Sunday, January 18, 2009

World Go Boom

Goin' for a little obscurity today. Obscure to most, I guess.

Jeremiah is a series created in 1979 by Belgian writer and artist Hermann. Still going on, according to the ever reliable Wikipedia. It's a product of its times, but has the most succinct world history just about ever. In one page Hermann sets up the world of his stories, which is a post apocalyptical USA, somewhere in what's now the breadbasket of the US. Racial conflict evidently lead to the end of the world as we know it, but this was long enough ago that what was bombed out landscape is now harboring well matured trees.

The racial conflict causing the end of the US, if not the end of the world, is kind of amusing at this point. It shows the pitfall of a too dark outlook of the future, particularly where the US is concerned (yes, I mean Pops). We can see a quick turn on this very theme in the next couple years, as there's a Russian quack, who's some former KGB expert on the US, who says the US is going to break up into 6 regions in 2010. The most best part of this fantasy is that Alaska will revert to Russian control. Someone might want to give Sarah Palin a heads up. 'Course, the Russians won't be bought off with oil money, so maybe she can just be a governor in the Russian Federation. Amusement aside, it's all wishful thinking for Russia.

But I digress. Jeremiah, our titular hero, is a young man who lives with his aunt and uncle in a farming community. It's a dangerous land, so when a warning bell sounds for the evening, you have to get within the gates of the community so as not to be caught outside. Clearly, there's no state, regional or federal government at work here. Jeremiah misses the bell and ends up meeting his eventual boon companion, Kurdy Malloy. Jeremiah, as it turns out, is the lucky one, as raiders burn down his village and kill all those holed up within.

Jeremiah, with Kurdy, eventually exacts his revenge on the raider leader, a rather corpulent fellow with a bird fetish. This takes place in the 2 issue story, Birds of Prey. I obtained another 4 issues of Jeremiah stories in A Fistful of Sand and The Heirs. These were all published by Adventure Comics, an arm of Malibu Comics, in 1991. They were published, like the originals in Europe, in black and white and translated into English.

This was a very popular and award winning series in Europe, from what I've read. It never caught on in the US, though. And I can see why. Maybe it's the translation that's lacking, but I don't think that's it alone. One of the main problems is that the stories are jammed into their 2 issue arcs. A lot seems to be missing in elucidation, which is peculiar, considering the opening page's brevity with clarity. The whole thing lacks a certain smootheness to the flow tales. There's an abruptness in the telling.

Jeremiah's world is very reminiscent of the mythological old west. Lawless. Open. White. Ok, not entirely white. There are Hispanics, presumably Mexican, in A Fistful of Sand. That's part of the problem, too, come to think of it. Birds of Prey and The Heirs appear to be set in the flat lands of Nebraska, Kansas and the like, but A Fistful of Sand appears to be set in the desert southwest. Sure, the midlands could have desertified areas, but that wouldn't explain the sudden mountainous outcroppings. Maybe these stories weren't originally written to be consecutive, but if they were, there's no explanation of how Jeremiah and Kurdy are in different sections of the country. They just seem to be plopped down to tell a story with whatever setting the author wanted.

That aside, I wasn't overly impressed with the stories. Jeremiah is the usual naif in a rough world, like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars (right down to being raised by an aunt and uncle). For some reason, though, Jeremiah's naivete seems less believable. While Luke's world was dangerous mainly if you went into town, it seemed pretty safe out there on the moisture farm, at least until the Storm Troopers showed up. In Jeremiah's world, you have to lock yourself into a stockade every night for safety. I don't know how a guy who's supposed to be a young man can be so ignorant of the ills around him when those ills are always just barely kept at bay. It's not like he's six.

And, while Birds of Prey reminded me of the Star Wars saga (which had come out just 2 years before the presumed original publication), A Fistful of Sand was a straight up Spaghetti Western rip off, with supposed good guys setting up an ambush, in cooperation with the local Mexican bad asses, of the money supply wagon. I kept waiting for Clint Eastwood, serape and all, to step into the scene. Too bad he didn't. It would have been more fun.

The last of the three stories I bought, The Heirs, was kind of Shakespearean in its source material. A reluctant messianic figure leads a farming community to prosperity, adopts a couple of kids, and hires a mysterious stranger with an unknown expertise. The stranger and the kids turn on him, but continue to pretend he's still alive, even wheeling out his mummified corpse for public display on occasion. Actually, I'm not sure if it reminded me more of Shakespeare or I, Claudius. Either way, it was dysfunctional family all the way, and not very original, or believably executed.

Despite it's lack of success in the US, Showtime tried to turn it into a TV show in 2002. Luke Perry of 90210 fame starred as Jeremiah while Malcom-Jamal Warner of The Cosby Show played Kurdy Malloy. Now, Kurdy was as white as Jeremiah in the comics, and given the whole racial war as modus operandi to the holocaust, casting Warner in the role would seem to be a problem. To get around this, the producers evidently decided that the apocalypse was caused by a plague that killed off all the adults. Sort of a Star Trek meets Logan's Run sort of thing, I guess. Puberty doesn't seem to have been the trigger like it was in Star Trek, but everyone was in their 20's, so Logan's Run comes to mind. I've no idea how well or poorly it was executed, as I never saw an episode. From the lack of ever hearing anything about it, I'm guessing it didn't go so well.

So why did I write about Jeremiah today? First and foremost, because the Comics Cabinet is in alphabetical order by publisher, and once I ran out of some of the things I was remembering that I wanted to cover, this was the first thing I came across. Secondly, it fits in with our own times, in a contrarian sort of way. While Hermann saw the US coming apart, like our Russian friend I mentioned, I see the US coming together. Racial divisions are less and less important in this country all the time. (In what passes for full disclosure, I should mention that I'm a really pale, freckled white guy and my wife is black.) What more perfect time to counterpose these world outlooks than Martin Luther King Day weekend and the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, who just so happens to be the first black President of the United States? None better, say I.

No comments:

Post a Comment