Literature, Fandom, and Fantastic Beasts; Stan Lee and Sherwood Anderson

I finished a new short story last week.  I’m mentally preparing for the next one by doing some reading and by catching up on other kinds of work.  Tomorrow, I’m going to start a story inspired in part by Sherwood Anderson’s “Godliness: A Story in Four Parts.” 

Yesterday, I posted a short, positive review of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.  Had Flannery O’Connor written “Godliness,” I suspect that David Hardy’s arc would bear more of a thematic resemblance to Credence Barebone’s.  

Since posting my Grindelwald review, more of the negative hot takes I was expecting have started coming in from people who are paid to write about these things.  So have some positive ones.  One critic is arguing that JK Rowling should not have been allowed to write the Fantastic Beasts movies, because George Lucas.

Some of the negative reviews boil down to consternation over seeming violations of Rowling’s canon.  I wonder what people who have those kinds of issues make of the countless retcons and reboots we see in the comics medium.

This post is something like six years old, and is woefully out of date.  It’s also one of the most-read posts I’ve ever done.  Why?  Because most readers understand what Bill Maher doesn’t: comic books, sci-fi, fantasy, these myth-making genres and their creators, don’t really stand outside and apart from the Andersons and O’Connors of the world.

Graphic Policy shared this quote from Lee, which is apropos:

“They take great pains to point out that comics are supposed to be escapist reading, and nothing more. But somehow, I can’t see it that way. It seems to me that a story without a message, however subliminal, is like a man without a soul. In fact, even the most escapist literature of all — old time fairy tales and heroic legends — contained moral and philosophical points of view…None of us lives in a vacuum—none of us is untouched by the everyday events about us — events which shape our stories just as they shape our lives. Sure our tales can be called escapist — but just because something’s for fun, doesn’t mean we have to blanket our brains while we read it!”

With respect to Potter or Star Wars or Star Trek or other properties fans attach themselves to and imbue with personal meaning, remember that  Marvel and DC reboot entire mythical universes every other year.  Fans grumble and complain.  But the iconography of Batman, Superman, and Spider-man is never tarnished.  Their continuity has become a sort of choose-your-own-adventure, and these characters, far older than Rowling’s or Lucas’s or Roddenberry’s, are all the richer for it.

Graphic Policy shares another timely quote:

“Finally, what does Excelsior mean?  Upward and onward to greater glory!” 

That’s what Stan Lee had in mind for his readers.  Not a glory of overmen and jingo, so common in modern politics, not some fanatical appeal to the real-life analogues of Gellert Grindelwald’s “greater good.”  Rather, to the making of big, important stories, life-giving tales of love and justice.  Those are the things that resonate in print, on screen, on mix-tapes.  In comic books and any other thing called literature.



Excelsior

I wrote this the other day right after seeing the news about Stan Lee.  I was taking a break from working on a new short story:

Sitting here, working on some creative projects, counting my words, talking about gods and heroes, and just seeing the news that Stan Lee, the creative force behind so much American mythos, has gone into eternal rest and light. I am hard pressed to think of one other figure from the 20th century who has had a bigger impact on modern story-telling and myth-making. Excelsior, Stan Lee. Excelsior.

Where are our Jetpacks? Where are our Flying Cars?

I probably say this a few times a year, but don’t you ever wonder why the technological future people predicted when the space age started hasn’t happened yet? I know, I know…we have computers and plastic and all of that. But where are my hour-long flights to the Moon? It’s 2010.

It’s like that whole generation of scientists who were kids when Hanna-Barbera was in first runs and Stan Lee was inventing the cosmos weren’t even paying attention. But lots of things from Star Trek have made their way into reality. Well, some things. Yes, I’ve been watching Johnny Quest and reading Junot Diaz.