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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...

Saturday, June 27, 2015

RE-ASSESSING THE ARCHIVE

I've been maintaining THE ARCHETYPAL ARCHIVE for a little over seven years now. I've never expected it to be popular on the Internet, given that in many ways it's been a notebook in which I could work out my unabashedly abstruse theories.  Even my waspish challenges to various 'Net critics have been,  for me, elements in necessary elements in the grand scheme.

While I haven't precisely formulated any "Key to All Mythologies and Literature," I have made significant inroads in the construction of such an inclusive theory. I anticipate that I could go on for years, exploring the intricacies of thought that have been borrowed from, or influenced by, such giants as Schopehauer, Nietzsche, Jung, Frye, Cassirer and many others.

But theory alone isn't enough, if the theory can't be put into practice. And for that purpose, I need to create more reviews to illustrate various aspects of my theory. 

About four years ago, I posted JUST THE FIRST MYTHIC MONDAY, a prelude to a series of 26 comics-stories. I had played with the notion that I ought to be able to discern at least 1001 comics-stories that possessed the symbolic complexity of archaic myth. Just for the fun of it I decided to see if I could do one for each letter of the alphabet, before deciding whether or not I would do more. I certainly had some thought about attempting to garner new readers through the use of a regular "special feature:"

...Monday will be the day that any interested party can check in and be reasonably sure that something will have been added. I have no idea whether or not any 'net readers will be interested enough to do so, but I'm cognizant that periodicity is just as important to online readers as Wednesday is for comic-shop customers.

When I didn't get many posted responses, I decided that either (a) the topic, or my presentation of it, did not attract comics-fans to check out this feature, (b) such fans didn't really want to read summaries and analyses of comics-stories, usually with no more than one illustration-excerpt. To the extent that fans wanted to explore such narratives, they wanted either to read the whole stories, or enough excerpts to make them feel like they'd read them. Since I didn't get the response I coveted, I didn't bother to go back to the topic, except on rare occasions, like my recent analysis of CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. This was to some extent a response to a comment here from my correspondent AT-AT Pilot had wondered if I might try to apply my NUM theory to comic books. I responded to him on this particular point in NUM-INOUS COMICS, asserting that it might be tough to say anything meaningful about the comics medium in terms of that particular theory. However, in recent months I've been debating about reviving the "1001 myths" project as a means of illustrating many different aspects of the Gene Phillips "Anatomy of Criticism."

I have to admit that another influence is THE HOODED UTILITARIAN. The theories expressed on that site hardly ever stray from those two comforting critical teats named "Karl" and "Sigmund." But if a reader wants a site full of comics-reviews that are rooted in ultraliberal politics, HU has a lot of them. I argued here  that I don't conceive of "plenitude" in terms of political correctness or even debates about ethical values:

Plenitude for me is the interdependence of [human] senses with the [human] mind's first attempts to understand [sensory input] through symbolic action.
So, if I really want to demonstrate that my view of human plenitude is superior to that of HU, the Comics Journal, and others, the best response is probably not through my argumentative attacks-- fun as those may be-- but through focusing upon the texts themselves, the texts that the "bloody comic book elitists" feel free to misread.

The question then becomes, what is the best means to address the plenitude of comics? After being a fan of the medium for over forty years, and after reading widely in both fiction and non-fiction, I have no doubt that I'm capable of creating the comics-medium's version of "the Library of Apollodorus." I'm capable of devoting time to the project-- but what's the best approach?

I still like the format I premiered here, in which I summarized the narrative to be discussed and then launched into a "mythanalysis," devoted to sorting out the subtler symbolic elements of the stories. However, this format is very work-intensive, and I anticipate that I might get burned out on it pretty soon, especially since there probably won't be a lot of response, if any, to the project. I'm contemplating something more along the lines of the popular TV TROPES, though maybe with a wee bit more critical analysis.

Starting the week of June 28-July 4, I will start posting at least one review of a comic book that meets my criteria for being "mythic." I would like to do two, but that may not be realistic. It's also occurred to me that it might be instructive to post not only an analysis of a consummate "myth-comic," but also one of an *inconsummate* story. Such stories make good counter-examples, in that they will possess myth-elements-- as do all narratives, by virtue of being narratives-- but the story uses them poorly or not to their greatest potential. It might also serve to make clearer that I don't regard "mythic complexity" as some sort of rapture that descends upon the writer as from heaven. Some raptures result only in babbling, while others culminate in a poetry that transcends all the Babel-like confusions of language. 

The very next post, however, will be devoted to enumerating just how many stories I've covered in the "1001 myths" mode, even if they didn't appear in the 26-part "Mythic Monday" project. Also, this time I'm not going to worry about whether they appear on a particular day of the week


ADDENDA, 7-9-15: For each forthcoming "mythcomic" essay I'll include a tag that references which Campbellian function are invoked by the mythic elements, so that each essay will sport at least one of the following: "cosmological myths," "metaphysical myths," "psychological myths," and "sociological myths." This is the same critical regimen I adapted for my movie-reviews on NATURALISTIC! UNCANNY! MARVELOUS!, where I explained my rationale in more detail. As for the 30-plus "mythcomics" that I've listed in the following essay, even I'm not obsessive enough to assign Campbellian functions to these.

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