Over at Slate, Grady Hendrix has written a nice appreciation of Howard the Duck creator Steve Gerber, who died last week. I’ve never read the comic book (nor have I seen the notorious George Lucas movie “adaptation”), but I’ll definitely be looking for the Essential collection after reading Hendrix’s piece:
Howard the Duck sent up the ’70s and parodied Marvel’s purple prose style (“The ghastly rumble of the explosion reverberates off the Pocono mountainsides—a sonorous death burp echoing into eternity. …”), but the book grew into something deeper. Howard raged against the glorification of violence, had a nervous breakdown, lost Beverly to Dr. Bong, was transformed into a man, and, in the end, rejected his friends and bitterly set out on his own, trying to forget a past of pointless superfights. One issue was all text; another took place entirely on a long bus trip. These were surreal flights of fancy with razor-tipped wings, America’s answer to Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
What I like most about the piece is that it dispenses with the post-Kavalier and Clay veneration of golden and silver age comics and recognizes that, at heart, they aren’t much more than fun cultural artifacts:
The clunky comic books written for Marvel and DC (the two biggest comic book companies) in the 1960s and ’70s may have acquired a certain retro chic, yet they bear almost no relation to the comic books of today. Marvel was the House That Squares Built, and in the kingdom of the unhip, Gerber was the only writer who had a clue.
Gerber was the amphibian stage in the evolution of comic books, from when they swam in the funny-book oceans to the modern age, when graphic novels walk the earth and earn glowing reviews in the New York Times.
The early superhero books were obviously important to their historical contexts. And I like a good old-school Justice League of America 100-Page Super Spectacular as much as anyone. But the deification of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Siegel & Shuster, et. al. can be tiresome. This is a nice, if minor, corrective.
In other comics news, I’m definitely going to get this book.
I’m ruefully embarrassed about maybe 70 percent of the things I wrote in my college newspaper from 1998 to 2002. Let’s just say I liked to write loooong, and once called Rancid’s Life Won’t Wait a “sprawling, intercontinental post-punk masterpiece” — whatever the heck that’s supposed to mean.
But tonight, after reading another of the many annoying encomiums to suddenly retired Bob Knight (typical gist: Sure the Texas Tech coach was a jerk, but what an old-school winner!), I dug out an old piece that’s among the 30 percent of less-embarrassing stuff. It’s an editorial I wrote for The Diamondback in September 2000, when Knight was fired as Indiana’s coach. I’m reproducing it here because even my 20-year-old self seems to have been more mature (if not a tad more naive) than the sportswriters who now, as then, ultimately excuse Knight’s idiocy for his wins. Even this column at SI.com, which ostensibly blasts Knight, is really just faulting him for quitting on the team. So hop into the wayback machine, do a little Wayne’s World dream sequence hand-dance, and check it:
It took 29 years of looking the other way, acting out of greed instead of with maturity, and putting success ahead of common decency, but Indiana University’s powers-that-be have finally decided to grow up.
The school’s trustees stood up to men’s basketball coach Bob Knight on Sunday, firing him after years of condoning his inappropriate, offensive, hurtful and childish behavior to put a winning team on the court. The decision is a victory for college students nationwide, because in firing their living legend Indiana’s trustees had to stop looking at basketball as a business and Knight as their perpetual meal ticket, and put students’ interests above their own financial concerns. Continue reading
I’m somewhat of a Barack Obama fan, so I suppose it’s nice that Will.i.am and other celebrities have decided his candidacy is important enough to warrant a pro-Obama (proBama?) “We Are the World”-style music video.
But with the “lyrics” consisting of sung-chanted portions of an actual Obama speech, and with the participants not once winking (see: Scarlett “Yeah, I Made a Tom Waits Covers Album” Johansson singing at a sibilant-dulling mic screen), the video basically is a cross between “Voices That Care” and the brilliant Ali G sketch where he beatboxes to a nuclear protester’s embarrassingly dreadful protest song.
Still, none of them holds a candle to the best celebrity song of all time: Rockers to Help Explain Whitewater.