Jun
24
2003

ONE LITTLE DEATH

But I Digress...
April 26, 1991

Stephen Sondheim wrote, “Every day a little death, in the heart and in the head.”

From having discussed death in comics, and last week (although somewhat tangentially) violence in comics, we now move on to violent death. Specifically, to Hulk #380, a story about which I’ve received a great deal of electronic mail on the various computer nets I’m on, not to mention the April 5 issue of CBG.

For those who weren’t paying attention, Hulk #380 featured our resident shrink, Doc Samson, being called in to testify in regards to the sanity of an assassin named Crazy Eight. At issue–whether she was cognizant of her actions at the time of murders she committed. At stake–whether she receives life in prison or the electric chair.

Samson’s testimony in court results in her being given the chair, and her electrocution is clearly depicted on panel.

To quickly address two assertions by the CBG letter writer– First, “Crazy Eight” wasn’t inspired by the Barbra Streisand film “Nuts” (although I have seen it). It was inspired by an article in the local newspaper about a psychologist being called to testify at the sentencing hearing of a murderer, combined with the fact that I’d come up with what I thought was a nifty character name–”Crazy Eight”–and I wanted to use it in a story. (Although, for the record, Hulk #383-384 is definitely a Phantom of the Opera riff. Maybe next I’ll do a piece about where you draw the line between “inspired by” and plagiarism.)

As for the ongoing (which is a polite way of saying, Jeez, are we still talking about this) question of ratings, it should be clear by now that the usual violence level and occasional nudity (particularly in mutant books) makes Marvel Comics a standard PG, perhaps even PG-13. Therefore, anything that doesn’t cross that line should be acceptable.

Actually, Hulk #380 was an exercise in writing mechanics. I had a story I wanted to tell…and I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do it effectively. I was afraid that, due to the climate of comics, it wasn’t going to work.

Here was a story that hinged on death being a reality. Death was going to come to this character, Crazy Eight. She was going to die. Dead dead dead. A character whom the reader had never seen before and wouldn’t see again.

My problem was twofold; I was asking the reader to care about what happened to this character whom they were only going to know for 20 pages, and I was asking the reader to believe that this character was really, absolutely going to die.

In approaching the first half of the equation, it meant that I was going to have to do everything I could to draw Crazy Eight as vividly as possible. I was going to have to make her so much bigger than life, so memorable, that she would make an instant impression. Her behavior in her interview with Doc Samson–her mood swings, her attempts to seduce him, her recollections of an abusive father that never occurred, and her stubbing out of a cigarette in her palm, all helped to grab the readers by the throat and make them pay attention.

Bill Jaaska’s art was so effective that, by the time we got to the electrocution sequence, I had become so fond of the character that I was sorry she was going to die. The problem was that, die she had to, or the story lost all its bite. Besides, the plot had been written and was drawn already. It wasn’t like I could change my mind just because the dialoguing stage had drawn me closer to the character.

The problem was, I wasn’t sure that the readers would take the death sequence seriously. That was something over which I had very limited control.

Wolverine routinely hacks up hordes of goons. The Punisher perforates criminals all the time, by the carload. Those “young readers” about whom a number of correspondents–not just the CBG letter writer, or I’d never have been brought this all up–express such deep concern, think Freddy Kreuger and Jason are cool.

And not only is death routinely depicted in comics (and glorified in slash/hack films appealing to the same audience base) but death is also routinely undepicted. I was worried that readers would get to the end of the story and say, “Oh, but she’s not really dead. She survived somehow.” That’s what quite a few said about Jean DeWolff, and she didn’t even have paranormal strength.

Death, in comics, has no meaning. But the story was about death; therefore, the story would have no meaning.

So to drive the point home–to give it as much (you should pardon the expression) grounding in reality as I could–I depicted the electrocution on panel. You couldn’t see her face–it was covered by leather strapping. You couldn’t hear her scream–her mouth was covered (all you “heard” was a muffled “nnnnnnn” which grew smaller and eventually blanked out) No huge, comic book-style, jagged lines of electricity. Her back arched, her fingers outstretched, her feet left the ground, but that was all.

One panel.

In comparison to books featuring page upon page of routine slaughter, it was one panel.

One little death.

And people got upset.

Good.

Dammit, good.

I’m ecstatic that people got upset. I’m thrilled. I am dancing on the ceiling and bouncing off the walls that people got upset. I want people to get upset.

I wanted that scene to turn people’s stomachs, to nauseate them, to make them want to look away. I wanted that scene either to make people stare at it in morbid, horrified fascination, or else look away because it was too upsetting for them to take.

You see, Hulk #380 had a theme. Killing is wrong. The cold-blooded, state-planned murder of another human being is wrong. When I stated that on a computer board, I was accused of using a comic for expounding my own beliefs, which was ostensibly a bad thing.

Horrors. Imagine that. A comic with a point of view. A comic with a theme. Actually, most comics do have themes, and they’re consistent ones–Might Makes Right and Winning is Everything. In the old days, you occasionally had Love Conquers All, but you rarely see that now.

Might Makes Right. And winning is everything. The theme of comics. The theme of the country. If someone is your enemy, step on them. Kill them if you can.

One little thing, though. Unless I tell you that Hulk #380 is an anti-capital punishment story, you probably won’t pick up on that. Because I never say in the story that capital punishment is wrong. That would be intrusive. That would be preachy (much like this column). Instead, I simply showed it. I showed the harsh reality–the shaving of the head, the pulling of the switch, the human being’s muffled screams. I gave the reader the courtesy of drawing his or her own conclusion.

One little death.

One small death is what I wanted the readers to care about. To make them take death seriously, accept it as a reality in comics and in life.

Several people told me that they were annoyed because they read comics to escape. They want mindless entertainment. Sorry, guys–you might not realize it, but it’s insulting to ask me to turn my mind off when I write. And I would never insult my readers by expecting the same of them when they read. If someone came to me and said, “This issue of Captain Cauliflower you wrote is stupid, mindless pap” and I replied, “You mean you think when you read comics? Boy, is that a waste of brain power,” I feel that would be pretty damned offensive, don’t you?

Of course, do objecting readers say, “Whoa, this is upsetting, we should do something about the death penalty.” Nah. They say, “Whoa, this is upsetting, we should do something about the comic.” Now there’s a case of having your priorities in order.

As for the charge that younger readers shouldn’t be subjected to seeing this happen–Why not? After all, it’s not like I’m depicting prostitution or mainlining. The seamier, illegal sides of the dark adult world. No no. This is state approved. Their parents may even have voted for this. This is legal. This is okay.

Except it’s not okay, is it. It’s really hideous, isn’t it. It really is gut-wrenching, stomach turning.

One death. One little death.

Of course, people who complain about the younger readers being upset are generally upset themselves but don’t want to admit it. Same as people who say, “I’m not in favor of censorship” always follow up with the word “but,” thereby undercutting the first half of the statement.

But let’s focus on the youngsters for a moment. If we’re not to show them the horrors of state-mandated death, what should we teach them? Indeed, what are we teaching them these days on the subject of killing?

Well, we teach them to celebrate the death of 100,000 Iraqis. The general expression I hear is “We kicked butt.” What makes it okay is that only a handful of Americans were killed and, besides, Iraq was the enemy.

One hundred thousand people.

Take a hundred thousand pennies and count them, one by one. Stack them in your living room. Watch the pile grow. Imagine each penny to be a body. A man, a woman, a child. One hundred thousand lives.

Now try to make a life to replace one of those lives. Takes nine months and a small miracle. Lot of work. Do it 100,000 times. You can’t. No one can.

But it’s okay. It’s to be celebrated. We won.

And kill criminals, because they’re bad guys. We have the technology. We have the laws. We have the might on our side.

Winning is everything. Might makes right.

Who says comics don’t mirror real life.

On a lighter note, Peter David Isabella, writer of stuff, appreciates brother Tony’s kind invitation… especially when he recalls that brother Tony once instructed readers of “Justice Machine” to ship pizza boxes to Peter at the Marvel offices, which did not endear Peter to the Marvel mailroom. Still, the surname addition is kind, although Tony’s long-standing obsession with the fact that Peter has two first names is curious, considering that Tony Isabella also has two first names, just like Peter David. Of course, at least Peter and David are both men’s names…

Written by in: But I Digress... |

40 Comments

  • Ian Wright says:

    Thanks for re-running this column. Hell, thanks for writing it in the first place.

    Death is acceptable, so long as it’s clean or comes neatly packaged with one-liners and banter (Witty or otherwise). Even rape can be cleaned up for a general audience – Consider the scene from Strange Days, or even the voyeurism in American Pie. We can have any sort of horror we want, so long as it’s disconnected from real-world consequences such as the reactions of the victim or people close to the victim. Kill ‘em and move on.

    This doesn’t mean people can’t enjoy the Punisher or similar comics or movies. I like the Punisher, and I liked Pulp Fiction. But we need to understand that these are the simplified, cleaned-up, kiddy versions of violence. If we want comics to be treated as an adult art form, we need to understand that adult art can be used to shock, disgust, and horrify. And in any art form – movies, comics, tv, or otherwise – when the artist chooses to treat us as adults and present real consequences to actions, we need to stop saying ‘think of the children’. That’s an excuse we use to keep ourselves safe from things that make us uncomfortable or make us think. And as long as we use that excuse, the various media will continue to sell us nice, clean, attractively packaged atrocities.

  • Jess says:

    Death in SUPER HERO comics is pretty much meaningless most of the time. Ben Parker, The Waynes, the asparagus people, the kryptonians and a few others aside. Death in Archie comics doesn’t exist. (I think Jughead once stated his grandma was dead, but his grandpa never remarried and he still has two Grandmas and I doubt Archie comics allow bygamy or threesomes.) Girl Genius is the only indie book I’m reading right now, and they haven’t killed anyone of real importance yet. (As far as we know.)

    As for sci-fi being escape…. the best writers make you think without you really realizing it. (Cough, Supergirl #23, cough) In my younger teen years, I lost some of my hearing. I owe as much to Vic Stone (as written by Marv Wolfman) and Geordi Laforge to getting through it as I do to the shrinks and my family and friends. The simple message that ‘we have our problems, but we don’t let it get us down’ helped a lot. Sure, it was help giving me a quick fix of escape, but it was also reinforced the idea that in spite of what happened my life would get better. It did, eventually.

  • Luigi Novi says:

    I’m for the death penalty, but I really enjoyed the issue in question. It was powerful, and nothing in it indicated that it was anti-death penalty in theme. I don’t share Peter’s position on the death penalty, but I respect the manner in which he did a story to explore it, and find the reactions of those he spoke of to be hypocritical.

  • Joel says:

    Hmmm… I miss these kinds of articles. When I started reading comix seriously during my college years of 80-84, there were a half-dozen comix whose lettercols were occasionally more fascinating than the books themselves: From Cerebus, where Dave Sim’s anti-feminism was still novel, to the same publisher’s Ms. Tree, which had a long, thoughtful discussion of abortion rights. Eclipse Comics seemed to attract a lot of letterhacks with missions, as did First!

    I miss those days when an indy comic pretty much guaranteed a new idea in story telling.

  • Stu West says:

    Here’s a thought to consider.

    Imagine this column, with all the references to the death penalty taken out and replaced by references to abortion. And the justification paragraphs talking about the neccessity of subjecting children to the horrors of state-mandated death.

    Do your reactions to it change? If so, how?

  • Ralf Haring says:

    Abortions are state-mandated?

  • Peter:

    I have never read the comic in question, but now I really want to (not that I’m not looking for a complete PAD Hulk colelction anyway). But the main point is the reactions you got for this. And I couldn’t agree more on your views about the people who were critizising it.

    I just finished a debate with someone who was pretyt much having the same reaction… to one swear word in a mailing list. It was just sad. But it was the same self-righteous attitude and disguised censorship. In fact, I think I’ll link to this column because eloquent as I might or might not be, you’re leagues beyond me in that department.

    As for Stu West:

    No. They don’t change one iota. Maybe it’s because I’m pro-death penalty AND pro-choice. But I’d like to think not. I’m open to debate and thoughtful discussion on my beliefs, and that’s what PAD provides. Now, if you just want to go dogmatic on me, well, then you’re out of luck.

    And just for the record, abortion is not state-mandated death. State-allowed yes, but not state-mandated. The state KILLS the prisoners and no one’s given any choice. The state doesn’t go out performing mandatory abortions. So next time you want to make a point by trying to flip the side, you might want to think it all through.

  • Peter:

    I have never read the comic in question, but now I really want to (not that I’m not looking for a complete PAD Hulk colelction anyway). But the main point is the reactions you got for this. And I couldn’t agree more on your views about the people who were critizising it.

    I just finished a debate with someone who was pretyt much having the same reaction… to one swear word in a mailing list. It was just sad. But it was the same self-righteous attitude and disguised censorship. In fact, I think I’ll link to this column because eloquent as I might or might not be, you’re leagues beyond me in that department.

    As for Stu West:

    No. They don’t change one iota. Maybe it’s because I’m pro-death penalty AND pro-choice. But I’d like to think not. I’m open to debate and thoughtful discussion on my beliefs, and that’s what PAD provides. Now, if you just want to go dogmatic on me, well, then you’re out of luck.

    And just for the record, abortion is not state-mandated death. State-allowed yes, but not state-mandated. The state KILLS the prisoners and no one’s given any choice. The state doesn’t go out performing mandatory abortions. So next time you want to make a point by trying to flip the side, you might want to think it all through.

  • Stu West says:

    Okay; let’s try ‘state-sanctioned’ instead.

  • Stu West says:

    Although, looking this up in the dictionary now, I come upon the definition of mandate that involves delegation of power from a higher to a lower authority. So doctors are state-mandated to perform abortions, technically…

    Anyway, this is splitting semantic hairs. My question stands.

  • Tony’s long-standing obsession with the fact that Peter has two first names is curious, considering that Tony Isabella also has two first names, just like Peter David. Of course, at least Peter and David are both men’s names…

    Ever notice how you never, ever see Peter David, David Byrne, Peter Gabriel, and Gabriel Byrne in the same place at the same time?

    I’m just sayin’, is all.

  • Paul F. P. Pogue says:

    “Do your reactions to it change? If so, how?”

    Putting aside the issues already discussed (i.e., state-mandated vs. state-sanctioned) — no, they don’t. A comic story about abortion that handled it as well as Peter’s Hulk issue would receive my full support. I can stand a wide variety of points of view, so long as they’re couched within GOOD STORYTELLING. I’m really quite conflicted about the death penalty myself, so I didn’t have a particular pro or anti point of view on the tale.

    But it made me think.

  • James Tichy says:

    PAD, I’m a regular reader of your comics. I personally love Captain Marvel.

    I do, however, believe that you and I would be on opposite ends of a political argument. I can see where you stand on many issues by the stories you tell. That does not stop me from enjoying what you right.

    They say opposites attract and that may be true. Perhaps I like seeing things from a different point of view. Or perhaps your just a damn good writer. I’ll go with both.

    Keep up the good work Mr. David.

  • Chip Lundsmark says:

    Well this is strange. Just about everything Mr. David writes that I’ve read I love, but everytime I read his political views on this site I disagree with him.

    For example, in this instance when he talks about killing Iraqi people. Well I want to know what the heck he thinks we should do? Huh? Just let the bad guys do whatever the hell they want to do? It could hurt some innocents, so lets just leave them all under the heel of a tyranical dictator! Sure, we did kill a hell of a lot of people in that war, but it wasn’t even a tenth of the number of people Saddam Hussien has killed. And these were his own people! Listen to some of the reports of the torture chambers found, and all of the horrendous things that man has done. Not just things reported by the US, but dozens of other reputable agencies. Even if Bush was “EVIL” (which he is not) and was just doing this to avenge his dad or something stupid like that, he was trying to get NATO to actually have the backbone to do what they said they would do in the first place.

    In the end, I think the old cliche is true. All that it takes for evil to win is for good men to do nothing. And good men were doing nothing for over a decade while a tyranical madman and his sons did whatever the hell they wanted to a people they cared nothing for.

    I know your Entry covered a bit more than that, but thats what hit a nerve with me. Yes, a lot of people died. But it was something that had to be done. To me, comics are not about might makes right. To me, comics are about the fact that evil must be opposed.

    Sincerely,

    Chip Lundsmark

  • PK Dick did something similar in regards to a stroy about abortion – the title of the short story escapes me right now, sorry — and that indeed was an eye opener, as Dick, in his usual fashion of changing just a teeny details to come to almost absurdist results, simply extended the age bracket in which abortion is legal from three months to thirteen (or sixteen, my memory is shot) years — which results in post-natal abortion. Quite the story. Although I still respect women’s choice, I think quite different about the absurdity of it all ever since.

  • Stu West says:

    Yeah, I remember that PKD story…

    What interests me is the part of the column about having one’s priorities in order. When I see, for example, anti-abortion campaigners handing out photocopied pictures of aborted fetuses to teenagers, my first reaction isn’t “this is disturbing, let’s do something about the legal availability of abortion”, but “you pigs, that’s totally inappropriate”.

    Let me be absolutely clear about this. I’m not equating a Hulk comic about the death penalty with distributing mimeographed pictures of dead babies. I am interested about whether using shock images to argue these issues to children is acceptable to everyone.

  • The StarWolf says:

    How PAD managed to work that trial and execution into a comic ostensibly about the Hulk is something I am very curious to see. Good luck finding a second-hand copy around here, however.

    As for killing being wrong, I’d say it is more unfortunate, and not to be glorified. There are, sadly, times when it IS ‘right’. When killing is the only practical way to prevent something worse. No, we should not celebrate the deaths of 100,000 Iraqi (on top of which the recent ones) but we are perfectly justified in celebrating driving out the invading forces from a country which didn’t want them there. Or should we have stayed silent, done nothing, and then watch the leader of the invaders decide “Hey, it worked once, maybe it’ll work again elsewhere?” Which is pretty much what Hitler concluded in WW II. Worked for him, too. For a while anyway.

  • Luigi Novi says:

    I’m not equating a Hulk comic about the death penalty with distributing mimeographed pictures of dead babies. I am interested about whether using shock images to argue these issues to children is acceptable to everyone.

    Luigi Novi: The problem I have with the shock tactics of those who distribute pics of aborted fetuses is, as comedian Rick Ducommun put it, EVERYTHING inside the human body looks disgusting.

    “Look, an aborted fetus! Ooh-Ooohhhhh!!”

    “Look, a pancreas! Ooh-Ooohhhhh!”

    This is similar to my response to the argument put forward by some (Like Sandra Bullock’s character in A Time to Kill) that if one believes in the death penalty, one should watch one, the reasoning being, that if one can’t bear to watch it, one’s position for it is invalidated, which makes about as much sense as saying that my being all for open heart surgery is invalidated if I can’t bear to look at that.

    Peter, at least, didn’t just distribute photos of dead executed convicts (though I’ve seen plenty of those too), he simply included a shot of the act in a story which contextualized it, which handing out pics of fetuses does not resemble in any way.

    The StarWolf: How PAD managed to work that trial and execution into a comic ostensibly about the Hulk is something I am very curious to see.

    Luigi Novi: The Hulk wasn’t in the story, StarWolf. It was a Leonard Samson story. (Damn good one, too.)

  • In a book of interviews with horror writers, Neil Gaiman was asked about censorship and

    mentioned an occasion on which he censored himself. At one point he wanted to have an issue

    of Sandman that dealt with the dreams of a fetus. However, he knew that it might be handed to pregnant women thinking about having an abortion (“see what you’re going to be killing?”), and didn’t want to think of his work being used in that way,

    so he never wrote it.

  • Darin says:

    I thought it was appropriate that she died for her crimes.

  • Marc Foxx says:

    PK Dick did something similar in regards to a stroy about abortion – the title of the short story escapes me right now, sorry — and that indeed was an eye opener, as Dick, in his usual fashion of changing just a teeny details to come to almost absurdist results, simply extended the age bracket in which abortion is legal from three months to thirteen (or sixteen, my memory is shot) years — which results in post-natal abortion. Quite the story. Although I still respect women’s choice, I think quite different about the absurdity of it all ever since.

    There was also an episode of South Park (season 3?) which had Cartman’s mother campaining to allow abortions in the 182nd trimester or some such nonsense.

  • JasonP says:

    “Ever notice how you never, ever see Peter David, David Byrne, Peter Gabriel, and Gabriel Byrne in the same place at the same time?

    I’m just sayin’, is all.”

    This made me laugh.

  • Stu West says:

    The Philip Dick story mentioned upthread, by the way, is called ‘The Pre-Persons’, and can be found in his short-story collection WE CAN REMEMBER IT FOR YOU WHOLESALE.

  • Julio Diaz says:

    Chip Lundsmark wrote:

    For example, in this instance when he talks about killing Iraqi people. Well I want to know what the heck he thinks we should do? Huh? Just let the bad guys do whatever the hell they want to do? It could hurt some innocents, so lets just leave them all under the heel of a tyranical dictator! Sure, we did kill a hell of a lot of people in that war, but it wasn’t even a tenth of the number of people Saddam Hussien has killed. And these were his own people! Listen to some of the reports of the torture chambers found, and all of the horrendous things that man has done. Not just things reported by the US, but dozens of other reputable agencies. Even if Bush was “EVIL” (which he is not) and was just doing this to avenge his dad or something stupid like that, he was trying to get NATO to actually have the backbone to do what they said they would do in the first place.

    Chip, you obviously missed that this is an old column dating from Gulf War I, and PAD’s references had nothing to do with the unfortunate sequel.

    Additionally, neither Gulf War had anything to do with NATO, which is simply a treaty alliance. Gulf War I was conducted by the United Nations. Gulf War II was ostensibly about the U.S. trying to enforce the UN resolutions that have been in place since Gulf War I. Day by day, though, we’re finding that the reasons the U.S. went to war were — at the very least — seriously embellished.

    The fact that Sadaam was removed is a happy coincidence. Yes, he was (is?) an evil man, and I’m as happy as anyone that he’s gone. But the ends do not justify the means.

    Which was kind of the whole point of PAD’s story, and this column.

  • Julio Diaz says:

    Chip Lundsmark wrote:

    For example, in this instance when he talks about killing Iraqi people. Well I want to know what the heck he thinks we should do? Huh? Just let the bad guys do whatever the hell they want to do? It could hurt some innocents, so lets just leave them all under the heel of a tyranical dictator! Sure, we did kill a hell of a lot of people in that war, but it wasn’t even a tenth of the number of people Saddam Hussien has killed. And these were his own people! Listen to some of the reports of the torture chambers found, and all of the horrendous things that man has done. Not just things reported by the US, but dozens of other reputable agencies. Even if Bush was “EVIL” (which he is not) and was just doing this to avenge his dad or something stupid like that, he was trying to get NATO to actually have the backbone to do what they said they would do in the first place.

    Chip, you obviously missed that this is an old column dating from Gulf War I, and PAD’s references had nothing to do with the unfortunate sequel.

    Additionally, neither Gulf War had anything to do with NATO, which is simply a treaty alliance. Gulf War I was conducted by the United Nations. Gulf War II was ostensibly about the U.S. trying to enforce the UN resolutions that have been in place since Gulf War I. Day by day, though, we’re finding that the reasons the U.S. went to war were — at the very least — seriously embellished.

    The fact that Sadaam was removed is a happy coincidence. Yes, he was (is?) an evil man, and I’m as happy as anyone that he’s gone. But the ends do not justify the means.

    Which was kind of the whole point of PAD’s story, and this column.

  • Julio Diaz says:

    Oops, sorry for the double post — no idea how that happened.

  • Rob says:

    I remember that issue of the Hulk quite well. I read it on a ferry (that’s a boat that holds cars, not something twisted, ‘kay?) finished it and spent a long time looking out over the water. My take was not “Capital Punishment should be outlawed!” but “CP sucks.” Which it does. It may be necessary, but it bites, big time.

    I’m with Chip to the extent that I generally love PAD’s writings, but disagree with most of his political stances (yet I read this blog solely for the political pieces to be outraged over… go figure).

    David’s piece on AIDS in the Hulk was also one of the best issues ever produced by Marvel.

    The ONLY example of poor execution(IMNSHO) was in the Dark Arrowette issue where the blatent gun-control tirade at a straw man character pulled me right out of an excellent story and ruined the issue for me. (A gun-control advocate who shoots people with a bow and arrow… hmmmmm… well, she’s young with a lot of growing up to do…)

    Notheless, PAD stands with Mark Waid and maybe two others as the best writers in comics.

  • Chip Lundsmark says:

    My mistake, for some reason I confused NATO with the UN. Sorry.

    And while the weapons of mass destruction was obviously the main pushing point for the war, there were numerous other reasons. (I’m still confident we’ll find some of them, but by then people with no faith at all in our President will say we put them there in the first place.)

    And as for the ends justifying the means? Then just how far does Saddam have to go before we decide to take him out and the whole power structure that supports him? There is little difference between this madman and the one that started World War II. Should we need to wait for him to actually exterminate millions before we take action? How long do we have to wait and how many people must die that you personally know before you agree action must be taken?

    Maybe I missed a point somewhere, but you seemed to have missed my point. Which is (1) “For evil to win, all it takes if for good men to do nothing.” After September 11th our President made a commitment not to just stand by and do nothing anymore. And I stand behind him in that. Because (2) Evil must be opposed.

    To touch on another part of what PAD said:

    “Well, we teach them to celebrate the death of 100,000 Iraqis. The general expression I hear is “We kicked butt.” What makes it okay is that only a handful of Americans were killed and, besides, Iraq was the enemy”

    I think that is one thing that separates those in the US and the free world from “the enemy.” We don’t look at it and say “We kicked butt”, pass out some candy and go dance in the streets. Thats what a lot of America-haters did on September 11th. They celebrated death. It was on the news, on TV for everyone to see.

    Whereas we look at what we did in Iraq and don’t go dancing in the streets. We look at it and say “This was a good thing, because it had to be done for a greater good.” We mourn those we lost, but we thank them for their sacrifice. Now if we ever actually bring in Saddam or Bin Laden alive, then we might see a little dancing, but other than that I don’t see us celebrating human death. Just a firm resolution in doing what is right.

    Sincerely,

    Chip Lundsmark

  • Howard Price says:

    It’s a not nice thing to piggyback off someone else’s column, but…

    http://the-trades.com/column.php?columnid=1336

    …is a column I had written some time back that touches on death in the comics and whether comics treatment of such cheapens the characters and the concept of life itself.

  • Paul F. P. Pogue says:

    “I think that is one thing that separates those in the US and the free world from “the enemy.” We don’t look at it and say “We kicked butt”, pass out some candy and go dance in the streets.”

    You must have been living in a different America than I these last few months. I don’t recall any candy-passing and only very little literal dancing in the streets, but I’ve witnessed horribly tacky “Woo-hoo, we kicked us some Iracky AY-ASS!” moments almost constantly since the moment the war ended. Try hitting a Toby Keith concert or seeing record companies engaging in celebratory burning of Dixie Chicks CDs sometime.

    Hell, on Fox News we had correspondents arguing with generals and saying “We need to use bigger bombs! Why aren’t we using bigger bombs? Why don’t we just drop this MOAB thingy on Baghdad and get it over with? Bigger bombs! Shock and Awe!”

  • Markus Wolf says:

    “There is little difference between this madman and the one that started World War II. Should we need to wait for him to actually exterminate millions before we take action? How long do we have to wait and how many people must die that you personally know before you agree action must be taken?”

    I hear this all the time and I cannot accept it. There is indeded a very big difference between the historical situation 1938 (one year before WWII started) and the present situation. Hitler took Austira and Chechoslowakia, and the major powers in Europe accepted this with their appeasement policy. He built up a big war machine, planes, tanks etc. and had big industrial ressources at his hand.

    Compare it to the present:

    Saddam invaded Kuwait, resulting in the destruction of most of his military power. His country, suffering from sanctions, had neither military nor industrial

    ressources to be a serious threat.

    I’m very happy that his people freed from his tyranny, but comparing the Iraqui dictator 2002 to Hitler 1938 doesn’t work.

    Sincerely,

    Markus Wolf

    Saddam invaded Kuwait

  • Interesting column. I would have never seen this had a friend not posted it in his livejournal. The things you say have tremendous implications on our national identity. We are one of a few nations worldwide that still use the death penalty. We are also the sole military superpower in a post-cold-war world. While I do support capital punishment I find it morally precarious. State sanctioned homicide is at best dangerous. We already have a bloodthirsty nation. We love slasher movies, and first-person-shooter games. We DEMAND to see combat live from the front lines with little or no censorship. We live in a nation where the citizenry thrives on carnage, but only when it’s clean and spit-polished. We want to see our military dollars at work. When it’s someone that we care about, even marginally the carnage loses it’s buzz, we actually find ourselves feeling the pain of loss. When the instant gratification of blood doesn’t come, we get upset and finally ask ourselves the hard questions. There is no real point to my rambling, only to illustrate where I believe American morality lies.

  • Jeff Morris says:

    “And while the weapons of mass destruction was obviously the main pushing point for the war, there were numerous other reasons. (I’m still confident we’ll find some of them, but by then people with no faith at all in our President will say we put them there in the first place.)”

    The justification for invading Iraq was because the Executive Branch told the people repeatedly that Saddam had these weapons, was developing these weapons, and posed an imminent threat to the US. None of those “other reasons” ever came up as often as this one.

    Consider the abuse people dumped on Hans Blix for not finding all these supposed weapons in the, what, four months prior to the invasion. It’s been almost three months and our record is no better than his. Blix deserves a huge apology, I’d say.

    As for “having faith in the President”…given the increasing indication that this administration stretched the truth to wild lengths, if not outright lied, to the American public…well, he hasn’t given me a great deal to have faith in.

    JSM

  • Back in high school I’d buy comics and share them with friends. One friend and I both got completely addicted to PAD’s Hulk. I remember feeling an incredible sense of grief and loss after reading Hulk #398, but my friend had a far more outspoken reaction to the events of Hulk #380.

    I remember her finishing #380 in the school cafeteria. Upset, she closed the cover and said of one character, “She never told anyone..?” At my confirmation, she shrieked, “That BITCH!!!” Turned heads, that outburst did. :-)

    Me, I’m a Doc Samson fan, and that was one of the best Doc Samson stories ever.

  • Jerome Maida says:

    I remember this issue of Hulk very well. It truly did make you think, which is the main point PAD is trying to make. In real life and in fantasy, we have been desensitized to death.

  • The StarWolf says:

    “people dumped on Hans Blix for not finding all these supposed weapons in the, what, four months prior to the invasion. It’s been almost three months and our record is no better than his.”

    Not quite. I seem to recall they stumbled, post attack, over some buried MiG fighter jets. If the Iraqi buried million-dollar jets, what else may be sitting under the sands? I may not be a fan of Shrub’s … er, Bush Jr.’s, but just because we haven’t found something yet doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

  • Pete says:

    Paul: Well, yeah. This article was written 12 years ago, following Operation: Desert Storm. Say this for Bush Senior, he didn’t seem happy to be going to war.

  • Brian says:

    Odd, I just this past wednesday bought a handful of Hulk backissues, and because I already owned issues 384 and 385 from back in my first comic reading “phase” (which I have happily returned to) I decided to get as many issues in that area as I could, and they happened to have from 380 up to 388, so I bought the ones that I didn’t have. (as well as a few others)

    So, having literally just read this two days before reading the article here, I just want to say I had a couple tears in my eyes at the end of it. Having long bee opposed to the death penalty, it struck a cord with me.

    As for the question raised about abortion, well, having long been opposed to it as well as the death penalty, I don’t think it changes my view at all.

  • LARRY says:

    Here’s the way I look at any fictional story that I read.

    I want to be entertained. I don’t mind if the writer has a viewpoint and wants to write a story where that viewpoint is supported. I am willing to read it with an open mind.

    I LOVE stories that entertain me and make me think and look at something in a new light. I appreciate the writers that do so. I don’t always agree with Peter’s viewpoints, but at least he gives support to his ideas and backs them up along with being able to listen to other viewpoints on the subject.

    I love your stories, Peter. I’ve read tehm for years and you’re one of the few people who’s books I will pick up to read.(Strangers In Paradise is the other one)

    It just makes me sad to see that people can’t enjoy a story just for the story itself and take it as such.

    Sorry for rambling,

    Peace,

    Larry

  • I live at 18431 Commonwealth in Seattle. Been up here before?

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