Sunday, June 29, 2014

Book Review: The Listener


So, this is one of those books, like Maus or Persepolis, that are discussed as if they are about an historical event, when in reality they tell one person's story in relation to that event.

Louise, our intrepid heroine, is a politically-motivated sculptress who is travelling through Europe, having political thoughts and insights about art museums and having random political conversations with strangers that she meets on the way. When she's not talking or thinking in clever slogans, she is eavesdropping on "normal" people, and we assume, making political judgements on their snippets of conversation.

She meets up with an elderly couple, Marie and Rudolph, who tell her the story of how they failed to prevent Adolf Hitler from winning his election in 1933. As we are given their story, interwoven with Louise's lack of one, the sense of responsibility and guilt that they emote are contrasted with her's. You see, she's nominally travelling because of artist's block, but really she feels responsible for the death of a Cambodian refugee who fell while hanging a protest sign. It turns out that he was inspired by one of her political sculptures.

Considering that this is a book about an artist (two, if you count Hitler), there isn't a lot of visual storytelling going on here, but a lot of conversation. All the characters have the same detached narrative voice, causing this to feel like a series of riffs rather than any kind of natural dialogue. There are a few weird pages that depict animals preying upon other animals, that I think are supposed to be metaphors for Hitler because, well, predators.

After the story proper, there is a little illustrated history of the Nazi Party, just in case the reader is unfamiliar with the concept that Hitler's government did bad things. There is also a history of the animators and cartoonists of the Third Reich, which of course is much more interesting, but has little to do with the main story.

In the end, this is a collection of things that David Lester read about and found interesting. He packaged them up in comic book and had it published. It's not terrible, but you have to be in that Ayn Rand mood to read it, where every sentence is going to be a moral judgement of some sort on you, the reader. Or should that be you, The Listener?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Humidity Always Wins

So, in the endless war against dust bunnies and silverfish, I proclaimed a small victory today. Another bookcase was successfully cleared off and re-organized. This one is dedicated to books that I've picked up over the last few years, but haven't read yet. I decided to alphabetize them by title to provide a bit of variety as I make my way through the shelves this year.

Like most bookish types, I like to decorate my shelves with random things that I've picked up in my travels. Or that people have given me to encourage my lack of decorative aesthetic.

The other problem is that some of the cheaper books were starting to fall apart due to the humidity. Also, some of the newer plastic toys were developing a weird sticky surface layer. Such is life without air conditioning. I tossed out a few of the books that had started to detach from the spines, but the worst loss was my 1980s Pac-Man mini arcade game. 

I didn't even bother dusting it for the photo. The labels just started discoloring this year. It worked the last time I stuck batteries in it, but it just looks terrible now, and I'll probably toss it. This is why working class people can't have nice things. sigh.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Transgressive cinema and overheard conversations

So today, I'm sitting in a busy Starbucks in downtown Chicago. I was driven out of the Cultural Center by the stomping noise of Gospelfest and there are insane bible belt protesters across the street in Millennium Park, so I am having to pay for my wifi and eat it too.

I needed coffee anyway; I came down to be experimented on for money by an undisclosed company. So, I had to be clean and caffeine-free this morning.

I'm still reading through my NecronomicoN collection. It's light, and there's always the fun awkwardness of someone looking over my shoulder while I'm reading a scholarly analysis of Deep Throat.

According to Zizek's recent work, both the phases of the symbolic and the real are evidenced in narrative forms such as detective fiction which he argues either work to confirm or deny the link between discourse and gendered identity. To posit the giallo as evidence of the real is to acknowledge why texts such as Tenebrae are so frequently seen as overriding what Franco Moretti defines as the "good rules" of detective fiction. 
-- Xavier Mendik, "Detection and Transgression"

The importance of the Evil Dead cycle lies in its reacquisition of film history and its active, even analytical, participation in that history. The cycle represents simultaneously the end of a phase in genre history - that of the 'classic' stalker film - and the beginning of another - that of the return of the horror film to vaudeville. In other words, the function of slapstick/splatshtick in these films is not merely to displace narrative from its (assumed) position of dominance, but to override generic coding in many ways as well. After all, what do the filmmakers do with the larger budget of Evil Dead 2? They make the same film again, only funnier. -- Julian Hoster, "The Evil Dead"

Angela Carter named the three surrealist love goddesses as being Louise Brooks first and foremost, followed by Dietrich and Barbara Steele. -- Carol Jenks, "The Other Face of Death"
It's not me they're seeing. They're casting some projection of themselves, some aspect that I somehow symbolise. It can't possibly be me. -- Barbara Steele 

You can argue that I shouldn't be reading potentially offensive material in public, but I'm having to sit here and listen to one group of people yell at me about being sent to hell while some generic men of privilege at the next table complain about social programs destroying the moral fabric of America. Zizek posits that traditional genre fiction breaks down upon intrusion of realistic shades of morality and becomes transgressive. All these people around me seem to be spinning fictions to protect themselves from this intrusion. But the irrational will still break through, whether a symbolic flock of birds or mild-mannered Norman Bates surprising us with murder. Or another real-life school shooting.
For a horror film to make an impact today, it seems that the director has to include at least one token visit to the land of the lowest common denominator - that of bodily taboo, just as a porn film is never "hard" enough unless it involves at least one "split beaver shot"...     --Mikita Brottman, "Psycho/The Birds"

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Breakfast with Grover Cleveland

Always bring a book that matches the decor.

It was my birthday yesterday, so I took a day off from blogging. This morning the wife and I had a celebratory breakfast at Wishbone. Smoked bacon and crunchy french toast accompanied my usual morning coffee and book reading.

I'm a few more essays into The Gilded Age. "Populism and the Decline of Agriculture" by editor H. Wayne Morgan gave me an interesting, if highly opinionated, look at some of the characters who took advantage of the rural populist movement leading up to William Jennings Bryan's nomination. It was outshone, however, by R. Hal Williams' "Dry Bones and Dead Language: The Democratic Party."

"In times like these," explained one Cabinet member, "when every citizen is striving to reduce expenses, the Government, which is merely a collection of citizens, must do the same thing." Another of the President's advisers phrased it more vigorously: the administrations's primary task, he declared, was to oppose the unfortunate impulse toward "High Daddy government," to hold fast against " 'reforms' which mean that the Government is to rock the cradle and drive the hearse, weep over the grave and sit up with the widow, and pay every man for cracking his own lice."

It's really weird to hear the same phrases being used by politicians today. The Cleveland administration's laissez-faire policies were considered frustratingly old-fashioned and conservative a hundred years ago. You can argue about how much a President can actually affect an economic depression, but there was a definite call on both sides of the political spectrum for some sort of action. Democrats tended to favor silver coinage and Republicans, tariff reform. Neither of which Grover Cleveland would even consider.

Mr. Grumpy-grump on a 1923 postage stamp.

 And this is the kind of dangerous idealism that is still in play today. As we saw with the recent banking scandal, the individuals with power over the economy aren't going to step in and re-start it when things go bad, even if the companies that they oversee receive "bail-out" loans to provide federal protection. The whole idea of a natural law of economics is related to the other antiquated idea of Social Darwinism. Massive farm failures and unemployment are seen as a necessary, acceptable consequence of freedom.

Its adherents saw themselves as the last remaining bulwark in defense of the Constitution and sound government. Massed against them, they believed, were the forces of radicalism, the "silver bullionaires, industrial tramps and train wreckers, dreamers, dunces, cracked women, bums, bullies and loafers, who want to repudiate their own debts and divide the property of the thrifty and well-ordered." If unpopular now, the conservatives constantly reassured each other, history would vindicate them and their beleaguered President."

It's fascinating that over a hundred years later, there are still some who try to convince us that unregulated private power is preferable to government regulations and protections. But, what do I know? I'm not the one whose face is on the $1000 bill.

No longer being printed, but still legal tender, or handy for lighting expensive cigars.
(National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Saga of The Power Lords!

(The Comic Book Database)

Today, we're taking a trip back to X-mas of 1983, when DC launched a toy tie-in mini-series to help promote one of the odder action figure lines of the decade.

(Power Lords Return)

Revell, of course, was the company putting out licensed plastic model kits for Return of the Jedi and He-Man. It makes sense that the company would be interested in making action figures, instead of just settling for the smaller hobby market. The weird part is that Wayne Barlow was tapped to design the new product line. The geekier of my readers will recognize him as the creator of the 1979 Guide to Extraterrestrials.


I remember checking this book out of the library numerous times. I'm not sure I really liked the artwork at the time, but like all kids, was fascinated by all the stats and info on the various races. I definitely wasn't impressed by the toys, passing them over at the time for Star Wars figures, which even today seem much more stylish and toned down.

Hey, there's a girl in this comic book!

DC entrusted the story chores to Michael Fleisher and Mark Texeira, who would go on to create Jonah Hex's time-displaced story line later on in the decade. Texeira had been drawing the mini-comics that were included with the Masters of the Universe line. Fleisher came up through DC by writing lots of weird/mystery anthology titles, and was writing the Conan books for Marvel.

widescreen, before widescreen was cool

The book has a great action opening, with Shaya (Queen of Power!) in a multi-page fire fight in space. This issue in general gives a lot of the action and narration to Shaya, which is fairly unusual for a boys' toy line. Even Princess Leia wasn't given this much to do in the Star Wars movies.

Many of us felt this way about Return of the Jedi

Much like the original opening of Star Wars (and as remained in the novelization), The fight is being observed by our innocent hero, who can't really make out what it is. Adam is an amnesiac astronomer's assistant who annoys his co-worker with constant speculation about alien life. And he has PTSD.

Mark Texeria's interesting time-stretching technique

Anyway, Shaya crash-lands in front of Adam's observatory, because fate.  Weird alien things (well, weirder than she is) are still in pursuit, so she easily convinces Adam to jump in the ship and RUN AWAAAAYYYY.

....a bird?

Mark Texeira never misses a beat in all these pages. He knows when to alternate page-wide panels with vertical ones to signal a change in action, and is a master of slowing down "time" with sort of "stop-motion" panels.  This definitely feels less dense than the first issue of the Transformers series, even with all the information dumping we're about to get.

Ah, Utopia

Not to slight Michael Fleisher's script. Saving the back story for a break in the action gives us a chance to absorb the characters before dealing with all this ancient tragedy, for Eden will fall, as usual. Again, very different from The Transformers, where we are given all the backstory before the action really starts.

Probably not surgical bombing

And this is a fairly dark story. Luke never had to watch his beloved Aunt and Uncle get blasted by Stormtroopers. Battlestar Galactica's Apollo lost family members left and right during offscreen battles. But Adam is traumatized by watching his PARENTS get murdered in front of him, right before he is teleported away.

AIIEEEEE, indeed.

All this info-dumping is enough to snap Adam out of his amnesia, and he quickly turns into his blue, vein-ey self and kills a bunch of alien monsters. With that out of the way, our intrepid couple decide to fly to the secret weapon/action figure playset.

That's no moon...

They then spend a page looking at the amazing molded-plastic and sticker based technology before Adam zaps it all to life. Yes, Adam's only purpose in life is to be the on-switch for the Death Star.

Now to get on with some killing!

Unfortunately, everyone in the universe knows where the secret weapon base is (they've probably all read the toy catalog). So, all the bad guys jump out and say "boo."

It's a frap!

Sadly, these last few pages seem a bit cramped and rushed, making me wonder if this was meant to be a larger one-shot, rather than a limited series. Still, we have a decent cliff-hanger, and I actually want to read the next two issues now.  I still think the toys are a bit weird and creepy, though.

Not like those adorable Monchichis, er....

Friday, June 20, 2014

My "High-Crime" Neighborhood is still better than your "Safe" Suburb

So, with another shooting in my neighborhood last night (it looks like another case of high school kids potting at each other), I woke up to see my Facebook feed filled with people lamenting about what a "high crime neighborhood" this has become. Never mind that most of these commentators fled the city into the suburbs long ago, instead of staying to protect a supposedly dear neighborhood. I get the impression that even if they did live here, they would be inside all night watching television, anyway.

Rogers Park is an incredibly dense neighborhood, we have over 40,000 people per square mile as compared to the Chicago average of 12,000. That's a lot of people living in apartments and condos, as well as large tracts of family homes. I find it amazing that our violent crime stats aren't higher; as it is, we fall right in the middle of Chicago neighborhood rankings. I poked around some of the suburban data, and discovered that crime in general is higher in many "good" areas outside of the city, mainly due to a high burglerly rate.

And I've lived in actual high-crime neighborhoods. Places where drug-addicts tried to break into my apartment on a weekly basis. Where you have to develop a counter-stare to face down the guy sizing you up for a late-night mugging. Where multiple gun shots ring out so often at night, that you don't even start at them anymore. Rogers Park is none of those things.

What we are is an incredibly diverse neighborhood, usually considered the only non-segregated district in the city proper. Today, for instance, I had coffee at the hippie-ish Heartland Cafe, stopped at my local library which has a large Russian language section, turned down an elotes vendor, peered into some leather shops, walked by some new Middle-Eastern restaurants and noted the usual assortment of Jamaican and African storefronts.

I don't want to accuse people of racism, but there must be a form of cultural bias in some of the strange criticisms I've heard. We have a large number of independent grocery stores, catering to our large ethnic variety, with signs in many languages lining Clark Street. Yet, I've been told that I live in a "food desert." I've been told that the CTA station at Morse is dark and scary, yet for the last few years it's been more brightly lit than Wrigley Field at a night game. I've been told that it isn't safe for families, but there are always parents and children wandering around, going to the beaches and parks, coming home from church and standing in line at the Mexican vending carts.

So, as in any large urban area, you don't want to walk around late at night, flashing your cell phone around, but for the most part we are a safe, friendly neighborhood. It's not a place for driving to Target, going through the McDonald's drive-thru, then heading home to watch television all night. You can do those things here, but that would miss the point of living in the city in the first place. If your idea of excitement is a trip to the Old Country Buffet, then by all means, please, stay in the suburbs. It just leaves more jerk chicken and Thai iced coffee for the rest of us.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Free Silver, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and settling for YouTube video trailers.

Back to my book blogging...

The historian is usually liberal, more often than not a Democrat. He is hostile to big business, an advocate of government regulation, strong executive leadership, and an expert civil service. The post-Civil War era stands for all the historian opposes. It was an era of Republicanism, big business power, ineffectual attempts at government regulation, weak executives, and an essentially nonprofessional civil service."

 So says Ari Hoogenboom in his essay, "Civil Service Reform." It's a weird exercise, an attempt by the author to show that this particular time period shouldn't be described as a time of great corruption. He mainly does this by means of definition, claiming that liberal historians unfairly label anyone who used the spoils system as corrupt. Well, yes, I would say that if you are a great organizer and philanthropist, but still reward political cronies with jobs, you are a corrupt politician. It's a fairly useless essay, particularly when he points out that the reformers of the time also expected appointments as reward for political work. That just works against his argument by showing how entrenched the system was. There is an argument that could be made for popular history being dominated by a liberal viewpoint, but that doesn't excuse the actual historical figures for their actions.

Silver demonetization became law virtually without notice in the general or financial press. There was nothing surreptitious about it; it was not noteworthy.

The next essay, "Money, Politics, and Society" by Walter K. Nugent, is a vast improvement. In this weird time of people actually calling for a return to a gold or silver standard, it's good to look back and recognize that the previous populist silver movement was rooted in emotion and not economics. Before the depression of 1873, most countries had already cut their ties to Silver. The United States hadn't issued specie in years; there was no demand for it. Partly out of this recognition, and partly out of fears of instability due to the discovery of new silver mines in the west, the U.S. followed suit with the European powers in switching to a gold standard. If you think about it, it's obvious how much superior our modern system of paper currency is; metallic currency is vulnerable to market fluctuations and hoarding. Which is what happened to the gold supply in the 1890s:

But repeal [of silver purchases] did not end the presentation of Treasury certificates for redemption, and the gold reserve kept declining. The President had to deal with the very group which silverites denounced as public enemies, the "international bankers." A syndicate headed by J.P. Morgan accepted new Treasury bond issues which replenished the gold reserve. The syndicate resold the bonds within hours at a 7 percent profit...

Yes, so by all means, let's put the national currency back into the hands of a few individuals who don't answer to any checks and balances.


Anywho, to keep my palate from getting dusty with old history, I'm also reading this collection of articles from Necronomicon magazine. This is one of those books that could only exist before the internet; this reads much like a collection of horror movie blogs without a host website.

The first selection is "Once Upon a Time in Texas" by Mikita Brottman. It's a dry, but interesting look at The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as a movie that encodes standard fairy tale motifs, but reverses them. If fairy tales give us a young person's guide to the hero's journey, the horror story tells us what happens when everything goes wrong.
Sally Hardesty would be a heroine if there were anything rational or calculated she could do to escape her situation, but there is nothing, and, when she does escape, it is by pure accident. In this fairytale there are no clues, no magic passwords, no treasures to rescue or battles to fight because this is not a narrative governed by any logical order.
Kudos to Brottman for also pointing out that part of the horror comes from the weird male inversion of a loving family, a household full of slaughterhouse workers living somewhere in mythological Texas. I guess I'll have to see if the library has a copy that I can sit down with and re-watch.

I know they're not going to have this one. Carol Jenks writes the next piece, a meditation on the use of sexual transgression as a way to manipulate the lead male in Daughters of Darkness. It sounds like an interesting movie, and it's a well-written essay. But in our new world where the independent video rental shop is no longer a feasible enterprise, there isn't any way for those of us that are limited of means to watch some of these cult movies. It's much like being a kid again, when all one could do is read about, say, Rocky Horror, without there being much of a chance to actually see it. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Bike Ride Through Lincoln Park

Well, after a big storm blew through this morning, the city had this weird layer of cool, moist air floating over it. It was good weather for biking, but it has been grey and hazy. So, bear with me if some of these photos are a bit gloomy.

Today's adventure was a brief ride up to the Lincoln Park Zoo, which takes me past some old-fashioned public monuments. Most of them are in odd places, set back away from all the trails and surrounded by clouds of mosquitoes. I guess they occupy an odd cultural space between historic interest and a kind of embarrassment over romantic realism.

The Alarm
"The Alarm" by John J. Boyle, 1884 (bronze)

This first one used to actually be IN the zoo, it was moved down the trail (to about 3000 N) to make way for the Ape House that went up in the 70s (which has, itself, now been replaced). Lumber magnate Martin Ryerson donated it to the city as a tribute to the Ottawa tribe. This was sculptor John Boyle's first commission, and its successful display in Philadelphia (before delivery) let to a successful career on the east coast.

Detail of base, facing north

When the statue was moved in 1975, it was discovered that the bronze tablets on the base had been stolen. There were four, each one depicting part of Ottawa life: "The Peace Pipe," "The Corn Dance," "Forestry" and "The Hunt." They were replaced with the granite copies that we see today.

Diversy Harbor
Diversey Harbor

I took a rest on the overpass at Diversey, and took a shot of the choppy lake. You can just make out a line of little boats, probably out for a sailing lesson.

Emmanuel Swedenborg monument, sculpted by Adoff Johnson, 1924
Just south of Diversey, lies another stolen statue. I passed this one for years, not knowing that previous to its disappearance in 1976, there was meant to be a bust on top; it had been replaced with a little granite pyramid. It's nice to have this little oddball of history back. Swedenborg was a 18th century mystic who had a large influence on the American Transcendentalists, but is largely forgotten about now outside of new age circles. The original bust was commissioned by the Bishop family, and the dedication was a big event, bringing out Calvin Coolidge among others.

Lincoln Park Zoo, looking toward downtown Chicago

Hey, here's my turn-around point. I wanted to stop and have some ice cream, but the only thing open was the fancy wine bar at the Cafe Brauer. Rich people, pfffft.

Belmont Boats
Belmont Harbor
On the way back, I had to check out this new playground. It has soft sculptural boats, and "water" made of recycled rubber.

"Kwa-Ma-Rolas," Tony Hunt, 1986

And I stopped to say hello to an old friend. I would spot this from the family car whenever we happened to pass by on Lake Shore Drive, but had no way to visit the mysterious sculpture. Now, I bike around it every summer. The original totem pole was purchased by James Kraft in the 1920s. I don't know how long they last in the Pacific Northwest, but Chicago pollution and graffiti took a toll on our wooden thunderbird, and he had to be replaced in 1986.

Detail of bottom totem.

People now leave pennies in offering to Kwa-Ma-Rolas and mostly give him respect as a guardian of this part of the bike trail. 

Kwa-Ma-Rolas  watches over the city

Which brings me to the end of today's adventure. Don't forget to leave a penny, next time you are near Addison and Lake Shore Drive...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Gilded Age Republicans, Mugwumps and the sheer manliness of Vladimir Putin

Ugh. Humidity and insane World Cup fans have been cutting into my sleeping. Daytime constuction keeps me from catching up, so I might as well jump in and do some more reading.


So, two more essays from The Gilded Age. The first one, "The Workers' Search for Power" by Herbert G. Gutman, is informative, but not really necessary in the revisionist sense that this collection originally had. His main argument is that workers and unions made great strides and were victorious across the country in the rural, small town areas. Local residents and law enforcement would give striking workers support that they couldn't get in the large cities. Apparently, when this was written, the popular view was that of Union workers constantly being squashed by the powerful business owners. Perhaps it still is, and I've just read too much history on Wobblies and such.

The next essay, "Reform Thought and the Genteel Tradition" by Geoffrey Blodgett, I found more informative. It's an interesting overview of the leading reformers of that generation. They had joined the Republican party full of optimism and ideas, but weren't very good at being politicians.
In a roistering, muscular age which vaunted rugged manliness, the reformers' insistence on propriety stamped them as the "third sex" of American politics. Party spokesmen dismissed them as "political hermaphrodites," "eunuchs," "man-milliners," and "miss-Nancys." The smirking phrases sustained a vicious insult: the liberal reformers became the gelded men of the Gilded Age.
Nothing has really changed after a hundred years or so. The current President is often called out for not being a "strong leader" without the "stomach" for politics while the Republican leaders fight to be perceived as Alpha as possible, even to the point where they hold Vladimir Putin up as an example of the ideal leader.

Manly! (Daily Mail)

Of course, the reformers were faced with a generation of young Republicans that weren't as idealistic or hesitant about getting their hands dirty. The anti-intellectual Mugwumps would set up their own rival machines to the Democratic ones, and even vote for Cleveland when they thought he would advance their policy. Today's young GOPers, of course, tend to call themselves Tea Party members, again building local voting machines, chastising "liberal intellectuals" while siding in some ways with Democrats more than Republicans. It remains to be seen, however, if right-wing grassroots activists would go so far as to abandon their own presidential candidate entirely.

What seemed like an abrupt convergence of the grass-roots revolution in political leadership with the revolution of priorities in national politics deeply disturbed the cosmopolitan elite. Congress faced a critical new era innocent of expertise or relevant knowledge of the past. "The class from which our public men are drawn, " [Edwin] Godkin lamented, "are perhaps less given to study or reflection than any other in the community. They are generally men of quick sympathies, fond of crowds, fond of moving audiences, and to whom readiness of tongue is the highest of gifts."

Amen. Remember kids, read your history or end up repeating it!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Book Review: 33 1/3 Greatest Hits, Volume 1


I finished this off this morning, despite the pounding of construction machinery from the terrible parking garage going up on the corner. This is a good sampling of the first 20 books in the series, and probably a better way to choose which of these are worthy to hunt down than scrolling through endless blurbs on the internet.

I'll be looking for Warren Zanes' Dusty in Memphis, which appears to be about the author's process of writing the book as well as about the album. The Douglas Wolk excerpt on Live at the Apollo takes us through the details while providing an account of the parallel events of the Cuban missile crisis. Elisabeth Vincentelli's Dancing Queen asks the interesting question of how a "greatest hits" album becomes the defining release in a band's career. I was even intrigued by the entries on Exile on Main Street and Ramones, neither of which are about bands that I care much about.

I'll be avoiding the whiny Meat is Murder by Joe Pernice. The entire excerpt goes on and on about being a high school kid trying to be hip and lusting after girls who don't appear to be interesting at all.

Which brings me to a problem I have with a lot of pop music writing in general (even Bill Janovitz falls into this trap in his Exile piece): people really DO seem to think of their childhood as the best years of their life. Which just makes me sad. As Lynda Barry has pointed out, children draw (and play) all the time, and at some point adults just stop. The fact that people are trying to write about the music they loved as kids is a good start, but none of the nostalgic authors seem to realize the irony of performing a creative exercise while complaining that their adult lives don't have any of the rebellion or joy they experienced as young listeners. Get on out there and dance, people!

excerpt from "One Hundred Demons" (Salon)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day with Lana Lang and Superboy

Last week I picked up this lovely issue of Superboy, dated for February of 1980. Which is kinda weird, because that means that this was actually on the newsstands around Christmas time. Oh, well.

A typical Christmas in Smallville. (The Comic Book Database)
I picked this one up for my collage pile, largely because of the awesome evil statue imagery, but also for the demonic father themes. Nothing sells artwork more than parent issues.

And there are some great advertisements.

Don't tell Lois about your toy car shoplifting habit.

Look at that! Superman has a plane THAT PUNCHES OTHER PLANES! He probably uses it to torment Lois when she's in the Daily Planet 'copter.

Anyway, satanic dads and stuff.

Lana wants Clark's opinion on her Velma cosplay uniform.

So, Lana rushes over from next door, sporting a groovy evil eye pendant, asking for "Superboy's" help because her dad has been getting into black magic.

Which makes him the coolest Dad, ever.
Superboy has to interrupt Lana at this point because, well, her house is on fire.

Because Satan

Superboy pulls the fire out into hyperspace, possibly to burn forever like a cosmic tire fire. Upon returning to Smallville, Lana freaks out. As usual.

Clark Kent hears that a lot.

Oddly, she's not running away from Superboy, as most women do, but from her dad.

Small town drama brought to you by writer Cary Bates and Kurt Schaffenberger

Obviously, nothing terrible like incest is happening in pure Smallville, so Lana must be possessed by an ancient Persian demon.

Man. I kinda want one.

So, Superboy, under dad's advisement, decides to melt down the "evil" half of the statue. But wait!

Um, horns, duh.

Yes, her dad really WAS possessed all along! LOLS! Lana Lang isn't possessed at all; she's just wearing a magic pendant that allows her to see the "true self" of anyone. Luckily, ripping off the necklace gives her enough brain damage to forget that Clark is really Superboy.

Thus cementing the future course of Clark Kent's relationships with women.

There's actually a second story in here, involving Clark doing stupid things with Kryptonian technology, not doing his homework and "suction breath," but we've probably had enough Superboy for one day. Instead, I leave you with this wonderful advertisement for all you budding super-villains out there.