Days of Future Past: From the Journal of Matthew Mindcarp

 


“We anticipate and solicit and spoil ourselves. We preview and speculate. Comics have always been a telescope to the horizon, but our vantage is set atop a rich inheritance, the treasure troves of history, in these our days of Future Past.”  
–Matthew Meriwether Mindcarp (1799-1871) in his review of Darwyn Cooke’s DC: The New Frontier, dated 5th September, 1841

 

ΩΩΩΩΩ

You’ll recall from an earlier post that I was introduced to comics by three older cousins. The middle brother, Frank, left a Rubbermaid container filled with old comics in his parents’ basement. This stash, recently uncovered, is now on loan to yours (mostly) truly until Frank decides to reclaim it. Think of it as a traveling exhibit making a brief stop at a local gallery. Inside this package you’ll find original issues of Secret Wars (I and II), Marvel Handbooks, The Human Fly, Uncanny X-Men, G.I.-Joe, and a run of Iron Man #240-260 featuring the vengeful ex-girlfriend and an incapacitated Tony Stark. There’s even a Micronauts in here. 

But you’ll also find an old journal, unmarked on the outside, but filled with curious notes from first page to last. It is handwritten in various inks, and the paper stock does not match from page to page. From what little I know about bookmaking, it seems that the passages have been collected from other books and bound into this one.  Most curious of all are the words themselves, which make little sense together. Upon opening the book I met the phrase,”chutney Turkish skrimshaw Tobias wool Multiverse.” The author had devised some baroque code to safeguard his innermost thoughts. Rest assured, I’ve deciphered the thing. That’s not to say the solution made any real sense either — not at first — but it’s all there.

This was the fourteenth journal of Matthew Mindcarp, alchemist, mentalist, and 19th century comicologist. Self proclaimed “first comics commentator of the modern age” and “the one true Wizard.” Haven’t found him on Wikipedia.         

I shot Frank an e-mail. He had no recollection of the book or Mindcarp. “Secret Wars II was shit though.”

Mindcarp was a man born before his time. The comics of his day were dull, political, and limited. But he was also a student of physics and devised of an apparatus he called “the tomorrow goggles.” He refrains from specifics, (“I do not repeat the instructions here for fear that some misguided youth might damage the stream of years by obtaining Tomorrow’s solutions.”) but he does describe the mechanism as a viewing device utilized for gazing into the future. A passive time machine. Early in the journal he describes viewing the work of Jack Kirby for the first time in 1836; “at once terrifying and spectacular, a herald of titans! He wields such colors as to make one dizzy from untold, faraway explosions!” 

In March of the same year he proclaims, “I waver in this decision. I cherish tales of both men and do marvel at their accomplishments. I think of my own time and of industry. I think of war and 1812. I think of my father. If there were titans in my own time, if there were mutants and serums and levitating armors, would I feel unsafe without a registry? Would we trust our heroes if they were garbed in secrecy? I myself keep secret these goggles and gaze past veils some might deem sacred. It is my power and I dare not share it with my friend the Governor. Am I then on the side of Steve Rogers? Am I an enemy of the state? Is Tony Stark the true patriot? Three installments remain and I am, as yet, undecided.”

On the next day simply, “I fear that I lust after a green woman, and worse, a litigator.”

Later, his words are stained by tears, his penmanship hurried and almost illegible: “Today I read of Booster Gold, a brash soul, a kindred heart! My fellow, himself an audacious traveler of the years! Oh, to vault the frontiers betwixt now and never and every time before! To breathe the air of empires and saints and invention! To ford the Stream and not merely look upon it from my garden bench!”

On word balloons: “Would we say such things as we do if we could see our discourse ballooning out before us?”

On Manga: “I fear the goggles have broken.”

On the first issue of Alias. “I have seen things today that perplex me. I wish there was some peer with whom I might discuss them. I am afraid I might never be invited into their home thereafter.”

References and colloquialisms in Scott Pilgrim both baffled and troubled Mindcarp. “I worry about Scott,” he wrote in 1850. “I do not begin to comprehend his life in the North, but I fear for his security, both mental and financial. Will he always be forced to sleep beside the other boy?”

It is clear that, while well-read and reasonably informed of 21st century culture for a 19th century geek, Mindcarp was often hopelessly mystified by many of the “future-texts” he reviewed. He referred to Skrulls as “gypsies” and often associated them with a man who became his stepfather following his own father’s death in the War of 1812. “It is clear that they are of Jacobi’s lot, with their large chins and thievery. They seem entirely stubborn in their conquest of the earth, just as the old pirate was intent on running off with Mother.” And though he seemed to enjoy Secret Invasion, he referred to Nick Fury’s gun as “rather silly” and the ending as “really sort of meh, as they say.”

A man before his time.

To be continued…?

 

Next week: Watchmen!   

In two weeks: Bring your wax fangs for Buffy and Angel comics!

 


Paul Montgomery is a code-cracker from Philadelphia. You can reach him at paul@ifanboy.com or on Twitter.

 

Comments

  1. M.M. Mindcarp is my hero, due largely to the likelihood that, if I had his fantastical goggles, this is exactly what I would use them for. "Yeah yeah yeah, future, whatever. I just need to know how this arc ends and whether the Avengers movie is going to be any good."

  2. "Am I then on the side of Steve Rogers?  Am I an enemy of the state?  Is Tony Stark the true patriot?  Three installments remain and I am, as yet, undecided."

    Ha. Very nice. Really fun, Montgomery-ey, bit. Love the photo too.

  3. "I fear that I lust after a green woman, and worse, a litigator"

     Very Nice. I wonder if M.M. Mindcar sees the future through a kaleidiscope tunnnel vision. I feel as though he does. 

  4. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @esophagus – The photograph was included in the back of the journal.  Someone wrote his name and years of life on the back.  

  5. Excellent, Paul.

    You missed your calling as a Victorian pulp writer.

    That is to say, M.M. Mindcarp did.

  6. All of the quotes from M.M. Mindcarp had Ken Burns-esque music in the background as I read them.

    It’s always tragic when your parents run off with pirates. Poor guy. 

  7. Inspired and silly at the same time.  Nicely done, sir!  

  8. @ Paul’s article: Huh?

  9. I think that this may even surpass Jimski’s GiJoe fan fic. Great work!

  10. Can I just say, on the record, that this is amazing little chunk of writing?  Because that’s what it is.  Envelope pushed.  Bar raised.  Played, well.

  11. Gosh.

  12. Ah, when I saw the word "Micronauts" I became swept up in a wave of nostalgic ecstacy.

     The Civil War era is an underrated era of comic criticism.

  13. Neato

  14. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Glad people liked this piece.  It was a spur of the moment experiment and I had a lot of fun working on it.  Happy it came across!  

  15. There’s A LOT of comics journalism on the web and it’s great to see something so refreshingly different.  It’s obvious that you put a lot of thought into your articles.  No phoning things in for you!

    I don’t know about anybody else, but I’d like to read a Rom: Spaceknight review written by Robert E. Lee.

  16. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    There are actually several issues of Rom: Spaceknight in that box of old comics.  

  17. Early Roms: Michael Golden covers and Sal Buscema art = a thing of beauty.

  18. This is a good week of writing for our man Montgomery. Not only did Paul do an excellent job with this piece of writing, but he also sent me his first solo script for Wormwood (episode 18, I think it will be). And let me tell you guys — if you’re listening to Wormwood, you’re in for a treat. Kid’s got talent.