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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...

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

TURNING A HUNDRED

This week I should produce my hundredth formal "mythcomics" entry. I've provided one entry each week since the first week of July 2015. These weekly postings were also supplemented by 32 earlier posts on diverse myth-analyses, as explained here.

Since it's now a year and two months since the official project started, I'll admit that there's not much chance that I'll ever reach 1001 full entries. I still think there are probably enough mythic stories out there, many of which have gone unheralded by ideological critics. But time and tide being what they are, I suppose I'll be lucky to make it to 500-- especially since the online fan-press won't even notice this particular milestone.

I wondered if I ought to choose something "special" for post #100. On reconsideration I decided that it wasn't enough of an event to do so, but I decided to post some thoughts on what might be deemed a "really significant" mythcomic.

A lot of superhero references tend to focus on origin-stories, and while many of these succeed in capturing the complexity of mythic discourse, there are just as many that qualify only as "near myths"-- notably that of Batman, which I plan to scrutinize at some future date.

A notable exception-- and the one candidate I originally deemed possible for "Number One Hundred"-- is FANTASTIC FOUR #1. I won't do FF #1 this week, but my reasons for considering it are as follows.

The ideological critics worked with might and main to conceive a model for the comics-medium that stood independent of the image of the superhero genre; one that could in theory stand as a canon of mature, worthwhile comics. as with COMICS JOURNAL's 1999 list of the best English-language comics. Thus this list was heavy on works that possessed, or appeared to possess, lofty intellectual credentials.

It's my considered opinion, though, that the constructions of the intellect always arise from the primary foundation of the imagination. The intellect needs the imagination for depth, while the imagination can get by without the intellect, though it's arguably more successful with a sense of direction provided by intellect's discursive nature.

FANTASTIC FOUR #1, while just as directed toward juvenile audiences as SUPERMAN and BATMAN, is one of the first mythcomics in which the imaginative elements are being subtly guided by the intellectual concerns. These concerns were dominantly those relating to thinking about the image of the superhero and how it might function in a more melodramatic context-- one dealing with romance, money troubles, and so on. The actual story of FF #1 has been described as opening the door of the routine comics medium into a new world, and I would agree. The best war stories of Kurtzman were no better than war stories in prose had been; the best horror stories of EC Comics might rank alongside the best prose horror-stories, but they couldn't exceed that level.

Comic-book superheroes technically belong to a wider spectrum of combative heroes in many different genres, ranging from THE MARK OF ZORRO to THE LORD OF THE RINGS, but the narrow genre of superheroes, while it had been imitated in other media, had never been exceeded by those media. When the Fantastic Four came up with a new model for the superhero genre, it provided not just a door, but a gateway-- some would say a "gateway drug"-- to deeper potential in the genre.

Whatever I choose in the next two days for #100, it will be indicative of that potential.

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