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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...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

HERO VS. VILLAIN, MONSTER VS. VICTIM

...Gaster introduces two Greek terms that identify how the respective rites work. Rites of jubilation and invigoration are both characterized by *plerosis,* or "filling," because both give the sense that the ritual fills the community with new life. Rites of mortification and purgation are both characterized by *kenosis,* or "emptying," because they "empty out" the community of "noxious elements" one way or another.

While both of these processes are particularly abstract as described above, plerosis is best conceived as the life-force engendered by the contest of hero-and-villain, taken seriously for the adventure and humorously for the comedy, while life is purged or otherwise compromised in the black-comic irony and in the drama.  I've remarked in earlier essays that I regard that the best-known works in the genres known as "crime"and :"horror" usually fall into the mythos of drama, because they usually focus on forces inimical to society.  The forces of evil in these genres are usually conquered at the eleventh hour, but they're still the focal presences of those narratives.  This focus has a dominantly purgative effect, emphasizing a distanced societal process of casting out evil rather than the adventure-hero's "might" in vanquishing evil.  The irony shows the society as incompetent to cast out evil, resulting in a mortificative effect.

However, within the adventure-mythos it is possible to have a "force of evil" be the focal presence, and yet not lose the invigorative, life-enhancing effect.  Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu book-series is one such example.  Fu Manchu is the star of the show, and though he's always defeated, his contests with Nayland Smith and other opponents center upon *agon* rather than *pathos.*

Similarly, it's possible-- though much more rare-- for a comedic work to focus upon a villain.  The few that do usually focus on a villain who's in the Fu Manchu vein but is clearly incompetent, as seen in the mammothly-unfunny Peter Sellers comedy, THE FIENDISH PLOT OF FU MANCHU.



I'll pursue further comparisons between the adventure-mythos' use of "evil stars" with that of the drama in Part 2.

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