Showing posts with label Darkseid. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Darkseid. Show all posts

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Leave It Alone! No 1: Jack Kirby's New Gods

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1. My Pitch For Robin Hood (part 1.)

Listen to this! I have a new idea for Robin Hood. It's a good one. I think it'll sell.

No. I know it'll sell.

More than just making shed-loads of money, my vision of Robin Hood is very artistic too. It's going to take Robin Hood to places no-one has ever been brave enough to take the character to before.

So get this!

First scene. No warning. Sherwood Forest burns to the ground.

100 000 acres of very big trees and lots of little jumping animals and birds and frogs and things going up in the hugest firestorm you can imagine. A bigger, fiercer firestorm than anybody could imagine! Nobody could imagine this. The best artist in the world couldn't.

How amazing will that look? It'll look so awesome it'll be like 3-D, no, 4-D, in your head!

Can't you see it now? Don't you want to see it right now?

2. Nuking That Coral Reef

Jim Starlin said a remarkable thing about Jack Kirby's Fourth World saga in an interview with Matt Brady on Newsarama in 2007. Talking about his then-new series "Death Of The New Gods", in which he'd been commissioned to wipe out the entire cast of Kirby's 1970's comic book epic, Mr Starlin said;

"Since Kirby's initial run on the characters others have presented them with mixed results. Looking back I'd say at least half of the past New Gods series have done more harm than good. So for me, Death of the New Gods is half honoring Jack Kirby, half mercy killing."

At first glance, Mr Starlin's statement reads like a respectful and fond statement by a creator weary of the misuse of some of his favourite characters, which all goes to show us how too much familiarity with a subject can obscure our understanding of it. Because we need a little distance here, to make proper sense of what Mr Starlin said. What if, as a thought experiment, we were to imagine that Mr Starlin was a politician talking about a unique and vital physical resource which has until now suffered from mismanagement, some of which has been well-meaning and competent, and some not. Let's say, for point of argument, that the endangered resource was the Great Barrier Reef, and Mr Starlin, entrusted with its fate, made the following declaration;

"There's been alot of harm done to the Great Barrier Reef. Pollution has eaten away at the coral. Tourists are destroying the structure of the reef. There's rubbish everywhere. And attempts at environmental control have been half-hearted and less-than successful. So I'm going to drop an atom bomb on it. I look upon it honouring God. We'll never be able to do as well as the big G. did, so I see this as half as an act of worship, half a really big radioactive explosion in the ocean off the coast of Australia."

4. Mutuality, Stewardship

There's a lovely and pertinent concept in ecological theory called stewardship, in its religious sense, or mutuality, in its secular form. Put simply, these terms refers to a perceived moral responsibility to preserve the diversity, the good health, of the environment. P J Taylor, for example, talks about the need for " ... an attitude of respect for nature ... ", in order to ensure that we don't put what we see as our immediate individual and collective gain above the survival of the complexity of the world around us.

It's not just that it's in our own obvious advantage that Taylor argues we ought to be caring for our world, though he's very keenly aware that there are immediate and pressing imperatives behind saving our world. But there's a moral argument too, which, put simply, is that we ought to care because we ought to care. It's a wonderful, unique thing, this world of ours, and if we screw it up, we can't bring it back. We should look after it, protect it, and pass it on the next generation and teach them to do the same.

It's a lovely idea, of course, and I won't bog down the simple beauty of it by delving here into some of the contorted logic used to support it philosophically and practically. The simple truth of it is that environmental diversity is a tremendously good idea.

5. Embarrassed Before Brilliance - Jack Kirby's Fourth World

I get embarrassed when I read Jack Kirby's Fourth World comics. Some of that is, I hope, the understandable shamefaced realisation that I still don't understand the half of what Kirby was up to with his New Gods saga, a sense triggered every time I come back to those books after a period away and find that they read better on every occasion I return. But more shameful is a sense that I can't ever precisely intellectually justify my belief that Kirby's work here is absolutely brilliant to all and any of those who'd look at his pages and just see the muscles, the grimaces and the krackle. I felt the same trying to defend myself against the cat-calls which went up amongst some mates at a Brentford versus Spurs cup game in 1995 when it became known that I'd thoroughly enjoyed the Ballet Rambert a few night before. In the absence of a common critical framework, there's no defence against scorn, and writing this makes me realise that I feel vulnerable when I can't bring out the heavy guns of critical theory to support me when I say how much I adore, for example, "Mister Miracle" # 9, which contains the quite wonderful story "Himon".

Chalk this shameful embarrassment down, if you will, to Paul Cornell's theory that most fanboys and girls were bullied at some point in their childhood. Or, more likely, to a kind of intellectual cowardice.

But what's wonderful about "Himon", for example, is that Kirby himself operates so far from any great depth of formal education, and is yet so quite evidently creatively brilliant and intellectually incandescent, that he sidesteps critical analysis itself. Indeed, I strongly believe that a Jack Kirby who wasn't such a passionate autodidact, who'd sat through years and years of the conformist grind of tier upon tier of formal education, could never have produced the Fourth World in all its ambiguous and complex glory. Is, to take but one example, his dialogue clunky? Oh, of course, but that's actually part of his brilliance. It's clunky, but then again, it always rings true, which is appropriate, because he's created characters which are literally Gods to the ordinary folks of the DC Universe and they surely don't talk like us. Better yet, and here the accidents of education and ability unexpectedly clash to produce a fantastic synthesis, Kirby's characters don't quite fit any easily-grasped or applied character types, and they certainly don't always sit easily and simply as metaphors for one dimensional qualities such as "good" and "evil". Oh yes, there are lots of exceptions, of course. Lightray is obviously a "mirror", an "enabler", the heroes' best friend, and Highfather is obviously God, of sorts, of course. But there's enough conceptual slippage, enough ambiguity, between what Kirby's doing and whatever theoretical armoury can be brought to bear upon his work, that what he's done retains it's perplexing and consequently-pleasing uniqueness. Or: we can't ever quite get "it" because Kirby didn't produce work that was precisely "gettable".

And that clunky dialogue accentuates this. If Kirby had been considerably more precise in how he had his character's express themselves, if he was hamstrung by formal standards which retarded his wonderfully bright primitivism, then these Gods would just sound more or less like us. But they don't, and even when they're talking about obvious and familiar concepts - fate, duty, loss - they do so in an awkward and glorious way which suggests to us that there's something we don't understand about their lives. It's as if we're listening to a translation which can only capture some of their complex syntax and very little of their Godly culture and its meaning.

Which of course is a very good idea, since they're Gods. I'll say it again because lots of folks in very high places don't seem to have heard the word yet. God's aren't supposed to be so like us that the difference between us and them becomes easy to bridge.

6. My Pitch For Robin Hood (part 2.)

So, the Green Wood has burnt to the ground. And not all of the Merry Men make it out. In fact, most of them won't. Oh, there's lots of good deaths, which I can explain later, and they're not gross deaths at all. There's lots of poetic moments as the Merry Men are burnt to death. There's sacrifice and self-sacrifice, last shouted brave words and men swishing punches at walls of fire just to show that they're blokes who'll go down fighting. And so it's just Robin and Little John and Friar Tuck who survive. And Robin will be utterly haunted by the destruction. All the people and plants and bamboo lemurs and things. He won't be able to feel at home, truly at home, in any other forest. He's lost, you see, and broken.

He never takes his hood down now. (I'm thinking that he might have it sown really tightly to his head so that he can't. As a penance.) And all we ever see are shadows where his eyes used to be. Just so we know how haunted he is.

note: In fact, I'd like your opinion on something here. I'm thinking about him losing one of the eyes. Maybe the right one, or maybe the left. In the fire. It's a symbol, you understand, that he wasn't doing his job properly where the Forest was concerned. You know, he wasn't watching, and now he can't look at things properly. It's like destiny, like a curse. Like fate. It's powerful stuff.

He could even loose both eyes. Ninja archers can be monks without any eyes, can't they?

He could even loose his trigger fingers. To show he's a hero. He could have metal ones fitted, with little string pulleys in them, so he can tighten a bow-string, and let it go too.

It's a metaphor.

7. Open Endings

Kirby's complex, ever-changing version of the Fourth World has proved to be the only environmental niche in which his characters and their settings can lastingly prosper in. Take his characters out of the Kirby-esque milieu and they flounder. Leave them on Earth amidst all the other superpeople and they wither until they're just more super-people themselves. Introduce ordinary superpeople and their mundane, straight-forward conflicts into Apokolips and Super-Town and the entire Fourth World becomes just another super-heroic conurbation, just another big energy-blast punch-up on the traffic news between the weather and this morning's quiz.

But that hasn't stopped DC Comics trying. Within four or five years of taking the Fourth World titles off the stands, the DC editorial offices started re-booting the concepts, and since the late '80s, the pace of reboot-and-revival has dizzingly speed up. And each time, these reboots have failed, and they've failed critically as well as in the market-place. Without the askew brilliance of Kirby, the New Gods became superheroes, and taken out of the ecological niche of Kirbyness, they started to flounder, and then horribly mutate, as comic-book natural selection starts to show why Darwin was so keen not to associate evolution with moral or physical progression.

The problem is that DC editorial over the longterm has rarely proven itself capable of taking a responsible, long-term view of any property they can exploit. (Anyone who saw the two-page spread of a dozen returned-from-the-dead characters in the recent "Blackest Night" # 8 must surely have been less relieved and touched by their return and more appalled at how any publishing house could have killed off so many wonderful, and potentially lucrative,. characters in the first place!) But short-termism and golly-gee-wow-isms rule in comic book editorial land. And where we might look for at best some stewardship, and at worst some basic knowledge about how stories work and how characters function, we get an endless headlong rush towards attention-getting and sales-figures feedback. (It never goes well.)

Because that's how unmediated capitalism works. Companies must make profits, and jobs and promotion-earning prestige rely on generating profit in the immediate short-term too. And no amount of caring political flim-flam can change that until the companies themselves start to see things differently.

Until then, it's strip-mining of every property all the way.

8. A Perpetual Testosterone Apocalypse

I raided the graphic novel section of the library of a local town yesterday. And on the way back, as the splendid wife herself raided a nursery of every flowering thing that she could lay her holiday hands upon, I sat in the warm spring sunlight in her car's passenger seat and nosed my way through what I'd got so carefully stacked in my cannabis-library bag.

First out was the Strontium Dog collection "The Final Solution", wherein the title-character is for some reason killed off and many of the series most familiar tropes, such as the wonderful orbiting "Dog-house", a satellite station for mutant bounty hunters, destroyed. Somewhere back in 1988, where these stories originated, somebody had thought themselves rich enough - or bored enough, perhaps - to authorise the wiping out of much of the story-telling ecology of a perfectly successful strip. And they succeded in wiping the ground pretty much clear, and for what? Some angst, some big bangs, and then some more angst.

I had no idea why the stewards of 2000AD had permitted that, so I shrugged and moved on to "Stormwatch: PHD World's End", from the far more recent vintage of 2008/09. And therein the entire world of the Wildstorm Universe has been effectively destroyed, to be replaced by an apocalypse-101 post-holocaust Earth, populated by a huge amount of traumatised superpeople and a sheep-like mass of human victims. Despite the typically literate script by Ian Edginton, one of my favourite writers of current months, the comic book itself was the ultimate example of editorial mismanagement, as if it'd been designed to symbolise the exploitational processes which have slash'n'burned their way through the comic book milieu over these long decades. All there is on show here in "Stormwatch" is super-people, super-angst, and a ruined world. There's nothing distinctive in what we're looking at. There wasn't a single issue or conflict which couldn't have been played out equally or more effectively against the backdrop of the modern world. A comic book set in modern day New Jersey and Delhi, for example, would provide far more complex, complicated and interesting environments. All there is in "Stormwatch" is a rent-a-role-playing scenario of an exhausted world with lots of cape-fighting cape-wearing muscles.

The third graphic novel in the pile was a "Cable" collection from last year. I need say no more, I guess. It felt as if I was knee deep in the banality of the end of the world. When my wife loaded up the car with Clematis, I felt I ought to check them for radioactivity.

Now, I know that this isn't a random sample. I know that nothing can be generalised from 3 collections idly abstracted from 22 years of British and American comics. I know it's chance that those three books came to hand, and I realise that they no more constitute evidence that super-people comic books have gone to a scorched earth hell than that you could say rock music was dying in 1994 because 3 singles just happened to have a god-awful tame rap in the middle of them.

But sometimes it seems that's so much of what little's left after decades of comic book factory farming is hordes of Mad-Maxian super people fighting over generically identical ruined worlds.

9. My Pitch For Robin Hood (Part 3)

Here's where it really gets sophisticated. Little John is crippled in the fire, and Friar Tuck convinces the big fella that Robin's to blame. So, Robin is being stalked through the ash and stuff left after the fire by the crippled John in his wooden wheelchair - I'm showing respect to people who struggle getting around, you see - while Tuck's off setting light to forests all across Europe. Maybe even the world.

Friar thinks he's serving God, y'see, because he thinks God's told him to bring on the apocolypse so that everyone will be happy. It being a vale of tears in the Forest before with all the plague and the bad diet and the rotten teeth. And stuff.

Anyway, in the end, Robin simply has to kill John. He doesn't want to, but John traps him by blocking off Robin's exit with his wheelchair. Which has arrow-firing devices on its' arm-rests. And Robin has no choice. He can't let himself be trapped there and get killed by the wooden wheelchair of death. So he throws himself at John and drives both his metal bow-string-pulling fingers through his old friend's forehead. He propels them so far in that it's hard for him to get them out. He has to flail around the body until they come loose. There's blood everywhere.

And as he gets the fingers free - or maybe he has to unattach them and leave them there - he knocks off John's hood. (John's wearing a hood, obviously.) And he realises that he's killed his old friend. Which is like losing him twice because he thought he was already dead. It's like twice as many ghosts of Little John are haunting him.*

(*That's why I'm torn about having Robin loose both eyes. I'm not sure if it'll be so powerful a scene if Robin has to feel John's face with his fingers after killing him in order to recognise him. I don't even know whether Robin ever felt John's face when he could see so that he could recognise him now he can't with a quick feel. And, you see, I think you have to go straight from Robin's horrified face as he sees that it's John to the next really important panel where Robin has fallen to his knees and thrown his head back and pushed his arms wide with his eight remaining fingers spread-fingered out and he's screaming "Nnnnnoooooooooooo!!!!!")

10. Factory Farming On New Genesis

So, the Kirby-less New Gods were quickly rationalised, made more explicable, made more like us, and they started to become super-heroes, and super-heroes which in terms of power and appearance made them no different and no more special than any other superheroes. (In fact, shorn of their Kirby krackles, characters like The Black Racer are inevitably degraded from marvelously absurd and kooky to ridiculous and shudder-inducing embarrassing.) Then, with the New Gods flailing around dissolving in the universal-homogeniser that's so often been DC-Earth, characters from DC Earth start to infest the Fourth World. Kirby hardly ever allowed "mortals" into his magic kingdoms, for the very fact that the Fourth World wasn't accessible to humans gave Apokolips and New Genesis their meaning. When Superman famously first visited Supertown, he was overwhelmed by the beauty and harmony of Kirby's heaven, and Superman desperately wanted to stay there, where he could be accepted for himself and not live forever labeled as an outsider. And that story ended with Superman sacrificing his dreams of belonging in favour of doing his duty to planet Earth. But as soon as Superman can just pop in and out of Super-Town, and so often does so, New Genesis isn't Heaven anymore. It's just another commonplace stop on the 15.05 pm Boom Tube Highway.

And still the environmental degradation of the Fourth World continued. The characters had been stripped of their uniqueness, which was never their costumes or powers, and their culture levelled to be replaced by simple abstractions such as "nice" and "not-nice". Endless team-ups, cameos and crises in which Earth-born capes'n'costumed types saved the universe while Highfather and his people looked on, emasculated and presumably not a little frightened by the mortal brutes they so obviously required to save the universe for them every week or so. And then by the 1990s, New Genesis was even being led by (argh!) an earthman, one Takion, a generically-costumed terran superhero, because nothing makes a comic book property more unique and distinct than making it less unique and distinct. And nothing makes the willful destruction of Kirby's creation so obvious as this; God/Highfather died and was replaced by an American psychologist. (Yes, Takion is an avatar of Highfather, yes, I know, but God still needed to create an American avatar. In all the universes, only America could do.)

And so, in the absence of whatever passed at any one moment for economic success, the pace of conceptual degredation increased yet further, until finally - and here it gets abit hazy for me because it's so incompetent that my mind actually can't hold onto the planet-sized stupidity of it all - the Pied Piper, a human ex-member of the Flash's rogues gallery, destroys Apokolips by tooting his pipe really melodically and loudly. (I am not making this up, am I?) And this after one "Big Brother", a sentient satellite built on Earth, nearly destroys Apokolips by its mechanical self. Hurrah! Not only can we humans blow up huge alien motherships by downloading primitive computer viruses into them from Apple Macs, we can also destroy the most advanced and most fearsome civilisation in the DC universes too through, er, very fine flute-tooting. If only Kirby had known that fact in the '70s, he could've had Jethro Tull bring Darkseid down and saved us all the bother of the last 40 years.

Our muscles get bigger. Everything else gets smaller. Everything else disappears from view.

11. The Conservative Steward

What could DC Editorial have done? How might they have cherished Jack Kirby's creation, having of course already taken it away from its creator? (Who, it ought to be noted, might well have destroyed Apokolips and New Genesis himself, given that he saw his Fourth World as a saga to have a definite end. But then, even as he didn't quite know what he was doing, he knew how to do whatever it was he was doing very well indeed. We could trust him there.) Well, DC Editorial ought to have started by noticing that everything they did to sell the Fourth World concepts to the superhero market failed. The more they made the New Gods standard issue characters, either deliberately or because of the limited gifts of the assigned creators, the less the characters took. (Nobody should be blamed for not being Kirby at his early-70s height, of course, and several creators, led by the estimable Walt Simonson, had excellent stabs at the Kirbyverse.) A rational mind not driven by short-term profit would have looked at all this failure and deduced that white-breading the Fourth World further wasn't going to work. But that old short-term hysterical demand for short-term profit insisted that what hadn't worked before should be tried in even greater dosages.

It was as if nobody cared enough to notice how unique and precious the Fourth World was, as if it was either going to be a source of sharp profits now or its' not-dead-yet fields were to be sown with salt. You're either with us in superhero land or you're not with us at all! Which seems ridiculous. If the Kirby characters and settings weren't selling, and if even destroying them bit by bit wasn't selling either, then why not leave the whole damn thing alone?

Because, and this is unfashionably important, the rational approach to any system which we can't properly understand, and which gets measurably damaged with every intervention, is to leave it alone. Just leave it be. And Editorial staff for the Big Two comic book universes are involved in an act of custodianship unparalled in the history of fictional franchises, and the counter-intuitive responsibility to leave things alone may be the most sensible and benevolent option they posses. The DC Universe might not have become, as Grant Morrison prophesised, self-aware, but it might as well be a living eco-system for all the careful management it requires. Keeping something so rich and deep in history alive and flourishing in an age where readers are declining, alternative and threatening distribution mediums flourishing, and where so many other competitors peddle other entertainments at more economic prices, cannot be attained by strip-mining the product and reducing it to bog-standard super-folks in bog-standard punch-ups.

So, DC Editorial might've recognised that the Fourth World certainly has a limited but valuable purpose of its own on the deliberately-maintained periphery of their superpeople universes. Why not recognise the value of Apokolips and New Genesis as effective settings for occasional stories for the DC super-people? (Not the "if-it's-Thursday-Superman-must-be-punching-Darkseid" approach. By "occasional", I mean £let's preserve the value of these rare comic-book commodities by not over-exposing them".) Apokolips is, to take but a single aspect, not just another Hell. It's a wonderful Kirby fusion of Hell and the early Industrial Revolution and the Marxian concept of false class consciousness. It should be the deadliest environment in DC, a place where character's morality and bravery are played out against the backdrop of a hideous world where even the most powerful capes'n'costumes struggle simply to survive. (It shouldn't be a mindlessly humourous playpen where, for example, the costumed acrobats of the Justice League Interrnational bicker their way through menace-less fights against pathetic hordes of parademons. That degrades the product, turns it into something pathetic, its characters worthless.) More challengingly, creators might have considered investing some energy in creating occasional scenes set on New Genesis, Kirby's heaven-in-space; what better place to play off such themes as altruism and religiosity and morality? (Without, of course, blowing it up so Superman can knit its' shattered continents together with his wishful-heat vision.)

Or perhaps DC editorial might have accepted another practical argument wielded so usefully by environmentalists, namely that we humans simply don't know enough about the resources we have to know what use they might be put to in the future. And in fact there's plenty of evidence of this in the past few decades to surely convince some clever bod in the company that this is a valid point. Who ever would've foreseen just how lucrative Mr Kirby's character's would have proved to be in the days when Carmine Infantino was wiping out the Fourth World? Consider simply the single example of the DC animated Superman and JLU shows of the past 15 years, and note how everyone from Darkseid to Forager put in an appearance there. Then add up the revenue from TV shows, DVD sales, comic-book knock-offs and merchandising. The Fourth World has indeed ended up a cash cow. It might not look like one, but it has been, and it still might be, if only folks would leave the damn thing alone until they know what they're doing with it.

For ending things, breaking things, blowing them up, is always the easiest, but rarely the smartest, thing to do. Stewardship is the only way forward.

12. My Pitch For Robin Hood (Part 3)

Maid Marion survives the fire too, of course. It wouldn't be respectful of women if Robin Hood's woman didn't make it through the fire. I'm not quite sure exactly what to do with her, but I've got lots of ideas. Basically, I don't know if she gets raped by the Sheriff Of Nottingham's men and becomes a bitter old sorcerer-nun in a convent, or if she gets raped by the Sheriff of Nottingham's men and becomes a sword-wielding girl-barbarian warrior who can't let herself be touched by any man. Or woman either. (Which is a shame, but taste is important.)

I think the second option would allow her inner dynamics to be more action-fully externalised in a visual medium, though.

13. Let Mr Diamond Speak

In his enlightening-as-always "Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail Or Survive", Jared Diamond comes to an unexpectedly optimistic conclusion about how the capitalist economy might be reformed:

"Businesses have changed when the public came to expect and require different behaviour, to reward businesses for behaviour that the public wanted, and to make things difficult for businesses practising behaviours that the public didn't want."

And I suspect that the time is coming when the comic-buying public is going to have to be more discriminating, and comic book companies more far-sighted and responsible, or we're going to see an end to this lovely little hobby of ours. (I'm only about the billionth Jeremiah to say this.) Of course, things can't look too bad from the NYC offices of the Big Two publishers. Superhero movies are raking in gazillions of dollars, everyone's getting paid more and more, the media deigns to pay some little attention; it must all look pretty good for the folks up there behind the tinted windows in the air-conditioned offices. But on the ground, the Faustian deal comic book publishers made with super-hero fans is not just leading to its inevitably terrible consequences. The terrible consequences are here. The number of hard-core fans has collapsed. (More people visited Broadway in a single week in February this year to watch "Billy Elliot" than bought that month's edition of DC's "Red Tornado"!) The factory farming of fictional concepts has reduced the market to endless superhero books which month-on-month rely more and more upon hyperbole, soap-opera hysteria and endless apocalypses, while ageing fans pump desperately-needed revenue into the market buying expensive action figures and collected editions of comic books they read decades before printed then on inexpensive newsprint.

Things are bad, folks, we've strip-mined the characters, we've strip-mined their ecologies, and we've strip-mined the readership too. Indeed, the degree of collaboration between readership and editorial offices is so strong now that I can't see what could bring the hard-core audience, which want just core-event superhero books and high-quality hardbacks, to insist on being given something more diverse in addition to their meat-and-two-punches diet.

All that's left as a market of any scale is the addicts. They aren't going to vote for anything other than the costumed crack they've been demanding month after month. They're going to ride this train as it crawls to a stop and then they'll interpret the momentum of the train toppling sideways to its still death as a thrilling sense of movement promising so much more.

Who is going to tell the stewards to start practising stewardship?

14. Apokolips Today

It could be argued that DC, and by extension Marvel, doesn't need to be careful with its properties. Whatever is done in the little-read pages of their comic books, the properties remain, and can be exploited by whoever cares to turn up and put them to work in the future.

But the ecologies of comic books don't work like that. If you constantly undermine a properties' strength and uniqueness in the marketplace, there's a real risk that that abused property will get defined as impossible to make work, or useless, or even forgotten. If that property is abused and yet manages to keep just a toehold in the marketplace, then there's the risk that the banal and superheroically-energised version of it might be the one that gets remembered and perpetuated in other more lucrative media.

For example, Grant Morrison has, whether on his own volition or as part of an Editorial mandate, now removed Kirby's Fourth World from the major universe of the DC Multiverse - how ridiculous that reads - out into its own dimension. Which as an act of desperate ring-fencing conservation makes some sense. Out there, few will meddle with it, but few will look for it either. And the whole point of the Fourth World as it worked in practice was not that it was just another superhero system, but that it was an environment where the mighty superheroes towering over their "normal" human fellows could discover that they too were just one notch on a very long and very dangerous food chain.

Used properly, Gods bring humility, a rare and precious commodity of its own, even to Supermen and the massed thousands of superpeople.

Jack Kirby knew that too.

15. My Pitch For Robin Hood (Part 4: The End)

Eventually, all the forests in the world are burnt down. Everyone's dead. And Robin catches up with Friar Tuck in the Amazon where there's just one tiny forest left. (They were all burnt down but one of them.) And it's a kind of jungle-forest, being where the Amazon is. And after alot of fighting, where Marion gets killed by a razor-edged bible thrown at her by Tuck's tame mutant-Lemur, Robin paralyses Friar Tuck and plants him in the ground and sets light to light to him, as a poetic symbol of Robin's loss of Sherwood Forest, and that does kill the faithless fat old Friar.

But Robin's been played by the demon who mislead the Friar, you see. It's the Friar's death that brings down the dimensional walls between Earth and the demon dimension and as the air runs out - 'cause the forests are mostly all done - Robin Hood has to gather 12 good men and true and take a stand against the devilisation of the world.

But everyone's dead, so he has to make a little army of a dozen Zombies.

And as they all lumber towards the centre of the middle of the ruined Earth, two figures appear through the mist. One of them is dressed in green and one in purple. Robin has found himself on the edge of an inter-dimensional zone where time and space get all warped up. And he's meeting people from other worlds. One of them is Hawkeye, in the purple, and one of them, the one in green, is Green Arrow. And they all bicker and fight and then they join together and Robin gets to visit Marvel Earth and DC Earth, where he and his shuffling co-fighters join together with his new friends to form "The Brothers Of The Bow & Their Shufflin' Zombie Merry Men"!

And Robin's original Earth is left forest-less and home to devils, as a terrible warning to us all of what happens when you don't look after forests.

What'd'ya think? (Did you think I wasn't going to have a message too?)

I've got a million of 'em.

16. Ecocide!

In the "Guardian" of the 10th of April 2010, the British lawyer Polly Higgins has her campaign for "ecocide" to become an international crime highlighted in an article by Juliette Jowitt. Ms Higgins argues that a legal definition of "ecocide" would be:

"The extensive destruction, damage to, or loss of, ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished."

And she later goes on to be quoted as saying "... if you keep over-extracting from your capital asset we'll have very little left ... ", before Jowitt closes the article with the statement that; "An ecocide law ... should include damage done to any species, not just humans."

Now all we need to do is to get Ms Higgins to add "... and fictional ecologies too ... " to this law and I think we'll be OK. A change in the law might be the only thing that does it.

I can see it now. Rows and rows of short-termist, know-nothing, profit-maximising editorial comic book staff in the International Court Of Justice in The Hague, accused of crimes against fictional representations of humanity.

I'll buy tickets. I'll be there.