Friday, June 17, 2005

I am the Red-headed Stepchild of the Old School.

So I was in Waldenbooks the other day, poking around their graphic novel/role-playing section (which isn't terribly large -- stores like Barnes and Noble have really hit them hard) and I saw something I haven't seen in a long time.

A spinner rack.

An honest-to-goodness spinner rack.

I haven't seen a spinner rack in years. I hadn't realized how much I miss them.

After all, I started my journey into comic book fandom in a 7-11, not a comic shop. I may have married the long box, but it's the spinner rack that was my childhood sweetheart.

It got me thinking -- you know, those melancholy thoughts that start with phrases like back in the day... when I realized the "old school" of my memory is still post-Crisis, which in the grand scheme of things isn't old school by anyone's definition.

Pre-Crisis. It's a little like asking your parents what they were doing when Kennedy was shot, or how they felt when we landed on the Moon. You can read about it, you can learn all the trivia and all the facts and dig through all the archives, but if you weren't there, you'll never be able to recreate what it was like when all of it was happening. You'll never know how it felt when it was new.

It made me sad, suddenly. I guess it was because I was suddenly hit with the realization: I missed out on Composite Superman when he was new and interesting, and we'll never see stories that glorious and ridiculous and spectacular again. Not ever.

You can't tell stories like that anymore. Not when we're so immersed in a world where superheroes have to always have one foot in the real, in flesh and blood and broken bones and human drama.

The Green Lantern Corps seemed to be the last remainder of that boundless-creativity style of storytelling; that's why I wept so bitterly and for so long over its destruction, and why I tremble just a little at the thought of its return.

I love the Silver Age. But I love it out of a childish jealousy, out of the fact that I missed out on it when it was here. It makes me sad to hear modern fans call Silver Age stories crack. Even though I myself have tossed around the term -- that is, any story that is utterly ridiculous, over-the-top, so out-there it generates Stupid Superhero Quotes or contains a critical mass of unintentionally homoerotic images. But I have never spoken the word in mockery. And they do. And that hurts.

So I don't fit in with the new breed of comic fans, that point and laugh at the Silver Age. But at the same time, I don't fit in with the older fans, the ones that bought and read the stories way back when. I don't know Snapper Carr as well as I should -- I get Earth-D and Earth-S mixed up all the time. I do a pretty good imitation of an old-school fan, but sooner or later I betray myself as a poser.

My love of the Silver Age is tied intimately to my love of aviation and the space program. Every so often, I'm hit with the awful, awful sadness that the great age of the test pilot was dead for a quarter century before I knew what an airplane was. So now all I can do is look at these beautiful, fantastic machines in museums and wonder: Why in God's name did we ever stop going to the Moon?

What happened to comics? What happened to all the stories about Superman being turned into pistachio pudding by alien invaders? What happened to Hal Jordan's adventures in the 58th century? What ever happened to Starro the fucking Conqueror?

Why did we stop going to the Moon?


Blogger Bat-Mac said...

First time here. This is brilliant stuff- you've articulated perfectly what us "Modern Agers"-yearn for - a day when millions read comic books and they made "silliness" a fine (and fun) art.

For real Silver Age genius, check out and their incredible analysis of the "Greatest Story of all time"! (if you haven't already)

Luckily DC are making Thursday's (in England) fun again. But regardless, I too wish that the Composite Superman was part of my childhood memories... (Sigh)

9:27 AM, August 05, 2005  

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