I mean, not only does he have a couple scholarly books-on-comics under his belt, and a blog, and countless CBR reviews, and con coverage, and a small island nation off the coast of Latveria (I know, I know, it’s landlocked, but if Doom demands a coast, he gets one), but now he’s gone and got himself a column, “When Words Collide,” on the CBR mothership.
G. Gordon Gumdrops, is that Callahan ubiquitous. Who does he think he is? Brian Cronin!?
Anyway, turns out the column’s pretty great. He’s probably preaching to the choir by defending the superhero concept, but that talented, witty, and devilishly handsome bastich hit some really beautiful notes in his debut missive. I’ll share my favorite bits with you after the jump.
Serialization does not make for bad stories. Bad stories make for bad stories.
Thank you, someone else, for finally saying this.
It’s only been about 150 years since Romanticism was not the dominant tradition. Jane Austen was one of the first writers to help Romanticism move toward Realism, but it was really the scientific developments of the Victorian Era–most clearly embodied by Charles Darwin–which helped Realism sprout in the latter half of the 19th century. Whether it was George Eliot in England or Emile Zola in France, Realism began to take hold in the Western world, and by the 20th century, if you weren’t writing Realistic fiction, you weren’t writing “literature.” Romanticism, still the most popular mode, had to take the second-rate status of genre fiction, hiding out in the pulp magazines, in the movies, in the precursors to “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter.” And, of course, in the comics books. The anti-Romatic bias has become so deeply imbedded in our culture, that unless something is Realistic, it cannot have literary merit. But it’s a bias born out of artifice. Realism is a stylistic approach just as much as Romanticism is. Yet the bias continues, and superhero comics are condemned because they are part of a large, popular tradition that is as old as civilization.
I wish someone would’ve explained such a thing to all the English majors and professors I’ve dealt with (“dealt with” in a totally non-murder-y way, thank you much).
And even if the superhero universes are dense and seemingly impenetrable to outsiders, think of it this way. This basic superhero story — starting with Superman in “Action Comics” #1, has been going, continuously, for 70 years. And that single story doesn’t just encompass Superman and his supporting characters, it includes every superhero comic ever published, from DC and Marvel and from any other company willing to add to the complex narrative that is the “Grant Superhero Story.” Douglas Wolk, in “Reading Comics” calls the Marvel and DC stories two grand corporate narratives, but I think it’s actually a single big story. After all, Spider-Man and Superman have traded punches, and so have the Hulk and Batman, ad infinitum. You could play six degrees of Superman (Atom Eve hangs out with Invincible, Invincible was in “Marvel Team-Up” with Spider-Man, and Spider-Man has met Superman more than once. That sort of thing.) Superhero comics are actually part of an incredibly complicated experiment in grand-scale storytelling, the likes of which have never been seen in the history of narrative fiction. It’s one big vast story so large that no single person has even read all of it (although Peter Sanderson and Mark Waid, if joined together into one super-reader, might come close). Superhero comics may feed on their own pasts, but in doing so, they also move forward incrementally, and help build the most complex long-form story in human history. That makes superhero comics uniquely impressive.
Move over, Joseph Campbell– your monomyth ain’t jack to Callahan’s Comicomyth! I love the idea that, somehow, in some way, the story of the superhero is just one gigantic narrative web.
What say you?
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