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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...

Monday, November 14, 2016

INDIVIDUAL VS. COLLECTIVE AMPLITUDE

In MORE AMPLITUDE ATTITUDE I wrote the following of Robert Kanigher's original take on the Injustice Society of America.

Kanigher favors almost schematic arrangements of his plots and the characters caught up in them, and thus I think most though not all of his stories follow the process of "the overthought" rather than that of "the underthought." As a result, even the individual villains in the Injustice Society story leave something to be desired in the mythicity department; they only take on mythic status through their association. This also stands in contradistinction to Fox's creativity in giving each of his "Sinister Sorcerers" a distinct mythic persona.



It occured to me to rethink this a bit. If a creator has no intention of giving a "mythic persona" to each individual characters within a collective entity, does that in itself compromise the amplitude of the mythic content? Obviously there are various movie-monsters who retain a collective mythic persona despite their lack of individuality, such as the Aliens and the Predators. Every time an Alien or a Predator appears, each monster is virtually indistinguishable from all the others, except for a few defined by their biological functions (the Alien Queen Mother in ALIENS, obviously).



Of course, the comic-book villains of the Injustice Society originally appeared as solo players, even if their potential as mythic figures in their solo stories was more potential than actual. It's entirely possible that the Golden Age villains accrued more mythicity in the Kanigher tale than any of them ever had in their individual appearances.

Now, last week's mythcomic, GOD LOVES MAN KILLS, offers an interesting contrast with regard to the heroes.

The heroes of the 1960s X-Men feature, like the aforementioned Golden Age villains, displayed more mythic potential than mythic actuality. Cyclops, Beast, Iceman, Angel and Marvel Girl had some interesting symbolic moments, but neither their individual heroic personalities nor their collective identity as "the representative of good mutantkind" ever quite caught fire. In the stories analyzed in these two recent essays, here and here, the main players were given far less attention than their foes (the Sentinels and the Juggernaut) and their mentor Professor X.

Though Chris Claremont did not originate the "New X-Men" feature of 1975. during his long tenure he gave much more attention to the individual personas of the group-- both in terms of the dramatic and mythopoeic potentialities-- and to the group's identity as "outsiders by virtue of their freakish births." That said, in GOD LOVES MAN KILLS, the main players once again are not very distinctive from one another in the symbolic department. Part of this may be because the graphic novel was conceived a stand-alone work, one that was not given canonical continuity-status for several years. However, the main reason is surely that since the X-heroes must present a united front against the pernicious menace of the main villain, they sacrifice their individual mythic identities in favor of a collective one.

There are some differences. of course. Cyclops, being the leader, is also the fount of the ideals of the mutant fight for self-determination, but in line with an "accomdational" posture.




Wolverine, in contrast, is more about the practicality of the situation, while Kitty Pryde is the standard Angry Adolescent.






But aside from Professor X-- whose role is entirely passive, becoming a Sacrificial Victim whose torments are meant to condemn the unholy rather than redeeming the fallible-- Magneto, the defender of a vision of separatist mutantkind, assumes more mythic resonance than any of the regular heroes, despite allying himself with their anti-Stryker program.


In fact, it's arguable that Magneto has more mythicity than Stryker. I pointed out that the religious symbolism of Stryker's crusade was not nearly as well evoked as it might have been. Similarly, Claremont also muffs a potential relationship between Stryker's military background and his implicit endorsement of a "muscular Christianity." In contrast, Magneto's mythicity carries an undiluted power. By this time he had been remodeled as a Holocaust survivor, so the sometime-villain's goal of forming his own bailiwick for a persecuted minority has far deeper sociocultural meaning. Even the collective accomodation-myth embodied by the X-Men has far less effectiveness in this story than the separatism-myth embodied by Magneto, even though his role is more or less that of a "guest star."

Nevertheless, the collective form of mythic amplitude has his strengths, though it may channel more emotive force when it's represented by characters who are, like the Aliens and the Predators, very close to being identical.

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