Yesterday, I went to the comic shop. I thumbed through some of the DC comics there (got an idea for a cheap gag, which I will work on for next weekend). And I bought a few more DC comics than I usually do.
Those of you following along know what is about to happen. Next week, there is one DC comic shipping, Flashpoint #5. The one where everything changes yet again. New universe, new rules, all that. After that starts all new #1 for all DC titles, wiping the slate clean.
The comics that I picked up are meta. The characters seem acutely aware that the reboot is happening. The writers and artists are basically saying their goodbyes, not so much to the readers, as to the characters as they know them.
There's a lot of lines that have double meanings, like Power Girl at the end of her last issue saying, "We have all the time in the world." Supergirl ends talking about how, somehow, Supergirl will continue on, but she herself, her identity, she hopes isn't forgotten. Over in Justice League, Donna Troy is hoping she's forgotten about, although Batman (Dick Grayson) tells her, "I don't think anyone can forget about you." In Batgirl, Stephanie Brown tells Barbara Gordon, "It's only the end if you want it to be."
Things like this get to me. I don't mean they annoy me, but they hit me emotionally. It's not that I'm a sucker for this stuff. It's that it taps into a genuine fear of mine, one that everyone has but not everyone knows they have it. It's the fear of insignificance. The idea that you might as well have never existed. This is what made watching "Final Message From Moonbase Alpha" (the Space: 1999 fan film) tough. This is what made me stop watching the episode of Doctor Who where the Doctor is imploring Amy not to forget Rory.
It's a feeling that I face and deal with, but can never quite make my peace with. My mom and dad recently tried talking with me about what they perceive as a fatalistic attitude. In my defense, I don't think I'm fatalistic, just realistic. In the past...I don't know, half a year, maybe, there's been a slight difference in my perception of things. I knew that, someday, I was going to die. But it's different now. Now, it's like I can feel the ending is there. It's not here, it won't be for a while, but whereas before The End was just this vague concept, now, it has this presence to it. It's no longer something I don't notice. When we are young, we figure we have all the time in the world, that, over the years, we will get to the things we love, that we will carve out a physical representation of what we are, through our works or whatever. You just don't think about it. Now? It's there. I don't see it, but I feel it. Standing there, just waiting as I step closer to it each and every day.
Sorry for the digression there...so, mom and dad and my attitude. I told them explicitly that I'm nothing, I'm no big deal. In the middle of their bullshit pep talks, I cribbed from Stephan Pastis to shut them up. The discussion went like this.
Okay, dad. How many people can you name that are alive right now in the 21st Century? Not people you know, just people you know are alive. Probably thousands, right?
"Well, maybe hundreds."
Okay. Now, how many people can you name that were alive in the 20th Century?
Good good good. Now, how many people can you name that were alive in the 18th Century?
* bit of a pause * "Lots."
Dozens, right? How many can you name that were alive in the 13th Century?
* more of a pause * "Quite a few."
Quite a few. That's interesting. Now...how many people can you name that were alive in the 7th Century?
* long pause * "I can't think of anyone."
No one? As in, nobody? No names? Nothing?
There! You could have been the greatest king, you could have been the mightiest warrior, you could have been the greatest healer, you could have been the wisest philosopher, and someone as smart as my dad will never have heard of you.
As we go through life, we change. It will always happen. There will be new experiences, and things that make our old experiences less important than they were. I look at my collection of video tapes, and if you sort them based on roughly when I acquired them, you can see my interests, attitudes, and expectations change, not to mention some things that I just ate up at the time not even registering my interest anymore. And some things that had me wondering why I didn't appreciate them more until recently (Space: 1999 is a good example of that). Some things don't change, like my fascination with cartoons and classics like Tom And Jerry and Looney Toons, but other things? I look back at some of them from my childhood or teen years and wonder what the hell I saw in them, how I could have found them funny or interesting.
The vast majority of us will never have a legacy. Our possessions as testimonial to who and what we were? When we are gone, they will scatter, either given away to others, sold to pay off our debts, or just thrown out. The singularity they present when together will get broken when we are no longer there for them to orbit around. Living through the memories of our friends? Eventually, they'll be gone, too. Our children will remember us and what we were like. Our grandkids MAY remember us and what we did, depending on what we were like when they reached awareness. Further back than that? You might as well be a name in a history book -- a collection of facts, and that's all. And yes, I count myself among that, comic books and books and computer games and everything and all. The odds of me being remembered as something other than a shorthand for the kinds of work I produced are astronomical.
It's not that the past will never die. The past is dead. It doesn't change. It's just there. There's only so much of it. My parents wondered why I needed another video game system when I had over 100 carts for my Atari 2600. Because, when there is nothing new for it, what do you do? The imagination, the creativity, the energy, is going to new systems. This is where you go to experience this excitement now. My interest in my Turbo Grafx 16 is marginal because there are only so many titles for it, even though I only have about 16 games for it so there is lots more for me to experience. It's already out there. It's over. The wonder of where your passion will take you next reaches a dead end down that street.
Like it or not, this phase of the DC Universe is over. And seeing the characters who had developed and changed railing against forces beyond their control, casting them aside for no real reason other than they can...it just hits me hard. I don't feel a satisfying good-bye. I feel...I don't know. But whatever it is, it hits too close to home for me.
We all have our weaknesses. Emotional hot buttons that we can never get rid of. And in those moments, I don't see fictional characters. I see the people around me, looking at a world that they will never control, things they can never make right, praying that some part of them, even just the memory of them, lives on past them, and I feel very cold inside. Hoping against all hope that they mattered. That we matter. That, somehow, being alive and everything we've done isn't just a waste of everybody's time.
I wish my teacher was here right now so I could hug her, just for a few minutes. She's got years on me, so I know I'm going to have to face life without her. Just like I'm facing life without my oldest friends from ages ago (especially one in particular, I should have held on to her with everything I had), separated by things that can't be controlled or changed. That I miss so much, it literally hurts.
And I'm scared.