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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, May 23, 2021

DEPARTMENT OF COMICS CURIOSITIES #4

 I lost interest in my crossover project on OUROBOROS DREAMS some time back, but though this one isn't great, it is one of the most peculiar.

In FEATURE COMICS #81 (1944)-- a comic whose headliner was the long-lived but nearly forgotten Doll Man-- a humorous character named Blimpy got himself shrunk to doll-size. So he calls Doll Man about his predicament, and the hero refuses to help because it would break "union rules."





On a totally unrelated subject, here's a late fifties cover from Simon and Kirby's THE FLY:




It's a pretty cool cover, unless one stops to wonder why a superhero who can fly is bothering to swing at the villains on a rope.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

MYTHCOMICS: "THE CITY OF SHIFTING SAND" (ALL FLASH #22, 1946)




Prior to reading all the issues of ALL FLASH on ReadComicsOnline, I might have thought that it might have been a little more venturesome, even for a kid's comic, when the whole forty-something pages of each magazine were devoted to one story at a time. Certainly in the Silver Age, the most mythic stories of the Barry Allen Flash were those in which the writer (usually John Broome) could devote as much space as possible to his imaginings. 

But such was not the case. All the "book-length" adventures of the Golden Age Flash (a.k.a. Jay Garrick) were pretty much of a piece with the short stories he'd enjoyed in anthology comics like the original FLASH COMICS. That is to say, the tales had a sort of freewheeling silliness-- one story in ALL-FLASH sports the title "Anything Can Happen"-- but,. following one of the arguments of Coleridge, this was just "fancy," not the deeper form of imagination. Ironically, the only story I found mythic in ALL FLASH appeared during the period when the magazine was once more devoted to three short tales per issue.

"The City of Shifting Sand" starts off with a schtick that hadn't been used in the regular FLASH stories for a time, wherein Jay Garrick relates one of the actual adventures of the Flash to his "liar's club" as if it's a story he made up-- without, of course, mentioning that he himself is the Flash. In a world of superheroes and supervillains, I would think no one would feel the necessity of trying top "reality" in that manner. but such is the conceit.

In contrast to the more freewheeling science-fantasies in THE FLASH, ""City of Shifting Sand" starts off by grounding its wild notion of "sand-people" with explanations of the function of sand in human culture, for glass, pottery, et al. Appropriately for a fantasy, sand's importance to human culture is just the first step to imputing intelligence to the substance.



As the Flash, Garrick comes to the rescue of a man beleagured by the sand-people, but like a number of heroes after him, he finds that sandy villains don't present good targets.



Later, Flash comes across a city of silicone men, who are more like glass than their sandy brethren. They, quite naturally, resent the hegemony of carbon life-forms and plan to eliminate the competition. John Broome, the unbilled author, has some fun hypothesizing that the glass-men are nourished by sunlight, which is one of the weapons they plan to use against humanity.



Like villains of the carbon variety, the sand-men make the mistake of putting the hero into a gradual death-trap, from which of course he breaks free. Having learned that the sand-people store their energy in their hearts, Flash then attacks the silicon beings in such a way as to disrupt their energies. Moreover, he defeats the silicon men in their redoubt simply by "leaving the solar light on," while exposes the creatures to so much energy that they all perish of "overeating."





Compared to some of the better cosmological myths of Silver Age DC, "CIty" may seem to be built on a foundation of "shifting sand." But in contrast to most SF-stories in the comics of the time, the pseudoscience is rendered with an eye toward internal consistency-- even if, in the last panels, Garrick seems so disturbed that his jacket goes from orange to off-white.

ADLER PATED PT. 3

Not that I've mentioned it before, but I've been working on a book explaining my take on the superhero idiom. What I'm printing here now is a section that I wrote for a first draft, only to decide that it no longer fit the general plan any more. This excerpt may repeat some of the points from the ADLER PATED series, beginning here, but that's because it wasn't written for this blog.

______________

As I noted in Chapter 1, Aristotle’s assertion that all fiction includes an agon or conflict has become a commonplace principle in literary criticism. Aristotle says nothing about any type of conflict being inherently better than another form. However, combative forms of conflict—those in which a dispute was resolved through two or more characters coming to violent blows—became less commonplace in literature as poetic epics gave way to realistic fiction. Violence still occurred in realistic fiction, but it usually lacked archetypal dimensions. There was no sense of a monumental contest when Robinson Crusoe simply used a rifle to shoot down a tribe of bloodthirsty cannibals. In some metamundane works of the post-Renaissance period, such as Gulliver’s Travels, conflict tended toward absurd resolutions. When Lilliput suffers an attack by an enemy fleet, gigantic Gulliver discourages the invasion by urinating on the attackers. Not exactly in line with the Marquise of Queensbury rules.

After I watched an action-movie with a friend, I asked him afterward what if any meaning he assigned to the film’s climactic fight-scene. Why was it pleasurable? His answer was one that most readers will find familiar: audiences enjoy watching characters engage in life-and-death struggles because audience members can’t enjoy such visceral pleasures in real life without consequences. Punch out your mean boss in real life; you get fired and/or go to jail.

Between the years 1907 and 1911, psychologist Alfred Adler formulated the concept of “compensation.” Having studied the ways in which the human body compensated for “innate anomalies of organs”—for instance, weakness of sight—Adler extended his observations into the realm of psychology. Adler argued that from childhood on, human beings inevitably found themselves challenged by their physical and social experiences. For instance, Adler, a second child himself, sometimes discussed how sibling rivalries could evolve when a child felt that his sibling was receiving all the parental affection, thus leading to feelings of inferiority and emotional deprivation that could affect the child even in later life

Though Adler is not as well known today as his contemporaries Freud and Jung, his compensation theory has become axiomatic in modern culture, particularly when dealing with questions like “why people like fictional stories.” The usual response goes something like, “People lead boring lives, so they like to compensate by reading about fictional characters who lead exciting lives.”

There’s undoubtedly a partial truth in this. Even some fictional works, such as Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, focus upon characters unable to separate reality from fantasy. However, Alfred Adler was a little more nuanced than the routine reading of compensation theory. The psychologist distinguished between positive and negative forms of compensation, one being an activity that strengthens the individual, while the other activity has a weakening effect. For instance, in his lecture “Outcomes of Overcompensation,” he points out that paranoiacs are so obsessed with seeing their perceived truths that they manifest “hallucinatory fits.” However, an artist can channel his desire for better sight into art. Adler cites the example of Johann Schiller, a playwright known to have suffered from weak eyesight. Rather than seeking to see better than he could in real life, Schiller channeled his desire for superlative sight into fiction, by creating a hero who could see well enough to shoot an apple off his son’s head: the semi-legendary William Tell.

The “negative compensation” explanation for fictional pleasure is often applied to combative forms of fiction, but it would seem to apply across the board to everything. Do you read stories about romantic love? You don’t have enough love in real life. Do you read stories about faraway places? You’re fed up with your current location. Do you read stories about mad kings and melancholy Danes? You must have a deep-seated envy for the privileges of the monarchical system. By its nature, this concept of compensation accentuates the negative to such an extent that anyone’s taste can be reduced to a simple equation: “You only like X in order to compensate for Y.” Indeed, critics have so often put forth the negative compensation argument against things they don’t like—be it cozy mysteries or big-budget superhero movies—that even the fans of those types of fiction have been known to utter the same arguments, along the lines of “I know it’s junk, but I like it.”

What would criticism look like if it used Alfred Adler’s full proposition, rather than just the half that makes the critics feel good about themselves? Then critics would have to agree that readers of any type of fiction are capable of approaching that genre or form in a positive, self-strengthening manner or in a negative, self-weakening manner. If this is the case, then there must be ways in which combative stories exemplify positive compensation, rather than simply being substitutes for experiences that the audience cannot access.

I said in Chapter 2 that fantasy elements in fiction had the power to open the nearly limitless powers of the imagination. Fictional combat stimulates the imagination as well, though it’s oriented largely on a specific theme: what I’ve called ‘the archetypal battle of good and evil.” In real life, outbreaks of violence are often stupid, pointless, and chaotic. Certain sports-games, like wrestling and football, pit athletes against one another in violent activities, though the activities are dictated by a set of rules. Some fans become so invested in these games that they have been known to riot— usually because their team has lost, though on occasion they even do so when their team wins. But at the core, the society as a whole doesn’t believe that the “villain” in the wrestling-ring is really evil, or that the home-team’s victory makes the community’s life any better.

In fiction, fantasies of a struggle between good and evil can be fully explored, the better to understand one’s ideas of good and evil when they’ve been embodied in the forms of heroes and villains. The fact that the combative form of fiction has been able to prosper over centuries, despite the opposition of so-called “higher culture,” speaks to its pertinacity.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

DON’T GIVE A FEIGE

 


Upon completing my viewing of the FALCON AND WINTER SOLDIER streaming series, I’m moved to comment on some of the parallels between Kevin Feige, founder of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Stan Lee, the founder of Marvel Comics in its crucial sixties incarnation.


Stan Lee, like his mostly middle-aged colleagues at Sixties Marvel, certainly had no idea that their company would someday become a major influence on the course of American pop culture. Certainly, there could have been no thoughts of a coherent “universe” as such; early on, there would have been nothing more than the attempt to cross-promote Marvel’s various titles through the act of guest-starring appearances. That said, once the idea of an interacting universe caught the attention of the fans, Lee certainly did much to promote the idea, sometimes with minor effects, like having the Avengers consult Paste-Pot Pete on the subject of glue removal. The overall effect was playful, since comics were dominantly aimed at children.


Yet Lee made some cautious responses to fans who wanted to expatiate on heavy subjects like politics and philosophy. The ruminations of the earth-imprisoned Silver Surfer were never deep, but Lee knew how to dramatize the tone of the character’s forlorn exile from the heavens. As for politics, in the late sixties the editor apparently realized that America’s youth was trending toward liberalism. Thus he largely dumped the anti-Communist rhetoric of the early sixties—even though such rhetoric contributed to one of the better FANTASTIC FOUR stories—and he attempted, with mixed results, to write stories about hot-button issues like student protests, the Vietnam war and the Black Experience.


In one interview, Kevin Feige claims to have been far more of a film-nut than a comics-nut. Most of his professional efforts appeared in films that were “superhero-like” in some way, and unlike many pros who only dabbled in superhero films for sake of career advancement—Christopher Nolan for example—Feige seems to have intuited that he could make superheroes his specialty long before the launch of the first MCU film in 2008.


Still, when he produced IRON MAN, Feige would have known that the continuity game had proven very profitable for Marvel Comics. He would also have known that the 1980s had given birth to a new method of cross-promoting properties: the “crossover event,” sometimes involving the linked plotlines of five or six ongoing features, sometimes encompassing developments in all of a company’s titles. The first few MCU films were poised to build to a “regular crossover” insofar as the heroes of THOR, IRON MAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA and INCREDIBLE HULK would coalesce into THE AVENGERS. Managing such a crossover situation within the medium of theatrical film was arguably more involved than doing so at a comics-company. But Feige took things even farther. Starting with the second THOR film, Feige introduced the potential for a “crossover event”—one that would involve all the franchises under his control-- and he did so by drawing loosely upon one of the first such events from Marvel Comics: Jim Starlin’s “Infinity Gems” narratives.


Within the context of comics aimed largely at kids, Stan Lee was stronger at philosophy—at least insofar as he could convey philosophy through characterization—than he was at politics. Feige took the opposite course. Though he didn’t signal his full political agenda in the earliest films, over time the success of the MCU allowed him to indulge in considerable Leftist constructions—not least with the dissolution of SHIELD, whose spy-games had been of inestimable service to the Marvel Comics superheroes. But his philosophical scope never progressed beyond politically informed platitudes, and his interpretations of such Marvel favorites as Thor, Ant Man, Wasp, Black Panther and Spider-Man show a disinterest in strong characterization and a tendency to drift into inane comedy.

In conclusion, although Stan Lee and Kevin Feige both found new ways to make superheroes appealing to mass audiences beyond the sphere of kids, they diverged sharply in their strategies. Stan Lee did so by opening up the dramatic potential of superheroes, giving them all different voices and orientations. Initially Feige showed some skill with superhero dramatics in IRON MAN, which he might have learned from observing the way Sam Raimi transferred the saga of Peter Parker into his superior take on SPIDER-MAN. But over time Feige came to emulate Lee less than Jim Shooter, the Marvel editor-in-chief who launched the first “crossover events” at the company. Thus in the AVENGERS film-series a promising emotional arc, such as the romantic interaction of the Vision and the Scarlet Witch, is conveyed through by ham-fisted exposition, because the script requires far more emphasis on forcing lumps of event-oriented plot-action down the throats of the viewers. I frankly cannot guess how Feige will further monetize Marvel characters for fun and profit in the next ten years. However, it's worth remembering that Stan Lee's "golden years" petered out in the space of a little over ten years-- and he was much more creative than Feige on the latter's best day.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

DEPARTMENT OF COMICS CURIOSITIES #3

 Two things of interest in YOUNG ALLIES #5, scripted by Stan Lee and drawn by Don Rici:



First, the villain menacing the kid-heroes is named the Owl, but unlike the Daredevil villain he's got no particular owl-like characteristics, except maybe the shape of his head.



Second, whether or not it's the first time, Stan starts a rivalry between Bucky and Toro, mostly on Toro's side, since he doesn't like being bossed around by leader Bucky. I assume that Stan was following through on the Human Torch-Submariner animus, but it's interesting that he would play around with the "heroes who don't like each other" in this sort of kid-oriented book.

COMBATIVELY YOURS

                 

In the three-part LOVE OVER WILL (FOR NOW) series, starting here, I listed five of the mythcomics I’d reviewed here because I deemed that they all rated as “accommodation narratives” rather than “confrontation narratives.” In my many observations on the combative mode in confrontation narratives, I’ve continually sought to make clear that although many narratives resolve conflict through violence, said narratives are only combative if the violence has a particular level of organization. I further observed that many other narratives of the accommodation type resolve conflict through romance and/or sexual activity, and that they would follow the same dichotomy. The stories would only be “combative,” so to speak, if two or more characters with *megadynamic * wills are brought into conflict, with that conflict resolved by their romantic interaction. 


That essay-series didn’t look at any of the accommodation narratives through the lens of the four mythoi, as I did with four confrontation narratives in STATURE REQUIREMENTS. I’ve now improved my interpretation of the mythoi through the metaphors of “the four ages of man” in the DYNAMIS essays, starting here, and so I’ll use that approach in comparing and contrasting four accommodation stories, one for each of the four mythoi.


Again, for an accommodation narrative to register as combative, the contending wills must have a high level of dynamicity, expressed in terms of sexual rather than martial conflict. If the tropes of combative energies in battle are embodied by famous myth-stories like Odysseus slaying the suitors (“extroversive”), the tropes of energetic sexual cooperation are embodied by a model like the one in Yeats’ “Solomon and the Witch,” wherein Solomon and Sheba have such great sex together that it seems as if the whole word has been temporarily annihilated (“introversive”). This would be the kind of interaction that Hollywood advertising calls “tempestuous,” so that’s what I sought in the four examples I’ll examine. Three of the examples are taken from the LOVE OVER WILL series, while the fourth is new to these considerations.




In the DYNAMIS essays, I’ve allotted the mythos of comedy to the fourth age of man, in which the main character, regardless of his age, emulates the condition of a child seeking to negotiate his way through the arbitrary, often ludicrous rules of society and/or nature. In “She Tried Her Own On,” a self-contained story from the series DOMINA NO DO, the humor proceeds out of nature. Lead female Hikari has been keeping her supposed boyfriend Takeshi in her mansion for some time, subjecting him to her confused sadomasochistic attentions. Then, like the Melancholy Dane, she begins to have “bad dreams.” She imagines that Takeuchi menaces her with a titanic phallus, despite the fact that she’s seen his actual joystick and wasn’t consciously impressed. But Hikari begins to feel guilty about having abused Takeshi, so she decides to “walk a mile in his wang” by having her sorcerous grandma give Hikari a temporary penis. The experience doesn’t fill the young woman with anything akin to “penis envy,” but the ordeal does solve Hikari’s nightmare-problem, because now she can imagine “dueling” Takeshi in her dreams.       





Next of the four ages is that of adolescence, when the thoughts of young men and women turn to goals of heroic accomplishment. In the NEW MUTANTS story “To Build a Fire,” one of the titular heroes, Magma, finds herself stranded in the Amazonian rainforest with Empath, a member of the Hellions. Though the New Mutants and the Hellions belong to rival mutant schools, the ongoing continuity had Magma leave her team to sojourn with the “bad” mutants. The reasoning for the “school transfer” always remained murky, but the author’s main purpose was probably just to get Magma and Empath together. As her name suggests, Magma can call streams of lava from the vasty depths of the Earth. In contrast, Empath’s mutant power is entirely mental: he can persuade almost any woman to fall in love with him. When the two teens are stranded in the forest, they quarrel about whether Magma should use her power to call attention to their plight. The young woman gives evidence that she’s attracted to the rather skeevy Hellion even when he’s not using his power on her, and the mere fact that he might try to master her—albeit only mentally—may have a lot to do with her refusal to “give it up.” The story concludes with an accommodation between the two, in that Magma does use her power the way Empath wants, but only after both belting him and kissing him, leaving him confused about whether he influenced her at all.



Like “To Build a Fire,” “Rite of Spring” is a nonviolent story within a series that is dominantly violent (and within the combative mode as well). Like most stories centered upon a monster-protagonist, the SWAMP THING series falls into the dramatic mythos, particularly because Swamp Thing’s experiences as a monster don’t emphasize thrilling physical triumph (as with say, the Thing of the FANTASTIC FOUR), but the tragic dimensions of life, of the limitations that dog every mortal’s tracks when he transitions into the third age of man. The swampy protagonist, however, gets a bit of a new lease on life, since in “Rite” his female companion Abby, after having followed him around as a friend-in-need, suddenly confesses feelings of love for the plant-monster, who has been harboring similar affections for years. Since the Swamp Thing is a mass of plant-growths in humanoid form, he doesn’t have the equipment to consummate a romantic relationship after the human fashion. So instead he encourages Abby to “eat of his flesh,” a specific tuber growing from his body. Not only is the tuber psychotropic, it apparently enhances Abby’s psychic senses so that she can behold the spirit-energies of living things that Swamp Thing can normally see. Swamp Thing and Abby then link minds and experience an ecstatic communion with all the surrounding life-forms of the swamp—which is portrayed as being both as intense and as intimate as any human coitus.



The hero of RAT GOD is actually more of a demihero, an upright New England man who finds himself entrapped in a Lovecraftian cosmos, including a degenerate town that I called “an Innsmouth for rats.” Clark Elwood does find himself forced to fend off a cult that worships the titular rat god, but whereas H.P. Lovecraft would have emphasized the brooding terror of the rat god and his followers, Richard Corben focuses on Elwood’s overly flattering view of his own racial heritage, as against, say, the local Indians. The only reason Elwood gets embroiled with the rat-worshippers is out of sexual passion, as he pursues his love-interest Kito. The real cosmic joke on Elwood is that he doesn’t realize that Kito is an Indian girl, meaning that cohabitation with her ought to be verboten for an upright Caucasian. This sort of a joke, in which the protagonist is caught in some ludicrous situation that he has no power to meliorate, is characteristic of the final age of man, as a person loses his health and faculties with increasing age. To Elwood’s credit, he does overcome his prejudices on a basic “but I really want her” level, and though Elwood’s not a real fighter he does show enough determination to outwit the rat-worshippers. Afterward, Elwood settles down to some sort of romantic consummation with not only Kito, but also with a rather degenerate looking white woman named Gharlena. This is about as close to a happy ending as one ever gets from a predominantly ironic narrative, and like the conclusion of Voltaire’s Candide, the hero does not so much triumph as escape from the craziness of the madding world.



I mentioned in QUANTUMS OF SOLIPSISM PT. 2 that the master tropes governing the organization of the violent combative mode were either “univectoral” or “multivectoral.” The first three of these “combative love-attacks” emphasize the back-and-forth exchanges of Hikari and Takeshi, of Swamp Thing and Abby, and of Empath and Magma, so all three would be multivectoral in nature. Only RAT GOD would be univectoral, since the story’s main emphasis is upon Elwood, with Kito, despite her erotic charms, taking the position of a support character.  


Sunday, May 2, 2021

MYTHCOMICS: ELFEN LIED (2002-05)

 



Both fantasy and science fiction have made extensive use of what I choose to call the “persecuted parallel race” trope. Within the subgenre called “high fantasy,” human beings not infrequently find themselves in conflict with elves, or with elf-like humanoids, often with the implication that the kinder, gentler humanoids are doomed. Science fiction’s parallel races usually boil down to random mutations (A.E. Van Vogt’s SLAN, Marvel’s X-MEN) or to controlled mutations (Marvel’s INHUMANS). The controlled mutations tend to appear early in prehistory, and in the tradition of lost-race novels they tend to inhabit remote areas of the globe. The random mutations are birthed by ordinary humans and so usually have no civilization of their own, but rather have to “pass” as ordinary humans while concealing their supernormal nature.


Even though ELFEN LIED has a name that conjures with fantasy, Lynn Okamoto’s series combines aspects of both of the science fiction variations. The mutants here are humanoids possessed of small head-horns—very similar to those of the “oni” of Japanese folklore—and of fantastic energy-powers. One character in the story, though possibly an unreliable narrator, claims that the Diaclonii (“two-horned”) dominated humankind in archaic times. However, apparently the two species shared a common ancestor, a “Mitochondrial Eve,” because the Diaclonii intermarry with human beings, so that their uniqueness is absorbed into the human genome. Yet occasionally the Diaclonus DNA re-appears in the form of what is termed a “vector virus.” This virus can infect human males so that their female mates bring forth horned humans—but these progeny are always females with no reproductive abilities. Still, certain shadowy government agencies are still aware of the Diaclonus threat and will do anything to destroy the rival race and maintain human hegemony.




Ordinary humans like ELFEN’s viewpoint character Kouta certainly have no awareness of a race of super-powered people existing on the margins of society. Kouta, about to enter college, moves to a seaside town in Kanagawa Prefecture so that he can occupy an empty house owned by his aunt and commute to college in Tokyo. Giving him the tour of his new digs is his female cousin Yuka, whom Kouta has not seen in many years. Yuka formed a crush on Kouta in those days and still desires to win his affection, but Kouta hardly remembers her. Eventually Kouta learns that he repressed his memories of those days because of a tragedy that beheld his family at the same time—but even all of this soap operatic turmoil plays second fiddle to the two youths’ encounter with one representative of the persecuted parallel race. On the local beach they meet a strange nude woman with horns on her head, but who doesn’t seem to understand Japanese except to utter the odd syllable “nyu.” The youngsters dub the strange girl “Nyu” and take her in out of well-meaning charitable impulses.



Yet Nyu has another identity. She escaped the less than tender care of a Japanese experimental facility, where they gave her the name of “Lucy” (possibly in reference to the famed australopithecine fossil?) Lucy is the first female Diaclonus to appear with full generative powers, and the government decided to set up a facility to study her in the vicinity of Kanagawa. Most of the experimenters wished to use Lucy to find a cure for the vector virus, the better to eradicate humankind’s only competitors—but once she escapes, most of them want to simply kill her. (At least two outliers, though, hope to impregnate her so that they can bring forth a new race to obliterate the old.) Because Lucy has suffered so much at human hands, she’s already committed numerous murders by the time she encounters Kouta and Yuka, and Lucy is as bitter and ruthless as her alter ego Nyu is innocent and clueless.




ELFEN LIED is not a densely plotted story, in that the tale oscillates between two types of narrative. One type is primarily domestic, consisting of all the small, homey interactions between Kouta, Yuka, Nyu and a handful of other young people in their sphere—interactions that include Yuka’s considerable jealousy of Nyu. The other type is martial, as the many agents of the government pursue Lucy, and she retaliates with merciless carnage. All twelve volumes of ELFEN LIED—named, incidentally, for a famous German poem/song—are rife with ultraviolent gore that goes far beyond the simple shonen hijinks of DRAGONBALL Z. The violence has a deep sociological mythicity, given that Okamoto configures the human/Diaclonus conflict to reflect all the long-forgotten wars between humanity’s prehistoric (but human) competing species, as well as the endless strife between nations and races. Yet Okamoto’s true genius is seen in his conception of the Diaclonii’s mutant powers, for the horned people can project “phantom hands,” also called “vectors,” that can rend almost anything in their path—usually tearing heads from necks, or torsos from hips. At one point a character mentions a folklore monster, “the Kama-Itachi,” who is known for dismembering victims with its claws, and this is almost certainly one of Okamoto’s inspirations for his Diaclonii and their vector-hands. However, the overall effect of all this gore is to remind the reader at all times as to how pitiably vulnerable the human body is, so that even the slaying of the most villainous characters has a repugnant viscerality.





To be sure, Okamoto is careful to remind the reader as to how hellishly human beings treat one another even when no parallel race is involved. The only “way out of hell,” so to speak, is through the intrinsic nobility of the young and the innocent, who have not been as corrupted as their elders. Yuka, for instance, does not allow her animus for Nyu/Lucy to prevent her from staying at the house. And while I don’t want to specify the particular trauma Kouta suffers due to the past deeds of Lucy, suffice to say that he does manage to cherish the good half of Lucy’s nature, and to redeem the piteous monster from her climactic fate. ELFEN LIED may well be well one of the saddest comics-serials ever executed on Planet Earth, but like the best manga, tragedy puts its characters through the mills of the gods so that their readers are strengthened by their example.