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Elliott Serrano Presents:









 

 

I find it quite ironic that I’m writing this column on a Monday…

Normally, I’m at work around this time, doing the things that earn me a paycheck and get bills paid, but the bitter cold and car troubles keep me at home today with the dogs and my thoughts. And I usually write this column late at night, when my personal troop of goblins is out and playing kickball with the many number of ideas that are strewn about my psyche. But a strange convergence of events has me writing this, on a Monday morning as I sit at my computer listening to the Superman soundtrack trumpeting from my PC’s speakers.

And what are these events, you ask?

Event #1: Over the weekend, my local comic shop vendor suggested that, out of the many books that are in my ‘pull’ for that week, I be sure to read Action Comics #859, the second part of a ‘Superman and the Legion of Superheroes’ story written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Gary Frank. As I’ve already read Part One, the issue makes it home with me, but I don’t read it until this morning. Monday morning.

Event #2: After sifting through a good number of sites that I’ve bookmarked (and seeing an episode of Simon Pegg’s ‘Spaced’ on YouTube – great googly moogly, why didn’t someone turn me on to it sooner?) I finally come to Elliot S! Maggin’s site. Those who read my column know that Mr. Maggin is the man I credit for instilling a love of Superman in me. I’ve visited his site in the past, often to see what he’s been up to and what projects he’s had in the works, but today’s discovery showed that he was up to something very…significant. More on that in a minute.

For many in today’s comics-reading generation, Jeph Loeb is the essential Superman scribe. But for me it’s Elliot S! Maggin, who, in my opinion, has written the definitive Superman story. (It should come as no surprise to anyone that Mr. Loeb and Mr. Maggin are long-time friends.) Until I had read his Superman novel, Miracle Monday, I never cared much for the Man of Steel, seeing him as an overpowered, unsympathetic character. While Christopher Reeve made me a fan of Superman in movies, Elliot S! Maggin (yeah, that exclamation point isn’t a typo) made me a fan of Kal-El in the comics. In Miracle Monday Superman is pushed to the brink by an entity who could very much be the Devil himself, and who tempts him to kill an innocent so that all the evil the Devil has done in the world can end. It’s the old ‘would you kill an innocent person you didn’t know to end suffering in the world’ scenario. I’m not going to spoil the book, but folks who know Supes would/should know what he decides to do. Needless to say, the story made me a fan of the Last Son of Krypton and an even bigger fan of Mr. Maggin’s work. (And since we’re both named Elliot I’ll admit to having somewhat of a bias.)

So, how do these events relate? See, the past couple days have seen me struggling with an issue that I’ve been thinking to address in this column: the relevance of comics themselves. Standing in my local comic shop, looking at the endless rows of glossy covers, each with their catchy logos and high-concept slogans, made me wonder if it all really mattered at all?

Not to get all existential on you, but let’s face it, comics are considered to be entertainment, a product, and rarely are considered to be more than that. Some may argue that it’s an art form, a uniquely American art form at that. But these days, the art-versus-commerce arguments arise when you look at the glut of glossy ‘pamphlets’ that clog the shelves with their regurgitated tales of man-gets-superpowers-and-beats-up-badguys-while-looking-badass-doing-it. Just how relevant are they? Sure, they might entertain you, but do they inspire you? Do they make you consider the kind of person you are, the choices you make, the way the world is around you? Isn’t that what true art is supposed to do, to make us think? These days, very few comic books do that for me.

And then I read Action Comics #859 this morning and was blown away. In it, Superman has been transported into the future by the Legion, a future where a group of ‘earth-supremacists’ are preaching a ‘gospel’ that Kal-El was not from the doomed planet Krypton, but in fact an earthling who was given powers by ‘Mother Earth’ to fight off the ‘aliens’ that were invading it. The symbolism hit me in the forehead like a hammer.

‘Mother Earth.’ Homeland.

‘Aliens.’ ‘Illegal’ Immigrants. (Or even Muslims. Heck, pick a minority and insert here.)

I found myself in the middle of a story that spoke of how fear and ignorance can lead to fascism and intolerance. And the intolerance in this story was even being taught in schools. The parallels with what’s been going on in the world today were simply chilling. (I’m afraid that the idea that society is so ready to accept a revisionist history just isn’t that far-fetched.) And the story spoke to me. It really made me think. And to me, THAT’S what comics are all about and not just about men in tights and flights of power-tripping fantasy. They’re about entertaining us, yes, but also about making us think. They’re about inspiring us with stories that express all the ideas and ideals that the heroes in comics represent and showing us how these ideas can affect the world, so that maybe we can take some of them into the ‘real’ world and use them to inspire others.

To make the world a better place. Isn’t that what heroes do?

No sooner do I finish reading the issue than I come across Mr. Maggin’s site and see that he is running for Congress in the state of California in 2008. A man who inspired me, who is a keeper and custodian of some of our greatest ideals – I mean, c’mon, they don’t get greater than Truth, Justice and the American Way – wants to take these ideals into the ‘real’ world and try to make a difference.

Now THAT’S relevant!

So you can imagine my head trip when I realize that in all this, in both ‘events’, Superman was involved in one form or another. I question the relevance of an art form I adore and the people who create it, and the universe gives me an answer. And this all happened on a (Miracle) Monday. Can you believe it? I shit you not.

My debut column was essentially a rant about Stephen Colbert’s presidential candidacy being stymied by people who didn’t ‘get the joke.’ But this is no joke. And on his site, Mr. Maggin makes an appeal to us in the ‘comic reading community’ to get the word out, with a

true grassroots campaign. It can be done. (Take a look at Al Franken’s progress in his bid for U.S. Senate in Minnesota if you don’t believe me.) And who better to bring new and innovative ideas into the political arena than a writer? A comic book writer, no less! Maybe getting a Geek in the White House is a bit much to ask, but a Comic Book writer into State Congress is so do-able.

So I’m putting this out there for all who read comics – don’t just be a mark for the marketing machines who view you as just another ‘niche’ trying to figure out how to get your hard-earned dollars. The emergent ‘Geek Culture’ is now viewed as a significant demographic and gives us a voice that can be used for more than just seeing that the next Green Lantern movie features Hal Jordan and not Kyle Rayner (or vice versa). I’d encourage you to visit Mr. Maggin’s site and see what he has to say. If you like it, consider making a contribution towards his campaign. And consider helping him make a difference in the ‘real’ world. I know I will.

And for those who create comics – don’t just go for the quick buck. The quarter bin is overflowing with each season’s flash-in-the-pan concept that failed to stand the test of time. Hey, I can go for a good zombie comic like the rest, but how many do we really need? Can we also get comics that inspire as well as entertain?

I know we can. We have before and we will again.

Be well everyone.

E. Ruben Serrano is a writer/columnist/graphic artist who has never seen every episode of Spaced as is now ashamed by the fact. He believes that if someone were to give him the gift of both seasons of Spaced on DVD that he would be able to overcome that shame rather quickly. Barring that, copies of Shaun of the Dead and the 3 DVD collection of Hot Fuzz would also go towards lifting his shame. His shame is happy to wait until Christmas, too!

E.R. Serrano

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