How do you not cry when you hear that final movement of Beethoven’s 9th for the first time? It’s probably equally hard to fight back the wonder when you see Derren Brown’s orchestra suddenly starts to play a single tune. Between fighting back the tears, and fighting your way through to the wonder, you’ll find yourself in exactly the country Kurt Busiek describes in Astro City.
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There’ll be chaos and destruction in the later pages of H’el on Earth, what else could there be with a full-blooded Kryptonian (in the personage of H’el) arriving on Earth? But before the coming mayhem, writer Scott Lobdell makes the far more interesting creative choice of framing the physical coming-to-blows as an external metaphor of Kal-El’s internal battle to make a home for himself in Metropolis, and more broadly on Earth. In doing so, Lobdell seems to parallel the conflicts involved in Mozart writing his 38th Symphony, “Prague.”
You can’t say for certain unless you check to make sure, but Joe Kubert’s career seems to span the entire history of comics. He appears at the very end of the Golden Age, makes a mile-deep impression on the Silver Age, then watches as both his sons Adam and Andy enter the industry, all will starting a school to teach the next of generations.
Can a character become a genre? During the ‘70s and ‘80s, publishing house DC’s main competitor, Marvel, had phenomenal success in that arena with characters like the Hulk, and particularly Wolverine. With a story setting that had Dr Bruce Banner (the Hulk’s alter ego) wandering the cultural landscape of ‘70s America, Incredible Hulk became the perfect platform for a wide array of genres—everything from romance to conspiracy theory to epimythic struggles against polluters or the politically corrupt. Wolverine was even more successful. Breaking away from his comparatively sedate life with the X-Men, Logan saw himself unleashed to his full feral potential in the pages of Wolverine.
In 1985, with flagging interest in the Old West, DC experimented in the same concept with the legendary scar-faced, Old West bounty hunter, Jonah Hex. The original 1985 book ends on a serious cliffhanger, one only resolved in the successor title Hex, which explained that Jonah Hex had in fact been rocketed into the distant future, there to begin his surly, steely-eyed, scar-faced search for justice all over again. But this time, among the stars and in the new genre of space opera. Hex failed to find its audience, and soon enough, found itself cancelled.
During the dying days of the Cold War (when were there Cold War days that didn’t involve American deaths, many of them secret and on a distant soil), the Suicide Squad appeared out of nowhere and presented a new kind of storytelling to mainstream comics. Maybe experiments of this kind wouldn’t have been possible without the direct market, but the raw premise of the book was this—forget heroes, even superheroes, and think about the murky of half-truths and hidden-mirrors and psych-ops, and the heavy price paid by nameless, faceless Cold Warriors.