Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Post-Apocalypse Always Rings Twice

One of my favorite episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is episode #501, Warrior of the Lost World, a big Road Warrior rip-off. I remember reading somewhere (I've been digging through my copy of The Amazing Colossal Episode Guide, but I can't find the exact passage) where Kevin Murphy was ragging on the makers of this flick (or maybe it was City Limits, I dunno), but his point was this was one of the more boring sub-genres to come out of scienti-fiction, the whole end-of-the-world thing.

Now I've always been a big fan of the end of the world and have been looking forward to it for some time. But I also remember thinking Murphy was right; it's a shame, but that shit's been done to death.

It's too bad nobody told Bob Fingerman.

I've been a fan of Fingerman's since before I even started reading comics. In fifth grade, I got big into Cracked, actually preferring it to Mad. And Cracked of that era was full of great artists: John Severin, Bill Wray, Daniel Clowes (known then as "Stosh Gillespie"), as well as Fingerman. It went downhill pretty quick, and then I started blowing all my money on X-Men comics. All of the above guys, though, stayed visible to me still: Severin, I came to realize, was already a legend in the field; Bill Wray's contributions to The Ren and Stimpy Show were instantly recognizable to me; Clowes, of course, went on to do Eightball. But I completely lost track of Fingerman. I've finally found him again, but unfortunately, it was after World War III when I did.

The first issue of Fingerman's From the Ashes came out this last month. It stars Fingerman himself and his lovely wife, Michele. The time is now and the place is New York City. After the bombs have fallen, Fingerman and his wife find that they are among the very few survivors in the rubble of the Big Apple. The cover pretty much says it all: Michele looks vaguely worried and Bob yawns loudly as the mushroom clouds devour civilization. Now, the perspective of being just kinda bored with the death and destruction of everybody and everything you've ever loved is an interesting one to be sure, but the thing of it is, the whole premise is just kinda boring. I still love Fingerman's art, and there's a couple of chuckles here, but overall, it's a big so-what.

Frankly, I blame zombies. I love the works of George Romero, and Shaun of the Dead is a brilliant movie, but zombies have made zombies of us all. How Kirkman's The Walking Dead has lasted this long is beyond me. I read the first couple of trades, and while the art is pretty decent, especially when Tony Moore was on the book, the story was only not completely boring when it was bald-facedly ripping off any number of zombie movies. And then it was just boring and kinda aggravating.

Look, my point is this: I love the tendency of creators towards the destruction of the entire human race. It really rings of that Reagan-era punk-rock ethos that spawned Road Warrior and its many Italian-made knock-offs. And as things seem to do every couple of decades, this attitude in the popular arts seems to be enjoying a resurgence, all the less surprising given the Bush Jr. administration's similarities to the Gipper's. But here's how it is, folks: unless you're Simon Pegg or Cormac McCarthy, you're bringing nothing new to the table. This shouldn't stop you entirely (in the interest of full disclosure, I myself have dabbled with this topic in my own fiction and, as of this writing, have a zombie story now awaiting rejection from Murky Depths), but it oughtta at least make you stop and think of a new angle. Y'know, technically, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy could be considered "post-apoc," but it's seldom remembered that way since it has so much else going for it. The same could be said for McCarthy's The Road or any number of episodes of The Twilight Zone.

So flog this dead horse if you must. But in the meantime, I'll be re-stocking my fall-out shelter with Joe R. Lansdale novels.