Saturday, 31 December 2016

"Embedded In The Future"

Copied from here:

Snowy Vernall in Jerusalem shares the perspective of Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen:

"The chaotic childbirth onto the South London cobbles couldn't be avoided; was embedded in the future."
-Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), p. 244.

"Some marble blocks have statues within them, embedded in their future."
-Alan Moore, Watchmen (London, 1987), Chapter IV, p. 24.

Also, on Mars:

"It's called chaotic terrain." Chapter IX, p. 14.

"To distill so specific a form from that chaos of improbability, like turning air to gold... That is the crowning unlikelihood. The thermodynamic miracle." Chapter IX, p. 27.

Chaos, childbirth and embedding in the future are common to these texts. "Jerusalem" evokes the Bible and Blake. "Watchmen" evokes Plato and Juvenal.

"Alan Moore is the Watchman on the walls of civilization."
-Kathy Acker, quoted on the back of Voice Of The Fire.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Justice And Truthfulness

Church art is representational and sometimes sequential. In Alan Moore's Jerusalem, a painted angel in St Paul's instructs Alma's gtreat-great-grandfather, telling him in part that there will be:

"'Justice above the Street'..."
-Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), p. 66.

Does this winged warrior foresee superheroes flying above cities and the Justice League of America? Probably not.

In the following chapter, "ASBOs of Desire," Moore proves yet again that he can write from any point of view:

"What Marla thought was, it had all gone wrong when the royal family had killed Diana. All of it was bad things what had happened after that." (p. 73)

It's the truth, isn't it? Well, no, it's not, but this is truthful, authentic writing about how some people think.

Rupert Bear

Are the Rupert Bear Annuals comic strips? They are a unique format that tells the story four times. On each page, there are:

a heading
four drawn panels
a rhyme under each panel
a longer prose narrative -

- but no captions or speech balloons.

Rupert Bear is referenced in:

Neil Gaiman's The Books Of Magic;
Bryan Talbot's Grandville;
Alan Moore's The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen;
Moore's Jerusalem.

Thus, this post has referred to:

the unique Rupert format;
three comic strips;
one prose novel -

- and we frequently discuss TV and films. It is impossible to stay just with comics.

In Jerusalem, Alma must be an alternative Alan: a female artist instead of a male writer? Alma and her brother Mick (and maybe Alan and his brother Mike?) knew a (human) Bill Badger and pretended that he was the Rupert character with body shaved to appear human. I had already envisaged an Alan Moore treatment of Rupert: the Bear grows up, leaves home and gets an office job in London where there are race riots between Rabbits and Elephants...

Monday, 26 December 2016

Changes In Comics

Contrast the first appearance of Green Arrow (see image) with Mike Grell's captions and dialogue:

"Autumn is my favorite time of year.
"It has been since I was a kid.
"There's a freshness in the chill air, after the summer heat. A tinge of smoke as the coming winter fans the leaves of flame.
"A season of change.
"Anticipation.
"Knowing that in a few days you'll have eaten enough candy to make you sick."
-Green Arrow 25 (Oct 89), p. 11.

When Green Arrow wonders where Robin Hood, Marian, Little John and Tuck are now, he hears:

"Where they have always been...in the heart of the greenwood."
-Green Arrow 26 (Nov 89), p. 9.

When he asks, "Who - -?" he hears:

"My name doesn't matter- -men have little use for me now.
"Men abandon their gods as readily as they embrace them.
"It's not like the old days when Robin and his merry band roamed the forest, seeking adventure and justice.
"The days of the longbow are all but gone.
"But here in the greenwood they live on.
"With each spring they are born again in the heart of the GREAT MOTHER.
"The leaves whisper their names and the wind is touched with their laughter.
"Bold Robin.
"Merry Tuck.
"Faithful Little John.
"The hunting horn echoes down the ages, but only a few hear the call."

GA and the reader can now see Hern and the merry band.

GA: "You speak as if you knew them."

The voice: "They were my sons...
"They were your brothers.
"I called them as I call you.
"Their choice was the same as yours...adventure and death, or boredom and contentment.
"For the bold there is no choice, really.
"One day the trees will speak your name.
"Though men forget, the forest remembers.
"But there is one who hasn't forgotten the old ways.
"She has awakened me from my long sleep.
"Even now she waits in the grove to celebrate the New Year.
"The coming of winter...
"...the time of HERN THE HUNTER."
-Green Arrow 26, pp. 11-15.

Christmas Presents

For Christmas, I have received Smallville Season 8 and Alan Moore's second novel. This author, Moore, has written that character, Superman. It is appropriate to remember Moore's "Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?" while beginning to appreciate his Jerusalem, which Michael Moorcock describes as "...the great British novel." (back cover)

This novel has a comic strip-like cover, three black and white photographs and somewhere around 1160 pages of very small print. Its central idea is a view of time called Eternalism. Moore states in his Acknowledgments that Fay Dowker is currently researching an alternative hypothesis. I am interested both in Alan Moore's writing and in the philosophy of time - not only the concept of time travel but also the nature of time - so I expect to study the text of Jerusalem closely while also reading sf and watching superhero dvds. Moore quotes Elizabeth Anscombe quoting Wittgenstein.

Time is elastic in Pellucidar or Skartartis. Mike Grell has Travis Morgan visit Oliver Queen whom he resembles. The fantasy element of Skartaris is played down but just enough is said to contradict the usually realistic tone of Grell's Green Arrow.

Onward, Earthlings.

Hell Or Hern

I am reliably informed that the TV John Constantine appears in an Arrow episode. Appropriately, the comics John Constantine appears in Green Arrow 25. See image. Although JC warns GA that he could be walking straight into Hell, GA meets only the harmless Hern the Hunter who tells him that the forest remembers Robin Hood and will remember Oliver Queen.

This story has:

an evocative autumnal page set in Seattle;
Nottingham (my parents lived there later);
paganism;
lush green artwork;
ambiguity - Ollie sees Hern on an LSD trip but Hern seems real later.

Ollie must have taken some side roads because he has to ask directions to Nottingham.

Shado And The Huntress

Without stopping a single bullet, Mike Grell's GA and Shado kill an impossible number of highly trained and heavily armed men. Both of them have an impossible ability to penetrate heavily guarded buildings. To prevent an assassination, GA gets impossibly close to the world's biggest VIPs. From his concealed position, he attracts the attention of the assassin, Shado, holding up her baby, but apparently is not seen by anyone else. He evades the security clamp-down that would have followed the assassination of a Presidential Advisor.

In Arrow, Ollie meets Helena Bertinelli who has started to kill gangsters and will become the Huntress. The earliest version of this character was the daughter of the earliest versions of the Batman and Catwoman. Some characters survive any continuity change.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Different Versions

Comics, films and TV are three media. Superheroes is a genre. By changing continuities and spreading to other media, superheroes gives us different versions of familiar characters. I am watching Arrow, rewatching Smallville, rereading Mike Grell's Green Arrow and have just reread Andy Diggle's Green Arrow Year One. Thus, I am appreciating four versions of one character.

In Grell's version, Howard Hill, and others, were on the yacht that Oliver Queen fell off. In Diggle's version, only Hackett and Ollie were on the yacht and Hackett threw the unconscious Ollie off the yacht but before that Ollie had told Hackett that Howard Hill had trained him as a kid. In GAY1, the yacht is the Pacific Queen and is in the Pacific whereas, in Arrow, a ship called the Queen's Gambit is sabotaged and sunk in some other ocean that is specified.

In Arrow, Ollie operates not from an Arrow Cave under the Queen mansion but from a disused Queen Industries building. In this version, he returns from the island to a complicated family and social scene:

mother
mother's new husband
younger sister
friend
former girlfriend
former girlfriend's hostile father
former girlfriend's colleague and friend
deceased father's former business associates who must be brought to justice
bodyguard

This is a good version but also a completely different one.

Friday, 23 December 2016

DC Screen Continuities

DC has three multi-character screen continuities:

a single TV series;
several interconnected TV series;
several interconnected feature films.

Earlier DC screen continuities include:

a ten film continuity (five Superman, one Supergirl and four Batman);
a Batman trilogy;
the Batman TV series;
the Gotham TV series;
three different earlier TV versions of Superman;
Wonder Woman on TV;
an earlier Flash TV series;
the film, Green Lantern;
the film, Constantine;
Swamp Thing in films and on TV;
Steel;
Superman and Batman in cinema serials;
animated versions.

There are others. These continuities feature several different versions of many comics-derived characters but I have lost interest in trying to keep count.

Green Arrow: A Mini-History II

The previous post skipped over Neal Adams' and Dennis O'Neill's 1969-1983 remake of Green Arrow which transformed GA from a generic comic book hero into the character we know.

In 1989, there was a Green Arrow and Speedy Secret Origins (see here) and, in 1995, Chuck Dixon wrote a Green Arrow Year One Annual. One way to revise GA origin stories is to change what happened on the island. In the Year One Annual, young Ollie, given a bow and arrow at Christmas, goes into the grounds of the Queen mansion and kills a rabbit. This is the equivalent of young Bruce running in the grounds of Wayne Manor and falling into the Cave.

Both The Longbow Hunters and GAY1 reference Howard Hill. Errol Flynn playing Robin Hood influenced Ollie in the same way that Tyrone Power playing Zorro influenced Bruce.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Green Arrow: A Mini-History

Green Arrow began publication in 1941.

I first read about GA in 1956-1960.

The Dark Knight Returns was published in 1986; The Longbow Hunters in 1987.

GA first appeared in Smallville in 2006.

GAY1 was published in 2007.

Arrow began in 2012 and is on-going.

The Wiki article reveals an incredible history of changed continuities.

I am watching Smallville and Arrow dvds and have started to reread The Longbow Hunters and GAY1. IMO, these and DKR are the most significant GA continuities.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Jerusalem

When I get a copy of Jerusalem, Alan Moore's second prose novel, should I discuss it:

on Comics Appreciation because it is of interest to readers of comic books written by Alan Moore;

on Personal and Literary Reflections because it is a work of literature;

on Religion and Philosophy because it addresses philosophical issues;

at least partly on Poul Anderson Appreciation because it will be possible to compare Moore's analyses of time, history and society with Andersons'?

Meanwhile, the cover at least (see image) deserves to be contemplated on Comics Appreciation.

The Name And The Man

We can know a name and see the man without necessarily connecting them. A couple of days ago, I referred to John Diggle (fictional) and Andy Diggle (fictional/real) here. This morning, as I drove my granddaughter to a medical appointment, Andy Diggle (real) walked down the street opposite the surgery. In this case, I did happen to make the connection.

A guy called Pat Reid:

escaped from Colditz Castle during World War II;
wrote The Colditz Story and The Latter Days At Colditz;
was played by John Mills in the film of The Colditz Story.

When the film was shown at our school in the 1960s, someone said that Reid had been at our school. Calculating when he would have been in a particular academic year at the school, I checked the photograph, hanging in a corridor, for that year and found the name "P. Reid" listed. Decades later, it was an easy matter to google "Pat Reid" and confirm that he had indeed been at the school (as, briefly, had James Joyce). Most of us watching John Mills' performance had not known that.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Heroes Arrive IV

To the six Green Arrow continuities listed here, we should add Mike Grell's The Longbow Hunters and his subsequent monthly series. That on-going series continued the high quality writing and art of the introductory Prestige Format miniseries.

The Longbow Hunters is a mid-life crisis that summarizes the post-Crisis origin story. Thus, the sequence of comic book continuities is:

Golden Age
Silver Age
The Longbow Hunters
GAY1

GAY1 was a later continuity: 52, I think. The Dark Knight Returns was a post-Crisis possible future that has not come to pass. Thus, it would have followed The Longbow Hunters. Either late in Grell's run or soon after (I think soon after), GA had to die or lose an arm and preferred the former. Losing an arm would have taken him in the direction of DKR. He was succeeded by a son in implausible stories that I stopped reading but he was then brought back by some impossible return from the hereafter.

During Grell's run, most of the stories could have been set on Earth Prime where superheroes exist only in comic books. A child draws Superman who could however be a fictional character. Hal Jordan visits but without his Green Lantern costume or power ring. That series should have continued.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Heroes Arrive III

In Arrow, not only is there a character called John Diggle but also he has a murdered brother called Andy, named after the writer of the Green Arrow Year One miniseries, thus another metafictional reference to an earlier continuity. In this and the previous two posts, we have referred to six continuities each featuring a different version of Oliver Queen:

Golden Age;
Silver Age;
The Dark Knight Returns;
GAY1;
Smallville;
Arrow.

Of these:

the four comic strip Olivers fought crime;
the DKR Ollie also fought the US by sinking a sub and helping Wayne against Kent;
the first screen version fights Luthorcorp;
the second fights the corrupt controllers of Starling City.

Continuities go somewhere.

Heroes Arrive II

The Smallville Clark Kent meets his version of Oliver Queen in Season 6. The success of this Oliver led to Arrow even though they are different continuities. The Smallville Oliver founds the Justice League although the Golden Age Green Arrow was in the Seven Soldiers of Victory and the Silver Age Green Arrow was not a founding member of the Justice League but an early recruit to it. I think that the third cinema Batman is destined to found the cinematic Justice League. He will tell Amanda Waller, "You back off - we are forming a team!"

There are metafictional relationships between continuities and sometimes they coexist in a multiverse. The Superman film theme music is heard when Christopher Reeve plays Virgil Swann in Smallville. We are explicitly reminded that Reeve played Superman in an earlier screen adaptation of Siegel's and Shuster's original comic strip. I started reading Superman, Batman and Green Arrow in the 1950s, less than twenty years after their creations.

How many continuities have I referenced here? Not the full list.

Heroes Arrive

In Smallville, Season 1, Episode 1, Kal-El arrives in Smallville.

In Arrow, Season 1, Episode 1, Oliver Queen returns to Starling City.

In Batman: Year One by Frank Miller, Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City.

Kal-El has survived the destruction of his home planet and has yet to be prepared for his destiny on Earth.

Queen has survived on an island for five years and has prepared himself to fight crime.

Wayne has survived the murder of his parents when he was five and has trained himself to fight crime.

These are different continuities although the Wayne of the Batman: Year One continuity meets his versions of Kent and Ollie in The Dark Knight Returns. These are two good versions of Superman and Green Arrow and one good version of the Batman.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Sandman And Smallville

The Sandman was a monthly comic book written by Neil Gaiman and collected as ten graphic novels.

Smallville was a ten season TV series, collected on dvd's.

Very different products. However, both feature DC Comics characters and both trace their origins back to the Golden Age of comics.

I compare The Sandman with some works of prose sf here.