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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, May 24, 2017

MYTHCOMICS: "QUEEN OF URANUS" (FORBIDDEN WORLDS #58, 1959)

Just to get the obvious joke out of the way: of whose anus was the main character supposed to be queen, anyway?



Like most of ACG's stories, this one was written by the editor in charge of the line, Richard Hughes. Following the institution of the Comics Code, ACG continued to print comics books with titles that seemed to promise the thrills of the horror-tale-- FORBIDDEN WORLDS, ADVENTURES INTO THE UNKNOWN-- but what Hughes served up was more in the nature of supernatural whimsy, along the lines of Thorne Smith. Since the ACQ line survived until 1967, Hughes must have found a readership of some sort. Many of his stories focused on misfits or nebbishes who had their lives changed, often for the better, by encounters with the supernatural or science fictional presences.

I commented on this story a while back when it was reprinted on this entry of "Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blogzine," stating the following

I'll give Richard Hughes this much: he might not have been especially insightful about feminine psychology, but he is at least making some attempt in this respect.
Basically, Miss Purdy (as in "you shore are purdy") isn't so much pursuing her own path as butting her head up against societal expectations. Her tension suggests to me that she doesn't have any philosophical reason for wanting not to get dolled up; she's masochistically enjoying the disapproval she gets from society in order to stage an ongoing "pity party." Didn't Aristotle say something about how the man who walks around with a hole in his clothing may be showing off just as much as the man who wears fine clothes?
The story's joke is that when Kryptos ("hidden") responds favorably to her dowdy looks, she doesn't exactly respond to him with such fervor. His appreciation, though, gives her the gumption to get gussied up, which wins her the approval of her peers-- which is arguably what she's really been after all along with her "dressing down."

To expand on the "pity party" interpretation somewhat, here's the second page of the story, which will indirectly play into Miss Purdy's encounter with real aliens:



Note that Purdy was assigned to complete a creature-costume a month ago, and that when her principal Mr. Cannon asks her about it in a very professional manner, she complains about all her troubles managing "the children," as if she were a wife grousing to her husband. Clearly Purdy has put off her assignment-- a responsibility that she shares with the other teachers at the school-- because she seeks attention in a somewhat masochistic manner. On a subconscious level she wants to be dressed down so that she can complain about her lot in life. Yet she's conscious that she meant to be "charming" to Mr. Cannon, and that she made a bad job of it. At this point she's not even aware of having any romantic interest in Cannon, but her interaction with the mild-mannered principal shows that she wanted some validation from him.

On the same page she seeks validation as a teacher from the children by trying to get them to share her interest in her collection of tektites (meteor fragments). The kids don't care about rocks; they want to know that she's going to have the creature-costume ready for their play. The final panel suggests that Purdy has identified with the tektites as something outside the dull round of her existence.

Sure enough, the meteor-fragments are her gateway to redemption. The tektites start glowing, and two child-sized aliens show up in Purdy's room. whisking her away to meet with their ruler Kryptos. The alien, who describes himself as "overlord of Uranus," tells Purdy that the tektites were sent by the Uranians to remote parts of Earth to provide homing-beacons for Uranian scoutships. The story says almost nothing about why the Uranians wanted to visit Earth, but the broad implication is that they're simply making a covert scientific study of Earth-people, even though their leader Kryptos finds the faces of Earth-people "hard, selfish, empty of feeling." Yet he's immediately smitten with homely Purdy, and invites her to come back to Uranus with him and reign as queen. Purdy, though confused, is deeply affected by Kryptos' ardor, and immediately seeks to upgrade her appearance.




"I've got a reason to do something about my looks," she says to herself. This line reinforces my above interpretation that at base, Purdy always wanted attention, but she took the easy way, choosing to eschew makeup and pleasant attire, drawing negative attention in the fashion of the individual who refused to mend the holes in his garments.

I can see how a critic might make the error that the story is all about socializing women to look pretty for men. But Hughes repeats on page 31 Cannon's judgment that Purdy suffered from tenseness, and puts it in the head of Purdy herself: "Now that I'm no longer tense, the children have quieted down!" A refinement of this catchpenny psychology would be to state that. along with Wilhelm Reich, that people often maintain defensive, "armoring" reactions to potential conflict. But once Kryptos sees beauty where everyone else-- including Purdy-- saw only plainness, Purdy is able to "strut her stuff" with confidence. The children respond positively to her new confidence, and so does Principal Cannon.



It will surprise no reader that when Kryptos sees the changes, he proves that he only liked her because she was so different from the majority of Earth-people, which is, at base, no better than liking someone exclusively because one is beautiful. It's also significant that before Kryptos manages to express his horror at Purdy's refined appearance, she's already decided not to accept his proposal. Purdy is more than happy to release Kryptos from his commitment, and in a rather commonplace twist ending, all Purdy wants from the alien is one of his men's conveniently child-sized costumes, to use in the play.



An additional note: I'll admit that it's hard to be sure whether or not Richard Hughes was enough of a wordsmith to know that the Greek source for the name "Kryptos" carried the original meaning of "things hidden." If he did know it, then Hughes may have been referencing the hidden nature of Purdy's psychological complexes. But of course, comic books have made the root-word famous in the context of the adventures of DC Comics' Man of Steel-- and I must admit that "Queen of Uranus" might also carry the connotation of a rewritten Superman/Lois Lane encounter; one in which the alien does NOT get the girl.

Both the full story and the others in the comic can be read here.

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