And I thought I’d run out of steam

I seem to be out of righteous dudgeon today. So please breathe a sigh of relief, then grit your teeth as I get boring again.

First things first: Lisa’s follow-up appointment is today. We’ll see what good and bad comes of that.

I’ve re-started my project to read the complete Cerebus series; I had reached a more-or-less natural stopping point after Volume 10/issue #200, and took the opportunity to decompress a bit. I just checked, and the Cereblog, the site that got me onto this kick, hasn’t updated in a year.  I’m not going into it on such a magnifying-glass manner as they (for one thing, I spent a lot on these phone books – several of them autographed – and don’t want to set them on fire, har de har), but I will be talking about them soon. So those of you who get all huffy when I talk about comics, sorry, but they’re at least as big a part of my life as movies.

In the meantime I read a whatchacallit, actual book, you know, one without pictures. I don’t know why I went years and years without a library card, since I live in a county with a county-wide library system that has access to thousands upon thousands of books, and that’s without even accessing Interlibrary loans. I’d wanted to read Gene Wolfe’s latest book, An Evil Guest, for some time, but hadn’t really had the opportunity until now.

Wolfe doesn’t write your typical genre-related novels, and this one was no exception. Set a hundred years in the future, it concerns an actress named Cassie Casey who finds herself an ofttimes willing pawn in an undefined power struggle between two men who appear to be sorcerers. The story, though, is largely told from the point of view of Cassie, who gets so overwhelmed by the floodtide of events that analysis is defied. The last quarter of the book takes a radical turn in tone, and Lovecraftian elements come to the fore.  If Cloverfield was a daikaiju flick told from the point of view of a member of those nameless crowds fleeing Godzilla, An Evil Guest becomes, at the end, a complicated pulp story related by Margo Lane, who never had time at the end of the adventure to be debriefed by the Shadow. I’m going to be mulling this one for a while, which is a good way to feel about a novel.

I’ve also been slowly draining the Fort Bend Library system of all their comic content, which is, gladly, going to take a while. I’m gleeful to discover they have the E.C. Segar Popeye collections, which I’ve lusted after forever and a day, and now I can at least read them, if not own them – at least as soon as they travel from their far-flung branches. I’m currently plowing through The Amazing Transformations of Jimmy Olsen, reprinting some of the batshit crazy stories from Jimmy’s book, Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, in which the ginger chump is turned into a genie, a giant turtle (“What is on his huge,twisted turtle mind?” wonders Superman), and horror of horrors, a fat person. Since, as we all know, fat people are hideous freaks.

Also in my possession for a few weeks is DC Universe – The Stories of Alan Moore, which contains some Moore stories I actually hadn’t read (I had not thought that possible). But one of the first books I checked out was also by Moore, a story I hadn’t read but only heard about: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

Whatever Happened -? was the coda to umpteen years of continuity, before the John Byrne-penned Man of Steel reboot (which, frankly, I never liked). It takes place in the the-near future of 1997, as a reporter interviews a retired Lois Lane on the 10th anniversary of Superman’s disappearance. Leading up to Superman’s vanishing act is an all-out war with his old foes, all of which have turned from relatively harmless bank robbers and schemers to outright murderous lunatics, leading up to a climax with a bunch of cast members dead and Superman walking into a room with gold kryptonite (which destroys his super-powers) after he’s committed the unforgivable – to him – sin of destroying the being responsible for all the mayhem before it can kill himself or Lois.

And this is one of the more sedate moments from Rise of Arsenal

Finally reading this story after all these years – a quarter-century after it appeared, apparently – something occurred to me. Moore is one of the people who changed comic book superheroes forever with Watchmen, and judging from what I’ve read of modern offerings from DC, Whatever Happened-? is more or less providing the blueprint for the currently slaughterrific state of affairs there.  Every DC comic I read these days seems to have at least one horrific murder (often more) in what seems to be a race to out-grit Marvel, and which I suspect is going to lead to another Seduction of the Innocents-type social backlash.

Well, at least we can’t blame Whatever Happened -? for the rash of DC rapes and near-rapes in the last few years. For that we have to go to The Killing Joke, also by Moore, also in the DC Universe collection.

Too bad that so few people working in comics today took something else from Moore’s work: quality writing.

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