Tuesday, May 29, 2007

the Plastic Man/Spirit abstract

About a month ago, I submitted an abstract to a conference that will be held in October in Kansas City. It's organized by the Midwest Popular Culture Association, and the topic I was instructed to focus on is "the postmodern comic book."

My proposal was on the topic of Plastic Man and The Spirit, how in many ways they were "pre-postmoderns" if you will, precursors to postmodernism in approach and style. I chose the topic because it seemed to me to be a little bit different than what typically might be submitted (in other words, treatises on Morrison or Moore). I chose the topic... despite not really knowing too much about early Plastic Man or the Spirit comics. I've read ABOUT them and I've sampled a few stories... but that's about it.

So I found out on Thursday that my abstract was accepted and I will be presenting on this topic.

So now I have 'til October to do my research, and I'm asking for your help.

Firstly, I need advice on particular stories to use as examples. I'm obviously limiting myself to Golden Age stories by the original creators, stuff published in the time from the characters' conception to around the mid-50s.

Definite choices for me will include the origins of both characters, Gerard Schnobble and 10 Minutes for The Spirit, and the first appearance of Woozy Winks. If you know anything about The Spirit or Plastic Man's early days and can suggest other stories to me, I would greatly appreciate it.

Secondly, I need to raise money to buy copies of many of the Archives, which are not cheap by any means. So I will soon be posting a revised list of books I'll have for sale on my livejournal, and if there's anything you're interested in buying, please let me know.

Finally, if you OWN any of the Plastic Man or Spirit Archives and would be willing to part with them, I'd be interesting in buying them from you, or trading some of my books for yours. Please let me know if you can help me out in that regard.

By the way, this, in case you missed it, was my abstract:

Plastic Man and the Spirit: Pre-Postmodern Heroes of the Golden Age

In the modern era of comics, the influence of postmodernism can be felt far and wide. Daniel Clowes, Charles Burns, or Kevin Huizenga spring to mind as obvious examples of indie comic artists that delve into the bizarre. More mainstream works inspired by postmodernism can easily be found in Alan Moore’s classic deconstruction of the superhero Watchmen or the metafiction of Grant Morrison’s Animal Man.

But postmodernism’s roots in comics stretch back all the way to the medium’s infancy. Even in the Golden Age as the genre of the superhero was still forming, it was already being deconstructed. Plastic Man, with his origins as a reformed criminal and his lighthearted attitude toward fighting crime, defied the conventions of the genre at the time. Meanwhile, The Spirit, a crimefighter whose “costume” consisted solely of a domino mask, seemed to refuse the categorization as a superhero not only in his appearance but in his approach towards his role as well.

Beyond the characters themselves, both comics and their creators were known for pushing the boundaries of what superhero comics could be. Eisner’s various experiments with form in the Spirit comics are well-documented, from his incorporation of the comics logo in his splash pages to his shifting the comic’s point of view from The Spirit to relatively minor characters. Jack Cole on the other hand experimented with his art style in his Plastic Man stories, coupling very realistic figure work with other characters who looked quite cartoonish.

Both Cole and Eisner then could be seen as the progenitors of postmodernism in comics. These artists paved the way for the experimentation with form prevalent in indie comics of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and their creations acted as predecessors and precursors to the eventual acceptance of postmodernism into the mainstream seen in the 1980s.