Bob Schwartz

Category: Comic books

Trump and the Battle of Universes: Crisis on This Earth

It is painful to be reducing the future of America to a simplistic metaphor—or to a comic book concept. But here goes.

For Trump, reality is Trump. Trump Earth. Trump World. Trump Universe. Nothing else exists.

For everybody else, reality is everything else. Not-Trump Earth. Not-Trump World. Not-Trump Universe.

It is really that simple. A little practically complicated because Trump is president. But conceptually, just that simple.

The battle has already started and is likely to get worse before it gets better. For examples, see the various series in the comic book world, such as Crisis on Infinite Earths. Not pretty, with lots of collateral damage. The good news is that in the long run, the good guys and good gals win. We hope.

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Will Eisner Week

Will Eisner (1917-2005) was a pioneer in the comic art form, the godfather of the graphic novel with publication of A Contract with God (1978), a teacher and theoretician of the medium with publication of Comics and Sequential Art (1985). The major award in the medium is named after him.

This is officially his week.

I see myself age 7, standing on a corner in the Bronx, reading a Superboy comic book I had just bought at the candy store. I couldn’t wait to get it back to our apartment.

I didn’t know then that comic books would shape me as much as any other cultural influence. I didn’t know that comic books would evolve into “real” literature in the form of graphic novels. I didn’t know that by 2018 comic books and graphic novels would end up being the multi-billion dollar backbone of the movie and TV industry.

I didn’t know about Will Eisner either, but I would learn that he, more than any other person, was responsible for the breakthrough that turned cheap disposable entertainment for kids into a major art form of the twentieth—and now the twenty-first—century.

The poster for Will Eisner Week says “Read a Graphic Novel!” If you haven’t ever, you should.

As with all literature, “best” is a matter of taste and interest. For me, and for many others, it is Watchmen (1986) by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Time magazine listed it as one of the 100 Best Novels since 1923—that is best novels, not just graphic novels. Like all supreme literary works, it weaves so much into its pages that the reader is mesmerized way after the book is closed for the first, fifth or nth time. And like many works—including now many comic books and graphic novels—the attempt to transform it into film was good but only partly successful, and still not the experience of reading the book. So whether it is Watchmen or one of the many other worthies—Read a Graphic Novel!

President Pmurt

Mister Mxyzptlk was an imp from the fifth dimension who was a constant nemesis of Superman in the comics. The only way this villain could be made to disappear was to trick him into saying his own name backwards.

And so, while we wait for something to rid us of our meddlesome president, one suggestion is to trick him into saying (or tweeting) his name backwards: Pmurt (pronounced puhmurt?)

How? Well, if someone were to tweet something critical, including a claim that Trump was a “pmurt”, the president could not resist answering the charge, including in his replies a flat out denial of the fake news that he is a pmurt.

Yup, that should do it.

The Trump Plan for North Korea: Gorgo’s Revenge

Mr. Unpredictable and Secretive says he has a plan for dealing with North Korea, China and other international situations, but he can’t say what the plan is (he can’t say or he can’t say?).

In the deep archives of comic book history, I found a clue.

The comic from 1962 is called Gorgo’s Revenge. Gorgo was the monster from a 1961 British movie, in which Gorgo attacks London. The comic book series Gorgo’s Revenge (later called The Return of Gorgo) continues the story, this time in China.

It seems that Gorgo’s return is considered to be a sign to the people of China, oppressed slaves of the Communist regime, that it is time to seek their freedom—by fleeing to Taiwan. (By 1962, the idea of the Nationalists overthrowing Mao on the mainland was no longer considered a reasonable goal.)

Gorgo arrives, emboldens and inspires the Chinese Nationalists, and sets back the nuclear ambitions of the Chinese Communists by years. Good work Gorgo!

It is impossible to know whether the president ever read Gorgo’s Revenge as a kid, or what he read or reads. But it does seem that it might contain just the sort of plan he has in mind. Sort of.

Trump and Administration as Comic Book Characters

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Comic books aren’t always funny. They include some very dark characters with dark intentions and powers. Those intentions and powers are found in the real (non-comics) world, so we should pay attention and shouldn’t laugh.

One other thing, though, is that these dark characters are two-dimensional, even when they are turned into compelling movie characters. Upon close inspection, they have no intelligence, because they have no brains, because they are…comic book characters.

And so, as long as we recognize that the real President and his real administration have very real intentions and powers, we might gain perspective from treating them graphically as comic book characters. In any case, we are probably already tired of seeing photos of Donald Trump. Maybe this is a way to make the view a little bit different and more interesting.

The news is that Rick Perry will be nominated as Energy Secretary, head of a department he had trouble remembering he wanted to eliminate. So here he is:

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Movies: Doctor Strange – Comic Books Are Cosmic Books

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Go see the new movie Doctor Strange. See it if you can in one of those fancy theaters, in 3D if you like. But don’t think that it is just an excellent visual and aural and mental treat, which it is. See it because it represents why comic books and movies were invented. To offer us unique experiences, seasoned with interesting and even mind-altering emotions and ideas, that aren’t like the experiences of our everyday life.

What’s it all about? The answer is: Yes.

The comic book character Doctor Strange first appeared in 1963, as an unusual but not unprecedented special addition to the standard superhero approach. This one incorporated mysticism and spirituality, more so than average (it was after all the 1960s). Comic books are cosmic books, having evolved as the perfect place to tell stories laced with cosmic issues. At first glance, the stories and heroes appear to follow somewhat conventional logic and chronologic. Then, without excuse or explanation, they don’t (if this sounds like many of our religious traditions, well…). They are utterly effective but stop making sense, which as all students of comic books and cosmic arts know, and as Doctor Strange learns, is what it is all about.

If you want more details before you decide, you will find dozens of reviews, almost all of them very positive. Or you can not look for those. Instead, just pull yourself away from your phone or laptop or video game or big home screen to take a digital holiday into the breathtaking mystic—comic book and movie style.

Note: Not too long ago I wrote about mountains moving and walking, a common theme in spiritual traditions. See, for example, Jesus and Dogen and Donovan (♪ First there is a mountain/then there is no mountain/then there is). No mountains are moved in this movie, but they could have been.