Sunday 28 January 2007

Tower twins

I’m mentioning Foer’s Extremely loud and Incredibly Close a third time on this blog, not because I like it more than books I’ve mentioned only once, but because it’s parked nearby and I keep tripping over its mooring ropes. The business at the end of the book …

Spoiler. If you’re precious about endings go and read somebody else’s blog.

The thing about this ending is that it’s a flick-book, which means that you see and read that part of it before you get the book out of the shop. Stills from the video of a man plunging from one of the doomed towers are reversed so that he is defying gravity and going back up. I had thought there would be a whole genre of books putting the matter of the towers right by just imagining it backwards. Foer’s ending works in its context, "He would've spit coffee into his mug, unbrushed his teeth and put his hair on with a razor..." and I don’t mind the sentimentality, as some have done. This reviewer does but allows that the book is a linguistically sophisticated fable, and 9/11 is a smokescreen obscuring its true nature.

I found myself dutifully illustrating a similar wish fulfilment in Captain America when I drew the art for two issues in Early 2004 (it's the last 44 pages in the 176 page Captain America: Homeland, with all the art otherwise by Chris Bachalo. A tough act to follow, what? But don't go buying it unless you're interested in that sort of thing.). The script was by Bob Morales, and it worked on its own terms. Or it would have if Marvel hadn’t nobbled it. But Bob was way too hopeful. First he wanted to make Steve (Cap) Rodgers president of the USA. When Marvel nixed that one, just so he could get the story done, he had Cap whisked away to an alternate time-stream where the black Cap, Isaiah Bradley, got to be president. When we finally get to see him, Isaiah is wearing a t-shirt that says, “Han shot first!” which, in due course, gives Cap the idea of going back and changing history. Marvel nixed the t-shirt too, not wanting to invite a tangle with Lucas. That was after all the art had been done, so I got my assistant on this job, Stewart Mckenny to put a different emblem on all the t-shirts through the piece (I think I still have xeroxes with the original version somewhere around here…) and the narrative logic doesn't quite scan now. There was also a bit of time-twister malarkey where a problem gets solved in panel 4 of a page and then chucked back into panel 1 to head the problem off in the first place, but Marvel decided that metafictional devices don't occur in the Marvel universe. And that seems fair enough to me. You wouldn't want piss takers in your camp. I don’t know what gave Bob the idea all this was feasible in the first place. Me, I just wanted to do a job and get paid. But anyway, it all ends with the towers back up, suitably not quite right with huge blimps moored to them. It's the final page in the book:

(click to enlarge.)

It’s Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn, and happy people are out walking in the sunshine and yachts are sweeping by on the river in this sidelined continuity that never happened. Nobody has ever commented on this before, and I guess Marvel didn't notice it either, but I made the cheerful strolling people into poignant stages of might–have–been in the finished romance between Steve and Rebecca. They are the two children playing in the fountain, they are young parents with a baby-carriage and a toddler, and they are the elderly couple with the poodle in this sad sunday afternoon metafiction of impossible reversals.

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Blogger James Robert Smith said...

This is a Marvel comic book?

As I've stated, I don't go into comic book shops anymore. They creep me out. So there's no way I'd have heard of this one. I'll shop for it online.

28 January 2007 at 09:26:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Christopher Moonlight said...

Hmm... A Greek mythology buff, closes Pandora's jar. I will have to think on it. The art is beautiful. I will have to look for it.

28 January 2007 at 12:04:00 GMT-5  

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