Conscious of being perceived as a recipient and benefactor of violence, Blank Face is the story of a bloated, divided man, a ex-gangster who used his experiences in life to make his own rags to riches story (word to Horatio Alger), only to simultaneously see himself vilified and stymied by his relationship with the streets that made him famous. “Guess I’m being a real nigga like I’m supposed to be,” he sings on “Lord Have Mercy.” “But being real never once brought the groceries.”
…Identity—or rather, the struggle of maintaining a sense of self when one is constantly forced to code switch or put on masks à la Frantz Fanon just to survive—is a theme that echoes throughout the album.
He’s dealing with it by trying to find himself. But is this really the right way?
After being booted from Facebook for impersonating a celebrity, one has
to take a good hard look at oneself. Who am I? Who might I be? The name
“Misha Collins” has come to mean many things to many people - actor,
philanthropist, celebrity, Overlord, chef, the guy who does the laundry
on Thursdays, scavenger hunt host, Bill’s personal punching bag, and so
much more. But who is Misha Collins?
In an effort to figure this out, I’m placing this personal ad. I hope to
answer it and take myself out… just for coffee, at first- nothing too
heavy or serious. I’m just not in that place yet, you know? We could
even start more casually, with email and eventually texting or phone
conversations. Maybe even DM on Twitter. I’m pretty open to any form of
communication with me, really. Ultimately, it’d be nice to find the
right me and settle down for a long term, serious relationship.
(However, I should probably warn me that I’m currently happily married.
She’s really cool though and is absolutely okay with me engaging in a
personal or even sexual relationship with myself.)
I hope this ad will help us connect and start down the road to getting
to know myself (ourself?) a little bit better. We’re not a bad looking
guy; we try to keep fit and healthy and we are open to adventures, long
walks, and deep conversations. If you’re me, please write me soon.
I don’t know who I am at all and it’s driving me crazy. I don’t know what I look like because i’m always looking different to myself. I don’t know what my body looks like because one minute it looks fat and one minute it looks alright and thinner. I don’t know who I am inside either. What do I want? I don’t know. what am I like? I don’t know.
I spent some time crying tonight, and it’s all Gail Simone’s fault.
If you knew me at all, or at least read what I’ve written about comics for oh so many years, you’d know that I have a real connection to Ralph Dibny and his wife, Sue Dearborn Dibny.
His super-sobriquet, The Elongated Man, is a tip of the hat to Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man, more precisely to the film series starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. They are one of The Wife’s favorite film series, and mine as well, mainly because she introduced me to them. The banter between Nick and Nora Charles sparkles, and the chemistry between Powell and Loy (they did quite a few other films together as well) made the relationship come alive.
And since The Wife and I often trade a similar level of banter, and have the same schoolkid-adorableness love for each other, I’ve always held a sort of identification with Ralph and Sue.
So when the events of Identity Crisis unfolded, I took it a bit personally. Not in any psychotic H.E.A.T.ish kind of way, but it was a bit more disappointing to me than it likely was for other people.
Identity Crisis was an inarguably well-written book by Brad Meltzer. He did some wonderful things in that book - his re-think of The Calculator was IMHO one of the most ingenious of the modern age of comics. Gail certainly must have thought so, or she wouldn’t have used so often )and so well) in Birds of Prey. We’ll just forget the way he got used near the end, the whole becoming part of the Kilg%re and ending up being Wendy and Marvin’s father - it was all a goddamn mess, one that DC excels at creating, usually just before they plan on rebooting everything, so they figure what the hell, we’re gonna start over anyway, who cares.
But I Digress. A bit.
Anyway, IC was the first of a series of steps that DC took to more “serious and mature” storytelling, words that sound better than ”Grim and Gritty”, but ultimately are rather similar. In it, Sue Dibny is murdered - more precisely she is incinerated in her own home. It gets worse - she was pregnant, and about to tell the good news to her husband Ralph.
It gets WORSE - in a flashback, we learn that Sue, alone in the JLA satellite, was attacked and ass-reped by of all people, Doctor Light. (Well, possibly only almost - there’s a bit of debate as to whether of not he actually completed the deed, or simply got as far as ripping the back of her pants off, getting his tonker out, and not quite getting as far as insertion, but as far as I’m concerned, when you’re that close to completion, it’s already rape.)
To say that Ralph is shattered is an understatement. The book ends with him (I shit you not) talking to the empty half of his wedding bed. Earlier in the book, Green Arrow suggests the act as a way to cope with the grief, but it’s pretty clear that he’s doing it a little more emphatically than a person who’s trying to move on. He doesn’t say “good bye”, he says, “good night, I’ll talk to you tomorrow”.
Now that’s a Goddamned hell of a set of events to choke down. Even more so if it’s happening to a couple of characters you so closely identify with. Then was the fact that Doctor Light, a character who had become a recurring villain to the Teen Titans (note that first word) was now a rapist, and had been one throughout all of those Titans adventures.
And you think finding out Captain America is a Nazi was creppy?
I’ll explain how deeply I took the events in this book. This book is my Killing Joke. You know how so many people took Batgirl getting paralyzed in that book? Not the least of which the aforementioned Gail Simone (funny how she keeps popping up in this story, isn’t it?) who started a blog called Women in Refrigerators that helped hang a lampshade on the all-too-common practice of killing of a female friend or lover of a hero for no reason than to make said hero suffer and grow, narratively? That’s how frustrated I was about IC. As much as people loved and identified Babs, I loved Ralph and Sue.
It was the stepping off point DC decided to use when they started to set up Infinite Crisis. Jean Loring, Ray Palmer’s ex-wife, and the person responsible for all the murdering in IC, became the new host for Eclipso. They started making some…stretchy…choices to come up with the setup for all the big changes they were planning.
But interestingly, as with Killing Joke, the events resulted in the single most magnificent story about Ralph Dibny ever. The events of 52, Ralph’s attempts to resurrect Sue, and their eventual reunion as ghost detectives.
The whole year that 52 was running, my request to the gods of comics was simple - I wanted Ralph and Sue to be together, safe, and happy. I made it clear that “alive” was not a requirement. And with the ending, I was happy…well, happy enough.
Flash forward a few years - Gail Simone (remember her? this is an article about Gail Simone…) has been writing for DC for some years now. She wrote an issue of Action Comics with John Byrne featuring Dr. Psycho. In it, he plays merry hell with a plane full of people, including effectively shutting off the emotions of a young boy. Now, The Kid is autistic, and at the time this book came out, not nearly as high-functioning as she is now. So that scene always made me well up a bit. I’ve long had to mentally add in that when Psycho was captured and rendered unconscious, the effects wore off.
OK, a few years later, Gail started writing Secret Six, an exemplary book that I enjoyed greatly. How much? I made this for her…
To fast-forward a bit, DC made a series of choices that many have considered to be a bad move, one of which being cancelling Secret Six. But fret not, a few years (and a few more bad choices) later, they gave the book back to Gail. And as everything else in DC had been, she reinvented it. And she did something much more important.
She started wiping Identity Crisis off the map.
In the New-52, post-Flashpoint version of the DCU, there was only about five years of history. The general rule of thumb was if a particular story was not expressly mentioned, it may not have happened. Conversely, if someone could make a case that a particular tale should not have occurred, it could be excised.
So Gail brought back Ralph Dibny.
It wasn’t all that easy - he was now working under a new name, Big Shot, and used his stretching powers to work more like Hannover Fiste in the Captain Sternn adventures from Heavy Metal.
And I figured, if Ralph was back…maybe Sue…?
Again, not as easy as all that - he thought she was dead, and was as ripped up about it as he was before. Then she wasn’t, but she was either brainwashed or had amnesia, and that only made it worse for Ralph.
The last issue of Secret Six just came out. In it, Sue has regained her memory, Ralph has returned to his Elongated Man persona, and the cast has what could best be described as a happy ending.
And I cried. A great deal.
It is exceedingly ironic that for all of Geoff Johns’ talk about how he wants to bring back that happy, positive core of the DC Universe again, the first substantive step in that direction was made in a book featuring one of the most wry, cynical, dark-humor laden cast of characters in the DCU.
I cannot tell Gail publicly exactly why this move makes me so happy. If she wants to know, I shall tell her in private. Suffice to say that having Ralph and Sue back, happy healthy and safe, is very important to me.