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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...

Friday, October 4, 2013

THE NARRATIVE RULE OF EXCESS

My essay IN REMEMBRANCE YET GRIMM puts forth this proposition re: the narrative function of the three dynamicities:

While I have stated that characters in any given story will fall into three possible dynamicity-levels-- the microdynamic, the mesodynamic, and the megadynamic-- in terms of the way dynamicity operates in plot-narratives, the first two are practically identical. Whether a given character's dynamicity-level is "poor-to-adequate" or "good-to-fair," he is unable to reach the exceptional level of dynamicity that Kant calls "might." 

This point reinforces my conclusion from THE ETHIC OF THE COMBATIVE PART 2:

Thus "might" exists to continually challenge others to partake of its nature, rather than being utterly inaccessible...



Though I haven't invoked Nietzsche much in this regard, he does have quite a lot to say about what may be considered a parallel phenomenon, which English translations generally call "strength:"



"To demand of strength that it should not express itself, that it should not be a will to overcome, overthrow, dominate, a thirst for enemies and resistance and triumph, makes as little sense as to demand of weakness that it should express itself as strength."-- ON THE GENEALOGY OF MORALS.

And again:


"Nothing succeeds in which high spirits play no part. Only excess of strength is proof of strength."-- TWILIGHT OF THE IDOLS.

With Nietzsche in mind, then, I'll elaborate the basic proposition above into a narrative rule: a "rule of excess" based in Nietzsche's logic, one that can be expressed in two parts:

(1) Megadynamicity, the level of extraordinary strength, is the narrative "proof of strength" in that its very excessiveness suggests a propensity to transcend ordinary limits.

(2) Mesodynamicity and microdynamicity, the levels of "good" and "poor" strength, cannot be used in narrative to prove the nature of strength because by their respective natures they are determined by limitation.

My two examples from SUBCOMBATIVE SUPERHEROES PT. 2 also illustrate how characters of differing dynamicities conjure forth different narrative effects, though the characters share a superficial similarity in that both are superheroes but neither is possessed of any metaphenomenal powers or weapons.  Though B.C. Boyer's MASKED MAN is clearly patterned after Will Eisner's SPIRIT, Boyer clearly does not seek to show him as extraordinary, given how often he fails to perform the standard "superhero" task of beating up at least four guys at once.  He cannot symbolize strength, because his strength is determined by consistently functioning on the level perceived appropriate for an ordinary human being.

The Spirit, as I mentioned earlier, is certainly capable of being overwhelmed too.  Eisner is replete with scenes in which he is pathetically defeated for a time:



Nevertheless, Eisner rarely has him truly reduced to the level of ordinariness for very long. 





Indeed, even when deprived of sight in one story-arc, the Spirit, recuperating in a hospital, still manages to overcome a group of thugs sent to kill him.

Now, readers who prefer their heroes "life-sized" may not be charmed by the notion that the proof of strength is one of excessive demonstration.  Some might even prefer to think of strength as defined by its humbler manifestations.  Nevertheless, such readers cannot deny the obvious appeal of excess for other readers, or blame it on "mass culture," without succumbing to total fatuity.






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