Monday, August 08, 2011

writing continues

I am now at month 23 of looking for a normal day job. No success I'm afraid.

I am also as I blog in the process of writing the next thing in my project for Mockingbird. Writing is difficult and writing well is very hard and I constantly have doubts that I have written well or clearly. My friends over at Mockingbird have been happy with what I have written and for that I am grateful! I often feel that I could have done a better job expressing my ideas and working through them.

When DZ first approached me about this project last winter I was thinking of something small. We both were. But as I began to do the actual work I began to realize that I was attempting to summarize and examine what has effectively become a decade's worth of cartoon adventures. I also began to realize that to properly do, er, justice to the DCAU and its development I would have to provide a historical and pop cultural context in which it may be more fully appreciated. Ergo the most recent series about cartoon morality in Cold War era cartoons.

If Transformers may be seen as the quintessential 1980s Cold War era morally simplified cartoon series developed by American company Hasbro to market the Japanese Diaclone and Microman toy lines in a rebranding coup then Batman: the animated series represents the entirely opposite impulse--here was a cartoon created simply to tell (and, let's face it, sell) Batman in a compelling way to a new generation of children in a way that would also please adults and break new ground in animated story-telling by incorporating darker and more grown-up themes into a show while still aiming squarely to entertain kids. When the show proved wildly successful the merchandising expansion touched on toys, to be sure, but it ultimately led to a different kind of expansion than bringing in new toy lines and attempting to sell those as Transformers did; the result was to take up bigger creative and narrative challenges by introducing Superman and, ultimately, the Justice League.

I am broadly building a case that what the DCAU did, in contrast to 1980s cartoon moral simplification, was to blow up cartoon moralism from within the medium of cartoons. Now I don't mean to propose that cartoon moralism didn't exist before 1980s cartoons. Simplified good and bad was happening in cartoons all over the place even before that. Scooby-Doo was giving us the same formulaic would-be monster that was really a corrupt old man using a disguise for decades before Optimus Prime seemed to win the day in every other episode after uttering the words "I have a plan." He could have done us a favor by going one further and pulling up a stogie after inevitable victory and say "I love it when a plan together!" Actually, seriously, that would have been pretty cool!

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