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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...

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

SACRED AND PROFANE VIOLENCE PART 4

To sum up the arguments for the previous three installments, with an eye toward concluding this line of thought:

In Part 1, I asserted that one might view the manifestations of sex and violence within fiction as sources of 'violence" that served to propel and thus create the narrative. This extra-diegetical "violence" is the one referenced in the title of the essay-series, and I probably should have given it another name, to distinguish it from diegetical violence-- perhaps "disruption," in line with the Frank Cioffi quote cited in Part 1.

In Part 2, I chose to explore the real-world alignment of sex and violence with the proclivities of, respectively, the females and males of the human species, as dictated by biological development.  Yet I specified that biology did not entirely define destiny; that it was possible for either real-world sex to perform a bouleversement with regard to dominant proclivities, a turnabout which would be the subject of Part 3.

In Part 3, I referenced an earlier essay-series in which I had investigated a similar bouleversement in the works of two of the philosophers who have influenced me. I did this in order to keep this line of thought distinct from my own meditations on a parallel turnabout, formulated by me alone, though other critics have certainly discussed similar archetypal figures, notably Camille Paglia. I termed these archetypes after a couple of their appearances in Greek myth: "Adonis, the Loving Man" and "Athena, the Fighting Woman." I then digressed to the subject of assigning merit to these-- or any-- archetypes when they appeared in fiction. This was the point at which I attempted to elucidate a meaning for the "sacred and profane" in my title, which, when extended from its Durkheimian definition into the realm of fiction, translates to something more like "widely significant and not very significant." This line of thought will be expanded on in a separate essay. I concluded the essay by stating that I would explore the "two turnabout archetypes" in terms of the ways they enhance the Bataillean concept of "narrative violence," henceforth "disruption," the specific source of the narrative's conflict, which as specified here may manifest in the mode of the dynamic or the mode of the combinatory. Since I've already critiqued several individual comics-stories for my "1001 myths"series, I'll draw upon two of those for my examples.

This essay on NEW MUTANTS #62 is one of the few occasions on which I dealt with a figure that conforms to the Adonis archetype. This character is the semi-villainous character of Manuel, who in this story forms a romantic connection of sorts with the character of Amara, one of the featured members of the titular group. "To Build a Fire" is a two-character story, dealing with the way in which Amara and Manuel attempt to survive in the Amazon rainforest. I noted in my analysis that Manuel's psychic persuasion-powers were "stereotypically female," while Amara's power-- the ability to manifest volcanic flames-- is far more potent. There is a conflict of dynamicity present, in that both teens are in danger from the jungle's denizens-- a signal irony, since Amara wants to preserve the jungle, refusing to use her power to create a signal-fire (hence the title). However, the primary conflict is of a combinatory nature, in that it deals with the "war between men and women," and the suspense is not so much "will the two teens survive" as it is "will they make sense of their feelings about one another?" In contrast to Amara, who possesses a kick-ass "male" power, Manuel's only influence over Amara is his male charm, enhanced by his mutant power-- though Manuel fits the Adonis mold in that he's strikingly handsome. He verges away from the male superhero mold in that he frequently evinces cowardice and selfishness, but this reversal is precisely what the story needs to bring forth Amara's own growth of consciousness.

For the archetype of the Fighting Woman, I cite this essay on RED SONJA #1 from-1977. This story takes particular interest for its inversion of the folkloric opposition of "the virgin and the unicorn," which in its usual telling claims that a wild unicorn will lose its wildness in the presence of a true virgin, and will lay its horned head in the virgin's lap. The SONJA story deals with a deep soul-bond between a unicorn and the titular swordswoman Red Sonja, who is not a virgin but has chosen to preserve her sexuality as if she were. She's also a swordswoman specifically because she was raped by men, which is an action that the story's villain Andar wishes to commit, in a figurative sense, upon her friend the unicorn. In this narrative the elements of the combinatory are certainly present, given that it belongs to the freewheeling genre of sword-and-sorcery fantasy. However, the archetype of this version of "Athena, Fighting Woman" is dominantly involved in a conflict of dynamicity: Sonja and her magical horse-friend against the depredations of a character whose name suggests a Greek word for "male."

Obviously, since I defined both stories as possessing a high mythicity, both of these stories would meet my criteria for being "consummate." I have not yet decided whether or not I'll try to come up with similar stories which would show these archetypes in an "inconsummate" form. Such stories would be by definition forgettable, and the only good reason to describe them would be to rail at their faults. So I may elect to allow this early CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN story to remain my go-to example of the inconsummate.



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