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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...

Sunday, February 25, 2024

TUTELARY SPIRITS

In DOWNGRADING (OR DEGRADING) ON A CURVE, I discussed the dynamics of the BEWITCHED teleseries. I stated that even though the characters of Samantha and Darrin were the superordinate icons of the ongoing narrative, the subordinate character of Endora was the one most often used to generate stories, often by her desire to "teach Darrin a lesson," whether her reasoning was good or bad.

Though on this blog I've mostly discussed accomodation narratives featuring romantic ensembles, another frequently seen trope is that of two characters linked by some tutelary activity. These may be entirely distanced from anything resembling romantic pairing, as seenin both GOOD WILL HUNTING and the more recent HOLDOVERS, where the give-and-take relationship of a teacher and a student makes them both superordinate characters. Another variation appears in the 1956 TEA AND SYMPATHY play-adaptation. In this story, an older woman, not a teacher but connected to a school through her husband, perceives a young man's confusion about his sexuality and dispels his fears by initiating him into manhood. Somewhat related are narratives focusing upon a psychologist and his patient, such as Peter Schaffer's EQUUS, wherein the former must play detective to comprehend the latter's malady, and in so doing experiences some insight about himself.

So, after all those examples of highbrow theater and cinema, my main illustration of a tutleary superordinate ensemble in this essay will be-- the completely lowbrow hijinks of Jack H. Harris' MOTHER GOOSE A GO GO.




Though Darrin Stevens never learns any lessons, Tom Hastings of MOTHER desperately wants to find out what's causing him to freeze up when he tried to have marital relations with his newlywed bride. But I wondered, "Is that enough to make him the main character?" He's a mystery to be solved, but his neglected wife certainly does not function in the narrative as the Samantha to his Darrin. Rather, only psychotherapist Marilyn Richards can unlock the secrets of Ted's impotence and its goofy association with Mother Goose imagery.

Now, whereas both EQUUS and TEA AND SYMPATHY seek to produce reasonable, rational propositions about human behavior, all of MOTHER's propositions are, to use an earlier phrase, "informal." Writer Harris wasn't concerned with probability: he wanted a smarmy sex-comedy. So the script has Marilyn's sexy professional woman, whom I term a "mother-imago," ends up liberating Ted from a subconsciously prohibition accidentally laid upon him by his real mother. Indeed, though Marilyn doesn't make any overt moves on Ted in the film's early section as she does toward the end, Harris's second fairytale-dream has Ted imagine Marilyn as the Evil Queen in "Snow White," who seeks to keep Snow, "played" by Ted's wife, from uniting with Kirk's Prince Charming. 



At the climax, when Marilyn has managed to call forth the nature of Ted's prohibition from his buried memories. she does discourage him from seeking out his wife, claiming that he ought to use her as a test-case for his restored virility. Then the script has Marilyn change her mind for no good reason and fend him off, probably because Harris knew that whatever audience he aimed at wouldn't like seeing the male lead cheat on his loving wife. So even though Marilyn and Ted don't end up in bed together, they provide a fascinating example of a tutelary ensemble with a strange mother-and-son dynamic, though it stops short of a TEA AND SYMPATHY resolution.


Thursday, February 22, 2024

NEAR-MYTHS: ACTION COMICS #1-18 (2011-2013)

Back in 2011 I read a few issues of the "New 52" revision of Superman's myth in ACTION COMICS, executed by writer Grant Morrison and artist Rags Morales. However, despite my general respect for Morrison's contribution to DC Comics generally and to the Superman myth specifically (particularly in his strongest ALL-STAR SUPERMAN story). I didn't keep reading. Now I've read all eighteen collected issues, which includes some non-Morrison backup strips as well.

Morrison's self-described writing-pattern of using free association has provided a valuable counterpoint to the prevalent Marvel Comics trope of "heroes with soap opera problems." However, the downside of free association is that at times Morrison's scripts can become overly scattershot, losing the coherence that appears in his better works. Even ALL STAR SUPERMAN, which did a fine job of updating the appeal of Silver Age Superman comics, resorted to the old chestnut of "the hero's impending death" to provide a tenuous unity between the diverse stories. Morrison's ACTION run, however, doesn't manage to be anything but a bunch of loosely contiguous stories-- though once again, the writer works in a possible "hero's death" here as well.



SUPERMAN AND THE MEN OF STEEL proves the best of the three collections, for all that there really aren't more than two such "men," the Metropolis Marvel and his fellow crusader Steel. There are a bunch of robots unleashed by Brainiac, but they obviously aren't "men" as such.

The early issues were promoted at the time as giving an alternate take on Superman as patterned on certain early Golden Age stories by Jerry Siegel. I've heard some fans lament that these "social justice" stories didn't become the main focus of the developing SUPERMAN corpus. Of course, with a hero as powerful as this one, a certain monotony would have set in, since there would have been no challenge to Superman regularly duking it out with wife-beaters and dangerous drivers (to name a couple of Siegel's targets during his social-justice phase). Golden Age Superman tales thus became dominated mostly by tricks-- villains trying to trick the Man of Steel, or vice versa. But I'm sure Morrison knew that modern readers wouldn't accept that alternative, and so the social-justice stories soon default to spectacular action-scenes between super-beings. Morales does a nice if not exceptional job of rendering the hero's first encounters with the super-weapons of Lex Luthor and the robot hordes of Brainiac. The first plotline is reasonably coherent but toward the end of the collection Morrison spins out a fevered crossover of Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes that makes little sense.



The second collection, subtitled BULLETPROOF, is even more chaotic. There's a boring sequence in which the hero meets an updated version of the fifties DC hero Captain Comet, and the return of a minor Siegel creation, Lois Lane's grade-school niece Susie Tompkins. Slightly better is one in which a wife-beater whom Superman punishes in Volume One becomes the new Kryptonite Man.



The final collection, AT THE END OF DAYS, goes off the rails with a lot of stuff about Superman's impending death-- supposedly his second death after his fate at the hands of Doomsday-- but it comes to little. Morrison challenges Superman with a small coterie of new villains-- the revised K-Man, Nimrod the Hunter, The Evolver-- and also squeezes in a few whose identities he doesn't bother to delineate. The Legion gets involved in some of this folderol as well. The strongest trope involves a plot about Superman facing off, not against his pest-enemy Mister Mxyzptlk, but a more deadly enemy of Mxyzptlk's. (To be sure, this character appears throughout the run in the guise of a strange little man who offers Faustian bargains to various characters.) One of the oddest things about this sequence is that Morrison takes pains to resurrect one of the hero's most obscure foes, Ferlin Nxyly, whom he apparently wanted to work into his Mxyzptlk cosmology because of the name similarity. But this revival, like the Captain Comet one, seems forced and sterile-- not something I normally find in even the lesser Morrison works.

Monday, February 19, 2024

MYTHCOMICS: "DON'T DO THAT VOODOO YOU DO SO WELL" (MSH SPRING SPECIAL #1, 1990)




A few years back I played around with using "Black History Month" as a theme for February, though I was pretty loose in my criteria, often mixing racial myths as I pleased. I wasn't really thinking about following the theme this year, but I chanced upon a one-shot story in one of Marvel's many inventory-filled publications, which is like finding the proverbial diamond in the garbage.

And it seems even more improbable, given that the star of this story is Brother Voodoo. This Haitian hero was launched by Marvel in 1973 around the same time as a similarly-themed title, TALES OF THE ZOMBIE, both of which showed a peculiar obsession Marvel Editorial formed at the time for the linked subjects of voodoo and zombies. Neither feature was successful, and in fan-circles Brother Voodoo has often seen as a lame character, particularly thanks to humor-artist Fred Hembeck. I don't recall if Hembeck's mockeries of the hero predate or postdate this 1990 story, in which he himself adopted a more "straight" style to illustrate this one-off tale with writer Scott Lobdell. Absent further information, I will assume that Lobdell submitted this VOODOO script in his tryout period, and that it was assigned to Hembeck after the fact.

Intentionally or not, VOODOO utilizes a trope I think appeared with some frequency in Chris Claremont's work of the seventies and eighties; a trope I'll call "good man gives in to bad desires." Despite the story's punny title it's entirely serious in tone, and one reason I may like it is because the original hero in his short-lived seventies series was so good as to be thoroughly bland.



The hero narrates his own story, and his first line foregrounds his fallibility: "It was never my intention to become Brother Voodoo." In the course of the narrative he references the basics of his origin. Born Jericho Drumm of Haiti, he studied psychology in the U.S. but returned to his native land to support his brother Daniel. Daniel, a priest of voodoo, was slain by a rival, and Jericho mastered the Haitian mystic arts in order to avenge him. His most notable power was that Jericho had somehow merged with the spirit of his dead brother, and could send Daniel Drumm's spirit into the bodies of enemies, possessing them to do Jericho's will a la the DC hero Deadman. FWIW, the Daniel-spirit never seems to have any personality, as if it was just a raw magical force instead of the ghost of a once living human.



On the second page Jericho, who has said that "voodoo is all about belief," illustrates this credo by rescuing a boat on a storm-swept sea, seeming to become a giant, though this may be only in the minds of those being rescued. The reader meets Jericho's girlfriend Loralee Tate, a nurse seeking to cure an immunological crisis among the Haitian people. She mentions that she's glad she didn't leave for the States as she planned earlier, but Jericho's guilty thoughts make clear that he had something to do with both her change of mind and the medical crisis. 



Page four sets down the cause of that guilt. Upon being informed of Loralee's plan to go home, he confesses, "I was afraid of losing her, so I used my brother's spirit to possess her, to insure our love-- to destroy our love." Though the script does not specify everything that followed, it's logical to presume that Jericho had sex with Loralee while she was under his control, or he wouldn't be nearly this guilty. The caption about his having "removed the lie" proves confusing, given that she still seems to be under his mental dominion back on page 2.



In any case, precisely because of Jericho's bond with nature through his voodoo mastery, the nature spirits of Haiti have brought about the immunological breakdown. He pleads with the spirits for forgiveness, but they only state that "forgiveness must come from you, and one other."




 Due to the limited page count, Lobdell doesn't actually show the Haitian people being freed from the "penance" inflicted upon them by Jericho's sinful misuse of his power. Since on page seven Loralee is shown leaving Haiti as she originally planned, the most logical conclusion is that Jericho finally released her from his thrall, and that she realized what he had done. Loralee echoes Jericho's own intuition that his sin was a failure of belief in their love, strongly implying that because of this sin, he's lost out on any chance with her. She's clearly the "one other" that the spirits say must forgive him, and page eight wraps up with Jericho realizing that he must at least conditionally forgive himself in order to do better, to become the hero he meant to be.

I've seen only one online commentary on the story. Predictably enough, the speaker seemed to think that Lobdell was indulging in a rape-fantasy via mind-manipulation. But literary rape-fantasies are usually predicated on the enjoyment of superior power, and they don't show the rapists wallowing in guilt for what they've done. (Jack Hill's 1966 MONDO KEYHOLE provides a good shorthand example.) Current gender politics imply that a male can never transgress against a female without deserving eternal perdition, while female transgressions against males are not even conceptually possible. All I can say is that I think the ethic of forgiveness applies to this particular fictional situation, and for situations taking place in real life, each one must be evaluated individually as well. 

A last point on the subject of Forgotten Continuity: though the "Haitian plague" is original to Lobdell's story, Loralee Tate did debut in the last three BROTHER VOODOO stories-- where she was still a registered nurse, but was also Black, unlike the one in Lobdell's VOODOO. Black Loralee may have been intended as a potential romantic partner for Jericho, but if so there are no indications in her only appearances. White Loralee, possibly occupying one of those many "alternate Marvel Earths," does not seem to have appeared again. And that's probably for the best given the ideological climate at the current Marvel Comics.

BTW, I belatedly found a page where Hembeck explained his involvement in the "Brother Voodoo is So Lame" schtick, which he admits that he continued but did not originate.

http://www.hembeck.com/More/Voodog/Why.htm


ADDENDUM TO SAVING TIME IN A BRAIN


 


In the preceding essay, I forgot that AMAZING ADVENTURES wasn't just dropped, but that it was converted into Stan Lee's experimental all-Ditko book AMAZING ADULT FANTASY, which in its final-issue form (with the "adult" ironically knocked from the title) had at least as much consequence for Marvel as FANTASTIC FOUR #1. I'm sure I read of the title changeover many times but it just got filed in the "not significant" pile of memory engrams.

The switch from AA to AAF is also more significant than I'd thought, now that I've read all the AA issues online. Though there's some Ditko mixed in to AA, the six issues are heavily Kirby-dominated. Kirby's SF/monster books had evidently been selling OK for Atlas/Marvel even during DC's big superhero push around 1958. But AA must not have sold well, possibly indicating a sea-change in reader preferences. (It would take a little longer for all of DC's SF-anthology titles to become saturated with continuing-character features.) So the transition to AAF shows Stan Lee trying to aim a little higher than the usual Atlas/Marvel fare, building up Steve Ditko's aesthetic. I've never seen any commentary on AAF by either Lee or Ditko, so I have to accept the reigning fan-theory, that Lee hoped to emulate the model of TV's successful TWILIGHT ZONE anthology. I doubt he was counting on that as a long-term strategy for success, given the fate of EC Comics about six years previous; he probably just hoped for decent sales while enjoying seeing his stories brought to life by Ditko's burgeoning talent.

Most of the Kirby stuff in AA is pretty ordinary fare, by the way. I need to do a writeup of the "Doctor Droom" stories some time, because they definitely don't feel like "New Marvel."


Sunday, February 18, 2024

SAVING TIME IN A BRAIN

 First, a pair of juxtaposed quotes:

Time is simultaneous, an intricately structured jewel that humans insist on viewing one edge at a time, when the whole design is visible in every facet.


Why couldn't the past, present and future all be occurring at the same time-- but in different dimensions?



The first quote comes from one of the most famous graphic novels of all time, the 1986-87 Moore/Gibbons WATCHMEN, and the sentiment expressed, about the relativity of time, is "intricately structured" as one of the narrative's main themes.




The second comes from a very obscure Lee-Kirby story in AMAZING ADVENTURES #3 (1961), "We Were Trapped in the Twilight World." It wasn't reprinted until the twenty-first century and I doubt that even its creators remembered it after they tossed it out within the pages of a title that was finished in three more issues.

Not only was"Twilight" probably tossed off to fill space, the idea of the simultaneity of past, present and future isn't even important to the story's plot. Shortly after the handsome young theorist expresses his time-theory, he drives away with his girlfriend. A mysterious, never-explained mist transports them both back into Earth's prehistoric past. While the two of them flee various menaces, the scientist theorizes that entities from the past sometimes entered the mist and showed up in modern times, so that ape-like cavemen generated the story of the Abominable Snowmen. Grand Comics Database believes that "Twilight" is one of many SF-stories plotted by Stan Lee but dialogued by his brother Larry Leiber, so, failing the discovery of original Kirby art, there's no ascertaining which of the three creators involved generated the line.

In both stories, the simultaneity of all times has one common function: to cast a light on the limits of human perception. But is there any truth in it?

In the sense of the bodies we occupy, not really. Our common experience as human beings is that our bodies are totally enslaved by the unstoppable progress of the future, remorselessly eating away the present the way age eats away at our bodily integrity. And yet, one organ in the body defies future's tyranny and that's the brain.

Only in the brain are past, present and future truly unified-- though one may question if Moore's correct about how "intricate" the structure is, even assuming that the paradigm applies only to fully functioning human brains. And time is only unified in terms of a given subject's own memories. I don't necessarily dismiss such things as "memories of a past life" that are usually cited in support of reincarnation. But those type of memories are not universal enough to draw any conclusions.

My ability to "time-travel" in my memories is similarly limited. I can summon a quasi-memory of being on a family vacation and finding MARVEL TALES #11 at an out-of-town pharmacy. That comic book would have been on sale in 1967, probably a few months prior to its November cover-date. I *think* this was probably the first SPIDER-MAN comic I bought, but my memories of reading the comic for the first time aren't that specific. Since I didn't get into buying superhero comics until the debut of the BATMAN teleseries in early 1966. That show would have finished its second season in March 1967, at which time I might have felt venturesome enough to sample a superhero I'd never heard of. Now, for me to be correct on that score, I would have to have bought MARVEL TALES before the 1967 SPIDER-MAN cartoon debuted that September, since it's also my memory that I watched that TV show when it first aired. But can I be *absolutely* sure that I didn't see the cartoon before buying the comic book? Not in the least. I *seem* to remember that I'd bought enough back issues of SPIDER-MAN or MARVEL TALES that when the cartoon debuted, I recognized how some of the cartoon-stories had been adapted from the originals. But that memory is not reliable.

In the WATCHMEN chapter referenced, Doctor Manhattan can foresee future events as accurately as he can memories of the past-- or at least, whatever past experiences are important to Moore's narrative. And in "Twilight," the protagonists live through the past so as to clarify events in their present. But total narrative clarity is denied real people. However, what our functioning memories do preserve are not just every single experience we have, but the IMPORTANT experiences. 

Humans can travel in time from SIGNIFICANT THING #1 to SIGNIFICANT THING #4566 via chains of mental association. Some of these associations might be subconscious. I once noticed that Robert E. Howard's barbarian hero Kull first appeared in print in the August 1929 issue of WEIRD TALES, about three or four years before Siegel and Shuster collaborated on their landmark hero Superman. We know that Siegel named Superman's dad after himself, making "Jor-L" out of the first syllable of the author's first name and the last syllable of his last name. But whence comes "Kal-L?" Did it come from... "Kul-L?" Even assuming that Siegel read the Kull story, there's no way of knowing if he consciously remembered reading it. But IF he read it, maybe something about the hero's name appealed to Siegel, and he simply recycled that appeal when it came time to name his own hero.

We do not know if anything survives the demise of our physical forms. But while we are alive, it's entirely logical to build up our stores of significant memories, whether we can take them with us or not. To borrow from the title of an old English poem, those memories provide us with our only "triumph over time."

One last Significant Thing: the last issue of Marvel magazine AMAZING ADVENTURES was cover-dated November 1961, the same date assigned to FANTASTIC FOUR #1. So that arbitrary date becomes something of a threshold between the Old Marvel Way of doing things, and the New Approach, which would, as I've argued elsewhere, saved the medium of comic books from extinction.


Friday, February 16, 2024

MYTHCOMICS: ["DAUGHTER OF SATAN"] (FEATURE COMICS #61, 1942)


 



Quality Comics' DOLL MAN was one of the Golden Age's most long-lived features, lasting from almost the beginning of the Age to 1956, when the publishing company dissolved. The premise was simple: scientist Darrel Dane discovers a method by which he can shrink himself to a height of six inches, at which height he possesses his normal-sized strength as well as somehow being able to manifest a colorful costume. (Gil Kane, being an admirer of the Quality feature, explicitly based various aspects of the Silver Age Atom on the doll-sized crimefighter.) The story I'll examine is given an extremely dull title in GCD, so this time I'll choose a phrase from the opening caption of the splash page. That phrase proves relevant because in the course of the story it become problematic as to who the real "daughter of Satan" is. 

Following the splash, which has a "Tom Thumb" feel as Doll Man is seen riding a frog into a fetid swamp full of death-symbols, the story's apparent villain, Yvette deMortier, makes her first appearance. (The story's unknown writer presumably did not know that in French "mortier" means "mortar;" he probably just wanted to play upon "mort," the French word for "dead.") Yvette, a "renowned physicist," gives a demonstration of a new device to a hall full of other scientists, including Doctor Roberts, father of Darrel Dane's girlfriend Martha. The scientists are refreshingly unprejudiced against a lady scientist, who's rather uncharacteristic of scientists in comic books, but it probably helps that Yvette is gorgeous. However, Yvette's ray-device turns all the scientists into babbling goofballs, after which Yvette has her henchmen write down all the secrets falling from their "loose lips." Doctor Roberts wanders home, where Darrel jokes that he's "gone on a geometric spree with the lovely DeMortire." Darrel and Martha soon learn that the other scientists have lost their reasoning minds, but since Yvette was not among them, Darrel investigates her in his Doll Man persona. 





The hero finds clues (including an unidentified dead man) that will lead him to a swamp referenced as a "weird setting of silence, mystery, and death." The reader sees the villainess in repose, but though at first she gloats over the power she'll gain from all the secrets she's gleaned, she becomes angry when one of her subordinates tries to profess his love to her. She curses men as "the scourge of civilization" and compares herself to "the cold, bright lady moon." At that very time, Doll Man ventures into the swamp, observing that it's more a place of death than usual, since its mistress has poisoned the waters. The hero finds his way to Yvette's sanctum, and happens to enter through a skylight with a telescope, and so he becomes a small but intrusive male presence in Yvette's lunar domain.




In addition, Doll Man has brought along one of the clues he found: a locket holding the pictures of both Yvette and some unknown young man, and when Yvette sees the latter photo, she calls out the name "Stephan." She faints, and into the room comes the true "daughter of Satan," Yvette's unnamed sister. Artist Reed Crandall clearly gives the standard countenance of an aged medieval witch (and with what horn-headed gentleman did witches consort, hmm?) Madame DeMortier shoots at Doll Man while ranting about having killed "the memory of Stephan." Doll Man trips the witch up, but she just happens to have a can of rubber cement lying around in this private observatory, and manages to catch the diminutive crusader therein.



Doll Man rather easily escapes the cement, while the old woman, revealed to be Yvette's sister, drags Yvette into a room containing a printing press. (It's vaguely suggested that Yvette's henchmen are turning all the purloined science-secrets into pamphlets, though I have no idea how that would aid anyone in conquering the world.) Doll Man luckily happens to be nearby when Yvette's unnamed, would-be lover conveniently mentions that, contrary to the sister's rants, he knows Stephan died while fighting tse-tse disease in Africa and that the sister deceived Yvette to better manipulate Yvette;s scientific reputation. Doll Man and Henchman Guy work together so that Older DeMortier's hair gets caught in a printing press. It's a little hard to believe, in a more or less "realistic" superhero yarn, that her head gets crushed thereby, but she's not seen on the final page at all.



So with the witch at least symbolically dead, Yvette can renounce her flirtation with super-villainy (no trial needed, clearly). She not only restores the memories of the scientists, she somehow drains the poison from the swamp, thus trying up almost all the loose ends. (I've no idea as to the identity of the dead man on page three, though I would assume the true "daughter of Satan" killed him.) Then Yvette is united with her new love and ends her not very justified "hatred of men," while Martha conceives a new animosity for the wandering nature of the male gaze.

Though as a straight story "Daughter" is a mess, there is a clear development of Yvette as a femme fatale, associated with quasi-negative feminine symbols like the swamp and the moon, shown "draining" men of their intelligence-- which most femmes fatales bring about using sex, not memory-rays. Then for the sake of a happy ending-- not always a hallmark of DOLL MAN stories-- all of the negativity is channeled upon Madame DeMortier, a witch-like monster of ugliness and envy and thus the true avatar of Death. I also like the way Doll Man performs the archetypal crusade of the male hero, penetrating the morass of the swamp in order to bring a little male light into the lunar darkness. Given that most DOLL MAN stories are very simple fare, the extra layer of mythicity here shows the raconteurs stepping up their game for the sake of evoking some entertaining folktale motifs.

THE READING RHEUM: SNOW, GLASS, APPLES (2019)




I was about to write up SNOW, GLASS, APPLES, a collaboration between writer Neil Gaiman and artist Colleen Doran, as a major mythcomic. But then I learned that Gaiman first wrote "Snow" as a 1994 short prose story. That means it's not a work original to the comics medium. I made an exception for the Thomas-Smith "Song of Red Sonja" because the adapters took a prose story by Robert E Howard and not only tweaked the original narrative, they incorporated the tale into a more extensive narrative as well.

But though I've not read the original Gaiman prose story, I see no indications that SNOW is anything but a straight adaptation. So it can't be a mythcomic, though it's now going to be the first time I've labeled a review as "high-mythicity fiction" without its also being a "prose fiction review."

SNOW is a reversal of current culture's popular understanding of a famous folktale, starting from the proposition that the Queen with the magic mirror was entirely virtuous and the snow-white heroine is actually a monster. For that reason, I'm not going to do the usual plot breakdown, but instead, I'll focus upon the three symbols of Gaiman's title.




SNOW-- There is no character named Snow White in Gaiman, and all of the other characters are similarly nameless, to emphasize being totally defined by their roles in the story. In the original folktale, the whiteness of Snow White's skin seems to connote fundamental innocence, while the redness of her lips is there mostly as contrast. But in Gaiman the Snow White analogue, whom I will call The Princess, has snow-white skin because she's undead, and her red lips connote her dependence on drinking blood.





GLASS-- In the original story, the magic mirror of the nameless evil queen is an "all-seeing-eye" through which she ascertains herself to be the fairest in the land. Glass is thus the medium through which an older female seeks to remain her position as the Foremost Beauty, and through which she seeks to eliminate all rivals. There's no Oedipal struggle between a younger and older female in the best known versions of the folktale. But Gaiman includes one, in which the undead Princess not only causes the death of her mortal father, but also co-opts the Prince whom the Virtuous Queen prizes, causing the Prince to betray the Queen. Whereas the magic mirror of the folktale causes that queen to obsess about her supremacy, the mirrors commanded by the Queen give her only minimal aid, and cannot prevent her doom by her nemesis. Indeed, the Princess proves that even in death she has a superior command of the Power of Glass, since it's through her transparent coffin that she beguiles the liberating influence of the Prince.




APPLES-- In the folktale, the apple is not a fruit that fosters life, but an agent of death, possibly with some distant inspiration from the fatal fruit from the Garden of Eden. But in the early sections of the story, the Queen offers a dried apple to the Princess before the Queen knows what she is, and the Princess' choice of another red substance establishes her monstrosity. Later, The Queen does deceive the Princess into taking the fatal bite, but because the monster is undead, her immortal beauty allows her to survive. The Queen then meets a fate usually doled out to a certain barnyard animal when served up on a platter-- though in Gaiman's description, the whole "roast beast" is stuffed with dried apples, not just one in the mouth.

Colleen Doran has a follow-up text piece in which she discusses her influences and the intensive work behind the adaptation. As far as I can tell, SNOW seems to be her magnum opus. I don't envy her trying to top it.