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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...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


The demihero can be resourceful, can be powerful, can be central to the narrative.  But he must embody “instinctive will” in its life-affirming guise, even as the monster does in its (generally) life-denying guise.-- DIAL D FOR DEMIHERO, PT. 3.
In this essay I gave examples of demiheroes who were *microdynamic* (TV's Carl Kolchak) and *mesodynamic* (Stoker's Jonathan Harker), but I didn't cite one who was in the high *megadynamic* range of power, nor show that it was possible for a demihero to have power and still be ruled more by "instictive will" than by "intellectual will."

In the interests of symmetry, here is one such:

I reviewed the film in which Doctor Erasmus Craven on my movie-blog here, along with another AIP horror-film starring Vincent Price.  I'll confine myself to one quote from the review in order to establish the character's demiheroic nature.

Just from this bare description it’s plain that like the protagonist of PIT AND THE PENDULUM, Craven is “craven” regarding the overshadowing history of his father’s exploits.  Though he’s willing to help the bad-tempered Bedlo, who seems to have earned his transformation by quarreling with Scarabeus, Craven wants no trouble with his father’s old enemy—

However, Craven is lured out of his self-confinement when the "raven" of the title tells him that he might find his "lost lenore" at the domicile of his father's old foe.  After assorted twists and turns, the film finishes up with Craven and Scarabeus duelling one another with magical spells.  Though the spells invariably have a comic tone, they nevertheless represent a level of power I've termed megadynamic, not least simply because they are marvelous in nature, as explicated at the conclusion of the essay MEGA, MESO, MICRO PT. 2.

I don't think that, despite Craven's possession of "super-powers," that anyone would ever view him as a distant cousin to the more mystical heroes, whether they are costumed types like Doctor Strange and Doctor Fate, or more worldly-looking types like Siegel and Schuster's Doctor Occult.

I anticipate one objection to the comparison might be that Craven follows a different narrative pattern than the occult heroes-- not in terms of my Fryean-derived mythoi, but simply in that he is a "one-shot" character whose narrative arc is resolved in his sole appearance, while the others are meant to be serial opponents of crime/evil.

However, in no way is the superhero idiom dependent on seriality.  Here's another film that has, at present, dealt with a one-shot mystic protagonist's struggle to define his place in the world.

Admittedly, SORCERER'S APPRENTICE could be turned into a serial property with little or no effort.  Nevertheless, my point remains undiminished: the 2010 film revolves around a main character who also must come to terms with his powers and oppose evil-- a theme certainly not derived from any of the original contexts for the "Sorcerer's Apprentice," whether from Goethe or Disney. Both of these stories are comic in tone, and the Nicholas Cage film transforms the image of the apprentice-as-bumbler into one befitting the stature of an occult hero.

At the same time, in keeping with my earlier remarks on *stature* as a quality that defines *dynamis* of a given character, it's not Craven's participation in a comedy that makes him a demihero.  In the above essay I used Ranma Saotome as a character who was a definite hero even though he inhabited a comic universe and so possessed a stature different in kind from that of, say, Buffy Summers.  But for symmetry's sake, I may as well also cite a comic hero who happens to have mystical powers.

I'm not going to detail the case for Lina Inverse of SLAYERS as a comic hero rather than an adventure-hero; anyone interested in how I parse such arguments should probably reread my series ADVENTURE-COMEDY VS. COMEDY-ADVENTURE, beginning here.

By these comparisons I have, at least to my own satisfaction, defined the narrative functions of hero and demihero (aka them "life-affirming forces") as functions that transcend any particular mythos.  I anticipate returning to the subject at some point, however.

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