Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"The Dead Yet Live!"

Yesterday, I saw someone on line I hadn't seen in quite some time, so long that I thought he might have moved or some such.

Jokingly, I sent him an initial message that said only,

"The dead yet live!"

Naturally, I was certain he'd understand what I meant, that he had been "socially dead" but was in fact was still very much around.

But he didn't, and replied with a stunned "Huh?". I quickly explained what I mean, and the conversation continued from there, no harm, no foul.

Later, however, I was left wondering how he could not have gotten the reference, which is obviously some deep-seated phrase from, say, the Bible, ancient poetry, or some great work of English literature. I mean, it felt so commonplace to me that it had to come from such a universally familiar source.

It bugged me enough that I finally looked up the phrase to find out that it's apparent source wasn't quite as "universal" as I'd assumed:

*Sigh*. Detective #471. Of course.

Oh, the phrase must have surely appeared in some other book before this, but nevertheless, this was unquestionable where'd I'd gotten it, since I remember buying this book when published.

Yes, I was quoting a comic book cover (and a rather hokey one, at that), without realizing it, as if it were the Bible. Having done it knowingly might have been marginally cool; being intentionally geeky has it charms. But being so geeky as to have no idea when you're being geeky? Substantially less charming.

I might take some small comfort in knowing I'm not the only one of us who's made this kind of faux pas. Have you ever unwittingly made a comic reference that met with confused silence from the audience, and then later realized with chagrin exactly what had happened?

If so, please share with me -- with us all -- your story... .


totaltoyz said...

I'm sure I've done that at least once, in forty years of interacting with non-comics readers. I can't think of a specific example just now; if and when I can I'll post it.

I'm still reeling from the amazement of Scipio Garling comparing the Bible to a comic written by Steve Englehart. I don't know if Stainless Steve wrote the cover copy, but even so, it's rather validating.

darknessatnoon said...

I can't remember doing it with a comic reference, though I did work Larry David's "I've never had a fresh grape" seamlessly into a recent conversation.

The Shadow said...

Not a comic reference, per se, but I do quote Slade from Teen Titans on a daily basis. Each quote is met with either complete silence or total ignorance.

Dario Delfino said...

Not quite. Though once, I was making small talk with a girl at a party, and I made an off-hand comment about how someone she described sounded like a Jack Kirby character. In that immediate moment after realizing I just made a comic book reference amidst my attempt at game, she replied with a comment that clearly communicated she got the reference and enjoyed it. We shared a look, then spent the next hour or two discussing '60s comics and culture, and later had some fine drunken sex.

The point of this story is that Jack Kirby got me laid.

Hail to the King, baby.

John said...

In the 1990s X-Men series, Apocalypse claims that he is "as far beyond mutants as mutants are beyond humans."

It's something that I reference at least once a week, usually in reference to my own skills, abilities, or prowess. No one has ever gotten the joke though.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure Apocalypse said that? I coulda sworn that MachineSmith said that in a "Captain America" comic, impersonating Magneto as part of a "smear job" to get the real Magneto to show up. (The goal being to get Magneto to reveal what he'd done with the Red Skull.)

Recently, I was trying to drive some people home from the airport, and I observed that their house was harder to find than Dr. Strange's. I'm pretty sure the husband knew what I meant, but my nerd powers probably exceed his.

JYD said...

Once at a very cosmopolitan (for me) and swish party with a variety of laid back Europeans I was having a conversation with a politics student regarding ETA and I used the phrase "Terrorists? That's what the big army calls the little army." I may not have been able to remember where I had heard that quote before but I felt I had illustrated my position well. This could have gone down as a wonderful point-scoring, debate winning moment and get me the respect of this very cool and interesting crowd were it not for the fact that it was immediately followed by another of my friends saying "Did you just quote Wolverine?"

Needless to say, this group of the intellectual elite were less than impressed by my lowbrow cultural reference. Once again my inferiority complex about England and the English being the cultural swamp of Europe was brought to the fore and I had merely cemented the view in their eyes that we are nothing more than knuckle dragging football hooligans.

I did have a great conversation later in the evening with a Swede about Zlatan Imbrahimovic though, so the night wasn't a total loss.

Jacob T. Levy said...

Moore and Miller (Watchmen, Swamp Thing, Dark Knight, Man of Tomorrow, etc) lines occasionally pop into my head for use in mixed company. "In the end? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends." and "Joking, of course. Not even in the face of armageddon. Never compromise." both have just that right air of portentiousness that they *could* be from something else.

But I've always resisted using them, and to the best of my recollection never used them inadvertently.

Billy said...

The other day a friend of mine jokingly said "I know things" to which I asked her if she were Layla Miller. The fact that it was a comic reference...yet alone a possibly obscure comic reference did not help in her grasping what I was talking about. I recovered though...I said if you don't know who Layla Miller is, then you don't know things, do ya?

This past Halloween I came to my Law Library job dressed in a suit, sunglasses, and a red cane and claimed I was Matt Murdock Attorney-at-law. No one knew what I was talking about.

I've said "Face it tiger, you just hit the jackpot" in many a conversation before, but it was done on purpose so I don't think that counts (also because it is decently a well known line, some people got it.)

I once said someone was dressed like a Steve Ditko drawing. Somebody who I know doesn't read comics laughed, so I'm pretty sure he thought I was making a really high brow comment and to not seem stupid felt the need to laugh. That cracked me up.

Laurie said...

In a discussion about terrorism at an anti-war rally in 2003/4 I may have said The Anti-Life Equation was the ultimate Weapon of Mass Destruction.

It didn't go down well, especially with those who knew what it was.

Adam Star said...

I frequently paraphrase the Tick's line "You're not going crazy, you're going sane in a crazy world." People think it's pretty clever, especially if you don't tell them where you got it from.

I also have a terrible habit of saying Holy Moley as an exclamation. Not cool. And trying to explain to a non-comics reader that it's a pot reference is even less cool.

rlsims said...

Back in sixth grade (this would have been around 1975 or so) I got a copy of Origins of Marvel Comics, and fell in love with Stan's overwritten style.

A few month later, my teacher had the class write down their favorite adage. I put down "With great power comes great responsibility." She didn't give me credit for that one.

word verification: emokpu... seems like that should have something to do with Stan Lee dialog, doesn't it?

Jim_Mud said...

Speaking of Watchmen, I often use the phrase, "Good advice, Sure many would agree."

My girlfriend is fond of a line from Fables. Snow White: "Boo Fucking Who. I'll try to live with the loss."

The only other thing I want to add here is that the Detective Comics cover is the opening of only the greatest Batman story ever.

Sure many would agree.

totaltoyz said...

The only other thing I want to add here is that the Detective Comics cover is the opening of only the greatest Batman story ever.

Sure many would agree.

Many, but probably not Scipio.

Daddy Will said...

This past Halloween, I dressed as Doctor Mid-Nite. This is an inevitably awkward thing to do, because no one who isn't initiated knows who Doctor Mid-Nite is. Many thought I was Robin. However, the best came when a team of salf-of-the-earth construction workers on their lunch break in unison proclaimed in unison: "Shadoooow!" I just gave them the raise the roof gesture and kept walking on the way to the comic book store.

Ajit said...

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live

Not an exact fit, but close enough?

Chance said...

Is that Hugo Strange? And is he wearing his glasses underneath a gummy kind of latex mask?

Hypersmash Studios said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Action Ranger Timmy said...

To emphasize just how obscure a reference it actually is, this blog entry has become the number one result on google for the phrase "The Dead Yet Live." Glorious.

2. My sister and cousin used to watch Smallville when it first started, mostly for the relationship angst stuff. I walked in and made a remark about how silly the Lana/Clark tension was because everyone knew that Clark dumped Lana when he moved to Metropolis and ended up falling in love with Lois Lane. My sister and cousin wanted to know what the hell I was talking about. It turns out they knew nothing about the Superman mythos and had assumed Lana was created for the show. They then demanded to know how the Lana/Clark relationship played out in the comic books.

Terence Chua said...

"To be or to exist, is not to live. The human spirit will endure through the ages of ages. Yet, whether it lives or not depends on its acceptance of that eternal life, which God gives through the Messiah. To cease to be, is an idea not to be found in the oracles of God. To perish or to be destroyed, is not to cease to be. "O Israel, thou past destroyed thyself." Yet Israel was in existence. The righteous perish, says Isaiah, and no man layeth it to heart. The righteous can not cease to be. To be dead, is not to cease to be. Death is not non-existence. It is true that the Sadducees used the word in this sense of non-existence; for they denied the existence of spirits or angels. When men died, they ceased to exist, in their estimation. When the Saviour, in reply to a question put by them on the subject of the resurrection, quoted the words of Jehovah--"I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob;" he most pertinently added, "God is not the God of the dead." If Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were dead, in the Sadducean sense; that is, if they had no existence; then, it would follow, that God is the God of nothing, or of something not existing--which consequence was so, obvious and so manifestly opposed to reason, that even the Sadducees were silenced by it. God, then, is the God of those who live; therefore, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob live; and as they live, they will again come forth to life.

"But Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are among the dead. Then, the dead yet live; and being dead is ceasing to be in a certain state or condition; in other words, death is a change of state. Dissolution of spirit and body is the death to which we all tend. By this dissolution we enter another state of being."

- "Eternal Life", H.T. Andersen, from "The Millenial Harbinger Abridged" Vol. 1 (1902), Benjamin Lyon Smith, pp 581-582.

totaltoyz said...

Daddy Will, I feel a spiritual bond with you now. I, too, once dressed as Dr. Mid-Nite; it was for a comic convention in 1992. No pictures of me in costume survived, though.

farsider said...

Not the same thing, I know, but embarassing nonetheless. In college I told a friend I didn't mean to "misle" him. (I pronouunced it as "MIZE-ull.") He said, "Duncan, what are you talkin' about? That's not a word." I told him yes it was. I had seem it many times, as in someone "misled" (MIZE-uld) someone. He said, "You mean, mis-led?" Somehow I got the idea that misle was a word and it meant "to fool someone." Needless, to say it took me a while to live that down.

Even worse, I once thought there was a word, minisery, (which I once said aloud as "mi-NISS-ery") which was the singular form of miniseries. I had seen "miniseries" in the TV Guide and didn't realize it was mini + series. The same college buddy caught me on that.

SallyP said...

Oh heck, this happens to me on a daily basis practically. I used "Holy Humongous Heffalumps!" at Thanksgiving for example. My kids laughed, my husband just sighed, and my parents stared at me as if horns were suddenly growing out of my forehead.

I get the same reaction whenever I use "with the power of a billion exploding suns!"

But it's an AWFULLY handy phrase to have around.

Michael said...

Living in Buffalo, I usually reference the Casket of Ancient Winters at least once or twice a year. Usually it's while I'm stomping the snow off my boots as I order a beer.

Not once has anyone ever gotten the reference. I choose to believe that's their problem and not mine.

totaltoyz said...

That could be a lost episode of Cheers.

"How's the weather outside, Normie?"
"Like someone opened the Casket of Eternal Winters! And I wish Woody would do the same to that keg!"

"O" the Humanatee! said...

Not exactly a comic book quote but: Early in high school I was playing Botticelli - the guessing game in which people have to figure out what famous person you're thinking of, starting with just the person's initial (of their last name, or of their single name if they're Cher, Madonna, or the like). In my case the initial was "C." After many rounds of questioning, my friends gave up, at which point I triumphantly announced who it was: "Cagliostro!" They looked at me with angry "What the fuck?" leers.

Somehow I had concluded that a possibly historically real wizard was common knowledge from the fact that he'd recently appeared as a character in a story in Marvel's black-and-white magazine "Dracula Lives!" (Yes, I'm that old.)

Allan Lappin said...

My favorite is quoting the Comedian (usually when referring to President Bush's latest stupidity): "What do you mean? This is the American Dream!".

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