Funnybook Babylon

October 29, 2008

FBBP #77 – A Spidery Meta-Argument About a Single Panel

Filed under: Podcasts — Tags: , , , , — Joseph Mastantuono @ 3:40 pm

Joe has returned from Korea to talk to Chris, Jamaal, and Pedro about Secret Invasion, Final Crisis, and the rumors that have been floating around the blogoverse. It’s followed it up with what was supposed to be a short discussion of Amazing Spider-Man #574, but became a long drawn out argument. Listeners Beware. Shockingly, Pedro comes in as the voice of reason. It is a troubling harbinger of the apocalypse.

As a side note: The new editors page is up with easier ways to contact us.


  1. The current Mr. Terrific was actually created by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake in the pages of THE SPECTRE ongoing, near the end of its run.

    Comment by Kevin Huxford — October 30, 2008 @ 5:21 pm

  2. Kevin,

    I’ve always loved that run. For some reason, I thought Mr. Terrific was around before then. Thanks for the correction.

    Comment by Jamaal Thomas — October 30, 2008 @ 11:08 pm

  3. Joe,

    Chris Sims of Chris’s Invincible Super-Blog disliked the Flash Thompson-centric Amazing Spider-Man issue, though he didn’t go so far as to call it a masturbatory meta-wank. He focuses on the odd tone shifts in the story, but he does hit on the meta-wankery.

    “Using a fictional character that has been plugged into what appear to be completely random stories as a cipher to represent the sacrifice of American soldiers in a real-life war–in a story where the message is that their acts are directly inspired by fictional characters in an oroborous of heroism…”

    Comment by Brian Taylor — October 31, 2008 @ 11:34 am

  4. I don’t think I got this across, but I did like the issue, despite what I thought was meta-wankery. I think the issue does use nostalgia, and direct reference to try to bring a certain emotional response to the reader… I just feel that if that panel doesn’t evoke a specific emotion from you the issue falls flat on it’s face.

    Comment by Joseph Mastantuono — October 31, 2008 @ 12:06 pm

  5. You never really answered that for me. But what is this specific emotion that I need to get?

    Comment by Pedro Tejeda — October 31, 2008 @ 1:36 pm

  6. Brian,

    I totally agree with Sims about the diminishing return that is Flash Thompson. Hell, I think that logic can be applied to a lot of different characters. The only part I disagree with is this: “the message is that their acts are directly inspired by fictional characters”. I can’t disagree with this more. The story is: a fictional character inspired by another fictional character who has played a pretty significant role in that characters life.

    As a reader, the book reminded me of the impact that people could have on each others lives, not the impact that fictional superheroes can have on real people.

    Comment by Jamaal Thomas — October 31, 2008 @ 4:08 pm

  7. Hey Jamaal:

    I need to read the issue again, but I think that the authorial intent, combined with the letter printed at the end, was for the reader to make the parallel that just as Flash was inspired by someone who was real to him, it’s okay for the reader to be inspired by a fictional character because courage is real and worthy of respect regardless of how real or fictional the inspirational figure is. But we’ll agree to disagree.

    The winks to the long-time Spider-Man readers, such as the recalled panels in this issue, are actually what’s been bugging me about the Brand New Day and post-BND books. They seem very clumsily and annoyingly coy, and they leave a lot of ambiguity about what the status actually is. Writers like Slott can assure the readers in Newsarama and CBR interviews all they like about how that ambiguity will be tackled in future stories, but I’ll believe it when I see it. To some extent, it’s the same criticism that’s been leveled against Morrison’s style in Final Crisis.

    Lastly, I too find some of the intersections between reality and fiction uncomfortable because the leaps in logic that connect the two are so wide. I hate the 9/11 Spider-Man issue because it seemed like fanfic of the worst kind, and I dreaded Frank Miller’s Batman vs. Al Qaeda.

    Comment by Brian Taylor — October 31, 2008 @ 4:51 pm

  8. Re: Marvel’s events vs. their aftermath/tie-ins.

    Bendis has mentioned in interviews before that initially he pitched Dark Reign as an event, and after Joe Q and he shot the bull about it for awhile, Secret Invasion came about as a shoehorned story that would lead into his initial pitch of Dark reign. So Secret Invasion wasn’t really the story that Bendis planned on telling, and I personally think it shows.

    Comment by Preston — November 1, 2008 @ 2:01 pm

  9. Jamaal: My pleasure. I didn’t mean it as a nitpick correction, but just helping out on a question.

    Joe: For what it’s worth, without even reading the book, I think I understood what you were trying to express about the attempt to associate the comic book hero with the real sacrifices that soldiers make. At least that’s how it sounded to me.

    Comment by Kevin Huxford — November 1, 2008 @ 8:39 pm

  10. Anyone remember ‘Nam? I always thought ‘Nam added credibility to the Marvel line, by capitalizing on a trend (the fascination with the Vietnam War in the 80s) and giving us a narrative that was ripped from actual stories. This was the comic book version of the Wire.

    Why can’t we have a “Generation Zero”-style comic book from Marvel Comics, where we have soldiers send in stories that make it into the comic book as part of the ongoing narrative? Give it to Larry Hama and Phil Noto and you have a really interesting book.

    Comment by Gary Ancheta — November 4, 2008 @ 2:04 am

  11. Just listened to this podcast and had to completely agree that the intent is there to say that comic books inspire people. I think the selection of iconic panels says it all. If the goal were just to show how Spider-Man influenced Flash, then I imagine they’d flash back to classic stories, except told from Flash’s perspective. If your goal is to show how Flash is personally shaped by Spider-Man, then showing a third-person view of Flash or the incredibly iconic image of Spider-Man struggling under the weight of that heavy machinery is the wrong way to go about it.

    The heavy machinery shot is especially important. It comes from Amazing Spider-Man #33, one of the most discussed issues of Ditko’s run. Spider-Man spends the first six pages or so trapped under machinery, water slowly flooding the room, and debates whether he should continue to struggle or just give up. His struggle against both his circumstances and himself is often acknowledged as the point where Spider-Man transformed from a geeky high school kid in a costume into a hero (see Douglas Wolk’s Reading Comics for the most comprehensive exegesis of this story). This is not a story you allude to unless you’re trying to say something about heroism.

    What is important to note is that Spider-Man is alone for all of this. There are no spectators–Doctor Octopus is long gone by this point. I can’t imagine that this particular story would end up in the papers in the Marvel universe. It’s safe to say that only Peter Parker knows of the struggle he went through on that day. So why does Flash picture a panel from this comic book?

    I think it’s clear that the issue was meant to work on two levels: Flash is inspired by Spider-Man, but the iconic Spider-Man images is acknowledging that people in the real world are just as inspired.

    Comment by Tim — November 5, 2008 @ 12:59 pm

  12. Late comment because I just caught up to this podcast.

    Agree with Jamaal completely on this point. “The story is: a fictional character inspired by another fictional character who has played a pretty significant role in that characters life.”

    However it seems like an incredibly easy thing to get into the mindset that spider man “isn’t a real person” because he’s not. To us. This could easily trick you into thinking the story was about fiction inspiring reality instead of fiction inspiring fiction.

    Sure it used an extremely well known panel… but as the writer What else are you supposed to use to illustrate the point that “Flash pictures an emotionally powerful moment where spidey sucks it up and perseveres” ?

    Do you limit yourself to things that Flash may have in his actual head? or do you grab a powerful moment and toss it up there with the understanding that the reader is going to see it and get an instant recognition of what Flash is thinking of?

    is the nitpick seriously that “Flash couldn’t have actually known that this moment happened so he wouldn’t draw upon it for inspiration?” What if the story got around through word of mouth? Flash clearly has had a spiderman obsession so maybe he’s got a creepy level of detail about spiderman in his brain and he did know about this moment?

    Anyway, regardless I was entertained by the discussion and I could see the arguments on both sides, Jamaal just won me over in the end.

    Comment by Mike G. — November 6, 2008 @ 7:25 pm

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