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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, October 22, 2015

NULL-MYTHS: "THE SURREALIST IMP" (CAPTAIN MARVEL ADVENTURES #84, 1948)

Though I've labeled some features as "null-myths" because of their failure to emulate the better aspects of the Fawcett Captain Marvel, I should note that the Big Red Cheese had his share of blah stories.



While the titular character in the story "The Surrealist Imp" sounds a bit like an attempt to give Captain Marvel a pesky imp-foe along the lines of Mr. Mxyzptlk. the Imp never makes another appearance. He seems to have been created by writer Bill Woolfolk and artist C.C. Beck just to kick at the Surrealist Movement of the 1920s and 1930s. The story starts off by depicting a world where artistic works gestate before being "delivered" to their earthly creators, roughly along the same lines as storks taking charge of unborn babies before depositing them within earthly wombs.



As the Imp's dialogue makes clear, he's not going to be content for long simply delivering artistic conceptions to their mortal makers. He decides that it's tedious for artists to simply paint what they see, so he decides to make the "real world" reflect the non-representational world seen in surrealistic artworks.




I'm honestly not faulting this story for its failure to provide an even-handed treatment of non-representational art. It's almost axiomatic that a comic book story of this period would not be able to handle such arcane aesthetic questons. But I do rate it as an inconsummate story because Woolfolk and Beck don't follow through on the logic of their own fantasy.

I suspect that the story mainly reflects Beck's preferences for utilitarian art; preferences the artist used to express in vitriolic essays of the 1970s, some of which saw print in the COMICS JOURNAL of that era. After the Imp runs riot in the real world for a few pages, Captain Marvel settles his hash with a quick bop on the noggin.




I would probably have preferred it if Woolfolk and Beck had simply forced the Imp to undo his magical distortions, rather than suggesting that his aberrant attitude could be "fixed" with a concussion. Moreover, while I don't expect two comics-makers in 1948 to know beans about aesthetic theory, they're the ones who claim that all of the artworks from the "ultra-dimensional world" are "masterworks"-- and then turn around and try to imply that there's something deficient in the surrealist viewpoint, with its "horrible garishness."

The full story can be read at this address.



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