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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...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

THE LONG AND SHORT OF MYTH, PT. 1

I've been contemplating the place of comic strips with respect to the "1001 comics myths" project.

I've always thought that comic books have proven themselves a more fertile ground for the  mythopoeic potentiality than comic strips.  I further believe that comic books' greater capacity for myth has nothing to do with the profligacy of superheroes within the American medium; it's a capacity rooted in the comic-book medium's ability to make a more nuanced use of words than the comic-strip medium can. If one could disinclude all of the superhero or superhero-like features from both media, I believe that one would still find that comic books are superior at producing the discourses of myth, which elsewhere I've related to Philip Wheelwright's concept of "poeto-language."

That doesn't mean that I don't find worthwhile "poeto-language" discourses in comic strips. In my essay AN ARCHETYPAL LIBRARY, I mentioned the following strips: Chic Young's BLONDIE, Harold Gould's DICK TRACY, Windsor McCay's DREAMS OF A RAREBIT FIEND, Gary Larson's FAR SIDE, Herriman's KRAZY KAT, and Caniff's TERRY AND THE PIRATES.

However, it may be a mark of the difficulty with critiquing such serial comic strips that I didn't write myth-analyses of any of these, though in the first year of this blog I did devote some attention to a particular PEANUTS conitnuity, which I entitled LINUS THE RAIN KING.  I've latterly decided that this too belongs within the corpus of the 1001 comics-myths, and I'll probably retrofit the original essay slightly for this series at a later date.

Of course PEANUTS may have benefited from the fact that its author Charles Schulz was a lay preacher, so he had a working knowledge of the "poeto-language" of the Bible.




Nevertheless, as a Jungian pluralist I don't believe that one has to have special education to tap into the potentiality of the mythopoeic.

I considered the possiblity that the rather truncated form of the comic strip might tend to force it into a verbal straightjacket, so that it became the dominant practice to use words only in a denotative manner, rarely tapping their connotative associations.  This is certainly a possibility, although Schulz's example shows that one can find ways to use the medium's limitations to produce mythic effects.

Of the six comic strips I mentioned above, the most mundane is Young's BLONDIE, which was certainly not a haven for metaphysical musings. Nevertheless, though I've never devoted any space to the Chic Young strip, in my "Mythic Monday" project I gave a mention to one short tale, "Shaved and Clipped," from a 1962 issue of Harvey Comics' licensed BLONDIE comic-book title. The tale is only two pages long, yet it is more plurisignative than most BLONDIE comic-book stories, to say nothing of many of the comic strips. From this I conclude that the actual length of the narrative doesn't always mitigate against symbolic complexity.

I'm currently considering the proposition that mythopoeic scenarios, much like those of the other potentialities, need to be formulated to allow for *complication*-- though this need not be entirely identical with the Aristotelian term given that translation, as seen in this essay.

I should weigh in on these weighty matters further, in at least one more essay.

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