Monday, September 15, 2008

The Coming of Squirrel Girl (by Murray and Ditko)


After two weeks of illustration I think it's time to get back into the comics again, although this may not have been the first thing you imagined.

File this under too weird not to post.

I can safely say that this is one of the most eye-opening comics I have read in quite some time. It veers into Tobe Hooper (Lifeforce, Funhouse, Texas Chainsaw Massacre) territory; as is said of his pact with audiences, "Here's the deal: No deal". Will Murray and --especially-- Steve Ditko give us this same package at every turn of this short story.

Where to begin? First off, this is the most cool--i.e. emotionally muted-- I have ever seen Iron Man. He's on Bogart/Bacall levels of indifference to things around him. The fact that he is so undeniably straight the entire time makes it seem much weirder. This is al reinforced by Ditko's measured and solid hand in drawing the characters and environment. Except on course with Squirrel Girl’s face.

Ye Gods. That is something only achievable in comics, those weird facial expressions not possible by any human being and much more mind imprinting in the static pages of a comic book, as you could just stare at it conceivably forever, where as in animation it would pass shortly. You can’t help but notice her.

Speaking of Squirrel Girl, her whole character is something to be hold. He is the ultimate fan girl, that well meaning yet strangely off putting person that really wants to hang out with you, and you only let here because it's too odd to ignore. The part where she hides her face in her fur tail(beautify illustrated by the way) and says she only want to be near Iron Man, not those stinking mutants, is big cake of head scratching. The fact she's 15 is a massive icing.

Is that Steve Ditko mocking Marvel comics, or at least the ones he didn't create? Since none of the characters, save SG, was created by Ditko he seems to take great delight in mocking them. Like Hooper makes fun of yuppies in Poltergeist. Doom's defeat (if you can call it that) is among the most bizarre for one of the more regal characters in the marvel universe. Young sidekicks are a stable of comic books (Bucky, Robin) but who is SG representing? The young girls who read comic books? Hadn't they felt besmirched by the death of romance comics and gone to other mediums? And what boy feels he can relate to Squirrel Girl(especially with those eyes)? Again, who is the audience for this character?

Perhaps it would be helpful if we look at the time of this creation. But this is a dead end. This was published in Marvel Super-Heroes(#8), a publication where Marvel dumped Library stories, back-up material in case some other story was over the deadline. So this could have been commissioned at any time, the seventies or eighties(My guess would be the early latter, based on the inking style).

This leads me to another mindfuck in this story, it was published in 1992. 1992, a year in the decade of image, foil comics, nauseatingly "realistic"art and grungy heroes. Can you imagine some kid who loves Spawn or Dark Knight picking this up? His mind would be blown away. It truly looks like a dinosaur come back to live, preserved youthfully in a tar pit. Another pillar of insanity for this bizarre comic.

And yet, despite all the shock inducing elements of the story, it remains undeniably sweet. It has two levels, two worlds, again like Hooper. It's beautifully drawn, the interaction between them is lovingly done(and lovingly one-sided) and it really makes me laugh, and realize that life really is a carnival. It also feels meta, in a good way. Iron Man plays the sturdy, veteran thinking he’s seen it all(drolly comparing SG to all the other heroes) like the reader, but he is jerked under the rug as much as us. In any case it is certainly ones of the few times where when a character says he doesn't think anyone will believe it, we agree with him. (Incidentally the water cooler talk recapping this would be amazing).

I've said far too much and probably put way too much thought into this, but I feel this comic merits it. It's genuinely astounding(a sense of wonder fills me when I read this), the art is some of the best I have ever seen, and it takes you on a bad acid trip, something akin to Lifeforce or Funhouse. I’ve hope you enjoyed this comic book, it truly represent the weirdness that only this medium can bring. Most serious minded comic fans aiming for respectably will no doubt raise their nose at such a thing. Fine, let them. They have their grungy and dreadfully serious movies to console them, and I have merriment with this little gem.

Incidentally, comic book movies being so profitable and popular (fans will see them, if solely to bitch) perhaps it is only a matter of time before this characters gets made into a movie. It would be an interesting subject. Perhaps Squirrel Girl could tie in with Suicide Girls--they do have a common moniker-- and promote each other. I can already see the ladies accepting her as one of their own. But who can film such a character? Who can dismiss traditional narrative and simply worry about entertaining the audience? It would have to be someone who has a long history of doing so. It would have to be. . . (who else?) Tobe Hooper.

1 comment:

joe bloke said...

" i don't need luck. i eat nuts! "

what a terrific post, man. that was a blast.