Unsplendid News, Everyone

I'm still pretty ridiculously busy, though apparently not as busy as Mike...

... but I have a little news, completely unrelated to Leap Day: I've got a couple of poems in the new issue of Unsplendid, which also has audio of me reading the pieces. Here's to the internet.

I'm sharing virtual page space with my friend Juliana Gray as well as with the poet Charles Martin (who gave a reading at LIU last semester), so I feel like I'm in good company.

And now, please, you may continue your celebrations of the life and accomplishments of Georges Batroc.

IN WHICH OBJECTS ARE INSERTED INTO MY ANUS

Are you ready? It's the story no one likes to tell, but which must be told, the story for which I will sacrifice all my dignity to provide you with entertainment at my expense. The story about digestive issues and having tubes stuck up your butt. Welcome to the hydro-colonic blog.

(Pretty pictures will be inserted at regular intervals to offset the horrors within)

I'll start at the beginning before we get to the rear end. So, as much as I'd like you all to think I'm an awesome and cool and healthy young man, we're all adults here, so let me just tell you, I've been having some serious gas lately. Like, intense, gurgling, high-pressure gas. A guy from Puget Sound Energy actually came to my house yesterday and tried to install a meter on my ass. That's how bad things are. I had to fend him off with a pair of Channel Locks.

Now, I don't want you thinking I'm some kind of Fart King. I never fart. I'm a guy who likes the feeling of a clean body, and bodily functions kinda gross the hell out of me, so I've never been one to just pass the gas, even as a kid. The pressure builds and builds, and right at the crucial moment, it…redirects. Somewhere. I don't know where it goes. Back from whence it came, I suppose. Or maybe Narnia? Anyway, so, this terrible gas I speak of isn't noticeable to anyone but me. It just rumbles and churns in my guts like grenades going off in a sealed blast chamber. It's about exactly as unpleasant as it sounds.


It has occurred to me that this might have something to do with me eating a bowl of black beans and rice for each and every meal…But I felt like there were deeper mysteries at work.

So, this brings us to the Tummy Temple. Over the years, I have been hearing a lot about the wonders of hydro-colonic therapy. Basically, having your colon pressure-washed like a mossy driveway. It supposedly cleans out years, even decades, of icky buildup in your intestines, (undigested food, Legos, etc) clearing the pipes and making your whole body function better. People have been swearing by it. So I figure, since my guts are currently producing enough greenhouse gasses to fuel an entire Al Gore documentary, now is a good time to try this thing out.

A friend of mine has recently had a colonic at a place called the Tummy Temple, so I give them a call. I make an appointment and am told my therapist will be Logan. Shortly after, I have to reschedule my appointment, and I'm told that my procedure will now be performed by "Heidi". Ultimately, I decide that being anally violated by a woman named Heidi is preferable to being violated by a man named Logan, and I breathe a small (very small) sigh of relief.

Tummy Temple sends me to their website to go over some details. I'm slightly concerned, as their website appears to have been designed by a 16 year old girl on Geocities in 1996. Do I really want someone with no web-design sense sticking anything in my anus? But, I grit my teeth and soldier on.

The day finally comes, and I drive to the address listed. I step into the building, which turns out to be a hair salon, and they tell me the Tummy Temple is "out back". I walk around the side of the building and find the door, hidden behind some shrubberies. I go inside.

After checking in and meeting Heidi, who is, thank God, older and not especially attractive, I'm told to go use the bathroom and come back when I'm ready. I go into the bathroom, and the first thing I notice is a bowl next to the sink, on top of which is a large knife. There is no explanation for this knife, and I realize it may be the first time I've ever seen a large knife placed in a bathroom like a toiletry item.

On my way out, I notice a sign next to the door featuring advice about how to deal with your imminent procedure. The last item on the list reads like this:

"After the therapy, drink lots of water, and take time to rest, relax, and give your body a chance to recuperate. This goes for any strong emotions you may experience as well."

Oh God.



I go into the procedure room, and after a description of what's going to happen, Heidi tells me to strip from the waist down, although she lets me know I can leave my socks on if I want to. I thought naked-except-for-socks was kind of a bedroom faux paus, but oh well, I leave them on. Heidi leaves the room while I get nude. I climb onto the table and pull the blanket over my naked butt. After giving me enough time to get comfortable, Heidi knocks gently, and I say "Come in!", feeling a little like a young bride on her wedding night.

Heidi enters, looks at me lying on my stomach, and says, "Oh, no, actually we need you to lie on your back. Go ahead and flip over."

What...? Why would I lay on my back? Is she going to stick the hose into my penis? Wait wait, I'm not into this, this isn't my bag…

Reluctantly, I flip over. At this point, things get rather gruesome, so I'm going to spare you a zoomed-in narration. Suffice to say, tubes are inserted, warm water is pumped into my body until I'm on the verge of bursting like a mishandled water balloon, and then the water is released back into the tube. This process is repeated several times, and I get to watch the ancient, lingering contents of my colon flooding out through a clear glass viewing window, before traveling on to finally be at rest in the great sewer system beyond. Rest in peace, angry poo spirits. Rest in peace.


So, the procedure is done. My body feels like a hot water bottle that's been blown up by the Power Team. I go to pay my bill, and am a little perplexed by the receipt with a line for "Tip". I'm supposed to tip my colonicist? I'm used to tipping for eating and drinking, for having things put in to my digestive system, but this chick put things into it and then took them right back out! Would I tip a cocktail waitress who poured me a whiskey and then siphoned it out of my stomach with an elaborate pressure tube machine? Hell no, I'm tryna get drnk.

So, that's how it all went down. This was a few days ago, and in case you're wondering, I haven't noticed any changes. The first day I felt kind of warm and good all over, but shortly thereafter the gas was back and I feel awful again. Add this to Zicam, Cold-Eze, and Magic Crystal Deodorant on the list of homeopathic remedies that do nothing.

Good day sir!

Non-Fiction Shirt Rough

Another Freakish Mutation

I'm having a pretty busy week for pretty much everything around here, which means a light week for the ol' blog.

Still, since I have a few spare minutes, let me favor you with a panel out of Iron Man #71, from 1974. I've already plumbed the Joe Stinson Collection for a slavering green paunch-bellied ape-spider tripod and a yellow Kryptonian mantis-bird-bat-dragon; here's a purple, spotted giant cockroach demon, courtesy of the Yellow Claw and his incredible collar. (The monster breathes radioactive flames, by the way, but I haven't scanned that page.)
(Please click to enlarge.)

"Don't you ever get bored with your unreal world?" Iron Man asks.

It's a question I've had to face many times myself.

Road Trip Down Interstate 95


My friend and fellow blogger, PokerBluegill, has inspired me to attempt to keep a journal on this winter trip to Florida. It was a cold and clear day in which to begin our trip down interstate 95. As we left home at five AM the temperature was 12 degrees; 11 hours and 585 miles later we arrived at our motel in Roanoke Rapids, NC where it was 39 degrees. We are certainly hoping for a warmer experience tommorrow as we complete our drive to central Florida. Dinner tonight was at a nearby Logan's Roadhouse. It was a fun atmosphere and we had a great meal.

SAINTHOOD IS HARD


The Vatican has made it "harder" to become a saint, according to what I just heard on NPR. Apparently there were just way too many potential saints being processed by the Vatican's "Office of Sainthood" (this is real) and it had created a massive backlog of paperwork. It seems that during his term, Pope John Paul had been instituting a sort of Affirmative Action for sainthood, basically watering down the requirements in order to get certain "pet projects" passed, because he wanted to see the canonization of more saints from developing nations.

The exact process of selecting saints was not explained, but the Vatican is now trying to restore that process to its hardcore roots. This sucks, because I was already having trouble performing even one of those two miracles currently required, and who knows how many it's jumping up to now. As if it wasn't hard enough to do that whole "live a blameless life" and "be revered by your community" thing, I mean come on Vatican, we're having enough trouble with all this recession crap over here, you really think it's a great time to be making things harder? Cut us a break, I mean jeez, for the love of God.

On the plus side, though, I also learned from this piece that the required miracles don't necessarily have to be performed while I'm alive. See, according to the Office of Sainthood, if, after I've died, someone prays to me—not to God or Jesus or Spiritus Sanctus, but to me—for a miracle, like healing for instance, and they are healed, then that counts. Counts as 1 point for the Isaac Marion Sainthood Campaign. So….might still have a shot at this. But it still kind of sucks, because if I'm dead when I become a saint, how is all that rockstar prestige going to get me laid?





Valentine's Day Bandit

We are experiencing a gentle snowfall this morning. Flakes like feathers creating a blanket of white on the ground. This weekend we visited Barre, VT. to visit Josh, Elizabeth, and grandson, Noah. They have over two feet of snow on the ground with snowbanks five foothigh making every intersection crossing a high risk challenge. Sunday morning the temp was 1. In Montpelier, the Valentine Bandit had struck again bringing warmth and smile to the hearts of the residents.
Every year this mysterious incident takes place as residents of the capitol city wake up on Valentine's Day to a blizzard of hearts posted throughout the town. Many of the hearts were still visible on Saturday. To learn more about this unusual tradition click here. We drove home in a light rain and 50 degrees. We leave later this week for Florida and 80 degrees. How wonderful to be able to experience such extremes within a week.

The Mike Grell Extreme Stance

So, okay: last week I was complaining about some of Mike Grell's figure work in an issue of Superboy from 1975. Wikipedia tells me that Grell was in his late twenties when he pencilled this issue, but it still shows some of the quirks of an incompletely developed style.

First, as I mentioned, the men in their spandex have zero body fat, and their outfits look uncomforatbly clingy. I know that hyperfitness is a common trope in superhero comics, but I also know that drawing a figure as pure musculature is easier than putting realistic cloth garments on the same figure. I've often suspected that Superman's skin-tight suit was originally as much an effort to assist Joe Shuster's then-underdeveloped drawing ability as an effort to evoke circus strongmen. But I digress. My point is that Grell's figures are all lanky, taut, and anatomical to the point of awkwardness. Show the readers what I'm talking about, Superboy.


But the thing I want to show you, really, is the weird way that Grell has these guys stand with their feet a yard or more apart when they're trying to look impressive (or surprised). It's all over this story, and it's a pretty weird tic. Here's the opening splash panel, in which Superboy (in his pajamas) is menaced by two ghosts of dead Legionnaires. (This scene does not appear in the plot of the story.)

I hope he hasn't pulled a muscle, jumping out of bed into that pose! (This raises an issue: is Superman strong enough to tear his own ligaments or to strain his own muscles? Surely there's a webforum where people discuss this sort of thing.)

Later in the comic, a mysterious interloper destroys a building (by slamming into it at high speed), then rises from the rubble:


Still later, a second mysterious interloper rescues a sky-diver whose parachute didn't open:


,,, And the crowd below is simply agog:


Hey, that one guy is Clark Kent! And he's managed to assume a pose even more exaggerated than the one in the introductory splash! (To me, this actually looks sort of like "What if Steve Ditko drew The King Canute Crowd?" Because I'm sure that young Clark Kent has been replaced in this panel with the young Alec MacGarry.)

Wow, that's gotta hurt. He "look[s] like [he] saw a ghost," indeed! Apparently, that's the way someone stands when he sees a 30th-century ghost:

(Although, you know, it occurs to me: Superboy has seen these guys die, in the 30th century, but he also knows they're time travelers. Why doesn't he just assume that they've traveled back to his time from a time before they died? Instead, he's all, "But -- you're dead!" ... Couldn't that cause some kind of time-paradox? Ah, Cary Bates: you've done it again.)

Fortunately, Superboy assumes a different stance in the story's final panel, after he and the genetic mockeries of actual life destroy a robot that Superboy built just to test their willingness to die all over again. In this last panel, he casually reveals that he already knew that the interloping Legionnaires were merely auto-destructing 48-hour-lifespan clones.

Chillin' in a secret room in his parents' basement, talking on the "Time-Telephone," without a care in the world, and still looking like he has every single muscle in his body tensed to the point of explosion: that's how a Super-Teenager ends a night of self-imposed robot-fighting.

Swipe File #7: In the Air with Brancusi & E. H. Shepard

Has it really been six months since the last Swipe File post? Indeed it has. Our Elfworld story is the monster that ate the blog! Alternatively, it's the hero that rescued us from nostalgic navel-gazing, but here I go again with the magnifying glass on the details of comics past...

In issue 4 of Satisfactory Comics, two of our swipes featured birds. One was our swipe of museum art, Brancusi's beautiful Bird in Space, which can be seen at the Guggenheim in Manhattan or right here in an image from the Gugg's website.

We owed this museum swipe to our friend and contributor Steve Newman, who submitted "Brancusi's Bird in Space" in response to our appeal for "a noun or noun phrase" that would be "featured prominently in a fable or adventure story." That's how we ended up making a character out of the sculpture--the Golden Bird of Mystery:


I think this remains our only swipe from a sculpture thus far.

The other bird featured in issue 4 is the beloved Owl (aka Wol) from A. A. Milne's Winnie-the Pooh, as illustrated by E. H. Shepard. He's only one of six owls included in this scene featuring the Parliament of Owls, but apparently the Parliament meets at his own house:


That's Owl at the top right, of course.

When I'm busy in my office but not so busy that I can't receive visitors, I put a sign on my door that says "Please knock if an answer is required," in homage to Owl. And here's an inadvertent homage to Shepard: the person who sold me the scanner I used to prepare this post owns an original Shepard pencil drawing of Pooh-related art. Too bad he wasn't selling that for cheap!

A Visit to the Center for Cartoon Studies

I'll get back to that pile of crappy comics soon, but I wanted to say a little bit about the visit I made last week to the Center for Cartoon Studies up in White River Junction, Vermont. Overall, I was impressed with the school and the students, and I think it's looking really nice for such a young operation in such a non-lucrative corner of the educational world.

I drove through some heavy snow the day before I went there, and the terrain beside the highways on the day I went to White River Junction was just gorgeous in a sort of gingerbread-house way. I just had to smile, looking out on all the fields covered in pristine snow, and the pine-trees crusted with snow (the spruces rough in the distant glitter, etc.). Because I was driving I didn't get any pictures of it, but here's a little snapshot from the town green in Burlington, the following day, to help you infer what the countryside and mountains looked like:


Anyway, I got off the freeway in White River Junction, drove a mile or so into downtown, turned a corner, and there it was:

The main space of the Center for Cartoon Studies is on the first floor of the old Colodny Surprise department store, and they've kept the awning out front, but the windows facing the street definitely declare cartoon allegiance:


Up until this point, the CCS had felt like sort of an imaginary place to me, like Oz or Avalon or Oxford: a place that I could read about, but probably wouldn't ever see. There was something a little giddy about seeing it in front of my eyes. Much about it seems mythical: a little school in a little post-industrial Vermont town, where each two-year cohort of twenty or so students gets instruction from top-notch literary cartoonists on the way to make a graphic novel. People like Chris Ware and Lynda Barry drop in. Students have their theses advised by Stan Sakai or Chester Brown. This unassuming building in this dingy, snowy town is one of the epicenters of the new movement in literary comics.

In fact, it's an ordinary building, not glamorously equipped or even eye-catching. But what goes on in there is really exciting. I like to imagine that the students at CCS are getting the equivalent of eight or ten years' worth of comics-making experience packed into their two-year sojourns in White River Junction. These folks will be equipped to write and draw some very smart stuff.

Anyway, I'd been invited to drop in by my friend Robyn Chapman...

...(who has a few really fine minicomics and who edits the zine Hey, Four-Eyes, in case you're inclined to do some shopping), and I called her cell phone so she could let me in to the building.

She was beaten to the door, though, by a cheerful Steve Bissette, who gave me a hearty handshake even though he doesn't know me from Adam. He was on his way out of the building as I was on my way in. I guess that's the sort of encounter one has at the epicenter.

Robyn showed me around the facility, including this attractive sign from the old Colodny Surprise store that hangs in the CCS lobby:


Down in the basement is the printing lab, which is open to the students around the clock. They've got a couple of computers, a couple of xerox machines, a wealth of long-arm staplers, a hydraulic paper-cutter, a screen-printing station, and a ping-pong table down there. Also some sofas, for when Steve Bissette hosts a movie night.

I was a little envious of all the printing equipment.

The real "purpose" of my trip to CCS, though, wasn't tourism. I was supposed to give a short talk to Jason Lutes's afternoon second-year workshop, so after lunch Robyn led me over to their studio space. I sat in on a couple of critiques, in which one of the students circulated copies of work in progress and got feedback from Jason and from his classmates. (I chimed in, too, here and there. My old poetry-workshop instincts resurfaced right away.)

...And then I talked for a few minutes about formal constraints and games. I tried to suggest that although there are plenty of constraints that only limit the things you can write or draw, there are also process-oriented "generative constraints," like the ones we used in some of that comic for Elfworld, or the constraint that propels the Mapjam project. These sorts of constraints can help you find your way to ideas you wouldn't otherwise have, and I think that having a few such constraints in your toolkit can help you get clear of any artistic stuck spot.

Anyway, then I taught them how to play Jesse Reklaw's game shuffleupagus. It's a hard game to explain, but we got three pages of shuffleupagus stuff turned out in about 45 minutes, with the second-year students working in three groups.

Here's a little picture of Jason Lutes in his group, with my lame attempt at explanatory doodles on the dry-erase board behind him:


... And here's a result from the session, not quite completely inked. (You can click to enlarge it.)

If any of the CCS students who drew this page happen to read this, please drop a note in the comments so I can give credit to the artists! I didn't get y'all's names while I was there.

All in all, it was a really pleasant day. I got to see a place that I've been wanting to see since before it even existed, and I got to meet a few people whom I'm sure I'll be glad to run into at MoCCA or SPX in the future. I got a really good feeling about CCS as a program of education and as an institution that's having a positive effect on the cartooning world. I hope I'll get to drop in there again some time.

NO ELEVATORS

So, instead of cluttering up this blog, i decided to make another blog, on it i'm going to post photos and things that are of interest that i come across through the day. Might be photos of mine or something i find on the internet, nobody might even look at it, or be reading this. But its 1 am am i had a little extra time.

www.noelevators.blogspot.com

Sketches



SHARKBUS

I'm driving 7 year old Maddy back to her foster home, an hour and a half journey, and we get into a debate about what is the scariest animal.

Isaac: Sharks are pretty scary, but by far the scariest animal is the shark with legs.


Maddy: Sharks don't have legs!

Isaac: Right, sharks don't have legs, but sharks with legs have legs.

Maddy: But sharks don't have legs!

Isaac: Well I know sharks don't have legs, but obviously, sharks with legs have legs! I mean it's right there in the name.

Maddy: Well what's so scary about that?

Isaac: Well, sharks with legs are extremely scary because even if you swim out of the water and run up onto the beach, they can run out of the water and still keep chasing you.

Maddy: Well I'd just climb up a tree. One time my brother's dog was chasing me and I climbed up a tree to get away.

Isaac: Ok, that would keep you safe from sharks with legs, but not from sharks with legs and arms. Sharks with legs and arms are even scarier because they can climb up the tree and get you.


Maddy: Well what if I jumped out of the tree into an airplane and flew away?

Isaac: Well Maddy, the thing is, I know sharks with legs are scary, and sharks with legs and arms are even scarier, but there's actually an animal even scarier than any of those, and that is the shark with legs and arms and wings.

[Pause.]

Maddy: (laughing, incredulous) What??

Isaac: Yeah, because sharks with legs and arms and wings can fly after you even in an airplane. Those are by far the scariest animal.


[Long pause. Maddy is thinking.]

Maddy: Yeah but there's a kind of animal that's even scarier than that.

Isaac: Scarier than sharks with legs and arms and wings?

Maddy: Yes. The one that's even scarier than that is the kind of shark that can change into other things. Like it could turn into so it looks like a bus.

Isaac: (stunned) A Sharkbus?

Maddy: Yeah, it would look just like a bus, but it would trick you because it would really be a shark, so it would drive up to you and you know what would happen when it opened its door?

Isaac: What?

Maddy: You'd die, because you'd climb inside the bus but you'd actually be going inside the shark, and it would eat you.

Isaac: So you're saying any bus I see might actually be a Sharkbus, so every time I get on a bus I might actually be getting into a Sharkbus?

Maddy: Yep.

Isaac: Wow, that is…that is a scary thing.

Maddy: It's a scary world.

Yes, she really did say that, yes this conversation really happened, and yes it's more or less verbatim. This is why I love my job.

Also another good reason not to ride the bus. I mean…holy shit.



IT LOOKS LIKE DOMO-KUN.


Shut up, Blue Space.





525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear. 525,600 minutes - how do you measure, measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee. In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. In 525,600 minutes - how do you measure a year in the life?
(from "Seasons of Love")

It has been exactly a year since I began this chapter of life called retirement. How should I measure these past 12 months, 525,600 minutes, of living. What tools and perspectives should I use to analyze this experience? I don't think that simply listing what I have done will capture the adventure it has been. I have been thinking alot about how this year has changed me, asking how has it been different then any year that came before? It has been helpful to examine this question from the following perspectives.


Physical Health: Simply put, I am living a much healthier lifestyle. I have been able to reduce cardiac and blood pressure medications. My weight has decreased by 15 pounds. I walk three miles at least four times a week. Weekly Tai Chi classes have introduced stretching, meditation, and balance to my life. It is my responsibility to do the grocery shopping, to plan and prepare our meals. We eat a healthy home made supper as a family almost every night. We now include fresh vegetables and fruit in our daily diet. Very little red meat is included in our diet and I've become proficient at subtituting ground turkey in many recipies. Fish is an important part of our meals also and I drink at least two cups of green tea daily as well as much water as I can consume. When I worked, my physical health was of the lowest priority. I skipped meals, ate fast food on a daily basis, was always tired if not exhausted. I wonder how much more effective I would have been if I had adopted these healthier habits earlier.


Relationships: While serving as a parish pastor the relationships with those I served was of the primary priority. That is where I placed my energies, patience, and compassion. This, unfortunately, meant my family received what was left over which I admit was not my best. They experienced me at my most tired, impatient, and stressed. They continued to love and accept me. I have focused this past year on sharing energy, time, and love with my spouse, children, and grandchildren. One of the big changes, of course, is my availability to them. If they need me, I drop whatever else I am doing. My life has been immensely enriched by my interactions with all the various members of my family. I get great satisfaction and joy from preparing the meals, cleaning the house, making John's lunch, and hosting the extended family for Sunday suppers and special events. A special time of day is following the evening meal when Mary and I work together to clean the table and wash the dishes. In my work life I most often missed supper or was hurrying out the door for a meeting. Now having dinner ready when Mary comes home from work is a daily gift that I look forward to preparing. I do greatly miss the daily interactions with the staff and members of our former parish. Filling that void is an ongoing challenge as I had few relationships outside of the parish when I was working. Finding opportunities to establish new friendships will be a priority for this year.


Spiritual Well-Being: The focus of my time and energies preretirement was in doing ministry. The emphasis was on the doing, the action, the work, the activity, and the results. I was blessed to be serving in a growing, thriving, and exciting parish. There was a real sense that the Holy Spirit was leading and guiding us. I woke each morning anticipating the challenges and opportunities that God would throw our way. It was a stressful, energizing, and rewarding life style. Now, in retirement, the focus of my time and energies is on experiencing God's grace in my life and in the lives of those around me. The emphasis is on the experience; the feelings and emotions, the presence of the Divine in my life and relationships. It is an approach to life marked by an openness and patience that I had not practiced before. I begin each morning with prayers that emphasize a yielding of my will and an acknowlegement that God is in control. The result of this change of focus from doing to experiencing is a sense of peace and well-being that is new to me. It is life lived with an expectation that each day I will be surprised with a Divine moment of Grace; a smile from my spouse, John's "I love you, Dad", a grandchild's laughter, an adult child's phone call, softly falling snow, birds at the birdfeeder, an e-mail from a friend, etc., etc.


Work and Ministry: This practice of yielding and openness has meant that I haven't pursued ministry opportunities but have waited patiently for them to present themselves. During the past year I have had a significant number of invitations to lead retreats, preach at special occassions, serve on leadership teams for the synod and region, and mentor individual pastors. I have been most grateful for these opportunities to share skills, experience, and my passion for ministry. The time between these responsibilities is used to reflect, debrief, and prayerfully plan for the next scheduled event. In preretirement there was always a immediate rush onto the next challenge without the benefit of "recovery time". I look forward to whatever opportunities Christ leads me to next.
The Future: I don't know and that is OK with me. I am sure it will be exciting and rewarding. The gratefullness I feel for this chapter in my life is more than I can adequately describe. It is truly a "season of love".


NEW WEBSITE

FINALLY, the website is finished! it will be up and ready for your viewing pleasure within the next couple days. STAY TUNED

Some faces


Super-Heroine or Space-Hooker?

Here's another sample from the crummy old comics I got for my students.

This copy of Superboy #206 is stained and warped, presumably from a water spill some time back in February 1975. The lead story, written by Cary Bates and stiffly drawn by Mike Grell, concerns (get ready for this) a pair of clones of dead members of a team of teen super-heroes who are sent a thousand years back in time (to the present) to test 30th-century cloning technology. They survive the test, but blow up when they return to the future, because clones blow up forty-eight hours after they are created.

I mentioned that the drawings in that story are stiff. The men in the story (and there aren't many women) all have zero body fat and a bad case of Spread-Eagle Syndrome: they tend to stand with their feet about four feet apart. I should scan a few of those images for you, just so you don't think I'm knocking Mike Grell for no reason.

But we are not here today to mock "The Legionnaires Who Haunted Superboy." Instead, I want to comment briefly on the thing that struck me most prominently in the back-up story, which features Princess Projectra (another member of that 30th-century teen super-hero team) and a series of unsettling illusions involving her family. The plot isn't important. I want to talk about the outfits.

Actually, that monster is kind of cool, at least in concept: it seems to be based on a sort of trilateral symmetry, which is an interesting idea. What makes it especially creepy is the combination of that three-part body plan with elements (like its pecs, or its mouth) of our bilateral bodies. It's the sort of thing you might see in our demon book, now that I think of it.

But have a look at Princess Projectra's outfit. I'm pretty sure this is one of Dave Cockrum's designs. When he started drawing Legion of Super-Heroes costumes in the '70s, he redesigned pretty much all of the costumes, moving away from the standard jumpsuit (or skirted jumpsuit, for the ladies) toward designs that looked more super-heroic in that swashbuckling, bold Cockrum manner. For the men, this meant v-shaped costume elements moving from the shoulders to mid-torso, and for the women it meant cutouts from skintight costumes. Some of these designs are real successes. You can see a nice study in contrasts, drawn by none other than Jaime Hernandez, in a recent blog post by Evan Dorkin, where Jaime draws Phantom Girl in her Cockrum gear (sassy!) and then in her previous, 1960s costume (simple!).

Cockrum designed the original costumes for most of the new X-Men back in the '70s, too, and the eight-year-old Isaac who filled spiral notebooks with his own superheroes used a lot of pointy epaulets, tall boots, and (consummate) v-shaped torso patterns. That stuff got into my head almost as much as Kirby's design sense, and it still shows up in my superhero doodles from time to time.


But this Princess Projectra stuff? This outfit is not one of the successes. Probably it at least looked lively when Cockrum drew it, but in Mike Grell's hands it looks awkward, improbable, and inappropriate for kids. It's hard to imagine a real person wearing such a get-up, outside of maybe some sort of go-go-themed '70s softcore movie. It does not look wholesome. Yes, it is cut out just as deeply in back as in front. Yes, the cape is actually just a really big choker necklace.

But what irks me is the sudden flash of yellow in her bikini area. Well, that and the elaborate arm cutouts. It's not a graceful design, except possibly when she's posed in a ramrod-straight posture that discourages the viewer from thinking about how the costume works.

...Of course, when you combine the Cockrum "boldness" with Grell's apparent trouble in getting a head to match up with a body, any character can start to look like a space-hooker. I've seen plenty of drawings of this Saturn Girl costume that looked fairly innocent, even though the design itself is pretty racy...

...but Grell's version seriously looks like she's waiting to get paid.

And so, dear diary, I sign off, dedicating this post to Blockade Boy, who has a lot to say about super-hero couture...