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January 09, 2006


Robin Hermann

Hello Marc,

A few questions:

1) In what way is KINGDOM COME "anti-multiculturalist?" I agree that it's reactionary but I wondered about the second criticism.

2) Have you read Frank's WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS?

3) Is there any space in the above analysis for the commercial reasons DC and Mark Waid came up with Hypertime at all(assuming of course that one can't detect the guiding hand of Grant Morrison in the genesis of Hypertime)? The first and only time I read the last issue of THE KINGDOM I thought the entire concept of Hypertime was a rather clumsy method of legitimizing all those pre-Crisis stories without actually going back and undoing Crisis-- in short to give the fans nostalgic for the pre-Crisis days of Earth 1 through n a place at the table.

Moreover, can we talk about the fact that THE KINGDOM, as a piece of comics craft, was simply not very good? It just seems interesting to me that someone like Booker would devote so much criticism to a subpar Mark Waid book (with very bizarre art by Zeck) that isn't even up to the level of KINGDOM COME -- which despite its troubling political implications at least had craft going for it.

Just wondering.


Hey, Rob.

To be fair to Will Brooker, he only mentions The Kingdom for about five pages in the concluding chapter of a 350-page book. I'm the one who's devoted so much criticism to those same five pages in some Ahab-like quest to annihilate them. (I almost wrote "Abhay-like quest," which amuses me to no end.)

I think you're dead on about the motivations behind Hypertime. For Brooker, of course, that place at the table is a postmodern decentering of authority; for me it was a hollow gesture designed to appease to comics' dwindling and increasingly fan-centered audience. But I probably said it best the first time, in my review-essay for IJOCA 4.2 (Fall 2002), which you can order here. I think I'll put myself on a Kingdom moratorium for a while.

As for its predecessor, I was always bothered by the racial dynamics of Kingdom Come: not only the narrative, in which the older, white superheroes come out of retirement to teach the upstart, multiracial superheroes a sorely needed lesson, but also the metanarrative which presents the comic as a corrective to the Image era of comics (all while gleefully indulging in the same "darkness" and violence; whether it's Waid and Ross in 1996 or Geoff Johns ten years later, the practitioner-critics of mainstream superhero comics always seem to wallow in the same vices they decry). Since the "Image generation" of artists happened to be substantially more diverse than the old guard they were edging out at the time, the metanarrative was just as creepy as the surface plot. I absolutely do not think it was intentional, but the generally reactionary discourse edges into some unsavory racial implications.

Thomas Frank. I haven't read What's the Matter with Kansas?--I had planned to, wishlisted it, and then lost interest. But then I heard Frank speak at the MLA a couple of weeks ago (an interesting experience, easily meriting its own post on the foibles of academia); he gave a condensed, highly entertaining version of the Kansas argument and it rekindled my interest in the book.

To tie all this together, I think I'm so vocal in my disagreement with Brooker's comments on The Kingdom because they're such a perfect example of the cult-stud populism Frank merrily destroys: an academic who deploys the jargon of critcal theory to dignify a fairly subpar piece of pop culture by claiming that it empowers its readers, all wrapped up in a parody of the language of political liberation that never actually engages the text's politics. I see such tremendous potential for academic comics scholarship, and cultural studies in general, but it'll have to transcend these cliches.

Hmm. Moratorium over, apparently. Okay, it's back on... now!

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