In this essay, I established that because I define the quality of mythicity in terms of its capacity for combinations, there will always greater potential for mythicity in metaphenomenal narratives than in those of the isophenomenal. That said, the following Jack Cole crime comic-- which appeared in the only comic book to be issued by a publisher named "Magazine Village"-- is one of the more mythically complex isophenomenal works. The entire story appears at this location.
Many crime-comics of the Golden Age, like the
gangster-films that preceded them, followed a set “rise-and-fall” pattern. A gangster rises to power amid a welter of gore, and finally perishes as the
law catches up with him at last. Jack Cole’s “A Match for Satan”is not an exception to this rule. What sets this tale apart from the herd is
Cole’s extraordinary gift for black humor.
Neil Bowman is the
quintessential image of the 1940s hick: tall (6’4”), gangling, wearing a straw
hat and ill-fitting clothes. As an additional touch to further indicate uncouthness, Bowman continuously chews on matches, though he never smokes cigarettes or anything comparable. The artist himself
had one major similarity to Bowman: his height and build, for Cole is described by
Jim Steranko as having “a tall, lanky 6’3” frame. Yet in another respect the
artist appears to be have been very unlike the character of Bowman-- for while Cole’s self-portrait in POLICE
COMICS #10 shows the artist constantly stuttering, Neil Bowman has “the gift of
Throughout the story, Bowman often
(though not always) gets out of assorted scrapes with fast talk, often using
his ‘dumb yokel’ appearance to deceive others.
Admittedly, crafty Bowman bungles
as many crimes as he pulls off. But the story's opening caption tells us that “it seemed so
long as one [match] dangled from [Bowman’s] twisted lips, his luck was
invincible.” The story will show that whatever "luck" Bowman's match-fetish might bring him is highly variable, as is the title. Does it mean that Bowman himself is "a match for Satan," or that the near-brainless, acquisitive evil represented by a single match is the thing that will bring Bowman to a hellish fate?
A Freudian would surely suspect oral issues in a man
who continually sucks on matches. On page 3 of the story, Bowman goes a step further by eating his matches to make the
guards think he’s crazy-- all for the purpose of breaking out of jail.
In Cole’s tale, then, the human mouth is
both a means for brute sustenance (eating: that is, devouring other life) and
for higher communication (talking). But
because Bowman’s only mode of communication is deception for the purpose of
“devouring” others’ lives, he remains a brute in man’s clothing, and like many such brutes, he ends
up deceiving himself at times.
this more the case when Bowman’s heedlessness turns his talisman against him. Though he's entirely guiltless for his heinous actions, he starts leaving his matches at crime-scenes. Thus Bowman's compulsive habits give the police a means to convict him, through the saliva he leaves
on the matches. Even to the last,
Bowman continues to use his mouth to attempt deception, but the match—the only
time in the story a match gets lighted—shows us the true reward of the brute:
the fires of the electric chair, doubtless to be followed by the more satanic
fires of the title.
SUPERHEROES ARE DAMN-NEAR EVERYWHERE #77
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