Title: It's a Bird...
Author: Teddy Kristiansen
Artist: Steven T. Seagle.
Genre: Graphic novel, super heroes, fantasy, autobiography, health.
Country: New York, U.S.
Publication Date: May 2004.
Summary: An autobiographical book, chronicling Seagle's thoughts as he tries to work out a new approach to one of the world's most popular characters - Superman. The book deals with the presence of Huntington's Disease in Seagle's family, the implications of this disease on family dynamics, and the apparent contradictions in the character of Superman. It also features the poems and stories he does start and write.
My rating: 9/10
♥ Seventh grade was where it all started to get weird. Some of the boys looked like kids, while their friends the same age looked like men. Some of the girls still played with dolls, but others began to dress like their older sisters. And things that didn't used to matter suddenly did. The kids congregated into groups that would endure until graduation day: the jocks... the brains... the geeks...
Unfortunately, Jason Dobson wasn't lucky enough to fit in any of them. He sat alone at lunch, painfully aware that even the geeks had someone to eat with. Jason Dobson sat in the back of class answering history questions wrong. Jason Dobson stood up to get another "D" on another Math quiz. Jason Dobson waited in shop class for Mr. Spiro to remember his name. It always took a minute longer than it should have.
But everything was different the day that Jason Dobson changed his identity. October 31st, Halloween. He didn't get a new haircut. He got a new suit. And for one grand morning, the girls thought he was cute and the guys joked with him like buddies. Jason Dobson was a star. His spirit flew. For that one long afternoon, he was someone. Jason Dobson was Superman.
But the next day, back in his hand-me-down clothes and industrial-strength glasses, he wasn't a hero, or a jock, or a brain, or even a geek. He was something far worse. He was Jason Dobson again. So one week later, he made a bold - if not desperate - decision. He wore the costume to school once more. But it wasn't Halloween. It was Thursday. And now Jason wasn't cute, he was weird. Weirder than 7th grade. And this time when Mr. Spiro took too long to remember his name, it wasn't to give him a failing grade on his spice rack project. It was a send him to the principal's office to explain why he was "dressed like a cartoon".
On his way, he met up with some Lex Luthors - kids who planned on ruling society now since they would have little power once they left public school. Jason Dobson couldn't save the Earth. He couldn't even save himself. A suit like that didn't fit in with a world like this. But why? Wasn't everyone's clothing a costume of one kind or another? The jocks, the brains, the geeks?
Jason Dobson climbed to the top of the school's main stairwell. Maybe he thought he could get away. Maybe he thought he could fly. Maybe he thought a quick exit would at least make him someone for one last afternoon. But before he could test any of Newton's laws or Superman's skills - the biology teacher, Mrs. Kaufman, proved to Jason Dobson that science is more tangible than a fantasy.
Jason Dobson came back to school after two weeks of suspension, well aware that he would never be "super" again.
♥ What the old man most desired was solitude. He yearned to commit himself wholly to consideration of the great philosophical questions of his modern times. But the world of his construction - wife Lotte, children Ernst and Gretil - were of great distraction to his ruminations. And so the old man moved far away, without telling family or friends that he was leaving. He took a menial job and earned enough to subsist on while completing his metaphysical considerations.
But as his fellow workers came to know him, they began to speak pleasantries and invite him to social gatherings. Angered, the old man relocated to a cramped, windowless storage room in the rear of the facility. Far from the others, he was content once more... until a janitor found his hidden workplace and began to service it. Troubled by the minor intrusion, the old man quit his job altogether.
Relieved of his burden of work, he pondered at home in sublime silence. But gradually, he became aware of the noise of his up-stairs neighbors. The old man built an extra ceiling - thick enough to eradicate all sounds of life above him. Unfortunately, flailing trees in noisy winds beyond his walls soon proved equal interruptions. The old man boarded over his windows. Even so, there still persisted shadows of shuffling feet just beneath his door. He sealed it off, first with bundled cloth and eventually with mortar.
The old man sat in blissful stillness... until the hum of electric lights overhead became as deafening as any intruding voice. He shattered the bulbs with a hammer. Lying in his bed, there arose the chirps of crickets in the walls. The old man fumigated with a poison he found in his pantry. The sealed apartment retained the fumes at full potency for many, many days and the insects eventually died.
Finally... silence, but the old man could no long hear, see, read, or even think clearly. But a great notion did occur to him in this moment. A man without human contact is a man without aid, without hope, without life. The old man called for those around him, but the fortress of his own making swallowed all sound. He could no longer be heard, but he had finally found what he had so long sought... perfect lasting solitude.
♥ You're as much America as jazz, baseball, or the comic book, but you're not red, white and blue. You're clad in the triad of primary colors: red, yellow, blue - the three hues from which all other colors are created. Is red-yellow-blue some kind of pre-political correctness? Do you represent men of all colors? Or is it more mechanical than that? Did Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster choose red-yellow-blue because of the arcane printing limitations of 1938? Or was there some chromatic alchemy at work? A secret spectrum specifically chosen for its symbolic meanings?
Red. The color of war. Mars is the God of War. The red planet is Mars. Another planet. Alien origin. Red is a masculine color. The color of life and fire. Energy and aggression are also red, but so are love and compassion. The red heart. Blood red. Blood is the force of life. In Christianity, red is the color of sacrificial blood. Would you die for us? Red symbolizes health, strength and youth. You haven't aged a day since 1938.
Yellow. A synonym for "cowardice". Faithlessness is yellow. Betrayal too. Yellow crosses were painted on plague houses in the Dark Ages. Nazis branded Jews with yellow crosses in concentration camps. Siegel and Shuster were Jewish. How could they stand to leave a yellow mark on you at all? In Chinese theater, yellow face paint represents treachery in the heart of a character. It was political commentary. The elite are corrupt. Are you the corrupt elite? Branded? A coward? Or are you the nobler shades of yellow? Chase virginity, Buddhist humility, Asiatic royalty. The rarest saffron gold.
Blue. The color of the sky. The unreachable heavens. You fly right through them, the envy of every earthbound man and woman. Blue is also depression. And plural, the saddest music on Earth. Krishna is a blue-skinned god. Gods are ideals of man. So are you. The blue metaphysical ideals - truth, infinity, faith - are all in you. Yet your TV mantra was "truth, justice, and the American way". People call patriotic Americans blue-blooded. But "blue bloods" were actually French nobles. Can culture cross that way? What color is Kryptonite blood?
The Greek stoic Epictetus said, "Know first who you are, then adorn yourself accordingly". He died 1800 years before you were "born", but he sure saw your colors coming, didn't he?
♥ No matter how fast you walk, there are things you see that make you stop, and think twice about your life, incidents begging the question, "Are you adding to the world or taking away from it?"
It's a popular piece of personal religion, the belief that making it from morning to night is really all you can manage. So much to consider any given day - what to wear? How long will it take to get there? Eat? And eat what? Pebbly problems piling up more precisely than the stones at Giza. Have you paid your bills? Is today someone's birthday? Where are your keys? And how can you possibly balance the two existing worlds - work and home?
But there are more worlds than just the little one that's fractaling around you faster than you care to notice, "alternative universes" where people pick through trash cans to decide what to wear or eat, townships where there are no bills because there is nothing to buy, villages where children don't consider their births the least bit worth celebrating, cities where keys are as moot as the doors they might unlock.
These things remind us that it is not people from another planet who are supermen, it is any individual able to see past their own little world... and reach out to the alternate ones beyond their limited scope of existence.
♥ There was a hole in the heart of the world. A rip in the promise of tomorrow. Someone had taken all the Earth's lives in their hands and clenched their fists. One man. One mad man. One madman.
There was a hole in the heart of a hero. A sick certainty this harm could not be put right. Somehow all that was would end, and nothing could alter that. He clenched his fists. This man. This super man. This Superman.
The past would no longed hold significance. The present was unembraceable. The future was not forever. Time stood still. Time. Stood. Still. It was inconceivable that any one being could do this. It was inconceivable that all life had ever meant could be invalidated with one ghastly act. It was inconceivable that so much effort over so much time could be rendered neuter by any one pair of inhumane human hands. But there was a hole. And a madman. And a superman. And a decision to be made.
At the end of the day, at the end of the world, what is justice? The superman could hurl the madman into the abyss he had opened. In justice the fierce pain of flesh scalded from bone by sulfuric steam? Is justice the coarse collision of meat and bone with magma and base rock? The superman could force the madman to witness the final days of the planet he had crippled. Is justice the realization that one has brought doom to that which gave him life? Is justice living out the life sentence he has condemned others to serve?
Or is justice more than an ideal? Which, after a point, becomes purely Academic.
♥ For a few years, I wrote some "mutant" comics - trying to think of exciting new powers the heroes' secret genetic structures might give them. A quit when I realized that some genes don't give powers, they take powers away. The power to walk. The power to sit up. The power to eat. The power to speak.
My parents never spoke much about what had killed my grandmother. They just said what they knew: that it damages nerves and ruins families. Unfortunately, what they knew wasn't much because Huntington's Chorea isn't a glamour disease. Not enough casualties. No celebrities have died from it... Just people like my grandmother.
♥ Kids. Everyone is having kids. Clueless thirteen-year-olds looking for someone to love them unconditionally. Busy executives in their forties who almost forgot to do something besides their careers. They're all making babies like it's no big thing.
Kids look to their parents for everything when they're infants. And when they get bigger and start venturing out - Mom and Dad have to be there at every step without looking like that's what they're doing. I think I understand "accidental" pregnancy more than making the choice. You have to be willing to spit in the eye of fate to choose to have a child. And you have to be willing to accept whatever comes your way.
But what if the kid doesn't turn out like you want? What if your baby isn't some perfect little Kal-El dropped from Krypton? What if they're ugly... or stupid... or listen to country music? Or worse - what if they turn out bad? Every person sitting in prison - every murderer, every rapist is someone's child. I've always been afraid to take that leap. There's so much responsibility in those little eyes looking back at you for so many answers.
♥ In Action Comics #1, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster declared their man "Super!" Invulnerable. But did they mean that he couldn't be harmed.. or that he can't be touched? Because the former is extremely useful for a hero, while the latter is a fatal flaw for any man, super or otherwise.
Achilles can answer that question. Dipped by his mother in the river Styx, he too became invulnerable. But while he was a leader of great armies and the hero of the Trojan wars, it turned out he was just a heel, susceptible where he had been dunked.
In 221 B.C. there was no Krypton and all a man needed to be invulnerable was a Great Wall - thirty feet thick, 1500 miles long and visible from space. But the Great Wall turned out to be many separate structures with vast, indefensible gaps between them. And centuries later, NASA astronauts looking down on it from heavens saw nothing but China.
There was only one invincible Alexander The Great, but he died of a fever while plotting in Babylon.
There was only one unsinkable Titanic, but it proved no stronger than the ice floes of the North Atlantic.
There is only one Clark Kent and even he has his Achilles heel, his Titanic flaw, his invulnerability effective only in pulp fiction.
♥ It was that perfect stretch of July. Hurricane eye of the harvest season - the calm center between planting and picking. Summer vacation for a Smallville farmer's son. But an ocean of hay against a shimmering barley beach made staying at home an unendurable holiday. "Go," his adoptive father told him. "I know you want to head to town for the movies, so go. But Clark? Don't forget who you are."
Don't forget who you are... his father was always saying things like this. Simple stories with complex morals. "Pay the most heed to folks who speak the least." "Work fast, but never so fast you have to work twice." They were fertile little lessons sewn in sparse parcels of words. Sometimes they seemed too simple to even be meaningful, but later they'd reverberate back on him, more than they did at first hearing.
For so many years he'd had to be less than he was, hide his abilities from his classmates and the good people of Smallville. But now his father had said, "Be yourself. Go to town as you really are! Fly if you're able. Don't forget who you are!" It was a grant of independence. But it was a short-lived liberation as, his head in the clouds, his father's words turned back on him - a gust of realization. "Don't forget who you are," suddenly meant two things: Remember your heritage, yes, but also... don't lose sight of who you have become. Because once the townsfolk saw him flying, once they knew he was not like them, once he'd crossed that line, he could never be just a farmer's son again. True, that day would almost certainly come, but now he realized he should choose its arrival carefully.
And so he walked the rest of the way to town, a part of his surroundings rather than above them. A full hour at a normal human pace, he knew he'd miss the first half of the movie, but he'd leave home a boy, and arrive in Smallville a man.
♥ Clichés like, "You can't go home again?" They're completely bone-achingly true. That's how they get to be clichés.
♥ One thing writers have in common is the need to procrastinate. People don't really understand this, but it's not avoiding work, it is work. Going to lunch, cleaning the house, walking around eavesdropping, reading... All of it informs the process of pulling a story out of nowhere. After you've burned through the two or three tales that are born into your brain, you have to siphon the rest out of your environment. So, when I need something for my stories - I open my eyes and ears to the world around me, because I never know where the next idea, or scene, or line of dialogue is going to come from.
♥ Suit and Tie
Hat and Glasses
Clark Kent fits right in
To the Walk-a-day
Paycheck and Collar-stay
Water-cooler world of Metropolis.
On the Oh-so-anticipated Lunch Break
There's always time for a Quick Change
A Quick Flight
For Would-be World-crushers
And then right back to
Suit and Tie
Hat and Glasses
Oh yes, Clark Kent fits right in.
But down in Accounting
Columns and Rows
And Linda Goldberg knows
The "Ha ha ha's" at the Water Cooler
Are Jokes about how "Her People"
Are always "the ones handling Money."
No Lunch Break long enough
To allow her a Quick Change
From her Heritage or its Critics.
If DeRon Sanford didn't come to work
Everyone on The Planet would Notice
But when he Does come in
He doesn't Blend in
So much as Vanish in
Push and Sweep
The Invisible Man.
Until the Coffee Club Money
Goes Missing from Someone's Desk
No one looks at Clark, or even Linda
They don't say a word
But don't really have to
And on his Lunch Break
There's no way DeRon can
Push and Sweep away the Skin
That makes him live
And Greg Giddley
Whose legs are Aluminum Spokes
And Melissa Bandeau
Whose "Boyfriend" isn't a Boy at all
Join the Staff that Searches each day
For Suit and Tie
Hat and Glasses
That will bring them from the
♥ I wanted to turn the page and know what was going to happen next. Which is the lesson stories can teach life. There's always a "next". Always. That's what Superman is all about. To remind us that we have hurdles, but as long as we keep jumping them, we're in the race.