Tuesday, 14 September 2010

What makes death matter (to immoral idiots) Today is a better day than most to remember how odious Marvel comics were in the early 1990s. Why so? Because of the cavalier attitude Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, et al. took not only to the history of the characters they inherited, but to humanity in general. Consider the X-Force and Spiderman crossover from 1991, in which the ridiculous Liefeld creation "Cable" and the ridiculously re-purposed McFarlane Spiderman fight some Scottish terroist and the Juggernaut in the streets of New York City. Did I write "streets"? Because I meant backgroundless-space-Liefeld-is-too-lazy-to-draw: That yellow back there? It's all that remains of a building the Juggernaut just dropped on Spiderman: What building would that be? Can't quite tell there. Is there maybe an establishing shot that makes it clear? There is: That's correct: the Juggernaut killing tens of thousand of civilians (none of whom rate important enough to appear in either comic) is the fruit of Liefeld and McFarlane's 1991 collaboration. That Liefeld notoriously declines to even draw any background, that is, that he cares so little for where his mayhem occurs and chose to take out a Twin Tower anyway says more than I can about his apathetic morality. Lest you think him representative of comics (or tights-and-fights comics) at large, rewind comics history back to 1985, back to when Chris Claremount and John Romita, Jr. were at the height of their creative powers. Do their characters fight in a vacuum? They do not. Do their characters witness the deaths of thousands of civilians and saunter off once the villain-of-the-month has been dispatched? They do not. It's almost as if back in 1985 people and story matter more than explosions and disposably "cool" new characters. Saccharine as the post-September 11th comics were, they did at least signal a return to a perspective in which human death actually mattered. Sadly, for mainstream comics, that was quite a big deal.

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