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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Friday, April 21, 2017

NEAR MYTHS: GITS: MAN-MACHINE INTERFACE (2001)



I remember liking the anime film adaptations of Masamune Shirow's GHOST IN THE SHELL franchise, though I've not re-screened them in years, and would prefer to see them again only if I should get the chance to read the original 1989 manga-stories on which they were based. Though I didn't have easy access to the 1989 work, I did check out this 2001 "graphic novel." The events of MAN-MACHINE INTERFACE take place about four months after the events of the first continuity but one source claimed that the works are not interdependent.

Unfortunately, I didn't get much out of interfacing with INTERFACE, for much the same reason I didn't enjoy Shirow's earlier success APPLESEED: Shirow just can't shut up about the wondrousness of his cyber-world long enough to tell a coherent story. Most of the story deals with the main hero, android Motoko Aramaki, showing off her ability to download herself into a variety of android bodies while investigating-- well, something. Frankly, I couldn't follow the rudiments of Motoko's mission, though it did involve submarine pirates and pigs being used to grow substitute organs. In fact, Shirow's margin-notes, in which he explains the various aspects of his sci-fi cosmos, are more interesting than the main story.

To his credit, Shirow knows how to give readers both action (one of Motoko's android bodies gets into a big firefight) and fanservice (Motoko often shows off a lot of leg and butt, even while resenting anyone who enjoys the view). Some elements of Japanese mythology are crammed into the helter-skelter narrative, and I'm sure that Shirow has the talent to produce a symbolic discourse by scenes such as this one.



However, the main content is much like that of a 1930s "space engineering" story, where the authors' main interest is always focused upon singing of the wonders of science. In terms of organization MAN-MACHINE INTERFACE also resembles the 1940 origin of Hawkman by Gardner Fox. The mythic content is indubitably present, but it's something of a potpourri.

I didn't have a lot of love for the GHOST IN THE SHELL teleseries, but at least its storytelling proved coherent. Some day in future I may try to reread Shirow's 1986 DOMINION as translated by Dark Horse, since that too offered more organized stories.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

MYTHCOMICS: "THE ENFORCERS!" (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #10, 1964)



In this long mythcomics analysis of the early Lee-Ditko SPIDER-MAN, I concluded that the relationship between Peter Parker, his alter ego and his employer Jonah Jameson was one of unending conflict:

From then on, this becomes the new status quo: to make money Parker must continue selling photos to an older man who hates Parker's alter ego, while Jameson, who hates Spider-Man, must continue feeding the fame of "the menace" or face losing the interest of the paper-buying public. (One later tale even asserts that the paper's newsstand sales go down whenever Jameson writes another of his many anti-Spider-Man editorials.) For the young hero, there's no final duel with the older authority. The alienated individual simply goes on jousting against the older man and the conservative society he represents -- on and on, world without end.
I should quickly note that when I speak of Parker being alienated, it has nothing to do with the banality that is Marxist alienation. Parker is not alienated against capitalistic society; he's simply for the most part frozen in time as a young man on the verge, which means that he'll always be opposed to the conservatism of the older generation. Jameson is in a sense more alienated than Parker, because as a good capitalist he must give his audience what they are willing to buy. Since he has wealth, he continually seeks to influence public opinion through the media-- inveighing against Spider-Man on television, or instructing his writers to attack the superhero in the Daily Bugle. Yet Jameson's ability to manipulate the masses is severely limited. In "The Enforcers," Jameson instructs his flunky Fred Foswell to write editorials that will associate the crime-fighter with the Big Man, a master criminal currently causing chaos throughout New York. Foswell objects that they have no proof for such an allegation, and that "if you [Jameson] turn out wrong again, people will lose confidence in our paper." Jameson overrides his sensible employee's objections, but subsequent issues bear Foswell out. On some occasions Jameson may be able to sway the more simple-minded readers, and he can take advantage of reversals in the hero's career to embarrass him. But on the whole Jameson's control of the public media cannot nullify the self-evident fact of Spider-Man's heroism.

In the above-cited essay I also said that although in many ways Jameson functions as a "heavy father," sort of a nasty version of Parker's angelic Uncle Ben, he has little in common with the symbolic kindred of Laius. In contrast to Freud's Oedipus schema, Jameson does not proscribe Parker from any female companionship; their rivalry is entirely based in the desire for public acclaim. Parker is Oedipus only in terms of constantly saving a city from various dooms, while Jameson is a Tiresias who is motivated not by a love of truth but by a bruised ego.

SPIDER-MAN #10 is certainly one of the first times a commercial comics-magazine ever referenced a soap-operatic revelation on its cover, to wit: "Learn why J. Jonah Jameson really hates Spider-Man!" Though Stan Lee had dropped hints about the publisher's motives prior to issue #10, this was the first time Lee foregrounded the basic philosophical difference between them: that Spider-Man appears in every way to be a selfless hero, who requires no reward for risking his life, while Jameson has defined success as "making money."




Though Peter Parker indubitably gets the short end of the stick in his contest with Jameson, "The Enforcers" is psychologically interesting in that this time Parker starts aping Jameson's modus operandi: imagining that the man who makes his life miserable may in fact be the master criminal the Big Man.


This leads to a humorous conclusion: like Jameson, Parker imagines his enemy as a dastardly crook, and he, far more than Jameson, is duly embarrassed when the truth comes out.



To be sure, though, Parker learns from his error and never again misjudges Jameson, while Jameson keeps on repeating his mistakes, in order to keep the comic routine going. That said, there's nothing illusory about the fact that Jonah, while not a criminal, is still an asshat; the kind of boss who makes the world of daily work a crapfest.



However, adults on the verge must learn to live with the minor crappiness of other law-abiding adults, while the corruptions of actual crime are of a different order,



The subplot about why Parker's girlfriend Betty engaged the services of a loan shark is never worked out very well in subsequent adventures, despite a very loose explanation involving Betty's brother, But the Betty subplot is significant in establishing the way crime impacts on the lives of average square citizens. Thus"The Enforcers" is the first Lee-Ditko story to deal with crime as a sociological myth.

That said, one must make allowances for the fact that the story presents a juvenile vision of crime that no adult could take seriously for a moment.



So the Big Man tells New York's major gangland figures, "I'm going to run this little enterprise like a big business," and then the reader must believe that all of these armed gangsters can be beaten into submission by the crime-boss's three oddball henchmen: a big strong goon (the Ox), a short fellow with judo skills (Fancy Dan), and a cowboy with a lasso (Montana). The three Enforcers may have their roots in a trope seen in a fair number of Golden Age BATMAN stories: the trope of the "specialty criminal." Still, from an adult perspective it's awfully hard to imagine a crime-boss rising to prominence with only these three non-powered schmoes serving as his muscle.

That said, throughout his career Ditko would continue to pit his heroes against crooks rooted in the traditions of urban crime, though super-villains like Electro and the Vulture were arguably more popular with readers.The Big Man and the Enforcers might not be impressive representatives of gangland activity, but they represent a trope about crime that was apparently very important to the artist's ethos. It remains a significant irony that none of the gangsters Lee and Ditko created for SPIDER-MAN-- the Big Man, the Crime-Master, Blackie Gaxton, Lucky Lobo-- proved as influential in the Marvel mythology as the crime-boss who debuted over a year after Steve Ditko left the SPIDER-MAN title.








Saturday, April 15, 2017

SHADOW BOXING WITH BATGIRL'S GREATEST ENEMY

Just to get the title-explanation out of the way, the "greatest enemy" of Batgirl-- and indeed, of most if not all fictional characters-- is the ideological critic, the sort who reads fiction in order to see only what he wants to see. I've already critiqued the misrepresentations of Ennbee's Guardian essay on the KILLING JOKE DVD, and I truly meant to leave it at that. But it occurred to me that are deeper issues involved in the ideological reading of KILLING JOKE than just whether or not a given critic renders a careless, ideologically over-determined reading.

A bigger issue is that ideological critics like Ennbee are unable to understand the inevitable contradictions inherent in their position. For instance, here's Ennbee arguing that even if the DVD adaptation had been better than the source material, it still would have been a bad idea:

Rebooting stories that are racist and sexist is one way that racist and sexist narratives and ideas get replicated and perpetuated. You can sometimes change the story and make it better – and then, sometimes, you can’t. The Killing Joke didn’t have to be as wretched in cartoon form as it turned out to be, but remaking it was always going to be a bad idea.

Now, here's Ennbee arguing for what DC Animation should have done, rather than perpetuating an evil sexist story:

Instead, maybe, DC could have done an animated Birds of Prey – a series in which numerous female superheroes, not least Barbara Gordon, fight crime together without having to ask Batman for permission. 

As I mentioned in the previous essay, Ennbee made no mention of the film's allusion to Barbara Gordon becoming Oracle at the end; of continuing her heroic activities in another manner. This by itself is mere sloppiness on his part. But Ennbee's real whopper is that he doesn't even get that without the Moore-Bolland KILLING JOKE, there is no BIRDS OF PREY, at least in the historical sense.

Sure, it's *theoretically* possible that, had DC never published any story in which Barbara Gordon or anyone else was shot and paralyzed, the company could have published its first all-female team-book without such a character: without "Barbara Gordon in her new identity as Oracle." Such a book would still have to employ any number of narrative contortions to satisfy Ennbee's political purity test, of course. But from what Ennbee wrote in the Guardian essay, one would never know that BIRDS OF PREY was in any way dependent on the events of the Moore-Bolland work. He makes it sound like BOP was totally untainted by the events of the very graphic novel that, quite unintentionally, determined a new direction for the then-moribund adventures of Barbara Gordon.

To sum up briefly: Moore asked DC for permission to have Batgirl be crippled by the Joker in KILLING JOKE. Later he stated that he never expected the character to remain a paraplegic, given the many miracle-cures abounding in the DC Universe, and indeed DC did toy with the idea of reviving Batgirl via one such cure, "the Lazarus Pit" of Ra's Al Ghul. This idea was dropped, and credit for a better direction is usually given to writers Kim Yale and John Ostrander, who spearheaded the idea of reconfiguring Gordon as a mysterious dispenser of information to the superhero community. Thus Oracle made her debut roughly a year after her fate in KILLING JOKE, in Ostrander's SUICIDE SQUAD #23.



Once the character was revealed to be the now-paraplegic Barbara Gordon, she became a more prominent player in the DC Universe, particularly in the Bat-corner of that cosmos. This new role-- which gave Gordon greater prominence than she had enjoyed as Batgirl in the late 1980s-- engendered a one-shot team-up with Black Canary in 1996, which in its turn led to the regular BOP title.



To be sure, the first fifty-plus issues of the regular series, largely scripted by Chuck Dixon, were basically no more than decent formulaic action-stories. Gail Simone, debuting on BOP #56 in 2003, distinguished herself on the title and made both the character of Oracle and the feature's "girl power" theme more appealing to fans. 



Now, though I consider Simone's contribution to the BOP concept to be vital in a creative sense, there's no question in my mind that from first to last, BIRDS OF PREY is intimately tied to the supposedly sexist injuries inflicted on Barbara Gordon by Moore and Bolland. I have no idea whether Ennbee thinks well of the comic book itself, though he certainly seems to be stumping for an adaptation, if only one produced by female creators. 

In earlier years Simone apparently agreed to some extent with Ennbee's characterization of KILLING JOKE as sexist, for she listed Batgirl's paralysis as one of the casualties of dastardly male creators on her WOMEN IN REFRIGERATORS site.  In this essay I expressed my disapproval of Simone for ham-handedly listing characters regardless of the context of their suffering in each given narrative, and over the years I've become (in contrast to Ennbee) even less sympathetic to the "WIR" complaint. But Simone's protest against female marginalization becomes even more ironic, when one realizes that BOP was her first major success in the comic-book field, and that her success stemmed in large part from the fact that DC readers were invested in the fate of Paraplegic Barbara Gordon. That Simone wrote some really good stories with PBG-- quite possibly better than anything Alleged Misogynist Alan Moore could have rendered, given the same subject-- does not obviate Simone's indebtedness to Moore's 1988 ambition desire to shock his complacent audience with an event of arresting violence. That indebtedness also does not "go away" even if Modern Moore recants his 1988 ambitions. BIRDS OF PREY, DC Comics' first all-female team-title, owes its existence to the Big Event of a heroine being sliced, diced, and stuck in a Frigidaire-- though it appears that even before Simone, Yale or Ostrander became involved, there was always the possibility of a Resurrection from the Refrigerator.

To explain the other part of the title now: this complaint comes down to mere "shadow boxing" with the ranks of ideological critics in general. From experience I know that, should I post my analysis of Ennbee's faulty logic on HU, Ennbee would not be capable of arguing any of my points. He has established a persona whereby everything he writes is for the betterment of marginalized people, so if you challenge him on logic or anything else, you must be a low-down defender of the status quo. I would be curious to know if Gail Simone perceived herself in any way indebted to Moore, but from what little I know of her during her Comic Book Resources, she has never really forsworn WOMEN IN REFRIGERATORS, so that may not be a likely scenario either.

At the end of NEGATIVE I.D. I said that "one must distinguish between the artistic potential of a controversial trope like girlfriend-killing, and any particular negative example of same." Even if I agreed with Ennbee that the gut-shooting of Barbara Gordon marked Moore, Bolland and DC Comics as unregenerate masculinists-- which I don't-- I would still contend that what didn't kill Barbara Gordon made her stronger, rather than reducing her to a victim. Simone herself pursued that theme in BIRDS OF PREY more than once, and any animated adaptation of the property that didn't allow Barbara Gordon to suffer for a good narrative reason would surely end up as far worse than the 2016 KILLING JOKE.








Friday, April 14, 2017

OBJECTING TO OBJECTIFICATION AGAIN

Now that I've finished my review of the 2016 DVD-adaptation of the Moore-Bolland KILLING JOKE graphic novel, I may as well return to a long-neglected subject: how the word "objectification" came to be used as a buzzword for anything a given critic does not like.

Here's a sampling from online reviews, with my responses, and golly gee, the first one I found-- just a little above my own, when searching "Killing Joke+ dvd+ objectification-- is my old pal ENNBEE, telling the GUARDIAN readers that you just can't update "sexist source material."

Well, certainly not as easily as a critic can lie about what a film shows:

Pursued by a creepy stalker mafia tough-guy villain, Batgirl makes amateurish mistake after amateurish mistake, prompting Batman to sneer to her face that the bad guy “led you like a lap dog”.

Does Batgirl make some mistakes in handling the "creepy, etc." villain? Yes, but not in the repetitive manner asserted by Ennbee. Nor, despite Ennbee's claim, does the Batman character ever "sneer" at the Batgirl character. I can well understand why Ennbee would make such a claim, since he's addicted to victimage. But as written, Batman has no reason to bust Batgirl's lady-balls. The storyline, whatever its failings, does make clear that Batman values Batgirl as a partner, and when she starts going off the rails, he loses an ally thereby. He gives a tough and unsympathetic assessment of the ways in which Batgirl has allowed herself to let the villain get inside her head, and he dismisses her from the case not because she's a woman, but because she has fucked up.

And then there's this willful misreading of the whole arc of the Batgirl-prologue:

In response, Batgirl whines that Batman doesn’t trust her, has impulsive sex with him, and then indulges in a series of violent emotional tantrums before deciding to retire her Batgirl identity on the grounds that the stress is too much for her.
Really, Ennbee? When a woman protests a man's verdict, it's just "whining?" They oughtta kick Ennbee out of the Liberals' League for that one. It goes without saying that Ennbee would not approve of the sex-scene, but after the sex-scene there's only one "emotional tantrum," in which the villain Franz attempts to kill Batman, almost succeeds, and is beaten to pudding when Batgirl comes to Batman's rescue.

I'm reading along as I write this, so I'm betting that Ennbee will still top this. Let's see--


As a bonus, Batman hypocritically lectures her on the dangers of objectification while the bad guy compulsively and smarmily sexualizes her, and the cartoon lingers on a closeup image of her butt when she jogs. Girls aren’t emotionally or mentally tough enough to be heroes, is the message; they’re just too darn emotional. But hey, they look good in those tight costumes, right?
Bingo! Yes, ultraliberals cannot divorce the hero's actions from those of the villain. I pointed out that Batman letting Batgirl shag him would be problematic in real-world terms-- that is, if Batman were a person. And I'd expand on that to say that a fictional portrait of sex between two people who shouldn't be together is practically the foundation of Western drama. There is of course nothing hypocritical in Batman's warning: he's not talking about objectification per se but about the effect one crook's smarminess is having on one character's psyche. There is also no blanket condemnation of women as crime-fighters. Will Ennbee even mention the DVD's reference to Barbara Gordon's transformation into Oracle?  I'm betting not, but I'm sure I can find more prevarications.

Let's see, after he quotes one of the creators about what they meant to do, Ennbee decides that the faults in KILLING JOKE are not those of the specific creators, but of all males, and that only female creators could have possibly obviated them (though probably not in an adaptation of KILLING JOKE, which is explicitly beyond saving):

Perhaps different creators could have managed to craft a non-misogynist Batgirl story, especially if those creators were women. But a big part of the problem is, simply, that this is a Killing Joke adaptation. 

I won't waste repeating Ennbee's driveling, repetitive claims that Batgirl's failure is automatically the failure of all females, and therefore leads to a "misogynist cartoon."

However, this particular review-subject didn't allow for Ennbee any enlightened posturings on the subject of race. Therefore he drops the subject of KILLING JOKE and starts harping on why the new GHOSTBUSTERS was racist because it didn't automatically make the black character a great scientist. I think the movie's greatest crime was that it wasn't funny, but I'm not surprised that Ennbee decided to cram both race and sex into one pre-digested package.

Damn, when I started this, I thought I'd just skim a few representative quotes from different reviewers. Once again, though, Ennbee's addiction to both victimage and prevarication has taken up the whole dang post. More later, perhaps.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

MYTHCOMICS: [THE 'LONG ORIGIN OF SUPERMAN], SUPERMAN #1 (1939)

Batman's first origin, short though it is, still qualifies as a bonafide mythcomic. However, not so much Superman's.

I didn't reference the short one-page origin from ACTION COMICS #1 in my analysis of the two-part story that introduced the Man of Steel to comics-audiences, largely because it wasn't part of the story proper. Now, as I explore the subject of "how short can a myth be," I have to ask whether the single-page origin by itself constitutes a myth. And my answer is that it could do so-- but it doesn't.




The main Superman story in ACTION was not even the complete story that Siegel and Shuster had assembled in their pitch to the comic-strip syndicates. Even the full story, later fully printed in SUPERMAN #1, doesn't explain anything about the character's provenance or powers. It seems likely that the editors of ACTION #1 felt the need of at least a quickie explanation, and thus readers were given a one-page summary of "who he is and how he came to be" on the inside front cover.

But despite establishing some major myth-motifs. the one-pager never brings them together into a cohesive myth-scenario, so that it is at best a "near myth." In contrast, the two-page origin from 1939 expands on the fragments of 1938, and does assemble a genuine, albeit short, myth-continuity.

The first page is largely "the beginning:"




While the last page provides both the "middle"-- the general sense of Clark Kent growing to manhood, the death of his parents-- and the "end," in which Kent decides to become a costumed hero.


By the time the two-page origin appeared in the SUPERMAN #1 (dated Summer 1939), the comic strip, launched in January 1939, had fleshed out much of the backstory, conveying the first visual depictions of the hero's real father and mother. I may explore the comic-strip origin in more detail at some time, but for now, suffice to say that Superman does have at least one very short mythcomic in his repertoire. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

MYTHCOMICS: [THE ORIGIN OF BATMAN], DETECTIVE COMICS #33 (1939)



I remarked in THE LONG AND SHORT OF MYTH PT. 1 that the shortest comics-story in which I've found mythic content was this 1962 BLONDIE comic-book story.  For one reason or another, though, it occurred to me that there were a couple of much better examples of two-page wonders. And here's the first of them.



I noted in LONG AND SHORT that most features this short are more in the nature of "vignettes" than of developed stories, saying that "even when [such narratives] do possess super-functionality, it's used for very restricted purposes." However, whereas the Blondie two-pager is the essence of what I've called an "unpopular myth," this two-pager-- which leads into a Gardner Fox story but which has been sometimes been credited to Bill Finger-- has become a very popular myth in many iterations, in many media-- and this despite the vignette's probable indebtedness to Lee Falk's PHANTOM comic strip.



Clearly the Batman origin satisfies my demand that even in two pages the author must create enough elements of Aristotelian complication to make possible a mythic discourse. I'm not quite sure from the PHANTOM excerpt that it does so, since I haven't seen the sequence in context. The maybe-Finger narrative, however, presents the (originally juvenile) reader with a more dynamic opening that Falk's Phantom origin. Young Bruce Wayne actually witnesses the deaths of his parents, whereas the current Phantom only knows from hearsay how his ancestor suffered and thus bequeathed the role of the "Ghost Who Walks" to his descendants. Young Bruce's torment then becomes the fulcrum, the "middle" of the narrative, in which Bruce struggles to make sense of his parents' deaths by dedicating himself to crimefighting. The climax, in which a grown-up Wayne muses on the alleged "superstitious" nature of criminals, may be the primary element that the author derived from Falk, for the Phantom's undying nature is clearly an appeal to the superstitions of tribal peoples in the hero's jungle domain.

In theory, this vignette could have functioned as part of a a great myth-tale, much as Frank Miller's re-interpretation of the Bat-origin functioned within the greater scope of THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS narrative. However, this was not the case with the greater story that is preceded by the origin-vignette. I've established that Fox wrote some strong mythopoeic Bat-tales during this period, one of which, "Peril in Paris," appeared one month after Batman's origin. But the lead story of DETECTIVE #33-- the hero's seventh appearance, titled "The Batman Wars Against the Dirigible of Doom"-- is not one of the character's more notable outings. To the best of my knowledge no one has ever bothered to revive the villains behind the deadly dirigible-- Doctor Carl Kruger and his "Scarlet Horde"-- and Kruger's main schtick was to imitate the conquering ways of Napoleon Bonaparte with 20th century technology.




Happily, the Batman origin stands on its own, even if it has been subjected to endless ideological readings like those of Christopher Nolan, more or less along the lines of "Batman is a fascist because he's a rich guy who wants to keep down disenfranchised poor people, who wouldn't be holding people up for their belongings in a non-capitalist world." To such ideologues, it would be irrelevant that few of Batman's early rogues were common crooks. Even before the introduction of the Joker and the Catwoman in 1940, and the many other villains to come, the first year of Batman's feature was devoted to other exotic figures like Kruger, with names like Doctor Death and the Monk. None of these figures make good stand-ins for the oppressed proletariat. One might argue that over the years Batman encountered far more ordinary thugs than he did super-crooks, but one would still have to demonstrate some sense that these malefactors are opposed to some absolute vision of a law informed by rich (implicitly white) privilege. In contrast, many Bat-adventures focus on the ways in which crime victimizes ordinary citizens-- which I suppose an ardent Marxist would choose to view as mere "protective cover" for the "real" meaning.

Perhaps the one element of the origin-vignette that has remained irreducible to simple politics is the conclusion, in which Batman is inspired by the ominous appearance of a bat. In later years some writers would try to impute greater complications to the Bat-origin, but the simplicity of the original story foils all of these overly labored efforts. The original writer, be it Fox or Finger, intuited that the bat's main importance was to reflect the tormented darkness in the young hero's soul, not where the bat came from or what might have brought it through that window at the most propitious moment.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

BEFALL, DULL CARE

The lyrics of this traditional folklore song adjure the listener to bid "begone" to "dull care" in favor of song and dance.

I prithee, be gone from me, Begone! dull care, You and I shall never agree. Long time hast thou been tarrying here, And fain thou wouldst me kill, But i' faith, dull care, Thou never shall have thy will.

However, an awful lot of modern literature is devoted to embracing "dull care" as an indication that the author is able to accomplish the "tough-minded" task of representing reality-as-it-really-is. This is more than simply an attention to verisimilitude. Rather, it is a philosophical rejection of the idea that the world can ever transcend what various authors have termed "the dull round of existence."

By the criteria I introduced in VERTICAL VIRTUES PT. 2, "transcendence" of a purely horizontal, non-sublime nature can occur in naturalistic works like Mitchell's GONE WITH THE WIND. Of course, WIND, though not in any way sublime, is focused on portraying the life of Scarlett O'Hara as intensely interesting. In JOINED AT THE TRIP PT. 4, I mentioned another work of naturalistic phenomenality-- J.M. Coetzee's DISGRACE-- though not in a direct one-on-one comparison to GWTW. But I will make such a comparison now: DISGRACE is the sort of work that is dedicated to telling a dull story, for the apparent purpose of showing reality as dull, the better to contrast said work to the excitement of escapist fiction.

Now, my ruminations on the different forms of transcendence obliged me, in COMPENSATION CONSIDERATIONS PT.. 4, to refine my earlier concepts of the two forms of the sublime, in order to locate both forms within more general principles" the "combinatory-sublime" with a "combinatory mode" and the "dynamic-sublime" within a "dynamicity mode." I have also stated that works within the uncanny and marvelous phenomenalities inherently possessed greater potential for combinations than did the naturalistic. However, though the principal use of both phenomenalities is to evoke different forms of "strangeness," there have been many attempts to vary this dominant approach. In COMBINATORY-GLORY, I said that "not all works in the marvelous phenomenality are equally able to inspire the affect of the combinatory-sublime." My proximate reference was to a traditional folktale, "The Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was," because even though the tale shows its protagonist encountering assorted fearful monsters, the creatures don't really inspire the sublime sense of "strangeness" because the story's focus is upon the tale's main joke: that the young man overcomes all these monsters but learns "fear" (of a sort) from a woman.

That said, the folktale does not offer what I'm seeking: a narrative that manages to undermine the potential of the combinatory-sublime appropriate to the marvelous, just as DISGRACE undermines the potential of the combinatory-sublime appropriate to the naturalistic. I haven't reviewed too many such works, but I've encountered most of them in would-be "arty" science fiction or fantasy. Some examples would include Samuel R. Delany's novel TRITON and Kazuo Ishiguro's THE BURIED GIANT. These two novels have a few of the virtues of Mitchell, but they tend to favor the vices of Coetzee. I also regard both novels, like DISGRACE, as inconsummate works, by reason of their tendency to "overthink the overthought."  But if nothing else, the Delany and Ishiguro works serve to illustrate that not all works in the marvelous phenomenality necessarily deliver the appeal of the combinatory-sublime.

At the same time, just as GONE WITH THE WIND delivers on "horizontal transcendence" in marked contrast to the failings of DISGRACE, there are certainly uncanny or marvelous works that lack vertical transcendence (a.k.a. sublimity) but manage to produce some level of horizontal transcendence, thus taking advantage of the more general pattern of the combinatory mode. Ishiguro's earlier SF-work NEVER LET ME GO, while also devoted to "dull care," at least benefits from a better handling of interpersonal relationships, though nothing comparable to the level of Mitchell's accomplishment.