Being, Emptiness and Spandex
Tights with the Underwear on the Outside
By Max Burbank
Itís quite possible that I know too much about comic books. That being said (and Iíll take any opportunity to say Ďthat being saidí) I can also say without fear of contradiction that there are many, many people out there who are way more involved than I am, and they all seem to have a lot or spare time, little human contact and easy access to the Internet. Yes, itís true I know who penciled Avengers #100; it was Barry Windsor Smith and it was fine. Yes, I remember more than Iíd like to say about the Forever People. I even have a hazy recollection of a dozen or so 12 inch tall cloned Jimmy Olsens, though that could easily be a leftover from the concussion I got in junior high or maybe some sort of adolescent fantasy. Matter Eater Ladís given name? Denzil Kem. Itís quite arguable that this sort of useless pap is crowding other things out of my brain. My Social Security Number. My wifeís birthday. Our anniversary. Basic human communication skills.
The question isnít really ĎIs this any way for a grown man to occupy his mind?í or, as a young boy recently said while pointing at me and clutching his fatherís leg ĎWhatís THAT?!í. The question is ĎHow much really dorky knowledge is too much?í or possibly ĎCanít you back off and give a fella room to breathe? You have no idea what Iím capable of!í I know a lot less about this sort of crap than I used to, believe you me. Before my brain began itís current rapid calcification, I could rattle off all the X-Men in the order theyíd first appeared, including the Mimic. Prior to booking passage on the H.M.S. Puberty I could summarize every single comic book in my collection prompted only by a glance at the cover. Many a baby-sitter was broken on the rack of my total recall, reduced to a whimpering fluid bags by the relentless, dentist drill, marathon reenactment of the complete history of the Teen Titans, in particular my Aqualad, which John Lahr, New Yorker Theater Critic would have called ĎMincing, even by Mr. Burbankís usual standardí had he ever reviewed the borderline psychotic behavior of New England pre-teens instead of Broadway shows.
John Lahr is Bert Lahrís son, the same Bert Lahr who played the Cowardly Lion. See? Thatís has nothing to do with comic books, and I donít get paid for knowing that, either. Of course if I drop that little factoid into dinner party conversation, itís a bon mot. If instead I tell them that prior to the Crisis on Infinite Earths there were two Supermen, one of who fought during World War Two on an alternate earth but couldnít beat the Naziís because Hitler had a magic spear, I am a potentially dangerous freak. As luck would have it, distinctions like this are not such a big issue, as I get invited to dinner parties with about the same regularity that the Disney Channel runs ďChicken Slaveís Golden Shower Party IIIĒ.
My brain is leaking knowledge like a rotting jack-o-lantern loses its finer details, and everything is going, but thereís so much more useless comic book knowledge in there than anything else Iím in serious danger of being left with little else. Prez Rickard, was first teenage president, but was the VP that Native American guy who lived in a Tee-pee by the reflecting pool or Prezís mom? Maybe his Mom was national security advisor. I know Val-or used to be Mon-el who did a lot of time in the Phantom Zone because of a lead allergy, and that he shacked up with Shadow Lass, but I donít remember her real name! Iím sure I have a driverís license, but I think it might be expired and I have not idea at all where it is right now! Do you see where Iím going with this? Doubtless someone out there on the net will write in and tell me Shadow Lassís name and probably correct the spelling of Denzil Kem, but none of you bastards know where my licensee is, unless of course you took it, you damn, dirty ape!
Frankly, Iím getting too old for this. Iím reaching the head-out-the-window-screaming Ďyou kids get the hell off my lawní stage of life, and I need the mental real estate all this comic book crap is parked on. When I reach the point where Iím up at 2:00 A.M. with angina, I want to remember where my pills are, not that Captain Marvelís face was patterned on Fred Macmurrayís so his awesome powers would seem less threatening. Let someone else create a vast Internet data base of heroes who have died and come back to life as opposed to heroís who have been believed dead, I just want to be sure I donít leave the baby on the roof of my car when I go to work. Iím ready to lose my Super Trivia Powers, I truly want to, but I donít know how. When the alarm goes off I want to concentrate on how many scoops go in the coffeepot, instead Iím considering the many identities of Henry Pym. (Ant-Man, Giant-Man, YellowJacket, Goliath.) Whatís to become of me, and if you understand half the references in this article and are laughing Iíd take a frigginí look in the mirror, Mr. Big Ass Superior Bastard, and wonder whatís to become of you!
Itís probably way too late for me. At some critical point in my mental development this stuff was way too important to me and now thereís not a damn thing this side of aggressive shock therapy I can do. I cared more about the fact that the TV Barbara Gordon Batgirl predated the Comic Book Batgirl than I did about Ö well, anything, really, and now Iím pretty much screwed. Iíll forget my own name before I forget that M.O.D.O.K. stands for Machine Organism Designed Only for Killing and O.M.A.C. Stands for One Man Army Corps. Some downtrodden immigrant bastard from whatever brutally repressed fifth world nation staffs our nursing homes in a couple of decades will be saying ĎBe damned if Iím changing ĎKamandi, the Last Boy on Earthísí diaper, Iíve already done it eight times today. Let him stew in it for a whileí.
I guess itís okay. I mean, were the chances really that great that I have won a Nobel Prize by now if Iíd never picked up that first 80 Page Giant Justice League of America for a quarter? Life is ephemeral, after all, or it might be, depending on what the hell ephemeral means. I mean, when Iím ninety there may be no one alive but me who remembers that Jeb Stuart was the ghost in The Haunted Tank . If I donít tell the children that KISS made their first comic book appearance in the pages of Howard the Duck , who will? Somebody has to be the Guardian on the Edge of a Bunch of Really Pointless Shit. Donít they? ###