[REVIEW] End of Month Review # 24 - December 2005 [spoilers]

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Thu Jan 5 12:56:08 PST 2006

Saxon Brenton wrote:

<<Green Knight #3 
An Eightfold [8FOLD] series 
by Tom Russell>>


<< To be fair Ray tries to leaves Clues 
to prompt Anders to ask the right questions, but since
Anders isn't part 
of the superhero world he doesn't even realise that
there's a mystery to 
be solved. That and that alone prevents me from
throwing up my arms and 
kvetching, 'Eh, ya schmuck, just go the whole ten
yards with the Harry 
Potter schtick and make him sleep in the cupboard
under the stairs'.>>

There'll be more on Anders as the series presses on. 
The story is, essentially, about two relationships:
Anders and Ray, and Martin and Ray.  Since Martin's
relationship with Ray is more concrete, has more
definition-- sidekick and superhero, protege and
mentor-- it's taken somewhat center stage at the
moment.  Anders's relationship with his father is
defined by the distance they feel, the estrangement--
and so it's much more difficult to protray it in a
meaningful way.  Expect this focus to shift as the
series continues.

Speaking of Potter, I highly recommend Eagle's very
insightful reviews of the first four Harry Potter
books.  He not only takes notice of the child abuse
sort of subplot, but finds a reason for it: structure.
 And, he points out, this goes across the board with
the whole Potter-verse; logic and cohesiveness is
subordinated to Rowling's structural concerns.

<<     I found the concept of the Mask Statement
pretty cool (is this a 
new concept, or simply something from somewhere else
that I've missed?) 
but as Ray says, it's only workable as long as
everyone plays by the 

I've never run across it as a formal concept; however,
oftentimes I think I've come up with something new and
then found out how wrong I was (leave it to DC to
actually have a character named the Acro-Bat!).  It
seems such an obvious and necessary concept that I'd
be surprised if it hasn't been done before; on the
other hand, I think it's the nature of time in
mainstream superhero comics that is responsible for it
not having come about.

As we all know, all the stories in the modern Marvel
universe, for example, from the sixties to today, take
place within "the last ten years".  I'm fairly sure DC
is similiar in this respect, though I was always a
Marvel boy back in the day.

The last ten years rule has many repercussions. 
Conflating all the stories into this time frame means
either seriously wonky chronology-- Flash Thompson
must have served in Viet Nam in '99, for example-- or
serious retconning (oh, Flash wasn't in Nam, he was
in... uh... a UN Peace Keeping mission?).  But
ignoring that-- that doesn't really bother me as much
as it does other people-- the ten years rule affects
the genre itself, and the types of stories that can be
told in that genre.

With the last ten years rule, Marvel (again, using
them because I'm more familiar with them) has been
bereft of heroes since the end of World War II.  Fifty
years!  No wonder the public is so suspicious of
superheroes.  They're still new!

In the Golden Age, you have heroes and kid sidekicks. 
Not so many sidekicks in the modern age, in "the last
ten years".  Why is that?  Child endangerment laws,
for one.  There's no way anyone's going to let a ten
or twelve year old kid risk his life, no matter how
well-trained an acrobat he is.  At best, it would seem
like some kind of quaint left-over to be regarded with

You don't get so many death traps in a last ten years
universe, at least not the weird, wonderful ones that
the Batman television program made so popular.  If
heroes and villains start popping up in '95, the bad
guys are too smart to waste their time doing something
like that.  Conversely, I think the villains would be
coarser.  Any code of honour that might have developed
in the Golden Age-- and said code didn't really
develop until the fifties and sixties, if it did at
all-- would have been dead for fifty years.  It would
seem so alien to the costumed crooks of today, as
alien as the concept of the sidekick.

How many heroes-- we're talking major heroes-- have
died in "the last ten years"?  Spider-Man's still
Spider-Man, Cap's still Cap-- status quo is the name
of the game.  So there's no need for a sidekick. 
Superheroes retire very, very seldom-- so there's no
tropes associated with it, no ritual.

Now, when Joltin' Jamie Rosen and I started the
Eightfold Universe, we agreed that superheroes have
been constant for many, many years.  The Joltin' One's
title, TEMPLATE, made mention of heroes active in
World War II.  So, that's at least sixty-five or
seventy years of *constant* *public* superheroing. 
(It could go back farther-- I keep having dreams of a
super-powered Magnificent Seven-- but as far as we can
tell from the actual stories posted, WWII.)

Extrapolating from that, it's much more likely that,
for example, sidekicks exist.  By 2006, people might
be complaining about it, but the ritual of it would
have been passed on.  Superheroes themselves would be
firmly ingrained into the public's conciousness--
heroes would not only be more trusted, but they would
have earned that trust.

As some form of strange honour among combatants is
codified over time, probably emerging in full-form
around the late fifties/early sixties, that code would
be passed on.  Supervillains would have mentors, many
generations of super-crime to draw upon.  Now, how
much value that code of honour has in today's world--
how much they respect it, whether they follow its
unspoken tenets-- that's not only a valid question,
but one of my thematic concerns.

Another is death, mourning, the value of a life, the
passing on of a legacy.  And, in a world with seventy
plus years of capes-and-tights, you'd have heroes get
old, retire, die-- something that doesn't really
happen in mainstream comics.  In such a world, where a
last ten years time retardant status quo doesn't
exist, the passing of the torch becomes much more
important.  And since retirement/death would be much
more prevalent, I think over time new tropes would
arise, new rituals would be codified and take their
place alongside the kid sidekick.  I think there would
be a "right way" to do things-- a right way, for
example, for the sidekick to take on the mantle of the
hero.  And a right way to retire.

And so, a Mask Statement-- a way of saying, this is
who I was, this is what I did, I'm coming clean.  A
little vainglorious-- after all, they do what they do
because it's right, not because they want to get
credit for it-- but on the other hand, all supers are
a little on the showboat side.  That comes with the
costume, I think; there are more discreet ways to be
altruistic and do the right thing.

--Tom Russell

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