Thursday, July 12, 2007

TV is Your Connection to the Whole World

Recently, I was alerted to the following article about a new line of comics:

Pow! Romance! Comics Court Girls

It's Minx! The comix for chix that stinx!

The article was like "blah de blah girls are reading comics wow that's so weird blah de blah de blah", which is fine, but what really caught my attention was the title of the story, written by Matt Phillips who is stupid. Here it is again:

"Pow! Romance! Comics Court Girls".

The Batman TV show premiered in 1966, and so Matt Phillips has used a 41 year old formula to write his article headlines. Besides comic books, there is no other industry in America that can claim that its products have been promoted by the same headline for almost half a century.

Here are just a few articles that use the exact same headline:

Pow. Zap. Bang.
How God makes your action-packed life like a superhero's.

Campus Life, June/July 2005

Pow! Zap! Cartoons hit Southend Library
17 July 2001

Zap! Pow! Islamic superheroes to save the day
By Hassan M. Fattah The New York Times

Pow! Bam! Zap! Pollution Fighters Crowd the Horizon
January 1998
National Science Foundation

And ad nauseum, ad infinitum. Every time a newspaper reporter has to write a "those sissy comic books for idiots are hip again!" article, they reach way in the back of the shelf and pull out that same turgid lump of forty year old feces.

Written by two failed and bitter vaudevillians, one a legal moron and the other a spoons player, the "Batman" television show was notable mostly for "The Batusi" dance step, a brief resurgence in the coolness factor of spoon-playing television writers, and five hundred zillion headlines to top off puff pieces about comic books.

Here are some additional variations on the headline formula:

"Pow! Zap! Look at what these comic book nerds are doing now!"

"Whap! Zing! Pow! I Can't be Bothered to Think of a Headline!"

"Pow! Kablammo! A famous celebrity reads one of those sissy comic books!"

"Pow! Zap! Please end my misery!"

And it's all due to the good work of those rascal idiot vaudevillian writers of the Batman television show who have defined comic books in the public eye for the next fifty eons.

Dave Sim talked about television for a bit in his comic, Cerebus, and while being appalled just now at the laziness of newspaper reporters writing about comics, I was reminded of one of Mr. Sim's points, that television is the true world hegemon ("hegemon" is fruity professor talk for "the biggest gorilla in the zoo"). What I find really weird is that comics, for the past forty years, have been defined to the general public with a reference to a TV show that was on for two years (1966-1968) and which was vaguely based on one single comic.

Put on your tinfoil hats, people! I'm gonna tell you the unmitigated truth about the way the world is run! The people in charge don't want you to know this, but they can't stop the power of the people to write paragraphs on the web!

The way television defines comics is how the general public defines comics. To the great monolithic entity of television, comics are only what that one show starring that one fat asshole in the dumb looking bat suit was. "Zap! Pow!" is how television refers to the comic book. "Zap! Pow!" is how the general public thinks of comic books. The exact same thing happened to science fiction: to Television, "science fiction" is what that dumb show in the 60s was about with the fat guy kissing a lot of green women. How many television news reports have you seen that can't speak two sentences about science fiction without a reference to Captain Spock on the Star Trek? Hmm? How many?

It was suggested to me that it was "okay" for writers to come up with lazy headlines like this because comics have to be sold to the public. That implies that if the news report or article doesn't reference the Batman television show with "Zap! Pow! Kapenis!" at the very beginning of the story, then no one's going to "get" comics.

I categorically disagree with this. Writers have been using the "Zap! Pow! Comics are lots more filthy than you remember!" headline formula for forty years, exactly nine years longer than Fred Savage has been alive. Despite this headline, in the past forty years, the comic book market in this country has done nothing but shrink. If using that idiot headline is supposed to sell comic books, it hasn't worked at all.

Think of it: Suppose every sports story in newspapers always began with the same headline referencing an event from 40 years ago. From stories about the Chicago Bulls to the Seattle Mariners to the Duke Lacrosse team, imagine that every single headline began with "Joe Dimaggio Hits Another Home Run!"

After 40 years of seeing the exact same headline for sports news stories, probably the people who read newspapers would start to think that sports really haven't changed very much in the last four decades. Why bother reading the news story? I already know that Joe Dimaggio hit a home run; he did the same thing last time Tiger Woods scored 9 under par. Why, after 40 years of that stupid headline, sports might only appeal to an aging group of overweight smelly men who remember Joe Dimaggio.

But, for whatever reason, the young girls like reading those backward comic books about 9 foot tall guys with long hair who act all tough but who are really sensitive once they meet exactly the right feisty teenage girl. They're coming into the bookstores to buy those stupid comics despite the lazy dumb-ass headlines about the Batman television show, bless them.

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