From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1687 [March 2012}:
“Love and marriage, love and marriage,
It’s an institute you can’t disparage.
Ask the local gentry and they will say it’s elementary.”
- “Love and Marriage” by Sammy Cahn (lyrics) and Jimmy Van Hausen
(music), introduced by Frank Sinatra in 1955
It’s our February issue, which means that CBG editor Brent “Cupid”
Frankenhoff has once again asked me to do a Valentine’s Day theme.
Maybe some February he’ll surprise me and ask for something about
Black History Month, Presidents Day, or maybe even Groundhog’s Day.
Hope springs eternal.
It’s not a good time for love in the comic books, unless, you count
sleazy rooftop sex. Yes, I’m looking at you, Batman and Catwoman.
Well, actually, I turned away when I saw you getting busy on that
rooftop. Get a room. Or a Batcave. Or something.
I believe that love and marriage go together like, I dunno, a horse
and carriage. You younger readers can Google “horse and carriage”
to find out what that is. However, marriage has taken a huge hit
in today’s comic books.
Marvel made a deal with the devil to erase the marriage of Spider-
Man and Mary Jane as if it never happened. Reed and Sue Richards
of the Fantastic Four are still wed, as are Luke Cage and Jessica
Jones. The Black Panther bailed on Wakanda in one of the dumbest
stories in ages, but he’s still married to Storm. Matt Murdock and
his wife divorced a while back, but I’m not sure about other Marvel
couples. Medusa and Black Bolt? Hawkeye and Mockingbird? Shanna
and Ka-Zar? Is there a Marvel marriage counseling website where I can
go to learn the status of those other couples?
DC’s “New 52" has definitely undone the marriages of Clark Kent and
Lois Lane and Barry Allen and Iris West. Hawkman was revived in a
most savage manner and without a Hawkgirl or Hawkwoman. It doesn’t
look like Alec Holland is presently Swamp Thing or married to Abby
Arcane. I think Aquaman and Mera are still wed, but what about the
Midnighter and Apollo? I should know these things. Clearly I’ve
been removed from DC’s social registry.
Comic strip marriages seem to have more staying power. Blondie and
Dagwood. Dick and Tess Tracy. Rex and June Morgan. The Phantom and
Diana. Hagar the Horrible and Helga. Hi and Lois. Alice and Henry
Mitchell, the parents of Dennis the Menace, and many others. Heck,
even Spidey and MJ are still married in the newspapers.
For all their big talk about comic books being enjoyed by readers
of all ages, DC and Marvel still tailor their comics for adolescent
males and unmarried man-children. Maybe not exclusively, but too
much for their own good. Call out their editors and publishers on
this and they’ll give you some well-rehearsed line about how kids
don’t find parents interesting and don’t want to read about married
couples in comic books. I don’t buy that argument.
Sainted Wife Barb and I have been married for nearly 28 years and,
though we hardly live the life of super-heroes, those 28 years have
been filled with drama, excitement, surprises, and, fairly often,
the triumph of good over evil. Maybe it’s not that kids don’t want
to read about married couples. Maybe it’s that the writers aren’t
good enough to bring out the excitement of two people making a life
for themselves and their children in a marriage. The writers and
editors and publishers blame the readers for their own inability to
tell great stories with such characters.
That’s my Valentine’s Day bit, Brent. Next year, I think our theme
should be National Bird-Feeding Month!
The Simon and Kirby Library: Crime [Titan Books; $49.95] reprints
nearly three dozen tales of con men, gangsters, and killers by the
legendary team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. As odd as it may seem
in reference to crime fiction and kinda non-fiction, these stories
are big fun. Where the more successful Crime Does Not Pay
used huge blocks of copy to drive home the moral expressed in its
title, the Simon and Kirby approach put storytelling before detail
and preaching. They portrayed crime and its perpetrators as true
blights on society, but their writing was more bold and Kirby’s art
was more action-packed than that seen in other crime comic books of
the era. Characters move across the stage and emotions are shown
in an in-your-face manner that’s like watching a 3-D movie.
Included in this 320-page, full-color collection are a handful of
stories starring recurring characters: the mysterious Gunmaster and
special investigator “Red Hot” Blaze. There are tales of criminals
past and present, some of them “true” in the sense that they only
play slightly loose with actual facts. There are character studies
of criminals who, sometimes too late, regret the bad choices they
made. Some of these characters even seek to make amends for their
crimes beyond serving their prison sentences.
Like every other book in Titan’s Simon and Kirby Library, Crime is
worthy of award consideration. I treasure my copy and recommend it
to all fans of the legendary team and also to all serious students
of American comic books.
If we’re talking about comics every comics reader should have - and
I like to talk about that more often than not - we can’t overlook
the Amelia Rules! series by Jimmy Gownley. It’s funny, it’s real,
and, if these books don’t tug at your heartstrings you need to find
yourself a heartstrings donor STAT.
Amelia McBride lives with her divorced mom, misses her dad and her
old friends, sticks by her new friends through thick and thin, and
tries to navigate through life’s mysteries as best she can. Just
like the rest of us.
Gownley’s The Meaning of Life...and Other Stuff [Atheneum; $10.99]
is his newest Amelia book. At various times during my reading of
the book, I felt my heart sink and then rise. We’ve all had times
when we haven’t been a good friend and we’ve all had times when our
friends prove why they’re our friends. We’ve all had to deal with
authority figures who are cruel and unreasonable for no good reason
other than they can be cruel and unreasonable. We’ve all had those
moments when a friend is hurting and we don’t know what we can do
about it. I love these characters and this book because its heart
pumps through my life as much as it does Amelia’s. It’s one of the
best and most moving comics ever.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2012 Tony Isabella