I just got back from the mountains where I visited an old friend of mine, Eric Buchanan and his wife Suzanne Saunders. They are artists who have made their living the last decade living in New Orleans. They escaped fairly well in some respects--they got out ahead of the hurricane, they got their cats out, they had friends and family in they could turn to for help. What remains of their paintings, etc. left behind, they don't know. With luck, looters won't rob them blind--but it might take even more luck to keep mold from destroying thier work.
Eric and I are of deeply different political stripes. He's a yellow-dog Democrat who has never voted for a Republican, I'm a hard core Libertarian who has voted only once for a Democrat and once for a Republican in the last twenty years. (I voted for Jim Hunt over Jesse Helms--for what that was worth, and I voted for a Republican sherrif when I lived in Guilford county because he struck me as one of the least bullshit filled politicians I had ever heard, and there wasn't a Libertarian running.) But, we agreed on the broad issues of Hurricane Katrina--the government has blown the intitial response, and they are continuing to blow it. Stung by the criticism that they didn't evacuate the city before the storm, federal, state, and local government now want to empty the city in the aftermath--even parts of the city relatively high and dry, like the French Quarter. Yes, the city is a dangerous place right now, with the risk of lawlessness and disease. But keeping out the people most motivated to go in and clean up the mess is crazy. If this is a recovery run from the top down, it will be a disaster. Yes, there are large scale items the government must handle--pumping out the water, putting police on the street, getting ambulances and firetrucks back in business. But every home and business in New Orleans needs someone in it working to fix things on the small scale. I listened to a story on NPR about a guy whose house had been lightly flooded staying behind to pull out his carpets and swab down everything with bleach. We need guys like that in every house not actually under water. Yes, there are a lot of houses that aren't going to be saved with a claw hammer and a mop--but there are a lot more houses that could have been saved if their owners weren't kept out of the city. The government isn't going to go into people's homes and pull up damp carpets--nor should it. But it shouldn't be putting up unneccessary roadblocks in front of people willing to put their muscles and sweat into saving thier homes.
Which brings me to comic books. Actually, it doesn't--I've been so neglectful of my blog, I've forgotten stuff that I've written, and I see I had promised long ago to write about bad comic books. I wish I could say that there are so many to pick from it's hard to pick the worst--but, really, there are so many to pick from, and it's still easy to pick the worst. Hands down, "The Dark Knight Strikes Back," is the worst comic book I've ever read. Frank Miller is a comic book genius, responsible for The Dark Knight Returns, one of the highest achievements of the genre. It seems impossible that TDKSB is the work of the same man. Everything about it is wrong. The artwork is bad. While visually similar to The Dark Knight Returns, the artwork in Strikes Back is just lazy--computer generated backgrounds and special effects fill the many splash pages. And the costumes are abominable--the outfit he puts the Flash in is just embarrassing. Wonder Woman is to only character who looks halfway decent in this thing. Lex Luther is just a toadish squiggle, barely recognizable as a human being if it weren't for the coloring and the word balloons and the fact that everyone is addressing the squiggle as "Luthor." Plot-wise, the story is could be described in positive terms as "epic," but in more realistic terms as unfocused and confusing. The story also suffers from repetition--for instance, in the Dark Knight Returns, there is a cool fight where Batman beats up Superman. So, in the Dark Knight strikes back, there is a "cool" scene where Batman's army beats up Superman. Except it isn't cool, it's tedious. We've seen this before.
I have a million gripes about the book, but only have the energy right now to mention the truly horrible ending. Basicly, Batman convinces Superman to become Superfascist and rule the world. Seriously. Oh, and Batman kisses Robin. Not a friendly, "oh, it's good to see you" kiss, but a "let's get naked and make squishy noises" kind of kiss. Admittedly, Robin is female, and is probably 18, but Batman is, like, 90, and it's just wrong on so many levels.
I have one theory that about Dark Knight Strikes back: Frank Miller made it as bad as possible on purpose. I think he was harrassed for 20 years by DC to do a sequel. They probably offered him obscene sums of money. And I'd like to think he finally decided to take their money and make a book that met the contractual obligation but was so bad they wouldn't dare publish it. Only, the powers that be at DC were so blind to what makes a good comic book that the published it under the illusion that it really was worthy of publication, or else they knew it was crap, but also knew people would buy anything with Frank Miller and Batman on the cover.
Okay, so this has been a pretty random blog. With luck, I won't go 40 days without posting again, and can be more coherent next time. Or not.