Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Defining Moment

We've all had them. Moments that defines how you'll be viewed in the eyes of others.

We have them, it seems daily. The difference between us and the superheroes we read is that when we have that moment, girders, steel and flying into the sun with a rogue nuke usually don't come into play.

Sometimes, we don't take the bait and simply turn the other cheek. Some days, we pay the bills on time simply because no one else is going to do it for you.

For me, to be able to bear witness to a defining moment, whether in reality or on the printed page, can be almost transcendental.

Whether it be something as small as the day I saw my youngest brother, at the age of three, quietly help a girl his age down from a sliding board or having the privilege to read Captain America in the pages of Daredevil #233, hold the flag and say, "I am loyal to nothing, except the dream." I still feel like the teenager who was given the words to express who he wanted to be in this world.

These are moments that make living, living. These are the moments that remind me why I love comics.

So, my question to you is this:



Ken Cox said...

I know I'll think of others later AND that I'll take heat for citing "Infinite Crisis," but the panel when Earth-2 Superman cradles an aged and dying Lois Lane in his arms and, wide-eyed in disbelief, whispers "Superman always saves Lois Lane" was so perfect that I actually choked up.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

The "Spider-Man as Job" story from "Secret Wars II." Yes, really. Mephisto and the Beyonder have a bet, and it leads to Zarathos the demon tormenting a confused Spider-Man. Visions, beat-downs, boils, the works. Zarathos torments Parker with all of his failings and illustrates the futility of his life.

Parker nearly breaks. Then he punches Zarathos in the flaming skull and tells him to piss off. Because he will never give up, because he can't give up, because he has to be what he is, and that is a fighter. He will do good because it is good, and that is reason enough.

Also, Captain America versus his Evil Fifties Counterpart in an old "What If?" had the ultimate Cap moment for me. He faces down his "dark mirror" and shows us all what being Captain America really means. That final fight still gets me.

BIG MIKE said...

I have two and they're both kind of recent:

1.) In Up, Up, when Lex Luthor again gets his plan foiled by Superman and just says 'I hate you.' It shows that beneath the intellect and ambition, Luthor is driven by all the wrong things and that's why he's a villain.

2.) Yorick's reaction to the death of 355 in Y: The Last Man. Absolutely amazing and encapsulated the evolution of that character.

Nate said...

Spider-Man fights Firelord.

No friends, stuck in wideopen blown out part of the city, Spidey knows he has to take out someone embodying the power cosmic. And he gets it done.

BIG MIKE said...

Ken, no worries, dude... I thought the scene in Infinite Crisis when Superman says to Earth-2 Superman, "A perfect world doesn't need a Superman" was a damn good defining moment. IC had some gems in it for sure.

Anonymous said...

KC Superman in JSA, forgetting whatever bitterness and confusion were tormenting him because he heard a young girl about to kill herself. No matter what he's going through, Superman will always be there when people need him. Because that's what Superman is about.

J'onn J'onnz in "Martian Manhunter 0", driven mad from loneliness and teleported to earth ... when he hears a cry for help, even in an unfamiliar alien tongue, all the madness drops away and he's back in business. Because that's what J'onn J'onnz is about.

George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life", who's about to jump into the river (and please note that this was during the Golden Age, when Superman could not fly and therefore could not be counted on to save George) ... Clarence jumps into the river first so that George will put his own cares aside and save him. Because that's what George Bailey is about.

Cap in "Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty" #5, and I bet you didn't even know that series existed. Cap has freshly been unthawed in the 1960s and is suffering from culture shock, some of Iron Man's alien enemies show up and mind-control him into fighting Cap, Cap wins so the aliens try to mind-control him instead, and he beats their mind control and then sends them back to their world with a warning not to mess with humankind. That's Captain America all right.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

Here's one that stuck with me. The last issue of the Knightfall storyline, when Batman fights Azrael in the Batcave to reclaim his batty-ness.

Azrael's retreated to the cave, having been pretty well whupped. He's freaking out. Batman, hiding in the shadows and thinks, "He's my responsibility. I have to save him."

That is who The Batman is. He's a scary-ass vigilante, he's a hunter of men, he's Billy Bob Badass, sure, but more than anything, he's the guy who saves lives. The scary accoutrements and violence are just the tools of the job. He'd dress in a daisy costume and fight crime through uplifting folk songs if that were more effective. The "Bat-Dick" approach forgets this sometimes.

Unknown said...

really there were alot of moments for me that impacted my life. but the most impactful and somewhat cliche thing at this point was when watchmen came out..i was a little kid back then and each issue was like this huge revelation to me. later on it was early pushed me into thinking of doing my own books. like suddenly my world at that age wasn't so ideal and just became more real for me and comics as a whole grew up as i grew up into many awesome things..though it did get sucky in the 90's...but it put me on a path where i still strive to create comics and tell stories that have more of a weight to them. from Rorshach breaking a finger to mike allreds madman it made me appreciate the medium in ways i never did reading the stuff my brother gave me. i could have gone any direction..i could have been a collector and sat idle or i could use it to launch my own creative rockets at the world. hell i can say watchmen as a whole introduced me to DC comics in a roundabout way. but it wasn't until madman that i had a mission in life..its a weird thing to me as neither book had anything at all ever to do with each other..but it was a high water mark in that period that went to me 'every kid wants to be a fireman or do this and that..some even want to be the heroes in these books..but i want to create mordern myths and be like the guys who created such awesome stuff. i just happened to be at the right age at the right time..though execution of my goals has been spotty at best at this point..i'm at least working on living the little boy dreams as rediculous as they are thanks to a great deal of books from 86 to the early 90's...i can't pin down exactly little things..there was just alot of magic between the cracks of the grim and gritty era.

ramble ramble i'll shut up now.

Brian Smith said...

Live Wire (Lightning Lad), "Legion Lost" 12, in a moment that reeked of "Star Trek II" when I first started reading it, but grew in my estimation pretty quickly.

Batman, in Grant Morrison's first "JLA" arc: "You're Martians." A detective AND a scary, scary man.

Skurge the Executioner, who stood alone at Gjallerbru. (My first "Thor" comic, though, was 353, the finale of the Surtur Saga, and if there's any better one-panel definition of Odin, Thor and Loki, respectively, than "For Asgard!" "For Midgard!" "For myself!", I'd love to see it.)

And a sentimental favorite, from back when I had a web site on Power Pack a whopping 11 years ago: Jon Bogdanove, as writer and artist, packs issue 36, "The Twelfth," with many moments both cute and dramatic, but the thing that defines Power Pack for me in that era is when Franklin Richards shows up for the sleepover and all the kids, from little Katie to teenager Alex, come running to hug him. They've been through a lot together and they genuinely adore each other, age differences aside, and I regret that I haven't been able to keep up with all the Power kids' miniseries in recent years.

Devon Sanders said...


I still get chills when I think about that scene!

Another favorite of mine is Scott Pilgrim pulling the flaming sword from his chest after earning the power of love.

Another favorite of mine is from, I believe, Greg Rucka's first Adventures of Superman issue, where he here's a little girl crying for her mother. He spends some time with her talking to her and reassuring her that everything will be OK.

Of course, Superman reunites them. When Superman hands the girl to her mother, she says something to the effect of, "Oh, my God! Thanks, Superman, I thought someone might have run off with her. I know you're busy and this isn't necessarily what you do. Thank you so much."

Superman just smiles and says, "Actually, I can't think of anything else I'd rather do more" and simply flies off.

Great, great stuff.

Anonymous said...

"Superman just smiles and says, 'Actually, I can't think of anything else I'd rather do more' and simply flies off."

Oooh, that reminds me: one of the joys of Peter Tomasi's "Nightwing" is that there is a minimum of one awesome scene per issue, and often character-defining. Like in the most recent issue, Nightwing saves a couple put into jeopardy by Two-Face -- nothing inherently surprising about that -- but then the two of them can't stop crying and shaking, and Nightwing spends a half hour holding them until they've regained their composure. That's the happy-go-lucky daredevil grown up all right.

A few issues back, Nightwing and Superman were talking in a graveyard, when a security guard came upon them. Superman and Nightwing treated him like an equal and a brother-in-arms, which was classy as heck. As an extra bonus, they agreed to have their pictures taken with the guard, including a staged photo of the guard punching Superman on the chin and Superman screwing up his face. Peter Tomasi, I think I love you.

Unknown said...

BigMike, that scene from Y:tLM is still too fresh and painful in my memory, but you're right.

From issue... #2? Of Watchmen, Dan Dreiberg is remembering the Comedian and the police riots in the '70s. In flashback, the two of them have just gassed a crowd of protesters, and Dan is shocked and horrified over the situation. Dan asks whatever happened the American Dream, and The Comedian grins and points (at himself? at the riot?), saying, "The American Dream? You're looking at it. It came true."

Also, not any particular hero's moment, but a moment for the entire human race -- Legion of Super-Heroes, v3, after the Five Year Gap. The Dominators took over Earth and started using a lot of eco-unfriendly tech, including a few doomsday devices in case of defeat. Naturally, they get defeated. The planet is pushed past the point of repair. One issue is told entirely in the narration of the newspaper article that chronicles the destruction of Earth. Evacuation efforts go on as long as possible, leading to the deaths of some of the rescue workers, until someone has to order efforts to stop. The remaining population of Earth is told via broadcast that there will be no more ships coming, and all the riots and fighting end. All people seem to understand what's about to happen, and they accept it with dignity. The shots of men, women, children, of all races, religions, ethnicities, all gathered together and staring in one direction, as though they can see death coming... it's always felt like a statement about the best of people coming out at the worst of times. (The following issue, which details what the LSH was doing to try and stop the planet's destruction and save lives, is also heartbreaking.)


Austin Gorton said...

Two immediately spring to mind: the already-mentioned Batman scene in Morrison's first JLA arc. I believe the third issue ends with one of the Martians, defeated by Batman, strung up Gotham-criminal style, with a note saying "I know your secret." To this day, I consider that one of the perfect Batman moments. Facing off against super powered Martians, he not only lives to tell about it, but figures out their secret AND instills some fear in them.

The other is from one of Mark Waid's Cap issues, the second time around. I forget the exact issue number (18 maybe?) or details of the story, but it involved Korvac recreating reality again and again, and Cap always rising up, no matter the circumstances, to take him down , because that's what Cap does: he fights the impossible fight, he never gives up, he finds a way to win.

There's so many more; you're right, these moments are very cool.