Surely we all remember the story of the little boy who cried wolf. In the story,
the little boy continued to alert his guardian that there was a wolf threatening
him, when in fact there was none. Finally, when there really was a wolf, the
guardian didn't believe the boy, leaving him to the creature's mercies. The
moral, as you might recall, was that lying about something repeatedly will get
you torn apart and eaten by wild animals who are especially fond of obnoxious
but oh-so-tender children.
At least, that's how I'm going to tell it to my kids one day.
That's assuming, of course, that I ever get a chance to have children. Listening
to Dubya and Ashcroft, you'd think that every other week, there's a new and
imminent terrorist threat looming over the United States; statistically, I've
got a pretty reasonable chance, it seems, of becoming the next victim (actually,
that's not entirely true -- being in Birmingham, Alabama, seems to me to be
damned effective protection against ever being at the center of anything notable).
You'll note that there are never specifics mentioned in these alerts, just credible
intelligence gathered from mysterious sources that seems to indicate activity.
I don't want to say flatly that these alerts are bad. It's likely that they've
done some good, in fact. There are probably plenty of incidents -- major and
minor, terrorist and vanilla criminal -- that have been averted, prevented,
or foiled because of the heightened sensitivity that these alerts invariably
bring about. When you've got security personnel, law enforcement, and common
citizens bordering on paranoia, odds are you're going to spot suspicious behavior
more quickly than normal. And of course, there's the fact that the terrorists
are probably aware of this, and so stay inside on those post-alert days, catching
up on Days of Our Lives, practicing cryptography, and rescheduling their
The problem is that Americans, as a society, became complacent for too long.
We were the country that no one would mess with because we have nuclear weapons
and Charlton Heston and cable access porn. Then along came the 1990s, with Timothy
McVeigh and the World Trade Center bombing -- but the 90s also brought us the
Tom Green show and the Macarena, so we can hardly be blamed for trying to forget
all that. Unfortunately, forgetting meant reclaiming the misconception that
we were invulnerable here in our steel castles and iron chariots, leaving us
wide open to and completely overwhelmed by the events of September 11.
Now, rather than encouraging its citizens to become a little more vigilant
on a day-to-day basis, the US government puts out these alerts. We are no better
off than we were on September 10, except that now we get to be paranoid for
a few hours out of every month, followed by a day or two of increased newswatching
to see if anything has come of the threats. To wit: Ashcroft announced on Monday
night that we should be on the state of highest alert; on Tuesday, life went
on as normal, with the Olympics, Mardi Gras, and Starbucks everywhere doing
business as normal.
Kinda makes you wonder if we've heard "Wolf" too often lately, hunh?
Speaking of crying wolf, there's always Rob Liefeld to use a great example.
"This time, my book will really ship when I say it will!"
Wow. From national security and human tragedy to a punchline in the comic book
industry. How do I do it? Note that never once do my hands leave my wrists...
Rob Liefeld was one of the Hot Artist types in the late 80s and early 90s.
He came to the spotlight with his work on The New Mutants and
X-Force, and went on to become one of the founding members of
Image comics. It was at Image that he created Youngblood, and
began building a reputation that would carrying him through the next decade
(and then some). The reputation was one of blantant artistic thefts (referred
to kindly as swipes, or inexcusably as homages), less than enjoyable writing,
and persistent lateness. The swipes I've touched on in a recent column. The
bad writing -- well, it's my experience that four out of five artists should
stick to art, avoiding dialogue and plotting. Rob would often solicit a book
early in the winter, and it might appear six months later than promised, if
retailers and readers were fortunate (and note that that is a subjective use
of the word lucky).
And now Rob is back. Well, back is misleading -- it's not really like he ever
went away. Not unlike herpes, he just went under the radar for a while. He'll
be returning to local comic shops everywhere this summer with Youngblood:
Bloodsport (Liefeld also ruined comics with "Blood" in the
title like heavy metal did band names with "White"). On the plus side,
Mark Millar (who has done some mind-bending work on The Authority
and The Ultimates) will be writing the title, so it should be
bloodsoaked and irreverent.
The downside -- well, it doesn't really matter what the downside it, does it?
Because, no matter how much the fanboys over at Comicon race to the message
boards to talk about how much Liefeld sucks, about how he ruined comics, about
how he is the second coming of Hitler, they'll be buying the book. Probably
in multiples. And then they'll hop onto the boards again to bitch about the
awful art or the weak characters. And then they'll go back the next month and
buy the next issue.
The good thing about being a reviewer for a website like RevolutionSF
is that I have no choice about buying comics. It doesn't matter how much it
sucks,or how much I would rather be reading something else -- the more hype
there is, the more likely I need to review it.
The lesson: learn to cover your morbid curiousity with the garb of professional