#746 AUGUST 23, 2013
Copyright 2013 FRANCIS DIMENNO
“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” – George Orwell
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER EIGHT: PART SIX: THE FALL
Now, lots of folks who deplore the likes of Police Captain Aston, whose job it is to maintain order and keep folks from screwin’ in the street and scarin’ the hosses and smashing the windowpanes and stealing bread—these Goo-goos, they always have something to say, but the reforms they say will work, why, they nearly never do—it takes a man of experience with a strong stomach and a big shovel and balls of solid brass to clean up a rat’s nest while the rats are still roostin’ there—a man of the world–and a lifted-pinky-finger clergyman with dainty pink hands and a wicker umbrella will simply not do.
For my part, I say that if you can’t help a man, don’t stand around and comment on his situation and make it worse. And don’t you ever rub a man in his sore spot. No matter how tempted you are. It makes you look like a rat–and he won’t soon forget it. Some people can hold a grudge for twenty years—easy. They may not be wise, but they got a good memory, that’s for sure, and they can use that sharp mind to trip you up in many nasty ways that number in the hundreds. There are more traps and tricks than there are fixers to haul you out of ‘em, and fixers are expensive. Best to keep a weather eye at all times.
Anyway, the Goo Goos will tell you that a criminal is mostly a superstitious coward—if only t’were so—then cotching them would be a lead-pipe cinch– but you and I both know better. A man who bucks the law without the law’s connivance is got to have brass balls and a head of iron. It ain’t no job for weak fish or softies—hell, they’re the first ones as get swept up in the net, just like any poor fish. No, civilians ain’t got no business getting into the criminal racket; if you should be unlucky enough to take that path I’d advise you to leastways get both feet in—you can’t expect to have one foot in and one foot out and expect to profit, let alone thrive.
There are plenty of ways to walk into a situation. With both your eyes shut is not one of them. You only ever get one chance to notice a dangerous situation. You may laugh and say Oh, That’s Don’t Apply To me Because I’m a Spring Dandy—but when you’re one time face down on the floor and getting stomped on by a crew of riled-up bohunks because you didn’t keep a weather eye—that’s when you’ll have time to ponder the wisdom of my warnings, Yob.
But if you do take that path, remember this—the policeman is basically a little more than a peasant. He hates and fears anything which is above him. So never mouth off to one to impress your pals—it ain’t them as will take the lumps when the copper decides to hand you a smack and send your choppers skittering along the marble floor of the precinct house.
Here’s a bit of good advice. Always address a man with a loaded weapon as “Sir,” or “Mister”. And never assume a gun ain’t loaded.
And here’s another–Never lie to your lawyer. Leave the mouthpiece in the dark and if your case goes to trial. you might as well be hanging a guilty sign around your neck.
No, me lad, very few take up police work because they want to do a good deed—most take it up because they ain’t a member of the skilled trades, which takes connections, and they ain’t got the brain power to figger out how to do too much of anything else.
Now, there are good cops. I’ll admit it. Decent Yellofs as had seen hard knocks once-upon-a-time. But I ain’t met too many. No, most beat cops are like Tom Aston, as started out walking a beat his own self. Pounding a beat is hard work and at the end of the day they are too tired to think hard about anything, and if you got something to tell them then chances are they ain’t listening to you. Police work is messy stuff, Yob—you’d be better off pushing a plough and staring at a mule’s ass working at some Godforsaken farm—where at least they have to feed you and water you—just like the stock.
Listen—you could get away with murder in Noxtown—literally. All ye had to do is know a “right” cop, which is to say, a bent cop. As opposed to a “wrong” cop, who would run you in and would always tell the truth on the witness stand, come hell or wate hight.
But guess what, Yob. In Noxtown, all the cops was right.
Here’s a Help Police story for ye. Man was being robbed at the point of a knife—in broad daylight—right out in the street—over in Central Depot—right in front of the train station.
Beat cop is right there on the corner. Knife Man is on the protected list. Beat cop walks on. Not only will they never get the guy—they don’t even want to know—just so long as they get to split the take. Cops and crooks are not so secret chums. Buddies.
In this town, watch out—even the Good Samaritan will stick a knife right down your throat.
Why do cops go so crooked that they ain’t no better than the wised-up gees they ride herd on? And sometimes a good sight worse? Simple. It’s a dirty job of messy work–and nobody loves a copper. And that goes double of course, for a copper’s nark.
That’s why the road of crime is not for the likes of an honorable man, or a man who wishes to stay free of entanglin’ alliances. Because no matter how clever you may think you are at dodging the rope, sooner or later they’ll cotch ye up—and they’ll turn you into a snitch. And then—you will belong to them. And there ain’t nothin’ lower.
I would rather eat out of a garbage can—and many’s the time I have—than to tell one lie against a fellow Bo.
LOST IN MY WORLD
THE ELASTIK BAND
STOP IT BABY
YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD COULD IMPROVE YOUR LONGEVITY BY 20 YEARS
THE TUNNEL PEOPLE OF LAS VEGAS
MOVIE SCRIPTS: THE BOOK
THE FRENCH FRIES
DANSE A LA MUSIQUE
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
BANKRUPTED BY BEANIES
6* DAILY UTILITY
VENTRILOQUISTS AND THEIR DUMMIES
COMICS: THE ALL-AMERICAN ART
POLICE MAY KNOW EXACTLY WHERE YOU WERE LAST TUESDAY
THE THINKING MAN’S ALEX JONES
19 SIGNS YOU’RE TOO OLD FOR THIS CRAP
11* DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
COMIC BOOKS AS MERE TRASH
I say this in the full knowledge of what this means. There’s a long tradition of nay-sayers in the comic book/graphic novel field, and sometimes their comments can be very helpful, all the more so because their caveats cause people who love and respect the medium to question widely-held assumptions which may be tinged by the soft-focus lens of nostalgia or mediated by a lower standard which is perforce in place for the literary aspects of the graphic novel.
What if I were to say that, in spite of many fine collections which have been released over the past 25 years, comics are still, in many respects, a sub-literary medium? That only about 5% are worthy of serious consideration as literature? Would you reactively defend your favorites and dismiss my argument, or would you take the time to ask me to define my terms and defend my argument?
I would hope that scholars, at least, would choose the latter choice.
Jack Cole and Will Eisner have gotten a free ride for a long time, for work which is of highly variable quality. Call it the Halo effect. Read the early Plastic Man and Spirit stories and tell me that these are timeless classics. I don’t think you can. We could say the much same of our beloved Jack Kirby, who, according to some, is a veritable God. But, as significant as Kirby is to the history of the development of the medium, he is not above criticism. Nor is Alan Moore. Frankly, a good deal of Moore’s most celebrated work is little more than Genre Clowning. For an explanation of that term, refer to Thomas J. Roberts. An Aesthetics of Junk Fiction. A useful precis is here: http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/review_essays/terra55.htm
I suppose my point is that we should not make the mistake of
over-valuing the early work of an artist in light of his or her later
As it happens, I know quite a bit about the background history of the
comic strip and the comic book, as well as the graphic novel. It is
more in sorrow than anger than I make the gentle suggestion that a
good deal of the so-called landmark works of the medium have been
I have studied the earliest Spirit strips and have found them to be
quite pulpy. The earliest Plastic Man stories are not only pulpy, but
are rigidly constrained by plot imperatives. Both are instances of
superior craftsmen who are only beginning to find their way to
mastery. This is my opinion, but interested dissenters are invited to
actually read those early stories, which DC comics has thoughtfully
reissued in hardcover.
I might also refer the interested reader to the aesthetic dimensions
of comics as laid out in Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics:
This is not to say that I do not find comic strips, comic books, and
graphic novels fascinating, and in some instances, compelling.
Jules Feiffer, in 1965, said that comic books were “frankly, junk.”
When I came across his comment a few years later, I resisted his
assessment. Did he not, in the examples he gave in The Great Comic
Book Heroes, himself distinguish between the “good” junk and the “bad”
I find the comic strip and the comic book, as well as the graphic
novel, interesting not solely on the basis of the works themselves,
but also on account of their subtexts. I further believe that even the
most meretricious work can be useful to study insofar as it informs
the reader about what was going on at the time it was created.
Let’s not mistake this interest in subtext as merely a reactive
response which expresses “nothing but disdain for comics and other
forms of pop culture.” But let’s not utterly forgo an assessment of
the aesthetic dimension.
Incidentally, I have found Michael Feldman’s comments about Film in the
1960s to be an insightful and useful yardstick in regard to the state
of the art:
“Sure, comics are junk food. Burgers not steaks. But as popular
culture has slowly moved to centre stage in large part due to
generating vast amounts of revenue and of course being less demanding
on the brain – there is an attempt to retroactively legitimize them as
great art. And there can tremendous complexity in the finished product
just as there is with film, rock music, etc.
“Maybe part of a larger trend to go downscale with dignity. Where I
live expensive upscale burger joints, gourmet pizza, organic real
sugar candy – are the new rage for those who can afford them. Some
kind of deferred status like wearing high end name brand clothes or
only consuming fine wine, I guess.
“Comics are coming to the debate of whether they are true art late in
the game. It happened with film in the 60s. And though we remember
the isolated critical successes and classics, most movies were really
commercial junk too. But multimillion dollar budgets, movie star
adoration and misplaced nostalgia obscures that perception.”
CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE. 701.
VILLAINS I’D LIKE TO LOVE
It’s funny (or maybe not so funny) how movie villains are often both feral and androgynously attractive….What I am saying is that the media script for “Villain” USUALLY includes a tinge of the homoerotic. It’s no doubt a lingering vestige of the whole post WWII sex-and-violence nexus written about by Legman, McLuhan, Wertham, the Frankfort School, et al. My writerly researches have led me into tangled thickets of forbidden knowledge which I will not explicate at length, lest I appear nutty, or at least nuttier than people already think I am. But when I say, for instance, that all spies are perverts, then I am only exposing the tip of the iceberg. The Mandarinate (for want of a better term), for reasons of their own, seem to use the lure of forbidden sex as a means of social control. I’ve recently been reading a great deal of the post WWII girlie cartoon mags (Humorama; Over Sexteen; Sex to Sexty)–strictly as a part of my *harumph* scholarly research, mind you–and have noticed the resonant themes all have to do with women as animal spirits which seduce, hypnotize, and must be dominated by men. There are two layers to what Griel Marcus called “The Old Weird America”: the rural pre-WWII America, and the postwar aftermath from about 1940 to 1966. That latter period was America’s Victorian era–during the first half of it, sexuality was hidden and hush-hush, and, quite naturally, perverted. After about 1962 things loosened up. The threat of nuclear Armageddon, I suppose. I am not the first nor will I be the last to mull over these matters. The Classicists among us will surely see parallels in Roman culture.