Monday, January 29, 2007
Fall From Grace
Today I watched "It's Trad, Dad!", a bizarre British film from 1962 about some kids trying to gather performers for a Dixieland jazz festival in their hometown. Odd as that is, it's made even odder by full on-stage performances with Chubby Checker, Gary U.S. Bonds, and other contemporary artists squarely outside the province of Trad jazz.
Oddest still, it actually works even though it shouldn't. It's kind of like watching someone successfully pull off wearing pearls with corduroy or discovering that raisins taste great on pizza.
It was pretty much the earliest real film of director Richard Lester, best known for his work with the Beatles on Hard Day's Night and other films. If you set aside the goofy sense of humor, he does an amazing job of capturing the experience of each performer (with what I assume were innovative approaches at the time, but which have since become staples of the music video genre).
You, however, might remember Richard Lester for only one thing: he's the person the Salkinds replaced Richard Donner with on Superman II (and who then directed Superman III, something we'd all like to forget everything about).
Since I (and most decent people) think those films are awful, I'm left pondering whether it was the fault of the material he was given. Was he simply out of his element? Or had Lester's light faded so severely that he went from brilliant innovation to hackwork in15 years or so?
My question to you today isn't really about Lester; it's about the Fall From Grace syndrome among comic book writers and artists. Who has suffered such a fall and why?
Frank Miller will seem a likely candidate to many. But I think upon sober reflection I've concluded didn't become a hack; we all simply finalized realized it. Some may say Jim Aparo's worked faded badly, but I would disagree; I still say it was always terrible.
Pardon me if this question seems too negative. But many of you have followed the careers of writers and artists more closely than I (who have been more preoccupied with the history of characters) and I seek your wisdom... .