Saturday, May 22, 2010
in all of us
there is a hero, if for no one else but ourselves until the time comes.
The Plot will Move Along
Imagination, Speculation, Iteration: Existence.
Briefly I'd like to say, the feelings of the world I wished to forever more experience were clear through adolescence, but before I got out of second grade, the wonder of carrying on the stories presented in the first 30 comic books ever given to us kids one Christmas Day assured that I would ponder interconnected, mysterious and exciting happenings on the best of the rest of my days.
Last year, I began rehabilitating my work after the death of my father, Cecil, from pulmonary fibrosis, at 57. I began with about thirty pages of hand written letters to my friend who'd shown up after absent years to support me at the funeral, along with a few close-by childhood friends, who all convened at his house the night after the burial to make something amazing and benevolent. Upon his encouragement, though I did not have a computer of my own for years between 2003 and 2008, I'd signed into an online forum that celebrated comic books, so much its name was secretly meant to represent, "Iron Man With A Nose."
Our IMWAN chum Dave Toxik.
Then there were, at the library, "me e-mails from Bali in Sri Lanka," where I thought of being, half the time, and my partnership with Angela Dawn kept me somewhat interested in a thread back to the comic books worlds that inspired me, voicing all characters and sound effects and music, depending on how busy my vocal chords were, somewhere Juustt beyond sight, so I could play with abandon.
Once you've been That kid, there are just certain roots you need to revisit each day when you look at the world.
Well, startin with Fantastic Four appearing across my lucid and then R.E.M. and then lucid again dreams, within a day or so I composed the first of ten installations of my emulation of the great King-Size Annual format; a tale longer than the usual monthly comic book we readers knew as "double sized"! With it began a window from Beyond (no, nothing to do with SECRET WARS planet...that I knew of...) where three long-thought dead Viking adventurers dove into modern future, one containing the Fantastic Four as I remembered them advertised in my childhood (no issues of that from the Penguin mascot-topped salvage store, D & L Supply, out on mysterious highway through West Rome. Why, the first official comic I'm releasing is set in that area, and I even, with Dad, rode on down that road at eighteen so that I could see University of Alabama, who were offering me a paid chance to live and attend college.
From there, the core spirits of my novel TRANZ acted one version of the principles at work in the action of TRANZ itself. By taking it apart in layers, I began to understand the more absolutely fantastic part of my visions. The Defenders---particularly Valkyrie, Hellcat, Nighthawk and Hulk---WERE in that box, chosen on the grace of containing my favorite hero, Spider-Man, on the cover, not to mention, if they saw him in comic book guise down below snarling, another fave, the Incredible Hulk. (remember: these characters actually had men pretending to run around and BE them on camera, as did, for that matter, Wonder Woman. The idea adults think enough of your hero to run around pretending to BE them is HUGE when you are a child.) My Mom and DAd both knew he was my favorite. I was huge on Superman's 1950s tv series. THAT was my DAD's super hero. And he, was mine.
Now the spirit and intrigue of that comic, published four years before, in spring of 1978, brought me another set of characters---this time, about whom I felt I and most people knew very little, save for Hulk.
With them, I have worked out, to the last chapter of nuances, an additional layer of the TRANZ story engine, which already contained mostly realistic-as-possible human beings and the best science stuff I as a layman could bring along. What I had now, what I discover every day since, is a faith in myself that the PLOT will move along, so long as I keep interested. Greater design comes from the carefully considered cast.
So with these strangers, FOR strangers, I began to compose short story pastiches.
In the course of looking up the Defenders online, to seek minutiae to consider as vivid story details, I found these profound ruminations...it was as though I'd rediscovered the Letter Column again: always my way of gaining clues about comics I'd never seen, much less read. Better yet, I had to imagine the comic from their words, myself. Considering I still wasn't sure how to pronounce the creators' names when I first read of them, I touched wonder at a level that humbles me daily. Its continued expansion came, in part, from blogger Plok, quoting a strange Henry David Thoreau for his blog title, saying things that connected my adult sense of literacy with meanings I'd found in the reality of the characters blessed to me in childhood...and my father.
Dad, who taught me to love the Atlanta Braves, or ignore the game and go outside and play, it never mattered TOO much, have fun. He stayed in to watch them... even after saying one night in 1986 or so, "if the Braves lose tonight, I ain't ee-hh-verr gonna watch them agin!". You can bet that became a favorite tease--we teased a lot in good times around my house, and that one was used over a hundred times, I betcha. Dad. How many of those comic books did you pick? Remember what I bought with the first money you ever gave me for my good grades, at the end of second grade? Two comic books, cover price. One for 25 cents, one for 50. Both MARVEL TALES reprints of Spider-Man. His web adorned DEFENDERS #63, so I get the comic with, undoubtably to their eyes, the Joker and Cat Woman as a bonus. I mean, who says you have to live in trademark approved worlds? Well, not my mom and dad. Not to me in second grade.
So that comic led me into reading anything I could about and by Steve Gerber. Already my connection with Steve Englehart's mid 1980s stories had come back in the last name of our character, Celestia Faith Englehart. We brought the Faith.
Turns out, Steve, about the time I was born, brought the Celestia---harmonica, that is, blown to return the world, nay, the universe from utter non-existence, by the man who happened upon it in the course of clashes and clues: Ben Grimm. Who you may know as the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing.
As I found out from reading Plok's blog, and his Seven Heroes of Steve. How I read! Listen: the most meaningful stream of consciousness ruminations on so many comics I've yet to read, and from there, imagined them...as they might make me feel...as they might stay with me long after the comic is folded shut and the world calls me to lay.
I'd just discovered Doc Nebula's old letters online when somehow I clicked a link or did a search and found this amazing discussion that further, truly, introduced me to the characters I knew less and hinted at philosophies and questions and speculations involved in the conscious and subconscious equation of these creations.
What is it like to live in the margins, at the fringes of "normal" activity but still without having left the sphere of that activity completely? It isn't just a question for superheroes, obviously. But maybe it's a particularly apposite one for them: if the raison d'etre of the superhero is to be effective in protecting the greater mass of non-powered humanity, being stranded on the margins of society takes the ordinary superhero symbolism and invests it with some extra poignancy, because what it means to "help" or "protect" when you're out at the fringes is something different from what it means when you're closer to the centre. It's harder to know what to do, in other words: harder to act, and harder to succeed. Because the world of the margins enjoys its own logic, its own safeties and menaces, and for a superhero - that is to say, for any person, regardless of their empowerments - to be an effective force there, they must adapt themselves to its environment. They have to be willing to learn new things, that the people in the centre don't know. --Plok
By himself "Plok" composed a fabulous series that dealt with the mostly-missed Fantastic Four comic books (save for a year and a half spell at Liberty News Stand, with money worked for after school), examining underpinnings of the world of their making. With "7Soldiers" I found many thoughtful guests border on the downright educational, as my Defenders project drug slowly across the months, acquiring many hand-sketches and the occasional sanity check. Bet you didn't know you could get PAID in sanity!
Remember: the comics I ever DID have are nowhere around me but in my mind, where they're most safely packed. Only when I truly began last summer to pull out the boxes in my mind and read more of issues I'd half-glimpsed in a dream but never held in some form---discussion, and imagination---did the full force of the joy of creativity revisit me in my long-held burdens to compose a body of work that intruded my visions before school ended, and so, it is little surprise in that light I've turned the existence of the comic book, and the discussion of its story, into studies. Only, my notes were generally translated now into necessities and questions about my own budding set of characters, already too vast to write about except in corners chosen, like having a mansion but choosing in which few rooms you really stay.
I discovered the idea that Steve Gerber's 1970s Marvel work was generally attracted to similar themes, principles, and recurrent characters, to the degree that, were it lifted for the most part out of the Marvel Universe, it would display the coherency of a novel, stretched across, um, four years or so of writing. Incredible.
So by Christmas, I'd taken on DEFENDERS #21-25 to understand what plok and Comic Debris were on about: on Geoff Klock's blog I'd found his mash-up of poetry theory, his own BOOK on published super-heroes in our lifetime and how to read them, and his guest, primarily the Herculean Jason Powell, led me down an appreciation/ evaluation of every X-Men comic authored by Chris Claremont, over eighteen years!!! Every month!!! Those both turned out to be fun to read with Angela Dawn after dinner. ESSENTIAL DEFENDERS vol. 2 aided me with the core Gerber Defenders work, as I continued giving my own interpretation of them and my novel in weeks afterward.
And this was a productive approach: life at the margins can be very interesting indeed, especially when it's happy to stay on the margins and doesn't pine away for a richer relevance to the centre. In so doing, it makes slightly different connection with things: for just as the world of superheroes is marginal to the world of regular people, with its own peculiar rules and investments of meaning (that must be understood and adapted to) which stand in contrast to the normal praxis of living, the world of marginal superheroes concerns itself explicitly with how these tensions relate back to the world of "regular people": the symbolism of the superhero is explored in greater detail when it's seen that both the regular people and the superheroes are really all in the same boat, at least so long as they're outside the centre-places where the rules of living are handed down for free, instead of figured out at cost...so in Gerber's Defenders, ordinary people wander in and out of the action very easily, almost as if they belonged there. Even homeless baby deer are welcomed at Strange's Sanctum Santorum, when they have no place else to go. Everybody is all in this together, special powers notwithstanding - the "non-team" really is non as far as the team thing goes, because it mirrors the marginal world around it, which is always in flux.---Plok
Wandering in; imagination, realized at the margins. My school papers, these many years, always contained the hints of my unbridled creativity---most often spent developing unbelievable laugh stuff for my friends---popping up line-by-line beside the prosaic task of school, where I concentrated none the less. Generally.
Life in the margins. Accepting yourself as you must breathe from the margins.
I complete my Avengers tribute---as though I were pinch-hitting for that great pinch-hitter Roger Stern, writer of funny books---as a birthday present for my old friend David, in thanks for just reading those 30 pages. From there, with a quick primer in quantum physics and consciousness, I then add the script to my already-published plot for Tranz/ Defenders, which sounds like a cool movie or something on some alternative world, already!!! Or TRANZ GENDERS. There's a Star Man, indeed...
Steve Gerber died before he could receive a lung transplant...another ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN fan gone of the same cause, same age, basically...two months later than Dad. Their birthdays were just days apart. Mr. Gerber was gone before I ever really got to know his work (outside the only comic book I carried with us here to California: our freshly purchased, for-the-bus trip saved, ESSENTIAL HOWARD THE DUCK. Usually followed by "which has nothing to do with the movie, nor did the creator, nor have I even seen that movie." It kept me safe from the Kidney Lady, yes.)
But the sensibility of his work---while it is not the same as mine, shaped by our considerable differences as people---will not die. And I am the part of my father who will aid its arrival again in life. This in no small part owes to those who, in that meaningful sense of signifiers, knew him best in his work. I feel lots of ghosts beside me. It is pleasant also to have you electronic spirits gathered, as well, as I draw, as I write, as I pace and lay awake in my tiny apartment. I am just someone who owes everyone he's known so much, he can't help but somehow love them all. Pitch in a misanthropic overslept mood now and then, with some underslept one, and from that chaos, you get a pretty honest answer from me about who I am.
So what does it mean, then, for an ordinary man like my Dad? Not too much education, facing the world with his family, for his family, a hero in uncertain times, with interesting vulnerabilities he would not willingly show more than he had to save around little children; humor, and courage. What is it to face change? Face the margins? Face terminal illness?
Face: existence beyond death?
Beyond...non-existence? For whom?
The fates of such persons now embody my fictional principles and ideas, centering everything around a nebula of hearts, held by four prime forces and something incalculable in algorithm yet pertaining to conscious essence.
It is enough to make the American Flyer harmonica my Mom bought me fall apart. I can't blow it. But neither could anyone of the others.
It is more than a body can take. Yet we come to better love ourselves when we see in our joys what may in us ascend the highest heavens of invention.
be chill, Cease ill