Sunday, March 15, 2009

On the conspicuous and mysterious vanishment of a Commander-in-Chief, an extradimensional imp, and a grown man who plays with toys

In pro-wrestling, especially in the WWE, when a wrestler leaves a federation (or a "territory" as they used to be known), he was entirely forgotten. Mentions of him ceased, any feuds he was in are dropped off the narrative precipice and in short, would become what George Orwell referred to as an "unperson"

Having said that...where in the world is George W. Bush? He's just friggin' gone.

Usually they'll at least have a post-game wrap interview with the exiting President somewhere, to give him a chance to put a cap on the last term or two, a little coda to his work.

I just did a Google-type search in the news. Not one goddamn story featuring the man who ran the nation (as everyone chants "into the ground", I know, I know...) for the last eight years. There's stories about his parents, and mentions of Will Ferrell's one-man show (which I was quite keen on seeing but of course I forgot to set the Tivo and then I forgot my password so I couldn't even log onto the website to tell it to record it while we were in the city so now I have to watch it tonight instead, but hey, whaddayagonnado?) but not a thing about the ex-president himself. The guy who threw shoes at him got more ink than he did.

Actually I tell a lie - as I was writing this, exactly ONE article popped up, saying that he and Condi Rice will be giving some speeches in Southwest Michigan "in the coming months".

When Nixon left, after resigning in disgrace, they took that iconic photo of him giving that double-rabbit ears to the nation, and they still followed him around, taking pictures of him on the beach at San Clemente (with his big ol' shorts on...and a metal detector...), and then they did the whole Frost tapes, and in short, as bad a job as he did, they never game him a minute to stew in his own embarrassment and sadness.

When Clinton left office, you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a mention of him. They took pictures of him as he went to get a hamburger, he was making speeches left and right, setting up his office in Harlem to be closer to his people (cause he was the first black president, back when they thought there would never BE one, so they settled for him; I wonder if he's officially given back the title...) making more money for personal appearances than Uncle Majic the Hip-Hop Magician.

Bush? Bupkis. Nichts. Nada. A paucity of somethingness.

It's like that scene from Dumbo where the elephants are so embarassed about old big-ears' shenanagans that they gather in a circle and make a promise that "from this moment on he is no longer an elephant". I can imagine the press corps meeting in a musty cattlecar, and Katie Couric raising her hand and leading them all in a silent vow.

Of course, Bush isn't exactly pounding the pavement either. I get the impression he's holed up in a fallout shelter in Dallas, waiting for the political half-life to lower the radiation of his presidency to an appreciable level. Hopefully he brought something to read.

There's hope. Jimmy Carter was able to salvage his legacy by building houses for the homeless, and eventually they let him start talking to other countries again. Bush will get a presidential dollar coin when his turn comes around (in 2017 I believe) and by then people may have cooled (or is that warmed? Depends on the starting temperature I guess) to him enough that they'll go ahead and collect the coin to keep from having an incomplete set. Perhaps to make people happy, the coin will come pre-tarnished.

This is pretty much how we used to deal with continuity in comics when I was a kid.

When someone wrote a story that was just crazy, something so WTF-y that everybody just kind of turned their heads and walked away. Mopee the Elf, for example. When saner heads came to power, they all looked at the story, and they all sort of said "Hey, we understand, we've all handed in some some outrageous crap as the deadline loomed. No harm no foul, but let us never talk of this again. And that was enough.

Then YEARS later, somebody would dust the idea off, and like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree, realize it wasn't such a bad little idea, it just needed a little love. So the Batman from Planet X would become a backup personality for Bruce Wayne, or Aquaman's extradimensional little pal would become a massively dangerous energy being, or the three skrulls who got left on a farm in upstate New York would eventually infect the whole town by drinking their milk.

Crisis on Infinite Earths (I'll finish that CoIE post to tie into that blog-crossover soon, I swear) was a good carpet to sweep those stories under. For years, any story that didn't quite fit "happened on an earth that was destroyed in Crisis"

Nowadays, there's this mindset that things can't just be ignored anymore, they have to be un-explained. Infiinte Crisis was another chance to give everybody they wanted to a do-over, but too often there's this self-imposed moral imperative to give a logical explanation as to WHY this guy changed. Geoff Johns is the current master of this, coming up with amazing tales weaving together many different versions of characters into one cohesive one. His explanation of Hawkman was sublime, his Brainiac was logical, but might have needed a bit of headtilting and a short sigh before you said "Okayyyyy...", but I thought his Toyman tried to do a little too much, while still getting so, so much right.

Allow me to explain. In an attempt to grim-n-gritty up the Superman comics (which is right up there with trying to make vanilla ice cream taste more like butter brickle, but hey, who am I), they reimagined the Toyman into...well...a kidnapper. They kept away from making him a pedophile or molester, but when Cat Grant's son Adam tries to escape, Toyman finds him down and stabs him to death. This was for a lot of fans, including myself, the single worst move made in comics in decades, maybe ever. It was the four-color version of Dylan going electric. It functionally RUINED Toyman as a character.

Apparently Geoff Johns thought so as well. In a recent story, he retroactively explains that every Toyman that we've seen since we last saw the "classic' Winslow Schott was actually one of Schott's robots. The skinhead child-killer was one that malfunctioned, went rogue and started with the kidnapping and Grant-stabbing thing. Schott, in his grief for even obliquely responsible for the injury (not to mention the death) of a child causes him to snap not unlike a twig. He kidnaps Jimmy Olsen and pleads his case, exaplaining that he would never harm a child (bear in mind, at this point he thinks Jimmy is 16 (insert Lance Kerwin joke here) and has him tied up and lying on a floor, so maybe his definition of "harm" is rather elastic). Batman and Superman find him and capture him.

It's a STELLAR story. In one swell foop it takes the curse and stink off the character, while adding a magnificent layer of pathos to him. He accepts the guilt of Adam's death, while at the same time trying to absolve himself of it. He becomes a three-dimensional character, as opposed to the simple gimmick-monkey he was before. Combining that with Kurt Busiek's absolutely joyous revamp of the Prankster, what were once the most simplistic villain Superman had are now two of my most favorite, for two very different reasons.

But the main quibble I have with the story is it reached too far, and tried to clean up too much, including at least one thing that didn't need cleaning. One of the replacement Toymen (Toymans?) Hiro Okamura, a Japanese youth with an intellect that would make Lex Luthor want to hit the books again. After a brief foray into villainy based mainly on boredom, the World's Finest convince him to use his incredible intellect for niceness instead of evil. In Jeph Loeb's run of Superman/Batman, it's revealed he ends up building most of Batman's new crimefighting gimmicks, creates the rocket that helps destroy a kryptonite satellite approaching Earth (and sends Captain Atom into his own miniseries) and is a main character in Sam Loeb's issue of Superman/Batman. But Johns claims that he too is but one of Schott's creations, thus invalidating a bunch of very good stories, including Sam's which Geoff himself helped complete.

Personally, I just mentally added in my own fix - In his grief and guilt, Schott attempted to assume the guilt of anyone and everyone who had ever used the Toyman name, even ones like Hiro whom he had no connection to. So Hiro is still merrily tinkering with his next giant robot in Japan, and Winslow is seething in his cell, trying to figure how he will stop "one of his creations" from ever harming anyone ever again. (Free story idea, Geoff - just make Norbert a Lantern and we'll call it even.)

And that's the problem with trying to clean up the past. Sometimes the chaff is inefficiently de-wheated, and the progeny is erroneously disposed of with the detergential medium.

Not everything that was written by the silver-age writers on deadline was bad.

Not everything that George Bush did was bad, either.

It just may take decades for anyone to realize it.

No comments:

Post a Comment