ONE LAST ADVENTURE
All right; right off the bat I want you to PROMISE ME you don’t send me email extending your condolences about my dead cat.
Everybody’s got things they have to deal with in their personal lives; this is just one of those things in the background I have to deal with. You’ve got your stuff; I’ve got mine. Doesn’t mean the world stops; we’re all in it together.
But believe it or not, my dead cat put a fine point on something I’ve long noticed as being wrong with the comic book industry.
But first let’s bring you up to date:
Two weeks ago, the cat I’ve lived with for the last eight years went out through his little cat door, first thing in the morning.
Unlike most other days, he didn’t come back at dinner time.
This, in itself, was not a panic, because he’s a tomcat. Prone to going out and tom-catting around. Hence the name.
It was in his personality, though, for him to not let us know if he was injured, or sick. One legendary time, he lost a fight with one of those roving bands of urban street raccoon gangs that is one of San Francisco’s dirty little secrets. Hard to imagine groups of these smelly, thuggish bastards picking through trash, flashing raccoon gang-signs at domestic cats minding their own business outside… but it happens. I’ve seen it.
Anyway, Tom mixed it up with some raccoons out in the world. Back in the neighborhood where we used to live. Where we had our apartment, before we bought the house.
He got away, but suffered some puncture wounds on his hindquarters. The next day, by the time the missus and I noticed he was on the ropes, a good portion of his skin in the lower part of his body had turned necrotic and had to be removed.
Don’t lose a fight with a San Francisco raccoon without flushing out the puncture, that’s what we’ve learned here, right?
So Tom had some interesting battle-damage on his rear section that gave him a pretty distinctive look. “I’m a good cat,” his features would read. “But don’t mess with me. I’m not the strongest cat in the room, but I can take what YOU can dish out. Look here; I lived through this.”
But the march of the clock goes on for us all, and ol’ Tom got to be around fifteen or so. I understand that’s very old for a cat, but the old guy just didn’t seem to mind it very much. Sure, he slept most of the day and night, but he sure did like to lie out in the sun; the six-foot fence surrounding our yard didn’t seem to be a problem for him. Ever hear of a fifteen year old cat that could leap straight up six feet in the air? This one could. And he roamed around the neighborhood, at will.
So one day the old cat goes out for his morning constitutional and he doesn’t make it back home. Sad, right? But not unheard of; that’s life in the big city. There’re cars and dogs and crazy, maladjusted kids with a gallon of gas in a can. Shit happens.
But we sure did love that old cat, so we kept an eye out. Every day we called the Animal Rescue, and the Lost and Found.
And it seems that, around ten days after he first went walkabout, a kindly albeit crazy old lady, one of those folks who feeds the wild cats and the strays and takes the sick and injured in to the Animal Shelter… one of those nutty old ladies dropped off a sick and injured cat who pretty much met Tom’s description. He was so sick they had to euthanize the poor bastard, so that’s the proverbial that, I figured.
Except that old lady who dropped him off… she lived about two blocks away from our old apartment.
Nearly three miles away from where we live now.
And that’s a mighty big coincidence, and one that started me thinking about how the comic book industry is like a good cat on its last legs.
It’s hard not to anthropomorphize what ol’ Tom was thinking, but I swear to God it’s not hard for me to imagine that he woke up that morning and thought to his little cat self, “These guys were awfully nice to me, and the days’s gonna come in the next week or so when I’m gonna breathe my last. And I sure don’t want either one of them to come out and see my unbreathing carcass gettin’ picked at by seagulls. So I’m going off on one last adventure. I’m gonna go over that hill there and try to get back to that old neighborhood where I used to live. That place where I had all that fun; see my old pals; get in to trouble and ride off into that kitty sunset on One. Last. Adventure.”
And it sure does seem to me that that’s what the comic book industry is doing.
Creatively, the comic book industry seems like an old cat on its last legs. Lost a couple of incisors; maybe can’t close the deal on those field mice like we used to.
Seems to me that some comics are constantly returning to the familiar, like ol’ Tom I’ve just told you about. You liked “relevant” comics in 1970? OUR comics are relevant, NOW! Look! Drugs, swearing, and everything! Hey, you liked “bad girls” in 1995? We’ve got Bad Girls for you NOW! We’re trying to co-opt your interest in the dis-affected youth… our characters have pale skin, and love eyeliner just like you!
What the comic book industry needs to understand is a simple thing ol’ Tom didn’t get:
You can’t go home again.
There’s no WAY that a rickety old cat is going to return to those days of greatness.
And there’s no way comics are going to be able to recreate those thrilling days of yesteryear.
That’s why some of us are trying to do something new.
That’s why some of us are trying a new thing. We’re getting another cat.
If you’re reading this on Friday, I’m probably RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND assembling boxes and whatnot of AiT/Planet Lar books for the Alternative Press Expo, held just down the street from Chateau Lar at the Herbst Pavillion at Fort Mason in San Francisco on February 17 and 18th. If you’re reading this on the weekend, I’m probably having entertaining conversations with Dark Horse editor and Sky Ape writer Phil Amara about the relative wisdom behind remaking Planet of the Apes. On the other hand: Diagonal Zippers! For more info on APE, hit this link.
If you’ve read this far, take a moment and wish gifted writer and noted cranky-pants Warren Ellis a happy birthday. He’s a lot more genteel than you think, you know. No mentions of the “march of the clock” in the proceeding should be thought to apply to him. Just wish the man a happy birthday, and be done with it.
Email about this column should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Really, I’ll be updating http://www.ait-planetlar.com any day now, as soon as I finish getting those Codeflesh t-shirts produced. Let me know what’s on your mind at the Loose Cannon Message Board.