Mr. Punch, The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of
1994. VERTIGO/DC COMICS.
Writer: Neil Gaiman. Artist: Dave McKean. Editor: Karen Berger.
Almost everything I want to write about how it feels to reflect on childhood can be drawn from Mr. Punch. Gaiman writes far, far more articulately than I do, and McKean’s splendid pictures capture the wonders, horrors, and mysteries of youth more eloquently than I can describe. But only up to a point. Unfortunately, these two wonderful artists can never see or relate my own childhood, but they have given me the tools within the context of Mr. Punch to look at my past in ways I hadn’t thought possible.
When you’re young, almost everyone and everything seems larger than life. Parents, relatives, teachers, parties, parks, playgrounds, vacations, traumas, fears; heck, your very existence…it’s all huge. On one hand, no wonder it always seemed so downright scary, as a child you could only comprehend so much; on the other, that inability to comprehend, not yet learned, now makes it seem a much simpler time. When you’re an adult looking back on childhood, that original sense of larger-than-life has vanished, and that time as a child, through memory, appears so much smaller, so much easier to understand. Yet for many of us, childhood never ended; we outgrew our roles as children, but how we see the world, as always something larger than life, never left us. So much of my childhood certainly never left me; case in point, comics were right along with me through adolescence, my teenage years, and into adulthood. The perspective has certainly changed, but the childlike feelings are still intact (as they are with the narrator of Mr. Punch).
So much of Mr. Punch relies on reflection. Towards the end of the book, reality reflects off the Punch and Judy shows that have been performed, act by act, during the course of the story. There are tales of family members told to the narrator as a child that he visualized in his own mind and remain reflected to us the same way (reinterpretation and perspective has not been imposed); they’re haunting and surreal, notably the sequence where the boy’s grandfather is shouting hysterically at his grandmother. The narrator’s reflection on his childhood yields, over time, pieces to many puzzles that were not really mysteries but observations of the actions of a dysfunctional family; actions a child would find very hard to understand or explain.
1996. DC COMICS.
Writer: Mark Waid. Artist: Alex Ross. Editor: Dan Raspler.
After all the hype, publicity, previews, anticipation, execution, critiques, interviews, panel discussions, analyses, awards, various collected editions, spin-offs, sequels, backlash, and controversy, what we’re left with in Kingdom Come is a wonderful Superman story. It’s the story and art that make it work long after the publishing event has passed; after all, you can only play the “who’s who?”, “what became of who?”, and “is that who I think it is?” games so much. This tale of faith lost and confidence shattered so let’s get it back is conveyed on biblical, mythical, and legendary levels. It’s a story about heroes, the heroic ideal, influence and inspiration. And the art is gorgeous. Beyond Kingdom Come, in that weary realm of overkill and oversaturation, some of the majesty becomes lost. Time should treat Kingdom Come the Story, not Kingdom Come the Event, very kindly. It’s that good.
Crime SuspenStories #22
April/May, 1954. EC COMICS.
Reprinted by Gemstone Publishing, 1997.
“In Each and Every Package.” Artist: Reed Crandall. “Monotony.” Artist: Bernie Krigstein. “Cinder Block.” Artist: Jack Kamen. “Sight Unseen.” Artist: Joe Orlando.
Behind the most notorious, and possibly influential, cover in funny book history is a great comic book. The stories are well-written and superbly drawn, effectively disturbing and entertaining in one glorious, four-color swoop. However, it’s easy to forget that because this issue was used in the Senate investigation into juvenile delinquency in 1954. That investigation led to the creation of the Comics Code Authority (which replaced the already existing but greatly diminished Association of Comics Magazine Publishers, the major difference being that the CCA had more say in which comics actually made it to the newsstands). Historically, this remarkable cover helped change the face (sales plummeted), and in many respects the personality (aggressive self-imposed censorship), of the comic book industry. What so many finger-pointing lawmakers, psychologists and professionals missed was the best comics had to offer. Today, when compared to the rampant grisliness and visual horrors we’re exposed to on behalf of all aspects of the entertainment industry, this comic is tame (although the cover still carries a jolt and some of the narration is pretty graphic). But in terms of quality, this comic can still hold its — um — head high.
Green Lantern #1
June, 1990. DC COMICS.
“Down to Earth.” Writer: Gerard Jones. Artists: Pat Broderick and Bruce Patterson. Editor: Andrew Helfer.
Hal Jordan returns to his own title after the hard knocks and cosmic delirium bestowed on him in the pages of Action Comics Weekly (not to mention an unnecessary revamping of his origin in Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn). The Hal Jordan in this comic is more in line with the character first introduced in Showcase #22 and given more depth in Green Lantern/Green Arrow #76, as opposed to the Hal Jordan recharacterized in Emerald Dawn and the person he would become in Emerald Twilight (makes me wince just typing that). While now a loner and drifter, with dashes of grey in his hair, he is a man who has been in the superhero business some 15 years, and has slowly, steadily built an aura of self-confidence. Instead of setting out to find America, Hal is seeking a place for himself in America. But Guy Gardner’s out to cause trouble, and John Stewart appears to be going mad. A return to greatness, and the beginning of the end. (Although all is better now.)
The Sandman #21
December, 1990. DC COMICS.
“Season of Mists: 0: A Prologue.” Writer: Neil Gaiman. Artists: Mike Dringenberg and Malcolm Jones III. Editor: Karen Berger.
The Endless gather as a family for the first time in 300 years. The Endless are ideas, functions, given human form and human emotion. They’re as dysfunctional as any family. With Destiny, Death, Dream, Desire, Despair and Delirium, Neil Gaiman gave us larger-than-life characters that we could all relate to (and have confronted throughout life). Here Dream’s pride is gutted by two of his siblings, and he realizes he has done a great wrong by condemning a former girlfriend to Hell. She has been imprisoned there for thousands of years only because she refused the conditions of Dream’s love. Dream will return to Hell to free her, even if it means confronting Lucifer, ruler of Hell. Brilliant touches grace this book: the description of Destiny’s Garden; the informative, encyclopedic entries on each of the Endless; the dinner conversation that takes a while to get underway; and, for me, Delirium’s first appearance as she enters Destiny’s gallery through a portrait that bears a passing similarity to my favorite painting, Thomas Lawrence’s Pinkie.
September, 1986. DC COMICS.
“Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” Writer: Alan Moore. Artists: Curt Swan and George Perez. Editor: Julius Schwartz.
The last Silver Age Superman story is arguably the best Superman story ever written. The last panel of this issue’s tale, part one of a two-parter that concluded in Action Comics #583, is certainly the most moving, heartbreaking moment in Superman’s history. But to get there the reader is put through a lot: the murderous destruction by Bizarro, the unveiling to the world by Toyman and the Prankster that Superman and Clark Kent are one and the same, the murder of Pete Ross, the merging of Luthor and Brainiac, the rampage of Superman’s greatest foes. But nothing prepares us for the arrival of the Legion of Super-Heroes from the 30th Century. With them is Supergirl, who has traveled to the Legion’s future from her past before her death during Crisis On Infinite Earths. Her conversation with Superman is one of the best things Moore has ever written. But again, it’s the final panel, where a grieving Superman sits in his Fortress of Solitude, with faithful dog Krypto at his feet, that is most poignant and devastating.
1998. DARK HORSE COMICS.
Writer and Artist: Frank Miller. Colorist: Lynn Varley. Editor: Diana Schutz.
The list of Frank Miller’s contributions to the advancement of comics as a graphic art is both impressive and important. Daredevil, Ronin, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City. Personally, I feel 300 is the jewel in the crown. Miller’s epic story is based on the standoff battle at Thermopylae in 480 B.C., where King Leonidas and 300 Spartan warriors held off thousands and thousands of Persian warriors intent on conquering and enslaving the free world. And it’s historical fiction with the history intact! Visually, 300 is an artistic feast, assaulting the senses in all directions. You feel the Spartans march, you hear the rush of gigantic waves capsizing Persian ships, you cringe at the sight of spears thrust through Persian flesh and bone. The motion picture Gladiator was good, but 300 is better. 300 should probably never be adapted to film; cinema wouldn’t do it justice (on the other hand, I admit I would like to see director Ridley Scott try). Lynn Varley’s colors are spectacular, and I highly recommend the collected edition.
December, 1990. TUNDRA PUBLISHING LTD.
Writer and Artist: Dave McKean. Assisted by Clare Haythornthwaite.
Cages begins with a series of creation myths. It then takes a more simplified, relaxed approach. First, there is a startling sequence of panels where a black cat crosses in front of the moon. The cat pauses and plays before a young musician resting on the sidewalk. Then the cat makes his way, window by window, around the Meru House, a large London apartment building (which we learn as we go along is a house of ‘cages’ for artists at different junctures in their lives). The cat sees various humans behaving in different ways. A young painter, with some amusing degree of difficulty, arrives at his new flat in the apartment building. He withdraws the cloak from a large easel. We see him looking directly at the easel, but we aren’t allowed to see what’s on it. End of part one. Cages takes some time to get into — it certainly doesn’t bang you over the head right away with any kind of plot — but gradually it reveals itself, sometimes in fevered spurts, sometimes with a subtle tension, as art in the painstaking process of creation and consequence.
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #36
March, 1995. DC COMICS.
“In the Name of the Father.” Writer: Alan Grant. Artists: Barry Kitson and Ray McCarthy. Editor: Dennis O’Neil.
Black Canary is my favorite superheroine. I was leaning toward placing Adventure Comics #418 in this slot, as it has the first Canary story I ever read. But “In the Name of the Father” is really a darn good story, coming at a time when the Canary’s future seemed a little precarious (her solo series had been canceled and I had the feeling DC wasn’t quite sure what to do with her). This tale focuses on her search for the murderer of a young boy who had a close, personal connection to her own family. Alan Grant knows the Canary’s personality and Barry Kitson makes her look ravishing. She’s smart, sexy, compassionate, funny, reflective, and tough, tough, tough. And she always looks great in fishnet stockings. Black Canary is one of the few characters whose origin benefited from Crisis on Infinite Earths. She’s done very well for herself lately, what with Birds of Prey and The Black Canary Archives, Volume 1.
Mister Miracle #22
January-February, 1978. DC COMICS.
“Midnight of the Gods.” Writer: John Harkness. Artists: Marshall Rogers, with Rick Bryant and John Fuller. Editor: Larry Hama.
In the late 1970s, DC revived two of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World series, New Gods and Mister Miracle. I suppose the less said about New Gods the better, but Mister Miracle was a real treat. Issue 22 is exceptional, as Scott Free works his way through the complicated, intricate, and deadly inner sanctums of Apokolips itself to achieve one monumental goal: the assassination of Darkseid. Darkseid’s appearance on page 15 is truly frightening: Rogers’ full-page shot of the Lord of Apokolips’ face is in half-profile. Creviced forehead, arched eyebrows, bloodstained eye, and sloping nose are the only features we see, but it’s enough to convey pure evil. It also reinforces Darkseid’s strength as a showman, as he knows how to work the shadows for full effect. His dramatic monologue on the “Cosmic Comedy,” “the interplay of light and shadow,” and the triumphant “when the dreams grow most vivid it is Darkseid you see” is compelling, but also meant to distract the young, driven Scott Free. I would have loved to hear Sir Richard Burton recite these lines. The story is credited to a “John Harkness,” but it’s Steve Englehart’s style all the way. This is one of many underrated and overlooked series produced by a major comic book publisher in the late 1970s.
Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #147
March, 1972. DC COMICS.
“A Superman in Super-Town.” Writer: Jack Kirby. Artists: Jack Kirby and Mike Royer. Editor: Jack Kirby.
Jimmy Olsen and the Newsboy Legion leave the wonders of Scotland only to wind up snared by Professor Victor Volcanium, another would-be conqueror of Earth. Meanwhile, Superman is transported by the Boom Tube to the beautiful planet of New Genesis, where he is initially seen as a warrior of Apokolips. With that little misunderstanding rectified, he flies to Super-Town where he finds himself just another super-being in a city of nothing but super-beings. In trying to save some of its citizens from what he believes are life-threatening situations, he actually becomes the problem. Out of place but at the same time too much in place, he longs for his adopted homeworld. An elder of New Genesis — actually Highfather, but Superman doesn’t know this — transports Superman back to Earth; rather, in Earth, where he finds Jimmy Olsen and the Newsboy Legion caged. Suddenly, tons of rock slam into then encase the startled Man of Steel. Continued next issue! This was Kirby’s second-to-last issue of Jimmy Olsen. It’s interesting in the respect that Superman could just never swing it as an Ordinary Joe. If he couldn’t be a superheroic figure, using his unique powers to save and protect the lives of others, he’d just slump in a chair and become depressed. A brief but thoughtful glimpse of what makes, and unmakes, a Superman.
Animal Man #22
April, 1990. DC COMICS.
“Time In a Bottle.” Writer: Grant Morrison. Artists: Paris Cullins and Steve Montano. Editor: Karen Berger.
Truth is, this is a tough call. When you’re dealing with Grant Morrison’s run on Animal Man (#s 1-26), it’s practically impossible to single out one issue. Number 22 has the edge because, satisfactorily speaking, it blew me away. But you can’t read #22 without first reading #14, and you can’t read #14 without first reading #s 1-13, and nothing comes to any kind of conclusion in #22; in fact, matters only get worse, all hope is lost, and four more issues are required to set things right. In #22, Animal Man, Buddy Baker, hopes to prevent the murders of his wife and two children (in issues #18-19) by traveling to the past to warn them. He “borrows” a time machine from Rip Hunter, Time Master, and travels back several weeks in time to a point where his family is still alive, only to “arrive” as a kind of ghost image. He can shimmer into view for a few moments, mentally move a jar of paint, shatter a glass of chocolate milk, manipulate a Ouija board, and scrawl numbers on a rain-drenched window, but the effort is so great each time it exhausts him, and he cannot speak to anyone and be heard. When he finally confronts himself, it is the climax to events we have already witnessed, that Buddy has already experienced, in issue #14. “The mystery is finally solved [of this apparition’s presence] and the mystery is me,” Animal Man states in restrained horror. “It was me all along.” Buddy can’t save his family; he didn’t understand who he was when he faintly appeared from the future to try. Wow! See? It still blows me away! Meanwhile, the results of Crisis On Infinite Earths are being undone, and all the parallel Earths are seeping back into our reality. Why do we expect so much from every new Grant Morrison venture? In part because of his involved, sly, offbeat and altogether brilliant work on Animal Man.
October, 1999. VERTIGO/DC COMICS.
“21 Days in the City.” Writer: Warren Ellis. Artist: Darick Robertson and Rodney Ramos. Editor: Stuart Moore.
At this stage in my life, my favorite comics are the ones that make the most demands of me. When I read a comic and put it down and think to myself, “Well, I’m not sure what I just read, but I sure did have a great time reading it!”, I know I’m hooked. Transmetropolitan was that kind of comic. It got way, way under my skin. I can’t even walk around my home town without sometimes putting myself in Spider Jerusalem’s blunt, filthy, insightful, analytical shoes. The writing, the art, the story, the characters, they’re in me now, having settled into my emotions and thought process. It’s not just a comic about Spider, a cyber-space journalist who draws parallels to gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, and the collapse and rebuilding of society and culture in a not so distant future. It’s about the City. It’s about the City’s people, its politics, its streets, its richness and poverty, glitter and decay, history and future. It’s about the potholes, dark alleys and dank subways. It’s about how the City survives as we trample over and underfoot. It’s the City as inspiration, as a form of man-made nature that erodes and endures. In this issue, Spider Jerusalem takes a good hard look at the city he loves and loathes.
Secret Society of Super-Villains #2
July-August, 1976. DC COMICS.
“No Man Shall I Call Master.” Writers: Gerry Conway and David A. Kraft. Artists: Pablo Marcos and Robert Smith. Editor: Gerry Conway.
A guilty pleasure. Captain Comet returns to active duty after exploring the ‘final frontier’ for two decades, sporting a gaudy costume just perfect for the mid-1970s. Historically, this is the era when writer Gerry Conway almost single-handedly “Marvelized” the DC universe, coming over to DC right around the time that Jack Kirby left, and when DC’s superheroes needed a serious face lift. He added continuing subplots and soap opera-character to many DC titles such as All-Star Comics, Blackhawk, Man-Bat, Freedom Fighters, Metal Men, and, of course, SSOV. Here he resurrected Paul Kirk, Manhunter, sort of, introducing his good clone. He returned Darkseid to a prominent role in the DC universe. He gave the villains a little more personality. On a more sweeping scale, he convinced the powers-at-DC to utilize the period more instead of always relying on an exclamation point. A revolution was underway (even DC’s covers, in the Mighty Marvel Manner, became more cluttered)! It would never be the same again! Honestly, at the time, this is exactly what I wanted: a Marvel attitude in DC comics.
Moebius 3: The Airtight Garage
1987. EPIC/MARVEL COMICS.
Writer and Artist: Moebius. Translators: Jean-Marc Lofficier and Randy Lofficier. Editor: Archie Goodwin.
For me, rereading The Airtight Garage is like sitting down with an old friend that I haven’t seen in over twenty years who I didn’t really understand the first time around (in TAG‘s case, during its serial run in Heavy Metal back in the late 1970s). I’m older now, and I understand my friend the Airtight Garage, and its immortal creator Major Grubert, a little better now, not because he’s changed — his story remains the same — but because I have. Like so many of the characters in TAG, I’m just, again and again, passing through; the characters play their part, and they’re out of the story, never to return. I’m the eternal captive audience, observing Grubert and his supporting cast as they walk, drive, ride and fly from one spirited adventure to the next, from one exotic locale to another, as if they’re all trying to outrace each other to some enigmatic destination. In the end it’s all a Bakalite trick, but what does that mean? It means Grubert must prevent one of the levels of his world from being taken over by, you know, the bad guy. As I’ve stated, I understand my longtime friend The Airtight Garage only a little better. It remains a Bakalite trick, of the simple or complex kind, well, that’ll take some more years to figure out. Moebius is an artistic genius, that much I’m sure.
The Eternals #1
July, 1976. MARVEL COMICS.
“The Day of the Gods.” Writer: Jack Kirby. Artists: Jack Kirby and John Verpooten. Editor: Marv Wolfman.
When Kirby left DC for Marvel in 1975 I was heartbroken. Hurt, and loyal to DC, I did not take up the King’s return to Captain America. The Eternals piqued my interest, however. As it turns out, mankind had never been alone. Living above him were the Eternals (mythology), and living below him were the Deviants (superstition). The human species become aware of the other two right as the Celestials, the space gods who generated the peoples of the Earth, return to our planet for a fourth time to decide if, in fifty years, mankind should be allowed to survive. This is Kirby’s last great cosmic epic (Captain Victory was cosmic, but it wasn’t great), although it takes place entirely on Earth. It’s really an amazing story, drawn from many sources: Chariots of the Gods and Arthur C. Clarke, to note the obvious. The series fell apart in issue #14 when the false Hulk made the scene, shifting the tone, unintentionally, from cosmic to comical. The Eternals was also controversial for playing havoc with the established origins of the Marvel universe. It has, over twenty-five years down the road, been incorporated into the Marvel mythos seemingly without reservation.
Enemy Ace: War Idyll
1990. DC COMICS.
Writer and Artist: George Pratt. Editor: Andrew Helfer.
Hans Von Hammer, “Enemy Ace,” has been around for over 35 years now, and the character has been featured in many titles: Our Army at War, Showcase, Star Spangled War Stories, DC Special, Men of War, Unknown Soldier (formerly Star Spangled War), Enemy Ace Special, the current Enemy Ace: War in Heaven. He has even co-starred with Batman in the pages of Detective Comics #404 and played a part in an annual Justice League/Justice Society of America team-up. Probably the most worthy depiction of the brooding, complex World War I German flying ace is in the graphic novel, Enemy Ace: War Idyll. In his final days, now committed to a sanitarium, Von Hammer is interviewed by a young journalist. On the television violent scenes from the war in Vietnam are broadcast. “Did you believe in it? Your war?” the journalist asks, a soldier himself. “I believed in honor,” Von Hammer replies. Von Hammer tells a story of when he was downed one Christmas behind enemy lines. The journalist tells his story of Vietnam. Memories of war fifty years apart are shared and coped with. Later, in the midst of a beautiful morning, as Von Hammer speaks of his dream of death, he gently passes away. This is a haunting antiwar portrait of two men in conflict within themselves. It is exquisitely drawn, the aerial scenes spectacular. The war in the trenches of Europe and the war in the tunnels of Vietnam are violent and harrowing. “Make War No More,” the DC battle books often posted. In the wake of one of the more exceptional war stories ever conceived, it feels as if a postscript should be added: “For Look What War Has Made.”
2001. VERTIGO/DC COMICS.
Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: Danijel Zezely. Editor: Alex Alonso.
“El Diablo” was originally a co-feature in Weird Western Tales, way back in the early 1970s The new El Diablo is loosely based on the concept. The story opens with a long-shot of Bollas Raton, a small frontier town in the American southwest. The reader is drawn into town as if on horseback, where we are introduced to Sheriff “Holy” Moses Stone, and witness to the brutal hanging of two Apache Indians convicted of viciously molesting a little girl. We learn that Moses used to be a notorious bounty hunter, but one bad case changed his ways. He became the sheriff of a town that badly needed one. He married a beautiful woman, Dolly, and they hope to one day have children. Later that day, Monkey Joe Cash and his gang ride into town and settle into the saloon. They tell the tale of a lone man, a ‘shadow,’ who has been following them for days. As the sun goes down and evening deepens, the ‘shadow’ enters the saloon and guns down Monkey Joe and most of his men. “El Diablo,” the dying Monkey Joe whispers to Moses Stone. Stone is winged by El Diablo, hung by a saloon rafter, and carved in the back. The next day, a posse is formed to track the outlaw. A $10,000 reward has been posted for El Diablo’s capture. Stone enlists the help of Paw Paw, the bounty hunter who brought in the Apaches. Stone shows Paw Paw the word that El Diablo carved into his back: “Halo,” the town where Moses was born. This is where Moses figures El Diablo is heading. The posse sets out.
If I went any further with the story synopsis, I’d have to issue a Spoiler Warning. Several of them. But I don’t want to spoil the fun, so trust me when I state that this is a must-read comic. Last issue I proclaimed Preacher the last great American Western of the 20th Century. Well, I believe El Diablo is the first great American Western of the 21st Century, although at its core it’s really a first-rate mystery/thriller. Its Western setting gives it atmosphere, while the supernatural aspect (El Diablo) allows the mystery to gradually unfold. There is more to Sheriff Moses Stone than meets the eye. And when you think the mystery is revealed in issue #3 (after what’s left of the posse arrives in Halo), far more sinister twists await in issue #4. You can read this 4-part series in less than 30 minutes, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself reading it many times. El Diablo delivers immense rewards.
Scene of the Crime #1
May, 1999. VERTIGO/DC COMICS.
“A Little Piece of Goodnight: Part 1.” Writer: Ed Brubaker: Artist: Michael Lark. Editors: Jennifer Lee and Shelly Roeberg.
A modern detective story with pulp trappings. One of the reasons that Scene of the Crime is so exceptional is that it doesn’t fall into the standard life-with-a-Vertigo-twist setting (reality with a supernatural edge, or the supernatural with a realistic edge). No yuppie demons in the air, hippie fairies seeping from the wall, or rock n’ roll witches and warlocks casting spells in the attic; no, SOTC is merely a well-thought out detective yarn. Everything is new in its familiarity: The story begins with Jack Herriman, a young, one-eyed private eye, introducing himself with hip, sardonic narration. It then establishes his supporting cast, brings in the woman whose sister has mysteriously disappeared and whom she wants found, sets the detective on her trail, has him stumble onto a very suspicious cult that housed her, and then has him find the sister! But the last page is the kicker. That warm, fuzzy feeling you get as you find Jack attracted to the woman is stopped dead in its tracks by the last line of part one. Scene of the Crime is a noteworthy take on a suspenseful genre. I don’t think hard-core crime story enthusiasts will be disappointed.
The Saga of the Swamp Thing #4
August, 1982. DC COMICS.
Swamp Thing: “In the White Room.” Writer: Martin Pasko. Artist: Tom Yeates. The Phantom Stranger: “Hospital of Fear.” Writer: Mike W. Barr. Artist: Tony DeZuniga. Editor: Len Wein.
During a special episode of NBC’s The West Wing I saw a few years back, one of the main characters was asked what should be done with terrorists once they are apprehended, and he said they should be put in a room for the rest of their lives and shown photos, videos, and home movies of all the people they have murdered. This got me thinking about the comments of a young girl being interviewed by a news reporter in the pages of Saga of Swamp Thing #4. To set the stage: A serial killer in Pinesboro, Arkansas has abducted and murdered at least twelve children. The police are under pressure to catch the killer, residents are scared to go out at night, and the news-vultures have arrived en masse in the victimized town. The girl is asked what should be done with the serial killer once he is arrested. She says, “I think they should put him in a little room?a white room, completely white. With nothing on the walls except the pictures of all the little boys and girls he killed. And they should leave him there — so he has to look at those pictures for the rest of his life.” When you turn the page after reading this, it is exactly what you see: alone in a white room, a man is seated on a counter chair, his back turned to us, leaning forward with his hands grasping his head. On the wall of the white room are photographs of the twelve murdered children. It is a startling image in both description and depiction, and it worked for me. This is my idea of justice, a means of punishment far more effective than ‘an eye for an eye’ or incarceration. I know it won’t be put into any kind of effect in these trying times, but I like to think it would serve its purpose.