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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...

Friday, March 26, 2021



It’s now over forty years since the debut of Ridley Scott’s seminal film ALIEN, but to date there have been few attempts to follow up on the movie’s ironic transformation of the space opera. Most stories about galactic empires pursued the swashbuckling model of STAR WARS, to say nothing of distant ancestors from the prose pages of Hamilton, Brackett and Anderson. Ernie Colon’s one-shot graphic novel THE MEDUSA CHAIN appeared four years after ALIEN, but by design or accident, Colon emulated one major aspect of Scott’s work, that of using the space opera not for high adventure but to evoke tedium and tragedy.

The “chain” of the title refers to a cargo-chain, comprised of a ship, designated Medusa, that takes a full six years to trek from the colony world Homeland to the penal planet Annanda-Tor. By this trope alone, Colon establishes that this is not a universe where the heroes zoom through the immensities of outer space without any regard for physical limits. No one in the story comments as to why the ship sports the name “Medusa,” though it might have something to do with the origin of the mythic maiden, transformed against her will from a beauty to a monster—much as the genre of the space opera gets turned into a monstrous form by Colon. It may be just a coincidence that the ship, named for a being with snakes for hair, is voyaging to a world whose name slightly resembles that of the Hinda “Ananta Sesha,” a serpentine deity.

As we meet the story’s hero, he’s about to be sent to Annanda-Tor to serve a year-long sentence for “conspiracy and murder.” This doesn’t sound like a very severe penalty, except that the hero has to labor on the ship for six years to get to the penal planet, and then another six years in space when he returns to Homeland. But then, the crime of Chon Adams isn’t an ordinary murder case.

The hero’s name seems to be a slight exoticization of the mundane modern cognomen “John Adams,” and so is probably not a reference to anything along the lines of the second U.S. President. We know nothing of Chon’s background beyond the fact that he’s a skilled technician— “tec” for short. When cops bring him aboard the Medusa to begin his sentence, he sees a crew made up of grotesque mutants. (In MEDUSA mutants take the place of aliens, since this particular galactic empire doesn’t seem to include anyone but human beings and variations thereon.) As soon as Chon meets his new captain, the sinuous Commander Kilg-9, he makes a belated attempt to escape. Kilg-9 uses her special power (also a mutant skill?) to stun Chon, and then tells him to get to his berth for takeoff. Reaching his quarters, Chon takes out his ire on his new roomie, slugging the heavyset, unspeaking fellow designated Sixty-Six. Immediately afterward, Chon is obliged to demonstrate his buried good-guy nature by keeping his unconscious crewmate from being killed during the takeoff.

Chon’s essential heroism is then explicated by a long flashback. He and some friends sign on to a cargo run sponsored by an oily-looking rich guy named Messberg. While out in space, Chon and his buddies learn that they’ve been set up. The ship has been given inadequate rations so that everyone will starve in space and so that the ship will be lost, thus allowing Messberg to collect a hefty insurance payout. Chon immediately reverses the ship’s course, but the rations are still inadequate for everyone on board. The only solution to get around the “cold equations” of space is to dump all of the “unessential personnel,” allowing Chon and his friends to survive on their paltry rations long enough to reach Homeland and to expose Messberg’s perfidy. Chon shows himself to be the only kind of hero that can exist in this ironic existence: he takes sole responsibility for wiping out the other crewmembers, and he personally hunts down and kills Messberg to make certain the plutocrat can’t buy his way out of the charges. This may be the reason that Chon only gets a year-long sentence for his crime, though Colon does not say so.

Back in real time, Chon then endeavors to resign himself to his fate. The other crewmen, particularly the hulking Basenga, take a dislike to him and plan a dastardly fate for him. In addition, Chon finds out that the Medusa has a unique cargo: a chemical substance called TNC-00, which once destroyed the planet on which it was invented. Chon confronts Kilg-9, who admits that her real mission is to not to deliver him to Annanta-Tor, but to destroy their ancestral planet Earth. His response: “It’s about goddamn time, Madam.”

By this point in the story it’s obvious that the narrative isn’t going to follow the Medusa’s course for the next six years. Chon sorts out his nasty crewmen—only to find himself sympathizing with Basenga after the latter suffers an insidious punishment—and then Chon relates the story of Earth’s utter corruption. Though the planet was once the cradle of human evolution, an element called a “dioxinate” mutates into a virulent poison. The humans who escape to other worlds are the lucky ones. All who remain on Earth mutate into neotenous, sexless creatures called “Earthians,” encased in carapaces and wielding formidable psychic powers.

Kilg-9 hopes to get close enough to Earth to destroy the planet and its inhabitants with her cargo, but she has no more luck than anyone else in the story. The Earthians fly out into deep space to attack the Medusa, and it’s soon obvious that the crewmen have no chance. Kilg-9 is wounded, so that Chon is forced to take command, at which point he learns that the Earthians aren’t just defending themselves. Having been nurtured on one poison, the creatures desire to take possession of the TNC-00, believing that they can assimilate the element’s power in some way. Once again Chon, despite having a heroic mentality, is forced to act expediently: he lets the monsters have what they want. “What of those,” Kilg asks, “who will have to face that power in future?” Chon replies, “I don’t give a shit.” But he does know duty to the people in his own life. Kilg gets him to continue captaining the ship to its original destination, the penal planet. Chon’s last words in the story are “It’s a long, long way to Annanda-Tor.”

Colon mentioned in an AMAZING HEROES interview that he had plans for a sequel, but DC declined to contract for that work. In all likelihood, Chon would not have simply gone meekly to serve out his prison-term. Rather, Colon almost certainly would have had his hero butting heads with more assholes. Still, the notion that he honors his commitment to his captain (and romantic interest) even though it might mean imprisonment is a fitting ironic capper to Chon’s saga. The author does introduce one possible subplot in the last pages of MEDUSA CHAIN, when Sixty-Six reveals that he was always capable of speech but remained silent because he’s a priest who had been observing a “vow of silence” during a “pilgrimage.” Perhaps the nature of Sixty-Six’s pilgrimage would have been integral to Chon’s never-to-be-chronicled second adventure, and it’s intriguing to wonder how Colon would have portrayed any form of religion in a universe apparently dominated by ruthless contingency.

Sunday, March 21, 2021


 The original series to which this essay belongs was called just “CHALLENGER VS. DEFENDER,” but I find that “aggressor” seems to capture better than “challenger” the nature of the conflict-analysis I’m attempting.

The BORIS KARLOFF story “Macgonikkle’s Monster,” already analyzed for its myth-content here, also illustrates a certain dynamic between aggressor and defender roles. Though there is a monster in the story, and an archaic knight named “the Macgonikkle” who fights the beast, both are supporting characters in the conflict taking place between focal character Reggie Belton and the people of the unnamed Scots village he occupies.

Building on the discourse in the previous essays, the villagers assume the narratological role of “defenders.” They incarnate a status quo devoted to the veneration of all the village’s Scots customs, including their (admittedly imperfect) knowledge of the history of their esteemed culture-hero the Macgonikkle, a knightly lord from medieval times.

Reggie Belton, also a Scot, purchases the crumbling castle of the long-vanished knight, but establishes right away that he cares nothing for the local culture. This by itself puts him in the narratological position I now call “the aggressor.” The unknown writer of the story also suggests a bit of class warfare, in that Reggie, instead of remaining a lower-class scion of Glasgow, worked hard enough to turn himself into “new money,” thus enabling him to buy the Macgonikkle castle.

The villagers are aghast at Reggie’s pecuniary motives for purchasing the castle. The young millionaire, whose precise business is never specified, believes that he can make back his investment by using the castle as a backdrop for photo-shoots, particularly because of the “local color” of the incredibly realistic statue showing the Macgonikkle fighting a fearsome dragon. Some dialogue suggests that Reggie also may have bought the castle in order to tweak the noses of the hidebound Scots. Implicitly, he feels that their traditions did nothing to alleviate his lowborn birth in the slums, forcing him to go to work at age thirteen—though, to be sure, this setup is not altogether at odds with the stereotypical image of the pinchpenny Scotsman. In some ways Reggie seems like a typical “new money” rich guy, but in one respect the villagers scorn him for riding around town on a noisy scooter, even though this is less ostentatious than the practice of the castle’s former lords. One villager expresses a preference for seeing the old lords ride around town in limousines, and this suggests that the village as a whole took pleasure in the old order’s display of conspicuous consumption.

Reggie’s contempt for Scottish superstitions about their beloved knight is the main source of his aggression toward the hidebound villagers. The castle’s former owner, who presumably is no longer rich enough to maintain the Macgonikkle’s ancient residence, can’t compete with Reggie and his new money, while the old owner’s daughter complains that Reggie’s photo-shoots will create “ugly pictures of our national hero.” In truth, the only photo shoot readers see is one in which a handful of models in fashionable frocks parade around the knight-and-dragon statue. So maybe the daughter’s real resentment is just that the statue is reduced to the stature of a backdrop for a profane advertisement of something-or-other. Reggie avers that he plans to feature the Macgonikkle’s backstory in some magazine, which in theory would disseminate the legend beyond Scottish shores, but it appears that the villagers care only about keeping their local legends free of outside profanation.

The photo-shoot ends up doing more for the Macgonikkle than just enhancing his reputation. The strobe lights used in the shoot inadvertently reverse the magical spell that turned both the knight and his beastly adversary into stone images, so that both are freed to continue their battle. Further, at a point where the knight comes close to losing the fight, Reggie intervenes to help the Macgonikkle, enabling the nobleman to slay his foe at last, so that the great Scots hero can pass on to whatever his eternal reward may be. (It’s not much compensation for having been deprived of a normal life by a wizard’s spell, but it’s still better than remaining a stone statue for countless more years.)

So, Reggie’s aggression against the Scottish status quo ends up benefiting the very figure whom the villagers revere. The villagers are briefly on Reggie’s side, until he announces that he still wants to use the castle for more photo-shoots, and that he plans to have a sculptor create a “New Macgonikkle, a futuristic work of stainless steel.” The story ends with the defenders of the status quo deriding Reggie once more for defying their sense of tradition with “the shock of the new.” But no reader of this nearly forgotten tale is likely to agree with the villagers. Reggie’s “aggression” is in every way rendered as more attractive than the conservative village. No change seems forthcoming, but the reader can share in the wry humor of story-host Boris Karloff as he muses upon “tradition-bound Scottish villagers” (while wearing a tam-o-shanter, no less).


The “longer formulation” of quantum literary theory that I mentioned in Part 1 represents an attempt to apply the insights regarding the master tropes of the combative mode, expressed in 2019’s GIVE-AND-TAKE VS. THE KILLING STROKE  to the discourses of the four potentialities. In 2017’s GOOD WILLQUANTUMS PT. 2  I wrote that “the primary criterion of ficti onal excellence in any potentiality” was that of “density/complexity,” which criterion was merely a conflation of two covalent terms I’d used separately over the years. Not until late 2018, with the essay CONVERGING ON CONCRESCENCE,  did I decide that the authorial process of creating complexity merited its own term, and that this process, called concrescence, pertained to any work, no matter which of the potentialities proved dominant in the author’s intentions. I devoted one 2019 essay, CLANSGRESSION COUNTDOWN, to listing fifty separate works, all of which dealt with similar subject matter, and then showing how each work emphasized one of the four potentialities more than it did any of the other three.

I wrote GIVE-AND-TAKE in late 2019, but that essay was the culmination of many years of meditating on the different forms that the combative mode took in fictional narratives, with special reference to forms which did not end with a “give-and-take” of energies between combatants. Apparently, I was reasonably satisfied with these makework terms for the two tropes throughout most of 2020. However, during 2020 I finally read PROCESS AND REALITY, and this caused me to re-interpret some of my critical parameters in terms of the “vector metaphor” Whitehead used in PROCESS. Thanks to this process of re-interpretation, I gave further thought to the two tropes of GIVE-AND-TAKE in terms of vectors.

With the trope originally designated as “the killing stroke,” recently renamed “the deathblow,” I noted that the combative energies could flow in one of two directions:

From inferior force to superior force, as with the humans who blind the mighty Cyclops as well as the humans who vanquish mighty Godzilla with an “oxygen destroyer”—

Or from superior force to inferior force, as with Dionysus’s destruction of Pentheus and with the Spectre’s destruction of pestilential criminals.

However, with the trope originally designated as “give-and-take” and renamed “deathmatch,” the flow of energies must be on roughly the same plane. Often the deathmatch-trope takes place between just two entities of roughly equal power, such as Aeneas and Turnus, or Orion and Kalibak. A second variation would be that of two formidable warriors taking a larger number of opponents with some disadvantages (Odysseus and Telemachus vs. the suitors, who lack full armor and weapons, Batman and Robin vs. gangs of armed hoods who lack any special combative skills). A third popular variation is that of a huge assemblage of combatants vs. another huge assemblage of equally skilled opponents (the Greek gods vs. the Titans, the Justice Society vs. the Injustice Society), and a fourth can pit a large assemblage of heroes against one superior opponent, as with the Greek gods fighting Typhon and the Teen Titans battling Trigon. But all of these variations are subsumed by a vector showing energies flowing in both directions.

Because the “strength-quanta” energies of the deathblow-trope focus upon a vector going only in one direction, I choose to label this trope as *univectoral. *

However, because the “strength-quanta” energies of the deathmatch-trope flow in at least two directions at minimum, I choose to label this trope as *multivectoral. *

In GIVE-AND-TAKE, I erred on the side of caution by stating that I wasn’t yet certain that the two combative tropes were the only significant ones. However, having rethought the tropes in terms of vectoral analysis, I’ll now state that these two are the only principal tropes for “strength-quanta,” and that everything in between the two is simply a variation of one or the other.

Now, how does this affect potentialities whose tropes deal with different quanta? I will submit that excellence in all of the other three potentialities arises from a concrescence of energies that also follows either a *univectoral * or a *multivectoral * process.

Some loose examples:

In a work dominated by the dramatic potentiality, the work might be *univectoral * if it focuses only upon how one character’s “affect-quanta” influences other persons, as with Ibsen’s HEDDA GABLER. Another work might be *multivectoral * if it focused on how a group of characters influenced one another with their quanta, as would be the case in the same author’s ROSMERSHOLM. Similarly, one might have two works dominated by the didactic potentiality, one in which the author wishes to expatiate only one ideology, while in another the author wishes to oppose at least two ideologies in order to show one as superior to the other. Both Upton Sinclair’s THE JUNGLE and Jack London’s THE IRON HEEL concern the ideology of socialism. But London provides an argument for the counter-ideology of capitalism, while Sinclair does not.

As for the mythopoeic potentiality, the one that arguably receives the greatest attention on this blog, I may as well use as illustrations the last two mythcomics I analyzed here. “Ixar, Sinister Statue of the Cyclades” is *univectoral,* in that all of the symbol-quanta are invested in the giant statue’s recapitulation of the myth of Orion and Cedalion, while all other characters, settings and plot-actions in the story are symbolically nugatory.

In contrast, the two-part story “PublicEnemy/Lifedeath” is *mutivectoral.* The first part begins by showing the interactions of two heroes, Storm and Rogue, as they overcome their initial conflicts and forge a bond of superheroic sisterhood, in part thanks to Rogue being able to “become” Storm by assimilating Storm’s command of natural forces. The sequence then concludes by showing a different set of symbolic interactions between Storm and potential lover Forge. Forge, an incarnation of the de-mythifying power of science, accidentally brings about the eradication of Storm’s godlike mutant abilities. Because Storm does not know that Forge is responsible for her loss, she comes close to being seduced both by his virility and his state of wounded-ness (missing leg replaced by a mechanical substitute). When she learns of his culpability, she rejects any bond with him, except in the sense that she swears to overcome the state of abjection he’s forced upon her, promising that she will find a way to “fly” again, if only in a metaphorical sense.

Time will tell whether or not I will explore other potentialities in terms of their vectoral nature. If so, I would have to devise trope-names appropriate to the other three potentialities, since “deathmatch” and “deathblow” apply only to the kinetic.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021


One of my title words sounds like the name of an Image superhero, and the other sounds like it might as well be one. But these are, for the time being, working titles for the tropes I discussed in GIVE-AND-TAKE VS. THE KILLING STROKE—neither of which names were ever more than provisional placeholders.

The trope I call “deathblow” subsumes two structurally related sub-tropes. One sub-trope represents the concentration of will/power in order for a megadynamic character to overthrow a character of far greater dynamicity, and in GIVE-AND-TAKE I cited the example of Odysseus and his men wounding Polyphemus in such a way to cripple, though not totally enervate, the Cyclops. The other sub-trope is practically the obverse of the first and concerns a character of superior dynamicity concentrating will/power to overthrow a character of lesser dynamicity. In the essay SELF-MASTERY MEDITATIONS PT. 3, I used the temporary term “reverse killing stroke” to signify both Classical examples like Dionysus’s destruction of Pentheus and pop-cultural examples like the Spectre hurling “the wrath of God” down upon lowly criminals.

The trope I call “deathmatch” is more unitary, and for most of this blog’s history it was the sole trope by which I defined the mode of the combative: that of roughly matched adversaries matching their respective forms of “might” against one another. In the essay ON MASTERING SELF-MASTERY I mentioned a variation on this form, that of the “indirect commander” who doesn’t usually contend with an opponent himself but has “henchmen” who do his fighting for him, which was the case with almost all of the Fu Manchu novels. But the “deathmatch” in all forms requires the opposition of roughly equivalent incarnations of dynamicity, as opposed to the “inferior vs. superior” and “superior vs. inferior” sub-tropes.

Now, in 1913’s THE ETHIC OF THECOMBATIVE PART 2, I wrote “One only proceeds away from the condition of ‘non-might’ by acquiring ‘might’ oneself.” But over the years I progressed away from the idea that megadynamicity was determined only by a certain level of physical power, and I allowed for the idea that the condition of “self-mastery” could be equally significant. In 1912 I rated Jack Burton of BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA as merely “mesodynamic” because he wasn’t an extraordinary all-around fighter. However, in the series WEAKLINGS WITH WEAPONS I viewed Burton’s mastery of his “one good trick” as a factor that allowed him to enter the ranks of the megadynamic. Yet I would still disallow from those ranks many characters who conquer superior forces through the use of tricks that don’t indicate self-mastery, such as the folktale-kids Hansel and Gretel. By the same token, there are many examples of “superior force” that don’t connote self-mastery. The Spectre shows self-mastery whenever he punishes a mortal transgressor with some diabolical fate, but there exist dozens of monsters who reverse the Hansel and Gretel paradigm, luring hapless victims into traps but not really doling out well-crafted punishments. In fact, Freddy Kruger starts as this sort of subcombative ghost. But with the third installment the filmmakers begin to endow Freddy’s opponents with the ability to engage in oneric “deathmatches” with the evil spirit—. Oddly, it’s after that film that Freddy himself starts making more use of the “deathblow” trope.

And though it seems obvious to me, I should note at this point that "deathmatch" and "deathblow" are metaphors, and as such can apply to situations where no life is actually taken, or even truly threatened, as in the ONE POUND GOSPEL stories of Rumiko Takahashi, where the starring boxer is never in literal peril of losing his life.


As a prequel to a longer formulation, I’m recapitulating my “quantum literary theory” with some refinements.

The foundation of the theory remains indebted to Gloomy Schopenhauer’s concept of The Will. In SEVENWAYS FROM SCHOPENHAUER, I adapted his theory to literary purposes by asserting that even if we can’t verify the idea of a Will that permeates human existence, it’s axiomatic that authorial Will permeates all narrative phenomena.

A secondary foundation is derived from Jung’s theory of four psychological functions through which all human subjects perceive the world, though Jung makes clear that not every individual will draw upon the functions to the same degree. From Jung’s functions I have extrapolated four potentialities that human beings use in creating any sort of narrative, be it fictional or non-fictional.

My four potentialities are the kinetic, the dramatic, the didactic and the mythopoeic, and in keeping with the meaning “potentiality” is said to carry in quantum physics, all four are modes through which the human subject organizes information.

Units of information are what I call “quanta,” named for the building-blocks of matter, i.e., both atomic and subatomic particles. But in the narratological world, the “energies” of each quantum are representations drawn both from human experience and from human imagination (which may not be entirely dependent upon experience). All quanta are generalized rather than particularized representations, loosely after the fashion of Plato’s Forms. No author makes a representation of a particular lion from a particular time and place; a quantum representing a lion communicates only “lion-ness.” A similar dynamic governs representations of action. A quantum that communicates “falling” cannot assess quantifiable distance, but only rough approximations, so that a quantum representation can only communicate falling either a short distance or a great distance.

Now for something moderately different: just as quantum particles would be of no relevance to human Will as discrete particles, narratological particles only assume significance in the form of “molecules.” These molecular assemblages I relate to the idea of “tropes.”

Whatever the word “trope” meant in ancient Greece, today it has assumed the idea of a standardized scenario, usually applied to fiction, though it’s not without relevance to non-fiction. The statement “the lion is the king of beasts” combines a quantum derived from physical experience, the creature we call a “lion,” with a second quantum, an imagined status of kingship imputed to the creature. To continue the parallel with the action of falling, a fall from a great distance often suggests danger while a fall from a short distance does not. This often translates into such tropes as “man and woman fall in love,” representing a non-perilous and even “fortunate” fall, as well as “angels falling from heaven,” which represents catastrophe if not literal physical harm.

My title for this essay plays upon the title of an Ian Fleming James Bond short story, and while many of my puns are just toss-offs, there’s a little more method to my punny madness here. I chose to reference “solipsism” not as an actual defense of that philosophical position—that one can only be certain of one’s own mental existence—but because the making of a narrative can be seen as an elaboration of one’s own mental universe. Non-fictional narratives are, at least in theory, all about relating a series of experiential facts, though arguably the most popular non-fictional discourses are those that impose a desirable interpretation on said facts. But as I’ve previously argued, fiction is less about reporting “truths” than formulating “half-truths:” narratives in which it’s obvious that the author has arranged all elements in the story to achieve certain effects. Even where a fiction-author fails to achieve those effects, an experienced reader can often intuit more or less what sort of “universe” the author sought to create.

Though some tropes may be roughly composed of the same quanta, they can have vastly different effects because authors will inevitably choose to focus more on one potentiality than another. For instance, the trope “the lion is the king of beasts” can take such many differing forms.

A KINETIC utilization of the trope appears with respect to the Gardner Fox villain “Lion-Mane,” a human who becomes transformed into a lion-humanoid in order to challenge Hawkman and Hawkgirl, with the overall scheme of achieving dominance over all the denizens of Planet Earth.

A DRAMATIC utilization appears in the imitation “Tarzan” novel KING OF THE JUNGLE and its cinematic adaptation, insofar as Kaspa, a foundling human, is adopted by a pride of jungle-dwelling lions, with the result that he becomes their “king” and uses both his animal-like skills and his human intelligence to save his fellow beasts.

A DIDACTIC utilization appears in Roland Barthes’ philosophical tome MYTHOLOGIES, in which Barthes attempts to prove that the very idea of imputing kingliness to the animal we call a “lion” is an indulgence in what he terms (with scant justification) mythological thinking.

A MYTHOPOEIC utilization appears in C.S. Lewis’s THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, wherein the kingliness of the lion is given religious connotations, so that Lord Aslan symbolizes both the power and lordliness of Lewis’s concept of Jesus Christ.

Having established the interactions of will, quantum representations, and tropes, I’ll next proceed to more involved meditations upon two particular tropes of significance to my project.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021


All American comics-anthologies, or at least those within my not-inconsiderable experience, sell to their public by offering stories with “twist endings.” Because writers concentrate on coming up with fresh “gotchas” to impress readers, often they don’t manage to exercise their myth-making faculties as well. Of the stand-alone stories I’ve reviewed as fully concrescent mythcomics, Bruce Jones’ “The Maiden and the Dragon” stands as an exception to this tendency. Like other tales scripted by Jones during this period, this narrative relies upon a surprise at the end. However, the twist evolves from a synthesis of two disparate myth-tropes: that of a monarch dividing a bequest between several offspring, and that of a maiden being menaced by a ravening dragon—a synthesis not unlike the one in the story reviewed here.

The Silver Age anthologies of DC Comics, given the company’s editorial insistence upon delivering simple gimmick-tales, don’t furnish an inviting terrain for myth. Nevertheless, an exception to this tendency appears in an uncredited story in HOUSE OF MYSTERY #135. GCDB attributes the artwork to George Roussos but has no record of the author. I speculate that it may have been Arnold Drake, and so when speaking of the writer will term him “Maybe-Drake.”

The writer of the “Ixar” story certainly did a little more research than one sees in the average DC tale, both in terms of an accurate setting and of significant myth-tropes. I’ll descant on the tropes after summarizing the story. As for the details of verisimilitude, these relate to the author’s choice of the Greek Cyclades Islands as his setting. The most pertinent aspects of the Islands here are that (a) two of the isles are or were volcanic in nature, and (b) the area has a strong repute for exotic statuary, given that the islands were originally inhabited by a pre-Minoan culture.

Certainly Maybe-Drake starts the story by focusing on the volcanic nature of his unnamed island-setting in the Cyclades, stating that the “remote island” is occupied by “a village and a volcano.” The villagers believe that the volcano is held in check by Ixar, a giant green-skinned deity who “though blind, possessed amazing strength, and could easily hold back the volcano’s terrible fury.” (At present I’ve found no mythic correlations for the name Ixar, though it bears some resemblance to “Ixion,” the name of a Greek transgressor against the gods.)

Page two expands upon Ixar’s mythology by revealing that he’s a biune deity, for on his head stands a human-sized entity. This “lesser god” is named Optar, which is unquestionably derived from the Greek “optikos,” meaning roughly “that which sees or is seen.” Optar, Maybe-Drake tells us, possessed sight that “could peer beyond the stars,” though he “yearned for strength such as Ixar’s.” Thus, the two deities joined with one another: “Ixar became Optar’s strength, Optar became Ixar’s sight, and they served each other well.” Two thousand years prior to present time, the villagers honored the biune deity with the tallest statue on the island, roughly along the lines of the famed Colossus of Rhodes. However, a “new and jealous king decreed that his statue should stand above all others.” This proved an act of hubris comparable to the (non-canonical) fall of the Tower of Babel, for Ixar-Optar releases the volcano and buries the king’s city in ash and lava. In contemporary times, a humble village has taken the place of the impious city, and though the village is sustained by mining gold from the earth, the island’s greatest wealth is its history.

Three archaeologists—Stanton, Frazure and Duncan, all speaking in American speech patterns—have the luck to unearth a statue from the island’s earth, a statue which attentive readers will recognize as Optar. On the day when the scientists plan to subject Optar to carbon-dating, Stanton goes missing—and suddenly, mighty Ixar, with Optar still perched on his head, rises from the concealing earth. The hulking statue stalks toward the village, and the residents fear that he seeks to destroy everyone in response to the archaeological meddling. However, the blind green giant then saves some citizens from falling masonry.

Duncan and Frazure cannot reconcile the reality of the “incredible stone duo” in terms of science, and when the duo departs, Stanton suddenly shows up and asserts that everyone must have been the victim of mass hypnosis. Out of nowhere the two stone deities show up again, as if summoned by Stanton’s skepticism, and attack a local train that carries gold from the mine. Optar even reveals a new talent, blasting the train with a ray from his eyes. The deities stalk off again, and the villagers blame Stanton. Frazure absents himself during these goings-on but comes back to reveal the results of his own private research. He reveals the secret of Ixar-Optar: it’s a robot created by an alien race in order to gather data on the Earthlings of archaic times, apparently built to take the place of the colossal statue. The aliens died long ago in the same volcanic cataclysm supposedly unleashed by a king’s impiety, but the explorers left behind a laboratory filled with explanatory notes, conveniently written in ancient Aegean hieroglyphics. Frazure also deduces that Stanton found the lab first and acquired a device with which he controlled the robot and made it attack the train, so that he Stanton could later collect the gold. Stanton is implicitly arrested, and the islanders get a “tourist attraction” in the form of the deactivated robot.

The paltry detective plot is garbage and the three scientists are nothing characters, but Ixar-Optar is an engaging conflation of two intertwined traditions of archaic Greece. One tradition stems from the myth-corpus of Hephaestus the Blacksmith-God, not infrequently pictured as living inside volcanoes due to his association with fire. As for the other two major aspects of the artificial deity’s nature—his tremendous strength and his blindness—Maybe-Drake certainly borrowed these from the legend of Orion, who is connected to Hephaestus in this following myth:

According to the oldest version, he was the son of the god Poseidon and Euryale, daughter of King Minos of Crete. Thanks to his father, Orion had the ability to walk on water, which is how he reached the island of Chios. There, after drinking too much, he made sexual advances to Merope, the daughter of the local king. King Oenopion had him blinded and removed from the island. Blind Orion reached the island of Lemnos, which was the place where god Hephaestus had his forge. Helped by Hephaestus and his servant Cedalion, Orion reached the East where the sun god Helios restored his eyesight.

It would seem obvious that the forge-god’s apprentice Cedalion—who has no other associations beyond the Orion corpus—is the inspiration for Optar, a smaller being who provides the “eyes” for a blind giant. The writer of the story imagines the robot Optar as functioning atop Ixar’s head as an “aerial,” which in 1963 would probably have elicited mental comparisons to the “rabbit ears” of early televisions. One thing Maybe-Drake doesn’t trouble to explain is why this “aerial” has a destruct-beam built into his gaze. Weren’t the alien robot-builders supposed to be peaceful investigators? But the eye-beam elaboration—unnecessary in a plot-sense, given that giant Ixar could have just kicked the gold-train into the sea—suggests that the writer was having fun with the story to some extent, by imagining a deity with a thunderbolt gaze. (It’s of some relevance that in archaic times Zeus himself was sometimes pictured as casting lightning from his eyes, though I would not assert that Maybe-Drake must have known of this obscure tradition.) Hampered as “Ixar” is by DC editors’ affection for bland gimmickry, the story does show that a few rare flowers can grow even in the most unpromising soil.