Thursday, July 05, 2007
I watched the Twin Towers go down in the DC Comics conference room. After they fell, everyone scattered. I ended up going to the home of a co-worker from Production that I only tangentially knew. We ran, hand-in-hand, twenty blocks to her house, past the masses of confused and upset people. In my co-worker's other hand was a Bible. The further Downtown we got, the weirder the smell in the air.
I took a week off after 911 to stay in my mother's beach house and absorb what had just happened and was continuing to happen to my country. On the drive there, my Mom said over and over again that they were not going to draft my brother if we went to war, that she'd find a loophole. American flags, both store-bought and hastily-improvised, were on every car window and in front of every home from New York to Massachusetts.
When I came back to DC, I noted that the "Destruction of Metropolis" motif in the 7th Floor was in the process of being painted over. During an editorial meeting, we debated the tastefulness of continuing to run the "Our Worlds At War" mega-crossover series. "Adventures of Superman" #596, which ran one day after the attacks, featured a shot of LexTowers massively damaged by the alien invasion.
In March of 2003, the United States entered the Iraq War. I remember the swell of anti-war protests right before we officially went in, but still I had no real political stance. I didn't even feel much animosity towards George W. At work, we gathered a bunch of comics to send overseas to the troops. By the end of the Spring, the editor who I had very much enjoyed working for was suddenly fired, one of three dismissals on the same day. Soon after, we began brainstorming a new direction for the company.
By the summer of 2004, I was out of DC. At this point, George W. was being called to the carpet for a whole bunch of things -- the war, the scandal at Gitmo, domestic spying, etc.
For the first time, I began to think that there were serious problems with this particular president and his administration, problems that went beyond partisan politics, problems that were rather self-evident. By November of 2004, taking account my own personal situation, the re-election of Bush filled me with a level of dread, sadness, and a sense of futility that you may or may not be able to imagine. I watched his re-election in horror. It would now take at least four years for things to get better; four years to slog through a presidency where mistakes were never admitted to and compromise & diplomacy the stuff of "wimps."But as the scandals in Washington popped up one-by-one, and the blood continued to flow in Iraq, a new consciousness seemed to emerge in this country -- a new voice of sanity, a new patriotism built not from slavish obedience but questioning authority. And I think the inciting incident of this new phase in American life was not Iraq but Hurricane Katrina.
A couple of days after Katrina hit, when the news footage of the devastation and death started to hit the media, I was standing in a large metropolitan comic book store during "new comic day." Contrasting what was happening in New Orleans and the other affected areas with the self-absorbed comic fans clucking over one new comic or another, one new toy or another, I began to feel light-headed, stepped out of the store, and vomited a little onto the sidewalk.
By this point I was trying to reestablish myself in the comic world as a blogger. A series of scandals/outrages were hitting the comics blogosphere in regards to the treatment of women within the industry and on the pages of the books. I immediately linked in my mind the "awakening" of the American people to the shenanigans that had been going on for the last six years in Washington DC to the new awareness of these women's issues in my own field. I was incredibly encouraged.
Somewhere, in a number of DC Crossover events I was not following, characters were turning evil, or getting shot in the head, or a number of things, all in the name of a much-alluded to "endpoint" on the horizon where all the "multiple earths" and errant continuities could be rectified, leading to a golden age of peace and "fun comics again." All the violence, betrayal, and carnage of "Identity Crisis," "Infinite Crisis," and the other books were leading somewhere, to somewhere Good. Years before, when we were considering our "new direction," it was mentioned that, after all the grim and grit, after the sales were boosted, we could return to the way things were.
In November 2006 the Democrats got Congress. In contrast to my earlier political apathy, I stayed up all night to hear the results, and cheered in front of my TV set. A few weeks later, as Rumsfeld was, as they say, "thrown under the bus" by George W., I wrote "Goodbye To Comics."
It's Summer of '07 now, and the prospect of an African-American or female president is now a very real possibility. Here were two groups that traditionally got the glass-ceiling treatment in the comics industry. But we are maturing as a nation, and keeping one group or another out of positions of authority -- whether it be due to gender, race, nationality, or sexual orientation -- is becoming a thing of the past. And if not a thing of the past in all cases, then, well, something socially distasteful, like farting in public.
Of course, the comic book industry, like the nation, will keep up. Right?
But whomever gets elected in '08, I feel confident that the reign of lies, scandal, and out-and-out dastardly doings will end. We are getting smarter. I am getting smarter. I started out not even caring who my Congressperson was. I couldn't be bothered. Now I'd go door-to-door to campaign for Obama. I feel passionate about it. On this July 4th, I'm feeling passionate about things like Universal Healthcare, equality, ending the war.
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann called for the resignation of Bush & Cheney a couple of days ago. I find it significant. It's why I wrote this.
And comics, how are they going to change during the Clinton Years, or the Obama Years, or the (dare I say it) Gore years?
Comics will have to keep up. If they don't, they will become socially irrelevant. I mean, I like pro wrestling and all, but the comics industry will be somewhere behind the WWE in terms of status and respect unless it grows with the times.
The multiple deaths in the DC crossovers, "Civil War," the end of Captain America, even "Marvel Zombies" -- they are all emblematic of the ending of this chapter in the history of the American comic book, and this chapter of American life. It's like admitting it.
And I think, after the betrayals, the deaths, the destruction, the lies -- there is a new "golden age" coming, one of fairness, equality, quality, and inclusiveness. And I sit here by my computer, waiting to write about it, seizing each story as it comes down.