Call for Music Writers... Rock, Indie, Urban, Electronic, Americana, Metal, World and More

 
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Friday, Jul 10, 2009

When you watch a lot of people float away into the sky, and then wake up the next day to find magic is real and your neighbor has mutated, you might think to yourself, ‘I wonder if the rapture just happened, and I didn’t hear the trumpet,’ or ‘there has to be a scientific explanation for this.’  Either way, Jim Munroe banked on this confusion in his works Therefore Repent and his new series Sword of my Mouth.  Both stories follow people during the near-future dawning of a second dark age, in which magic is real but mostly impractical.  Medieval alchemy is out the window in this new age; gold is almost worthless, so who would bother trying. Instead the magic is just weird, like when a woman comes into a bar with a cat on her shoulders that is clearly alive but is made of dust balls and string. 


Sword of my Mouth continues the narrative of the first book, but moves the story to Detroit and begins with a new community of people.  It makes sense that following this rapture event, there would be a political and economic collapse.  Some people have kept going to their office jobs in hopes that they will make the cut for a second ascendance.  There is still a president who is a friend of a Jesus-type person, though he has lost most of his authority.  All the same, people continue make most decisions based upon the moral codes on which they were raised.  People have rebuilt their communities in ways that are pretty similar to the social structures in which they have lived their whole lives, but decision-making and trade has become more localized.


The city is still considered a dangerous place.  Though not much more dangerous than before, attackers have adopted a different mythology and might have a mutated animal head or come swooping in as a genocidal angel with a machine gun.  The beauty of these books is that most panels depict lives that don’t differ that greatly from our own, so when something about an interaction is a little off, it is all the more striking.  In these panels, Munroe and artist Shannon Gerard present a stabbing in the railroad yard, displacing the human shapes from the limits of the setting’s space, while making reference to the new metaphysical order.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Jul 9, 2009

Some people move a lot, jumping from city to city, addicted to the newness and the ability to abandon their pasts.  Through this process, they begin to refine their autobiographic introductions.  After exchanging names, jobs, and past times, new acquaintances start to size you up not only based on what you say, but how you say it. Meeting people is easy when you have the story they want to hear, but figuring out just what that story is can be taxing, and the repetition and refinement of those stories can make you start to question what had actually happened. 
 
Local is mostly a series about that addiction and those disaffected left behind.  As Megan, the principle character of the work, travels from city to city, she tries on multiple identities until she starts to have trouble remembering who she is to which people.  Sorting through forgotten name tags at her movie theater job, she starts to make up histories for different names, slipping into simple pasts in each attempt at a new introduction and losing a piece of her self in the process. 


To capture the feeling of the city, Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly had their friends send them pictures of spaces in each place that they thought held some unique aspect of the local.  In this issue, the Oxford movie theater in Halifax, Nova Scotia serves to reinforce the idea that identity is in some sense performance in that people are going to watch actors on film.  Perhaps more importantly, it also plays upon the ease of worker substitution, as evidenced by the pile of abandoned name tags, each representing the forgotten past of someone who had worked there before.  As Megan sifts through names in these panels, she is touching objects that are representative of past employees who bore different proper nouns, but probably sold and tore tickets in equally efficient ways.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Jul 8, 2009

More than gore for gore’s sake, the best zombie stories are about a force in society becoming normalized into a mob mentality.  Night of the Living Dead was about an African American man in the 1960’s fighting for empowerment among a white population.  Dawn of the Dead, set in one of the first mega-malls in the country, was about the growth of consumer spaces and how they were affecting culture. Of course, the gore is close to magic in these films. Someone recently informed me that the guts in the first were made with ham, but the depth of these works is in their overarching ideas. 


  Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead follows Rick, a former law enforcement officer, who wakes up in the hospital to find himself in a zombie apocalypse.  As his character emerges, we get the sense that he was a true believer in the old societal order and wants to rebuild the world in an image of security that never really existed. 


The failure of his utopian ideal is amplified through his encounter with the city.  As he reaches Atlanta on horseback in his sheriff’s clothes, we see the city is lost.  The café he passes has been spray painted, windows are broken, and a zombie lays propped up against a wall in a pile of trash like a wino.  Not much has changed, except mob rule has displaced law and spread to the county-side.  It doesn’t take long for Rick to be attacked by the infected citizens and run back to the safety of the rural.  The suburbs he and his group attempt to occupy are similarly overridden by these forces and are lost.  It is not until he arrives at a maximum security prison that he finally says, “It’s perfect, we’re home.”


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Tuesday, Jul 7, 2009

Quite a few Marvel superheroes have anger management issues; Hulk’s rage often ruins otherwise sound plans, and Wolverine’s rampaging has to be calculated into any team strategy.  Depression, however, is rarely a vulnerability that dominates a super-powered protagonist’s series of bad decision-making.  It’s almost like Marvel mutants evolved in a way that made them insusceptible to depression. They just skip the listless mornings of lying in bed for hours and go straight for the chaos and lashing out. 


Alias tells the story of Jessica Jones, a minor superhero who experienced a traumatizing event in which she was mostly forgotten by her team and left to the torments of her abductor.  Instead of becoming unrealistically enraged, she retired her costume and became a private investigator.  On top of never really resolving her trauma, Jessica made a career of dealing with people who were being betrayed by someone they trusted, or were trying to dig up dirt on the people who trusted them.  After having slept with Luke Cage, a.k.a. Power Man, she finds she has been set up by a client, who plays upon her emotional distance to frame her for a murder.  In this panel, Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos have placed Jessica in the graffiti-adorned hallway of Luke Cage’s apartment building. The door has just been slammed in her face, and she is, once again, alone. 


That she is closed in by graffiti adds another level of loneliness to her inability to cope with her problems.  In a sense, graffiti is a signifier of alienation.  Surrounded by a dense population, writers throw up their tag names unnoticed or ignored.  The kids write because they are surrounded by a signifying system that has excluded them. They write their tags over and over again to make a place for their names.  The hallway is full of little messages for other writers, and the tags remind us that at some point, probably late some night before, there was foot traffic through this apartment building.  Jessica is surrounded by the names of people who are no longer there and is forced to face the realization that out of desperation, she’s made another bad choice.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Jul 6, 2009

At some point in most long-term romantic relationships, couples fall upon the unfortunate question game of ‘would you still love me if…?’  They ask each other questions like:  Would you still love me if I were horribly disfigured in an accident?  Or, would you still love me if I changed my sex?  Only the most faithful of comics couples think to ask, “Would you still love me if I fell into a swamp during a fire, died, and was then regenerated by ‘plant consciousness’, retaining my old memories but identifying more with the plant kingdom than animals? Oh, and instead of flesh, my skeleton would be covered with moss and ferns and swamp stuff?”


Though the possibility of this transformation seems many worlds away, somehow readers of Swamp Thing suspend disbelief.  In addition to buying into this narrative of a man reborn as a plant, we began to agree that such a swamp thing would have a semi-traditional courtship with a human.  Of course, to just let that relationship run its course without the meddling of traditional authorities would be too unrealistic.  The year 1986 just wasn’t ready for a sentient plant and human romance, and in issues #47-53 Abby Holland’s relationship with Swamp Thing was put on trial as a “crime against nature”, mirroring controversy over the real U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold anti-sodomy laws in Bowers v. Hardwick around the same time. Enraged, Swamp Thing returns the city to a fast-growing wilderness and demands not only Abby’s release, but legal recognition of their relationship.  Some city-dwellers revel in the bounty of the new jungle city, but the state wants to reassert its authority. 


Falling in love with someone who is deemed unfit by society to be your partner has been a common literary theme since time immemorial.  From Shakespeare to Stendhal, it’s a trope in which we love to engage.  The addition of modernity versus nature, or the city versus wilderness, gives rise to a much appreciated King Kong grandeur in the Swamp Thing saga.  The combination of Swamp Thing’s love for Abby and his mixed feelings about humans are manifested in the scale of his transformation of the city.  This panel, from Alan Moore and John Totleben’s Swamp Thing #53 shows the city’s transformation and the growth of the kindly monster’s hubris.


Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.