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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Thursday, November 15, 2018

ANOTHER LEE POST

Responding to the comment-thread to this BEAT thread.

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Kudos to Jackie Estrada for the mention of Stan's daughter. I would add that since he stayed married to the same woman until she passed in 2017, that too probably should constitute a "non-problematic" family relationship.

Though I appreciate Mr. Van Hise's attempt to meliorate Mr. Royer's extreme position, I really don't think Lee owed Kirby or Ditko any special treatment. It was a brutally unfair system, benefiting the publishers at the expense of the creators; of that there is no doubt. But it was also a business, and Lee's relationship to Kirby and Ditko was, first and foremost, a business relationship. If Goodman tendered any verbal contracts to Kirby and Ditko, they really should've known that said contracts wouldn't be worth the paper they were printed on. Why should Lee intercede? Why should he chance being fired by the temperamental Martin Goodman-- who, by all accounts, never appreciated what his creators had wrought-- if the artists could not sort out their business affairs themselves?

Does anyone, at this late date, seriously believe that Lee's intervention would have forced the penurious Goodman to make good on verbal promises? If so, are you a native of this planet, or are you an immigrant from Earth-616?

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

MYTHCOMICS: THE WITCH QUEEN OF MONGO (1935)

"Witch Queen of Mongo" marks the first sequence in which Alex Raymond seeks to expand on the formulaic characters of FLASH GORDON. But it's not the central character who gets the attention, but his faithful inamorata Dale Arden.

As I pointed out in my previous Raymond essay, Dale Arden's role in the series is one of the strongest deviations from the strip's putative inspiration, Edgar Rice Burroughs' JOHN CARTER series. It may be that Raymond chose to give his hero a female "comrade-in-arms" in imitation of the science-fiction strip with which FLASH was competing, BUCK ROGERS. Dale Arden is, admittedly, not an experienced warrior-woman like BUCK's Wilma Deering. Yet Dale is much more gutsy than any of Burroughs' Martian princesses.



For example, in the second FLASH strip, Zarkov, having built a spaceship to combat the onrushing world of Mongo, forces Flash and Dale  to board the ship, after which he sends them all speeding toward the enemy planet. Flash fights with Zarkov, and though the hero slugs the older man unconscious in the next panel, Dale is seen grabbing a lug-wrench so as to crown Zarkov if necessary. And while Flash is always the main hero in the ensuing sequences, Dale frequently shows more than a little initiative. When Flash and Dale are held prisoner by the Hawkmen's king Vultan, Dale pretends to make up to the monarch in order to protect her beloved. Early in the "Witch Queen" sequence, Dale is seen ray-blasing Mongo-monsters as ably as her boyfriend could. However, since she is a woman, her priorities are not quite the same as the hero's, and on that the main plot of "Queen" hinges.



At the end of the sequence I termed "Tournament of Death," Ming awards Flash his own kingdom, but the hero has to tame it for himself. Flash, Dale and several Hawkmen provided by Vultan infiltrate this new domain, name of Kira. The first ten strips depict Flash's first efforts to extend his rule, in particular defeating a tribe of cannibalistic lizard-men. But at the end of the tenth strip, Dale takes issue with the male mode of continual conquest:

But Flash, if you keep finding new enemies, when can we hold our wedding?

This can't be dismissed as mere feminine pique, given that Dale was key to rescuing Flash from the lizard-men. Flash, being a man, gives Dale a sweetly reasonable answer that doesn't acknowledge her concerns (I suppose some today would call it "mansplaining"). Dale blows up: "I won't marry you now til you beg me to!"



As if summoned into being by this disavowal, Dale's next major romantic competitor, Azura the Witch Queen, enters the fray. Despite the slight similarity between the name of the queen and that of Ming's daughter, Princess Aura comes off as a poor second to Azura, an independent ruler with her own array of arcane weapons-that-look-like-magic. Azura appears before Flash's entourage, seeming to be such a "spectral figure" that the armed men are briefly cowed. Flash orders them to attack, but Azura has the situation in complete control. She uses explosives to trigger an avalanche, burying many though not all of the Hawkmen, while the queen uses sleep gas to take prisoner Flash, Dale and a Hawkman captain named Khan.

With the help of her soldiers, usually called "magic men" despite the fact that they too only use super-science weapons, Azura transports her captives to Syk, her "flame-guarded stronghold" (perhaps modeled on the folk-story of Venusberg). She seems to be unaware of Flash's intention to invade her territory, and is only interested in seducing him. Apparently her only reason for keeping Dale and Khan alive is to use them to keep Flash in line when he wakes up-- although it doesn't take long for Azura to take the next step: drugging the hero with a forgetfulness potion called "Lethium.."  Flash easily buys into the notion that this sexy witch-woman is his queen and lover.



Ar this point, Azura really has no reason to keep Dale and Khan alive, and Raymond doesn't even resort to the most logical excuse: that Azura takes sadistic glee in seeing Dale suffer when Flash no longer knows her. Both Dale and Khan are given servile jobs as servants, but aside from a scene in which a female servant lets Dale see Flash kissing Azura, there's no direct attempt to humiliate. However, though Flash doesn't know Dale as anything but a serving-girl, he objects to seeing a member of the weaker sex whipped for a minor infraction. This illustrates Flash's innate gallantry, given that he remembers nothing of his previous life.



Meanwhile, some of the Hawkmen under Flash's command weren't killed by the avalanche, and have sent for military aid to Vultan. Soon a small army of Hawkmen, accompanied by the peripatetic Doctor Zarkov, assault Azura's "magic-men."



The Hawkmen lose the contest, but Flash takes Zarkov prisoner and brings him into Syk. This proves costly for Azura, for with his super-science Zarkov slays several magic-men and cures Flash's amnesia. Flash feeds Azura her own potion, so that she forgets her evil ways-- temporarily at least-- and aligns herself with his rulership.



However, just to keep the pot boiling a little longer, Azura's generals stage a coup. Flash, Dale and Zarkov are forced to flee Syk, somehow leaving the Hawkman Khan behind in prison, and in the absence of the heroes, Azura's old identity returns. Zarkov then uses his science to give Flash a "super-power," turning him temporarily into an invisible man, even though Raymond draws him as a shadowy figure. Thus Flash invades Syk again, launching a "one-man war" on Azura and freeing Khan. However, Flash's invisibility begins to wear off. He takes Azura hostage and drags her into "the Tnnnel of Terror" to escape. This proves a mistake, for the tunnel is inhabited by "death dwarves."



Just as Flash and Azura stand on the edge of being overwhelmed by the dwarves, Dale and Zarkov show up in the Tunnel and drive away the nasty fiends. However, because Flash and Azura thought themselves on the verge of death, the queen begged the hero for a last kiss, and he obliged, just as Dale showed up. Thus the story comes full-circle, for although Dale has reclaimed her lover, he's displayed a certain amount of sexual infidelity before her eyes. At last Flash is able to smooth over the troubled waters by relating his transgression to his Manifest Destiny. When Dale asks Flash if he liked the kiss, "I liked it because it meant her friendship-- it meant that this bloody business was at an end-- that I had won my kingdom and the right to marry you."

However, Flash manages to find another new war that keeps him from getting married, which also brings the story back to Dale's original protest. When Flash announces the taming of his kingdom to Ming via radio, the Mongo emperor refuses to acknowledge Flash. In the following sequence, this begins Flash's first major martial assault on the empire of Ming, but "Witch Queen" in essence sets a pattern that would mitigate against marriage for the rest of the comic strip's history. In other words, Flash and Dale would perpetually have their virtue attempted by this or that powerful figure of Mongo. It's a virtual certainty that male readers enjoyed it whenever some beauteous ruler tried to seduce Flash, while female readers didn't get nearly the same vibe from Dale having to fend off unattractive seducers like Ming and Vultan. Still, there may have been some pleasure for women readers in seeing Flash prove his faithfulness again and again in spite of massive temptation, for, to my knowledge, Flash always remains devoted to one woman, despite not ever quite finding time to marry her.



STAN LEE, CREATOR OF MARVEL

I chose this title in reaction to this Slate obituary for Stan Lee:

PLEASE STOP CALLING HIM "CREATOR" OF MARVEL


The problem with Slate's essay is that it can't see the forest for the trees.

Yes, it's incorrect to call Stan Lee the creator of any single character, setting, or "tree" on which he collaborated with an artist. Even those artists who just drew whatever they were told to draw must be counted as co-creators.

But the guy who created the "forest" was Stan Lee.

Here's one version of Lee's off-told reminiscence about how he came to launch the Marvel style, from HOLLYWOOD REPORTER:

As the 1960s began, a discouraged Lee, nearing his 40th birthday, told his wife, Joan, that he was thinking about leaving his job. She told him that before he quits, why not try to write one story he really liked.

It's true that there's no way to prove that this conversation ever happened as Stan Lee said it did. However, in the 1960s Marvel editor Lee was the only person, aside from owner Martin Goodman, who had the authority to order a "new trend" of any kind.

In later interviews, Jack Kirby claimed creative credit for everything he worked on, which of course would include the first major Marvel title, FANTASTIC FOUR. However, Kirby had already been working for Marvel for about five years previous to the publication of the heroic quartet, and Kirby hadn't exactly burned up sales charts with his creations, even allowing for editorial interference.

In short, I think Lee had the seminal idea to experiment with superheroes in ways that hadn't been seen before-- like having money troubles, a trope seen in many of Stan Lee's teen comics-- and that the artists he employed either embraced this idea fully or just did whatever they were told to do to earn a paycheck.

And if I'm correct that Stan's was the seminal idea, then even though he didn't create a single "tree" by himself, he did indeed create the idea of the "forest."






Monday, November 12, 2018

NEAR MYTHS: "MAROONED ON MONGO," "TOURNAMENT OF DEATH" (1934-35)

In THE PLANET MONGO, Nostalgia Press's 1974 collection of the first two years of Alex Raymond's FLASH GORDON strip, the editors assigned titles to five sections of Raymond's work. I disagree with these assignments, for as I see it, these three years break down into three definable installments. I'm keeping their title, "The Witch Queen of Mongo," for the forthcoming essay, but the other two I've designated as "Marooned on Mongo," a title borrowed from the otherwise unmemorable 1996 TV-show, and "Tournament of Death," a title borrowed from one of the episodes of the 1936 serial. In all of the Raymond works I analyze here, I give Raymond sole credit for sake of brevity, though some if not all of the work was co-written by Don Moore.

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The comic strip adaptations of two prose creations-- Edgar Rice Burroughs' TARZAN and Philip Francis Nowlan's BUCK ROGERS-- launched what many have called "the Golden Age of Adventure Comic Strips." The two strips even debuted in American newspapers on the same day in 1929.  About five years later, King Features Syndicate invited artist Alex Raymond to create two ongoing strips, often if not always appearing together on Sunday pages, and both seemed to be biting the style of Edgar Rice Burroughs. JUNGLE JIM, though it concerned a white hunter rather than a ape-man, at least sought to compete with Tarzan's jungle thrills, though at no point was the former capable of eclipsing the latter. However, if it's true that King originally thought of doing an adaptation of Burroughs' John Carter of Mars, then there's not much question that Raymond'FLASH GORDON did indeed surpass the reputation of the Burroughs creation. (Additionally, King was possibly seeking to compete with the popularity of BUCK ROGERS, whom FLASH also excelled in popularity and repute.)



The sequence I've dubbed "Marooned on Mongo" is a long picatesque adventure that acquaints Raymond's readers with many of the colorful races of Mongo, and in this Raymond follows the lead of Burroughs's Mars books for the most part. Burroughs' Carter was an Earthman transported to a savage Mars inhabited by humanoids, one of whom, the "incomparable Dejah Thoris," eventually becomes Carter's wife. Mars's humanoids were largely characterized by skin-color-- red, white, black, and yellow-- though there were two quasi-humanoid races, the Tharks and the Warhoons, who were four-armed green monsters. In contrast, Raymond's Flash Gordon and his love-interest Dale Arden are both abducted to Mongo by crazed Doctor Zarkov when the scientist takes the two youths aboard his ship and tries to ram the hurtling planet Mongo to keep it from crashing into Earth. (The peril of colliding worlds is summarily dismissed and nothing more is said about the havoc Mongo's presence might be wreaking on Earth's solar system.) Mongo has a few humanoid races characterized by color alone, though the strips are inconsistent about depicting Ming, Aura and their congeners as "yellow," while Ming is the only one given a "Chinese Mandarin" image. However, Raymond was far more interested in creating humanoids with overt or implied animal natures: lion-men, hawk-men, and shark-men. Mongo is also, like Mars, rife with both primitive sword-battles and advanced technical gadgetry, underscored by sneaky court intrigues and romantic entanglements.



In contrast to John Carter's wooing of Dejah Thoris, the romance of Flash and Dale takes place somewhat on the fly, and is swiftly challenged by the ardor of Aura, daughter of Ming. In the "Marooned" sequence none of these four characters are very strongly characterized, and the attitudes of Ming and Aura toward the two Earthpeople reverse one another: Ming desires Dale and wishes to kill Flash; Aura desires Flash and wishes to kill Dale. In an early essay here, I discerned this as a "racial myth," but today I tend to think that this was just a surface imitation of the BUCK ROGERS strip, and that Raymond had little real interest in such matters. "Marooned" is largely a Cook's Tour of Mongo. There's nearly no social commentary on the various exotic tribes met by the humans, except insofar as many of them have grievances against Emperor Ming, who implicitly rules the planet with an iron hand.



"Tournament of Death," however, marks a transition in Raymond's work. Toward the end of "Marooned," King Vultan of the Hawkmen has been trying to make Dale his bride, and even comes to blows with Flash. However, when the floating city of the Hawks is imperiled, Doctor Zarkov saves the city with his scientific knowledge, and so Vultan befriends the three Earth-people. Ming and Aura then show up with their troops to seize the humans. So Vultan invokes "the ancient laws of Mongo," calling for a "tournament of death," in which Flash can compete to rise to the rank of rulership-- but only if Flash is the "last man standing" in the midst of dozens of ambitious warlords from all over the planet. It's with "Tournament" that Raymond abandons most of the storytelling tropes favored by Burroughs. Palace intrigue and romantic complications remained, but "Tournament" begins to portray Mongo with a sense of the pagantry emblematic of photorealistic book illustrations. In addition, Raymond advances Barin-- one of the rebel warlords seen in "Marooned"-- as a consolation prize for Aura. Though Aura makes one attempt to kill Dale during this sequence, she's overcome by Barin's charm and for the most part forgets her ardor for Flash, as well as deserting the cause of her father.



Though Aura's character diminishes in this sequence, Ming becomes a more majestic figure of evil here. He allows the tournament because he hopes to see Flash humbled before all Mongo. Instead, Flash wins in such a way that he allows his fiercest competitor Barin to live. But even though Ming is forced to assign kingdoms to both Flash and Barin, the wily emperor gives both of them wild, untamed domains, so that the two warriors will have to exert themselves mightily in order to attain their goals. It's at this point that Flash goes forth to conquer the lands under the sway of Queen Azura, "the Witch Queen of Mongo"-- which I'll consider in the next essay.


STAN LEE R.I.P. (1922-2018)

I may have something more to say about Stan's legacy in future, but here's what I wrote on CLASSIC HORROR FILM BOARD.

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A few weeks ago I had a strange presentiment that this would be the year Stan Lee might pass, if for no other reason than his personal life went through some thoroughly unnecessary drama. I wish he could have seen 100, but of course, everything he knew from his youth was pretty much gone. And hundreds of authors pass without ever knowing how well they were esteemed. No one can take that away from him.

When I got into comic book superheroes around age 11, I saw the prominent credits on the Marvel books, which did indeed foster the idea of a "comic-book family." I had no idea back then that artists created anything; and assumed that anything with Lee's name on it had been wholly created by him. Over the years I've learned how to distinguish the things Lee brought to the collaborations versus the things his artists brought, but there's a sense in which he, as editor, was responsible for encouraging the creativity and smoothing out the rough edges of artists who weren't always used to quality control.

Aside from a few panel-questions, I talked to him just once, and gave him a recent copy of COMICS JOURNAL in which I'd been published. He very well could have tossed in the wastebasket for all that I know-- and that certainly would've been his right-- but he was to my knowledge never less than personable with all of his admirers.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

MYTHCOMICS: EARTH-X (1999-2000)




EARTH-X is the first of three collected serials based on an “alternate history” version of the Marvel Universe. On all three, the story concept is credited to Alex Ross (whose fame had crested following his work on MARVELS and KINGDOM COME) and Jim Krueger. Ross’s hyper-realistic art, however, appears only on covers and in character sketches, with other artists tapped to perform the chores of visual storytelling, Jean Paul  Leon being credited with the entirety of EARTH-X. I have not yet re-read the two sequels, but my recollection is that neither felt as thematically unified as EARTH-X.

 To be sure, any unity in the Krueger-Leon series is rather akin to that of the Frankenstein Monster, being composed of many disparate parts. On one level—perhaps the most important in terms of marketing the series—is that EARTH X is, like MARVELS, a love letter to Silver Age Marvel. However, where MARVELS attempts to tell the story of the share continuity from the point of view of the common man, EARTH-X concerns itself with seeing the “gods” of the Marvelverse through a funhouse mirror, darkly.

This particular iteration-- which, for sake of conciseness, I’ll assign to Krueger, since he’s the one doing the heavy lifting—is most concerned with a particular aspect of Marvel: the grandiose apocalypse-scenarios given their fullest form by the team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. There had of course been earth-shattering events in comic books long before Lee and Kirby collaborated. However, features like FANTASTIC FOUR and THOR gave Kirby the imaginative canvasses on which he could unleash the full extent of his visual imagination, while Lee provided characterizational context for the contending forces. No other collaborations of the period—Fox/Sekowky, Thomas/Adams, or even Lee/Ditko—were as good at bringing the familiar world to the brink of chaos.

In any alternate-world story, the pleasurable distortion of the commonplace is one of the key appeals of the re-imagining.  Thus, EARTH-X posits a Marvel-world in which the boundaries between the human and the superhuman have been erased—or at least Krueger claims that they have. In practice, the reader doesn’t see that much of people who used to be rank-and-file humans. In keeping with works ranging from X-MEN’s “Days of Future Past” narrative to the aforementioned KINGDOM COME, EARTH-X is mostly about the weird, funhouse-mirror versions of Marvel’s heroes and villains. Some of the mutations have special resonance within the story, on in the context of Marvel’s storied history, while others seem to be the results of mere whimsy, along the line of Alex Ross saying, “I think I’ll make the new Captain America bald.”



Even though the title of EARTH-X sounds like a reference to Marvel’s inescapable mutant franchise, Krueger’s plot hinges on the Lee-Kirby backstory fot the Inhumans.  These FANTASTIC FOUR alumni were originally a race of genetically-advanced Earthpeople, though Lee and Kirby quickly retconned the characters into a experimental project by the alien Kree, a breeding-ground for super-warriors designed to serve the Kree’s martial endeavors. Without dwelling on assorted plot complications, the Inhumans’ capacity for self-mutation is at the root of the entire Earth’s big transformation—though this comes about as a response to yet other aspects of Marvelverse continuity.


I said earlier that Krueger’s opus was a love letter to Silver Age Marvel. The majority of the primary characters debuted in the 1960s: the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, the Avengers, Captain America (technically a reboot of the Timely version), the Hulk, the Inhumans, the X-Men, and the Black Panther— and most are Lee-Kirby characters. Krueger finds some space for such non-Kirby characters as Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and Daredevil, though these are all relegated to lesser roles in what seems like a predominantly Kirbyesque catastrophe.  At the same time, EARTH-X is not “sixties retro” in the least, for the Inhumans-Kree core of the plot is folded into an even more cosmic scenario borrowed from the following decade: Jack Kirby’s 1970s ETERNALS series.  Kirby designed the short-lived series to stand apart from the regular Marvel universe, but a few years after the end of the series (and the end of Kirby’s contract with Marvel)  “continuity savant” Roy Thomas devoted several issues of THOR to blending “Eternals-Earth” with that of “mainstream Marvel.”



Certainly Kirby’s ETERNALS exceeded the Inhumans-Kree plotline in sheer scope. Mysterious extraterrestrial titans, the Celestials, arrive on Earth, standing as imperturbable sentinels that do not deign to interact with humankind. It soon comes out that the Celestials are responsible for engineering not only the human race, but two other races, the Eternals and the Deviants, whose special powers and weapons caused early humankind to regard the Eternals as gods and the Deviants as demons. Roy Thomas seemingly sweated blood, finding ways to make it possible co-existence between science-fiction gods like Kirby’s “Zuras” and the already established “magic-based god” known as Zeus. Since Krueger isn’t interested in the “magical gods” of Marvel—or for that matter, the mystical dimensions of Doctor Strange-- he simply explains away all of the Marvel gods as a race of metamorphic aliens. In Krueger’s cosmos, only science fiction can beat science fiction.


The transformation of Marvel-Earth is, in the long run, brought about to keep the Celestials from simply extinguishing Earth when they’re finished with it.  However, Krueger’s plot is far from linear, and the mystery of humanity’s transformation often takes a backseat to showing this or that Marvel character in a weird new situation. A few are “old favorites” in name only: Matt “Daredevil” Murdock is said to be dead, but a new Daredevil, who is “without fear” because he can’t be killed, has taken his place.  



Two-members of the Fantastic Four—the Invisible Woman and the Human Torch—have died, along with the super-group’s foremost enemy Doctor Doom; as a result, Mister Fantastic has become a recluse who lives in Doom’s castle, seeking for the solution to the transformation. 



In one of Alex Ross’s better re-conceptions, the Hulk, once a goliath with a tiny mind, has become separated into a truly mindless brute controlled by a juvenile version of Bruce Banner. If nothing else, this re-conception provides some nostalgia for a particular issue of the first INCREDIBLE HULK series, wherein young Rick Jones was temporarily able to control the mammoth man-monster. Children have become less common now that everyone has new powers, though oddly enough the aged-looking Captain America is forced to battle a new incarnation of the Red Skull: a mutant kid so young that he doesn’t even know who Hitler was.


Though there are some resonant moments regarding the various transformations of heroes and villains, Krueger is at his most philosophical when dealing with two onlookers, both of whom were Kirby creations. The older creation, co-authored by Stan Lee, is the alien Watcher, who provides a running commentary on Marvel’s history for the benefit of a less well-informed observer. This is Aaron Stack, a.k.a. Machine Man, whom Kirby solely created for a Marvel’s feature based on Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: a Space Odyssey.” (Amusingly, Aaron is brought into the Watcher’s abode amid imagery that strongly references the imagery of the Kubrick film—to say nothing of the film’s relevance in terms of  “alien experiments.”)



The Watcher, who has been stricken blind by an unknown assailant, wants to make living robot Aaron into a new Watcher.To do so, the Watcher must try to convert Aaron to a disinterested viewpoint of humanity’s struggle. Here’s the Watcher trying to go all Nietzsche on Aaron Stack, explaning why human beings resented their superhuman saviors:

…to be saved is to be weak. And to be weak, one must acknowledge that one exists in a constant state of need. Thar, in his normal state, man is found to be lacking.
No less Nietzschean is the Watcher’s statement on eternal warfare:

Mankind cannot live in peace with [sic] himself.  His nature denies this.
While these philosophical ruminations have some broad applicability to the theme of EARTH-X, Krueger doesn’t succeed in making the Watcher’s credo fit into his easy acceptance of the Celestials’ ruthless agenda. Aaron Stack, as defender of humanity, is also not quite able to refute the Watcher’s vow of non-interference by the jejune statement:  “To do nothing in the face of need—that’s evil.”

Like many of the Marvel-DC multi-character epics, EARTH-X loses perspective by dint of concentrating only on superhuman protagonists. Even the script for 2004's INCREDIBLES, whose author ostensibly did not intend to invoke Nietzsche, hones in on more of the conflict between savior and saved more profoundly than does Krueger’s opus. Still, there is enough of a symbolic discourse here to rate EARTH-X as an interesting mythcomic.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

MY PROBLEM WITH "THE PROBLEM WITH APU"

Here's a short argument I presented on Classic Horror Film Board, in response to the news that the SIMPSONS character of Apu was going to be sidelined in future episodes of the cartoon show, partly in deference to the objections of activists like Hari Kondabolu and his "Problem with Apu" documentary.

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Caricature isn't always designed as a mockery. Sometimes it's simply shorthand for something that the target audience sees every day.

Classic Hollywood films, for example, are filled to the brim with Irish cops. That's because, after long decades in which Irish-Americans were deemed the dregs of criminality, some of them began getting into the low-paying but more respectable business of crime prevention. I'm sure a lot of Irish-Americans in the early 20th would have preferred to do jobs other than walk a beat. But life is not fair, and we can't change the past; only understand how the past impacts on the present.

I recall hearing one Indian-American, whose name I did not note, speak on a radio show, saying that, in effect, Apu mirrored his own experience. As I recall, he said that his father immigrated to America as a scientist, but couldn't find work in that department. So he got into motel management, and today, this is still a burgeoning source of employment for Indian-Americans. Again, maybe it wasn't fair that the scientist had to go into motel management. Maybe it was the result of white privilege, maybe it wasn't. But it remains a fact that a lot of Indian-Americans found employment in the management of motels and convenience stores.

I agree that it sucks when Indian-American kids get called "Apu" or have to listen to "Thank you come again." I'm sure it sucked when Chinese-American kids had to listen to "Chinamen" songs and get mocked for being the sons of laundrymen. Yet I think it's unfeasible to say, "We don't like the image of this caricature, no matter whether it represents any aspect of real life or not." I think Hari Kondabolu may be guilty, at the very least, of using too broad a brush to paint his picture of anti-Asian racism.