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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...

Friday, October 16, 2015

MORE NULL-MYTHS NOODLINGS

Enlarging on what I last wrote on the subject here:

It occurred to me that I should expound a little on the fact that when I originally started using the term "null-myth" here, I was primarily applying it to story-elements whose mythic content was negligible in their execution (albeit not potential):

No narrative element is literally empty, of course, any more than "zero" exists as more than an abstraction in this our macroverse. But it's certainly possible for a narrative element to be "negligible in some sense," and it is in that sense that henceforth I'll be using the term "null-myth."
Though I did not link this notion to that of "functionality and super-functionality," I think it's implicit that the null-myth applies to any element that is no more than barely functional in the story.  I recall that in one early essay I noted that even an author like Joyce, who sought to invest one day in Dublin with arcane mythic symbolism, had to sometimes use a door as nothing but something through which "stately, plump Buck Mulligan" might enter, if he Joyce didn't happen to have any reason to emphasize the mythicity of that particular door.

The trouble with establishing the term to mean "bare functionality" is that once you've established it, there's nothing much left to say about it. In my last post, I cited an Aquaman story as a "super-functional" mythcomic. I considered citing the following Aquaman comic as a "null-myth."



This is an infamously bad comic book, in which the raconteurs decided to kill off Aquaman's infant son just to give the hero a reason to go full-bore after the villain responsible. But there's no point in stating that its symbolism falls into the level of "bare functionality." Clearly the creators weren't trying to invoke anything from their readers but a very low level of "feeling."

But because of my realization that on occasions a given work may have symbolic potential, and yet does not use it because of some flaw in the execution, I've started utilizing "null-myth" as a label for all examples of "frustrated mythicity." Thus far all of the null-myths I've identified thus far have frustrated their potential due to one of two reasons:

Either they UNDERTHINK the UNDERTHOUGHT-- that is, the authors show some realization of the power of myth-symbols on their own, but said authors use the symbols as if they were static functions, like Joyce's door-- which is the case with my first example of an "inconsummate" myth-comic, Jack Kirby's first CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN story--




Or they OVERTHINK the OVERTHOUGHT, in that they impose some mental straight-jacket around the potentially free-flowing images and symbols. This might include phenomena as intellectually disparate as the over-intellectualizations of figures like Sim and Ditko, as well as instances where some editorial consideration overrides the free flow. Thus, though the first null-myth in the current series-- "The Wedding of Jimmy Olsen"-- is not in any way "intellectual," the transgressive potential of the set-up is nullified, since someone behind the scenes apparently decided that Jimmy Olsen could not evince lust for Superman's girlfriend Lois. Thus the creators self-consciously "edited" the Jimmy character so that in the finished story Jimmy acts more like a child than a nearly adult man.

Both conditions are undesirable, but at the same time inevitable, the equivalent of the "Apple of Knowledge" whose taste propels us out of Eden, and yet for all that makes the memory of Paradise all the sweeter.

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