaded the pics.

More rabid than eagles, the internet burst

with photos galore of the starlet, her at her worst.

“Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Cagney and Lacy!

On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, those who obey me!

Hey, I just met you and this crazy,

But here’s my number, so call me maybe?”

And then, in a twinkling, I found some proof

that intruders were loitering up on my roof.

As I drew my pistol and napalm and sword,

Down the chimney appeared the chairman of the board.

He was dressed in a grey suit with a loosened necktie,

the typical look for a Hoboken wise guy.

Melting ice cubes flung from his glass

as he looked for liquor with both his eyes and his ass.

His eyes- how they twinkled! His voice- how dreamy!

When he licked his lips, I shuddered extremely.

His slack and sweet mouth was drawn like a stiff,

suckling the nectar from a shoplifted fifth.

A tightly rolled spliff he held tight in his teeth

and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

He had a broad face and a golden arm,

one little taste would do Frankie no harm.

He spoke a few words, then went straight back to Vegas.

“I hate all the tourists, but at least the bourgeoisie pays us…”

And laying his finger deep inside his nose,

up! up! the chimey he flamboyantly rose!

He sprang from our lives to follow his dreams

and away they all flew like melting ice creams.

But I heard him exclaim at the end of day,

“More, much more than this, I did it my way.”

notbane

Another gift. This is not Bane.

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A propeller shroomed Toad from New Super Marios Bros.

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1up Mushroom with lace

pacmanghost

Blinky

pandainthetree

This cute panda arrived from China with some shoes and books.

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Inky

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44th President of the United States of America Barack Obama

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A tree grows between Captain Marvel’s legs.

One-armed Italian plumber bear in background

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Another gift from an accomplished ghost-buster

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Deadman and Wonder Woman are buttons, but Superman came from a bottle of juice drink.

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This ornament is pretty old. The baby is based on me when I was a baby. Back then, I had a pretty cute butt.

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What’s cooler than being cool? Captain Cold.

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The Wolfman’s First Rodeo

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Yoshi, cruising for confusion among the Christmas miracles.

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burmesedaysofchristmas

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Few superhero franchises echo the spirit of American ambition like the Green Lantern. In each incantation, the Green Lantern characteristically looks at emotion in a primitively simple fashion, centering its understanding of the universe around the nature of will power. Each era of the Green Lantern reflects changes in the American understanding of Will Power as a component of national identity. In the Golden Age, Alan Scott answers to no Green Lantern Corps. He is a rugged individualist who vigorously pursues his own happiness, much like popular contemporary protagonists Casablanca’s Rick Blaine and Citizen Kane’s Charles Foster Kane. In the Silver Age, Hal Jordan embodies the spirit of the U.S.-Soviet Space Race as a cocky test pilot who flies for the sake of the flight, not the destination- the Chuck Yeager-era ring-slinger that inspired disdain and camaraderie in the Megaphone Mark Green Arrow. John Stewart is a black Howard Roark. Like Luke Cage or Jason Todd, Guy Gardner is the reformed delinquent with a chip on his shoulder; unlike Cage and Todd, Guy also has a shiny green chip on his finger that derives its power from that chip on his shoulder. Kyle Rayner and his limp Will speak to a certain American impotence.  Parallax? The excesses of the over-Will.

When Martin Lodell and Bill Finger created the original Green Lantern in 1940, the American literary imagination enjoyed an infatuation with the concept of the individual.  Western literature of the 1940s featured some of history’s greatest intellectual champions of the nature of the individual, such as Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Herman Hesse, Richard Wright, F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Orwell, and Ayn Rand. The struggle of the individual against the shackles of society has been fundamental to the Green Lantern since Alan Scott took the ring in All-American Comics #16. The Green Lantern continues a stubborn American tradition of associating a strong will power with bravery, a tradition with roots in pioneerism, Protestantism, and an irrational suspicion of education.

While suicides, car crashes, and possible murders claimed the likes of Hemingway, Camus, and Wright, the Green Lantern soldiers on. Unlike most stories, the collected Green Lantern is longer than Ayn Rand’s collected works.  The staying power of the Green Lantern narrative lies in its organic nature and how it responds to the monthly shifts in the zeitgeist. Alan Scott appealed to an absurd Objectivism in vogue during the Second World War. Alan Scott appealed to the sense that an individual could change the world whether that individual was Hitler, Gandhi, or Mao. Alan Scott appealed to a 1940s understanding of the American Dream- a dream as green as the Emerald City and Gatsy’s green light.

Below you can see an article that found its way in to the back of several Green Lantern comics. It’s written by Dr. William Moulton Marston, one of comic history’s greatest characters. Marston believed passionately that comic books could sculpt the collective consciousness as to avoid the catastrophes of groupthink such as war. With the credentials of a Harvard-trained psychologists, he gained a following, allowing him to experiment with the messages he believed would improve the world. In addition to writing this strange article, Marston invented the lie detector, created Wonder Woman, and successfully navigated a polyamorous relationship. The article below invokes the tone and language of political propaganda. As nationalism became more sophisticated in the outburst of hostilities that was WWII, the human psyche enthusiastically pursued more meaningful ways to understand their national identity. Americans began to picture themselves as distinct from the rest of the world not simply because of geography or race, but because of their way of life. Will Power emerged as a totem of the New Capitalism and the indoctrination stated early. On the first page of the article, Marston advocates exercises in Will Power, so that one’s Will may enjoy endless growth and the ability to overcome any adversity, including physical handicap. Much of this discussion plays as a precursor to Scientology. L. Ron Hubbard, of course, came from a science fiction background, thus we can conclude that a quasi-school of thought existed in the science fiction community that considered Will Power somewhat magical or holy.  On the second page of the article, Marston depicts George Washington and Ulysses Grant as superheroes of U.S. history. Washington and Grant represent the two most important military victories of the U.S. government, one against the British and one against itself. Marston is asserting that Will Power created and saved the country. The student becomes the master as the article urges kids to share the article’s wisdom with their ignorant parents.

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i’m staying in this tub until the gods return from their liquor run.

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this real question is: do i have enough sympathy for teenage girls to impersonate them on-line?

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you look like a panda, but yr. hung like a zebra

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come on, pinocchio! let’s wrestle these liars!

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now that it’s raining move than ever, know that we still have each other. you can stand under my umbrella.

ninetynineproblems

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