Comics

This Was Then: Prodigal

Stories about 'growing up' are timeless. The time, place, or circumstances may change, but a boy always becomes a man, and a girl always becomes a woman. I could share personal stories about how I did not get along with my father while I was in high school. I am sure you have your own stories. Everyone does. Growing up and becoming an adult is tough. Just as we deal with these problems in everyday life, the characters we read about in our comic books have problems as well.

Every so often a comicbook character comes along, just like a character in a movie or television show, that we can relate to; one that shares in our problems. Whether it is something in that character's past that we can associate with, or just their views of the world; we can find a piece of ourselves in a comic book. For myself, that character I can most easily associate with is Dick Grayson. From Robin, to Nightwing, to Batman, we have seen Dick Grayson grown and evolve over the years.

This week, This Was Then focuses on Prodigal. Released in '94 and '95 Prodigal explores a time when Bruce Wayne decided to leave town, and after the mistake of leaving the identity of Batman to Jean Paul Valley (during Batman's Knightfall saga). This time, he entrusts the mantle to his former partner, Dick Grayson. As good as this series is, the best part is saved for the final issue: Robin #13.

Bruce returns to the Batcave, asking Dick to give back the mantle of Batman. Dick gets angry and begins bringing up old issues that where unresolved from years earlier. As children, we sometimes latch on to our parents' mistakes, always remembering how they wronged us. We carry that pain and hurt into our adult lives, remembering that moment of when our parents screwed up. Dick may have taken on the identity of the Dark Knight, but is still acting like a Boy Wonder.

After Dick gets everything off his chest, Bruce makes a comment that brings it all together. 'A distance grew between us. I left so many things unsaid. I handled it all wrong. But that's the way it always is, isn't it? ... Between fathers and sons?'

All relationships evolve over time, but none so much as between a father and son. It starts as a protective relationship, with the father looking out for the son, teaching him how to take care of himself just as Batman trained Robin. However, it grows to a point where the son becomes his own man, and the two become equals for the most part. We see the way Dick craves respect as a friend and hero from Bruce, longing to be looked at as anything but a child.

Dick gives the title of Batman back to Bruce, and goes back to being Nightwing. Taking Bruce's place as Batman won't help him grow up, he must do that on his own.

The writers and artists change with every issue of this series, however the overall feeling of growing up is very strong from beginning to end. Stories about becoming an adult will never lose their familiarity with readers. Whether we are currently growing up, or raising children of our own, growing up is something that never gets old.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

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Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

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