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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, July 15, 2013

TO THE POWER OF XYZ

In MEGA, MESO, MICRO PT. 2 I said:

I'm currently debating with myself as to whether the "meso, meso, micro" distinction applies across the board to all heroes. It's a possibility that it may that it applies principally to (1) naturalistic heroes like Dirty Harry, (2) uncanny heroes like Zorro and Tarzan, and (3) heroes whose marvelous abilities stem entirely from their weapons, as with (as cited here) Batman.

In other words, it may be impossible or just impractical to speak of such distinctions with regards to characters who possess marvelous intrinsic powers.
Later, I decided in THE MANY FACES OF MIGHT that the two marvelous characters cited-- Dream Girl of the comics-feature LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES and Ben Richards of the teleseries THE IMMORTAL-- qualifies for the "exceptional" level of power, my so-called "x-type," even if they might be on the lower level within that sphere of action.

...I wondered if this "lowest division of the highest level" rationale might also solve the conundrum I proposed at the end of MEGA, MESO, MICRO PT. 2. To what extent, I asked at the end of the essay, should one consider a character like Dream Girl-- whose future-forecasting power is essentially strategic in nature-- to be exceptional? One might say that she, too, belongs on that "lowest division" level.

I still affirm this.  Yet there do exist characters who possess marvelous powers or attributes-- whether "intrinsic" or in some added-on form-- who do not belong in this sphere.  Very recently in SHEEP, SANS ELECTRICITY ,my reading of Philip Dick's DO ANDROIDS OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?, I determined that the book did not belong in the *megadynamic* sphere, because "in Dick's ANDROIDS, the violence is purely in the functional mode, even if the combatants are dueling with laser tubes."  In contrast, when I review the 1982 BLADE RUNNER I don't doubt that I will judge it to be a combative work, wherein such characters as Rick Deckard, Pris and Roy Batty take on the aura of spectacular violence.

But it's not enough to discriminate between functional and spectacular violence alone, since there also exist cases in which some characters have marvelous  attributes yet manage to remain essentially outside the sphere of direct combat.   In this essay I presented the microdynamic cartoon-character
 "Mighty Max," whose only "power" is possessing a cap that transports him to scenes of trouble.  Thereafter for the most part he either eludes the megadynamic villains or tricks them into defeat.



A better known character from DC Comics is "Ambush Bug," who from the first is meant to be more of a pest than a threat.  Ambush Bug's only power is to teleport, which allows him to dodge the assorted frustrated heroes who attempt-- and sometimes succeed-- in reining him in.  In the Bug's own features, his creators move him even further from the realm of spectacular combat-- not because comedy itself cannot be combative in nature, but because AMBUSH BUG seeks to be the opposite type of comedy.  The same is true of Dick's book: the fact that it is not a combative drama does not mean that drama cannot be combative.



And here's a "worthless" character introduced by the creator of such powerhouses as Superman and the Spectre in ADVENTURE COMICS #323 (1964).




With "Double Header" it's logical to assume that Jerry Siegel was having some fun with the
idea that not every super-power would place its possessor in the lofty position of the Legionnaires.  Thanks to a quick netsearch I've learned that some later writer actually brought back Double Header and put him in the Legion of Substitute Heroes, which in my opinion misses the point.  The Substitute Heroes were a lot like Dream Girl in that their powers could have megadynamic effects under the right circumstances, but that those circumstances were rare compared to the regularity with which the more powerful Legionnaires could achieve such effects. Like Dream Girl the Subs depended more on strategy than on sheer power, even as Dream Girl in ADVENTURE COMICS #370, when she and two other female characters use subterfuge to thwart the villain Mordru.



So these four examples of marvelous powers or attributes are, for various reasons, not "x-types." Those like Ambush Bug and Dick's humdrum android-hunter might be deemed "y-types," in the "fair-to-good" range, while Mighty Max and Double Header belong in the "adequate-to-poor" range of the "z-type."

I could just say that all four of them are subcombative, which they are.  But I want to work out another aspect of the types of dynamicity, which will appear in Part 2.



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