Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Special Ugly American Report: Where Are They Now?

Fame is a fickle mistress, particularly in the comics racket. This week, the Ugly American hits the pavement and tracks down a few comics legends once omnipresent, now more elusive than Sasquatch itself.

Some of these discoveries will shock you. Some of them might be stuff that I just made up whole cloth. All I know is....nobody owns the truth. Nobody owns anything, really. You know who taught me that? Shia Labeouf. Shia Labeouf. 'Nuff said.

Where Is Grant Morrison Now?

You probably remember him as the guy who wrote Vimanarama or Seaguy, but it wasn't that long ago that Grant Morrison was in fact piloting the Batman schooner.

In fact, Morrison's mojo was so strong he was able to launch not one but two different iterations of Batman, Inc. within two years of each other. He maintained a presence so powerful that he was able to plop Batman, Inc. into the Batpool, even though his continuity shared no resemblance whatsoever to the rest of the titles. Then when he "killed" Damian, the other Bat-folks were forced to agree with this take and pretend that they shared narrative space after all. His power and influence were resplendent.

Then....nothing. Batman, Inc. volume two concluded after 13 issues, and Morrison went missing without a trace. There was a mini-series over at Image with a flying blue cartoon horse. There were rumors of a really sexed-up, kinked-out Wonder Woman book. But those rumblings had been under the surface for years, and they bore no fruit.

Well, the Ugly American found Grant Morrison where he least expected - dancing on his television screen. Yes, it turns out that the comic "rock god" has more in his bag of tricks than literary cantrips - he's one hell of a Speaker Dancer.

At first I didn't recognize him, transfixed as I was by those hypnotic hips. But when my gaze eventually rested upon the dancing diva's bald pate...I knew it could be no other. It was King Mob dancing in that Tostitos commercial. It was Grant Morrison.

I had to know what prompted this radical shift in creative energies. Had he always possessed the Gift of Sway, and it was only now he felt comfortable selling his wares? Had Morrisoncon produced an epiphany, finally freeing him to chase his true calling?

The truth is that I will never know. He said a bunch of stuff, but it was all delivered in his inimitable Scottish gibber-speak. With no translator available, I simply smiled, nodded, and gave thanks to all that is holy that I was able to share those brief moments with the Danny Terrio of comics. But I did not understand a damn thing he said.

Where Is Nate Simpson Now?

A generation before me will always recall where they were when they learned that JFK was shot down in Dealey Plaza. My generation has a different touchstone. Each of us can describe with perfect accuracy where we were when Nonplayer # 1 hit the stands in April 2011.

It was without question the grandest achievement in the history of comics, garnering a Russ Manning award on the strength of a single issue. Nonplayer instantly earned a Hollywood option, a stub so strong that Jane Goldman was tapped to write a script for a story that didn't even exist yet.

It was the pinnacle of comics, but so much more. Some of the lame rose to walk again. That was Nonplayer. There were whispers that subsequent digital distribution of this sublime artifact might cure tuberculosis. I don't think that happened. I think tuberculosis is still with us. It feels like people are coughing less, though, and that's pretty good.

But then, then the angelic fountain stopped flowing. 2011 concluded with no further issues of Nonplayer. 2012 suffered the same horrifying fate, then a grieving world kissed 2013 good-bye with Nonplayer again non-playing. Why? Why, God, why?

Some convenient cover stories were manufactured to sate a media plagued with Nonplayer Fever. Something about a broken collarbone, and day job with a video game company...diaper-changing for the immaculate Baby Simpson.

The Ugly American has uncovered the truth, and it is a sobering one. Nonplayer is a work so transcendent, it has surpassed all laws of time and space, and cannot be observed by those trapped in the corporeal.

While humans are simply not equipped to absorb a perfect work like Nonplayer, our loss will be the gain of the Gygax Continuum. This cryptic race of trans-dimensionals will be the beneficiaries of all seven issues of the transformative comic series, at which point Nonplayer will become God and the universe will wrap around full circle and start over again.

For those of us constrained by pedantic concepts like dice. We aren't seeing it. Sorry.

For now, Simpson continues dutifully waking at 4am to continue work on this universally critical work. If you see him, you should thank him. Or more appropriately, prostrate yourself before his eminence. Should an issue of Nonplayer # 2 hit the stands, however, don't be fooled, and don't look at it. It won't be the real thing. I believe that even a pathetic paper replica hinting at the contents of the trans-dimensional Nonplayer might do some Lovecraft stuff to you not to risk it.

Where is Robert Kirkman Now?

Once upon a time a young man from Kentucky had a dream, that his super-pontiff Battle Pope might take the world by storm.

Dreams don't necessarily take off without a hitch, though. Sometimes the world simply isn't ready. While Battle Pope supplied most of the requisite trappings of the dominant comics genre, it was a little too "indie" to take. Dreams aren't just ether, though. Dreams take work, and determination, and this kid from Kentucky doesn't have any quit in him.

His kinetic kid-friendly title Super Dinosaur also went extinct recently. Seems like Kirkman just can't catch a break. Have you seen him lately? Where is he now?

Well, the Ugly American caught up with him, and it turns out he never really disappeared. His superhero magnum opus Invincible is still going, and Kirkman is looking to shake things up with issue # 111. It's going to be a turning point in the series, "like three # 1s in one!" says the new house ad. Will the new direction work, at least enough to keep the series on life support? Maybe. Just maybe.

The Invincible story is a testament to Kirkman's perseverance, but also an indictment of the comics industry and a readership plagued with arrested development. Invincible is a solid story, but what a shame that comics are stuck with a stable of stupid old men trapped in a rigid obsession with stupid old superheroes.

I mean, it's not like you could just crank out a bunch of comics featuring rainbow-colored ponies that girls used to play with in the 1980s and expect it to sell or something.

Still, we here at the Ugly American maintain hope that someday the comics constituency can break free from the shackles of its infantile predilection towards capes and tights and support titles outside of those juvenile confines. Like Saga. And Sex Criminals. And Sandman. And Black Science. And Manhattan Projects. And Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And Pretty Deadly. And Bone. And Chew. And One Piece. And Archie.

If only we had a marketplace that could support titles like that. Perhaps the future won't be so backwoods, and ironically that spunky kid from the backwoods of Kentucky might find a place for himself in this medium. The Ugly American is certainly pulling for this Little Engine That Could.

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