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This Ship, Which Is Still Totally Sinking
, is now on a weekly schedule--and as much as I think there's something altogether cloying and grotesque about utilizing the internet as a forum for extended autobiographical ramblings, it might just be high past time that I made it clear what sort of super-hero columnist you've ended up with here at comiXology. After all, recent columns have made it clear that I'm not a fan of X-Force
, and you're probably wondering how somebody so far removed from what the super-hero fan craves has any business criticizing DC's decisions regarding Z-grade characters and their lack of glass cases.
You might even be worried that I read Frank Santoro's Cold Heat
, and I don't get mad at it for not having anything resembling adamantium.
The first book featuring comics I ever got a hold of was a hardcover Little Lulu
, at my grandparents' house, and a copy of a Doonesbury
reprint collection featuring the period when Iran and Jimmy Carter were botching up hostage negotiations. While I can promise you that I read them, and that I read them more times than I can easily respect myself for, it's more than a little disingenuous to claim that I was a future Scott McCloud-quoting fanboy at that time. No, that didn't happen until a few years later, when I ended up looking in some ugly, stained long-boxes at the front of Gwen's Paperbacks, a store my mother liked to visit so she could trade her old, terrible genre books for more terrible genre books that were, while just as bad (as literature), less old. In those brief few moments, I wonder if it was the God of poor taste and luck that kept me from a copy of Zap Comix
. Because the two super-hero comics I walked out with, the two spandex adventure fiestas put me on a path that led me to become a jaded, tired little man.
Well, one was a pretty decent issue of Detective Comics
. But the other? The one that turned a regular human being into a petulant, nasty little shoplifter?
Justice League of America
# 254. And yes, as the bile rises, that's the Detroit League. That's when, except for when some lunatic tried to bring the Wonder Twins into continuity after Superman died, the Justice League was at its lowest. Except for a slumming Batman and a near-mute Martian Manhunter, it was a team that consisted of Vibe, Gypsy, Steel, Vixen, with occasional guest-spots from such illustrious figures as Aquaman and Zatanna. I can't tell you what happened in the time between reading that one issue and having a full run of this ridiculous comic. I don't even quite understand it myself. But I fell for these guys, and I fell hard. It would be easy to say it was because Batman was there, but he really wasn't there enough for that to be an honest excuse. The truth was, and is, that I fell for those losers. I wanted to know why Vibe, a walking stereotype only a sheltered idiot could love, talked the way he did. (The answer, that Vibe was a poorly imagined and near-racist portrayal of a Hispanic twenty-something, wouldn't click until years later.) I wanted to know why Steel's horrible grandfather would have gone to xenomorphic extremes to turn his own family member into a freakish Terminator of a human being. (That has no answer, other than it just being a really upsetting thing to do.) I even wanted to know a little bit more about Gypsy, although my feelings towards her remained mixed throughout.
I returned to Gwen's multiple times, trying to fill in the gaps about this group of weirdoes. I grabbed a Batman comic here and there, but all that mattered was this little team. I ended up reading parts of the stories later than others that were published earlier; I was confused by references to a Crisis
that caused flaming snow; and eventually - and here's what might make me different than you - I stole money from my parents' Sunday School class treasury to complete my first "run" of a book. When my mother, she-of-the-many-years-of-suffering, discovered that the trust placed in her by the church had been betrayed by her JLDetroit junkie of a child, she was at a bit of a loss as to what to do. She settled for putting the books I'd bought on the highest shelf in her closet and curtailing my allowance for a few months.
I snuck in and climbed the shoe rack the first chance I got. That's how I found out that these guys, these characters that had stolen so much of my heart, that had driven me to obsession and crime, had died. Sitting cross-legged in my parents' closet while they were off being decent human beings, I watched Vibe get taken down, easily, by a no-name robot, a character so non-descript he even wore a brown suit and lacked a real name. I watched the only Man of Steel who I knew about, Hank Heywood III, dismembered under the contempt-filled eyes of the civilians he was trying to protect. Worst of all, I watched as Gypsy, my least favorite of this meager team, got away basically unharmed.
I hid the comics back in my parents' closet, and weeks, or months, or however long is longer than a weekend seems when you're 11 years old, my mother brought them to me. Although she wasn't exactly in full embrace of forgiveness, as I had pretty much robbed a church for these bundles of horror, there was a bit of the joy any parent feels when they're forking over whatever bauble their spawn has fallen in love with. And there, I was given a choice: Do I pretend that I haven't already snuck in and spoiled the surprise, thereby vindicating my mother's mistaken belief that I had learned my lesson?
Or do I tell the truth? Do I let her in that I'm firmly embracing my role as a nasty little snake who will let nothing stand in the way of his desire to find out what's behind the red curtain? Do I let her know that I no longer care to find out how or why Aquaman had joined this team, that I don't care about the history of a comic book that had killed my Vibe, my steel, my four-color loser friends?
Let's put it this way: I don't lie to my mother. Brothers and sisters? I'm not going to lie to you. If it's bad, I'm going to tell you. If it's repetitive, I'm going to clue you in. But most of all, and here's the kicker, the coup de grace that should get you strapped in for a fun summer:
I ain't ever, not ever, gonna be wrong.
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Tucker Stone's writing can be found in print from time to time. He currently blogs about comics at The Factual Opinion and Savage Critics.
This Ship Is Totally Sinking is © Tucker Stone, 2010