This posted at Wonkette with the caption "Secretary of State Possessed by Demons". A bit late to the game, and not as conclusive as my own photo montage of Congressman DeLay posted earlier this year-- but then Wonkette is a political gossip blog, and demon-tagging is more or less our metier here at the Encyclopedia Esoterica. I'm just relieved that SOMEONE in the MSM is finally taking notice...

See Also: Demons DeLayed, Vaudeville Part One, Masters of Morality, Don't Question Me, Popular Self Delusion, et alia


Pat and Bill's 25th wedding anniversary celebrated with Bollinger champagne (we made them pay for it) and Indian food, with Caleb on their left as designated driver. Also Doris' birthday (at right, with If-Only-She-Were-Thirty-Years-Older Maggie on the left). In Canada, birthdays are celebrated over several time zones, so Saturday Doris has invited 200 people to a bar holding a maximum of 60 while telling them to expect 20. I am arriving early enough to have my Guinness well in place before the fire starts. Also my first introduction to the Reverend Doctor Erika's beau and new fiancee, social activist Mike (shown here with beard and Opti-Grab) which makes, at last count, seven or eight Michaels of various ages, consanguinity and sexual proclivities in our circle of friends, with myself and Michael M., one of us Marvel and the other DC, Batman and Spider-Man, gay and straight, cozy as a pair of gargoyle bookends. So far the record is five at one table during the Medieval Congress. The single photo of myself at this fete will not be posted. It was taken by Patricia in that lovely Guinness moment when you're delighting yourself with a profound poetic or philosophical insight even if no one else thinks so, and my face looks like Billy Gilbert as Joe Pettibone in a performance of Ionesco's "Rhinocerous".


An AP article tells us that Feingold's and Conyers' talk about censure and impeachment is raising their populararity with Democratic voters, but not with party functionaries.

The theory is that too much talk about censure will incite the Republican faithful to swarm to Bush's defense. News flash: the Republican faithful would swarm to Bush's defense if he were caught in bed with a live boy or a dead girl. The censure proposal is supposed to hurt, not help, the Democrats in the House and Senate election. It distracts from Bush's other troubles, it delights the RNC. Don't make them mad, the Leiberman Democrats say, or rather, whine, as if Feingold was angry at Bush for lying about a friendly blowjob instead of merely subverting the Constitution, killing thousands, suspending habeas corpus, ordering warrantless searches, legalizing torture and driving the nation into a ditch.

One wonders at what point the Democratic Party WOULD speak up for the Constitution and the preservation of the Republic.

Feingold responds in the article: "I welcome their attempt to make a campaign issue of the question of whether there will be accountability for the president's breaking the law," he said. "They will remind people every minute that the president thumbed his nose at the law."

What are the Democrats waiting for? Will they take a stand only when they have a majority? This cowardice masquerading as caution is worse than contemptuous. L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace!

See also: Will Someone Please Give Him a Blowjob so We Can Impeach Him? , Weimar America, Democrats Looking for Their Lost Balls , and others


From James' mother:
Dear Family and Friends,
Jamie send me an instant message today to let us know
that his unit is scheduled to be back to CA on March
31. He says he will phone when he is in Kuwait and
ready to fly out. He wants to thank everyone who send
their love and kindness in the form of thoughts,
prayers, cards and packages!
We owe you a debt of gratitude.

[Last we knew for sure, James was still guarding a dam and hydroelectric plant.]

See also: New Pics from Iraq , Rumsfeld on Civil War, James in Iraq: January 2006, Third Tour of Combat Duty in Iraq, etc.


(parts of this message were originally posted as comments at The Washington Note, reposted here for the convenience of friends):
Alan Moore wrote "V for Vendetta" years ago when he was in a fit of disgust at Margaret Thatcher's England: "It's mean and damp and I don't like it here anymore," I seem to remember from the introduction.
As literary fantasy, I've always been a fan of the book. Moore and the artist David Lloyd are up front about borrowing from 1984, then stirring in elements of Batman and The Shadow (if they were fond of quoting from the Oxford Book of English Verse).
The premise is simple, and doesn't pretend to be Lord Acton: what if one of those 'disappeared' people survived the government camps and came looking for the government that put him there? For me, the most important part of the story comes when the girl Evey, about to be taken "out behind the chemical buildings and shot", discovers a contraband note left by a nameless prisoner for whoever might find it in this time of plague. In the note Moore tries to sum up his definition of simple humanity and humane conduct in the face of despair.

Moore has since apologized for the violent cynicism in pop culture inspired by "V" and "Watchmen", and I'll happily recommend his later work for any readers without prejudices. At this stage in his career he seems capable of writing almost any genre, from Mad-style humor to occult esoterica to police procedurals.
This is the only time Moore has sued to have his name removed from a film's credits. Since he HAS taken screen credit as the source material for some of the most execable movies in living memory, that says something about how he feels about the Wachowskis.

Funny thing is, this is already shaping up to be the most successful movie ever made from a Moore book, and will probably greenlight "Watchmen" and lots of other adaptations.

Moore apologized in an interview for what the Watchmen did to comics, calling it a "very bad mood" that created a genre. I loved "Watchmen", but Jesus Christ, it has led to vile excrement like Marvel Zombies, Sin City and the Ultimates, where we're treated to the Wasp being beaten by her husband, Nick Fury a tool for the powers that be, and the Hulk devouring his opponent. Gore and easy cynicism sells, so comics' creators have gone for the gruesome without any moral or social responisbility of any kind, as if they were emotionally trapped at sixteen. This is NOT what Raymond Chandler had in mind when he lauded Dashiell Hammet for throwing crime "back into the streets where it belongs", and created his own hero: "down these mean streets a man must walk who is not himself mean."

Back to the ironies: The New Yorker hated the "V" film as terrorist pornography, and yet the film is resonating with audiences that want a big explosion and a 'kill all the bad guys' resolution. Like most of the noir cynicism in pop culture, there is no need to act once your naievete is shattered; go back to sleep walking your way through a life of selfish consumerism. You can't do anything, Jake; it's Chinatown.

One more irony, for now: watching this film might be the only time Americans think about what it really means to put a black bag over someone's head and declare them a friendless enemy of the state. I originally hated the casting of Natalie Portman instead of a British rose, but now I'm not so sure. Like many a murder, it only seems to matter if it happens to a pretty white girl. Instead of wearing what Harlan Ellison called "the fan sneer", we might recommend the film as an entry point to political awareness for all and sundry.

THE HICKERBILLY ANTICHRIST: Bush and His Accidental Religious Dictatorship in America

UPDATE: Kevin Phillips, the Nixon conservative who draws a clear picture of the roots of the poisoned Bush family tree in American Dynasty, has just released American Theocracy, describing the rise of the asforementioned Religious Dictatorship in the United States. Bush as Antichrist, anyone?

I can tell you from my own experience that these emergent "evangelical Christians" are anything but Christ-like. They spend a good deal of time defining who is, and is not, a "Christian". It will amuse my friends to hear that I am not a Christian, and apparently hate Christians. This means that I am not THEIR kind of "Christian", and never will be.

Will there one day be a "Night of the Long Knives", in which they separate the wheat from the chaff and send the Catholics and the Quakers into exile with the pagans and the Buddhists and the homo-sexuals? Unlike the evangelicals, I'm don't pretend to know who's in and who's out, but I do know who gives the best parties.

Suggestion: When someone asks you if you're "born again", tell them you're still in labor. I used that on a childhood friend who had become an evangelical, and it shut him up.

This answer has the unusual virtue of being true; as a sort of Graham Greene Catholic, I'm always going to be wrestling like Jacob, squealing like Job, avoiding responsibility like Jonah and complaining about the Pharisees of the established church, the only Christ-like trait in my repertoire. The spiritual quest is not for sissies who need pat answers and reassurances, and that omits radicals, evangelicals and jihadists. I know there is more divinity in a woman's naked mound of Venus than in Jerry Falwell's smile, more warmth in a Beltaine fire than in George Bush's America, more awe in the revelations of science than in the stupidity of the Kansas school board, more joy in the muscles of a leaping cat than in any of Dr. Mengele Frist's grotesque experiments. Maybe instead of "What Would Jesus Do", we should ask "Who Would Jesus Rather Hang Out With?"

This week Bush was speaking in Ohio, and he got that animal-in-the-headlights-look again when a woman asked an unrehearsed question about Kevin Phillips' book, which "makes the point that members of your administration have reached out to prophetic Christians who see the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism as signs of the apocalypse. Do you believe this? And if not, why not?"
Bush: "Hmmm." [Long pauses; this answer took perhaps 70+ seconds] "Uhh, hah -- ummm -- I, the answer is -- I haven't really thought of it that way, heh, heh. Heh. Here's how I think of it. Ummm -- heh heh. First I've heard of that, by the way, I, ah -- uhh -- the, uhh -- I, I guess I'm more of a practical fella. Uhh. I vowed after September the 11th that I would do everything I could to protect the American people. And, uhh -- my attitude, of course, was affected by the attacks. I knew we were at a war. I knew that the enemy, obviously, had to be sophisticated, and lethal, to fly hijacked airplanes, uhh, into -- facilities that would, we would, killing thousands of people, innocent people, doin' nothing, just sittin' there goin' to work."
One would hope that the President of the United States would immediately assure us that our dear little babies are not going to be swept up to Heaven or cast into Eternal Fire anytime soon. Throw us a bone here, Mr. President Ya Crack-Ass Cracker, Sir! (Respect the office, if not the man). Maybe this isn't Heinlein's theocracy or Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale, but Bush as Greg Stillson in Stephen King's Dead Zone.

See also: Remember When? , Christopher Hitchens and "The Case for Mocking Religion", Grateful Children with Missing Arms, Memo from Jesus to Torture Caucus, Cognitive Dissonance, others.

Remember When We Thought the Nuttiest Idea in Heinlein's Science Fiction Was His Loony Prediction of a Religious Dictatorship in the United States?

"Last December Peter Panse was suspended from his teaching job for apparently recommending that some of his advanced students consider taking figure drawing courses that included nude figure drawings.

"In his discussions with students Mr. Panse mentioned several options for advancing their figure drawing skills; the local community college, a nearby frame shop that sponsors art classes, and the prestigious New York Academy of Art. He also described pre-college figure drawing programs at several other New York City art schools, and a highly successful art college prep program called the Mill Street Loft.

"Panse was suspended from his teaching job pending hearings. Depending on the outcome of these hearings, he may be permanently fired, ending a 25-year teaching career. Panse is a National Board Certified Teacher (in Adolescent and Young Adult Art), the highest level of certification that a teacher can achieve in America. He is also one of only two National Board Certified Teachers in his New York District, and “is a trained Facilitator for helping teachers explore and pursue the requirements needed to achieve National Board Certification."

Links, with lots of comments, at Drawn! The Illustration Blog , a detailed account of the facts at Art Renewal, and an online petition HERE


A“He was like a murderer annoyed at being called a shoplifter.” – Anthony Burgess

“The “I’m really a libertarian” trend has been picking up steam lately among conservatives who want to seem reasonable in the face of undeniable corruption, but it should be pointed out that a real libertarian (assuming you can find one) wouldn’t spend half their time complaining about abortion, homosexuality, drug use, violent video games, etc. People who favor “small government” tend to do so because they want to be left alone, but conservatism has shown us time and time again that when push comes to shove, imposing regressive social values always trumps any professed love of limited government.
Even funnier than the popularity of bogus libertarianism is the pleas of “I’m conservative, but not a Republican” among wingnuts. For a crowd that prides itself on its toughness and resolve, it’s amazing to see how many of them are too cowardly to stand by the party they unquestionably support. This usually manifests itself in self-righteous odes to fiscal discipline with the chorus of “I didn’t leave them, they left me”, but anyone who would vote for a Republican after Ronald Reagan’s first term has no right to feign ignorance over the GOP’s irresponsible governance. Though they may try to absolve themselves of responsibility for the choices they make in the voting booth, anyone with a long record of supporting GOP candidates and bashing Democrats is a Republican in my book. -- Greg Saunders

"Mary Sue"
Comic book slang defined by Anonymous: "A Mary Sue is a thinly-disguised, highly idealized author self-insertion. The term comes from the world of fanfiction, which is rife with them. Typical Sue-ish traits include a lack of flaws other than sympathetic ones (such as naïvité or a lame leg), exotic pets (especially steeds that "only she could tame"), exotic eye color, and being beloved by all canonical good guys (particularly if one of the good-looking protagonists is instantly smitten regardless of pre-established canonical relatonships).” – definition by “gwalla”
... And from the always questionable Wikipedia: “The story that gave her a name was "A Trekker's Tale" by Paula Smith, published in the [Star Trek|Star Trek Fan Fiction] fanzine, Menagerie in 1973. It featured a character named Lt. Mary Sue. This story, written as a piece of satire, mocked a type of fan fiction featuring unbelievably competent and beautiful female characters. Fanfiction analyst Laura Hale described them as "female characters that were involved with Kirk or Spock, Bones or Sulu, characters that could and did save the day when the heroes could not."”


“Here's what I don't understand
“So Bush's numbers are dropping and dropping and dropping and are now around...what? Thirty percent approval? Something like that?
“Here's what I don't get: Two years ago, when people voted for him...
“I mean, honest to God. NOW nearly four out of five people are expressing disapproval? NOW?! What the bleeding hell were you expecting two years ago when you pulled the lever or filled out the ballot for him? Did you think he was suddenly going to get smart? Did you think he was going to stop screwing the country up?
“For crying out loud, I'm not the brightest penny in the box, and *I* knew things were just going to get worse. Anyone with a brain should have figured it out at the time. It took TWO MORE FRICKING YEARS for people to realize that, in the words of John Cleese as spoken by Jamie Lee Curtis, there are sheep that could outwit him? That there are dresses with higher IQs?
“Jeez, people. A little forethought next time, okay? That's all I'm asking.”
-- Peter David, Writer of Stuff, on his web site

[Partial Response from David Hunt: “More directly related to your comments, I've read that about 40% of people vote Democrat regardless of who the candidate is and about 40% of the people vote Republican regardless of who the candidate is. The key to national elections is to swing the other 20%.”]
[... and from Michael D.: “I don't mind the right-wingers still having faith in the chimp; he's Their Man and is still on the right side of the issues as far as they're concerned.
“It's the aforementioned 20% that I want to punch in the face and scream "I F***ING TOLD YOU SO!" to while they lie on the sidewalk bleeding. Not very enlightened of me but what the hell.”]
-- Responses posted on "Peter David, Writer of Stuff" web site


“But it was clear they didn't see the film the song was from, nor did they understand the context of the song.
“--I'm sorry, but what possible context could you be referring to? One where pimping can be seen as a good and positive thing? Maybe next year we can have a song from the Civil War called "It's Hard Out Here For a Slave Owner". Or maybe a WWII film called "It's Hard Out Here For a Nazi Executing Jews".” -- Craig J. Ries on the Oscar win for "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp”

"[T]he US is a country run by liars going to war on a fantasy, so it’s interesting to see people getting self-righteous about James Frey," he says. "I don’t see why everyone gets into such a fucking uproar because an addict is a liar!"
-- Australian writer Peter Carey

“Summing up Purim in 10 words or less: They tried to kill us, we won, let's eat.” -- Blogger

“Tikkun olam (תיקון עולם) is a Hebrew phrase which translates to "repairing the world." It is important in Judaism and is often used to explain the Jewish concept of social justice. In some explanations, the more mitzvot that are performed, the closer the world will be towards perfection. Some Jews that believe that acts of tikkun olam will either trigger or fulfill the prophesied coming of the Mosiach (messiah) or messianic age (the World to Come). The belief in tikkun olam is also central to the Zohar, the most important book in kabbalah (Jewish mysticism). .... Lurianic kabbalah holds that the very creation of the universe by God was unstable, and that the early universe, represented by a pottery vessel, could not hold the holy light of God (the Ein Sof or infinite). In this view, the original form of the universe shattered in shards; the universe that we encounter today is thus literally broken, and in need of repair. ... Therefore, through each fulfillment of a commanded deed (mitzvah) the kabbalists believe, a Jew performs an act of tikkun olam, gradually returning the universe to its form as God originally intended, and making mankind a partner in God's creation. ... In Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism, Tikkun olam has taken on political and religious significance in that it implies that Jews should work towards social justice. Tikkun magazine, edited by Rabbi Michael Lerner, reflects this worldview.”
-- Unknown, Wikipedia (yes, I know that Wikipedia has issues)

"So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun! Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies... You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail!" -- South Park producers in Daily Variety, responding to the "pulling" of an episode mocking scientology. (Instead the network will air two popular Issac Hayes episodes, as a "tribute" following his departure from the show. Nothing generates viewers like the epithet "Banned in Boston".)

"So there I am at this elegant party that Stan Lee of Marvel Productions threw, back in December of 1987, and his and Joan's home up in the Hollywood Hills was jammed to the walls with the hoi and the polloi, and at one point I'm introduced to these two young guys named Ed Neumeier and Michael Miner, and Stan or somebody says, "These are the guys who wrote Robocop. Didn't you just write a piece on Robocop?"
Well, they knew damned well I'd just written a review of Robocop, and I'd worked it over like a slab of beef jerky, because forty-something minutes into the damned flick, I'd had it up to here with the idiot violence and the low animal steam heat of the audience and the after-the-fact addition of "socially relevant satire" and I'd said, in effect, this is mean widdle kids pulling the wings off butterflies and setting fire to pussycats and nailing spaniels to ironing boards, and frankly Scarlett, this is like a pavane for lemme outta here!
And well, hell, you know me: the kind of pain in the ass who, when he's asked by guests at a party what did you think of our incredibly successful, extremely popular, critically drooled-over movie that has made us two smartasses real hot tickets in this town, answers as charmingly as a cactus spine in your tongue "I think they ought to nuke you two until you glow".
Well, not exactly. I didn't exactly say that. But Stan and Joan haven't attended a dinner invitation since 1987, so I am driven, lashed if you will, toward the conclusion that I acted in a somewhat less than gilt-edged fashion."
-- Harlan Ellison, front-line soldier in the culture wars

See Also:
See also: Early March Quotations, Random Quotations, Commonplace Book:January, Commonplace Book: December


A very sweet story-- and EXTREMELY rare interview-- with Bettie Page from the LA Times. There's no shortage of stupidity in the commentary -- absurd to describe her as a "a soldier in the sexual revolution"-- but Harlan Ellison strikes the right note when he mentions the Golden Mean. Miss Page is a gentle soul who inhabited an archetype and survived the experience. Her biography taught us a lesson about the humanity behind every pinup. "Bettie" is the Anti-Femme Fatale. All the sad sweet funny pretty girls in comics, from Sophie Bangs as Promethea to Francine to Maggie Chascarillo, owe a debt to Bettie Page.


I think my credentials as a conservative are impeccable. I think it's because he is not conservative that George W. Bush is in such terrible trouble. – Jeffery Hart on C-SPAN

There's a weird attitude about sex in this country, particularly, and I've had far more sex than I've had fights on water towers against guys with super powers, so why people should be freaked out by the fact that I write about characters with sex lives or that I enjoy sex, is something I'll never understand. –Chuck Austen

“James Cameron is uncertain about his next project, but he's promised it will be a love story, set either in Jonestown or on TWA Flight 800.” -- unknown internet signature

[In] “.... Woody Allen's ‘Manhattan’, a picture in which, toward the end, the Woody Allen character makes a list of reasons to stay alive. 'Groucho Marx' is one reason, and 'Willie Mays' is another. The second movement of Mozart's 'Jupiter' Symphony. Louis Armstrong's 'Potato Head Blues.' Flaubert's ‘A Sentimental Education’.
This list is modishly eclectic, a trace wry, definitely OK with real linen; and notable, as raisons d'être go, in that every experience it evokes is essentially passive. This list of Woody Allen's is the ultimate consumer report, and the extent to which it has been quoted approvingly suggests a new class in America, a subworld of people rigid with apprehension that they will die wearing the wrong sneaker, naming the wrong symphony, preferring Madame Bovary.” -- Joan Didion

"Nothing made a more lasting impression during my journey through America than the semi-comatose state in which I found the American left. I know, of course, that the term "left" does not have the same meaning and ramifications here that it does in France. And I cannot count how many times I was told there has never been an authentic "left" in the United States, in the European sense. But at the end of the day, my progressive friends, you may coin ideas in whichever way you like. The fact is: You do have a right. This right, in large part thanks to its neoconservative battalion, has brought about an ideological transformation that is both substantial and striking. And the fact is that nothing remotely like it has taken shape on the other side--to the contrary, through the looking glass of the American "left" lies a desert of sorts, a deafening silence, a cosmic ideological void that, for a reader of Whitman or Thoreau, is thoroughly enigmatic." -- Bernard-Henri Levy, "A Letter to the American Left"

"’Who comes to writers’ conferences?’ you ask. A random sample of twenty students will contain six recent divorcees, three preachers’ wives in middle life, five schoolteachers of no particular age or sex, two foxy grandmas, one sweet old widower with true tales to tell about railroading in Idaho, one real writer, one not merely angry but absolutely furious young man, and one physician with forty years’ worth of privileged information that he wants to sell to the movies for a blue million.” -- Kurt Vonnegut

Friends of Wonkette in Iraq found the following sites censored by the Marines:
* Wonkette – “Forbidden, this page ( is categorized as: Forum/Bulletin Boards, Politics/Opinion.”
* Bill O’Reilly ( – OK
* Air America ( – “Forbidden, this page ( is categorized as: Internet Radio/TV, Politics/Opinion.”
* Rush Limbaugh ( – OK
* ABC News “The Note” – OK
* Website of the Al Franken Show ( – “Forbidden, this page ( is categorized as: Internet Radio/TV, Politics/Opinion.”
* G. Gordon Liddy Show ( – OK
* Don & Mike Show ( – “Forbidden, this page ( is categorized as: Profanity, Entertainment/Recreation/Hobbies.”

“The America the ACLU defends does not stifle debate, engage in searches without judicial review, hold prisoners without due process, or participate in torture." -- Scott Crichton, Montana ACLU

"There are people in Hollywood, not all of them, but there are some people who are nothing more than harlots They will do anything for the buck, they wouldn't care, if you asked them to sodomize their own mother in a movie, they would do so, and they would do it with a smile on their face." -- William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, on Gary Busey's participation in the Turkish film "Valley of the Wolves: Iraq"

"I remember when everybody won Tonys for ‘Dreamgirls’, and they all got up there thanking God for letting them win this award, and I was thinking to myself: God is silent on the Holocaust, but he involves himself in the Tony Awards? It doesn't seem very likely." -- a character in Christopher Durang's “Laughing Wild”

See also: Random Quotations, Commonplace Book:January, Commonplace Book: December


Word of mouth from Boing Boing Saturday night: Citibank customers traveling out of the country have been frozen out of their bank accounts. They are being told that the ATM networks of Canada, Russia and the United Kingdom have been "compromised", so that using an ATM card over the Canadian network locks out your account automatically.

"She informed me that I would have to return to the United States to change my pin number before my card would be valid and in a usable state again. When I informed her that I would be traveling outside of the United States for at least a few months, possibly up to six, she repeated that I would have to re-enter the United States to fix the problem."

Electronically frozen assets have been a trope in science fiction at least since Heinlein-- that's why so many of his characters have gold stashed somewhere. In Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale", electronic banking was used to strand the opposition and take over the United States.

Gotta wonder is this isn't criminal activity at all, but a dress rehearsal for some future "state of emergency". I hate being intuitive sometimes. I still remember puzzling over a small NYT story about an assassination in Northern Afghanistan the weekend before September 11, and thinking that the murder reminded me of the prologue for a paperback thriller...


Panels written by Kurt Busiek and Alan Moore, two writers more skilled than I at articulating the problems inherent in the genre. And you thought religion holds up an impossibly perfect role model...?

Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of "The Left Hand of God" notes on C-SPAN that society sometimes regards cynics as "wise" and knowing, and other times its concept of objective reality shifts towards an optimistic worldview. These shifts are writ large in the dreamland of comics.


Yes, there are otaku lurking at the NYT, and the horribly artsy (therefore acceptable to New Yorkers) Chris Ware can go screw himself. Or bore himself to death. Myself, I'll always love watching the Archetypes wrestle with the Zeitgeist. I hear the Zeitgeist is getting a couple of evil sidekicks, Weltsmerch and Schadenfreude:

From The New York Times, February 20, 2006
".... America's current real-world political issues will wind themselves into the lives of the heroes of Marvel Comics in "Civil War," a seven-issue limited monthly series set to begin in May. In the series, the beliefs of many well-known Marvel characters, including Captain America, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man and Spider-Man, will be challenged. ...

"Civil War" provides problems in spades. The story opens with a reckless fight between a novice group of heroes (filming a reality television show) and a cadre of villains. The battle becomes quite literally explosive, killing some of the superheroes and many innocent bystanders. That crystallizes a government movement to register all super-powered beings as living weapons of mass destruction. The subsequent Registration Act will divide the heroes into two camps, one led by Captain America, the other by Iron Man. Along the way, Marvel will unveil its version of Guantánamo Bay, enemy combatants, embedded reporters and more. The question at the heart of the series is a fundamental one: "Would you give up your civil liberties to feel safer in the world?"

".... As deeply entangled in current United States politics as the new Marvel series seem, "Civil War" and the accompanying "Front Line" series won't be written by Americans. Mark Millar, a popular comics writer who is Scottish and lives in Glasgow is writing "Civil War"; Paul Jenkins, a British writer who lives in Atlanta and had a lengthy run on "Spider-Man," is writing "Front Line."

".... Mr. Millar said the story would cause a "seismic shift" in the Marvel heroes: "Before the civil war, the Marvel universe was a certain way. After the civil war, the heroes are employed by the government." But don't think that gives away the ending. "Some people refuse to do it," he said, "and those guys are performing an illegal act by doing so."

[--do the words, "Spider-Man: Threat or Menace?" strike a familiar note? As the most human of heroes, fighting for the little people and not ideologies, I'm sure that Spidey, bless him, will find himself bucking authority for the sake of some victim of "collateral damage", and get booted out of Stark Tower with the rest of the Mets fans. -- M.]

"Mr. Jenkins's "Civil War: Front Line" will explore the ramifications of the events in the main series and more. "I have absolute carte blanche to take on the political landscape as it exists in America and all around the world," he said in a telephone interview.

"Mr. Jenkins will be telling some of his stories through the viewpoint of two embedded reporters. One works for a left-leaning newspaper, The Alternative. The other works for The Daily Bugle, whose fictional publisher, J. Jonah Jameson, Mr. Jenkins likened to Rupert Murdoch. Jameson has an agenda and pushes his embedded reporter to meet it.

"Mr. Jenkins will be doing some embedding of his own, using, in part, actual war letters and diaries, including "The Diary of Anne Frank" to tell the parallel story of a frightened young mutant girl in Manhattan, and the World War I poem, "Futility," by Wilfred Owen, to chronicle the last moments of a hero's life.

"Are these stories getting too heavy for comics readers looking to shut out real-world tensions?

"Not really, say the Marvel writers. "Civil War," Mr. Millar said, will work on two levels: "At the core, it's one half of the Marvel heroes vs. the other half." But, he added: "The political allegory is only for those that are politically aware. Kids are going to read it and just see a big superhero fight."

There's a part of me that still believes in Truth and Justice, and despite what television says, that doesn't always include the "American Way".

To give credit where credit is due, DC and Frank Miller covered these conflicts back in the 80s, when Batman used kryptonite to beat the mortal shit out of Superman for protecting a Reagan lookalike: "Keep talking, Clark; you've always known just what to say. 'Yes'-- You always say 'Yes'-- to anyone with a badge, or a flag. Just like your parents taught you. My parents taught me a different lesson, lying on this street, shaking in deep shock, dying for no reason at all." One thinks of the recent photographs-- I'm not going to post them, you can hunt them down yourself if you need to be taught that lesson over again-- of children screaming over their parents' body parts in Iraq, and parents trying desperately to put their broken children back together.

People who don't read comics, but are interested in this war of ideals, or the intersection of human reality with fantasy are encouraged to start with Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross' "Marvels". A recent New Yorker cartoon showed a grumpy old man growling past a bookstore, "Now we have to pretend to read GRAPHIC novels, too?"