I’m using the holidays to read lots of comics, so it’s comic time again. It is what it is.
After looking through my folder of panels I have saved to write about at some future time, I kept coming back to a whole page that is so well done and captures so much of what our society is like, that I had to use it. It is part of issue 6 of the 6-issue Moon Knight run by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey (published by Marvel in 2014). People have been celebrating this run when and since it was published, but I also can’t stretch enough how perfect those six issues are. They stand alone, you don’t need any real background knowledge, they are a masterpiece of minimalism in storytelling, brilliantly written and drawn, they are exciting, funny, tragic, mysterious and even satisfy any superhero need you might have. And credits go definitely to both artists, Ellis as the writer, who is always good and sometimes very good, and Shalvey as the artist, who I always admire (it’s no surprise that he was also responsible for the outstanding Deadpool arc “The Good, the Bad & the Ugly”).
For the page I’m talking about you also need to know nothing about the story, the character of Moon Knight or anything about comics. You just need to have lived in this culture.
Let’s take a closer look at the story of a life in our culture.
Panel 1: At a young age, gender roles are instilled. “Only girls cry” and crying itself is wrong anyway because it is an emotion. Emotions are bad. So says the authority of parents.
Panel 2: The authority of teachers tell you that you need to have ambition, that life is about winning and losing and if you don’t “try hard enough”, you’re a loser, especially in school. It’s not about you.
Panel 3: You’re becoming a teenager, so everyone hates you. You hate your body, you have been frustrated for 12-14 years already and now you feel like you can’t hold it in anymore. You want to be free and independent and yourself, but there is one problem: “You don’t get to make the rules.” You have no control over your life, just like you’ve been told all those years.
Panel 4: You need more pressure? How about having to have a girlfriend, having to find “real love”? Proving you’re normal, not gay, not anti-social? Who cares that you feel bad enough already?
Panel 5: You finally let out some anger, get into fights, try to be a man, but what does authority tell you now? “Violence is not the answer,” that’s no way to get respect.
Panel 6: So you try to do the right thing, to be a person of authority yourself, to fight for the laws of this society. But there are people out there fighting the real fight, against terrorists, or, sorry, “for freedom.” A freedom you have never felt yourself in your miserable life, but who cares?
Panel 7: You’re an adult now. You’ve been treated like a sissy, a problem, a fag, a failure, an also-ran, an extra and what are you now? “A ghost.” Why didn’t you learn to be a “real” person? What’s wrong with you?
Panel 8: It dawns on you now, finally, the epiphany. “You’re never going to be good enough.” So why should you go on trying? Why should you care about anyone? Maybe you need to find some other ways to get some respect, some power, some authority.
Parts of this might be simplistic or obvious, but connecting everything in this way and putting it together so brilliantly (look at the backgrounds) is a true work of art. I sometimes use thousands of words in my posts here and am able to express less.