Superman’s Choice

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“The ‘Oratorio’ is nothing less than the Shazam!, the Kimota! for Western Culture and we would do well to remember it in our currently trying times.”

Grant Morrison, on Pico della Mirandola’s Oratory on the Dignity of Man

In the marathon Newsarama interview with Grant Morrison on his and Frank Quitely’s newly-finished All-Star Superman series the writer mentions the Renaissance philosopher Pico della Mirandola’s famous Oratio de hominis dignitate, or Oratory on the Dignity of Man (1486) as central to his take on Krypton’s famous son (go read the interview: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10). He also mentions Leonardo’s even more famous ‘Vitruvian Man’ (c. 1487, detail above) as important to his interpretation of the Superman myth, and as the direct inspiration for this interpretation by Quitely of the character, keeping us all alive by labouring in the heart of the Sun:

Across the Color Line

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“It is, then, the strife of all honorable men and women of the twentieth century to see that in the future competition of the races the survival of the fittest shall mean the triumph of the good, the beautiful, and the true; that we may be able to preserve for future civilization all that is really fine and noble and strong, and not continue to put a premium on greed and imprudence and cruelty.”

— W. E. B. Dubois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

Photo: The New York Times.

Picks of the Week

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The picks of the week from around the web.

We’re still unable to talk about much else than the US elections here at the Bunker, but not to worry — it’ll all be over in a couple of days.

  • David Bordwell on the narratives of the Obama and McCain campaigns. Great analysis of the stories the candidates have been trying to sell us, and the stories we’ve been eager to see in them.
  • Sarah Palin prank called. The fun never stops! In case you don’t know it already, be warned: this is excruciating. We dare you not to listen.
  • Rolling Stone: “Makebelieve Maverick”. We urge to to proceed with caution with this one, which does seem like a bit of a hatchet job, but on the other hand it provides a stark perspective on the rarely questioned, well, narrative the McCain campagin have been promulgating on his war record, and offers a no less scathing profile of his political career.
  • Love Multiplied

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    Currently on display at the art dealer Pietro Scarpa in Venice, there’s a reclining nude by the Venetian painter Giacomo ‘Palma’ Vecchio (c. 1480-1528), which is worth a second look for anyone interested in the practice of replication in the Italian Renaissance workshop. It repeats with slight variations the figure of Venus in a canvas in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Both pictures are datable to the 1520s, with the latter falling late, left as it was unfinished in the master’s studio at his death.

    Heavy on the Castanets

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    Michael Chabon frustrates me. He’s obviously talented, smart and knows how to tell a good story in the old school way. Even if he suffers from the classic problem of providing his stories with endings as memorable as what went before. (I remember a lot of cool things about Kavalier and Clay, but how did it end, again?). What I have a problem with, however, are certain mannerisms in his fluid, elegant language that have always been there, but which one hoped would dissipate, rather than consolidate themselves, with experience.

    Defending the Herd

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    As so many before me, I recently took umbrage at some of Domingos Isabelinho’s rather categorical views on comics, as expressed on his new blog The Crib Sheet. This time it was a curt dismissal of the majority of Hugo Pratt’s work as being superficial and hollow that got me out of my chair. For the record, here’s my short, rather extemporal take on what makes the best Corto Maltese stories great, formulated in response to his assertion that Corto is an unknowable, romantic stereotype, a ‘sailor who doesn’t sail’:

    Corto is not meant to be a realistic character — he’s an engine for our imagination. Pratt’s genius in those stories, and I mean right up to the very end — or at least until the penultimate Corto book, Elvetiche (the last, MU, is coasting a bit) — is to engage our taste for adventure in unexpected, almost dreamlike ways.

    Picks of the Week

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    The picks of the week from around the web.

    Just returned from Venice; pardon the lateness…

  • The Little World of Harvey Kurtzman. A new blog showcasing the amazing work of Harvey Kurtzman, apparently run by his estate. So far, a healthy selection of material from his classic humour magazines, Humbug and Help! are up. Not to be missed. (Thanks, Tom).
  • Shephard Fairy for Obama. Short video feature on the independent graphic artist behind those spectacular Obama posters, stickers and other promotional material that has become the primary graphic ID of the campaign.
  • The Archive. Short documentary on Paul Mawhinny, the owner of the world’s biggest record collection. Fascinating, if a bit sappy. But really, if you’re a vinyl enthusiast you will want to check for this. (Thanks, Lars).