WARNING: Spoilers for The Dark Knight Rises abound in this article.
Art via cakesandcomics.com (click to visit)
My friend and I were talking about a lot of things the other night. Mostly about The Dark Knight Rises and two girls we knew got married this past weekend. We talked about how fucking crazy the 00′s were and all the nonsensical shit that happened in our lives. We talked about how Christopher Nolan‘s Batman movies encapsulated so much about this time period, while also standing alone as a statements about the human experience.
In conclusion we hoped that The Dark Knight Rises may give us an ending not just to this particular Batman story but to an entire era of human bullshit that reach its peak in the past decade.
Yes, part of of what made the 00′s crazy was 9/11. That shit was earth shattering, literally, for those of us alive today. There’ve been other events of this magnitude, or greater, in the past but nothing that most generations alive today were around experience. We’ve all seen a lot of fucked up shit but a massive attack, successful executed on the homeland of the world’s most powerful country trumps all that. It shattered any illusion we may’ve held about finding a place that’s guaranteed to keep us safe. It showed us that nothing – not the best army nor the most money – could necessarily keep us from losing our lives in the blink of a crazy person’s eye.
But then Batman comes along and says “fuck it, there are better options.”
I believe The Dark Knight Rises is not just an awesome movie that ends an awesome trilogy of entertainment. I think it’s a message in a bottle, even if the people making the movie didn’t realize it. It tells us a story that, before any of us saw it, didn’t realize we wanted. I think if you told people how this movie would end before they saw it, they would say it’s antithetical to all that makes Batman such a popular character. Yet, when we see that closing scene with Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, it brings an uncontrollable smile to even the most cold hearted person’s face.
Who ever thought you could actually end Batman’s story with “and they lived happily ever after?”
And I hope that reflects the end of the world we’ll see in 2012. I’m tired of living in a world that expects heroics to end in tragedy. In second movie of Nolan’s trilogy an idea is stressed that can sum up an entire epoch of human history: “you can either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” In The Dark Knight Rises Batman gives us a new and much better option:
One of my new favorite shows is Psych. Sure, it’s mostly because of the immature, silly humor and my deep down desires to have wacky, heroic adventures while making pop culture references from my childhood and teenage years. But there’s a reality underpinning the fantasy that reveals a truth about humanity.
In case you don’t know the premise, here goes: Shawn Spencer is an expert but amateur profiler who uses lateral thinking and basic truths about human nature to solve crimes. However, since he has no other socially acceptable way to validate his skill, he tells the cops he’s a psychic.
The first truth: people are not that unique. If you’ve paid enough attention and let your instincts take charge, you can figure them and their situations out pretty quickly. Yes, YOU. Any of us can. That doesn’t excuse a lack of due diligence.I’m just saying the amount of time needed to “get to know someone” isn’t really that much. It takes a lot less time than most people think it does, which is why most don’t let themselves do it.
Which leads to the second truth: when faced with a person who can sum up a situation quickly, people really would rather be skeptical or believe in a fantasy like psychic abilities. Probably because it shatters the aforementioned deception that it takes time to get to know people. The easiest way to explain someone who does it successfully without shattering that illusion – unless you’re a skeptic and just say “phooey” at things like gut instinct – is to describe them as somehow gift or outside the norm.
A topic like this deserves a deeper breakdown. My English teachers would tell me this is a good start but I need more than declarative statements to make my point. Luckily it’s my website. But I do hope that throwing these ideas out there get some of you thinking. Or, at least, I hope it convinces you to watch Psych so you get my references.
A while back I wrote about Comic Book Club, a weekly show at The PIT Theater here in New York. It’s a weekly, live comic book talk show. I’ll be writing up a few of my personal highlights every week I go. Normally this feature will be included in tandem with another post but for this first one, they’ll have ROSHOW.net all to themselves. So, without further ado, my highlights (in no particular order) from last Tuesday’s CBC:
1. I don’t remember what this was in reference to but Pete asked a question and ended it with a totally straight faced, non-ironic delivery of “no homo.” I’ve never heard anyone actually say, other than Kanye West. Awesome.
2. Alex’s reaction to the X-Men porno being named X-Men: A Porn Parody, when the obvious title is XXX-Men: “that’s disgusting.” It really is.
3. Everyone making fun of M. Night Shyamalan joining twitter, especially whoever said “he was good until he started putting himself in more of his tweets.”
4. Cliff Chiang being the guest. His art work on Wonder Woman rocks. Everyone should be reading that book.
Let me get this out of the way: this is not a commentary on whether religion is good or bad. Mostly because I think that it’s not inherently either… but that’s a post for another day, maybe. This is more of a mental exercise.
A recent study showed that atheists may be the single most distrusted minority group in the whole world. I didn’t need a study to tell me this. It’s pretty obvious we’re more likely to vote for a Muslim president than an atheist one. Our culture seems to have a really hard time believing that someone could behave as a good, moral person without the belief of punishment from a supernatural deity.
But consider this: most religions have enough loopholes around amoral activity to make them effectively useless as a deterrent. I’m going to pick two examples because they’re easy and quick and I don’t have a million hours to write this entire treatise, so don’t take this as an exhaustive study. Anyway:
* Catholicism and various other branches of Christianity have penance. Very simple concept: you go to the priest, you confess all your sins, he tells you to say some prayers and absolves you. Would you trust anyone who could rob you blind – or worse – and only have to worry about getting to a priest before they die?
* Some Muslims believe that straight up murdering people who’ve done nothing other than not believe in their god is not only is forgivable, it can get you the big prizes and sexy rewards in heaven.
All it takes is a slight shift in perspective and you begin to see what a crappy argument “only religion encourages morality” truly is. Ultimately, if someone wants to be a dick, they’ll find a way within their personal religion to get away with it. More importantly, though, if someone wants to be a good person, they’ll be a good person, regardless of their religion or lack thereof.
And just because it’s appropriate, here’s a repost of a Blue Beetle and Phantom comic drawn by Jess Kirby with words by me:
For the past few months I’ve been contributing to the New York blog, Fucked in Park Slope. It’s been a lot of fun. Somewhere along the line, I thought it would be fun to create custom images for my articles using Google Images and photoshop (technically, I use GIMP, which has a lot of photoshop’s features but is free). I got hooked. It’s been interesting to find out how much I enjoy it. Sometimes I’d almost rather just do these than write a piece. Then I start writing and I can’t stop. Both are fun.
Here are some of my favorite “photoshopped” images (they link to their respective articles, too):
The spring I took an awesome comic book writing class (I won’t even link to it because any regular reader has heard enough about it). I learned a lot about writing and being a professional. But I also learned something about myself.
I’ve been into comic books my whole life but I’ve never really had “real life” (ie, not Internet) friends who are also fans. Oh, sure, I’ve always rolled with the geeks and nerds — obviously — but not the comic book geeks and nerds. I go to conventions less than I would like to and even then, I don’t really socialize, I just like to explore by myself. Come to think of it, there’s probably a lot to be said about me being a loner at comic book conventions but that’s introspection for another day. What I realized after my comic writing class was that it’s nice just being around other like-minded people.
I’m not knocking the Internet community I’ve become a part of. I fucking love that community to death. This past year I’ve gotten to work with multiple artists and talk comics with smart people, none of whom I’ve ever met face-to-face. But it’s nice to actually be part of a community where I can reach out and shake someone’s hand and say “nice to see you.” It’s not better, it’s different and equally important.
That’s why I started going to Comic Book Club at The PIT theater in New York. Pete, Alex, Justin, and Booth Man (I just realized I don’t know Booth Man’s real name) put on a live comic book talk show every Tuesday night at 8pm. Imagine a late night talk show, only it’s all about comics. The jokes are about comics, the guests are in the comic community, the segments report on comics and the trivia is about comics. It’s all fucking comics. And it’s live. And it’s a blast.
I’m glad this show exists. I look forward to it every week. So thank you Comic Book Club. And if you’re in New York, please check it out. I’ll be there. We can grab drinks before or after (the PIT has a rockin’ bar) and talk comics.
January, 2001. In college, I directed a play that my friends and I wrote. The second act took place in Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center. The plot revolves around a looming disaster. In our early stages of outlining we considered making the tragedy a plane crashing into the restaurant.
Summer, 2001. I spent the summer researching the history of New York City for my senior year independent project. The project was adapting Jack Finney’s time travel novel Time and Again into a screenplay. Part of my process involved photographing landmarks as they were in the present. I never got around to photographing the Twin Towers but I figured I could do it while home during fall break.
Spoiler alert for those who haven’t read the novel, by the way. Skip this next paragraph if you care.
A key plot point involves a suicide letter in which a character blames himself for “the destruction of the World… by fire.” Turns out he’s talking about the destruction of the World Building in the early 1880′s. This is an actual event. The World Building in the financial district of NYC burned down, with many people who were trapped inside jumping to their deaths in vain attempts to escape.
Late August, 2001. My friends and I saw Radiohead in Liberty Park, NJ. The park is directly across the water from the WTC and the Towers were the background against which Radiohead played that night.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Towers played such a striking role in my life that year. In fact, I think it’s perfectly logical. They were massive, dramatic symbols of New York City. This is why they made perfect backdrops for fiction and concerts. It’s also why they made the perfect targets for an attack.
I wrote this for my college newspaper in November of 2001. It seems like an appropriate enough time to revisit it. The sad thing is, a decade later, Ground Zero is still essentially a gaping hole. In the long run, it looks like Mr. Walker may have been right after all.
Ground Zero, November 2001
“At construction sites all over the city, cranes and the sounds of workmen typically signify what is to come, a landmark, a reminder of an intersection or a part of town… At Ground Zero, it is painfully apparent that this is not what will be.” – Alex Walker, CNN.com, November 5, 2001
I was at Ground Zero the day after Mr. Walker and my sentiments are quite the opposite.
As I exited the Fulton Street subway station I was face to face with one of the buildings near the Towers. I don’t know the name, but I recognized it as a building I’d seen many times before. This time, the steel and glass were not glistening in the morning sun—in fact, there was no glass left. What was once a street I could walk down was closed off with chain-link fence. The wrought-iron fence of a church at the corner was covered with flowers and sheets that people could leave messages on. To quote a fellow bystander, “this don’t look right.”
The aesthetic eeriness had an aural equivalence. “This don’t sound right, either,” I could have said to the bystander.
It took me a while to realize what exactly sounded wrong: aside from the traffic, it was absolutely silent. People walked along the street yet barely anyone spoke. Those who did speak spoke little and sounded distant, almost inaudible.
I walked along Broadway, looking down every block to see more of the destruction caused on September 11th. Mr. Walker’s construction site analogy works quite well here. Most of the destroyed buildings did not look all that different from many of the condemned buildings I had seen on construction sites all over the city. In retrospect what first struck me was the juxtaposition of the destruction with the relatively unchanged Broadway and the glistening, untouched buildings rising on the West Side, previously obstructed by the Twin Towers. It looked like a construction site; it was just in an unexpected place.
What did take me off guard almost immediately was coming to the corner of Broadway and Maiden Lane. I instantly recognized it as the spot from which I watched the Yankees ticker tape parade at the same time last year. That day the last thing I looked at was the World Trade Center that was right in my line of sight. And then I passed another corner that I remember walking past with two friends from out of town this summer as we looked for a place to eat. I remember glancing towards the Trade Center and deciding we should walk the opposite way because we were not going to afford any place to eat that lay in that direction. Both times I never looked twice at the sight of the Twin Towers and the Center that spanned the blocks surrounding them; as far as I was concerned that was the epitome of urban beauty, but I was so used to seeing it that it was just part of the background. Now all that lay in its place was rubble, destroyed buildings and fences keeping me out. Yet it did not feel hopeless, just different.
As I reached Trinity Church I noticed the increasing number of street vendors. Some were women on the corner selling American flag jewelry out of suitcases. Others were men selling tacky posters of the Twin Towers. And, of course, the guys who sold the bootleg hats were there, this time sporting NYPD and FDNY caps. My first reaction was the same as everyone else’s: absolute disgust at the site of people capitalizing on tragedy. It really does not get any more distasteful or shameless.
And then I smiled.
I was happy, truly happy, to see these people hocking tasteless merchandise on the block of Trinity Church next to Ground Zero. Being born and raised in New York, I do not think twice about seeing street vendors in much the same way I did not think twice about seeing the World Trade Center; they are always just there. Oh, and they are sure to be capitalizing on whatever is the current, hot, in-demand issue. I do not agree with their actions, but they are a staple of life in New York City. In that moment I realized that it would have been far stranger to make my way to Ground Zero and not find them. In light of all that was lost on September 11th, seeing these disrespectful, distasteful street vendors made it clear to me that this was still the place I had left earlier in September.
Slowly I started looking around again, this time at the people, not the destruction. By now it was approaching the lunch hour and Wall Street executives were pouring onto the street. There were still people like me looking at the remains of the World Trade Center, but the number of regular pedestrians was steadily increasing. The silence I thought I heard was gone and in its place was the sound of unintelligible voices talking over each other; the sound I was so used to hearing. The New York life I knew was springing up all around me on downtown Broadway.
One of the first things I thought about when I had a second to catch my breath on September 11th was the Winter Garden. I had heard it referred to as the “living room of the World Trade Center,” and I could not agree more. A domed greenhouse with towering palm trees, marble floor and a grand staircase, it stood at the base of the Towers, overlooking the river. Every time I went there, the beauty of it made me look around in awe. Something about never being able to see it again stuck out in my mind the days following the attack. Words cannot express the feeling that overwhelmed me when I turned a corner, looked down to where the Twin Towers once stood and saw, in the distance, the Winter Garden still standing. Amidst all the destruction and all the debris, it stood there. Granted it had a gapping hole on the east side and it was covered in soot, but it was still there. I do not hesitate to say that it was the happiest I had felt since before the attacks—if not one of the happiest moments of my life.
Ground Zero, September 2011
Like the street vendors and the Wall Street execs running around on Broadway, seeing the Winter Garden that morning last week gave me a sense of hope I had not felt since the attacks. A day like September 11th makes us stop and think and mourn. But eventually life gets up and continues.
Ground Zero is not just what was — it is what will be. Once the cleaning is done, construction will begin and in the place of the World Trade Center will undoubtedly be a new landmark for an old country and an even older city. At Ground Zero it is apparent that we will not allow tragedy to dictate or destroy our lives.
Gordon: You’re just one man? Batman: Now we’re two. Gordon: We?
That’s one of my favorite exchanges from Batman Begins. The idea of Batman is a myth. The idea of Batman the avenger who works alone is a flat-out lie. Batman has always depended on his friends and allies, be it Commissioner Gordon, Robin, Alfred or a whole crew of others.
Another fictional character often described as a loner is James Bond. Go back and check out any Bond movie, though. By the third act he’s amassed a team of allies without whom he’d never make it out of the death trap and save the world.
In fact, go ahead, see if you can find any hero, in any myth, from any culture who despite all outward appearances truly works alone and succeeds. I’ll wait while you look.
Back? I’m guessing you didn’t find any. Because to truly succeed you can’t go at it alone. The ideas of community and cooperation are embedded in all human stories of true success. You know who always goes at it alone? The villain. And though they may have their moments of success they always end up losing.
Remember It’s A Wonderful Life? I hope so because everyone should see that movie at least once. When it was released, audiences complained that Mr. Potter was not overtly punished for his evil deeds. In fact, he got to keep the money he stole from George Bailey. But at the end of the movie, he’s still a miserable, lonely old man. Even with all his money, no one wishes they were him. That is Mr. Potter failing… miserably.
I’m thinking about all this because a “Six Months Later” story about the 30 Characters Challenge went up today. I took the challenge not only to be more creative but to actually create and share as part of a community. Until then most of my work had been tucked away on my hard drive, shared maybe with my wife and one or two other friends.