Friday, August 25, 2017

Comic Books and the Art of War

I really like reading philosophy and books about strategy. Lately, I have been reading very little. I am slowly working my way through Children of the Atom by Wilmar Shiras. It is suggested as the inspiration for the X-men. I am about half way through the novel. I could believe that it is. I felt I owed it a read. Beyond that, I have been reading my usual weekly boatload of comic books. On that front, I am happy to announce that I have completed a quest.
I now own every solo book for the character Old Man Logan. I also own his “origin” material in the Fantastic Four and later Fantastic Force series. I decided to build up my Old Man Logan collection in a small personal tribute to a fallen friend that I miss. He managed to piece together all of Wolverine’s solo books. He and the character Wolverine died in the same calendar year. It felt very fitting that I carry on with Old Man Logan. You cannot replace Wolverine with any other character. You can, however, carry on his memory. It didn’t bring any closure for my dead friend in my heart and head, but I do feel like he would understand and appreciate the gesture.
I wanted to shift away from my comic books for my next quest. I am enjoying playing Final Fantasy games on my PS4. XV was excellent. XII was a great release. It just doesn’t feel epic. I am not in love with my board games or Magic the Gathering right now. My writing is something I am not willing to quest on currently.
Instead, I have decided to continue my quest for comic books. Perhaps here it is worth posting my current pull list for examination and discussion. I am also going to make a few annotations about why I read each book before I get into my quest and the thought that really has me writing. I have the books sorted by publisher and alphabetized.
Unholy Grail – Cullen Bunn gives a great story of Arthur and his Knights. This one is deep in the lore. The book is also beautifully drawn and colored.
Sisters of Sorrow – Kurt Sutter does what he does best telling a meaningful and dark immorality tale.
Dark Horse
Black Hammer – Jeff Lemire writes a strange amalgamation of heroes that nod to obvious mainstream comic mythologies (Barbalien/ Martian Manhunter, Black Hammer/ Thor, Golden Girl/ Shazam, etc.) and then turns the whole thing on its ear with a crazy setting.
All-Star Batman – Scott Snyder continues to pen Batman. Honestly, I wasn’t in love with this book until the most recent arc that focuses on Alfred.
Batman- I apologize officially and in writing to Tom King. I ranted on the podcast ( about how awful a writer he was. King won me over with The War of Jokes and Riddles. I still don’t like how we got here. I am entirely enthralled by the current arc. I salute anyone who can win over their critics. The book is beautiful and well written. It cost me something to admit this.
Batman Beyond- If you were a fan of the ’90s cartoon, this book builds the mythology and ties it directly to the “real” DC continuity. I love everything about it.
Detective Comics- Hands down the best Batman comic currently being published. I cannot get enough of that.
Harley Quinn- I honestly have only read four issues of the current 26 issue run. I enjoy the art. I am also deep into the lore of the 3 Jokers. Secrets have been revealed and will continue to be hinted at here.
Wildstorm- Warren Ellis does his thing. If you don’t take the time to pick up what this legend puts down then you shouldn’t call yourself a comic fan. Ok, that is hyperbole, but the effect is worth making.
Bettie Page- Sexy. Hilarious. Beautifully illustrated and colored. This is everything I wanted from a Bettie Page comic and it is intelligent on top of it.
Duck Tales – Saving this one for my two-year-old.
Curse Words- I started the 1st arc of this one calling it the best book that I have no clue what is happening. Parts of it have gotten a little silly. That has me questioning the book’s future on my pull list. However, I will see through a few more issues.
Deadly Class- Rick Remender has become of my favorite writers all too quickly. The fact that this book is about a bunch of really messed up teenagers from the ’80s who are training to be assassins doesn’t hurt.
East of West- Johnathon Hickman weaves an alternate United States History alongside a twist on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. My biggest issue is that there isn’t more of this book to read.
Kill or Be Killed- Ed Brubaker delivers a delicious psychological thriller…or is it an occult crime story? Will we ever know? I don’t really care. I just don’t want it to end too quickly.
Mage: The Hero Denied- The end (?!) of the Mage saga. Also something of an Arthurian retelling.
Manifest Destiny- Supernatural meets Sacagawea. I am not even kidding. Just substitute Sam and Dean for Lewis and Clark.
Monstress – I genuinely haven’t read much past the first issue, but it really is beautiful and I own every issue. I will read it all eventually.
Redlands- Another Southern Horror story. Issue One was very good.
Redneck- Texas. Vampires. Donny Cates tells a great story.
Regression- I dig this because it deals with madness in a fun
Rose- So far an on the rails fantasy romp with a predictable story. I have loved every page and panel. Sometimes you need wenches and battle axes. Beautifully illustrated and NOT a guilty pleasure.
Saga -Fiona Staples and Brian K Vaugh make Shakespeare their bitch with this one. Romeo and Juliet meet Star Wars. Also, naked people, foul language, drugs, and most of it is told through the narration of a child who is born on the second page of issue one. “Am I Shitting? It feels like I am shitting. You’ll never love me again if I defecate on you.” Actual dialog from the aforementioned issue one.
Seven to Eternity- Rick Remender again. This time he is doing some beautiful work in a fantasy setting. The world is dark as they come. I both love and hate this book. It makes me feel entirely too much.
Sex Criminals – My hands-down favorite read.. right up until the Wide Weiner song. Chip Zdarsky and Matt Fraction make me love them a little more and myself much less. I got to the point I cannot even look at the letters page. Every time I think about dropping this one through the next issue pulls me in deeper. *ahem*
Astonishing x-men – Take all my X-men entries as written. I have been an X fan since I was reading comics.
Cable- This is somewhat on the chopping block.
Captain America: Steve Rogers – The turn to Hydra has not been a descent into evil and it has been a fun read.
Darth Vader- I didn’t think I could love a Star Wars comic. They all try too hard. This one gets it right.
Doctor Strange – This is a quirky and fun book. I love the character.
Generations -Damned event books.
Generation X
Infamous Iron Man -Doctor Doom is one of the most interesting characters in the Marvel Universe. His attempts at heroism are well written and fun.
Iron Fist – I grew up on Kung Fu films. This feels like it should- a Kung Fu comic.
Jean Grey
Mighty Thor -Jason Aaron has made a character I cared nothing for absolutely amazing.
Old Man Logan
Secret Empire – A good, meaningful event book.
Spider-Men II – I want to like a Spider-man.
Weapon X
X-men Blue- Cullen Bunn and the X-men. Duh.
X-men Gold
In DC I am also keeping up with Action Comics as details on Mr. Oz (or whatever) are teased out. I read Flash for a while. I want to love and respect the DC universe more, but I lean toward Marvel. My newest quest is an attempt to change that.
I am going to collect every appearance of Superboy Prime. What is not to love? He is a kid who wants to be Superman after he reads about him in comic books. Then, he actually becomes a Superman. Later he turns into a douchebag and frequently tries to destroy pretty much everything and everybody for reasons all his own….multiple times. What a dick, right? He is angry all the time for his own internal reasons that have very little to do with reality.
I have to love this character. I so identify. Before I open that can of worms, which is what I really want to be writing about, I might as well share the depth of this quest.Here goes:
DC Comics Presents #87
Superman #414
The Official Crisis Index #1
Last Day of the Justice Society Special #1
Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe Update ’87
Crisis on Infinite Earths
DC One Million
Super Girl Volume 4 #79
JLA Issue #119
Infinite Crisis
Adventures of Superman #649
Infinite Crisis Secret Files #1
Rann-Thanagar War #1
Batman Annual #25
Teen Titans: Life and Death #1
Action Comics #839
Green Lantern #13
Detective Comics #820
Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #2
Teen Titans (#29, 31, 32)
Sinestro Corp Special #1
Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Superman-Prime #1
Countdown to Final Crisis
The Sinestro Corps War
Green Lantern/ Sinestro Corps: Secret Files #1
DC Universe #0
Justice Society of America Annual #1
Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds
Justice Society of America #20
Ambush Bug: Year None
The Flash: Rebirth
Adventure Comics (#3,4,5, 7, & 518)
Blackest Night
Superman #712
Batman Under the Red Hood #1
DC Retroactive: Superman- The ’80s #1
Legion of Super-Heroes: The Curse
Teen Titans (#98,99,100)
The Multiversity Guidebook
Justice League #40
Convergence Superman Issue #1
Robin War 100 Page Spectacular
Nightwing #9
At first glance, This is a great way to walk back through DC comics history. I think almost every major (non-Batman) related event is represented here. This is also a HUGE investment in the (non-Batman) DC universe. The quest is simple here. I either want to fall in love with the (non-Batman) DCU or give up on it and officially say, “Make mine Marvel, but throw in those Batman books.”
I often do identify with characters like Superboy Prime. Oddly enough, Hulk doesn’t fit me. Hulk is a rage of emotion completely out of control of himself. I am always a bubbling cauldron of anger and rage, but I am also tightly controlled. I was always sort of pissed the Bruce Banner couldn’t get his act together and control himself. I control myself well all the time.
From ass * hole * ol* o* gy Chapter 3 Rule V: “The asshole is always in control. The asshole is in complete command in every situation- in the boardroom, the bar room, and the bedroom. He steps up to take charge and doesn’t look for help unless absolutely necessary. The asshole stays cool, calm, and collected.”
I dream angry. I have had nightmares from the time I was little. When I was a kid, things chased me. Things caught me. Things hurt me. Now my dreams are much more of me chasing and hurting people. My dreams normally horrify me at how easily I can just tear someone apart for the least provocation. It disturbs me and wakes me often at how thoroughly I enjoy being a monster in my dreams.
To control this feeling of being a monster I don’t express anger much in meaningful ways in the waking world. By the time I say something about a situation it has gotten bad enough that I was ready to fight about it two trespasses ago. If I am angry enough to raise my voice about something there isn’t really any fixing it.
I play a bit of a mental game. When I am vexed by someone stepping on my toes or taking advantage of me I try hard to be nicer to that person. I play dumb more often than not. I think of this as giving my opponent another chance while I hand them ample rope to hang themselves with. At this point, if someone is smart enough to realize I am dangerous and they stop doing what they were doing all is well.
Most people see this kindness as weakness. They got a free inch. Now comes their chance to see if they can take a mile. Again, I don’t react. They are beyond redemption. I have been discounted in their mind. Anyone who would knowingly continue taking advantage of me while I have done nothing but show them kindness now deserves any temper I could show. Still, I focus.
From the Hagakure Chapter 2: ” Be true to the thought of the moment and avoid distraction. Other than continuing to exert yourself, enter into nothing else, but go to the extent of living single thought by single thought.”
Forgiveness is absolutely divine. I still want to give people a fair shake. Baseball taught us all that it takes 3 strikes to be out. I begin setting traps at step two. Experience has taught me that anyone who goes to screw with me a second time will come back for bite number three with no hesitation. They have come to believe I hold truly no ability to hurt them. I am big but dumb. I am gullible. They clearly have me out thought.
When strike three slams home I am completely absolved. I am justified in the anger I felt at slight number one. The whole affair is worthwhile.
From The Art of War Chapter 1:” All warfare is based on deception. Therefore, when capable, feign incapacity, when active, inactivity. When near, make it appear that you are far away; when far away, that you are near. Offer the enemy a bait to lure him; feign disorder and strike him. When he concentrates, prepare against him; where he is strong, avoid him. Anger his general and confuse him. Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance.”
I may be angry, but I am deliberate, well practiced, and well read. Perhaps my greatest skills are that I pay great attention and I am completely patient. I am willing to lose in the short term to have a final decisive victory.
To quote Jidenna from Long Live the Chief,” You can either lead, follow or get out the way/
Make a fuckin’ move it would make my fuckin’ day/Got a 100 year plan you jus’ think about today”
Man, I love that song. It makes me happy. Isn’t that really what life is about? Well, no.
From The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck Chapter 2 (titled Happiness is a Problem): ” Happiness comes from solving problems. The keyword here is “solving”. If you’re avoiding all your problems or feel like you don’t have any problems, then you’re going to make yourself miserable.”
I am good at embracing my problems. I get the meat of my problems between my teeth and chew it until I can swallow easily. The extra work I put in makes that meat tender. It also means that I don’t apologize for something I was wrong about very often. I have checked my facts to make certain that I am not acting on faulty opinion. When I throw the first blow it is also (normally) the last.
So why do I explain all of this? I don’t see how I am all that complicated. I follow the Golden Rule. I treat other people the way I want to be treated. I remain kind when slighted. Depending on how important you are to my life, you might be able to slight me MANY times before I say or do anything. In the end, no one really ever gets one over on me. I knew. I let it happen. I let you carefully dig your own grave. You calmly laid yourself down inside. You even pulled the dirt in after yourself. All I really did was keep myself calm until you removed yourself from my path.

That isn’t so complicated, is it? Consider this a P.S.A. I took the time to explain it for a reason. If you are out there right now and you can count past strike one with me, it might be time to start making things right or be moving the hell on quickly. I never waste my words. They are very precious to me. It isn’t my fault if they fall on deaf ears.

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