This week, I share some links to the comics internet (as always), go off on a tangent about cultural discovery (as sometimes), and talk about Doctor Who (because no one demanded it!). It’s Sunday. Here’s your brunch.
TANGENTIALLY RELATED TO COMICS DEPT: Leonard Pierce of the AV Club asks “are we in a cultural golden age?”:
First, why—other than the natural laziness that informs most nostalgia—do so many people think that the culture is in decline? Why is the belief that things were better in the mysterious “before” so common that it jumps from generation to generation, like baldness or a bad ticker? While the tendency to be politically conservative knows no particular age, cultural conservatism is as predictable as prostate cancer. Why hasn’t this changed since Sallust’s time?
Me, I think it has to do with a sense of “discovery.” Now, in what way? There’s personal discovery, sure, which guarantees that an era or piece of culture will never be as good as one remembers it being when they first encountered it. That magical time you first heard the Beatles, or read your first Spider-Man, or saw your first Star Wars or Doctor Who or whatnot– that’s the feeling you are endlessly trying to recapture when you take in culture, but that experience becomes harder and harder to replicate as you get older. Every so often, a comic or TV show or movie comes around that makes you feel like that again, and you remember what it’s all for, why you’re a fan in the first place. Nostalgia is a hell of a thing, and it has so much power because it’s tied to that feeling of discovery, usually during childhood, that memory that smells as sweet and savory as freshly-basked cookies and feels as smooth as silk.
Of course, the sense of discovery is important, and as we get older, we can remember old discoveries, through the rosy tint of nostalgia, or we can search for it via new, original things. We have a ton of media available to us these days; for a nominal fee (or free, let’s be honest), you can have almost any piece of culture you want immediately transported into your hands. Culture is literally all around us; I speak not metaphorically, but physically. We’re covered in magical waves of informational energy, transporting a Tom Clancy novel to that guy’s eBook thingie, or a song by The Smiths to that girl’s phone (that’s what all the kids listen to these days, right?), or last night’s episode of Party Down to your laptop (by the way, go seek out Party Down and watch it, dammit). How much of this stuff is new, though? As our culture expands, it eats itself, cannibalizing bits from the past and Frankensteining itself in a way to look new without actually being new. Today’s new genres are hybrids of the old. Where’s the new rock and roll, the new hip-hop? What comes after post-modernism? Where’s the sensational character find of 2010?
As we get older, nothing seems new anymore. Maybe nothing is new anymore. Maybe we’re cynical old bastards, but maybe there’s some truth to it. With dwindling attention spans, and exponentially expanding culture, what new frontiers are there to explore, new horizons to reach for? Can culture implode? Talk amongst yourselves.
ITEM! io9 reveals Spidey and Hulk comics– printed on toilet paper! I wish they still made these:
ITEM! Over at The Village Voice, Ward Sutton draws an amazing comic about the Batman porno (cartoon boobies make it Not Safe For Work, kids), guest-starring quite a few incarnations of Batman throughout time and media:
ITEM! Zom of the Mindless Ones begins an alphabetical look at Batman’s rogues gallery, beginning with one of my favorites, Anarky. And then everyone in the comments talks about how Alan Grant comics aren’t very good, which is EIGHT HUNDRED KINDS OF WRONG *ahem*.
OBLIGATORY CHRIS SIMS DEPT: This week, Sims writes the travel guide to comics universes:
Downtown parking is adequate (for $5 per day, you can leave your car at the town’s Superstitious Cowardly Parking Lot), but visitors are encouraged to ride the city’s Batrolley, which — thanks to a generous donation from the Wayne Foundation — recently became the country’s first mass transit powered by atomic turbine.
REMAKE/REMODEL this week brings us full circle– to Batgirl, the thing that started the entire remodeling meme on the interwebs. Here’s D-Bed and C-Payne:
DOCTOR WHO DEPT: “The Big Bang” Written by Steven Moffat
Yep. That was a show.
What has Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who been about? It’s been about fairy tales and stories, memories, cracks in walls, day-glo Daleks, Vincent van Gogh, River Song, Weeping Angels, spoilers, perception filters, timey-wimey goings-on, and a madman with a box. It’s been about choices, and monsters, and death. And bow-ties. Let’s not forget those. Bow-ties are cool. A bloke named John on one of the Who forums, who says he reads this (hi, bloke named John) thinks this finale evoked the God of All Comics himself, Grant Morrison. I can see that, in a Flex Mentallo sort of way– the transformative power of belief. And in a Final Crisis way, in terms of Hypertime and compression. And in a Superman Beyond way, as a hero so super-fictional he must be real. Or as Alan Moore put it: “This is an imaginary story. Aren’t they all?” Who better to have as your fairy tale imaginary friend than The Doctor?
I won’t ruin the plot for those watching on the BBC America or DVD release schedules. I will say that Steven Moffat has lived up to fevered expectation, that Matt Smith has been a revelation, that Karen Gillan is– well, she’s Karen Gillan, isn’t she? Doctor Who has been as great as ever, and I can’t believe the season is over already.
If we’re still talking about cultural discovery– and I am, so sit down– Doctor Who is a thing that can still hit those buttons for me, that makes this thing called “entertainment” worth it. I used to watch Buffy religiously, and Doctor Who has filled that obsessive hole in my heart. Every episode has the potential to astound, move, or inspire. Often, it’s all three, all at the same time, in a show that laughs in the face of genre. Frankly, I think DC or Marvel could stand to learn from the show; here’s a nearly 50-year franchise that still manages to feel new and exciting with just about every episode. It changes and evolves– it regenerates, you might say, while keeping its spirit intact. What a lovely, infinitely imaginative show, made for what I can only imagine is a shoestring budget (and yet probably the most expensive show on British TV, except maybe Top Gear). Fantastic.
Update: Rich Johnston confirms that I did see Tom Brevoort lurking in the background of Doctor Who Confidential (the behind-the-scenes show that runs concurrently with the regular series). I am not crazy. Hurray for that. (Spoilers in that link, by the way.)