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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, August 3, 2015


In the first month of posts devoted to "1001 comics myths" and to their Bizarro counterparts the "null-myths," I've covered three of the four types of Campbellian function: "the psychological," "the sociological," and "the metaphysical." The next two will focus on the last of Campbell's functions, "the cosmological," which I also explored in some depth in the essay COMBINATORY CONSIDERATIONS. However, I need to expand still further on the status of the functions with respect to real-world knowledge.

In the aforesaid essay I emphasized the fact that the "regularity" of certain phenomena led to their being encoded in both archaic myths and modern literature. However, whereas regularity (aka "causal coherence," as explained here) is a paramount consideration in the domain of science, it's a secondary consideration in art and literature. In the domain of art, one can choose to adhere absolutely to the demands of a naturalistic cosmos, or one can explore the realms of the uncanny or the marvelous, without any loss of mental rigor.

Though this principle applies equally well to all four Campbellian functions, I stress it with respect to the cosmological-- the function that deals with all the various "science-based" data-- because it's become tediously routine for many fans to sneer at various comics-stories-- usually though not only superhero tales-- because they offend against the Great God Science.

This isn't to say that there aren't a lot of dopey, careless mistakes with regard to violations of physical law, and I've mocked a lot of these myself. In the circles of Marvel fandom, one of the most egregious appeared in the pages of MARVEL TEAM-UP, and was spotlighted in the MARVEL NO-PRIZE BOOK, as follows:

But the sort of tedious sneering I'm thinking of is more on the level of, "Ha ha, Peter Parker would never have received spider-powers from the bite of a radioactive spider; he would've caught CANCER and DIED." Rather than showing either wit or perspicacity, the mocker who comes up with this sort of nonsense is closer to the child playing "shoot-'em-up" who refuses to lie dead when he's shot. It shows an inability to recognize that within the sphere of a given game, the rules as established supersede the considerations of reality.

Thus it should be seen that the forms of knowledge within a fictional universe should not be downgraded because they do not align with what is deemed "scientific knowledge" in the real world. All forms of knowledge in a fictional universe should be deemed *simulacra of knowledge.*  The same holds true for the other functions. Audiences need not believe in Jung's psychological concepts to regard Fellini's Jung-influenced films as illuminating the human condition; need not validate the socialist fallacy of "the rise of the proletariat" in order to derive pleasure from Jack London's IRON HEEL, nor even credit Dave Sim's fusion of Judaism, Islam and Christianity to get insights out of CEREBUS THE AARDVARK.

I should add in closing that while many SF novels and comics have used "science-factoids" as minor gimmicks within narratives, these in themselves are no better than *motifs;* their presence does not necessarily confer high mythicity upon the story as a whole. When considering the first new cosmological myth for this series, I looked at the early stories of the Silver Age FLASH. I might have liked to have included, under "1001 myths," the first Captain Cold story. However, though the villain's origin-tale does dole out a few references to "the phenomena of cold," those references don't eventuate in a high level of cosmological mythicity.

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