There are some comic creators out there that I feel don’t get the praise they deserve not because they’re unrecognized, but because it’d be really hard to imagine what comic books would be like without them. Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, Julius Schwartz, Neal Adams…lots of people who have been so influential and prolific that it’s hard to really imagine a superhero genre existing without them. And I’m going to add Carmine Infantino to that list as well, because the man really was astonishingly good at everything he did for an amazingly long time.
Infantino is probably best known for his work on the Silver Age Flash, which would certainly be enough to leave him fondly-remembered by itself. His new take on the character was iconic, from the new costume with its crisp, elegant simplicity to his amazing artwork that conveyed an incredible sense of motion and energy–perfect for a series about the Fastest Man Alive. (I’ve already commented previously on his Elongated Man backups, which also conveyed a lot of dynamic energy in an entirely different way, showcasing the lead character’s elasticity and finding visually exciting ways to weaponize it.) To this day, I’d say that if you asked Flash fans about the definitive artists on the series, Infantino would make the top of just about everybody’s list.
But that was really just the tip of the iceberg. He was already an industry vet by the time he did ‘Flash’, and he went on from there to do a lot more for DC. He moved up to their editorial division, working at times as an editor, art director and publisher, and was responsible for getting Neal Adams and Denny O’Neil onto titles like ‘Batman’ and ‘Green Lantern’. Oh, and he got Joe Orlando in as editor on ‘House of Mystery’, and he got Kirby away from Marvel to do the Fourth World stuff, and he was also responsible for getting the original DC/Marvel crossover made. And from there, when DC let him go, he went over to Marvel and did all those ‘Star Wars’ comics you probably read as a kid. (Just so nobody thinks I’m Rand Paul-ing this, by the way, I’ll admit that I had to look a lot of this up. When you’re as important a figure to comic book history as Infantino was, practically nobody remembers every single thing you did off the top of their head, not even you. Carmine Infantino probably forgot about more influential comics than most people will ever create.)
But as great a job he did editing, and as important he was to getting the most iconic and influential runs of DC’s Bronze Age made (and oh yeah, he was also the guy who drew the New Look Batman and made the little yellow oval around the Bat-Symbol work) it’s always going to be his stellar art that stands out for me. An Infantino story always had art that stood out, that popped with life and zest and excitement and made you feel like something was happening. Comics is all about the art of conveying motion through still images, and I would be hard-pressed to find anyone better at that than Carmine Infantino. He passed away this April, but I hope he will be long-remembered by everyone who loves the medium he gave so much to.
I’ve been sitting in front of the monitor for about fifteen minutes trying to find something cogent and erudite to write about Renisha McBride and I really just can’t come up with anything. Partially it’s because I feel like any attempt to express outrage and shock is, in some way, appropriating the right of response from black people who might want to do so. I know that’s kind of silly in some respects, but it’s how I feel nonetheless; after all, nobody’s ever going to shoot me in the back of the head for being white. I don’t have any particular stakes that I have to worry about.
But nonetheless I think it’s important that I write something, if only because I’m white, and because I didn’t hear about this until the few segments of Black Twitter that I follow exploded over this story (as they were entirely right to do). I think it’s important that white people acknowledge this, and say it’s wrong, and say that laws that allow this to happen are bad laws. I think my friends who are black deserve that from me (and more, although to be honest I don’t know what more could be done in this instance – and it appears, not unfairly, that many black people don’t know what more could be done either, because it seems that regardless of anything else they’re still going to keep getting screwed over by laws and getting shot for no goddamn good reason).
But I think white people need to be reminded of this, every day. And if they whine about how black-on-white crime is never reported as intently or how black people don’t treat black-on-black crime seriously, then they also need to be smacked upside the head at least a little. And so I’m writing a post about a tragedy that should not have happened but did anyway when I don’t really have anything constructive to say about it: because I think it’s important to do that, if nothing else.
Another op-ed at Torontoist about Rob Ford (which in part incorporates a bit of yesterday’s post, because the editors asked if they could do and why not, but it’s mostly new material).
Norm Wilner, who I like and respect greatly, recently wrote a screed regarding Rob Ford and why he needs to be saved. It’s not an uncommon sentiment among those who do not like Rob Ford. If he’d only get some help is said so often with respect to Rob Ford that it deserves to be acronymized, frankly, and it’s not surprising that this is the case: after all, if you consider addiction to be a disease (which it is), then it becomes harder to assign Ford moral fault for suffering from that disease. Diseases need treatment, not condemnation, and this is why so many political enemies of Rob Ford have been urging him to go seek treatment, even if it only means a temporary leave from office rather than the permanent exile from politics Rob Ford deserves.
1/2 i was told three years ago by a t.o. city councillor that they all knew ford was drunk at work every day, and that he bought a mickey…
— torquilcampbell (@torquilcampbell) November 4, 2013
The problem is this: addiction is morally neutral, but how a person chooses to deal with that addiction is not. There is a way to live with addiction responsibly and soberly (or at least as soberly as possible – part of addiction is the constant threat of relapse). Rob Ford, as Norm rightly notes, has never dealt with his obvious problems in a responsible manner. Even now, when he publicly admits to having been flagrantly smashed in public, he’s not admitting to any real problem. “I’m just going to stop” is not the answer of someone who admits to addiction. It’s the answer of someone pretending he’s not. This is vintage spoiled-child Rob Ford, and it was what most of us expected him to do.
2/2 at the dundas lcbo on his drive home each day and poured it into a slurpee cup and drank it as he drove home.
— torquilcampbell (@torquilcampbell) November 4, 2013
Here’s the thing: we expected him to do it because Rob Ford is not a good person. I don’t just mean he’s weak – although he is weak, that much is certain – because weakness, in and of itself, could be forgiven. But in addition to being weak, Rob Ford is a bully. He’s mean. He’s not just stupid; he’s proudly ignorant. He’s arrogant. He’s rude. He’s a hypocrite. He’s a liar. He has a pronounced violent streak that he barely controls in public; Norm says Rob Ford is an “accident waiting to happen” but the police have responded to multiple domestic disturbances at Ford’s home over the years and there is a fair case to be made that the “accidents” are potentially not theoretical at this point.
And if you think that last sentence is speculative, you have to understand this: Norm works in journalism, as do I (well, as a sideline), and we talk with our fellow journalists all the time, and here is the thing: what is being said, publicly, about Rob Ford is quite literally only the tip of the iceberg. Rob Ford’s public alcoholism has been an open secret for literally years; drug use falls into the same area, where everybody knows it happens but nobody can report on it because, after all, if the mayor purely hypothetically speaking stumbles out of a bathroom with white powder on his face, you can’t prove it’s cocaine, and if you don’t have a picture then you can’t even prove it happens. If it had happened, of course. Similarly, if one of the videos the police recovered off those hard drives was the newest candidate for “worst four-word sentence in the English language,” by which we mean “Rob Ford sex tape,” then that’s strictly hypothetical too. Completely hypothetical. And we certainly can’t say if Rob Ford hypothetically uses the services of prostitutes.
And that’s just the light hypothetical stuff. I’m not going to go into the heavier stuff. That way lies madness and accusations of open, active criminality.
this cnclr. also said ford slept in his office all day, usually taking one meeting. he said they all thought he would be dead within a year.
— torquilcampbell (@torquilcampbell) November 4, 2013
I understand compassion and most of the time I preach it. But compassion, when applied to the cold hard necessities of politics, cannot and should not be an endless well. (Hell, even outside of politics someone who actively commits harm – and Rob Ford does commit harm, on many levels – cannot be given compassionate treatment when you need them to stop.) Rob Ford does “not need to be saved.” He needs to be put out of his political misery and exiled from public life. Permanently. I have no sympathy for him, no pity; so many people have done so much more with so much less than Rob Ford it is just sort of laughable. He has been given every chance and he has squandered all of them. He deserves only scorn.
So, um, right. Where was I? Oh, yes. ‘John Dies At the End’.
Simply put, this is great. It’s great in that weird, quirky, cult way that ‘Army of Darkness’ or ‘The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai’ is great…well, in that way that ‘The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai’ should be great but isn’t in any kind of practical sense, because the screenwriter is so in love with the concept that they never actually bother doing anything with it and the only real difference between it and ‘Leonard Part Six’ is Bill Cosby’s incessant mugging and everyone says it’s full of quotable lines but they all only ever quote the same two damn jokes…
…sorry. That sort of went to a weird place. The point is, ‘John Dies At the End’ is an intensely personal movie. It is someone writing a story that they know is probably only going to appeal to them, but they don’t care because it’s an idea that is flowing so deeply from their soul that they can’t not write it. And if they ever find a second person who enjoys it, then so much the better, but they don’t have a whole a whole lot of interest in changing it for mass appeal.
Which isn’t to say that they didn’t change the movie to making it a little more audience-friendly. There are changes from the book, primarily because a) the book is really long and needs to be condensed a bit to fit it into movie length, and b) the ending is a bit of a downer, and even though the tone is all over the place between Lovecraftian horror and splatstick comedy, it still works a bit better with a happier ending. Oh, and c) when you get Clancy Freaking Brown in your movie, you beef up his role a bit. But it’s amazing how much of the weird, discursive, digressive, occasionally perverse if not outright perverted spirit of the story survives the transition to film entirely intact.
For those of you unfamiliar with the novel or film, it follows the adventures of David Wong and his best friend John, who stumble onto a consciousness-expanding drug called “soy sauce” that makes you aware of the greater, stranger, scarier hidden world beyond normal human perception. It also makes that hidden world aware of you, which is why David is now having to deal with demons made out of frozen meat and ghosts and parallel universes and the kind of weird shit that makes people go find a little rubber room somewhere to be voluntarily committed to, just on the grounds that it makes it harder for THEM to get to you. On that score, it’s a cool and creepy horror movie with some wonderful scare moments.
On the other level, though, it’s a hilarious comedy, because the response of real people to crazy shit isn’t necessarily to go crazy in that classic Lovecraftian “rant and rave and wind up in a rubber room” way. We have coping mechanisms, and sometimes those take the form of laughing at the strangeness of it all and sometimes they take the form of blowing off saving the universe in order to play pick-up basketball with your best friend and sometimes they take the form of combining a nuclear bomb with industrial-grade hallucinogens because it may not kill the Lovecraftian horror-god, but “it will sure fuck his shit up”. And on that level, it’s absolutely hilarious.
So I can’t guarantee that you will love ‘John Dies At the End’ the way I did, because it’s a deeply personal movie and deeply personal movies always have a love-it-or-hate-it aspect to them. But that’s what makes them worth watching even if you wind up hating them, because it’s worth encouraging people who pour their souls out like that and make the world a more wonderful and strange place by giving us their artistic visions instead of mass-produced soulless tripe. Movies like this cannot leave you unaffected, even if that effect is to hate them.
In other words, you may not love it…but it will sure fuck your shit up.
PaulW: in comments previously:
nice artwork, but does it have anything to say about the current reports that the Ford Crack-smoking video has finally been secured by law enforcement?
Not really, but this op/ed I wrote for Torontoist does, so there you go.