10 February 2009

Every Bit as Strange

In Arie Kaplan's Masters of the Comic Book Universe Revealed!, the profile/interview of Neil Gaiman includes an rumination on growing up in Britain reading American comic books. Gaiman told Kaplan those magazine were like "postcards from Oz."

He elaborated:

There were all these cultural assumptions that were being made that meant nothing, and thus were really, really, really cool. For example, I remember to this day a comic in which Superman has gone into some kind of alternate universe. Perry White's now a pizza chef and Superman is staring at him, x-ray vision or whatever, staring through a wall. And Perry White is throwing something round and sort of doughy into the air, and he's tossing the pizza dough.

There were no pizzas in England in 1967. And they really didn't turn up until 1979-1980. So, pizza was something that you simply didn't see, and the idea of somebody tossing dough and wearing a funny hat was every bit as strange as the idea of somebody using their x-ray vision to look through a wall and see this thing.

There were no fire hydrants in England. So [in Superman] there are all these fire hydrants everywhere, and I was never able to quite figure out what a fire hydrant--what are they? They squirt water and no fire comes out of them, and what's the deal with them? Everything was as unlikely as everything else.
This passage came back to me toward the end of Gaiman's Coraline, when the young heroine's modern British parents welcome her home with a dinner of...homemade pizza.

Of course, it's a British misundersanding of American pizza, with pineapple.

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