Wednesday, March 10, 2010

No Flash and Little Hope - My Kind of Hero

by Sophie

SUPERHEROES

Superheroes' appeal generally eludes me. Not only are they far too flashy for my taste when in character, but they are just too public. Yes, I know that many of them in their heart of hearts are lonely seekers,but their deeds are generally performed amidst or above crowds - screaming needful unwieldy crowds.

Sidebar: have I ever told you how I feel about crowds? No? Crowds make me want to take a vegetable peeler and remove my own skin in strips. Crowds make me want to dig a hole in the floor and disappear. If you don't have a crowd issue, let me educate you; it's not about any person in particular; in fact it could be all your favorite people in the world assembled in one spot. The problem is that they are all assembled in one spot. Now if you have seen me in a crowded bar you will protest that I seem to be doing just fine. Yeah...that's because it's a bar. Nah, just kidding. I'm working on the crowd thing...

Anyway, when it comes to heroes I prefer one like Richard Fell in the comic book series written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Ben Templesmith.

Richard Fell is a homicide detective in the city of Snowtown, a blight of a place inhabited by the desperate and the twisted. The Snowtown police department is a ruin within a ruin, understaffed, indifferent, underfunded, callous, mean. But Fell tackles the job anyway, and from issue one bumps up against crimes so heartless that you feel Snowtown's despair leeching off the pages into your own soul.

There are no Jokers here. No femmes fatales, no boyish sidekicks. No character actors of the underworld, just the feral and hungry and vicious - and their crimes are hardcore, ugly things. As drawn by Templesmith, the victims leave a lot of doubt as to whether they are already past salvation, but that never takes away from the imperative to act - and act Fell does.

There is something haunting and beautiful about the artwork, and I'm sure that is part of the appeal this series holds for me. It almost wavers on the page, details of faces and scenes lost in inked smudges. There is no other comic art like it, that I am aware of.

But the best part of the series is the writing. It's minimal even for a format known for minimalism. Ellis communicates entire stories in the words he leaves out, and I appreciate that - it's a near-impossible trick.

Oh. And there's an evil nun. A mysterious evil nun. C'mon, how can you beat that??

*** OOPS I made a serious omission - I forgot to credit Keiran Shea for turning me on to FELL, *and* for giving me his old issues of lots of comics, thereby establishing my entire comic education. Keiran is awesome. ***

11 comments:

Joshua Corin said...

Oh my God, Sophie, I adore Fell. It's sooo grim and sooo bleak and only the protagonist's humanity saves it from being total and absolute nihilism (which isn't to say that it spared me from having nightmares).

Warren Ellis is a wicked god (and if you like this series by him, you MUST check out his novel "Crooked Little Vein.")

Sophie Littlefield said...

thanks Joshua - I absolutely will check it out!! I have been savoring this series...it's the movie you don't want to end, except it's a book...

Kieran Shea said...

Ah-ha! Knew those comics would pay off.

Jen Forbus said...

Ha. Might have to check that one out Sophie. I'm not a big "superhero" fan either, but I have plenty of heros who are common everyday people doing beautiful, wonderful things. A couple of them even hang out here at Criminal Minds

As far as the crowd business goes, I'm right there with you! Although I am one of the folks who thinks you do well in crowds. I'm even afraid to walk up and talk to people. I think my biggest fear is that I'll be seen as intruding where I'm not wanted. No matter how I try to convince myself otherwise, I still always have that nagging feeling. *sigh*

Sophie Littlefield said...

I should have mentioned that I owe it all to my friend Kieran!! I would not have found this series without his guidance. Plus he gives me all his old issues. Can you believe it? Now *that* is a great friend!!

Sophie Littlefield said...

oh Jen, I know that feeling well. Do you know the 12-step phrase "fake it 'til you make it?" that is in my head at every public gathering I ever attend.

We'll try it together next time we hang out....we can pretend to be thelma and louise...or lucy and...

Terry said...

I'm not much of a comic book fan but the artwork is cool and let's face it, how can you beat an evil nun. Sister Mary Elizabeth Theresa Beelzebub.

Pop Culture Nerd said...

Oh, a fellow crowdaphobe! Being at a mall around Christmastime can send me straight to the trauma ward at the nearest hospital.

I don't know this Fell fella but you've sure made a persuasive argument to read him. I must say, though, that I do love my tights-and-Underoos-wearing superheroes. Some of them have really cool gadgets. If I had Wonder Woman's bulletproof bracelets, I could walk safely through some parts of L.A. while still looking stylish and fabulous.

Sophie Littlefield said...

Terry - love it. generations of kids have suffered at the hands of mean nuns. I'm okay with good ones too, just need the balance...

and PCN, you KNOW I am picturing you in the wonder woman getup now :)

Shane Gericke said...

This Fell sounds too great. I'm finding more things this week that I simply must check out.

I'll save you from crowds, Sophie, if you'll save me from tunnels and such. I can stand in a crowd of a million with no problem, but stick me inside a tunnel or cave--or the narrow space between the walls of a Crusader-era castle, where I got stuck once--and it's "get outta my way or I'll mow you down running." Deal?

Sophie Littlefield said...

you got a deal shane, especially cause I kind of like caves. I grew up in missouri, where we know our caves, and my dad was an amateur spelunker. He took us 3 kids all over the place, under ground.

I made up a scary cave story for my kids when they were little. they still ask for it...