Books, Bladders, Biology, and the Flammability of the Undead

So today I finished “Watchmen” by Alan Moore, a graphic novel that has been previously mentioned to me as a paragon of good layout. All I can say is that it might well be good layout–I didn’t notice. I was too busy being captivated by the story. (Well, okay, the placement of captions and word balloons was really slick, I did notice that.) Superbly well done, I recommend it highly, particularly to those, like me, who have a passing interest in comics but did not break into the genre at a young age, and so have only a mild acquaintence with most of the titles out there. Being rooted very strongly in the Cold War fear of nuclear war with Russia, it doesn’t have quite the same relevance today–it’s set in 1985, and I am just barely old enough to remember the peculiarly resigned terror that most of us had of nuclear war then. However, it weathers well, and conjures up the atmosphere so well that even if you were fortunate enough to become a sentient being after the days of mutual assured destruction, I think it’d ring true.

Plus it had a really intelligent villain. I approve of anyone who explains his master plan to the heroes only after it’s been put into action and can no longer be stopped.

Illustrated the obligatory work for the day (which I quite enjoyed–these spot illos are great. I just flip through the manual, find a spot that has a space left for illustration, and then read the area around it to decide what I’d like to propose to go there. Best line so far “Undead are considered flammable.” How can you not love an illo like that?) and then sat in front of the next page of “Irrational Fears” feeling vaguely inadequate. Here’s a comic commenting on the grim, scary, weird, humane issues of the day, and doing so with style and gritty grace, and what stuff do I do? Two slapstick mammals and a severed dinosaur brain. Goth teen musings from an anemic bat. The saga of a small green thingy and her lint sidekick, facing the monsters under the bed. Maybe Chu should be breaking into nuclear missile silos and frying the circuitboards or something.

Fortunately, my social conscience is huddled far back in the musty chicken coop of my skull, trying not to get beaten up by the other, meaner and burlier personality traits (like my musclebound sense of sarcasm) and my brief twinge didn’t last long. You gotta pay your dues making cool stories before anyone’s willing to listen to you preach, anyhow, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned while doing this project, it’s that an astonishing number of otherwise normal adults are still scared of the monster under the bed. (On a somewhat related note, I recently read that someone proposed that this fear is a outgrowth of the old instinctive terror that primates in the trees had of predators on the ground. It’s an interesting theory. I dunno if I’m quite willing to buy that far into sociobiology, but it’s interesting.)

In other news, my cat is fully recovered (and is currently doing his world-renowned “roadkill on the couch” impersonation.) Thanks to everyone who thought good thoughts at him–I’m too much of a scientist to be quite certain if they help, but I know they certainly don’t hurt, and I appreciate the thought! (Now I owe the god of cats a painting. I’m also not sure if she exists, but even if she doesn’t, I feel obligated to keep my end of the bargain.) His recovery has strengthened my faith in homeopathy, which I generally don’t quite trust for animals–I always assume that it works on humans in part because we’re expecting it to work, whereas the cat merely views being grabbed and pilled as a humiliating assault upon his dignity and has no such placebo-effect expectations. But he’s as fat, dumb and happy as ever, so obviously something worked.

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