Saturday, June 16, 2012

Watchmen and Goodfellas: A Post in Which Neither Shares Anything But the Post, Except Maybe Also A Theme That Came to Me At the End

So I'm going to write about a few different things, because everything I want to write about at the moment is bits and pieces.  So!  You're going to get a few small thoughts about things.  And some of them won't even be comics!

1.  Earlier today, Goodfellas was on TV.  It's right at the point where Joe Pesci kills Phil Leotardo from The Sopranos for saying something stupid (doesn't Joe Pesci kill everybody for that reason in the movie, though?).  In any case, I started watching from there (because who needs context when you've watched the movie a million times?).

A thought struck me, about halfway through my viewing; it came right at the moment when Joe Pesci gets word he's gonna get made (and there are SPOILERS from here on out, so beware!!!!), and Robert DeNiro tells him, "He's gonna get made!  This guy's gonna be boss one day!"  Except, and maybe this is colored by me watching The Sopranos, he's probably a little too old to be boss.  And then it struck me: this whole movie's about the myth of the American dream, more specifically, the myth of hard work.

See, everybody who works hard in this movie doesn't make it out alive or okay.  The people involved in the Lufthansa heist?  The only one who lives is DeNiro, and he ends up going to prison.  And that was hard work.  Hell, even Maury, the furniture salesman who hangs out with the guys and masterminded the whole heist, gets an icepick to the neck before he ever gets his cut of the thing.  Pesci gets killed when he thinks he's going to get made.  When Ray Liotta goes to prison, he keeps on telling his wife that they're on their own.

So everybody keeps working in the hopes that they're going to get paid or made or just be able to have an easier life.  But they don't.  The only way Liotta manages to be remotely successful at the end is to sell out; in other words, it's a stroke of luck.  It seems like everybody's success, even DeNiro's temporary one, is built on the backs of others.

2. A couple weeks ago, I bought the first issue of Before Watchmen.  It was largely because, hey, man, more Darwyn Cooke comics are always a good thing.  But.  Part of it was also because, man, tons of people were hating on it because of the politics of the whole thing.

For instance, here's a post on it by David Brothers, one of my favorite comics bloggers, but one with whom I vehemently disagree on this time: "Before Watchmen is Comic Book Poison".  So, let's go over a few points really quickly:

A.  I understand that the title's supposed to be incendiary, but man, I didn't feel any worse after reading the thing.  But!  Wait!  I was sick yesterday!  Maybe it's because I read BW?  No, wait, it's because it was 95 degrees out, I forgot my water bottle, and I walked to work, and no amount of rehydration could help me out.  (Sorry for the sarcasm, but I couldn't resist.)

B.  Apparently, my buying BW is a vote for
"-A comics industry that prizes properties over creators
-A comics industry that will effortlessly use its legal muscle to screw over creators
-A comics industry that strip-mines the past at the expense of the future", which isn't something I agree with.  For one thing, it's a vote for more Darwyn Cooke comics, at least buy me.  For another, it's a vote for comics where I don't have to worry about politics or who's getting screwed by which company, or whatever.

Honestly, and this is probably very un-liberal of me, but I'm kind of tired of everything I buy or participate in or whatever being part of some huge movement.  I feel like everywhere I turn these days, so many things are begging me to put my money in one place or another.  Watching The Avengers?  Spend just as much at the Hero Initiative (a charity for comics creators) because Kirby's estate isn't getting anything for it!  Buying Before Watchmen?  You must want creators to suffer!  Things like that, and not just in comics.  But y'know what, my money's scarce enough that I can't just givegivegive.  I understand creator rights.  In many cases, I even empathize with them.  But I simply can not allow them to restrict what I read/watch/listen to.  Because, see, if I start doing that, I either end up not enjoying anything or getting endlessly myopic.

An example of the latter point: recently, one of my favorite podcasts had one of the 'casters debating, basically with himself, for weeks on end about whether or not he would continue to read Marvel comics, because he just wasn't comfortable with the way Marvel was handling the Jack Kirby lawsuit or with the work conditions at the Marvel offices (referenced here and here).  And the thing that kind of vexed me was that his moral dilemma started with the work situation post and exacerbated from there.  So I went and read about the work situations, and...I can't.  I just can't.  Because, see, those work conditions?  So incredibly, incredibly familiar.  That's what nearly every public place is like these days.  Every single public place you go to these days has a staff that is utterly focused on endless numbers that supposedly reflect your performance or your value as a worker, and these numbers are being forced to stay up while the capability to perform every single one of these tasks is being cut and cut and cut.  This is corporate America.

And hey, I'm not saying don't buy because you're uncomfortable with something.  I should really, really point that out.  If you're utterly uncomfortable with something, don't buy it.  But do two other things first, please; firstly, don't force your views on others, and secondly, please please please apply that point of view to everything in your life.  It's simply not fair otherwise.

(PS: David Brothers and Jeff Lester, I want you to know that yes, I do love what you're doing, even if I disagree with you at times.  Just so you know.)