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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...

Saturday, May 21, 2016


This is not so much a follow-up to the first ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS essay as to my recent myth-analysis of LOVE IN HELL-- reason being that this is the first mythcomic I've examined in which one might argue that the locale is just as important to the story as the two principal characters.

Environment varies in its amplitude throughout the mythcomics, just as that of any presence, even a focal character. In one of my earliest essays on focal presences, I mentioned that in Arthur Conan Doyle's original novel THE LOST WORLD, Doyle's heroes were the focal presences, but that the Lost World itself became the focus in the 1925 film.

There's great precedence for this sort of "man vs. nature" opposition, but this formula has never been nearly as popular as "man vs. man." It's not uncommon, even in the most strongly mythic narratives, for the environment to fade into the background, even if that environment is sometimes a major generator of mythic content. Thus, even though many THOR stories describe the power of the Lee-Kirby Asgard to generate all manner of Nordic strangeness, in "The Mangog Saga" Asgard might as well be the Pyrenees for all the impact that the locale has upon the struggle between main character Thor, his various allies, and the seemingly invulnerable Mangog.

In some situations, the environment retains its mythic nature within a given narrative, but its myth-power stems from a particular character. In the SON OF SATAN story "Dance with the Devil, My Red-Eyed Son," the soul of Daimon Hellstrom is apparently drawn down into Hell, with whose denizens he must battle. Only by story's end does the reader learn that this particular version of Hell is not one that exists independently of its satanic master, for it's actually Satan's own dream.

In a less direct manner, some environments can be seen as being more metaphorical expressions of a character's good or evil: thus in Kirby's NEW GODS saga, New Genesis embodies the creative empathy of its patriarch Highfather and Apokolips is the expression of the corruption of its master Darkseid-- though admittedly both worlds already show those predilections, long before either of the respective "New Gods" comes into existence.

 There's also a sort of ambiguous middle ground. as seen with"the Palace of Ice," In this extended dream, Nemo experiences what I termed "a child's version of the metaphysics of ice and snow, taking in from juvenile pleasures like toboggan-riding and snowball-fights as well as the more profound wonders of the Northern Lights and the mysterious North Pole." McCay probably does not mean to assert that either Jack Frost or his realm possess any reality independent of Little Nemo's imagination. Nevertheless, this ice-world possesses far more amplitude than most real dreams.

In contrast, the Hell of LOVE IN HELL does not seem to be an expression of any character's imagination or personality. Hell does have its ruler, Japan's traditional hell-lord King Enma (who according to some references is actually female), but Enma only makes one appearance in the narrative, and then only toward the very end, where the ruler's gigantic foot intrudes upon the inferno to mete out justice. Rintaro, the "new fish-soul" in Hell, is not especially mythic in himself, any more than any other "everyman" character, given that most such characters are meant to heighten the significance of other characters by their ordinariness. The demoness Koyori serves to explain the ways of Hell to Rintaro, but she's new to the job of being a soul-torturing demon, so she's not a pure representative of Hell, in the same way Darkseid is a pure representative of the ethos of Apokolips.

All this said, though much of LOVE IN HELL's narrative is devoted to describing the infernal domain, I would not go so far as to say that Hell is the"main character" of the story, in the manner that I've said that Wonderland is the "main character" of Carroll's Alice books. In this essay I said that the Alice books were *exothelic,* meaning that 'the narrative is focused upon the will of "the other," something outside the interests of the viewpoint character, though not necessarily opposed to them.' LOVE IN HELL comes very close to this, but in the final analysis it's still more focused upon the evolving relationship of Rintaro and Koyori as they interact both with each other and the strange requirements of their domain-- so that LOVE IN HELL is as *endothelic,* wherein "the narrative is focused upon the will of the viewpoint character or of someone or something that shares that character's interests."

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