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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 26, 2013

SEMICOMBATIVE VS. SUBCOMBATIVE

In SHEEP, SANS ELECTRICITY I said:

Having finished my reread of Heinlein's STARSHIP TROOPERS and judged it subcombative in terms of its narrative values, I promptly launched into a reread of Philip K. Dick's DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?, which like the Heinlein book had been adapted into a film very much in the combative mode. Going on memories of previous readings I suspected that the Dick book would also prove to be subcombative, and I was correct, but for the opposite reason.

I probably will continue to use "subcombative" for any kind of conflictive mode that fails to execute both the narrative and significant aspects of the combative mode.  Yet, purely as an aside, I will note that technically "semicombative" would best describe works that actually contain combat in some form-- as with STARSHIP TROOPERS, ELECTRIC SHEEP, and others I've referenced in the past year-- both novel and film versions of THE WAR OF THE WORLDS,  the 1959 space-flick THE ANGRY RED PLANET.  "Subcombative" would probably best suit those whose conflict does not eventuate in combat of any kind, as with Shakespeare's MEASURE FOR MEASURE, or in which combat takes place "off stage,"as we see in Brecht's MOTHER COURAGE. 

I should expand here on my theme in PASSION FOR THE CLIMAX in this regard. In that essay I said:


Though it's possible that I'll encounter some exceptions, there seems no way to demonstrate the persistence of the narrative combative value unless there is some sort of spectacle-oriented struggle at or very near the climax.
And a little later:

But as long as there has been some narrative plot-thread that leads inevitably to some sort of spectacular combat, it doesn't matter if the combat follows the dominant pattern is that of the hero overcoming the villain. In fact, though it's rare for a combative film to end in the defeat of the hero, it does happen, most memorably in 1982's BLADE RUNNER.

Since I believe that narratological principles must take in even the most wretched narrative works as well as the most exemplary, I applied the idea of the narrative combative value to the Paul Naschy horror-film THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI, and concluded:

On a closing note relating to my Theory of the Combative Mode, THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI would not conform to this mode, for though it does contain two monsters going at each other, the story presents their battle almost as an afterthought, rather than centering upon the encounter as would a combative story like 1943's FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN.
I contrasted YETI to an even more terrible film in my review of 1971's DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN:

I had to think about whether or not to consider this a "combative drama," since I had dismissed THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI simply because there's no real build to the conflict between the two creatures in that film. But at last I decided that there is at least the suggestion of an escalating conflict between the vampire and the heir of Frankenstein, so "combative" it is.


Though I would freely admit that DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN doesn't do a very good job of providing a "narrative plot-thread that leads ineveitably to some sort of spectacular combat," it does a better job that YETI, whose title suggests some association between the titular beasts but, as I said in my review, spends most of the time focused on the depradations of a group of Tibetan bandits.  At least in the Adamson film the vampire and the manmade monster spend a fair amount of time in one another's company, thus leading to their combat-- and to be sure, the motives that bring about a fight between the Wolf Man and the Monster in the far better 1943 "monster-rally" film aren't overly complex either.


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