Friday, April 30, 2010

Silver Age Gold

I'm working on relaunching one of my other blogs, and I came up with a nifty first post to start the new month/direction right. That expands into a subject that nicely crosses over between this and another blog. That finally pushes me to start a brand new blog that's been nagging in the back of my head for months, but setting that up takes time. Also, all of the blog posts require photography, and I've had to dig through old digital and physical files. So my closets are a wreck, there's crap all over my floors, I've got backdrops and lights and frustration and no dang time. Hence, a seriously late post by a whole other blogger.

The other day, Rob at The Aquaman Shrine offered a blurb about Silver Age Gold's Not-So-Secret Origins of the JLA Week. Now, I personally refuse to scan whole stories of copyrighted material and offer them publicly, because I work too hard on this blog to see it shut down by "The Man." That said, I love blogs that throw caution to the wind, and it seems to me anyone who visits this blog needs to have read "The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel", the original John Jones story. As would be expected of a blog with "aquamanrules" in its URL, the Sea King gets a lot more attention than the Manhunter from Mars, but "The Ghost Who Blogs" has cast an eye toward our Sleuth From Outer Space before. Actually, that eye is a bit jaundiced, as Martian Manhunter, the hero who was picked last for dodgeball proves a somewhat dismissive overview of the Silver Age's first new super-hero. Even less kind is Martian Manhunter is the Laziest Cop EVER . Detective Comics #246, but I can't argue with the Ghost's points. Manhunter from Mars wasn't exactly a high water mark in Silver Age storytelling, and speaking as a fan who traveled from the Modern Age back, I still struggle to read a lot of those strips.


LissBirds said...

I have to say, when I first saw that you mentioned this site I bristled a little bit, because I feel very strongly about the last link. I had linked to the "laziest cop EVER" story during my Martian Manhunter countdown as an example of someone getting it wrong. While "the ghost who blogs" was probably trying to be funny, I think the premise behind his post is complete and utter b.s. I was going to provide a counter argument, but another commenter already beat me to it, and with a much better analogy that I could've come up with. Basically, though, it's like saying that if Aquaman is pursuing a shipful of non-powered bad guys, he has to withhold from using his power to breathe underwater or communicate with fish to help take them down because it gives him an "unfair" advantage. And let's not even mention how many times Batman has interfered with due process and coerced confessions out of crooks.

Either The Ghost isn't holding J'onn to the same standards he holds other heroes to, (which is unfair), or he just doesn't "get" Silver Age John Jones. Either way, he's poking fun of a character in much the same way that Aquaman gets poked fun of, and by being an Aquaman fan he should know better.

End rant.

Diabolu Frank said...

Liss, I actually agree with the Ghost Who Blogs' perspective. Yes, it's unfair to compare how Captain America and Daredevil would fair against the Mole Man in pitch darkness, since that's the Man Without Fear's natural state, with powers that make up for his blindness. Still, if Captain America started complaining that he still had to function as a super-hero with said handicap, only fans would point out Daredevil's radar sense and Mole Man's being the one finally taking advantage of a strength. Everyone else would tell Steve Rogers to suck it up and be a man. There's no crying in super-heroics, Cap!

So yes, it sucks that poor J'onn has to hide his abilities and accept the limitations of being human for most of his day. That said, especially in the Silver Age, he actually became a human being. As much of a letdown as that may be from being a Martian, he's still got the full range of human abilities, and he bills himself as a detective. If he's going to gripe every time he can't just read someone's mind or track them with heightened vision powers, maybe his cop credentials ought to be revoked?

LissBirds said...

Eh. Still not sold. If he uses his natural abilities to do his job--just like I use my natural abilities to walk and see to do my job--why shouldn't he be allowed to complain if his powers are taken away from him and he's forced to function as a lower being? If my boss took away my natural human "powers" and told me I had to do my job blindfolded while crawling on my hands and knees, I'd be a little ticked. Wouldn't you? And as for operating outside the boundaries of the law by using superpowers to track down criminals...I'm sure Superman and Batman would've done the same. The whole point of superheroics is to find justice by circumventing the red tape/laws/police procedures, etc. which occasionally allows the bad guy to get away.

It's possible the author's just being silly, and I don't mind that kind of snark from blogs like the Absorbascon, but when a blog is set up to promote the "sense of wonder" of the Silver Age I find the snarkiness a little jarring...I was expecting a serious take on the Silver Age for a change, because it's certainly been made fun of enough. I can't help feeling that the Martian's getting the short end of the stick yet again.

Diabolu Frank said...

But Liss, it's not the same, because J'onn J'onzz became a functional human being by choice every time he assumed the John Jones role. He had years of experience in the form, and handled himself well enough for the majority of the time he was active during that period. A closer analogy would be if I got used to driving across the lots at work in a golf cart, then was forced to walk instead. I'd move slower, it would be harder to carry stuff, and it would be more physically trying, but I'd still manage to get my job done. Again, I might complain, but I'm not a hero. It only gets worse in a shared universe, where Roy Raymond and Rex the Wonder Dog also handled their business without powers or complaints. John Jones just needed to man-up.

I hold the Silver Age to the same standard as any other. There are awesome, well thought out stories across every decade, but there's also a lot of crap. Manhunter from Mars tended to be a less than stellar strip by the standards of its day, and by modern criteria it was sometimes so awful it recalls the madness of Fletcher Hanks. I enjoy a lot of the material Miller and Certa produced, but none of it was bulletproof, so I can't see letting deserved criticism get under your skin. Like Scipio, this is humorously pointing out objective flaws in material, done one better by being condemned in context. "He talks to fishies," this is not.

LissBirds said...

Sorry to be a pest, and I don't want to tie up your time since you're ultra busy with important things like finals coming up--so I don't mind if you need to ignore me--but I'm stuck on this one.

"I hold the Silver Age to the same standard as any other." I think this is where we're diverging and is the root of the debate. Personally, I think it's unfair to apply modern standards to material from 50 years ago, both in terms of quality and material. I mean, just look at the art compared to now...I don't think any title from the Silver Age can come even close to today's art standards, but we still consider many artists of the 50's and 60's good artists. So when someone faults a 50-year-old detective story for not following current police procedure, written during a time when audiences didn't consider verisimilitude as a storytelling priority, then I cry foul. (This isn't the same as a plot hole.) And if someone criticizes J'onn J'onzz for using his powers to solve crime instead of do his job as a regular detective...well, we're not reading the story to see how a regular detective will solve the crime...that would be kinda dull and would defeat the purpose.

Though I do agree with you about there being a lot of poorly-crafted stories from the Silver Age, I don't like to see stories (and books and movies and art) be criticized from a modern perspective, when they weren't written for a modern audience. It's like saying everyone in the 1700's looked silly because they wore a wig...well, sure, they do from our perspective. Not to mention the fact that in the early days John Jones only had 6 pages to get things done, and that's bound to contort the plot a bit.

Or maybe I'm reading too much into things, which is never a good idea when reading something Silver Age, I think.

Diabolu Frank said...

I'll make allowances for period, because I appreciate the style and expectations of the day. Also, I find a good many popular modern styles hideous, and would put the best of the Golden and Silver Age artists against anyone today. Lou Fine, Reed Crandall, Gil Kane, Will Eisner, Murphy Anderson, Wally Wood, Jim Steranko, Joe Kubert, Neal Adams, Jack Cole-- these are guys who could stomp a mudhole out of most anyone working today. I think Joe Certa is under-appreciated, especially in his later period, but he was essentially a journeyman over most of his career.

As for the writing, that's another area where I'll allow for the strip being targeted for children, but still not holding up by comparison to contemporaneous works. I chalk up Ghost Who Blogs fixation on modern procedures to humor, but I feel he's dead-on with regard to John being graceless under fire when forced to act without his powers. It may nave been intended as melodrama, but if Jules Feiffer had been a decade younger, I expect he'd have had a field day with the strip. I believe a child of the '50s would have been unimpressed with Jones' lack of valor under the circumstances, and that's the one part Ghost nails.

LissBirds said...

I'll take a stab in the dark and bet that J'onn still showed more grace under fire than Superman if/when the Man of Steel lost his powers during the Silver Age. I bet that's some Class A whining...

Diabolu Frank said...

Superman was filled with pathos! No matter how many times he returned to Krypton, he couldn't save his home world! Oh the hum-- er-- Kryptonanity! It was pathos! Superman was pathosthetic! He was just super in touch with his feelings! Super-sensitive! Not a big tough Sleuth from Outer Space, but one of those caring investigative reporters that get rooked by the homeless con man and have to retract their stories! But with heat vision!