REVIEWS: End of Month Reviews #19 - July 2005 [spoilers]

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Sat Aug 6 21:41:43 PDT 2005

Saxon Brenton wrote:

>      So, there Saxon was reading Speak! #6, and we get to the part where
> Gregory rhetorically tells the characters of the movie Taxi Driver to
> just have sex with each other - and they do, totally changing the plot
> line and outcome.  And Saxon dies laughing,

I express my sincere apologies and condolences to Saxon's kin.  He was
a good man, full of insight, keen observation, and kind words.  They
say you can tell a lot about a man by the kind of beer he drinks.  I
don't know what kind of beer Saxon drinks, or if he drinks beer at all.
 So I guess that tells us nothing.

But you know what else they say?  They say, that when you measure a
man's life, the only way you can measure it is by their ability to
write a talking gorilla story.  I think we can agree then, that by all
counts, Saxon Brenton is a terrific human being, and I am honoured to
be the one that killed him.

When we look back on Saxon and his life, let us not think about how he
died, but about how he lived: as we all know, he was at the forefront
of the movement for equal rights for limp asparagus.  Hell, he was the
movement.  Even more impressive.  Either way, I know I can't look at
asparagus the same way again, be it limp or virile.

>      Anyway, Tom decides to wrap up this series, which will raise some
> interesting questions about whether some of the plot threads may have
> been altered from their original conception as part of an ongoing series,

Well... _originally_, Mr. Dingham would have found himself in prison,
and the prison story arc would have probably dwarfed the first nine or
so issues.  But what I had in mind-- a bunch of supervillains telling
stories, basically offering different points of view not only on
supervillainry, the Silver Age, and evil-- felt like it cheapened Harry
and his death.  I like Harry.  Not so much his actions, but his
stories, his general niceness, even if it might be deluded.

I quite easily could have spent ten more issues with just Gregory and
Harry in the motel room, scheming and letting stories be told.  But
then I realized, no one else but me would actually read it if nothing
happens.  And while, yes, I think the story-telling would be something
happening, I think people generally don't have the patience for one
long-winded story after another after another after... etc.

So, anyway, the prison angle was out for that reason, and also because
Gregory, I think, isn't ready for "redemption".  I think that he would
continue on a downward slide.  Very pessimistic of me, I know, but I
think that's what he would end up doing.  He'd keep his ass out of jail
by any means necessary.

And so I had a plot in mind for the series after Harry's death, but
basically, it kind of cheapened it, too.  And while it would be true to
the character, and is still a good story-hook, it would have seemed
like shark-jumping to me, for this particular series.  So, maybe I'll
use the story later on.  As part of someone else's story (that's the
great thing about writing in a universe).

> Other things, such as his slow growth in respect for Harry while at the
> same time internally expressing irritation and contempt for him and his
> values, read more like a battle between intellectual and visceral
> reactions.

I think one of the things that happened is that Harry became a much
more interesting character to me than Gregory.  When I sat down to
write an issue of Speak!, more and more it was so I could spend some
time with Harry Cash and listen to his tales of the Silver Age.  As
Saxon knows, I have a great deal of affection for those stories.  I
think they're more polished than those of the Golden Age, and have more
substance than those that followed.  This is talking about
capes-and-tights stuff.  Other genres have proceeded along quite
nicely, but with a few exceptions each year, it seems that superhero
comics have been on the cross-over happy marketing editor-driven
decline.  Now, I've been away from comic books for about five or six
years now.  So that could have changed.  But I doubt it.

On the one hand, silver age comics are naive.  The first thing that
gets ridiculed these days is that code of honour that Harry holds dear,
or at least thinks he does.  I was reading about Chris Ware, who wrote
JIMMY CORRIGAN, and how he said if anyone had the powers of Superman,
they would use them to indulge their every desire, growing fat and
selfish (paraphrasing, there).  Much as I enjoyed CORRIGAN, that kind
of attitude disgusts me.  Yes, people with power can be tempted, and
corrupted.  It's easier to give into temptation that way, into one's
darker nature, and I guess that, truth be told, that's obstensiably
what Speak! is "about".  Hell, that's what I said it was "about", what
my theme was.

But the other theme, if I can be so bold as to talk about it without
sounding pretentious, was the Silver Age, and pitting that against
modern cynicism.  Gregory, being on such a self-imposed downward
spiral, a cynical and self-destructive path that even he is aware of,
is cynical, and if he had the powers of Supes, perhaps he would do as
Ware suggests.  Harry, on the other hand, might still be a supervillain
if he were the last son of Krypton, but he would be a supervillain with
honour.  Like the hero who throws down his weapon when his opponent is

One could argue that the Silver (and the Golden) Age is not realistic,
that it is silly, juvenile, etc.  This certainly seems to be Ware's
argument, that there are no such things as complete heroes.  Even
Gandhi was a creepy old man who slept next to naked young buxom females
and drank his own urine.  It's hard to believe in heroes anymore.

But I don't think that means we should say to hell with the whole
Silver Age and its values.  I would say that it means that we need to
approach things more realistically, without giving into cynicism which
is in itself a fantasy, and a more juvenile one at that.  Very
fashionable until you're twenty-two and you grow out of it.  I think
altruism does exist, that people do things that are good without a
reward for themselves, other than perhaps feeling good about
themselves.  I don't think a hero (or villain) holding to a code of
honour makes them less realistic.  If anything, watching someone
struggle to do what they know is right, even if its painful, would be
both more realistic and more sublime.

We need heroes.  And villains.  And a code of honour.  I think the
superhero genre is not as descriptive of humanity as it is
prescriptive: it gives us models of how we could and should act.  The
fact that they are human beings makes it tangible for us; the fact that
they have powers makes it glorious reading.

A proposed superhero code of honour:

1. A superhero does not kill.
2. A superhero helps those in need, no matter how great or small the
need, or who it is that is in need.
3. A superhero is a role model.
4. A superhero does what is right.
5. A superhero does not give up.
6. A superhero sacrafices their right to live their lives in order so
that others may do so in peace.

> Now, conflicted characters can be good for fiction; handled
> well they represent at least one factor in keeping the audiences'
> interest to continue reading, and I'd say that holds true in this series'
> case.

Thank you for your kind words, Saxon.  Sorry again about killing you
and everything.  You were a good 'un.

> Saxon Brenton   University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
>      saxon.brenton at

--Tom Russell

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