The Watchman trailer has revived a comics conversation in some online circles, and a sentiment I've run across a few times was this one: "Yeah, I read it, but I don't get what the big deal is." And then old people like me had to explain that if you grew up in the post-Watchman world, you took things like dysfunctional superheroes and densely-layered narrative for granted, the same way that comics readers who came of age in the post-Sandman, post Love & Rockets world take for granted the idea that women in comics aren't always the real characters' love interests, but well-textured characters in their own right.
This got me thinking: is there ever anything that feels more historic than a work that embodies the seed of a new status quo?
I just spent a little time on the other end of that time-dilating media continuum. New York magazine -- the city magazine by which I measure all others -- turned 40, and it featured links to some of its most iconic covers. Some have articles. I clicked and read, and was charmed by each piece's tone of immediacy. It helped the words reach across the years, and gave their subjects the contemporary context that explains why Ms. magazine and disco and Central Park crime and Bill Clinton were so appealing when they appeared. And from a historical context, it's enlightening to look at where we are now while reading these pieces.
So tear your thoughts away from your ever-dwindling 401(k) and read the following:
"The Housewife's Moment of Truth," by Jane Reilly, Dec 20, 71 ... "The nineteenth century ended 72 years ago, but we are still trying to arrange our households according to that "ideal" image of family life. Think of something new."
"Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night," by Nik Cohn, June 7, 76 ... "The sixties, unlike previous decades, seemed full of teenage money. No recession, no sense of danger. The young could run free, indulge themselves in whatever treats they wished. But now there is shortage once more, just as there was in the fifties. Attrition, continual pressure. So the new generation takes few risks. It goes through high school, obedient; graduates, looks for a job, saves and plans. Endures. And once a week, on Saturday night, its one great moment of release, it explodes."
"Rendezvous in the Ramble," by Doug Ireland, July 24, 78 ... "Others gravitate toward the Tunnel, that part of the Bridle Path which runs under the 77th Street overpass. The Tunnel is the most active group-sex scene in that area of the park. Some nights it will be crowded wall to wall with men until four in the morning."
"Bill Clinton: Who Is This Guy?" by Joe Klein, Jan 20, 92 ... "The other half of the confluence and the key to Clinton’s early success is a message that transcends traditional labels (and therefore is often called “moderate” or neo-something) but appears to be connecting with actual civilians. Clinton is offering activist government—national economic, educational, health, and energy plans—but he’s also ready to acknowledge that it hasn’t been just the Republicans or the Congress, the rich or the poor, but a lack of responsibility across the social spectrum that has caused the economic drift and strange, sour mood that permeates the country."