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SIX KEYS TO A LITERARY GENETIC CODE

In essays on the subject of centricity, I've most often used the image of a geometrical circle, which, as I explained here,  owes someth...

Saturday, September 29, 2018

MYTHCOMICS: "THE 24-HOUR MAN" (AMAZING ADVENTURES #35, 1976)

H.G. Wells' 1897 WAR OF THE WORLDS novel spawned countless "BEM-chases-babes" stories along the lines of this image from INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN:



Despite later uses of Wells' alien invasion concept, though, the novel barely alludes to sex. Marvel's 1970s "War of the Worlds" comic book, however, almost had to delve into such matters, given that it was designed to emulate the success of the company's own CONAN comic. That said, whereas the original "Conan" stories and most sword-and-sorcery stories replaced "BEM-and-babe" with "beast-and-babe," Marvel's take on Wells was not nearly as given to outright usages of sex appeal. "War of the Worlds"-- later retitled "Killraven, Warrior of the Worlds"-- thus kept a foot in both the world of barbarian fantasy and that of the science-fiction invasion-drama. When the Martians return to Earth after their failed attack at the turn of the 20th century, their second invasion proves wildly successful, and one of the few Earth-men capable of mounting a defense is buff, long-haired warrior Killraven, who wields a sword as often as he fires a ray-gun. Killraven is joined by a small coterie of freedom-fighters. though in issue #35, Carmilla Frost, M'Shulla Scott, and the slightly dim stalwart Old Skull are the only ones following the main hero. Hot female characters, good and bad, are frequently seen, but rarely does the hero get rewarded with sexual favors, as did most sword-and-sorcery heroes. Indeed, the only ongoing sexiness was between Carmilla and M'Shulla, one of the first white/black racial hookups in commercial comic books.



Further, Earth under the Martians sometimes resembles Wells' ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU, for almost every issue pits Killraven and his buddies against some perversion of humanity, brought into being by Martian experimental science. Even Killraven himself is a perversion of sorts, since from the first issue by Gerry Conway and Howard Chaykin, he's been given a special psychic affinity with the invading aliens, the better to spy on the Martians and learn their weaknesses.

Not until writer Don McGregor teamed with artist Craig Russell, however, did the series earn plaudits with Bronze Age readers. Thus at the time they worked on "The 24-Hour Man," the creators had been receiving some acclaim, which may have encouraged them to experiment along lines of science-fiction speculation. (I should note here that Russell only supplies layouts to this 1976 story, with Keith Giffen receiving pencil-credits.) As in many science-fiction novels, the apocalyptic devastation of the existing world is an excuse to cast aspects of real history into new shapes. This may be one reason that McGregor chose to set the story in Atlanta, Georgia-- though, as I noted here, he barely references the city's Civil War history, except in relation to the movie "Gone with the Wind." McGregor's allusion to the spousal rape of Scarlett O'Hara has little or nothing to do with Margaret Mitchell's meaning, so it would seem that McGregor largely mentions the Mitchell work simply as a jumping-off point for his own concerns, the evocation of the Gothic theme of the persecuted woman.



Killraven and his friends stumble onto a cemetery outside the no-longer-inhabited Atlanta, and in said graveyard they find a never-named young woman ranting over the body of a withered humanoid figure clad in golden armor. When the apparent madwoman flees the cemetery, the warriors chase her, to keep her from harming herself. Then it becomes apparent that the woman has a guardian, a huge, multi-legged serpent-beast, whom she calls by the name G'Rath, and who prevents her from leaving. Killraven and the others intervene to defend the woman, but unbeknownst to them, G'Rath has a ally named Emmanuel ("God is with us" in Hebrew). human-looking except for possessing green hair and green skin.While the heroes battle the monster, Emmanuel covertly takes the gold armor from the dead humanoid, dons it, and proceeds to steal Carmilla from her allies.



Given the earlier mention of rape on the story's first page, the reader would be justified in assuming that Emmanuel abducts Carmilla in order to rape her-- though the unnamed madwoman's has already raved about having carried "G'Rath's child." In Emmanuel's conversation with Carmilla, it's implied that he does not plan to violate her. He wants feminine understanding from her, but he and G'Rath are symbiotically bound to one another in some way. The previous child of G'Rath perished after nine months in his mother's womb and one day outside it, for he was a "24-hour man"-- and so is Emmanuel. McGregor supplies no details as to how this symbiosis came about, nor does he even attribute this biological anomaly to Martian science. In apocalyptic worlds, of course, "mad science" sometimes just happens on its own, and apparently that's what gives a non-human creature like G'Rath the power to impregnate a human woman with a changeling. Emmanel's role in the symbiosis is never clear, though if he didn't have green hair and flesh, maybe he could pass as a "judas goat," able to move freely among humans long enough to catch a potential mate for his "father/sibling."

At any rate, Killraven's group manages to interrupt G'Rath's impending nuptials, and though both G'Rath and Emmanuel are destroyed, the heroes mourn the passing, since the two of them no more chose their own biological destiny than does a mayfly. One page is particularly strong in evoking Carmilla's fear of having her own biology hijacked by an invader, of possibly going as mad as the unnamed madwoman as a result.



Though I'm not a Freudian, it's hard not to perceive some psychosexual symbolism here. Though in actual mythology serpents can be as readily feminine as masculine-- a point Freud missed in his analysis of the Medusa figure-- it's hard to imagine G'Rath as anything but a "penis-monster." And if G'Rath is a penis, then what could Emmanuel be, but that which transmits male genes, that which is doomed to perish if *it* does not unite with a female egg? As I said, this similitude begs to be acknowledged, though not for a moment do I think that it "explains" the story, which is more concerned with grand tragedy than with Freud's reductive concepts.

McGregor and Russell even manage to tie Emmanuel's tragedy in with that of Killraven, the only member of the group who has been biologically altered. Toward the story's end, Killraven says, "You were right, Carmilla Frost. We could not save him. By our  separate natures and needs, we were forged as opponents, for our own survival. He would shattered you, the way his mother was shattered-- but it is more than passing odd-- it is still as if we shared a common curse."

The common curse may be that of all humanity in the Killraven world has been permanently reduced to a state of abjection by the Martian incursion. And yet McGregor adds in the final panel that the heroes "are only vaguely aware of the hint of beauty amid the darkly perverse events." This observation might bring some critics back to the jumping-off point, wherein spousal rape is more "romantic" than vanilla sex-- or it might also say something about the interactions, however unwelcome, of violence and sexuality.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

BRIEF RETURN TO FAKE-RAPE

I summarized my views on the use of rape as a fictional trope in the "Fake-Rape" series, beginning with this 2014 post. The topic will be coming up in this week's mythcomic, but this essay concerns how the comic's author seems to have misread one of the most famous of all "literary rapes."

In "The 24-Hour Man" from AMAZING ADVENTURES #35, Don McGregor makes one reference to Margaret Mitchell's GONE WITH THE WIND, apart from his general strategy of setting the tale in Atlanta, where the main action of  Mitchell's novel takes place. At the story's opening, McGregor writes:

Scarlet O'Hara led Rhett Butler to distraction in this city, till finally he swept her into his arms with Clark Gable finesse-- only to leave her with a casual farewell-- "Frankly, Scarlet, I don't give a damn!

Following a caption designed to bring the reader into the (futuristic) present, Mc Gregor adds:

--and there are still women, even here, in these ruins, who can make a man curse, yet still be lost!

There's no way of telling from the story whether or not McGregor read the novel, but the mention of Clark Gable leads me to guess that he's referencing only the movie-- though strangely, he gets one of the most famous lines in cinema wrong. It's "My dear, I don't give a damn" in the book, and the movie adds the emphatic (and rather courtly) "frankly," but neither line addresses Scarlett by name-- a name which McGregor manages to misspell twice.

My analysis of "24-Hour Man" will touch on some of the larger issues of rape, both in its literal and metaphorical aspects, but I feel constrained to point out that McGregor's interpretation of the story is strangely off-kilter, even if his main motivation was to enlist the icons of GONE WITH THE WIND to enhance his very different theme.

Still, given that McGregor must have  known how well the events were known to educated readers, it's peculiar that he would misrepresent Mitchell's events so egregiously. He telescopes the event of Scarlett's spousal rape with Butler's leavetaking, as if Butler left once he's had his fun. Even the ill-chosen word "casual"-- which doesn't apply to the Butler character, either in the book or the film-- seems calculated to make Butler seem like a "love-'em-and-leave-'em" cad, when in fact he's in love with Scarlett for a much longer period than she is with him. Here's my summation of the spousal rape and the emotions behind it, from the second part of the FAKE-RAPE series:

Yet GWTW's rape is more than a mere "bodice-ripper:" it speaks to specifically female issues, not in terms of the relationships of women to men, but of women to other women.  Few if any female readers will fail to realize my earlier point, that Rhett has fallen in love with Scarlett even at a time when she primarily thinks of him as an attractive scoundrel who has a lot of money.  Scarlett commits many sins for which readers will want to see her punished, as do her detractors within the novel-- but for many readers this will be her worst sin: failing to love the man devoted to her, and forbidding him from her bed simply because she does not want more children.  In addition, her continued pursuit of Ashley Wilkes-- although somewhat on the wane by the time the spousal rape takes place-- adds fuel to the fire that causes Rhett to lose all control. Of course, as both the book and its film-adaptation make clear, the "punishment" is something less than punitive. By the generally sunny disposition Scarlett displays the next morning, Leslie Fiedler surmises that Scarlett has had her first orgasm, though Fiedler admits that Mitchell does not say this in so many words.

 It's at least true that Scarlett drives Rhett "to distraction," though McGregor isn't concerned with the Southern belle's specific, quasi-adulterous actions. "Finesse" is a word that could apply to a lot of Clark Gable's courtship of Vivien Leigh in the film, but it hardly applies to the spousal rape, and indeed it's not finesse that seems to have impressed Scarlett in the book/movie. McGregor's final reference to Mitchell's heroine comes closest to capturing the icon's original appeal, that she has the power to make men curse, and yet cannot save herself from being "lost."

With this bit of cross-comparison out of the way, I can concentrate better on the story proper in the forthcoming mythcomics analysis.

LOVE OVER WAR (FOR NOW) PT. 4

At the end of Part 1, I wrote:

To re-state: even though I don't believe that biology is the sole determinant of gender differentiation, I categorically do believe that the biological potential of males to develop greater strength and body-mass makes a crucial difference in their tastes in fiction. The next logical questions, then, would be:
(1) What tendency of females can be seen as the "objective correlative" (borrowed from T.S. Eliot, even if I don't agree with his application of it) for the female preference for "love and domestic situations?"
(2) Assuming that I find such an objective correlative, in what way do fictional love-narratives express "high spirits," paralleling the expression of similar spirits in fictional war-narratives?

I decided to answer the second question first, and so devoted Part 3 to giving examples of "love-narratives" in which two characters found some method of accomodation to one another, whether fully or partly successful. All five of the narratives I chose used some tropes that suggested a negotiation of non-martial power between two individuals, though in the case of THE FALL, the trope-- female temptress manipulates aimless male-- did not eventuate in megadynamic sexuality.  In the case of SWAMP THING, I didn't think the story exhibited evidence that both of the principals engaged in "mind-sex" were equally dynamic, which means that the encounter couldn't register as a parallel to the combative mode. In the other three accomodation narratives, the principals in each couple, whether they had literal sex or not, displayed some form of megadynamic might which could metaphorically translate into evidence of sexual potency.

In real life, males and females of the human species also possess differing forms of "might" in terms of their biological proclivities. For males, the tendency to "develop greater strength and body-mass" than females is their form of "might," and influences the male's taste in entertainment. A frivolous answer to the question of "what do women have" might involve the ability to bear children. However, this is not an ability that females independently of males, since fertilization is necessary for pregnancy to take place. So this ability does not represent a true parent to the male tendency toward muscular development.

However, the female's ability to produce multiple orgasms, irrespective of whether her stimulation comes from a male partner or not, would seem to be the "objective correlative" I'm looking for. Some references attribute the female's capacity for orgasms within a regulated time-frame is about ten to one, though some of these references caution that not all multiple orgasms are equally satisfying, for women any more than for men. Nevertheless, the potential seems intrinsic to the human female, even if the potential comes about due to the male's great refractory period after sex.

The respective bodily propensities of males and females might be seen as a rough parallel to the Yang and the Yin of Chinese Taoism, given that "Yang" is seen as an active principle and "Yin" as a passive one. Of course, in this case "activity" is a matter of perspective, since a body that can orgasm many times exhibits more activity than one that only does it once. So maybe a better parallel would be between "extroversive activity," in which the subject seeks to use bodily strength to acquire other objects, and "introversive activity," in which the subject seeks to experiences the body's deeper ability to produce pleasure not necessarily tied to external objects.






Monday, September 24, 2018

LOVE OVER WAR (FOR NOW) PT. 3

In this essay I'll explore the application of my concept of megadynamicity to a selection of comics-narratives that I've more fully analyzed in my mythcomics essays. The common ground for all five stories is that they are all "love-narratives." As I noted in ACCOMODATING ACCOMODATION, such narratives are a subset of the total set of "accomodation narratives," so I've already specified that I'm not claiming that these are the only form in which the accomodation patterns appears. However, since I've put forth the proposal that "love-narratives" are "female" while "war-narratives" are male, this point will be brought forth better by focusing only on examples that concern the theme of heterosexual love (and not, say, homosocial affection, as one can find in Dave Sim's "Guys" arc.)

To reframe my question: my first premise is that in real life, sex, like violence, is an activity that often (though not always) involves at least two subjects. In literature both activities can be portrayed as being exactly as the reader perceives them in real life, or they can be exaggerated or enhanced by tropes of what the reader considers "fantasy." I've stipulated in previous essays, such as SUBLIMITY VS. MYTHICITY PART 3,  that phenomenality makes no difference to dynamicity. In that essay all of my examples were "confrontation narratives," but the principle holds true for "accomodation narratives" as well, as well as for any potential portmanteau combinations of the two patterns (such as one might find in an anthology-film).

Here are my examples of accomodation-narratives with a theme of heterosexual love:







At the end of Part 2 of LOVE OVER WILL (FOR NOW),  I remarked that the end of Yeats's poem "Solomon and the Witch," it is suggested-- though not made definite-- that Solomon and Sheba have such great sex that the world seems to have come to an end. Even if this is just Solomon's metaphorical reading, this is still a representation of sex that goes beyond the limits of what real-life sex can do, and thus aligns itself with metaphenomenal narratives. Isophenomenal narratives can only portray the real base action of sexual activity, and so it follows that all such narratives can only be "sexually megadynamic" if they portray two or more sexual participants who are really, really good at shtupping, even though they can't cause the world to end. 



This is certainly not the case with the ambivalent romantic pair of THE FALL, Kirk and June. In a probable emulation of a "film noir" trope, June plays the femme fatale and manipulates good-hearted schmuck Kirk, not for any grand design but just to enjoy a sense of power. They don't ever get it on within the space of the narrative, though the possibility of romance is suggested at the conclusion. Thus they provide a sort of "negative example," in that one has no reason to think that the universe would have stopped, even if they had made it.



SHE TRIED HER OWN ON (with the words "Balls and All" in a subtitle), is my best illustration of a nearly naturalistic situation, although the particular story has metaphenomenal content. The basic situation is certainly bizarre even for a comedy: high-school boy Takeshi is more or less forced to live in the home of an eccentric Japanese family, the Dominas, because their daughter Hikari lied to her parents and claimed that Takeshi was her boyfriend. Hikari only did so to get out of an arranged marriage, but the longer she's forced to remain in Takeshi's company, the more she becomes intrigued with him as a potential consort. The self-contained story deals with Hikari dreaming an erotic fantasy about Takeshi's balls, imagining them as enormous, even though her waking mind knows better. Hikari's witchy grandmother enspells her so that the girl temporarily obtains male equipment, enabling Hikari to see how the other half lives. After this trial ends and the young girl goes back to normal, she apologizes to Takeshi for having injured him in his sensitive spot. But her dreams still play havoc with her conceptions of human genitalia, for her next dream is an absurd megadynamic exaggeration of real sex, as Hikari imagines that she again meets Takeshi and engages in a contest of "dueling phalluses." Though the magic spell is real within the story's confines, the overall implication is one that could have been enacted within an entirely naturalistic phenomenality, using dreams to portray Hikari's weird projections about sex.

(Note: though Takeshi's prowess in this particular story is only imagined, some of the DOMINA stories suggest that he forms an uncanny erotic devotion to Hikari, and to Hikari alone, so that the entire corpus of stories implies an eventual sexy culmination for their wack-a-doodle romance.)



RITE OF SPRING is a more explicit exaggeration of sex, given that the act is dominantly mental, taking place between human woman Abigail Arcane and the penis-less Swamp Thing. Alan Moore's script and Steve Bissette's art are at their best, as Swamp Thing gives Abigail a unique form of communion, by having her devour one of the hallucinogenic tubers growing from his body. Their shared mental experience has megadynamic potential, but I hesitate to include this one, simply because the idea of the combative focuses on two extraordinary willing subjects joining together, either in combat or in cooperation, and unfortunately, there's nothing extraordinary about the human participant in this "hieros swampos."



RITE is an accomodaton narrative within a series that is dominantly confrontational, and the same is true for TO BUILD A FIRE. Amara, one of the New Mutants, is stranded in the Amazon jungle with a sometime enemy, Manuel. As they forge through the jungle, trying to reach civilization, the two of them never precisely fight, but they are in conflict due to their mutual attraction-- though some of Amara's erotic feeling toward Manuel may stem from his mind-control powers. As I point out in the main essay, Amara, who knows the jungle better than city-boy Manuel, often assumes the "male" role in their travails, and Manuel is relegated to "feminine persuasion," as he argues that she should use her mutant fire-powers to signal a rescue-party. Ironically, the moment when Amara more or less gives in to Manuel's demand may or may not be a response he has coerced-- even Manuel is not sure-- and yet Amara's surrender is marked by a note of defiance rather than acquiescence.




SISTER SYNDROME is a few chapters away from the romantic finale of the LOVE HINA series, but the arc is crucial to the accomodation of main characters Keitaro and Naru. For many stories previous, the most-reused joke in the series is one in which (1) Keitaro somehow offends Naru, usually by catching her half-naked, and (2) Naru punches him. Though technically neither one is "super-powered," comic exaggeration allows Naru to hit Keitaro so hard that he flies into the air, and also allows Keitaro to survive incredible falls and huge objects striking him. Though there are minor metaphenomenal entities in the stories, Naru and Keitaro are only supernormal in being "slapstick gods." SISTER SYNDROME has a confrontation-element, in that Keitaro's adoptive sister Kanako arrives and nearly undermines Naru's relationship with Keitaro. However, toward the end, even Kanako gives way to their romantic mystique, which culminates in the elusive Naru finally deciding to commit to her persistent boyfriend. The coda implies that the violence between them has become eroticized, and that their eventual nuptials will be preceded by a bout of erotic violence-- with the female on top, of course.




The three narratives that qualify as examples of megadynamic sex-- the ones in DOMINA NO DO, NEW MUTANTS, and LOVE HINA-- all depend on channeling the sexual nature of their principal characters through exaggerations of real human abilities, iu much the same way that examples of megadynamic combat deal with powers not commonly within the sphere of human ability.

Section Four will focus more on the question raised in Part One. 




Sunday, September 23, 2018

LOVE OVER WAR (FOR NOW) PT. 2

My essay THE NARRATIVE RULE OF EXCESS was the primary argument in which I connected Nietzsche's specific idea of "high spirits" with my concept of megadynamicity, extrapolated from Kant's considerations of "might" in CRITIQUE OF JUDGMENT. In EXCESS I argued that Nietzsche's philosophical championing of the "excess of strength" had a parallel within literary narratives, where "excess of strength" manifests as the megadynamic power of one or more characters.

Now, for the majority of my posts on the "conflict and combat" subject, I have analyzed the appearances of megadynamic power within what I termed, in ACCOMODATING ACCOMODATION, "confrontation narratives." Historically, such narratives have been devalued by critics, who disparaged violence-based narratives as being either vulgar or counter-progressive. I still value confrontation narratives as much as I ever did, and I focus upon accomodation narratives merely for the purpose of exploring other aspects of the dynamicity theory. I hope I will never be accused of sharing the views of those jejune critics have often championed accomodation narratives for idiotic reasons like "they're more like real life."

Now, I've specified in various essays that Kantian "might" did not necessarily manifest only in violent forms. The three-part essay A REALLY LONG DEFINITION OF VIOLENCE, beginning here, cites how a non-violent form of might informs the ending of the Moore-Gibbons WATCHMEN. I would deem this graphic novel a "confrontation narrative" even though it's one in which the "good guys" essentially lose. Yet although the heroes are forced to cover up the villain's perfidy for a perceived public good, it's the journal of the slain crusader Rorschach that *may* have the power to defeat the villain's long-term aims. I would not call the journal "megadynamic," of course. It serves as an objective correlative for the power of the people, who will presumably rise up against the villain's hoax *if* they are given the knowledge to do so.

The journal also has nothing to do with Nietzsche's "high spirits," which is appropriate, since Moore makes poor usage of Nietzsche in "The Abyss Gazes Also." I bring it up, though, to show that "forms of might" can inhere in a variety of situations that do not involve violent confrontation.

So I began to ask myself: what would "high-spirited," megadynamic might look like within the context of that subset of "accomodation narratives" known as "love stories?" And here's one of the first examples that came to mind, provided by Yeats in his 1921 poem "Solomon and the Witch:"

'A cockerel 
Crew from a blossoming apple bough 
Three hundred years before the Fall, 
And never crew again till now, 
And would not now but that he thought, 
Chance being at one with Choice at last, 
All that the brigand apple brought 
And this foul world were dead at last. 
He that crowed out eternity 
Thought to have crowed it in again. "

Some critics aver  that this is a reference to the idea that Solomon and Sheba had such great, mutually-satisfying intercourse that the cock that had crowed when the world started crowed again because the bird thought the end of the world had come. This is probably as "megadynamic" as sex can get, and provides an illustration of the theoretical upward limit of sexual ecstasy in its fullest sense of "high spirits."

Part 3 will explore other, less cosmic examples.

Friday, September 21, 2018

ACCOMODATING ACCOMODATION

In the second part of  LOVE OVER WILL (FOR NOW), I started exploring the matter of narratives that emphasizes non-confrontational forms of conflict. First, I''ll place this particular categorization of narratives in more perspective by returning to some comments I made in the 2012 essay THE COMPLICATIONS OF COMEDY:

Quiller-Couch's arrangement, by its use of the opposed terms "protagonist" and "antagonist," also suggests opposition in every sense.  And yet, it's possible-- particularly in comedy-- for the conflict to be one that results in accomodation rather than confrontation.

In this essay and its second part, I explained that romantic comedies-- whether they were stand-alone works (I MARRIED A WITCH) or serial works (BEWITCHED)-- often ended with some accomodation of the primary couple involved. This I tend to view as a dominantly "female" narrative form, as opposed to the dominantly "male" narrative form that emphasizes a confrontation, which, more often than not, ends with one subject triumphing over the other.

Now, "accomodation narratives" are not solely about romantic encounters between a couple, be they heterosexual or otherwise. Just scanning the first year of films I reviewed on my movie-blog, I came across my review of 2011's HUGO. This film does not involve romance in any way, but does involve an accomodation between two principal characters. One of these is the orphan Hugo, who loses his father early in the film, while the other is a bitter, elderly man named Georges. Hugo investigates the strange old fellow and learns that Georges is actually the once-famous movie-maker Georges Melies. Hugo's detective work results in Melies being lionized by his peers once more, after which the old man adopts the orphan. There is "conflict" between these principals as well, but it's a conflict that leads inexorably to an accomodation rather than a confrontation.

In addition, I should add that it's quite possible to have a narrative that focuses upon a romantic couple in which the attempt at accomodation simply fails. Sometimes the accomodation fails for reasons extrinsic to the couple's intentions, as with Shakespeare's ROMEO AND JULIET. In other narratives, the accomodation fails because the two principals are unable to understand or empathize with one another for whatever reason. Margaret Mitchell's GONE WITH THE WIND and Woody Allen's ANNIE HALL are two prominent examples. There are violent acts that transpire within the Shakespeare play and in the Mitchell novel, but said acts of violence are, to use a term I've floated a few times, "peripheral" to the main action, which is about the emotional bond between the principals.

Obviously, there have been many "accomodation narratives" both created by male authors and dominantly read by male audiences, just as there have been 'confrontation narratives" both created by female authors and dominantly read by female audiences. The two genders show dominant preferences, but they're not members of different species, and so each can readily understand the narrative logic informing each of these two broad forms of narrative.

So when I stated in LOVE OVER WILL that it was my current project to view "the mode of the combative through the lens of sex rather than violence," it means that I must seek to explore my quasi-Kantian concepts through the lens of "accomodation narratives," or what I also called, in a more limiting fashion, "fictional love-narratives." The second part of LOVE OVER WILL should address my reasons for focusing on "love-narratives," which must be seen as a subdivision of the larger set of "accomodation narratives."

Thursday, September 20, 2018

LOVE OVER WAR (FOR NOW) PT. 1

Nietzsche's "high spirits" line from TWILIGHT OF THE IDOLS prompted this current line of thought. Once more, with (high) feeling:

"Nothing succeeds in which high spirits play no part."

I last used the "high spirits" in M FOR EFFORT to assert that such spirited-ness was a necessary component to both of my "big M's," megadynamicity and metaphenomenality. I won't be addressing the latter, because I've decided to focus on a (comparatively) new concept: viewing the mode of the combative through the lens of sex rather than violence.

The combative mode, as I've generally defined it, comes about only when two or more megadynamic agents in a narrative contend with one another. Combative works are, I've specified, a subset of the total set of works dealing with any form of conflict, be it physical, moral, psychological, etc. Over the years I've tended to compare combative works with works that included some form of violence that was not combative, though I've also frequently written about works that have no violence, or works in which the conflict is extrinsic to the narrative.

So in recent weeks I've been meditating on the following topic: if in combative works "high spirits" are best shown by the act of combat between near-equals-- the quintessential "male" theme of war-- then what do "high spirits" look like in works in which the conflict-emphasis is more oriented upon the "female" theme of love?

It's axiomatic that male audiences generally like violence and contentious situations, and female audiences generally like love and domestic situations. There are basically just two extant explanations for this differentiation of gender-taste: either the tastes are expressive of the physical natures of the respective genders, or the tastes have been manipulated into existence by the Evil Culture Industry. Anyone who reads this should be able to guess which explanation I find more credible, but even though I agree that physical nature is a primary influence, I don't agree with those who consider it determinative.

I'm aware, of course, that the latter explanation is the one most favored, possibly because it gives its adherents the chance to wallow in victimhood. To them, absolute equity between the genders is the only possible ideal. In this essay I took issue with Heidi McDonald's ideal of equity by saying:

The whole "who's exposed more" question should never have been one of pure equity.  Equity is something to be observed in the workplace or the boardroom, but not in fiction.  Fiction is a place where fantasy reigns, and as I said in the essay, it's simply a lot harder to sell hyper-sexualized fantasies to women than to men.  I tend to think that this is because in general men are hornier bastards than women, but others' mileage may vary.

A couple of years previous, I wrote DEFINING PSUEDOFEMINISM, in which I contrasted remarks by a writer I considered a "pseudo-feminist" with remarks by noted "anti-feminist" Dave Sim. Both, I pointed out, attempted to shore up their opinions with appeals to what each of them considered empirical fact. Sim's views about female athletes dispensed with any considerations of equity whatever. I observed:

Sim "proves" that women are "inherently, self-evidently, inferior beings" by asserting that women cannot beat men on an equal footing.  Hence fantasies of women kicking butt, in sports or in other forms of entertainment, are related to "the Charlie's Angels Syndrome," and so stand as further proof of women's inferiority.
In addition to disproving Sim's view in that essay, I championed the concept of the "fighting woman" archetype in several essays, and showed in NON-ADDICTIVE VICTIMAGE that I was not allied to the "biology is destiny" crowd.

I wouldn't have written as much as I have on the subject of "the Fighting Woman Archetype" if I believed that the greater body mass of the human male decided all questions of supremacy. But if it's almost inevitable that most men are stronger than most women, then this physical factor inevitably will be reflected in fiction. This inequity will at all times comprise an "is" that cannot be negated by any *ought.*  Even comic books, which have arguably been a greater haven for the Femme Formidable than any other medium, can't refute the basics of physical law. 
To re-state: even though I don't believe that biology is the sole determinant of gender differentiation, I categorically do believe that the biological potential of males to develop greater strength and body-mass makes a crucial difference in their tastes in fiction. The next logical questions, then, would be:

(1) What tendency of females can be seen as the "objective correlative" (borrowed from T.S. Eliot, even if I don't agree with his application of it) for the female preference for "love and domestic situations?"

(2) Assuming that I find such an objective correlative, in what way do fictional love-narratives express "high spirits," paralleling the expression of similar spirits in fictional war-narratives?

More in Part 2.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

MYTHCOMICS: "THE HUMAN RACE" (THE FLASH #138-140, 1998)

One of the most memorable "proverbs of hell" in William Blake's MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN AND HELL states that, "Eternity is in love with the productions of time." While I am not a Blake expert, I tend to believe that Blake used this epigram to explain why the denizens of any eternal realm-- be they gods, devils, or angels-- should be mindful of mortal human beings.

Of course, no one can prove what Eternity feels, and I've often thought that it's easier to prove the converse: that human beings, possibly the only self-aware "productions of time," are undoubtedly in love with Whatever They Consider Eternal. Grant Morrison's 1998 FLASH continuity-- which puns upon the idea of "race" as a unity of humans and "race" as a running-contest-- meditates on a similar set of questions: what happens when humans love the universe that isn't part of their everyday world, and whether or not that universe can in any way love them back.

(Note: according to credits, Mark Millar shares co-scripting credit with Morrison. But given that in 1998 Morrison was the more celebrated of the two writers, and that Morrison is better known for stories about wild flights of imagination, I think it probable that Morrison supplied the principal plot and Millar mostly filled in some blanks.)



HUMAN RACE is, to borrow again from Blake, all about the conflict between the "innocence" of childhood, with its tender-minded desire to feel empathy with the world around him, and the world of adult "experience," which teaches one to be "tough minded" and wary of the cold, cruel world. Wally West-- the Flash of Nineties DC-- inherited the mantle of his Silver Age mentor after a long apprenticeship as "Kid Flash" in various TITANS titles. RACE, however, begins by telling the reader that in Wally's middle school years, he was a ham-radio buff. Long before becoming a superhero capable of running faster than light, Wally reached out to the cosmos, seeking confirmation of "life out there." He makes contact with Krakkl, a creature from a world inhabited by living radio-waves. But as Wally gets older, he loses contact with Krakkl and comes to believe that he merely made up an imaginary friend.




Fast forward to Wally's adulthood in the 1990s. As the Flash, he had "experience" with more than his fair share of alien life. This time, Earth is treated to a particularly unpleasant visitation.by aliens so powerful than none of the planet's many superheroes can withstand them. Much in the vein of Lee and Kirby's Galactus, who came to Earth only to devour the planet, the two extraterrestrials known as "the Cosmic Gamblers" care nothing about human beings, except for holding them as ransom to make Flash to do their bidding. And what the Gamblers want is for Flash to race another super-speedster across the universe, just so one or the other of them can win a bet. As a further irony, Wally's opponent is none other than his "imaginary friend," Krakkl, another super-speedster fighting for his own world.



This SF-trope of the "cosmic ransom" was not new even in the Silver Age, but Morrison conceives a new take on it. Usually, when super-powerful aliens force Earthmen to fight other, less powerful aliens for purposes of instruction or amusement, it's a one-shot deal, and the big bad aliens let the Earthmen go afterward. In this story, any time the Gamblers choose racers for their games, they keep said racers under their thumbs, essentially running them to death. While Wally speeds across the universe, his former friend Krakkl says that he's already defeated numerous opponents who perished, along with their worlds. More, Kraakl expects that sooner or later he will be run to death, and that the same fate will befall Wally, even if he wins this race.



I won't discuss in detail the ingenious means used by the hero to circumvent the Gamblers' no-win scenario, though it naturally involves a different contest of speed. What's interesting is that on one hand Morrison gives the reader a vivid picture of the infinite cosmos, with Flash racing through black holes and witnessing the prehistoric incarnations of the Guardians of Oa. while on the other, the author continually grounds the hero's resolve in his affection for his home world, which is in turn mirrored by the protective instincts of his friendly opponent Krakkl. In addition, for once the hero fights for the survival of his friend's world as well as his own, and Morrison even manages a new take on the old chestnut of "all people on Earth send their energy to help the hero," perhaps best known from franchises like DRAGONBALL and X-MEN.



The art of this three-issue arc--by Paul Ryan in #138, and Rob Wagner in #139/140-- is agreeable but not outstanding.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

NULL-MYTHS: KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (2012)

Hmm, it's been almost a full year since I did a "null-myth" entry. I can't believe that I've been reading only good comics since then, so it must just be that I' haven't found any that were worth writing about.



I had to debate whether or not KINGSMAN (originally called just SECRET SERVICE) had enough mythic content to fall into the "near myth" group. It was an okay read, compared to earlier Mark Millar works like WANTED and OLD MAN LOGAN, two brain-dead exercises in superhero ultraviolence. Millar has written a lot of superhero works I have not read, so it's quite possible he's written something better than these two bore-fests. Yet I get the impression that, whereas many British writers sought to expand what superhero comics could do by bringing in aspects of the real world, Millar merely used realism as a method of degrading iconic characters, whether he used the actual characters (Wolverine in LOGAN) or approximations (various DC Comics villains in WANTED). KINGSMAN is no exception, since the project began as a pitch to Marvel Comics, in which eternal superspy Nick Fury took a young spy under his wing.

KINGSMAN is definitely improved by not taking place in the Marvel Universe, and by being centered in Millar's own country, which also happens to be the birthplace of Ian Flemijng's quintessential superspy. Millar, working alongside artist (and fellow Brit) Dave Gibbons, certainly brings a vraisemblance to this James Bond pastiche. The "older man" figure, Jack London, is a former working-class Brit who's been a covert superspy for decades. His sister still lives on welfare with her grown son and a succession of bad bed-mates, so one day London decides that he'll become a tutelary figure to young wastrel-in-training Gary "Eggsy" Unwin. The dramatic exchanges between the knowing elder and the impulsive youth are at least competent, and occasionally Millar and Gibbons touch on sociological themes about British society, though none of these get as much development as Fleming put into his least interesting Fleming novels.

To be sure, KINGSMAN isn't trying to emulate the Bond books, only the Bond movies. Fleming gave his villains assorted exotic gimmicks, but only in the films did Bond have access to similar doodads. In the TPB collection I read, an interview with Gibbons includes a passage wherein the artist scoffs at the "invisible car" seen in one of the Pierce Brosnan flicks. But KINGSMAN is lousy with crazy devices, such as the "laser penknife" with which Gary wins his climactic battle with a villain-henchman named Gazelle because-- well, he has two metal legs that look like those of a gazelle.

But if there's one thing that renders any potential meaning in KINGSMAN inert and inconsummate, it's Millar's handling of his villain. Even many of the Bond-villains invented for the movies prove fit to stand alongside the classic Fleming-fiends. But what does Millar come up with? Well, it's none other than-- James Arnold, Super-Fanboy. Arnold-- who's given one of the blandest villain-names of all time-- is a nerdy genius who decides to play God (or maybe Thanos) by eliminating most of the world's populace. However, because he's a nerd, he gives away his plans in part by trying to kidnap a lot of the celebrities from SF-films, such as Mark Hamill and Ridley Scott. Perhaps Millar and Gibbons thought they were putting across some devastating satire of fan-culture. Frankly, it seems more like a desperate attempt to keep away from the political content found in many of the Bond films, simplified though this content was in comparison to the Fleming books.

There are two sequels I've not read, but I'm not getting my hopes up, based on the mild pleasures of SECRET SERVICE.


ADDENDUM: I did read KINGSMAN THE RED DIAMOND and found it no better than the previous GN, though it's not written by creator Millar and so isn't nearly as bloodthirsty. This one's sole virtue is pitting Eggsy against Kwaito, a tough intelligence-agent from Africa, who is fairly charming despite the great improbability that any current country in Africa could come up with a world-class intelligence organization.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

MYTHCOMICS: THE THREE SUNS OF VINA (1989)



"[The ship is] two=and-a-half million years old, like me"-- Kani in THREE SUNS OF VINA ("Vinea" in the original Belgian publication).

The above quote displays a concern with the exigencies of time, a concern rarely seen in science fiction comics. Indeed, the bulk of space-faring science fiction stories tend to ignore the aspect of time in space travel, so that franchises as distinct as DUNE and STAR TREK often seem to take place in an "eternal present," made possible by the blessing of light-speed.

As THREE SUNS is my first exposure to the world of Belgian artist Roger Leloup and his best known creation Yoko Tsuno, I can't say if Leloup's attention to the temporal aspect of SF is typical of the entire series. But it's pronounced enough here to sustain a strong cosmological myth in itself.



Though the Yoko franchise is said to be aimed at juveniles, Leloup shows as much regard for scientific detail as any work aimed at mature readers. Only the protagonists-- Yoko, a Japanese girl living in Belgium, and her pals Vic and Paul-- are technically juvenile in age, though they generally show an adult's level of good sense and probity. (Paul, being the comic relief of the threesome, is allowed to be rather more impulsive and childish.) THREE SUNS, the sixth album released, also picks up with the trio re-encountering aliens called "Vinans" once more. The story does not dwell on why the Vinans originally came to Earth, except to assert that they were escaping a solar catastrophe that required them to voyage through space for a couple of millions years, in hibernation. Now, their leader Kani (also, like Yoko, a daredevil young female) informs Yoko that they plan to journey back to Vina, to see if anyone survived the catastrophe. I didn't precisely follow why the trip back wasn't going to take another two million years. However, since this time out it;s only going to take a few months to leave and return to Earth, the three teens agree to join the expedition.

I'll pass over a lot of the well-reasoned SF-tech to get to the main story, the return to Kani's home. The planet Vina has two natural suns, one of which has died. The other sun has somehow been restored to normality, though some of the gravity-changes seem to have altered Vina into a Mercury-like sphere: always showing just one face to the sun, while the other remains in darkness. There's a "third sun" in the form of an orbital solar generator, but it's currently non-functional.





Yoko's two buddies barely get anything to do, as Yoko and Kani descend to Vina to investigate.
The young women encounter that well worn but still viable trope; the decayed computer that has become a god to a tribal people. The modern Vinans barely remember their highly technological ancestors, but they direct Yoko and Kani to a tower guarded by robots and cruisers, the dwelling place of the long unseen "Supreme Leader."

Not surprisingly, the girls manage to dispel the tyranny of a super-computer that's been dominating an entire planet for two million years. They do get some help from one of the many robots, for this robot still possessed the downloaded memories of one of the early Vinan scientists-- and he/it has a special reason for helping Vina, since the original owner of the memories was one Sadar, Vina's father. But in case the tearful reunion with a robot wasn't enough for Yoko's readers, the quest continues to the dark side of the planet, where Yoko and Vina find another survivor who's been in hibernation for two million years-- Vina's mother Synda, who when revived appears to be the same age as her daughter. And to top things off, Yoko's group also fires up the artificial sun, thus fulfilling the title of the album.

If anything about THREE SUNS' plot smacks of the juvenile, it's the fact that sex plays no role in the story, aside from its role in siring all of the participants. Yet Leloup's uses of time for dual purposes-- both to lend verisimilitude and to provide the "sense of wonder" of seeing a young woman and her mother share the same somatic age-- transcend the usual "gothca" aesthetic of the time-paradox.




Wednesday, September 5, 2018

MYTHCOMICS: "GUYS," 208-210 (1996)

Dave Sim will likely never read any of my analyses, unless I choose to snail-mail them to him. But though he would likely have no good opinion of my mythcomics project-- based on statements he made to me in the long-gone CEREBUS letter-column--  he ought to feel slightly complimented that I felt CEREBUS important enough to classify according to my CATEGORIES OF STRUCTURAL LENGTH.

OK, probably not, as Sim was not exactly a big fan of critics anyway. But in my literary universe, CEREBUS is not a "novel" in the accepted sense of the word, given that it's not unified enough. However, it conforms well enough to the general schema of what I term "the episodic novel," which would put Sim in good company with MOBY DICK and TOM JONES.

Despite the appearance of various unifying tropes and themes, I would never view the entire "episodic novel" of CEREBUS to be a mythcomic. But it's entirely possible to devote essays to its constituent parts, such as "short stories," "long arcs," and the subject of this essay, a short-arc-within-a-long-arc.



I view the long arc of GUYS. initially appearing in CEREBUS #201-219 (1995-97), as Sim's attempt to define masculinity in all its disparate elements. In this he was vocally opposed to the increasingly popular ideological construction of "patriarchy," as conceived by feminists of the Second and Third Waves. I'm only dealing with one "short arc" within the long arc, but it should be said that the long arc takes place in a society where a fascist feminism has become dominant. Men are barely able to speak a surly word within the controlling matriarchy, and their only refuge is the local bar, where women do not usually trespass, and where most of the story's action takes place.



The short arc with which I'm concerned largely defines the friendship of former fellow-soldiers Cerebus and Bear. Issue #208 starts with an episodic bit of business, in which Cerebus honks off Bear by saying uncomplimentary things about his mother, but when the main plot commences, Bear seems to have shrugged it off and engages Cerebus in a one-on-one game of "five-bar gate." Their exchanges of insults and badinage are interrupted by one "Dandy Don"-- based on comics-pro Donald Simpson-- who's hawking a form of comic books called "reads."



Bear could care less about this form of literature. But Cerebus takes one look at the adventures of a Spider-Man like hero-- given the satiric name of "The Wanker"-- and the hardened aardvark warrior suddenly becomes a drooling fanboy. Further, he becomes an evangelical fanboy, trying to convert his fellow barflies to the pleasures of "graphic reads."



In many comics-stories previous to this, comics-fans themselves might be seen as nerds, but they were usually "nice-guy" nerds, or even "smartest-guy-in-the-room" nerds. Sim, by merging the image of the obnoxious fan with that of his perpetually bad-tempered aardvark, scored a deeper satirical blow against fans than any of the clumsy attempts of alleged "artistes" like Daniel Clowes. In the light of clear day-- that is, of appropriately masculine men-- the fantasies of superheroes come off as both juvenile and loaded with unconscious sexual symbolism. Cerebus is filled with a sulking rage when the barflies don't validate his tastes. Bear, weary of his companion's over-emotionalism, tears the aardvark a new butthole with the ultimate insult to a guy:

"It's like yer part CHICK 'r somethin'!"

This is a slight in-joke for CEREBUS fans, since an earlier issue asserted that the aardvark was born a hermaphrodite without ever having been aware of the fact, though there are scarcely any moments in the series wherein Cerebus gets in touch with his "feminine side." Nevertheless, despite Bear's critique of the shortcomings of Cerebus-- as well, indirectly, of the self-importance of evangelical comics-fans-- things are somewhat mended not by the feminine method of endless discussion, but by simply returning to the ball-game they were playing. The two guys compete ruthlessly, continuing to insult one another at every opportunity. Yet, Sim also shows that the guys are capable of relating to one another in terms of honor and empathy that are presumably foreign to the "fair sex."



Some critics undoubtedly would not respect Sim's masculinist (as I would term them) views. To be sure, neither the long arc of GUYS nor the short arc I examine here are capable of saying everything about "what it means to be a guy." There's also rich irony in the fact that by the long arc's end, Bear, despite sometimes being seen as hyper-masculine, is conquered by the "love-bug," spread by a particularly two-faced shrew, which event in turn leads to the dissolution of the bar-group.

Nevertheless, Sim's uncompromising satire of two of the "sacred cows" of comics-fandom-- of the importance of "graphic literature" and of the fans who read it-- shows far more sagacity than the witless elitists who continue to support mediocrity in the service of political correctness.

ADDENDUM: I should clarify that the major discourses in this sequence are focused on the potentialities of the dramatic (i.e., the interpersonal relations of Bear and Cerebus) and of the didactic (i.e., Sim's criticism of feminism). However, I consider that Sim, in promoting a satiric version of Spider-Man to make his points about creeping emotionalism, is propounding a myth of "the superhero as masturbatory crap." It's usually a symbolic trope employed by liberal critics, but here the superhero's pernicious influence is a threat to Sim's conservative ethos, and so must be thrown off by the masculine spirit (even though superheroes were always marketed with male audiences in mind). Mythically, this usage is at least more complex than his modestly entertaining but simpler superhero-spoofs: "Moon Roach," "Punisheroach," and so on.

CATEGORIES OF STRUCTURAL LENGTH

I devoted some time to the factor of what I now term 'structural length" in the essay-series THE LONG AND SHORT OF MYTH, but only today decided to coin a term for the concept.

There are various accepted categories that pertain to the structures narratives take on when their authors work within certain length-specifications, and I accept the terms "vignette" and "short story" pretty much as they are regularly used. However, my study of comics convinces me to put forth my own comics-centric list of terms, to wit:

VIGNETTE-- a narrative so short that it usually consists of just set-up and resolution, of beginning and end with barely the suggestion of a "middle." THE ORIGIN OF BATMAN may be the most famous such sequence.

SHORT ARC-- this form of narrative usually does have a bit more progression, but it's clearly meant to function as part of a greater continuity, and may function as a "subplot," though it does not necessarily have to take that function. In this essay on the manga FREEZING, I mistakenly termed the two stories discussed therein as "vignettes," but I've decided that "short arc" is the better description. Just as the traditional subplot can morph into a central plotline, the short arc can develop into a longer arc.

SHORT STORY-- this is the short form best known for the traditional beginning, middle, and end. It usually has a compact structure, and can be read without reference to other stories, though such stories often appear in continuing features simply to illustrate particular situations or characters. The reader can presumably think of many stand-alone stories that conform to the paradigm, and for an example of a short-story-within-a-continuity, I'll cite SECRET OF THE MYSTERIOUS GIRL from the LOVE HINA continuity.

LONG ARC-- the long arc also takes place within a larger continuity, but like the short arc doesn't entirely stand on its own. The American "soap opera" did not originate the long arc, but it's the genre best known for particular plot-lines that could be extended for weeks, if not longer.  By length alone, the long arc may be compared to the novella, though no arc can be independent of its parent continuity, as a novella can. The LOVE HINA sequence SISTER SYNDROME is my exemplar.

NOVELLA-- The novella is more expansive than the short story, but resembles the latter in being more focused than a long novel can be on a clear "beginning, middle, and end." The example here is the recent SIN CITY six-part story, THAT YELLOW BASTARD.

COMPACT NOVEL-- The compact form of the novel allows for a wider variety of plot-lines than a novella, but it is always structured to dovetail all significant plot-lines toward a satisfying resolution. This is what most people think of as a "novel," though I extend it also to serial concepts that have a similar coherence, as with Kohta Hirano's HELLSING.

EPISODIC NOVEL-- This form includes a vast number of sub-forms, such as "the romance" and "the picaresque novel." Though there's usually a unifying theme, the episodic novel does not emphasize, as the compact novel does, distinct plot-threads, but instead focuses on episodes that may or may not bear heavily upon the main plot's resolution. Melville's MOBY DICK may be the most famous example of a modern-day "literary romance," but I extend it also to serials which have thematic, albeit not  narrative, unity. Jack Kirby's NEW GODS series qualifies here, and I would view it as sharing the basic structure of the episodic novel even if its creator had not been able to provide a resolution of sorts, years after the original continuity was interrupted by cancellation. Steve Gerber's uncompleted VOID INDIGO series furnishes an example of a continuity that was patently intended to function as an episodic novel, but that was doomed by overheated fan-reaction.

ADDENDUM: Just to be clear, most serial endeavors are really just assemblages of ongoing episodes with no structuring principle, usually combining short stories and long arcs. Akamatsu's LOVE HINA is not a novel, episodic or otherwise, just because the author has in mind a summary wrap-up story.

PICTURE-LESS WORDS AT AN EXHIBITION

In this essay I cited FRANK'S REAL PA as an example of a mythcomic that communicated its mythic content purely through wordless images. This begs the question: can one have any kind of comic comprised of words without images?

Patently the answer is no: comics are communicated first through sensory tropes and second through narrative tropes. Still, a more interesting corollary query would be: what's the least amount of images that a comics-work can utilize, while still remaining a comic?

And the answer would be: one, as shown by this randomly chosen page of the sequence "Jaka's story" in Dave Sim's CEREBUS.




If the entirety of CEREBUS were structured in this manner, though, it's questionable whether it would be deemed a work in the medium of comics. In recent years some critics have extended the rubric of comics to include illustrated books, which are either exclusively or dominantly devoted to single-page illustrations with long text. I don't favor this definition myself, though I can see why some comics-fans, endlessly seeking mainstream validation, want to induct popular authors like Maurice Sendak and Doctor Seuss into their ranks.

Were I going to review a sequence of CEREBUS that was all in the "illustrated book" format, though, I would have no problems deeming said sequence to be within the medium of "comics," because most of the entire CEREBUS project involves a more traditional combination of words and images.

Still, the one exception to this "rule" would be "pure-text" pages, such as the "Viktor Davis" text-pieces in the sequence "Mothers and Daughters," for these would not be subsumed by the aesthetic of comics. Though the text-pieces may be seen as loosely intersecting with the CEREBUS concept, if only for the use of the term "reads"-- a faux-coining for "comics"-- they are essentially slightly fictionalized essays on Sim's philosophy, largely indistinguishable from essays written in his authorial voice. Even the fact that the Davis essays are interpolated amidst the ongoing "regular comics" continuity of the title character does not confer on the text-pieces the status of "comics."

Thus, though I could have a lot to say about the mythic discourse that I find within Sim's philosophical essays-- regardless of the fact that Sim would not validate such a definition of his philosophy-- I could not count such an analysis as one of my "mythcomics."

But I have been considering ways to approach the structural anomalies of the "regular CEREBUS comic," and will hold forth on same in the week's actual mythcomic.

QUICK POST ON CRAPPY JOURNALISM

Decided to post this on a new forum re: Donald Trump and the news media.

________

I don't mind actual op-eds clearly marked as such within news broadcasts. However, the media pundits have found a lot of ways to slant the "facts" to suit an agenda.

Case in point: Trump's remarks in August 2017 following the Charlottesville violence. Following his remarks in which he disparaged the goals of white supremacy:

[QUOTE]...we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence[/QUOTE]

He made the famous "both sides" statement:

[QUOTE]I will tell you something. I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it. And you have -- you had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent, and nobody wants to say that, but I'll say it right now. You had a group -- you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent.[/QUOTE]

A journalist then came up with a gem which the rest of the media then recycled for months:

[QUOTE]Do you think that the -- what you call the alt-left is the same as neo-Nazis?[/QUOTE]

And after that, that was the only thing the news media could say about the exchange was that Trump had supposedly placed the alt-left on the same plane as Neo-Nazis.

Naive person that I am, I thought that the news media would seek to disprove Trump's claim that the "alt-left" (aka Antifa) had initiated acts of violence. Journalists were certainly bullish on demonstrating important factoids like the attendance at Trump's inauguration. Yet, though I listened to the cable news intently for several days afterward, I didn't encounter any pundits hauling out facts to disprove Trump's statement. And the reason was that they could not, but they had an agenda to serve, and they didn't care to examine any truth-value in Trump's assertion unless the examination served the agenda.

None of this is to state that Trump is a teller of even small truths. He lies on a regular basis, but openly, unlike most politicians, who lie covertly. But I'd like to think that the Fourth Estate as being more capable of truth-telling than any politician.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

AN UNCANNY DIGRESSION

In my review of Jack Zipes's THE ENCHANTED SCREEN, I left out one oddball detail that didn't seem pertinent to the main review. I mentioned that Zipes was trying to co-opt the tropes of fantasy for his own concerns:

Much in the same vein as a similar Marxist work, Rosemary Jackson's FANTASY: THE LITERATURE OF SUBVERSION, Zipes' survey celebrates fantasy for purely utilitarian purposes, in line with the Marxist project of restructuring corrupt society. 

But the strange thing is that Zipes tries to enlist Sigmund Freud's category, "the uncanny," to validate his end-- yet only uses the term on three pages in the whole book. Freud himself only gets cited on four pages, so Zipes certainly wasn't trying to bring ENCHANTED SCREEN into line with Freudian concepts. If anything, it's the opposite. Freud came up with his term "the uncanny" in order to distinguish the questionable nature of a story like Hoffman's "The Sandman" from, say, the world of fairy tales, in which Freud says that "the world of reality is left behind" by a constant stream of marvelous things and beings.

I suspect that the only reason Zipes "comes to bury Freud, not to praise him," is that he Zipes wants above all to convince his readers that the marvelous fantasies of fairy tales are not irrelevant to "the world of reality." In this, of course, his principal references are the usual Marxist suspects, and so Zipes doesn't really attempt to grapple with what Freud was trying to say to his contemporaries, least of all with Freud's belief that the marvelous content of the fairy tales could be traced to "animistic" societies.

Rather than trying to reclaim "the uncanny" for his explicitly Marxist uses, Zipes would have done better to follow the example of Rosemary Jackson, who at least was clear on the point that fantasy could be used equally well for a conservative ethos (Tolkien) or some more liberating one (Carroll).

However, Zipes's bad usage of the term "uncanny" did move me to research the genesis of Freud's concept a bit more, and will probably give rise to an essay on the topic here in near future.