The Indisputable Matt Maxwell Presents:
Hey, you guys ever heard the story of the Chicxulub Impact? It’s what killed the dinosaurs. Big meteor, I mean a big one, hits the Earth some sixty-five million years ago, wipes out a chunk of what’s now the Yucatan peninsula. Kills the dinosaurs right off. KA-WHAMM! Tidal waves, pools of liquefied rock, dust clouds blotting out the sunlight. If there were streets in the Cretaceous, they’d have been filled with panicked theropods frantically scooping up plant-eaters while they scurried down into their shelters. And those would be the lucky ones. The unlucky, they lingered and withered in a landscape that was hostile and barren.
Until a plucky little Iguanadon who’d been raised by lemurs found the way to unite them and lead them to the Hidden Valley where it was all green grass and caviar dreams. Oh wait, that was DINOSAUR. I’m getting my catastrophisms mixed up.
However, Chicxulub became something of a metaphor for a lot of folks. It’s the titanic event that comes along and punctuates equilibrium, rocking the boat and reminding you that everything you know is wrong. Again. Some people even went so far as to suggest that these punctuations were an essential part of life on earth, and that the magnetic field of earth, caused by the spinning of the earth’s core and mantle, actually draws meteors within striking range and occasionally wiping the slate clean, more or less.
Bad news if you’re a dinosaur (aka, well-adapted climax creature that exploits a system very effectively). Good news if you’re a mammal (opportunistic, eager, willing to take evolutionary chances). Oh yeah, evolutionary. Sorry, don’t hold a lot of truck with creation scientists. So yeah, those dust clouds blotting out the sun? Those are going to wreak havoc with the lumbering lizards that have adapted to eating the vast quantities of leafy plants growing everywhere (and to the meat-eaters that eat those plants.)
And man, isn’t the thought of a giant burning rock the size of Mount Everest slamming into the earth just a sexy thought? I mean, damn, we’ve got a cause (giant burning rock) and an effect (dinosaurs die and mammals given an at bat). Terrifying spectacle and millions if not billions of creatures perishing as the world around them changes in the blink of an eye.
Catastrophism rocks. It’s very satisfying. And looks cool. That’s Biblical-style, dolled up all Michael Baytastic!
We dig catastrophism. Makes things seem important, weighty. We’re big on all those ending myths. They make good copy, keep continuity tidy and can get a reaction out of even the most jaded of us. I’m guilty of that as much as the next guy. It makes for compelling fiction.
Too bad catastrophism doesn’t always pan out. That Chicxulub impact that had paleoscientists talking? Well, it turns out that the meteor impact and all its attendant sexiness didn’t cause the extinction of the dinosaurs. Sure, it sucked for whoever happened to be standing in that particular chunk of real estate on that day. But it didn’t wipe out all the dinosaurs. Contributing factor, perhaps. Single catastrophe? No. More like a chain of tiny little catastrophes that happened over a very long time and made being a giant plant-eating dinosaur (or, again, one of the meat-eating dinosaurs that ate the plant-eaters) a bad evolutionary bet.
Nobody plans these things out (again, sorry, creationists). Conditions change all the time. Equilibrium as a permanent state is pretty much overrated. Nature abhors a vacuum and there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Once that sun goes down and the plants wither up and die, you either find something else to eat to power your ten-ton-bulk or you end up being crittered to death by those cute little possum-things that you didn’t think that there were so damn many of last summer.
Ain’t been no single catastrophe when it comes to comics. Well, maybe being pushed off the newsstands counts. But if there was a catastrophe, it was long before that. Remember, there used to be herds of comics roaming the land, read in their millions. And granted, comics have adapted to the changing environment, sprouting glossy feathers or thickening themselves with fat spines or proliferating in such quantities that they push their competitors, cuckoo-like, out of shelves and out of readers attentions.
A whole marketplace and distribution method has evolved (maybe even co-evolved) to serve comics readers. Or at least some comics readers, those who have access to comic stores and know they exist. But what’s this? There’s these little squirmy, hair-covered things scurrying around eating our eggs and growing fatter all the time, while we’re busting our humps to get books sold. There’s been a lot of fighting to get to something resembling stability only to find out that there’s really not any such thing at all. The DM has been changing since its inception, some changes more cataclysmic than others, clearly. But to expect it to remain unchanged is kinda crazy.
And comics? Don’t get me started on comics. There’s more comics than I can read, even if I just gave up on writing or doing anything else and just reading. And there’s more being made up every day. Some of ‘em are even pretty good. You’re reading FINDER, right? Comics are fine. Comics don’t need saving. They could use more readers, that I won’t argue. I do what I can to address it, to show folks that there’s comics for every taste out there, but due to the way things work, they actually have to work for them.
Remember, people don’t like to work for their entertainment. I get handed a copy of those THE WOLVERINE SAGA (or ULTIMATES SAGA or NEW MUTANTS SAGA) and flip through them only to recoil from the wall of text dropping on me like the Chicxulub meteor falling through the Cretaceous sky. That’s not entertainment. That’s homework. So’s having to pre-order comics (but I already rode that hobby horse into the dust.)
On-demand or hit the highway. That’s entertainment now.
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, from FLEX MENTALLO #1.
So yeah, comics? Not in any danger. Particular forms, well, they’ve got a tougher row to hoe, no argument. And there’s lots of people really very excited about the current Chicxulub-in-the-making. Sometimes I even get caught up in that, but then I remember, that comics have survived the invasion of the Normans, the unbearable hardscrabble existence of the aboriginal Americans/Europeans/Australians/Asians, survived the fall of more empires than I can name. Words and pictures telling stories will continue, even after the Chicxulubs of today.
For those of you who don’t know, I do write a comic book called STRANGEWAYS. The current storyline is called THE THIRSTY. You can read it for free on the Robot6 blog of Comic Book Resources. http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/strangeways.
What you may not know is that every Wednesday, I give away a copy of the first STRANGEWAYS book, MURDER MOON. You simply have to tune into the Wednesday update to find out how.
For those of you who’re in the Bay Area, I’ll be a the San Jose Super-Con on Saturday and Sunday. If I’m away from my table, it’ll be to get a sketch from Eduardo Risso. And maybe beg for a pin-up from him for the next STRANGEWAYS collection. Anyways, do stop by and say hello if you’re a reader.
You can also hear my dulcet tones and command of the English language at the following, my first podcast interview, with the fine folks from Comic Book Outsiders in the UK.
I haven’t listened to it yet. I wonder if I come out screechy or merely droning? See you all in two weeks.
Copyright 2006- 2010 Marc Mason/Comics Waiting Room. All rights reserved