Friday, October 07, 2005

A Comic Book Story

When I was a lad, I served a term as office boy to an attorney's firm. I had a double major in Latin and Greek from an Ivy League college, so, really, what other choice did I have?

Anyway, as a studious youth (a.k.a. socially-backward tool), I regularly brought some reading materials with me to enjoy during lunch in the firm cafeteria. Then, as now, my reading consisted mostly of Classical literature and comic books.

One day, I was relaxing at lunch with a copy of the Aeneid (yes--in the original) and the latest issue of Wonder Woman. The head of the firm sauntered over to my table, shoved his thumbs in his vest pockets (it was the '80s, you know), and sniffed,

"I fail to understand how someone who can casually read Latin literature in the original
can also spend his time reading comic books."

I thought about explaining the classical grounding of Wonder Woman, my search for parallels between Diana's mission in 'Patriarchs' World' and Aeneas's nation-founding mission, or the more general equivalence between the iconic characters of comic books and the archtypes of ancient myth.

But I didn't. He didn't really seem to be asking for an explanation, more like ... an apology.

Perhaps I should have answered differently than I did, given that this was the guy whose name was plastered in gold letters on the cafeteria wall and the source of my salary. But one can only push a comic book fan so far, and, besides, where I'm from you don't let people push you around -- and certainly not a Princeton man, like this guy. I mean, really.

So I waited the proper comedic beat and a half, and replied, dead-pan:

"That's simple.
When the comic book gets too complicated for me,
I go back to the Latin."

Needless to say, I didn't exactly make partner, but the satisfaction I got from that moment will last the rest of my life.


ostrakos said...

I am both a classics major and a comic book fan and the two are inextricably linked. Poopoo on anybody who says otherwise.

Captain Infinity said...

I thought comic books were classical literature!

Chris said...

It's common knowledge around the newspaper where I work as a reporter that a comics fan, and my editor is always, ALWAYs knocking them. You summed it up. It's as if he wants me to apologize for reading them.

H said...

Isn't working in a law office fun? I once had a head partner who called me by the wrong name for months. I didn't mind. I figured if I screwed anything up, I could always blame it on the imaginary name guy.

kyle said...

Ah, the comics/classics nexus...I started on comics back when Sandy broke out of the Velvet Cage and Wonder Woman was under going her twelve labors to rejoin the JLA. This was also about when I got into mythology, and the two fed each. Fast forward many years to a couple classics degrees (sadly, not from Ivy Town or Hudson University; nor did Julia Kapatelis have anything to do with my dissertation, but, pheh, she's a Hellenist anyway). These days, I'm not reading nearly as much of either comics or classics as I used to, but I still try to keep my oar in both.

Ragnell said...

First day of class in leadership school, my comm-skills teacher asks if I have any hobbies. I only really have one. He nods when I tell him I read comics, then mentions another teacher. "Have you talked to him? He reads comics too. He's really smart, though." Two minutes later he had to explain why he fet a need to defend the guy's intelligence.

As a plus to this, doing better in group dynamics lessons than anyone else in my class. Why? I'm paralleling the lessons to the Justice League and Green Lantern (The 4 main each GLs each correspon to different personality types.) Can't wait to see the GLC enter in the Storming Stage of Team Development in the next issue of Recharge!

Anonymous said...

Mad's "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions" may help us out here.

"I fail to understand how someone who can casually read Latin literature in the original can also spend his time reading comic books."

"YEah? Well...uh...FUCK YOU!"

Evan said...

Now you'll never be the ruler of the queen's navy. ;)

Gary said...

I guess it's no secret that someone who's chosen the username "Scipio" would be a fan of the Classics.

But I guess on a serious note I'm curious as to whether you find any parallels between the two genres?

You single out "haikus" here from dialogue, I find that comic book writing tends to contain a lot of epigrams as well. Maybe that's something that comes with working with highly condensed writing in any form.

Franny said...

Hahaha, that's brilliant. But times have changed, and comics are academically cool now--well, at least Maus is, and that's a start. I don't usually get any crap for being a comic nerd; it's my Dungeons and Dragons habit that really draws people's condescension.

Scipio said...

Evan; you're the only person who caught that.

Gary; it's NOT my "username". It's my NAME. Yes, really.

Franny; D&D? EWWWW, GEEKY!!!!

Anonymous said...

You are my hero, man.


David M said...

Gee, I only did three years of Latin at grammar school, is it too late for me? I am reduced to getting my niece, who is a classicist to produce latin quips for me when I need them.

Accursed Interloper said...

It's seldom one gets a chance to drop the expression "vescere bracis meis" into lunchroom conversation, but man, that would have been the time. Still, your answer was better!