Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Irradiated Memes 5: The Pervert Suit Problem 3

The outsider consultants think through the issue from a completely different perspective. For corporate culture, pulp characterization is a matter of shipping units. If Nancy Drew's sales are slipping, give her a makeover -- a new skirt and hair do, new vocabulary, whatever it takes. For the outsiders, culture is about artistry, about (as Paul Klee said) taking a line for a walk. For corporate, the property is bread and butter (and the bread and butter is property). For artists, the property of character is change.

A) The Alan Moore solution.

Extrapolate extrapolate extrapolate.
Put simply (in Eriksonian terms):
Two crisis points: adolescence to adult identity; adult identity to adult generativity.
DC achieved the first transition where Marvel regressed into permanent and pathological adolescence. Now it needed to achieve generativity. In humans, this means passing on your wisdom (which is to say, reproducing).
DC had already done the literal thing with the characters: Green Lantern Family, Superman Family, Flash Family, Batman Family, etc. (Family as brand extension, it's the American way.)
But when Moore comes along, he does something more radical, more memetic. He lets the ideas become generative.

Problem: Following market necessity (and looting other properties) leaves characters riddled with contradictions.
Solution: Play those contradictions out as drama.
Corollary: Dialectics dialectics dialectics. Thesis, antithesis.
Extrapolation: As an artform, pulp has a life of its own beyond commecial consideration.
Swamp Thing is a man who acts like a plant. Swamp Thing is a plant who acts like a man. Now what follows?
Superheroes are people outside the law enforcing the law:
1) V for Vendetta.
2) Watchmen.
Captain Marvel is one mind in two bodies. Marvelman is two minds in one body. Shake and bake.

Creative Mythology Analysis: Captain Marvel is Superman plus adolescent wish fulfillment, a short-circuiting of the adolescence/identity crisis, leading to psychopathology. Now reverse. Marvelman is the growth of adolescence into self-transcedence. The medium now leaves the corporate home, as the characters themselves evolve out of their original premises. Moreover, the superhero ceases to be vicarious self-transcendence but instead a call to personal self-transcendence. Cue Promethea.

B) The Neil Gaiman Solution.

Problem: Follow Alan Moore.
Solution1: Do the same to Black Orchid (unsatisfying).
Solution 2: Come up with your own story, graft it onto a disused property.
Corollary: Pre-existing market at your fingertips.
Extrapolation: Corporate is a lummox ripe for subversion. Use them to get what you want for yourself.
Result: Neil Gaiman's career.

Creative Mythology Analysis: Mythological tropes are there for your own repurposing. All of reality is a dream within a single skull.

C1) The Grant Morrison Solution (individual).

Problem: Follow Alan Moore.
Solution 1: Overwrite Batman with tons of mythology (unsatisfying).
Solution 2: Take unused property, start using Alan Moore extrapolation techniques, then introduce gnostic, post-modern ideas of the relation between creator and creation.
Corollary: Never mind the Hegel, here's Pirandello!
Extrapolation: Corporate properties are an opportunity to investigate the relationships between the will of the marketplace, the will of the creator, and the innate properties of the, er, property.
Animal Man, Marvel Boy, The Filth. Recapitulation of 70's Marvel alienation. Each lives on the cusp of different realities and has to mediate between the two of them.

Creative Mythology Analysis: Follow the bouncing mytheme. As Animal Man is bound by commercial forces beyond his control, so too are we; as Marvel Boy is trapped in a world he never made and rises up against it, so too may we preserve our own integrity; as Greg Feely contains multitudes, so too do we hold the keys to our own salvation.

C2) The Grant Morrison Solution (team)

Problem: Retrofit a non-functioning team property.
Solution: Individual characters within a team must function as part of a unity.
Corollary: The team is the individual.
Extrapolation: Succesful teams have strong archetypal characters; subpersonalities function to maintain an individual (as with Crazy Jane in the Doom Patrol); the purpose of the team is to support the viablity of each troop unit while preserving the integrity of the whole.
Doom Patrol: the team is divided against itself, and too concerned with individual projects; all it can do is postpone the inevitable in the real world; in the imaginary world, it can create personal utopias.
The Invisibles: repurposing the same character dynamics:
Crazy Jane = Ragged Robin.
Chief = Mason Lang.
Cliff = Jack Frost/King Mob.
Kipling = Tom/Brother Voodoo, er, Jim Crow.
Dorothy = Jack Frost/Lord Fanny
Character is now more fluid, and each can take new roles, though again, it's just a matter of postponing the inevitable, and changing its, er, character.
Justice League: They're a Pantheon. They represent our aspirations. They need to work together, and bring the rest of us into the picture. The interpersonal dynamics are more static, because they're recognized to be archetypes fighting an archetypal war against oblivion and annihilation. Being archetypes, they succeed (as the Superheroes within Flex Mentallo pull together to save our hero from self-inflicted annihilation.

Creative Mythology Analysis: Teams represent interpersonal dynamics preserving team and world integrity; by analogy, the same can be same for the forces of intrapersonal dynamics within an individual.

D) The Warren Ellis Solution.

Problem: Follow Alan Moore and follow Grant Morrison.
Solution 1: Make all characters sound like Warren Ellis.
Solution 2: Follow Marvel dynamic to create Avengers style archetypes; follow DC archetype to make them incarnations of ideals; call them the Authority (because there's nothing more authoritative than that).
Corollary: Cross fingers and hope blend works.
Extrapolation: Excellent! Now take archetypal analysis into the whole of pulp fiction with Planetary.
The Authority is a meta-archetype, an archetype of archetypes. These are the seven food groups. Now we're done. Note the way that, where Grant killed God half a dozen times, Warren kills the Justice League four times. Once in Stormwatch, once in the Authority, once in Planetary, and once in Planetary/Authority. He's really, really keen on proving his point.
Planetary is a direct attack on corporate control of archetypes, and an attack on their conditions of origin, too. Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan and The Shadow are insane, crappy people. The Fantastic Four are control freaks who destroy imagination. However, it's worth noting that Warren's not so different; he likes to destroy properties. Stormwatch -- all dead, except for his creations. JLA -- dead dead dead dead. Hulk -- dead. And so on.
Global Frequency -- New team idea, where each character is exactly the function they need to perform to get the immediate job done. The only stable core is Warren, er, Miranda Zero.

Creative Mythology Analysis: Yes yes yes. Archetypes my arse. We've all got a job to do, and mine's becoming the centre of your universe, fanboy.


Blogger Chad said...


Alan Moore is the only one who doesn't make all his characters sound like him.

4/27/2005 10:45:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

Great stuff!

4/28/2005 08:13:00 AM  
Blogger MarkAndrew said...

"Allan Moore is the only one who doesn't make all his characters sound like him."

Heh heh heh.

Some thoughts

Alan Moore solution (Ground B)

Accept the characters are riddled with contradictions that don't have to be resolved. Embrace the contradictions. Then use the superhero archetypes to tell long, kinda boring lectures on the history of comics (Tom STrong) or magic (Promethea.)

You say "Superhero as Call to Self Trancendence" I say "Superhero as teaching tool, inexpertly wielded. And then I say "boring" again."

B: Neil Gaiman: But it's NOT just mythical tropes. It's a humanistic, 20th century psych and philosophical rewriting of mythical tropes into a kind of liberal, humanistic theology.

C: Grant Morrison: Didn't Dave Sim do it first?

Actually, and recently, I think of Morrison as basically a sociological science fiction writer. The X-men? The Invisibles? They're all about the individual relating to the small group that they're part of, the individual relating to society, and the small group of individuals relating too society. IT's NOT just dynamics within the team.

That and cats blowing shit up. MEOW! BOOM!

That said, I dunno what Seven Soldiers is about yet. I'm not seeing much of the Morrison Meta-This-is-a-fictional-world- Meta-textuality yet, and the Sociological elements are downplayed, 'cept in Klarion. (Possibly because we DON'T have a team.)

5/03/2005 05:27:00 PM  

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