One of the phrases I’ve heard a lot lately is that “Nostalgia is a longing for the past, almost a form of melancholy.”
I am the first to admit that I find myself in melancholy more often than not. The last 5 or so years have been pretty hard, and they aren’t getting much easier.
However, as I am reading older comics on my overnights, I’m feeling nostalgia, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing. For example, I’m reading Jack Kirby’s late 70’s series of 2001: A Space Odyssey. When I read it as a kid, all I thought was “COOL! New Kirby Comics at Marvel!!!” and now when I read it, all I can think is “Who in the flaming blue hell thought they could get a comic book series out of that movie?”
One of my overnight co-workers talked about how he watched the movie in his early teens and then went on a quest to try to understand what the movie was about and what happened in it. I had the same reaction when I watched it…what did the opening sequence have to do with the outer space stuff? What was the monolith? Why did HAL go crazy? What the hell happened in the ending?
Like him, I read the novel, but then I was able to read Kirby’s comics, and Kirby had definite ideas about all of it. At the time That Was What It Meant, but now I see that Kirby had brought in his own innate belief that humanity would triumph over its baser urges and become like until the mythic gods of old. Now, I see it as an alien intelligence that was looking to plant seeds in a primitive creature and then came back to see if those seeds had borne fruit.
Kirby and I have diverged. He grew up in the depression and while things got bad, they got better. I grew up in the recession of the 70’s and saw things get progressively worse. The rich have figured out how to hollow out the middle class and turn the whole of the US into a company store, like the robber barons had done in old factory towns. The workers who united and worked together in Kirby’s day can’t wait to sell each other out for a slight chance of maybe making it one step up and getting a few more months of security.
He saw humanity getting better and joining the forces that sent the monolith. I see humanity as a toy for the monolith.
Back to the comics, Kirby’s art is still amazing, and when I look at it next to the comics that were more popular and “relevant” at the time…let’s just say I can still read and enjoy Kirby’s stories of cavemen learning to use tools, men fighting against their darker instincts and the big themes and ideas being poured onto the pages, while the more “cool” comics of the time read like bad pulp fiction, filled with purple prose and endless formula.
Kirby drew BIG. He drew BIG double page spreads. He drew BIG characters who did larger than life things. He showed how the wheel was invented, the first tools and spacestatiosn that were pounded to oblivion by massive meteor showers. All of it done in a way that you can’t turn the page fast enough to get to the rest of the story.
Nostalgia. Comics that rocked my brain when I was 13, and still hold ideas that keep me thinking when I’m in my 40’s.
Not all nostalgia is melancholy. Some of it is there to remind you that you can still reset yourself and go back to thinking that may have escaped your for a while.