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The Indisputable Matt Maxwell Presents:



“They say I don’t pray for my enemy. I do. I pray they go to Hell.” -- Jake Gilmore/Marshal Law, as written by Pat Mills from the indispensable MARSHAL LAW series.

Now, Pat Mills, there’s a guy who hates superheroes. My understanding as to the pitch for the book, as related by Kevin O’Neill, was that Epic Comics (an offshoot of Marvel, back in the day) was looking for something a little different. They asked Pat Mills (who’d gained notoriety if not downright notoriousness from 2000AD) if he had anything that might fit, and I guess they asked for something superhero-related.

“Sure, I got a superhero who kills other superheroes. Shoots them dead.”

“Don’t you mean a supervillain? The supervillain does all the shooting.”

“No, no. A superhero guns ‘em down. All the superheroes are bad.”

And if any among you have read MARSHAL LAW, you know that’s pretty much what the series is about. The trick might wear a little thin, but with Kevin O’Neill illustrating, who the hell cares?

So anyways, long story short, when people suggest that I hate superheroes, mostly due to my irritation with how they’re presented currently, I stop. I dig out the copy of FEAR AND LOATHING that I carry with me at all times, worn and dog-eared and binding falling to pieces, but still I carry it with me. And I put that in their face. Then I say, “No, this guy hates superheroes.” Whether I’m talking about Mills or the good Marshal, who knows.

I, however, do not hate superheroes or superhero comics. ALL-STAR SUPERMAN was one of the best books that I read last year. Hell, I gave my mom a copy of the hardcover because it’s the most succinct summation of everything I like about superheroes in one package. If you’re curious about the second, it’d have to be THE NEW GODS (as rocky as the writing can be) or maybe DOOM PATROL/FLEX MENTALLO. Following that, oh, I dunno, maybe UNCANNY X-MEN at its prime. FANTASTIC FOUR, certainly, once you get past the first twenty or so issues. HOWARD THE DUCK, sure. But we’re talking crème de la crème here.

You know why I like superheroes so damn much? When they’re done well, that is?


Say it again with me. All five syllables. Ih-maj-in-aaah-shun.

Now, by and large, that’s something we’re pretty short on these days. There’s plenty of twisty plotting and shocking suspense and everything-you-know-is-wrong-ness, not to mention glowing cheese/beefcake-osity. But imagination is something you find in the margins. No feverish, delusional, psychedelic glory to be had here. It’s a calculating world that our superheroes seem to live in. We’re very grounded. Very real. Very relevant. So very Very.

Sure, there’s artists who look at that description and laugh, producing work that defies my assessment. But there’s only so much of that to go around. Even BATMAN: YEAR 100, one of the most exhilarating superhero outings of the last couple years (due entirely to Paul Pope’s artistry) was very rooted in the here and now, or a near-future extrapolation. Yes, Pope knows how to make every moment sparkle, rendering sparks in the darkness as Batman roars through the gloom on the Batcycle Mk Ultra-uber-‘leet. But the world itself could be ours. (Yes, Pope is perfectly capable of creating an unreal real world – I’ve read THB, thanks.) But still, YEAR 100 was gritty and cyberpunky, which calls for verisimilitude to generate a lot of its frisson. Mmmmm…frisson…

But where are the gaping alien vistas? Where are the doomed civilizations residing in Earth’s cooling core? Where are the refugees of collapsing realities who attempt to take refuge in our past and rewrite our present in the process? Who Watches the Headmen? (Thank you Steve Gerber for your brand of deranged genius). Where have all the Celestials gone? Do I have to read a twenty-five-year-old comic if I want to see an alien city launched to the moon with a single syllable? Apparently the answer is yes.

“How’s that working out for you?”
“How’s what working out for me?”
“Being clever.”
“Fine, I guess.”
“Great. Keep it up.”

So sayeth Tyler Durden to his subconscious. That’s what we’ve gotten to in superhero city. We get a lot of clever twists, a lot of wryness, some winks and a whole ton of “You want the Cliff’s Notes with that?” A lot of so very character-driven-ness. Well, at least that’s what we’re calling it.

We’ve lost passion. We’ve lost the frenzy of monthly publication driving creators to their limits in an effort to tap whatever it is that feeds them. Okay, that produced a lot of crummy comics, I won’t argue you there. But you know what? We’ve still got a lot of crummy comics, no better executed, though surface dressing certainly can distract from that. And yes, comics as a whole are more over-wrought, though less over-written (wrap your head around that one for a little while.)

But we’ve got comic book movies. That’s a good thing, right?

Well, sure, so long as you like comic book movies, and what’s more, so long as you like your superhero comic books to read like adaptations of superhero movies. Me? I’ll take the good stuff, thanks. And please note that when I say “good stuff,” I understand wholly and clearly that many of those comics are “bad” and “critically unacceptable”, and yet they charm the socks off of me. Amazing.

In other news, Diamond has picked up MURDER MOON for distribution. I don’t have further details just yet. I imagine I will at some point in the near future. Figure on publication sometime early next year. I think.

Oh, and I’ll be up at the Stumptown Comics Festival in Portland this weekend. Stop by and say hello. Table 43, I think.

Matt Maxwell

Check out the trailer for Matt's STRANGEWAYS: MURDER MOON!:

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