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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Monday, August 16, 2010

RULES OF ESTRANGEMENT, PT. 1

Back in DUELING QUOTATIONS I juxtaposed a Tom Spurgeon quote with a Grant Morrison quote. Spurgeon's essay called for a discussion of the concepts engaged by "all these superhero comics" but provided no parameters for such a discussion, so I "answered" his sloppily phrased question with Grant Morrison's assertion to the effect that adults who always want answers are in essence missing the point of fantasy.

However, though Morrison is more right about the complexities of fantasy-creation than Spurgeon, that isn't to say that Morrison's right in all respects. On 7-20-10 Tim O'Neil of THE HURTING wrote an essay which I'll examine in greater depth in later sections. Unlike Spurgeon, O'Neil does provide the reader with his parameters for the critical discussion of fantasy, and though he also isn't right in many respects, his essay is certainly engaged with the ideas behind fantasy-creation.

But before I talk about O'Neil's essay, I should make some basic statements about the Morrison quotation.

First, although some websites did treat Morrison's 2010 Comic-con statement as if he had chosen to do a "Defense of Fantasy," perhaps after the model of Percy Shelley's essay "Defense of Poetry," Morrison was simply making a somewhat impassioned reply in a Q&A session as to how old characters like Batman and the various Robins were supposed to be. Thus everything that Morrison says here builds upon that question of character verisimilitude.

I'll say up front that Morrison's attitude on the ageing of serial characters is one with which I entirely agree. It remains a study in futility for any fan to attempt to ground serial characters in the real world in terms of how slowly or quickly they age. Umberto Eco touches on some of the narrative consequences of this deathless status quo in his "Myth of Superman," though he doesn't ever quite get to the heart of what makes such a deathless fantasy appealing. However, purely from the standpoint of anyone interested in writing such characters, Morrison's statement shows that the fantasy is clearly one that has strong appeal and that therefore attempts to deal with the anomalies in terms of real-world verisimilitude are doomed to perish of their own fatuity.

However, to express agreement on this one point is not to endorse an across-the-board dismissal of all verisimilitude. Tim O'Neil interprets Morrison as having said this, and though I think he's incorrect on the whole, it's also true that Morrison's answer may be too cavalier about the need for some types of verisimilitude in even the most fantastic fiction.

Some of these types will be explored in Part 2 of RULES OF ESTRANGEMENT.

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