Loose Cannon: Issue #65

Fri, December 2nd, 2005 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Larry Young, Columnist

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I BLAME NIXON

OK, I blame Nixon for a lot of things, actually. Just because he didn't have a vision for the American space program (pissed because it was Kennedy's task and Johnson and his pals who reaped the economic benefits), he rubber-stamped the shuttle and had Congress OK the bare minimum of funding. So I get the promise as a boy in the late '60s that when I'm an adult, I'm going to be eating fried clams (or something that tastes very much like it) while quaffing my Tang-based screwdrivers at the Howard Johnson's just south of Autolycus. Instead, we get low-earth orbit Skylab in the '70s, 1-200 catastrophe odds for shuttle launches in the '80s and '90s, and the biggest successes are JPL's Mars Tonkas and the biggest failures are NASA's silica aerogel satellite impact in the naughties.

And I can't help but notice that I don't live off-planet.

So, then Bush, Jr. and his buddies yell, "hey, station, moon, and Mars!" hoping to defer attention and guys like me still can't help but get excited even though we know better, and, OK, Lockheed Martin's CEV looks enough like the ship from the "Planet of the Apes."

Down to the delta-shaped crew quarters and the back engine package to make me finally think we're getting somewhere. "At last we get the future and the diagonal zippers and the stogies and the stalwart friends and pliable blondes and the spacecraft we were promised long ago!"

And then? Head-of-NASA Michael Griffin unveils the new plan, a scant six weeks later, and it's "Apollo on steroids?" The bold new look for American crewed spacecraft is a four-men-to-the-moon, six-men-to-the-ISS Apollo capsule? Sure, the thing'll have more than 64K in its computers, and maybe as a sop to taxpayers we may even get our boys in diagonally zippered jackets, but WTF? They held shit up for forty years, just so they could do the same exact thing again, albeit on a larger scale?

Where's the innovation, the thrill of the unknown, the walking-into-a-volcano-naked-on-the-chance-you'd-learn-something-new?

From comics to politics to economics to social awareness, I am bone tired of people doing the same old thing. Sure, not every new idea is a good one until it works, and even failures can be noble.

But I sure am not liking the stagnant smell of inertia that is the hallmark of the early 21st century.

And like I said, I blame Nixon.

I mean, how else to account for what passes for comics criticism, nowadays? When was the last time you read something online or in print that wasn't a bunch of negativity, or, at best, dissembling? Where is everyone's passion? Where is the enthusiasm? I mean, if you don't like what you're reading, here's a thought: stop.

Parenthetically, it's not lost on me that the same argument could be applied to me, here. If I think comics criticism is a wasteland of naysayers and chuckleheads, I should just stop reading the crap, yeah? Well, honestly, I wish I could, but as a publisher I'm duty-bound to keep on top of the yahoos who may accidentally be getting out a word or two amongst all the noise.

You know the writer Joe Klein? Followed Clinton around for years, wrote "Primary Colors?" He wrote another one explaining "the misunderstood presidency of Bill Clinton" called "The Natural," and addresses this climate of negativity in the newsroom:

"There was considerable peer pressure to stay cynical: reporters who wrote favorably about politicians were considered to be 'in the tank.' A negative story about a politician was the safest story. 'Over the past two decades, political reporters have become more concerned with how

other political reporters judge their work,' said Bill Kovach, a curator of the Neiman Fellowship at Harvard. 'Not wanting to look soft leads to a negative spin: no matter what position is taken by a politician, the journalistic tendency is to examine it in a negative light-- to emphasize political calculations rather than substance.'"

Not surprisingly, Klein blames this on Nixon's Watergate.

Is that what's going on? Commentators on the scene want the "safest story?" Better to write, "It was kinda good, except for this one part I didn't like," instead of waving your proverbial beer in the metaphorical air and screaming "This comic was the most awesome thing I've ever read!"? Or, "The people who made this comic should be forced to plant trees to make up for the ones they killed to make this crap!" Commentators on the scene are worried about what other commentators think of their work, instead of reaching an audience with their opinions? And is that audience that they are reaching merely other commentators?

Well, obviously that leads to Ouroboros over for dinner, and we all know how that party ends.

Mail about this column can be sent to larry@comicbookresources.com

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