You'll All Be Sorry

Mon, May 1st, 2000 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Gail Simone, Guest Contributor

NOTE FROM GAIL: Heya, all! I was on vacation this week, so we have a genuine, authentic change-of-pace guest-written Yabs. This is from a comics pro who inexplicably wishes to remain nameless (Hint: It's not Rob Liefeld). Enjoy, and I'll have a sparkly new column next week!

Suddenly, such headlines vanished from the earth. Newspaper editors toiled to encapsulate the depth, scope and vision of the Fine Art of Sequential Picto-Literature without quoting noises from the 34-year old Batman TV series. Responsible journalists and critics learned to discuss five-dollar, 24-page, black-and-white, powerfully frank memoirs of cartoonists' creepy, pitiful sex lives without invoking capes, masks or bottle cities.

No one knew why, but everyone had a guess.

A study commissioned by the newly rechartered US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Comic Books concluded that the publication of The Comics Journal's eleven billionth word could have generated a history-altering math-energy that would make comics respectable for 500,000 years.

The Dean of the Harvard School of Lettering argued in The New York Times Comic Book Review that humanity's comics consciousness might have been spontaneously raised by a particularly caustic quip Art Spiegelman muttered after his second glass of Merlot at the opening of the Lower Manhattan gallery show, "I HAVE NO MOUTH AND I MUST SCREAM: THE PALPABLE FURY OF CARL ANDERSON'S HENRY."

Whatever the reason, comics -- admittedly an offensive name for a serious, lively Pulpartform; a name left over from the Bad Old Days when the Art was trapped in a juvenile morass, tragically stunting its staggering potential to portray (and even mold!) the human condition; a name replaced by worthier names like Sequential Picto-Literature, Consecutive Art and Thoughtful Verbographic Drama -- were no longer written about (or curtly dismissed) in shallow, quickly-digested, empty-calorie blurbs favored by lazy mass-media panderers and instead were carefully examined by profoundly literate men and, yes, women who expressed themselves in remarkably long sentences like this.

In short order, the industry's culture underwent a radical change. Spacious museums replaced cramped shops, gala fundraisers subsidized publishing profits, and formal evening wear supplanted that Rocketeer T-shirt with Betty's butt on it. Champions of the elite like George Will abandoned their references to Greek historians in order to compare Congressional budget struggles to the second time the Hulk fought the Thing and the Avengers tried to take over but they just got in the Fantastic Four's way.

The mainstream public quickly caught up with the Sequential Literati thanks to a celebrated test of new legislation. On January 28, 2001, passengers on a city bus in Rochester, NY smirked at Billy "Hawkeye" Beamish, a 35 year old comics fan, for publicly reading an issue of THE AVENGERS. Beamish signaled a passing police officer, who charged the crowd with Making A Grown-Up Comic Reader Feel Weird About It, a federal hate crime. America rallied around Beamish, and his Rocketeer T-shirt became a national symbol of heroic victimhood. The mocking commuters were convicted but the case was reversed on appeal, when defense attorneys proved that, during the incident, Beamish abused a work of Thoughtful Verbographic Drama by reading it solely for pleasure.

In an ensuing civil suit, attorneys for Beamish argued that THE AVENGERS is not Thoughtful Verbographic Drama nor even Consecutive Art, but is instead a demonstrably pernicious work of Sequential Pablum generated by rapacious corporate panderers indistinguishable from heroin dealers, and it was thus permissible to follow the exploits of the Earth's Mightiest Heroes for escapist purposes. He was laughed out of court; by this time the creators of mainstream super-hero comics had adapted to the new order, emerging as the loudest proponents of High Seriousness. Freed from the commercial pressures of a slumping industry, the super-hero writers recognized that they no longer needed to change. They could keep fashioning whole bodies of work around references most people would never get, just like poets and painters. Bat-Hound would live to thrill an ever-smaller and more sophisticated cult of enthusiasts.

If the world now seems a safer place for comics, one threat looms like a big silhouette of the Juggernaut on an issue-ending splash. Sequential Literacy scores show U.S. children lagging far behind the rest of the world. Every parent is too familiar with the endless shrieking arguments and bitter tears that inevitably follow when we try to force our kids to read CAPTAIN AMERICA or JLA. Some have even suggested dumbing down the curricula, as if it simply doesn't matter if we raise a generation of Americans who don't know Don McGregor from Don Perlin. Of course it matters. A free people must be able to distinguish Vibranium from Suspendium. The solution, if there is one, goes deeper than comics, because the problem is an age-old contest of wills. We do our best to give our children every advantage and they act like we've taken something away from them. - ELVIS NIXON

Mr. (?) Nixon wishes to remain anonymous, so here's a bull**** bio to throw you all off track, and by that I mean to supply you with valuable clues. Elvis was born a genderless, faceless freak and only recently learned how to spit properly. His mother was also his father, which wasn't as complicated as it sounds, once you take into consideration that they were co-joined twins who liked each other very very much. In his spare time, Elvis writes novels that other people have already written, because he hates not knowing the endings and finds plotting tedious. Elvis wrote such great comics as _________ and also had a memorable run on the fan-favorite _________. He has an upcoming Marvel Knights project, revamping _______ as a gritty urban thug. He lives in a ________ in the town of ________. He likes fruit, such as _______.

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