Literally Anyone Can Make Comics: The Return of the Aliens

Hey, look, it's the aliens from the very first strip. Maybe they've learned something about interstellar harmony?

SPOILER: They have not.

(Click to make it cosmic-sized. And as always, apologies for my shit-tastic penmanship.)

The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker, and The Improvement Upon The Hero's Journey

I've been thinking about Greek mythology a lot lately after reading Mythos and Heroes, Stephen Fry's excellent books retelling some of the most famous myths (and don't wait until this summer to buy the American edition of just the first volume, go track down the British editions right damn now, they're great).  I'm also on a Star Wars high after having just watched the first trailer for Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker a bunch of times and suddenly my brain just exploded with why I enjoy the new trilogy of movies so much, The Last Jedi in particular*.

Most of what we know about the gods and (especially) the mortal heroes of Greek mythology are their Big Heroic Deeds, or at least those are the parts we focus on; the labors, the voyages, the wars, the monster fights. But if you read on from those points, you find that most of them end up disgraced and eventually done in by their own egos and character flaws - Hercules's wandering eye, Theseus and Jason thinking their early deeds excuse later bad behavior, Orpheus's impatience, etc. The Greeks called it hubris, we'd just call it "being a dick," but the principle's the same.

Okay, so flash forward to The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. New evil rises, the returning heroes join with the next generation to fight it, and despite an initial big victory, it all goes pear-shaped pretty quickly. All the changes they thought they had settled the first time around are negated because they rested on their laurels and believed they'd succeed the same way as before because of course they would. There's that pesky hubris again.

TLJ haters cite this as a departure from the classic Joseph Campbell Hero's Journey that George Lucas followed so closely, but that's because they're once again focusing just on the good parts and ignoring the sour ending. I'd argue that the new trilogy is actually truly finishing the journey, or maybe even doing Joseph Campbell one better because TLJ brought us to the typical mythic heroes' ending but still leaves us with one whole movie left to bring it back home to a happy and hopefully satisfying conclusion, as a smaller force rebuilds from the ground up and fights to save what they love rather than destroy what they hate.

(Yeah, I want the new new Rebellion/Resistance/Whatever to base itself entirely upon the teachings of Rose Tico. After what the character and, especially, actress Kelly Marie Tran suffered at the keyboards of internet trolls, she more than deserves it.)

Okay. Off to watch the trailer a dozen more times!

Miraculously Mundane - two thoughts on Tom King and Mitch Gerads's Mister Miracle

SPOILERS ahead.  You've been warned!

I finished the collected edition of Tom King and Mitch Gerads's Mister Miracle mini-series the other day, and while I worried there was no way in hell it could possibly live up to the gargantuan level of hype and accolades folks have heaped upon it since issue #1 was released, it was indeed very good.  I think I need to live with it a while longer before I can decide where it resides in my own personal pantheon of comics greatness, I've been thinking about it non-stop since I finished so that's a pretty good sign.

There's a lot to unpack with this book - the stylistic & layout choices, the ruminations on divinity and humanity, the oft-repeated refrain of Darkseid Is, thoughts of heaven and hell, and even the question of if the story even technically happens or if it's all an "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" styled near-death fantasy. All of that is well-worth discussing, and it has been - at length - by other folks. For now I'd rather focus on the two quick thoughts that occurred to me as I was reading it.

1. Everyone hates and loves where they grew up in roughly equal measure.

Scott Free and Big Barda hail from Apokolips, and as the name implies it's about as close to actual hell in DC cosmology as you can get without it being actual Hell (which also exists in DC cosmology... and I think there's a couple of them, but whatever, comics continuity is, in itself, yet another hell altogether). Lives in perpetual torment, ritualized torture and pain, literal lakes of fire... Jack Kirby's Fourth World was and is many things, but none of them are subtle.

Long story short, shitty place, they were tortured, they hated it, they spent their lives trying to escape it... and yet as the story goes on, they wax nostalgic about it. Scott does first as Barda reminds them of how bad they had it, but even she goes along with it as the story progresses. They reminisce about the compliments paid to them by Granny Goodness (after she spent hours or days literally torturing them), quiet times with their foster siblings (who they are literally trying to kill daily in a war without end), enjoy the taste of marrow wine (sweetest when harvested from the blood of a freshly killed god), and even take a dip in the above mentioned literal lake of fire.

Meanwhile, I grew up in central Maine, and although it wasn't a super tiny town and we had some stuff to do and see and experience, it still felt super remote by virtue of being central Maine... like Tatooine, not the bright center of the universe but instead the place it felt farthest from, and I couldn't wait to leave. But I still like to go back, see the sights, taste the tastes, and when I encounter any little bit of home elsewhere, I connect with it immediately and miss it.

We can physically depart our homes but we never really leave them behind. Even when it's literally hell, I guess.

2. Everyone's day-to-day lives are mundane to the people living through them, no matter how exciting they may seem to outside observers.

Someone somewhere is doing something you've always wanted to do, or something you have never conceived of in your wildest dreams, and they are completely bored by it. Any day-to-day routine runs the risk of becoming static and dull simply by virtue of it being a day-to-day routine, whether that's driving the carpool and dropping off a package at the post office or fighting a giant space war between divine cosmic beings with the state of the universe at stake. We're reading the comics, so for us it's all Kirby-inspired bombast and emotion and wild ideas... but for the New Gods it's Tuesday.

The now-infamous sequence of Scott and Barda raiding New Genesis to fight Orion's death sentence upon Scott while discussing chores and home renovations is odd and funny for the juxtaposition of workaday conversation amidst Metal Gear Solid-esque espionage and murder, but it's also maybe the most relatable sequence in the entire book because I've had similar conversations with my wife or co-workers while likewise carrying out unrelated errands or projects (admittedly ones with slightly fewer beheadings). When you're on the job long enough, everything just becomes muscle memory and your brain moves on to the rest of life while your body works away at whatever it is you're doing, whether that's shelving library books or slaying a giant lava shark.

It also reminded me of the Warner Bros. cartoons with Sam and Ralph, the sheepdog and wolf who used to punch the time clock and work together in the local meadow trying to respectively protect and steal the flock of sheep.

Every exciting dream is someone else's boring reality. It's nice to be reminded of that sometimes.

So yes, Mister Miracle is as good as advertised, but not in the ways I expected, which makes me appreciate it even more, I think. I recommend.

Literally Anyone Can Make Comics: More or Less How It Happened

Not exactly the real story of how my wife and I first got together, but not not the real story, either.

Also, one of these days I really need to teach myself how to ink these things.