Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Left Elbow

In the Mikado, the generally unattractive Katisha concedes that her left elbow is nonetheless attractive, and the people come for miles to admire it.

Like Katisha, some stories, although bad (even horrible), may still possess portions that are good. Unfortunately, the quality of their goodness is upstaged by the quantity of their badness and they often go unnoticed or at least unremembered.

For example, do you even remember this scene?


It's nearly the quintessential "Batman and Alfred are a Great Team" page. Batman knows what needs done; he knows Alfred can do it at the drop of a hat; Alfred can and does. Alfred starts to follow Batman's instruction even before Batman finishes them; truly a Dynamic Duo.

What's more, the scene is in a story that's considered fairly famous. Or, rather, infamous.

Recognize it yet?

It's from "Orca the Whalewoman", a story so legendarily bad that it caused heads to roll, readers to defect, and cetologists to riot in the streets (okay ... I made that last part up).

"Left elbow" scenes trapped in bad stories are like babies tossed out with the bathwater. Look back at some of the worst stories you can remember; you might be surprised what little gems they contain and discovering them may just recharge your joy in comic books. And that's important, because our faith in comic books is like any kind of faith; we renew it daily.

5 comments:

David J Oakes said...

Uh, what he said...

But since I think that little affirmation will be gone when Scipio spies it, let's talk about comics:

"Left Elbow Scenes" are exactly why I like "Corporate" comic books. And exactly why I think "mainstream" comics, as a medium, are ultimately more satisfying than single-vision, finite-length, creator-owned properties.

Yes, work for-hire lends itself to hackwork, piling rushed stories on top of uncaring stories on top of flat out bad stories for months on end. But all of these "Left Elbow Scenes", all those little diamonds in the... rough aggregate over time, forming a flawless whole, while the dross is (eventually/rightfully) forgotten.

Singular works by singular creators lack this growth, lack this organic distillation. Even when an artist continues to explore their creation, the lack of differing vision - the lack of *conflicting* vision! - limits any improvement.

Any issue of SANDMAN is probably better than most issues of SUPERMAN. But Morpheus' story lives or dies on the strength of 80 some issues, and you like it or you don't. But Superman continues to be refined, re-defined, and re-imagined by each passing of the torch, adapting to the times to become immortal.

Scipio said...

"And exactly why I think "mainstream" comics, as a medium, are ultimately more satisfying than single-vision, finite-length, creator-owned properties."

Amen! Testify, brother!

Mike Loughlin said...

You know how airplanes crash, but the little black box always survive and bad comedians and dumb people ask why didn't they make the whole plane out of the little black box material?

"Left elbow" scenes are like that.

Bat-Mac said...

I love comics.

No. Scratch that.

I'm IN LOVE with comics.

Bully said...

I don't have one for comics. It's kinda cheating to use a movie as an example, because the average movie or TV script has so much more text in it to provide more opporturnities for a left elbow moment, but I've always felt this way about [i]Star Trek V: The Final Frontier[/i]. Arguably the worst of the movie series, with some truly embarassing moments, but in among the dross are two small moments and one generously wonderful nuggets of gold moment:

1) The flashback to Spock's birth
2) The flashback to McCoy's euthanasia of his father
3) Kirk: "I lost a brother once." (Every fanboy in the audience nods knowingly, "Yes, Sam Kirk in 'Operation: Annihilate.") Kirk continues: "But I was lucky. I got him back."