I might be more likely to contribute if you didn’t send me e-mails every fifteen minutes. And if I weren’t broke.
So, the projected release date for “Building a Better Batman” was perhaps a tad overoptimistic. For one thing, the Batman vs. Superman review took a lot out of me. For another, most of my time’s been eaten up by work on a thing I can’t discuss. Probably it’ll be up by mid-May. (“Building a Better Batman,” that is. Though the thing could start by then also.)
Superman is dead.
Superman remains dead.
And we have killed him.
This movie. This fucking movie. This Goddamned fucking miserable amoral shitstain on the Underoos of the superhero genre, blockbuster filmmaking in general, DC Comics, Batman, and Superman. This loathsome hateful excuse for a miserable exercise in audience abuse. This utter Goddamned monstrosity of a movie.
Hillary Clinton is running, I think it’s fair to say, a rather cynical campaign. It’s premised on the idea that Clinton is the least-worst candidate for President out of the current field—not an unlikeable asshole, not a fascist, actually electable. The reasonable choice. Conservative, but liberal. A “progressive who gets things done”. Bipartisan. A compromise candidate. This cynicism—this calculation—affects every movement Clinton’s campaign makes. Irregularities, screwing with your opposition, that’s fine and dandy, so long as you win. You can YASS QUEEN and Nae Nae and Emoji your way into Millennials’ hearts. You can push an Establishment candidate as a scrappy outsider underdog. She’s the least-worst candidate out there.
And honestly, I’m a cynic and I should be behind Clinton because of that. I’m a cynic because the President for the majority of my childhood failed upward into the Governorship of Texas, ratfucked his way into the Republican presidential nomination, and was handed the Presidency through a lawsuit. I’m a cynic because he took the moment of national unity that followed 9/11. I’m a cynic because “support the troops” and “God bless America” were used as thought-terminating cliches in the days that followed. I’m a cynic because we invaded a country on a pack of lies and that country turned into a nightmarish quagmire of a sandpit. I’m a cynic because the Right has used Jesus as a wedge. I’m a cynic because when I was in fifth grade the economy folded like a house of cards.
And I’m a cynic because the election of our first black President proved that we’re a hell of a lot more racist than we’d thought. I’m a cynic because of the Tea Party, because of Mitt Romney, because of any one of a dozen social-media harassment campaigns. I like being a cynic—it’s probably done wonders for my blood pressure. It’d be easy to back a politician because I thought she was as cynical as I am—the game’s rigged but you can’t get out, so best minimize your losses.
But—and here’s the thing—I don’t consume cynical media. Partly it’s because I’m also optimistic. Partly it’s fear of confirmation bias. But I don’t really go in for negativity. I like Superman, I like Parks and Recreation, I like Kamala Khan, I like Star Trek.
And I like Bernie Sanders. It comes back to that optimism/cynicism thing I’ve been shoehorning into threading through this post. It’s that cynicism that makes me unable to back Hillary; it’s that optimism that makes me back Bernie. And I like Hillary! She wouldn’t be a bad President! Probably she’d be less disastrous than any of the Republicans running! Certainly she’d be less disastrous than Donald Trump! I’m just not going to vote for someone in a position of power who shares my cynicism!
To clarify, with fewer exclamation points: While I like Hillary Clinton quite a bit, her cynicism—and the cynicism of her supporters—turns me off, and while I’ll probably vote for her in the general election if it comes to that, I will not be caucusing for her tomorrow. A Clinton Presidency would mean a continuation of the policies of the Obama Administration, and while that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing—at least I wouldn’t consider that a bad thing—surely we can do better. The preferred label for those of us on the left of the political spectrum has shifted over the past twenty-odd years from “liberal” to “moderate” to the current “progressive“. There’s some semantic debate—I prefer “liberal” or “Socialist,” myself, depending on how I’m feeling—but let’s take it as a given that “progressive” is the label of choice for most Democrats; certainly Hillary Clinton identifies as one. As I understand it, “progress” refers to forward movement, not staying in place—however comfortable that place may be.
And I hate to keep harping on this, but it’s so damned cynical! Yes, the Affordable Care Act, however flawed, has put millions who would not otherwise be insured on the insurance rolls. Yes, student debt is a problem. Yes, reproductive rights are important. Marriage equality, fuckin’-A. Immigration reform, yeah, that’s big. Supreme Court’s the only functioning branch of our government at the moment, the R’s wanna obstruct the shit out of it? Yeah, not gonna happen. But we can do more. Yes, in a democracy, it’s important to be cynical and skeptical of your government—and here’s where I’d insert a Thomas Paine or Thomas Jefferson quote to buttress my argument and give me that air of legitimacy, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head and I’m too lazy to look one up. But—and this is important—there’s a long, deep vein of optimism going through the American psyche back to the beginning. Forget E pluribus unum or In God we trust: The grass is always greener on the other side is a much more accurate national motto. That feeling that there’s always something better over yonder hill—that’s what America is. (And if there happen to be other people over yonder hill—fuck ’em.) More than that, there’s the feeling that tomorrow will be—must be—better. It’s a given in the American psyche—our children will have a better life than we did. It may well be that all we can do at the moment is hold the line. But we can’t just write off the possibility of reform. The Obama Administration’s gains should be a stepping-stone, a foundation on which to build our new future, not the be-all and end-all.
Look, forget about the political revolution. Forget about the fine distinctions of liberal versus progressive versus socialist. Forget about tactical voting, about electability. Leave any assumptions you may have about what could or couldn’t happen in November at the door—this election has repeatedly failed to make any sense, it’s not going to start now. Vote your conscience on Saturday. But consider Bernie. It’s the least you can do.
Let’s be conservative. Say that a lifetime achievement award can only be awarded to a creator with more than twenty-five years of work in the industry. Say further that this twenty-five-year limit extends from their date of first professional publication–no fanac. Would it make sense for a list of nominees, even in a historically male-dominated field such as comics, to completely exclude women?
So, in the interest of showing up the Angoulême Grand Prix jury, I have compiled a list of women who I would hypothetically nominate for such an award:
- Rumiko Takahashi
- Ann Nocenti
- Colleen Doran
- Wendy Pini
- Carla Speed McNeil
- Kaoru Mori
- Louise Simonson
- Marie Severin
- Francoise Mouly
- Trina Robbins
- Cat Yronwode
- Jill Thompson
- Marjane Satrapi
- Aline Kominski-Crumb
- Ramona Fradon
- Alison Bechdel
- Amanda Conner
- Roberta Gregory
- Julie Doucet
- Lynda Barry
- And a heck of a lot of others I can’t come up with at the moment. Chime in with your picks.
[Image from Dimension 13; art by Trina Robbins]
A while back, my mom shared a Kotaku article to my Facebook wall with the headline “How Snoopy Killed Peanuts,” seeking my comment on it. The comment kind of took on a life of its own—it ended up as an 814-word, three-paragraph plus bracketed intro and conclusion “commentstrasity” of the sort that could easily stand as a blog post in and of itself. I have done my best to preserve the comment’s original form and thrust here, only really formatting, correcting typos, adding footnotes, and going into greater depth where needed. I’ve also got the original .txt on my hard drive if anyone’s curious.
I can’t for-sure say why Peanuts got lighter over the years—but I think it’s an overstatement to claim Snoopy is singlehandedly responsible for the downfall of the strip. I think Wong is confusing a symptom of a problem with its cause and especially overlooking the role merchandising played. In the last half of its existence—let’s say post-1970, which doesn’t exactly halve but it’s close enough for government work and is a good demarcation, since the observable changes in the strip’s tone do seem to hit in the early ’70s—Peanuts was a major commercial concern. Not that it hadn’t been a commercial thing from 1950-1969—almost as soon as Peanuts got any traction, licensing was a major component of its success, including Ford advertising, collected editions, comic books, etc. In the ’60s, this really took hold—toys, textiles, and of course the TV specials. Yet Schulz was able to keep the strip fairly dark. I don’t know if I fully agree that Late Peanuts was entirely light-n-fluffy all the time—it never devolved into Garfield or, God help us, Love Is. But it’s undeniable that Late Peanuts is lighter than Early Peanuts.
What does Snoopy have to do with any of this? Well, Charlie Brown was undeniably the centre of the strip all through the run—Schulz initially wanted to call it “Good Old Charlie Brown” and for years the Sunday strips were branded “Peanuts featuring Good Ol’ Charlie Brown.” And he’s definitely a good protagonist. But for all that he’s a sympathetic character, he’s an exceptionally unappealing protagonist from a marketing standpoint: Depression, anxiety, loneliness, and fear of rejection are all things people deal with, but they don’t translate especially well to plushes or T-shirts. Snoopy, on the other hand, has a lot going for him marketing-wise. He’s cute, which is always good. He’s a dog, and everyone loves dogs. He has a rich fantasy life, which translates into more potential products, and (at least in the specials), he’s a gifted physical comedian. Snoopy hangs out with a diverse cast–not just the gang but also the birds, which again means more potential products. It’s kind of brilliant, actually how well Snoopy retrofits into a merchandising cash cow—er, cash beagle.
Mind you, the merchandising angle is only one possible explanation. In his Schulz bio, which I’ve got knocking around somewhere, David Michaelis credits/blames the influence of Schulz’s second wife; according to this reading, the happiness Sparky experienced during the last thirty years of his life undermined the dark outlook that made Peanuts so successful. I don’t fully buy into it myself.
I’ve got another theory that’s more interesting, at least to me. It could be that Schulz got old and became an elder statesman of cartooning; by about 1970, the first generation of cartoonists to grow up on Schulz and Peanuts and the post-war strips was coming of age. And they looked up to Sparky as their hero—idol might be a more accurate word, if more ironic given how famously modest Sparky was. And Schulz was human; he couldn’t have helped but have felt the gaze of the world upon him as he aged, as he became the figurehead of an industry. It’s possible that he became more conservative, and, like a driver overcorrecting on an icy road, he took the strip into a ditch. A nice ditch, to be sure, but a ditch nonetheless.
To pin the blame on Snoopy seems a bit extreme; he’s more of a convenient scape-beagle than the actual culprit. I suspect Wong is trying to get a rise out of the reader as much as he is sincerely arguing Snoopy ruined Peanuts. After all, Snoopy’s far and away the most popular and beloved Peanuts character; people regularly assume the strip’s named after him, the URL of the official Peanuts website was Snoopy-dot-com for years , and if you say Snoopy “killed” Peanuts, you’re gonna raise some eyebrows.
 It seems to me that Michaelis inserts a misogynistic streak to the narrative of Schulz’s life that doesn’t necessarily exist–the mother, inspiring yet belittling her son, the first wife, who inspired Schulz to greatness yet undermined him at every opportunity, the Little Red-Haired Girl, the second wife, with whom Schulz knew happiness yet produced mediocrity.
 The Japanese-language site is Snoopy-dot-co-dot-jp. They love Snoopy, Japan.
“So, here’s a thing” might make a better tagline than “For space is wide and good friends are too few.” The latter may be true—space being wide and good friends being too few—but it’s also a reference to a filk song that I’d be surprised if more than ten thousand people were familiar with and it’s not clearly related to this blog’s pop-culture-politics-whatever remit. “So, here’s a thing,” on the other hand, sums up my approach to blogging pretty well, I think.
Anyway, here’s a thing that isn’t related to any of the above: A fan video (can it be an AMV if none of the images in it are actually moving) of Ember from ElfQuest set to Britney Spears’s “Not Yet a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.” Why? I don’t know; the Internet can be a strange and magical place sometimes.
TokyoPop’s alive, Donald Trump’s a serious Presidential candidate, and people are arguing—apparently in good faith—that police officers are justified in shooting a twelve-year-old with a toy gun. I haven’t logged into Tumblr in months and I’m considering dropping it altogether because I don’t exactly enjoy it and the development team has succeeded in completely screwing up the user interface. It was 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the Eastern United States over Christmas weekend, and now Illinois is in the middle of an ice storm.
Look, at some point reality slipped its clutch and I’d like the clutch to unslip at some point, the sooner the better.
Okay, no sweat. Review the first new Star Wars movie in ten years, first one in a trilogy that we’ve been waiting for for thirty-two years.  Possibly the most anticipated film of the decade. Oh, and no matter how you think, some portion of the Internet will tear you several dozen new orifices. Nothing to fear, right?