Monday, February 28, 2005

Who Are the Six Soldiers?

Update: Had a phone conversation with Alex (from this VERY BLOG!!!) and we brainstormed some more on this stuff. Things he has added are now in italics, just like this.

Now, it's pretty clear that in addition to being a great superhero story, Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers, number 0 at least, is some kind of metafictional comment on the genre or idea of superhero comics itself. Our entrypoint character, the new Whip, is a writer who examines what it means to be a superhero. In the midst of her study, she's become so involved that she needs to take it up to the "next level." I think she represents us as readers in that respect. We love superheroes, let's move it to something bigger. The Whip is indicitive of Chaykin's work. The first person narration, the fetish talk and costume, the self-referential and -analytical dialogue . . .there's even thick Black Kiss style-art. Chaykin characters always are in the media somehow, usually writing about themselves.

The Vigilante is the next fella we meet, and he's a real charmer. He's probably the most likable character in the book. Coming from the golden age and being almost as old as the concept itself, I think he represents superheroes. Superheroes call all these other forces together. They inspire us and focus the talents of many creators. But more on this later. Vigilante represents nostalgia as an obsession. Notice how often he looks at the photo of the old Seven Soldiers. He's likeable, yeah, but he's too obsessed with the past to actually get anything done. Also the art isn't just Moebius, it's Moebius by way of Heath or Severin.

Gimmix, I believe, is the obsession with making old new. One of the golden age's silliest ideas, a girl with a bunch of gimmicks, given facelifts and booze. She's the old concepts that barely float these days but keep getting resurrected. She's also the old creators that put on new faces for new times. I think Gimmix is an ABC Character: stylized, Sprouse-like art, tributes to the past, etc. She's got Greyshirt's jacket with [Joe is forgetting the character, the girl with the lingerie]'s stockings . . .ABC characters are light-hearted and full of gimmicks.

Boy Blue is the next generation of readers. Boy Blue doesn't care much about the history of what's going on. He doesn't care about theory, either. He wants to go out there and Do Superhero Stuff. Lose his attention with needless dialogue and he's just going to play video games. He likes superheroes, he just doesn't give a damn about old people talking about old things endlessly. Boy Blue is Image. He's young, he has no real origin or personality. He's an empty, vapid ghost suit with sunglasses and powers. He'd rather be playing games.

Dan is an interesting case. The "herovestite," I think, represents the plague of fanboys-turned-pro. He's certainly got enthusiasm. He's cashed in his entire life on his love of superheroes and now he's going to be one (or write one). And he's certainly got heart. He LOVES this. But he lacks skill. He goes for the big bang and for the obvious move. He doesn't really help anything at all. The fan pro works his ass off on making the stories he thinks everyone always wanted, but in the end, Geoff Johns isn't furthering the medium or our enjoyment in the slightest. Definitely right on there. This one's even more obvious than I, Spyder. He's this pudgy, goateed nerd who's got the toys someone else created and he doesn't really know how to use them. He wants to go to conventions. God, he even looks like one of them.

Then there's I, Spyder. As Alex said earlier, he's the Cynical Ultimate type. He's Mark Millar or Warren Ellis. Disdainful of the whole superhero thing, but look at him. He's a combination of a golden age archer and frickin' I, Vampire. Fanboy noodling justified with tattoos and cigarettes. Innocuous concepts "updated" with a sneer. Rockstar pros without rockstar talent. The Whip (and therefore the reader) is repulsed and fascinated by him, hence our love-hate relationship with this sort of character, creator, and material. Sure, it's a bit sexier, but what do we gain from the relationship? Nothing. He particularly seems like the early 2000s Ellis revamps. Think Counter-X. Bullshit mysticism paired with macho posturing. Totems ant tattoos.

In the book, Vigilante (The Idea of Superheroes) brings all these forces together. They all want to be a part of his thing. They all want superheroics. But they don't get over their flaws. They win the meaningless battle, they tell the small story everyone's seen before. But when The Actual New comes, they're slaughtered. Will this metaphor hold up as the books progress? Will it fade only to return in the other bookend? It's hard to say. Will Seven Soldiers represent How To Help Superhero Comics while saving the world? Or is this just a keen set-up? Knowing Morrison, this and other layers of symbolism (one early panel actually has the phrase "Why all the symbolism?") will slowly be revealed. Let's just hope we, the readers, have fates more prosperous than our symbolic counterpart.

AND one new updated thought from me. The Seven Unknown Men . . .bald men creating new heroes, trying to save the DCU. At the end, they have seven gift boxes, each with something representing the next seven minis (Shining Knight's Tunic, etc). I don't know how I missed it before, these guys are Grant Morrison. Or King Mob. Or Professor X. Hypertime strikes again.


Anonymous Brad Curran said...

That's a good analysis, Joe. The only thing I can add is that I think the Whip can also stand in for a jaded superhero fan who wants the same thrills they got from their old favorites but can't move past them. That's symbolized by her joining a super team when she got bored with being a "morally ambiguous vigilante." Instead of doing something different she had to stay in the superhero game. That can stand for superhero fans who are bored with the genre but won't try other comics. The guy that bitches about how much the X-Men suck but can't stop reading them. Her comments about the team dynamics once they meet up tie in to the idea.

You guys are spot on about Spyder, and I definitely see the significane of how he reacted when the mystery men gave him a new costume (which Cronin mentioned).

His costume change and posturing really evoke the Ultimates/Authority approach of updating characters by making them "edgier." I think his whole thing about not wanting to lose his tunic is an allusion to the problem of updating characters while forgetting what makes them cool, or losing the tradition that's actually worth keeping.

2/28/2005 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger Lex said...

A perfectly brilliant post ruined by a shot at Geoff Johns. Nice, Joe.

2/28/2005 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger Joe Rice said...

Well, Lex, I'd hardly say that ruins it. I'd say it is rather part of the point, both of my post, and of Seven Soldiers. Retread junk just isn't cutting it anymore, especially when it's boring.

2/28/2005 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger Dread said...

I was thinking of the six as less ideas and more comics ages or styles. 4 are obvious: I, Spyder is the Ultimates/Authority, Boy Blue is Image (as has been said for these two). The New Whip is obviously the Grimn and Gritty, what with all the abrasions, and lost tooth and power addiction. That's got Miller's stuff and Watchmen written all over it. Which leaves Golden, Silver and Marvel.

I'd kinda think Gimmix is the whiny Marvel age, or at least that era, if you consider Hard Traveling Heroes as well. Vigilante is al nostalgia so it makes him Golden age, while Dan is such a silly and yet simplistically charming concept that it HAS to be Silver Age.

2/28/2005 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger Dread said...

That should say "3 are obvious".

2/28/2005 05:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, Joe. What I want to know is, who is the absent seventh soldier in this scenario?


2/28/2005 10:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, Joe. What I want to know is, who is the absent seventh soldier in this scenario?


2/28/2005 10:55:00 PM  
Anonymous zack soto said...

very nice post! I too am curious to see how these ideas might bleed through the seperate series, or if they do at all.

3/01/2005 06:20:00 AM  
Blogger Joe Rice said...

Thanks, folks. As for the "seventh soldier," I think it represents The Next. Where Superheroes Can Go From Here, I think. Interesting side note from Mr. Alex, "The Seven Unknown Men in the beginning are 80s Morrison, deconstructing 3rd tier heroes. Later, he realizes that isn't going to work and he's going to try something new at the end."

3/01/2005 07:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Alex W. said...

Hey, fantastic post, you really hit it on the head. And I agree that the missing seventh soldier is 'something new', or The Shape of Comics to Come or whatever. I think this theme will tie in to the minis by setting things up for Morrison to try new things in them. In one of his first interviews about it Grant said:

"Seven Soldiers is an attempt to clear some new ground and make stories for people who want something a little different from 'greatest hits' reworkings of books they've already read.”

And he's always about the forward-thinking, do-the-evolution stuff.

So while Morrison's soldiers try to save the DCU, Morrison tries to save comics by stopping their slide into becoming a moribund medium. If he fails to lift hero comics out of the rote slump that he's personified in issue 0, will it really be the end of the DCU?

That would be quite funny.

3/01/2005 07:54:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...


I could have sworn I replied before.

Ah well.

In any event, yeah, Joe (and Alex) your points all made perfect sense to me, and I would concur.

In fact, I think you hit the nail so much on the head, I really wonder if anyone out there thinks you are way off the mark....


Let's see some back and forth!

3/03/2005 08:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know this thread is a year old...but did anyone else notice that Vigilante's soldiers seem to be analogues to Alan Moore's Watchmen?
Let me explain.
Vigilante=Rorshach. Both come from old pulp traditions, both are sort of crazy and obsessive in their own ways, the "Great White" Rorshach is chasing is the conspiracy engineered by Ozymandias, while Vigilante's is an actual huge spider...which of course is part of a bigger conspiracy.
Dynomite Dan=Nite Owl. Both are successors to Golden Age heroes. Difference being Dan Drieberg/Nite Owl got his skills through training, skills and a huge amount of capital, while Dynomite Dan got his "powers" on eBay.
At this point, the mirror gets a little skewed.
Boy Blue=Dr Manhattan. Of course, Boy Blue doesn't have the level of power the good doctor does. But Boy Blue is the youngest of the heroes, while Dr Manhattan is the one least likely to age at all. Plus, both seem to be out of touch with reality, i.e. Blue's playing video games, Manhattan's detached attitude while Edward Blake shoots a Vietnamese woman.
Spyder=Ozymandias. Both are the most physical, and seem to have a sort of mysticism working for them. Ozymandias patterned his life after Alexander The Great, Spyder claims the spider is his totem. Both, in their own way seem to be the "brains" of their respective groups.
Gimmix=Silk Spectre. Both have a glamorous look, and mothers who were Golden Age heroes. The crucial difference being Laurie/Silk Spectre's mother Sally pushed her into the career, whereupon she dropped it the first chance she got, while Jackie Pemberton/Gimmix was estranged from her mother Merry, the Girl of 1000 Gimmicks, and indeed makes her living on the "superhero convention circut".
Whip=Comedian. Two things really. One, both wear leather. Two, both are in their own way, "patriotic" heroes. Eddie Blake was groomed to be a sort of Nick Fury/Captain America type during WW2, while Shelly Gaynor's granddad, Rodrigo Gaynor was a hero to immigrant workers, usually Mexicans and Mexican/Americans.
Just thought i'd bring it up.

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