Too Close To Comment
Travis Hedge Coke
My mom has been bugging me to write something about Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther relaunch since it was announced. I get asked every other week why I talk a lot about Wonder Woman, but rarely write about her or comics with her. “Where’s your Invisibles book?” is not an uncommon question from friends and colleagues.
So, why not? If I love Black Panther, why don’t I write about him all the time? The Fantastic Four? Ann Nocenti was my pick on a Cube roundtable, for the writer I’ll always check out, but do I have an article about any of her comics? Not really. Sup with this? Am I a lie?
I’m too close to it, and I take these articles a little too seriously to risk tackling things I cannot see at least mostly clearly. Plus, I exhaust myself talking about that stuff for fun all day and night long. I talk so much Wonder Woman, the Cube’s own Tanya Lindquist tells me to shut up about her regularly in threads and conversations about Wonder Woman. So, I don’t inflict it on you. I don’t mislead you with my weird obsessions and gushing fandoms, if I can help it.
So what do I avoid dealing with professionally, at length? Glad you asked! I’ll make a list…
One of the first comics I remember getting into, becoming obsessed with the Frightful Four invading the FF’s headquarters, and Medusa being all “I have super-long hair and it grabs things!” I enjoy more Fantastic Four comics than I don’t, but the ones that I don’t are almost always hugely popular, beloved runs. I don’t ever want to even try to get through Jonathan Hickman’s run again, but I’m glad for those of you who like it. I think John Byrne’s run has way more flaws than good stuff. It’s pretentious, sexist, in love with “growth through sexual trauma” and I forget a large number of the storylines as soon as I’m not reading them.
If I start to cover the comic seriously, here, in articles, I’m basically distinguishing myself separate from the majority of what is already a fairly niche fandom. I’m just going to bore a lot of people and piss off a few, so I don’t touch on them, too much, unless it’s something absolutely intriguing, like Unstable Molecules.
One of my favorite superheroes and a character whose early appearances had a profound effect on my childhood, the Black Panther means a lot to me. And, if I start talking about him, or about a particular Black Panther comic, I will not stop until I’ve said everything. Black Panther, for me, is less a character or a bunch of comics and an upcoming movie, as BP is a fugue of beautiful greatness.
The very first Black Panther story shows him to be smarter, cooler, stronger, faster, richer, and more powerful than any of the white characters in the comic, including the team starring in the book. He is hands down, all the way amazing. A genius superhero king. I don’t know that I had ever read or seen a nonwhite character trump the white characters to that extent, in any piece of entertainment. As a kid, this was eye-opening. As an adult, it still feels like a heroic achievement to me. That Jack Kirby and Co made something that is genuinely an achievement with those Fantastic Four issues that introduced the Black Panther.
And, I have no time criticisms or dismissals that are rooted in fanboying or racism. I’d get a bit high horse, to do a BP article.
Another high horse that I try to avoid. None of you really want me to go full bore on analysis and eat up three hours of your evening with criticism and consideration of a four panel page from a single comic, but I could. I love comics. I enjoy thinking out all the angles, considering and reconsidering all the elements of a page, a panel. How someone chooses to represent an eye is interesting to me. How they draw or color hair. Why they do it that way. Whether this character’s hair differs, in delineation, from another’s and what effect that has on the reader, on the reading.
You may believe that you want to see me do ten pages on hair and flowers in an Ethan Van Sciver comic, lies and admissions in a Greg Rucka comic, body language and body politics in a page of a Milk Morinaga comic, but you don’t and I would overdo it.
Maybe you do really want it, but I know, still I would overdo it.
And, I’d overdo Wonder Woman coverage. I almost already have. I wrote about Wonder Woman: Earth One, a few months ago, and I had to knock it back, several times, because I wanted to throw in all sorts of asides about Phil Jimenez’s work and theories regarding her, to propose we give Robert Jones, of Son of Baldwin fame, an editorially-unbound year to use Diana and her comic to his own ends.
I could rant on and on about how much I love the lasso and the tiara and why they need more showing off. I do. Just not here. This isn’t the place for that.
My Facebook wall is for that. Forums could be for that. I don’t want to turn these articles into a forum for how important I am and I don’t want to seem, again, like I’m shitting on the rest of the fandom by disagreeing strongly about tiny things.
Talent I Love Too Much
I can’t take the criticism of writers, artists, colorists or letterers who I adore, so I try to minimize my coverage of them. If I can’t see someone’s flaws or at least take it seriously that other people do see this or that as a flaw, I don’t think it’s good to indulge myself, professionally, and risk just lionizing them or misleading you.
A comic I’ll never write about, probably, except this, just now. And, also, emblematic of comics I’ll never write about because I dislike them thoroughly on every level.
If a comic is racist at its core. If a comic is dumb to its bones. If the sexism is just egregious. If the comic just gets right on my every nerve, I’m not going to cover it. I don’t want to give it the time, to put its title out there any more than I have to. If one of you buys Leonardo Masetti's Iktomi because I mentioned it here, I’ll feel really bad, even though I am blatantly warning you not to.
So, to sum up, why don’t I? Because of you. Because I love you all, and I only want to provide top notch entertaining and informative writing for you. And, ranty things that don’t drag anyone’s fandom or enthusiasms down.