Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Hoary Hosts of "Holy!"

For those tired of recent news articles that celebrate the literary value of graphic novels, today's LA Time Calendar section featured a front-page article about "slabbing" comics -- i.e., having a third-party grading service such as Comics Guarantee Corporation grade a comic's condition, and then seal the comic in plastic, freezing the comic's condition at the moment of evaluation.

The article features two hallmarks of traditional news articles about comic books. First, it focused entirely on the "investment" value of the comics. (How many "Don't throw out those funnybooks! They could be worth a fortune!" articles have been published in the last thirty-five years?) Second, it featured the use of the adjective "Holy" in the title, followed by a pun and an exclamation point.

I find extraordinary that journalists still feel that they are being clever by including this tribute to the 1966 BATMAN TV series in their articles, for three reasons. First, it's cliche of the lowest order. Second, Burt Ward's "Holy _____!" expressions were invented for the TV show; the Robin of the comics seldom, if ever, commented on the situation in such a manner before the TV series became a hit. How, then, has the expression come to symbolize all that is comic-booky in the eyes of the Fourth Estate, to the extent where its use in a newspaper article is practically mandatory?

Finally, the BATMAN TV series debuted forty-one years ago. Generations have sprung up since then who know not from the TV show. They know Batman from the more recent movies, or the animated series of the 90's and the 00's, or even -- just maybe -- from the comics. If they have not seen the BATMAN show in syndication, they are likely scratching their heads at these "Holy" references. Recall that forty-one years before the BATMAN TV show appeared was 1925; and somehow I don't think many kids in 1966 were walking around saying "23 Skidoo" or "Oh you kid" to each other.

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