Monday, July 14, 2008

Exploring The Classics

One of my big projects of late has been "grown-ass-manning" up my apartment. I've lived in the space I write from for just over a decade and a few things stood out:

One: With the exception of a truly boss vintage Foxy Brown poster, my walls are really white and boring.

Two: My apartment looks like a dorm room with it's plastic blinds, torchier lamps and futon. (And no, a grown ass man DOES NOT sleep on a futon!)

Three: I have too much stuff! My apartment looked like the comic book store I used to run.

Action figures, comics and statues were displayed on shelves everywhere. In my room, the closets, the kitchen, EVERYWHERE!!!!

I looked around and with fresh eyes realized that I was going through something, some sort of arrested development. My apartment looked like a headquarters for pedophiles is what it looked like. Amidst the plastic, pulp and cold-cast porcelain, I'd become lost and found identity in these things and for the first time ever, my comics seemed sort of silly to me.

It made me a little sad. Changes were made.

Curtains were hung, framed art went up, the G.I. Joe lunchbox stayed in the picture, though.

I started to put things in some kind of order. I went through my many piles of comics and found that maybe only half of what I had was worth keeping or even meant anything to me.

Since then, I've given away thousands of comics and the karma I've gotten from that small act has been priceless. The statues sit on one shelf. The action figures sit in boxes waiting for a seven-year old nephew to come play with them. Superman is as he was meant to be, soaring again in the hands of a child.

-----------------

The other day I was going through my trade paperbacks and picked up my copy of Watchmen and I had a thought, "What makes this comic more of a true classic than say, Alan Moore's "Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?"

Quite frankly, I think in it's narrative, "Man of Tomorrow" is the stronger work and oddly enough, when others talk of Moore's DC work, this tale is often not even spoken of in the same breath with V For Vendetta, Batman: The Killing Joke and Swamp Thing.

I mean, this comic has it all! Gorgeous artwork by THE Superman artist, Curt Swan, who is masterfully inked under the pens of George Perez and Kurt Schaffenberger. Not only is this comic significant for those reason but also because when DC wanted to close the door on 50-years of Superman history, they chose these men to do so. MoT was, literally, history in the making and yet, it is largely overlooked.

We walk into any LCS and there it is: standing there, flexing its muscles, the "RECOMMENDED" rack or table, filled with Watchmen, Y: The Last Man, some Marvel and Dark Horse stuff and it's... there. It's the stuff of ideas. These are the classics and we've been living with many of them for decades now.

So, my questions to you is this:

"WHAT FACTORS GO INTO CONSIDERING A COMIC, A CLASSIC?" and...

"WHAT, IN YOUR OPINION, ARE THE NEW CLASSICS?"

By the way, when the hell are we getting an Essential Power Pack? :)

11 comments:

BIG MIKE said...

Great post, Devon. I personally think that Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow is the best thing Alan Moore has ever written. But ultimately, I think that a comic or series becomes a classic because of the way it pushed the medium forward. And while Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and Swamp Thing all pointed to and helped to bring the seriousness and darkness that was on the horizon in comics, Man of Tomorrow more or less closes the book on an era to which we'd already said goodbye. But though it lacks critical acclaim and historical significance, it's still the only Alan Moore comic I still reach for on a regular basis.

SallyP said...

Curtains. Curtains are a good thing. And maybe a plant or two. And a throw rug, throw pillows, an armoire,and leather-tufted ottoman/coffee table. Then we can faux-paint the walls...whew! Sorry about that. Been watching too much HGTV!

The qualifications for a Classic comic book are quite easy. If I like it, then it's a classic!

kingbeauregard said...

Moore's most famous works ("Watchmen" and "V for Vendetta") tend to be stand-outs because there is really no way to replicate them -- they're the trick that can be done only once. (Of course they both can boast any number of redeeming qualities, but the thing that makes them stand out most of all is their irreproducibility.)

I may be the only person on earth who sees the original "Squadron Supreme" as a greater classic than "Watchmen", but now that I've admitted it, I'll explain myself:

1) "Squadron Supreme" isn't about deconstructing superheroes; it's about superheroes doing what is arguably the wrong thing even with the very best of intentions. Any hack can turn Tony Stark into a fascist, but how about turning a pastiche Superman into a guy who advocates very controlled application of a behavior modification device? It's difficult to do well, and yet they pulled it off handsomely.

2) Pastiche Justice League versus pastiche Earth 4 heroes. 'Nuff said.

3) An actual moral to "Squadron Supreme" ... once in a while a moral is appropriate once the heroes have gone down the wrong path.

4) The godawful ending to "Watchmen", where Veidt figured it was possible to freak the world out into making sense. I don't care if Veidt is so smart he can watch 20 TVs at once, it's maximally unbelievable that a terrifying unknown threat would snap people into the super-rational mindset required to set aside age-old hostilities and address a new alien menace. Sorry, Moore, but you stretched credibility just a little too far.

Devon Sanders said...

SallyP:

LOVE YA!

You just nailed everything I've been racking my brain over on what's been missing from my apartment.

lordscarlet said...

Colors on the walls can do a lot for a space. As someone that loves comics, I would recommend something drastic, bright, and eye-popping; maybe that's just because that's what I did, but I think it looks great. :)

http://flickr.com/photos/lordscarlet/2414644657/

Congrats on growing up a little. :)

Gyuss Baaltar said...

Man of Tomorrow will always be closeouts of a series ever.

I bought my copies at the Safeway by my house and I still break them out to read every year. It's genius.

And who needs Essential Powerpack? Just come over to my place and read my complete run any time!

ChrisM said...

Classics are always, to me, stories that establish or define the particular run of a character or title. And if everyone agrees that run was a "classic" so much the better-but many people disagree.

Its pretty subjective for what each subject is.

For example, the Wm.Messner Loebs Deodato Wonder Woman was a "classic run" for the time, but I would not say that it was a classic WW book. During the 90s the Image look was really taking off and so, we had WW reflecting the times.

I think there is just the occasional fortune to see a "timeless classic" which is along the lines of Watchmen or Moore's "Man of Tomorrow"..something that can be read WHENEVER and it never fails to display its wonderfulness, or the exceptional properties of the character or the book. Unfortunately, the exceptional status of the book is hard to see frequently.

What's a modern classic? I think there's lots of 'classic' runs right now...Brubaker on Daredevil, Johns on JSA, Action Comics, Morrison's Batman. But I'm not sure they are many "timeless classics" which frankly are few and far between.

We've got lots of good defining runs-but very little new-REALLY ground breaking stuff that just blows everyone away.

Devon Sanders said...

Lord Scarlet:

Plush!

Scotus said...

I think a classic comic has to fundamentally change how you view other comics after reading it, whether it's because a writer or artist did something groundbreaking in the medium, or made you view old characters in a new way.

In terms of new classics...geez, that's tougher to think of than it ought to be. "All-Star Superman" is the only current book I'd consider an unqualified classic. Going back a few years, I'd also throw in "Starman," "Hitman," early "Authority," and even the first "Marvel Zombies" mini-series.

As far as grown-ass-manning up your apartment, never underestimate the effect of a classy piece of old furniture or two. Great deals can be found at Eastern Market or the Georgetown Flea Market. Lots of affordable artwork, too, if you want to give Foxy some company.

Allan said...

Yeah, yeah, becoming a grownup is great and all and redecorating the pad in the manners suggested above are a fine way to establish your nascent metrosexuality, but personally I think you'd be wiser investing your hard earned cash into buying more vintage Pam Grier movie posters. Imagine it, everywhere you turn your head you'd find another glorious representation of cinema's greatest ass-kicking soul sister, be it from Coffy, The Arena, Friday Foster, Jackie Brown, The Big Bird Cage, Sheba, Baby or Black Mama, White Mama. Doesn't that sound just a little bit like heaven? Of course this is coming from someone with posters from no less than four Ann-Margret movies on the walls of his own domicile, so my opinion might be a little skewed by personal experience.

As to what makes a classic and what I consider to be among the new classics, my answer is anything that you find yourself returning to time after time and that rewards your return every time you do. And for me such titles would include Dan Slott's run on She-Hulk, Gail Simone's Villains United and Secret Six mini-series, Blue Beetle, Grant Morrison's We3 and All-Star Superman and--in all honesty, my reputation be damned, I'll defend it till my dying day--Meltzer's Identity Crisis.

You heard me.

SallyP said...

Thank you, Devon. Now, get thee to an Ikea.