Ruminations, etc..

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The Plague Dogs, Grant Morrison, We3 and All-Star Superman: Rambling Thoughts Ahead!

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This morning, delirious from lack of sleep and caffeine (I don’t do well with either), I decided to investigate the book The Plague Dogs.  Specifically, I started to watch clips from the movie version on YouTube.   Let me tell you: that was a great decision.

For those of you who don’t know, The Plague Dogs is a story about two dogs, Rowf and Snitter, who escape from an English animal testing facility. They are chased not only by the English military, but also by the general public, after the testing facility leaks information to the press that the dogs are carrying the plague.  As you can probably guess from the set-up, hilarity ensues, culminating at the end when the dogs are chased out to see to drown, swimming for an imaginary island that Snitter sees.

Another light moment in the Plague Dogs: Snitter swimming to an imaginary island.

Being a dog owner and an animal lover, you can probably guess how I reacted to the this good-time romp.

But  it got me thinking.  Not necessarily about animal testing (something that I’m against unless there is absolutely no alternative), but about another work that is very similar to The Plague Dogs that I discovered earlier this year.   It’s called We3, and it was written by Grant Morrison, who is one of the greatest comic writers the genre ever produced.

Similar to The Plague Dogs, We3 is about three animals — a dog, cat and a rabbit — who were modified by the US Military to be assassins.  The animals are encased in armor and are capable of rudimentary speech.  At the start of the book, the program is shut down and the animals are to be destroyed, however, they are set loose by a scientist in the program.  The animals then search for a place to call home.  The military is after them and intends to kill them.  As you can probably guess from the set-up, hilarity ensues.

For animal lovers, this comic, now collected in a handy single volume, is an absolutely harrowing read.  I know people who couldn’t make it past the first three pages  — it’s that intense.  I, however, have read it several times.   Reading We3 that often is equivalent to sticking my genitals into an electric socket.  And yet I do it over and over again.  I’m not sure why.  Masochistic, I guess.

Of course, it could be that Grant Morrison is just one hell of a writer, and I that I enjoy his work.  In fact, this is guy that finally made Superman interesting to me.  No small feat.

More hilarity from We3: the Dog begging for his life.

I’ve often considered Superman one of the most boring characters out there.  At least, as written.  The problem with Superman is that he’s literally capable of anything, so ordinary obstacles don’t apply to him, and comic writers don’t handle him well because of that.

However, after reading All-Star Superman, I’m  now convinced that, in the hands of the right writer, Superman can be every bit as complex and interesting of a character that you could name.  Maybe even rivaling Vinnie Chase in Entourage for depth. (In fact, did you see this week’s episode of Entourage?  This week, Vinnie got a hair cut without asking permission first! Now that’s storytelling! Eat your heart out Joyce Carol Oates!)

Superman has no limits.  There is nothing beyond his grasp. He could rule the Earth like a King (or at least, like P. Diddy), but he chooses not to, and actually chooses to be our protector.    Because of that self-administered limitation, he’s a much more deep character than a character like Batman, who’s about as one-note as you can get.  After reading All-Star Superman, it was apparent to me that Superman is boring because of poor writing, not because of any inherent limitations in the character.

All-Star Superman was a 12 issue limited series that featured a lot of great moments and, frankly, pure whimsy.  The best issue, in my mind, was #10. Not only was it the best issue in such a strong series,  I’d argue that All-Star Superman #10 is the best comic ever written. In that issue, Morrison reminds us what a superhero actually is, and why some of us like reading about them.   In essence, a superhero has to accomplish what we cannot do for ourselves.  He or she has to transcend our human limitations and beat an obstacle that normal humans cannot.  That’s a tall order, and one that is beyond the adolescent rage fantasies in Batman, or the persecution complex that typifies most X-Men books.

One of my favorite moments from All-Star Superman #10.

Anyway, that’s my rambling thought process for the day.  I probably should go and do other work.  In conclusion, I like Grant Morrison very, very , very, very, very much.

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Written by B. Michael Krol

July 13, 2010 at 4:32 pm

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