Sunday, July 20, 2008

Comics on the radio

Time for one of my signature posts on a subject about which I have incredibly incomplete knowledge. (I realize now that if I only wrote about things I know well, I would post here even less than I already do. Guess it's better to think of these entries as reminders to myself to follow through on things sometime in the future.)

I caught only random tidbits of this episode of the public radio show To the Best of Our Knowledge last week devoted to "Heroes, Anti-Heroes, and Regular Folks." I have a sneaking suspicion it's a rebroadcast, because I could swear I'd already heard the interview with Austin Grossman, author of the novel Soon I Will Be Invincible, told from the POV of an archetypal comic book villain. I've been wanting to read the book since I first heard about it, probably on some other NPR-ish program in the last year or so. And yet I have not, which further establishes my lack of knowledge!

Other interview subjects during the hour are Douglas Wolk, whose book Reading Comics sounds great, and artists/writers Ulli Lust, Roberta Gregory, and Terry Moore. I'd recommend the whole thing, except of course I haven't actually heard all of it myself. I do know I particularly enjoyed Wolk's remarks on the operatic/mythological dimensions of superhero comics, which helped me realize why, even though I am in my late 40s and therefore a grownup who should prefer grownup things like jazz, classical music, and "graphic novels" about the minutiae of everyday people's lives, I am still way more turned on by books about men in tights than about Average Joes. (Can I just say, for the record, that I have never in my life read a Harvey Pekar story I enjoyed as much, or learned as much from, as The Killing Joke, The Long Halloween, or some of the Batman: Black and White stories?)

Value added: In looking up the link to Wolk's excellent blog, I came across a recent entry on it that directed me to his Salon essay comparing the Batman of the Nolan films (and accompanying anime DVD) to the character in the comic books. Once again, he does a great job of explaining what's missing from the movie incarnation--the very thing (beyond the erotic appeal of a hunky man in a mask and tights) that drew me to the character when I was an intellectual, not-at-all athletic or gadget-crazed teenager in the 70s. He was a detective, dammit!

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