EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN
Back when we all listened to Squeeze and wore our skinny ties and Jordache two-color jeans, back when Lone Justice opened for U2 and "whippets" seemed like a good idea, back when your father was the guy sporting the tattoos he got on shore leave in Tahiti somewhere during the Big One, and the Bush in the White House was the Veep, I worked in advertising.
The agency I worked for was run by the son of the guy who started it, so while the old man had the smarts and the connections to keep the agency a going concern, the son was the one with the blow, the mistresses, and the cliched marketing short-hand.
We peons all shared sort of running joke about with which verbal shrug the son would try to pass off one of his cockamamie ideas during a meeting: "Let's run it up the flagpole and see who salutes," or "Let's throw it at the wall and see what sticks."
The father would sort of smile ruefully, as if he couldn't believe that such a jackass had sprung from his loins, and kind of steer the conversation towards the plan he wanted to follow.
It was with thoughts of that long-ago ad agency guy that I read the news of the Ed Harris film "Pollock."
It seems that Ed Harris, known best around these parts as Flight Director Gene Kranz in that better-than-Citizen-Kane film Apollo 13, as a result of his role as the painter Jackson Pollock, created some paint-splashed canvases.
It further seems that these ersatz-Pollocks, created, I stress, expressly as a by-product, an adjunct, really, to the actual production of the film, have found a life of their own.
The canvases Harris created were exhibited in a gallery showing called "Not Pollock Not Krasner" at Pollock House on Long Island, New York. At this point I will liberally quote from the always entertaining Leah Garchik, who writes The In Crowd for the San Francisco Chronicle:
Elliot Cuker, who runs the Cooper Classics' Collection, which he says shows "contemporary art and photography mixed with classic cars," wanted to display the works as part of a "Celebration of Art in Cinema" show. He says he got permission "from everybody at Sony all the way down," but officials at the Pollock-Krasner Foundation in New York thought the false Pollocks were "getting too much attention." Cuker wasn't planning to sell the paintings, but Cuker says the foundation was worried about their somehow diluting the value of the real paintings.
Charles Bergman, chairman of the board of the foundation, told TIC (that's The In Crowd –ed.) that "this matter has nothing to do with making money or producing fakes and everything to do with art." The reproductions were made "only and specifically" for use in the film, he said, and represent "neither particular examples of Pollock's painting nor his art in general." Showing the works "will chiefly serve to distort the public's understanding of Pollock's art."
Now, say what you want about the relative appropriateness of such a stance, what with, at its core, it all just being a fancy version of "let's throw it at the wall and see what sticks," this little bit of staying on-brand for the Pollock-Krasner Foundation reminded me of what seems to be the new thing that's passing for innovation in comics…
…and that's the reinterpretation of the archetypes.
Now, of course, there's some historical precedent for these reimaginations. Doc Savage begat Superman begat Captain Marvel, and so on. I have it on good authority that DC sold 28,000 copies of Watchmen last year, thirteen years after the first trade came out, so that look at the main superhero archetypes has certainly worked out for someone.
But speaking of archetypes… and certainly no disrespect intended for the hard-working folks who are bringing us these adventures…
…wouldn't comics as an industry, as an art-form... as a means to entertain and cajole and instruct…
…wouldn't comics be better served if creators just let loose with their imaginations? I mean, I enjoy tales of the techno-superspy as much as the next guy, whether his name is James Bond or Nick Fury, sure; and in the hands of an able team a good story, well-told, can be enjoyed no matter what name you give to your brooding, cowl-masked avenger of the night.
But how many new Channel Zeros or Lowlifes or Happydales are comics fans being deprived of because creators with bold new visions are only rewarded when jumping through pre-approved hoops?
At what point can you not even really hear that copy of Stevie Nicks' Edge of Seventeen because it's a tape of a tape of a tape?
It's time for the comic book industry to stop taking its cousin to the prom.
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Here's something maybe you can give me the answer to over at the Loose Cannon Message Board, that's even sort of vaguely comics-related: for the past week or so I've had this jingle going around in my head: "Maybe it's the water/Maybe it's the air/Maybe it's the sunshine that gets in your hair/Maybe it's the ladies/Or the clothes that they wear/I don't know/And I don't care…"
I'm pretty sure it's from a late 70s/early 80s TV show's opening credits, and that the guy who played Jimmy Olsen in the Christopher Reeve Superman movie was in it.
If you know which show this is from, for decency's sake, please tell me. And if by some weird Six-Degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon chance you know the production company or the guy who wrote or even sang that damn song, please tell him for me that twenty-or-so YEARS after their little bit of fluff was pulled from network television, there is someone, somewhere, who can't get the first few bars of that song out of his head.
With a little bit of luck, you can get issue number three of Double Image from your local shop this coming Wednesday. Cameron does some more of what Cameron does so well in Joe Casey and Charlie Adlard's "Codeflesh," and Kelly gets a little more of what's coming to her from a guest on The Jerry Springer Show in "The Bod," by me and the ubiquitous John Heebink. Check out the Double Image Double Check on page 116 of the latest Previews for info on how you can get the first four Double Image issues as a set, and I'll see you back here next week.