[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #25 - January 2006 [spoilers]

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Thu Feb 9 09:58:50 PST 2006

Saxon Brenton wrote:

> Green Knight #4-5
> An Eightfold [8FOLD] series
> by Tom Russell
>      The fourth issue is mainly a flashback story, showing vignettes
> spaced out over a number of decades as Green Knight and the Acro-Bat
> encounter and repeatedly face off against their arch foe, the Psychopomp.
> The stories contain fewer retro elements as time goes on, which parallels
> the loss of child-like wonder of the earlier, Silver Age style adventures.

It was a lot of fun to write the fourth issue, as it was largely a
pastiche of other styles.  Pastiche is always fun, but there's a danger
of it being campy, and there's only so much substance you can arrive at
working in someone else's style.

The first story was profoundly strange for me to write.  I wrote it and
paced it very much in a Golden Age style-- moving very, very fast and
with lots of enthusiasm, lots of exclamation points.  The Golden Age
stories that I've read all seem like they were done in the same
circumstances: the creator is working late into the night, and by the
time they get to the end of the story, they're tired and want to go to
bed.  So they finish the story as quickly as possible, wrapping it up
very suddenly.

What was strange-- besides working in this style-- was the inclusion of
a very Silver Age element-- the talking gorilla-- into a Golden Age
story.  And, beyond that, the story take place in a very specific time:
shortly after the Viet Nam war.  It was such a strange temporal
hodge-podge, but most Golden Age stories have that bricolage quality,
so I think it worked.

The thematic resonance of that first story-- the gorilla was "just
following orders", tying into the whole Nam morality angle-- is quite
shallow, and purposefully so.  That was all part and parcel of that

One way to look at the first two parts of issue four is that I was
writing bad stories on purpose.  And what's the point of that, one
might ask?  Is the pursuit of nostalgia a worthy enough goal to merit
bad prose and ludricrous plotting?

My defense is that the prose isn't bad and the plotting isn't
ludricrous-- *for* *these* *types* of stories.  An alien invasion is
out of place for most kitchen sink dramas-- whoa!  where'd that twist
come from?!-- but is absolutely correct for a sci-fi story.

The second story in GREEN KNIGHT # 4 is full of plot holes-- one, a
known murderer like the Psychopomp wouldn't be out of jail to run for
Mayor (or, if he never went to jail at all, a warrant would be out for
his arrest).  Two, a mayor can't sentence someone to death-- especially
not for the crime of slander.  Three, a "mayor for the day" can't order
a special election and oust the real mayor.  In a serious drama, or
even a standard melodrama, these twists would be laughable and show an
incredible and essential lack of understanding of the basic workings of
our government.

But for this particular type of story-- the DC Silver Age that gave us
talking apes in the first place-- these twists are perfectly in place.
And I did the best job I could-- with this type of story.

Whether I succeeded in penning an enjoyable tale in this mode, or, for
that matter, whether it really was just an exercise in camp, in bad
fiction-- that is, of course, for the reader to decide.

>  I'll admit that I hadn't expected the
> revelation that Riana Cradle had figured out that Ray was the Green
> Knight, but it fits with the theme of superhero careers turning sour; so
> does the revelation that she was having an affair with Martin Rock.

I was going to also do a Silver Age Marvel style story to complement
the Silver Age DC, but I realized something: Silver Age Marvel was,
basically, Deconstruction.  The same animal that made comics "grim 'n'
gritty" in the eighties and nineties has its roots in the sixties, at
Marvel.  Continuity was tightened, heroes got depressed and had
relationship problems, characters didn't always get along.
Personalities started to matter, neuroses were spot-lighted.  The
eighties movement just took it further (just as the sixties movement
did; after all, the Silver Age of DC was an improvement upon and
re-evaluation of the Golden Age).

So having both a Silver Age Marvel scene and an Eighties type
revisionist scene would be redundant-- especially back-to-back.  The
only difference between the two is that the Eighties movement did sour
the concept of the superhero.  The long underwear characters became the
dirty underwear characters.  It wasn't so much reevaluation as it was
cynicism and disillusion.

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I'm not big on the whole grim
'n' gritty trend.  This might surprise people who read SPEAK!, but
really, I didn't consider that to be a cynical or gritty work.  I think
it's a very moral work, sometimes embarrassingly so.  I'm very clearly
against the things that Gregory does and the narrator is after him for
it, somewhat relentlessly.  I have a lot of sympathy for Harry Cash,
and maybe that's not so much for Harry the person, the wife-murderer,
but for Harry the storyteller.  For the Silver Age.

Yeah, a lot of the Silver Age was pretty ridiculous.  A lot of
superheroes are pretty ridiculous.  Both both are glorious, too.  I
have a lot of nostalgia for the old stories, for the old characters--
for my old friends.  A lot of love and a lot of nostalgia.  And I don't
think that that is necessarily a bad thing.  I think nostalgia is part
of the re-evaluation process that is part of any art form (or any
nation, for that matter).  You can't build the future without the
foundation of the past.

In SPEAK!, and in THE GREEN KNIGHT, I have many thematic concerns, many
things that interest me: the mysteries of personality, of morality, of
sincerity, of fathers.  But I also have a more metatextual concern-- a
meta-theme, if you will-- and that's the history and evolution of the
superhero genre, a genre I love immensely.

I used to love superheroes but that love faded.  Howard Mackie's
Spider-Man run with Byrne and Romita Jr. soured me on comic books and
superheroes all together.  I stopped reading for a long time.
NET.HEROES ON PARADE was a series I wrote afterwards.  I'm proud of
it-- reasonably; I'm re-editing it currently-- it was a good melodrama,
a lot of fun, and with some of the characters, I did some pretty strong
work.  But you know what?

It wasn't a superhero story, not really.  It was about people with
superpowers, who obstentiably did the right thing-- but it was very
cynical, the characters very weak, very self-centered, very
hypocritical.  And people are like that, sure.  But superheroes aspire
to the greater good.  Good superhero stories inspire us to be better
than we are, just like the lives of great men.

I understand superheroes now-- at least better than I did.  And now I
know why I love them, what I love them for: and that love is

One of the themes of the GREEN KNIGHT is this evaluation of the genre,
of the characters, of what makes a superhero a superhero.  And this
theme will be reaching its apex with the sixth issue.  I hope to sum up
in the confines of that fiction some of my thoughts on the superhero,
and to convey my deeply-held love for it.

> Master Blaster Special: Frickin' Lame  [LNH]
> A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] one-shot
> by Tom Russell
>      So, a bonobo walks into a bar...

I'd like to point out that the "walks into a bar" part was Saxon's
ingenious contribution to the story.  I would still be stuck trying to
start the damn thing if not for the generous assistance of Mr. Brenton.

>   The story is hilarious, but it ain't kid safe.

Thank you. :-)  I try my best.

And coming soon to an RACC near you... be on the lookout for the Master
Blaster Super Bowl special.  Master Blaster comes to Detroit, and
hijinks ensue.  What will happen to special guest star WikiBoy?

Will Master Blaster decide that Detroit is, quote, frickin' lame,

What dark secret from the mighty daddy of mack's shadowy past will cast
its equally-shadowy shadow over these proceedings?

Find out in the Master Blaster Super Bowl special!

> ----------
> Saxon Brenton   University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia

   Tom Russell

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