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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, April 7, 2014

MASKED MASTERMINDS AND SPECIOUS SPECTRES PT. 3

At the end of Part 2 I stated that the power to create illusions was a definite power, although one should deem it to be of a different order than the ability to directly affect physical objects or entities. 



The specific example cited in Part 2 were the assorted "specious spectres" of the cartoon teleseries SCOOBY DOO, WHERE ARE YOU?  In my essay WHEN FUNNY ANIMALS ATTACK I went through some pains to specify that the basic concept of the series, in which some mystery-solving teens pal around with a talking dog, aligns the series with the domain of the marvelous.  The talking dog trumps the villains, who are aligned with the uncanny trope I termed "outrĂ© outfits skills and devices."  If there had been no talking dog in the series, then the show would have been uncanny, based on the dominant motif of said villains.




The studio Hanna Barbera produced many imitations of SCOOBY DOO's mystery-solving teens, and almost all of them also fall into the marvelous phenomenality. The well-remembered JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS (1970-71) went SCOOBY DOO one better in the department of marvel-making: borrowing more from H-B's own JONNY QUEST than from the "haunted house" comedy-mysteries of Hollywood, the globe-trotting Pussycats continually encountered evil masterminds (usually not masked) rather than schemers pretending to be spooks.  That said, JOSIE still kept up its quota for intelligent animals, as the cast included a devious feline, one Sebastian, who couldn't talk but did a number of un-cat-like things, like opening locks with his claws.



The closest thing Hanna-Barbera did to an series without marvels seems to be THE AMAZING CHAN AND THE CHAN CLAN (1972).  Perhaps because the series' main idea was to focus on the famed detective's large brood of offspring, there was just one comical animal, the dog Chu Chu. However, as memory serves he neither talked nor acted like a human being; he was closer to the model of Bandit in JONNY QUEST, in that he was for the most part a "real" dog.  As for the villains, they were cut from a more mundane cloth than SCOOBY's, but at least some of them did dress up in weird costumes and chase the kids around a little before ultimately getting caught in slapstick fashion.



None of these series register as "combative" in that there is no opposition between two exceptional types of power, as stated in THE NECESSITY OF SPECTACLE:


in the past year I've formulated the idea of "the combative mode" as one that exists exclusively where at least two exceptional-- or "megadynamic"-- forces come into conflict, thus producing Kantian dominance

The "specious spectres" of SCOOBY, CHAN CLAN, and various other ghost-chasing comedy-cartoons might not have a lot of power-- that is, they would be on the lower, "exemplary" level of the "x-type."  Ncvertheless, as long as their opponents were at least on that same level, then one would have a combative narrative.  However, because these cartoons were inspired by comedies in which the protagonists generally won out through luck rather than might or skill, the casts of SCOOBY DOO and that show's imitators were usually what I've denoted as "z-types," ranging from "poor" to "average' levels of dynamicity.

What would a combative version of the SCOOBY DOO template look like? If the heroes were exceptional naturalistic fighters, they would provide a megadynamic force able to contend directly with the uncanny menaces.  The 2002 SCOOBY DOO live-action film toyed with upgrading the characters of Fred and Daphne in this regard.  However, the sequel to that film did not emphasize this element, nor did any of the three Scooby Doo teleseries that followed the first film. 



The famous "Hardy Boys" book series might come closer to the mark, given that the main heroes were usually described as above-average combatants. However, I don't know whether or not the majority of the books-- which came out in many different editions-- would qualify as uncanny or as naturalistic.



Strangely, Hanna-Barbera produced a 1977 teleseries that had all the makings for a combative series in the SCOOBY mold, in that the show's uncanny spectres were caught by a marvelous being with a good deal more dynamicity than a talking dog.  This series, the incredibly inept CAPTAIN CAVEMAN AND THE TEEN ANGELS, featured a superhero caveman with real if erratic super-powers, who was constantly talked into solving crimes by his three hot-babe partners. However, there was no combat in the series between the goofball caveman and his adversaries. Rather, the villains were usually corralled through some slapstick device, just as in SCOOBY DOO. Thus this series-- which, I will note, wins my award for one of the most mind-numbingly awful American telecartoons of all time-- is no more combative than the series discussed in this essay, TEEN TITANS GO. The latter also substitutes goofy slapstick for even a comic version of martial combat, though happily, with far less excruciating effects.






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