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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...

Thursday, December 1, 2016

MYTHCOMICS: DANCE IN THE VAMPIRE BUND (2005/2014)



As I discussed in MYTHIC MANGA, the serial DANCE IN THE VAMPIRE BUND is an unusual beast. The first "super-arc," so to speak, was reprinted into 14 collected volumes, but did not have an ending as such. In 2014 author Nozomu Tamaki began a new arc, SCARLET ORDER, that proved short enough to be collected into 4 volumes. It's still not quite the end of the story, for Tamaki purposely left some plot-threads dangling. However, there's now enough of a "beginning, middle, and end" to judge the nature of the underthought informing BUND.

Here's the summary of the serial's setup that I wrote in this 2011 post:

I reviewed Kim Newman’s alternate-world take on the DRACULA mythos, in which Dracula became consort to the Queen of England and turned Old Blighty into a haven for his vampire spawn. I wasn’t enthused with the Newman work, but Nozomu Tamaki wreaks wonders with the same basic idea. Here it’s a man-made island that becomes a haven for a kingdom of bloodsuckers: quite naturally for a manga-series, the island has been built off the coast of Japan. The heroes of DANCE are Mina Tepes, queen of the vampires, who facilitates the worldwide emigration of her people to the island, and Akira, her werewolf bodyguard. DANCE also sports a large cast of allies and villains, most of whom are incredible hot-bods. But Mina and Akira are the focal heroes, and their complicated relationship is the core of the series as they defend their makeshift kingdom (the “bund” of the title) against assorted threats—meddling human beings, assassins, conspiracies, and, most formidably, three vampire overlords, the last survivors of “the 100 vampire clans.” Grotesque horror and frenetic action dominate the storylines, though Tamaki makes considerable time for comic byplay and the Japanese “cult of cuteness.”

Since the original manga came out, BUND has been targeted for some of its "lolicon" elements. I wrote, quite presciently if I may say so, that I didn't think Tamaki was simply presenting these elements either to sate the taste of lolicon-readers, or even just to appeal to the aforesaid "cult of cuteness." I wrote:

...Tamaki is clearly playing around with the concept of “lolicon,” teasing the reader with the possibility while making clear that Humbert Humbert doesn’t live here. In the first DANCE continuity, Mina meets Akira for the first time in seven years, and uses an assortment of stratagems to make him want to serve as her bodyguard willingly, rather than out of a sense of impersonal duty. One of these stratagems includes disrobing in front of him. Her pre-pubertal form doesn’t entice Akira, but making him uncomfortable accomplishes the same end: that of helping her manipulate him into her service. This is made palatable by the fact that she does have an abiding love for him, and clearly would like to assume her mature form in order to be with him. During a dream-sequence in TPB volume 6, Mina imagines herself living a normal human life, which attests to her romantic desires for Akira, though only in mature form.

I might have added that because Mina has the form of a child-- even though technically she's much older than the college-age Akira-- sex isn't a force that can get in the way of their friendship. To be sure, since it's a Japanese work, it's strongly suggested that the "Vampire Bond" between the two was brought about by the forces of destiny. Still, Tamaki goes to considerable lengths to make the relationship work on its own dynamic, apart from its basic samurai/daimyo structure.



I also remarked in MYTHIC MANGA upon the tendency of some manga-artists to structure their long arcs after the model of prose novels. This was clearly evident in the original arc's use of numerous subplots, and it pertains just as much to the shorter arc as well. The principal subplot concerns Mina and Akira's encounter with a pair of vampires-- one Japanese, one American-- who date from the period of Admiral Perry. (MADAME BUTTERFLY is even wittily referenced, as Tamaki knows that this is a touchstone for many readers.)






There's also some follow-up on subplots from the previous arc. One is that of the character of Josie, Japan's diplomatic liaison to Mina's bund.




Both Josie and the vampire couple function in the SCARLET ORDER help Mina and Akira come to understand the significance of a mystic gemstone known as the "Akamitama." Both Mina's allies and her enemies struggle to acquire this particular McGuffin, but for once, the item in question is not just something for the opponents to fight over. Rather, the gem proves to be a gateway into the distant origins of the vampire race, which even the oldest "living" vampires are not privy.

I'll hold off on discussing that origin in detail, but aside from its strong construction, I find it particularly pleasing that it confirms the "anti-lolicon" theme that I discerned in the earlier arc. Vampires are in essence spawned by a mystic force known only as "the Darkness," and its goal is much the same as that of the three vampire-lords from the first arc: to successfully begat a child to perpetuate its heritage. Tamaki's description of the Darkness' methods reminded me somewhat of the Hindu myth of Prajapati, who creates a woman to be his mate. Like Prajapati, the Darkness must then seek to overcome the woman's resistance to spawn the offspring he desires. But the unnamed "Woman" does resist the dark god's purpose, just as Mina resisted the corrupt desires of the three lords, and from the fact of the Woman's defiance springs the history of the vampire race.

As yet I haven't read the original criticisms of BUND as summarized in this Wikipedia essay. I assume that those criticisms stem from a misreading-- purposeful or otherwise-- of Tamaki's intentions, Frankly, I think even Nabokov's original LOLITA-- which generally gets a critical pass because of all the high-falutin' philosohizin' that makes it sound Really, Really Literary-- is constructed with enough ambiguity that it's possible for the Patron of Lolicon to enjoy it on that level, rather than interpreting the novel morally, as Nabokov *may* have intended. In contrast, while the aforementioned Patrons *might* be able to get some jollies from BUND, it seems to me that Tamaki does everything possible to de-eroticize the sight of Mina, in such a way that it might work against the fantasies of the Patrons even better than Nabokov's staid academic hauteur. Additionally, the fact that both Mina and her distant ancestor prove themselves formidable in fighting against being kept "barefoot and pregnant" by an obnoxious male gives them much more relevance to feminism than one could find in Dolores "Lolita" Haze.

I will note in closing that not everyone will be pleased with the cliffhanger-like conclusion of SCARLET ORDER. It doesn't bother me because I'm reasonably sure Tamaki means to use that cliffhanger as a jumping-off point for a new arc, one that will probably, like ORDER, take place some time after the previous arc's culmination.




Monday, November 28, 2016

MYTHIC MANGA

Though contemporary Japanese manga (and its various Asian cousins) can be episodic, they're best known today for their sprawling, multi-chapter story-arcs. I don't have an in-depth knowledge of the development of comics in Japan, though I'm aware that the medium's best-known early exemplar, Osamu Tezuka, varied his approach between generally episodic works (ASTRO BOY) and longer, more involved storylines (PRINCESS KNIGHT). Many manga-serials of the past twenty years have gone even further than Tezuka. Eiichiro Oda's ONE PIECE, initiated in 1997, depicts a fantasy-world replete with enough characters and character-arcs to rival (in quantity at least) the novels of Dickens.



Very few American comic books sought to go beyond purely episodic stories until the mid-1960s, when Marvel began making its storytelling mark. Some of the "long arcs" at Marvel resemble simple film-serial cliffhangers, but others may have been more influenced by the narrative example of American comic strips. This online essay asserts that post-WWII Japan was definitely affected by the importation of newspaper strips, though of course there may a host of other factors that influenced the country's fascination with long, involved story-arcs. It's possible that, while the American comic book remained strongly wedded to the short story, Japan made greater strides in the realization of the "novel in graphic form," simply because they had no preconceptions against the idea.

Now, in earlier essays like this one, I've asserted that narratives have 'had their greatest capacity for mythicity when they possessed the traditional "beginning, middle and end," which worked to maximize a given story's potential for "connotative associations."' However, the majority of "long melodrama" comic strips of the classic period lack the scope of the novel in terms of such associations, because "each of these story-lines is just one narrative arc, without a lot of complementary development," 

I certainly wouldn't say that all of the long multi-chapter arcs in manga are necessarily better developed than those of the best classic American comic strips, but the potential has generally been better realized, perhaps because some Japanese authors have emulated the intricacies of the prose novel. At present ONE PIECE has not yet concluded, so it can't be judged in its entirety, but Oda has often laid down involved plot-threads in one sequence that would not culminate until a much later sequence. Whether or not Oda's execution of those plot-lines proves felicitous or not is a separate matter; he's using novel-like narrative devices that were only very rarely utilized in "long melodrama" comics, with an occasional exception like this DICK TRACY sequence.

This week's mythcomic will be DANCERS IN THE VAMPIRE BUND, which boasts a heady complexity of plot and character. However, the original 14-book sequence of BUND, completed in 2012, was something of a novel-fragment. Two years later, the author came forth with SCARLET ORDER, a four-volume follow-up, which might be loosely regarded as the "end of the novel" (although some plot-threads were not resolved, and were certainly intended as lead-ins to further tales). Despite its heavy fantasy-content, BUND is written largely like a political thriller, and this raised the danger that the author might have created too many characters and story-arcs to allow for a reasonably clear "beginning, middle, and end." However, I'm pleased to see that there is a sense of resolution in SCARLET ORDER, so that I can finally put the series on my list, after having alluded to its potential excellence back in this 2011 quasi-review.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

X-POLITICS

"The X-Men are hated, feared, and despised collectively by humanity for no other reason than that they are mutants. So what we have..., intended or not, is a book that is about racism, bigotry, and prejudice."-- Chris Claremont, 1982 quote.

Ever since I analyzed GOD LOVES MAN KILLS a few weeks ago, I've been intending to blog something about the politicization of the X-Men.

In a post entitled QUICK NON-POLITICS POST, I wrote that, "...one can believe that, in the real world, nothing is free from political associations. However, in fiction that freedom does exist, even if it's only a freedom of the imagination."  I also said that those critics who would equate everything in art with "political rectitude" are in effect saying that "Man really is made for the Sabbath, not the other way round."

Yet many artists, like Claremont, draw attention to their political allegiances, and one cannot know if a given artist does so out of a sincere desire to change the world or merely to cash in on a particular social trend.

The downside of doing this, of course, is that as soon as one declares a political position as representative of one's art, some critics will begin circling like sharks. Most shark-critics care nothing about what the author intended; their passion is to subject the work to a moralistic purity test. I can't count the number of times I've seen forum-posters complain that X-MEN is no good because it doesn't reflect their political perceptions. Some even go so far as to assert that reading about mutant prejudice is just a dodge for not talking about real-life forms of prejudice. And then there are critics whose heads are so far up their butts that they can't even organize a coherent thought.

In The X-Men as racial allegory, blacks are indeed a serious threat to the white social order. And let us make no mistake: it is the white social order. No blacks appear in that first issue. The soldiers on the base are entirely comprised of good Aryans. Moreover, The X-Men offers us a racial allegory (of black and white) in black and white: “evil” mutants or blacks who want to take over America and “bad” mutants or blacks who will put their lives where their mouths are andfight their rebellious brothers for the very social order that cannot accept them.-- Julian Darius, X-MEN IS NOT AN ALLEGORY FOR RACIAL TOLERANCE.


I found this old 2002 essay while looking for an example of the "politics above everything" attitude, but the essay's fervid, Werthamite rhetoric exceeded all of my expectations. It anticipates the worst of Noah Berlatsky, using ridiculous hot-button words :like "good Aryans" and ignoring basic facts of comic book publishing. Even if one could tentatively agree with the idea of a one-to-one equivalence between "mutants" and "blacks," the author conveniently sidesteps the fact that comic books of this period, the first half of the 1960s, rarely depicted blacks at all. I suspect this state of affairs came about largely because one of the assaults made by Original Wertham was the stigmatization of race in Golden Age comics. Thus, by the late 1950s: allusions to non-whites, like allusions to sexuality, were elided because the publishers sought to placate the Comics Code organization (which, admittedly, they themselves founded to avoid governmental controls). Saladin Ahmed comments in this 2014 essay:

The Code also contained the surprising provision that “ridicule or attack on any religious or racial group is never permissible.” Given the countless depictions of monkey-like Japanese and minstrel-show black people in Golden Age comics, one might think this provision a good thing. But Murphy soon made it clear that this provision really meant that black people in comic books would no longer be tolerated, in any form. When EC Comics reprinted the science fiction story “Judgment Day” by Al Feldstein and Joe Orlando (which had originally been printed to little controversy before the Code), Murphy claimed the story violated the Code, and that the black astronaut had to be made white in order for the story to run.


Given that the "purity tests" of ideological critics are worthless for evaluating art, the pluralist critic should be aware that even an author who calls attention to his own politics may not be entirely truthful. I don't doubt that Claremont consciously evoked racial and political themes, but he did so in the context of an escapist action-adventure. It should go without saying that one of the primary functions of "racial difference" in Claremont's X-Men is not to lecture (implicitly white) readers about their political shortcomings, but to evoke strong individual characters about whom the readers can give a damn. 

This basic fact of fiction-making makes absurd the sort of readers who fault a given X-title for not being diverse enough, or for distracting readers from the "real world" and its problems. Such readers are not interested in the art of fiction, but the artifice of non-fictional diatribes.

Monday, November 21, 2016

MYTHCOMICS: ["PERIL IN PARIS"], DETECTIVE COMICS #34 (1939)



In this essay I cited Haney's "Origin of Metamorpho" as an example of a narrative dominated by its symbolic underthought. Another comics-story that I've praised for its "symbolic amplitude" is Gardner Fox's 1940 "Origin of Hawkman," but prior to Hawkman Fox was also a key player in the forging of the mythos of the  Batman. In the two months preceding this week's selection, Fox gave the Caped Crusader his first encounter with the world of the supernatural, forcing Batman to deal with a master vampire, The Monk. The ensuing story, entitled "Peril in Paris"on GCD, is not as well known, but it better illustrates my concept as to how the "unity of the underthought" can appear even in the most delirious of pulp-tales.

A little while after his vampiric encounter, Bruce Wayne decides to stay in Europe for a time. Strolling through the streets of Paris, he mistakes a stranger for an old acquaintance-- apparently by the man's build, since there's no other point of similarity.



The blank-faced man disappears into the crowd, and Wayne doesn't immediately seek to investigate. Then, by the sort of coincidence beloved by pulp authors, Wayne encounters a young woman menaced by knife-wielding Parisian thugs known as "Apaches." The young woman, Karel by name, just happens to be the sister of Charles Maire, the blank-faced man, who regales Wayne with the story of his tragedy. At a bal masque (masked ball) the siblings encountered a strange man, the royally-named "Duc D'Orterre," who courted Karel with an eye to gaining her money. When Charles interfered, the Duc summoned his Apache agents and had Charles taken to his subterranean lair in the Parisian sewers, where Charles' features were burned off with a strange ray. (It goes without saying that the story does not bother with any niceties of verisimilitude, like explaining how Charles can talk without a mouth.)

Wayne volunteers the services of the Batman to investigate the Duc's perfidy, but the hero finds that the villain has ample weapons and devices of torment ready and waiting.



It's interesting that the Duc calls his torture-instrument a "wheel of chance," for this is a common synonym for the roulette wheel or its many analogues-- not to mention the medieval idea of the "wheel of fortune," which would lift mortals to victory at times before dashing them to death. Nothing in the 10-page story specifies that the Duc is a gambler, but his attire comes closer to suggesting that profession than it does that of a mad scientist or a crime-boss living in the sewers. The cane that projects a blinding ray adds something to the total effect, though to be sure the Duc's dominant image is that of a pointy-eared Satan, complete with a dolicocephalic skull that gives him an inhuman appearance. (Were it not for the various marvelous aspects of the story, the Duc's eerie physiognomy would be enough to place him in the uncanny trope of "freakish flesh.")

Batman gets free of the wheel, though it's not one of his more clever escapes: he simply breaks his bonds by main strength. However, the Duc manages to propel the hero into a "flower garden," in which all of the blooms have female faces.



The human-faced flowers are never explained, though one is tempted to suppose that the same ray the Duc used to erase faces could transpose other faces onto any medium he desired. The Duc then leaves Batman in his new prison and has his Apaches kidnap Karel and Charles, bringing them to his lair. However, the villain apparently does not know that his flower-women can speak to the crusader telepathically. They guide Batman out of the garden, just in time for him to rescue Charles from the wheel of chance. The Duc tries to escape with Karel in a car, and Batman pursues in his Bat-gyro. The hero manages to descend to the car, battle with the Duc, and then to leave the villain to a fiery death as he leaps free with the young woman in tow. The story concludes with Bruce Wayne bidding farewell to Karel and her still faceless brother.

Both the Duc's appearance and his subterranean location align him with Satan, and the idea of stealing faces, or placing them in some incongruous situation, aligns with the idea of the Devil tricking men into surrendering their souls and then consigning them to various punishments of Hell. Dante's "Wood of Suicides" would be the best known example of transposing human souls into plant-life. However, the Devil usually doesn't confine himself to one gender or the other, so the Duc's garden of female flowers may also owe something to Bluebeard, who kept the bodies of his previous wives in an abbatoir. It may also be no coincidence that Fox had Batman battling a Satan-like entity so soon after vanquishing a vampire. Fox doesn't invoke any images of Christianity in the "Monk" story, but that two-parter does borrow heavily from Stoker's DRACULA-- and Stoker associates his bloodsucker with the Christian devil fairly early in the book. For that reason, I consider "Peril in Paris" to be a metaphysical myth, in which the hero defeats either Satan or an agent of the devil, though the villain's metaphysical evil is displaced through such genre-tropes as "the mad scientist" and "the Parisian crime boss."

Saturday, November 19, 2016

THE UNITY OF OVERTHOUGHTS AND UNDERTHOUGHTS

In RETHINKING THE UNDERTHOUGHT, I took Frye's concept of "overthought" and "underthought," which he took from Gerard Manley Hopkins, and refurbished both terms to my Jungian preferences. By my scheme, the "underthought" is a given work's discourse of "images and metaphors," toward which the audience feels sympathy or antipathy, and the "overthought" is a given work's discourse of abstract, didactic ideas. The first I posit as identical to Jung's "function of intuition," and the second to the "function of thinking," while the other two functions comprise the "lateral meaning" of the work, the audience's basic sense of what happened to the story's characters ("sensation") and how it affected them emotionally ("feeling.")

As I continue to meditate on various comics-works to see if they qualify as mythcomics, I'm finding that whether a given work is more dominated by its overthought or by its underthought, it works best when it follows Aristotle's dictum for the "unity of action."

The Unity of a Plot does not consist, as some suppose, in its having one man as its subject. An infinity of things befall that one man, some of which it is impossible to reduce to unity; and in like manner there are many actions of one man which cannot be made to form one action. . . . The truth is that, just as in the other imitative arts one imitation is always of one thing, so in poetry the story, as an imitation of action, must represent one action, a complete whole, with its several incidents so closely connected that the transposal or withdrawal of any one of them will disjoin and dislocate the whole. For that which makes no perceptible difference by its presence or absence is no real part of the whole.

This is one reason why, even though I stated long ago that I considered the X-MEN's "Dark Phoenix": storyline to be a mythic work, I would now consider it more of a "near myth." Like many serial comic books of the period-- DEATHLOK and BLACK PANTHER, for example-- the writers often plotted the stories in episodic, helter-skelter fashion. This can be potentially more fun to read than a rigidly plotted opus, but it doesn't produce the desired "unity of action."

I don't have plans as yet to create a category for "overthought-dominated works," but if I did, I might include a 1953 sequence from Walt Kelly's POGO comic strip. The sequence, in which Kelly heaps satirical barbs upon the still formidable public figure of Joseph P. McCarthy, has been lauded by many comics-critics. I respect both Kelly's craft and his intent, but the sequence is most interesting to me in that any free flow of symbolic content has been tamped down, so to speak, to serve the primary purpose of elucidating Kelly's ideas about McCarthy, demagoguery, and American commercialism.



By way of contrast, an "underthought-dominated work"-- one which happens to be as complex in terms of symbolic discourse as Kelly's work is in terms of didactic discourse-- is examined in my essay on the Origin of Metamorpho. The main purpose of Bob Haney was not focused upon ideas, but upon the symbols attendant to his newly crafted superhero. This includes both (1) the Oedipal quadrangle of hero, hero's girlfriend, girlfriend's rich father and the father's brutish stooge, (2) assorted references to Egypt and vaguely alchemical symbols ("the rose stone.')



While it would be impossible for an ideological critic to admit any sort of equivalence between a high-minded political satire and a wildly escapist superhero tale, both works do display a necessary unity of action. One merely have to be tuned to hear and/or see.



Thursday, November 17, 2016

MYTHCOMICS: "AND ONCE REMOVED FROM NEVER" (ASTONISHING TALES #35, 1976)



Creative talents at Marvel Comics in the first half of the 1970s displayed a level of experimentation that in some ways dwarfs the seminal work of Lee, Kirby, and Ditko in the 1960s. Possibly because superhero comics weren't selling as well as they had in the previous decade, Marvel editors allowed for far more off-the-wall projects than the company had ever published before, and arguably, since.

That's not to say that every experiment worked out, as seen with the case of Deathlok. Marvel's badass cyborg enjoyed less than a dozen issues of ASTOUNDING TALES, a title which was cancelled just as the titular hero was about to start a new plotline (later concluded elsewhere). The character was conceived by writer Doug Moench and writer-artist Rich Buckler, but like the Black Panther series I've touched on elsewhere, Deathlok's saga was somewhat compromised by the use of "fill-in" talents. Buckler had involvement in all of the issues, but ironically, the best single story of this run was scripted by Bill Mantlo-- though probably with some input from Buckler.

The concept was a nightmare version of ABC's teleseries THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, whose first TV-film aired the year before Deathlok appeared. Whereas astronaut Steve Austin was given a squeaky-clean reconstruction by his benevolent military/espionage bosses, soldier Luther Manning-- inhabiting a future-America that had suffered some vague military catastrophe-- found himself rebuilt into a mechanically enhanced Frankenstein by his less than avuncular commander Major Ryker. Manning was dead at the time the military decided to work on his corpse, giving it metal limbs, various weapons and a computer-brain. Unfortunately for Manning, his human mind survived the transition, so that he found himself literally "tied to a dying animal," as Yeats put it. Manning was not happy about having been transformed into Deathlok a conglomeration of metal and dead flesh, and his peripateric adventures-- mostly confined to New York of the future-- varied between the cyborg trying to kill himself (which the computer-brain overruled) and trying to kill Ryker.

Most of the stories, while affecting on the emotional level, lack the density of symbolic discourse that gives rise to a mythcomic; most of the time, it seems like Buckler and Moench are channeling a new version of THE OMEGA MAN. (Why did the war create roving bands of cannibalistic humans? Maybe because it was neat when OMEGA MAN did something similar--?)  Only issue #35 comes closest to realizing the complexity of myth, because Buckler and pinch-hitter Mantlo devote some special intensity to the final confrontation between Deathlok and Major Ryker.




Following a setup from the previous issue, Deathlok invades Ryker's sanctum and learns that Ryker has a new scheme. Instead of fooling around with building corpse-soldiers to fight in the war-- which may not even exist at all, after the fashion of Orwell's "1984"-- Ryker has downloaded his brain into the "Omni-Computer" that controls civilized life. The computer hasn't really been a big part of the narrative up to this point, but Deathlok is informed by computer-technicians that Ryker can endanger the whole world with this attempt at cybernetic godhood. So Deathlok downloads his own consciousness into the computer for a showdown, giving comics-readers an early taste-- though probably not the earliest-- of the many "virtual reality" conflicts that would appear in later science-fictional works.

The most interesting aspect of the script is that though earlier plots emphasized Ryker as simply a ruthless military man, here he's transformed into the representative of an idea of order so repressive that it's as dangerous as any external enemy. (America's involvement in Vietnam had ended the year before Deathlok appeared, but it's not hard to envision the alienated cyborg as a response to the U.S. using soldiers as pawns in a war of attrition.) During the VR-conversation of Deathlok and Ryker, the latter reveals that his people never knew what caused the explosions that led to the mobilization of forces, and the imposition of a military dictatorship. Deathlok, the low-level "grunt" who has been the pawn of authority, speaks on behalf of the ordinary citizens who are also Ryker's pawns:

"There was no enemy, Ryker! You just wanted order-- total, complete order! And the only way to get it was to get rid of the causes of disorder. People, Ryker! People cause disorder! So you got rid of the people!"

Ryker and Deathlok have a short conflict in the VR-world-- probably one of the shortest in the days when every Marvel comic had a fight-scene-- and then one of the scientists in the real world pulls the plug on the experiment. It's never quite clear what was preventing the technicians from forcing Ryker out of the computer and back into his own body earlier, but suddenly they are able to bring both hero and villain back to the real world--

But not-- to their own bodies--





In the series' most interesting trope, Deathlok is mistakenly placed in the body of his enemy, and the Major in the body of a half-rotted cyborg. The technicians correct the mistake within seconds, but in the seconds in which Ryker is forced to walk in the shoes of a cyborg, Ryker goes mad, and continues to rant madly even after being returned to his proper body-- thus ending him as a threat for the very short remainder of the original series.

This denouement is much more satisfying than Ryker's death would have been. The order-obsessed officer had no intention of reviving Luther Manning in the body of Deathlok, but the fact that Manning resurfaced speaks to the essential toughness of the common American infantryman. But though Deathlok tries to kill himself early in the series, he continues to perservere despite his unenviable lot. Further, the fact that Ryker can't handle even a few seconds of the hell to which he subjected his former subordinate suggests that despite Ryker's greater rank he's not nearly as much "man" as Manning.

Following the interruption of the original series, Deathlok went through various reboots, but none of them had the potential-- however unrealized-- of the original ASTONISHING run.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

NEAR ACQUAINTANCE, NEARLY FORGOT PT. 2

While quick-reading one of Dirk Deppey's antique hotlinks the other day, I saw the following phrase out of context:

To argue that cheesecake imagery is inherently harmful to women is to argue that male desire itself is inherently harmful to women. Thankfully, this isn't a majority viewpoint among feminists, otherwise the nation would be awash in hijabs, and American beaches would be far less entertaining.

After scanning that sentence-- with which I fundamentally agreed-- I wondered the "Two-Minute Hate" series of blogposts from 2007 had anything of philosophical merit to it-- or at least more than Deppey's "superhero decadence" had possessed, back in the day.

In a word, the answer was no. While I agreed with his assessment of entitled fangirl feminists, and their influence from similarly overheated mainstream figures like Andrea Dworkin, Deppey showed no propensity to analyze the role of sexuality in popular art. At one point he may make a basically sound statement like this one:

The same sexual imagination and visual imagery found in hetero porn for men also occurs in its queer variant. And why shouldn't they be similar? After all, they both have the same goal: Getting the male viewer in the mood. There's nothing wrong with this. Whether you like it or not, we're monkeys, and male monkeys are fascinated by the sexy things that they see. 

But then, like someone afraid of losing their Net-cred, he takes back the "nothing wrong with this" with the usual Journalista sneers at the superhero fans' taste for "pervert suits."

Even then, the pervert-suit aesthetic isn't going to go away. Mainline publishers will be far more willing to buy into the concept if it supplements the current cashflow, rather than taking its place. That means sensible heroines and lipstick lesbians and half-naked lolitas fighting crime — otherwise, you're simply asking publishers to replace a surefire money machine with one that might grow and thrive, if only someone is willing to throw the dice. I'm sorry, but that's just not going to happen. Where large companies with fiduciary obligations to stockholders and/or corporate owners are concerned, the money always comes first.
While I agree in part with his analysis of the economic bottom line, Deppey-- who, I presume. still stands by these 2007 words-- advises the protesting fangirls to get busy and make their own comics to counter the male aesthetic. I'll admit that this sounds more constructive than the fangirls sitting around and griping about Stephanie Brown not being the New Robin. Still, it's a shame that after having made a sensible comment about the nature of the male aesthetic, he backtracks by implying that it might be superseded by a more female-friendly aesthetic.



Arguably, such a FFA does appear in a character like Kamala Khan. Nevertheless, Kamala Khan is not good because she wears modest attire and appeals to female fans, any more Supergirl IV is bad because she wears a belly-shirt and appeals to male fans.



Still, I'll say this for Deppey's 2007 comments: even if they're infused with too much ideological content for my taste, he doesn't shriek and piss and moan like most present-day ideologues. And as little as I care for the Mary Sue contributors, they've been far excelled in general pissiness by both the Huddites and the Seekfarts, despite the fact that most of these contributors are male (or reasonable approximations thereof).