Featured Post


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...

Thursday, January 17, 2013


In Part 1 I expanded on my original schema for the three levels of dynamicity outlined in DYNAMIS VS. DYNAMICITY. My current schema allows for a range of dynamicity in each of the three levels, with the stipulation that the characters within a given range are united not as existing characters but as narrative functions. 

In order to illustrate the range of dynamicity in each category, I've chosen to survey one particular character who has been re-imagined by different authors over time.  In each case the dynamicity changes in such a way as to illustrate the "change in range."

In the aforementioned essay, one of my examples of the "less than good" level of dynamicity was the support-character Vicki Vale from the BATMAN franchise.  In making this determination, I was thinking of the original character who debuted in 1948 and remained a recurring character until the early Silver Age, in 1963.  Throughout this period Vicky, a skilled photojournalist, made a pest of herself by trying to ferret out Batman's identity, but showed absolutely no ability to defend herself in dire situations.  On that basis I would judge her dynamicity as "poor."

However, this character undergoes a revision when she again becomes a recurring character in the Bat-books during the early 1980s.  (Note: according to Wikipedia Vicki made limited re-appearances in the 1970s but she did not become a regular fixture.)  One change to her status was that the "pest" characterization disappeared and she began working out, with the result that on a few occasions, various characters would comment on the newer, fitter Vicki Vale.  She still was not a character one considered skilled in combat, so I would still gauge her as no better than the upper "microdynamic" level.  This character writeup from the online site COMIC VINE seems to substantially agree as to the change in the character:

"Vicki is a regular human with no known superpowers. Although not particularly athletically gifted, she has displayed enough physical ability to survive through certain dangerous situations."

The next level I rate as "fair-to-good," and I choose the character on whom Vicki Vale was essentially derived: "Superman's girlfriend" Lois Lane.  However, the original Lois, as articulated by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, was a woman out to push her way into man's world.  In her first appearance she slaps a gangster, though in so doing she may be depending on the social taboo against men hitting women, even in retaliation for a blow.  Nevertheless, she's occasionally seen slugging both male and female criminals, suggesting that she did have a little more than "average" fighting ability, putting her at the lower level of "mesodynamicity."

By the time Bill Finger created Vicki Vale as a pest-girlfriend for Batman, the Lois Lane that apepared in the Superman titles wasn't as gutsy as the Siegel-and-Shuster version.  Even when she got her own series, she seemed to go backwards in terms of toughness.  However, at some point the writer of the sequence below (or his editor) decided to show Lois as a really tough girl.

Following this story in LOIS LANE #78, Lois was said to have been taught the Kryptonian martial art "Klurkor" by Superman himself.  Thus, depending on the inclinations of her writers and editors, she was frequently seen duking it out with bad guys.  Still, she did so only in a pinch, not because she was a full-time crimefighter.  During one such battle, where she's kicking around three thugs, she tells them they ought to be glad they're not fighting a real tough girl like Black Canary.  On the basis and similar references, I would tend to rate this Lois as being at the higher end of the mesodynamic level.

Finally, to illustrate the lower and upper levels of megadynamicity, I find myself reaching out of the comic book world into that of the cinema.

Ellen Ripley is always mentioned when viewers list their favorite kick-ass females.  However, she's nowhere near the level of the megadynamic in the 1979 ALIEN film.  She's probably no better than "fair" in that film, for she only manages to kill the titular menace because the creature happens to attack her in an escape pod, where she's able to eject it into airless space.

Like several other characters who begin as low-dynamic foils to some mighty menace-- a list which includes the heroes of the original TERMINATOR, EVIL DEAD, and the 1999 MUMMY-- Ripley gets a dynamicity upgrade in the sequel ALIENS (1986).  After she's given arms training by her marine allies, Ripley takes on the kickass persona familiar to her fans.

However, I tend to view this level of megadynamicity to be on the lower "exemplary" level.  Ripley remains on this level through the third film in the series, ALIEN 3, but ALIEN RESURRECTION boosts her to the upper level of the exceptional.  Ripley, having died in the third film, is reborn but in a form crossbred with the DNA of her extraterrestrial nemeses.  At the very least she's stronger than an average human, though this increased dynamicity did not lead her to further adventures in the cinematic medium.

No comments: