Funnybook Babylon

August 13, 2008

FBBP #66 – Interim Crisis

FBB is at full power, discussing the relaunches of The Authority, NYX: No Way Home, and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane as a nice appetizer platter. We cleanse the palate with a quick Jeph Loeb Happy Hour toasting the Hulk before our main course:

Final Crisis #3 gets the full treatment as we discuss the philosophical issues therein and whether or not Joe can possibly understand what the hell is going on. For a more focused discussion of FC, please refer to David U’s awesome annotations here.


  1. I’ve listened to about half of it so far. It’s great. The mix is right and so is the pre-intro banter.

    It’s tight and enjoyable to listen to.

    I hope one day you could incorporate listener/reader emails (whether they are questions or comments) into the show. It could prove to be entertaining.

    Comment by Joe Don Baker — August 13, 2008 @ 10:39 pm

  2. Joe,

    That sounds like a great idea! We’ll definitely consider that.

    Comment by Jamaal — August 14, 2008 @ 9:04 am

  3. I thought True Believers was great for the very reasons you said it sucked:

    “…weaponizing wi-fi and have midgets chloroform superheroes dressed up as hookers who then the superhero allows themselves to be knocked out and then stripped naked and put into a gladiator outfit and thrown into a pit…”

    Wait, you’re trying to tell me that doesn’t sound like an awesome concept?!!! I thought True Believers #1 was a lot of fun.

    Comment by Nick Marino — August 14, 2008 @ 1:05 pm

  4. Did you guys do something different with the recording this time? I usually have difficulty hearing you, but you came through loud and clear on this one.

    Which is great because the entire “Rulk” section made my sides hurt.

    Comment by Onion — August 14, 2008 @ 7:04 pm

  5. On Jamaal’s concerns re freedom. It seems to me that Jamaal and Morrison are probably talking about two or perhaps three conceptions of the word. In the first instance there’s the trivial, vaguely defined “freedom” talk that seems to be popular with a certain section of the American populace, then there’s the reality of Western freedoms which are in actual fact quite complicated social and economic constructs and certainly don’t reference any kind of platonic freedom essence. Finally there’s the freedom that I guess Morrison is referencing, which I think it’s safe to assume is more existential in character, and as such can be considered (if one is so philosophically minded) fundamental to human existence. Sartre, and others, would consider the negation of this kind of freedom the negation of said existence. Hence “anti-life”.

    I know none of this is explained explicitly in the text, but I think it *is* there implicity. Afterall, Morrison could have gone the well worn route of painting anti-life as a riff on death, and/or some sort of simplistic destruction force, instead he’s describing a force that removes free-will, and that necessarily has to bring with 70 plus years of existential philosophy.

    Whether these concerns tap into peculiarly Western anxieties, I can’t say, although I’d suspect so. They certainly tie up with certain historical and political narratives that we value in the West (some more silly than others). What is for certain is that for Sartre and co it doesn’t matter who or where you are, a force that negates free will is a very bad thing indeed. Of course, there are those that would wish to place Sartre’s thinking in a historical context and criticise it on those grounds, but that’s a whole ‘nother conversation.

    On the broader question of defining the specifics of anti-life, I’m going to have to bring in David Lynch. It seems to me that, like Lynch, GM is often more concerned with how things feel than how they are, hence the lack of detail (which may or may not be rectified), and playing up of horror.

    *Honestly, I think this is critical to understanding a lot of his creative choices

    Comment by Zom — August 21, 2008 @ 9:46 am

  6. Zom,

    I agree that Morrison is discussing an existential notion of freedom rather than a more simplistic one, but I think that the distinction is less clear in Final Crisis than it was in some of his other work that grappled with similar themes.

    I don’t really have too much of a problem with Morrison’s use of principles that largely derive from Western values, it’s just that I find the execution wanting. In contrast with David Lynch’s work, I don’t feel anything. No sense of dread or horror. Despite all of J.G. Jones’ efforts to create an atmosphere of terror, Final Crisis reminds me of a ghost story told by a brilliant philosophy professor. Perhaps I’m being too cynical, or am unwilling to ‘go along for the ride’, but the threat seems overly academic and insubstantial. The concept of ‘absolute evil’ seems overly simplistic.

    The funny thing is that one of the reasons I’ve grown to expect more from superhero comics is Grant Morrison himself. His deconstruction of the freedom vs. oppression paradigm was one of the most brilliant aspects of The Invisibles, and was also impressively explored in Seven Soldiers. Here, I just don’t think it works.

    I appreciate the fact that he is referencing existential free will, but I wish that it was applied in a more compelling way.

    Comment by Jamaal Thomas — August 21, 2008 @ 12:54 pm

  7. Perhaps I’m being too cynical, or am unwilling to ‘go along for the ride’

    No, I don’t think so, and TBH I’d be disinclined to criticise anyone’s opinions on those grounds.

    The concept of ‘absolute evil’ seems overly simplistic.

    Well yes, it’s certainly very problematic, but I think there are two potential outs. Firstly, if one did subscribe to a Sartrian (or similar) philosophy then one might be keen to make the case that to deny someone’s free-will is the very worst thing in the world evar. Secondly, pure evil might not work as a concept, but perhaps it can be deployed narratively by creating a text that meditates on what really bad things feel like. It seems to me that Morrison holds an opinion not dissimilar to Sartre’s, and that he is attempting to articulate pure evil in the way I describe above. Whether he’s succeeding or not is another question. A problem that he quite obviously faces is that he’s working within a rather silly fictional universe, out of which it must be quite difficult to milk genuine emotional weight.

    Comment by Zom — August 22, 2008 @ 6:29 am

  8. Zom,

    Perhaps I’m misinterpreting you, but I didn’t intend for the ‘cynical’ comment to be a dig at people who enjoy Final Crisis. I think a lack of cynicism and ‘being able to go along for the ride’ is a positive thing, especially when reading comics. I genuinely wish that I enjoyed the title more than I do, because I’m a big Grant Morrison fan.

    As far as your second point, I agree with your point, and I hope that he’s able to find a way (in the remaining issues of the series) to effectively communicate what “really bad things feel like”. I agree that Morrison probably holds Sartrian views, or at the very least is trying to articulate them in Final Crisis.

    Thanks a lot for commenting, and I hope you enjoyed the podcast.

    Comment by Jamaal — August 22, 2008 @ 7:09 am

  9. Thanks, the podcast is great – almost certainly better than our recent effort (which I have yet to hear). The words drunken and shambolic spring to mind.

    You are misinterpreting me, I didn’t consider that a dig at anyone other than yourself. The thing is, as far as I’m concerned if you don’t connect with a work you should be looking for faults in the telling in the first instance, and only then look to your own subjectivity.

    Comment by Zom — August 22, 2008 @ 10:02 am

  10. I’ve been chewing through your back catalog, and this is GREAT. “Nothing can move the Blob!” “Yeah? Well, NOT BEING A HOMO can move the Blob!”

    Comment by DensityDuck — November 7, 2008 @ 6:29 pm

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