Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Interlude Between This Column Sitting Empty and a Review of "Accepted" Literature

PORTEmaus Literature Society entry ONE: Gotham Central

I thought I would take a departure from the Muckraker and the tepid Trump article that is firmly entrenched within my craw, I felt that I would publish a premature Literature Society post. Basically, I wanted to pull something from deep within the cockles of me heart. The Literature Society was a logical replacement for the PORTEmaus Book Club which --let's face it-- failed because I could not stay on task. I am in the midst with finishing the Hemingway (thereby "old yellering" the Book Club or relieving it from the throes of death) and also working on Hebert George (H.G. if you're nasty) Wells' Tono Bongay as the inaugural post. So, here in its stead is a sneak preview involving some funny books.

Certainly, a lot of funny books or comics are formulaic and superficial, however their are comic series that transcend the genre. No Bence, while Grant Morrison did not write this (which is kind of good considering he has severe third act issues... With the exception of Batman and Robin which is solid) critically acclaimed, canceled and would have been forgotten series had it not been for a recent release in a series of deluxe additions with the final one released this past march. With the multitude of the series emanating from Gotham City with fantastic tales about corrupt city chock full of psychotic villains, superheros who rely on their wit, intellect and a utility belt full of sweet batarangs. Oh, how could I forgot a butler by the name of Pennyworth.

So, who really wants to hit the beat with a bunch of relatively unknown flatfoots on the mean streets of Gotham City when faced with that as competition? The answer simply (at the very least) is Manfred Funkowitz. Gotham Central is quite possibly the best series (subjectively speaking) to be printed by DC Comics within the past decade (this is very bold talk considering their stable of characters, writers and artists). Ever wonder what a police procedural set within a city where the police and their work are overshadowed by the specter of Batman? This is Gotham Central.

The series follows the officers (of the Night and Day shifts) comprising the Major Crimes Unit (MCU) who handle the "freak beat" and routinely run afoul of villains the likes of Joker, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze among the common thugs that round out their work days. It is very rare in the mediums (film, music, literature or what have you) outside real life where you encounter rich and interesting characters... To the point where you treat them almost like living, breathing beings in their own right (Deadwood fits within this category but that is another topic for another day).

Spanning the period of three years or forty issues, Gotham Central was not long enough. The fortieth issue ends with the death of one of their ranks and that was it. Sadly, it seems that the series never made its projections and it was finally given the ax. It is a shame, it was refreshing to view the world of caped individuals through the lens of "real" people. How does the actions of a vigilante in a cape and cowl affect the psyches of law enforcement officers. Surprise, Surprise, many of them despised him and loathed the fact that a signal (which only the office temp can operate or it implies the city backs his actions) bears his emblem on their place of employment.

One post could not even begin scrap the surface of this series. One could have told stories as a city held hostage by the joker armed with a sniper rifle from the perspective of the cops hunting him and still not done these comics justice (not a pun... or was it?). The whole time I read this series, I felt that it would make an amazing television drama (not on the CW)... Not only that, it would be popular. This is not surprising considering the popularity of The Walking Dead. It almost had me dust off my typewriter to crank out a spec script for the comic. Thankfully, my fear of copyright infringement kept my nerdiest urges in check. Needless to say, it was a great series of issues.

I would like to close this early morning rambling with the following thought. I hate... nay loathe... abhor... Yes, that is it! Abhor the term, "Graphic Novel." It seeks to gain legitimacy from people who will not read them anyway. They are collections of single issues not one single work that spans xxx number of pages. When I was young and being made fun for reading them, we referred to them as "trades." Not many people will care about this short paragraph but I wanted to get it out there. Good morning, ladies and gents... Can you hear the rooster crowing?


  1. love the last paragraph...now much like long awaited concert reviews.. i'm going to have go write some political rant...excuse me

  2. Which graphic novels do you recommend reading the most? One of my favorite graphic novels is Long Halloween, another graphic novel I seem to enjoy is Batman and the Monster Men, and it's sequel. It's sort of a graphic novel saga I suppose. I also enjoy the Joker origin story in the graphic novel titled the Killing Joke. All in all, I have to say I'd rather pick up a graphic novel and read it than a book by Hemingway. I wonder what kind of graphic novel he'd write in glorious 1925? I don't think graphic novels existed then though...

  3. If you liked the Joker story in Moore's "Killing Joke" you should check out Azarello's "Joker" that came out a few years ago. It's not as good as Moore's story but it still holds up as an interesting take on our favorite villain. Also if it's Batman you're after you should start with Batman and Son and read everything after that that Morrison has done...easily the best batman stories of the last 5 years or so Batman and Robin #16 is probably the single best issue of a comic book i've read since i started reading again.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Who deleted the paragraph and a half with more "graphic novel" name-drops than a Kevin Smith movie and the Hemingway dig? We're not going to start censoring our critics are we? That, and I was hoping Manny was going to hire him, we need a fifteen-year-old on the payroll.

  6. they also deleted our awesome dissection of the fall of NBC

  7. seriously?! so lame they'd do that, I suppose it happened when they were down and all our profiles got messed up to.