Soundtrack: “The Bobby Fuller Four, Live at PJ’s Pub (December 1965)”
Well! My schizophrenic immersion in Marvel Comic letters pages and the historiography of New England Puritanism has begun in earnest. I’m going to read as much of this stuff as I can, in the next couple of months, hoping to generate such a contagious level of enthusiasm for my thesis that no professor would want to miss out on the chance to supervise my work at the doctoral level (and no institution would balk at the idea of giving me enough research money to but every comic published by Marvel between 1961 & 1976, in the worst possible condition, natch! This is no investor scam…) We’ll see how that turns out…
Anyway, whilst poring over a few of the issues I do still have, I came across some interesting items:
–in Doctor Strange #7 (April, 1975): Peter Sanderson (yes, I suppose it must be that Peter Sanderson!) comments:
The Silver Dagger-Doctor Strange conflict could be used to represent a clash between two kinds of religious outlooks or moral commitment. Dr. Strange does not attempt to preach to anyone, yet he demonstrates the active moral commitment Dagger lacks. Outside of institutions, unconcerned with power . . . Strange goes out and fights for what he believes in and in doing so drives out evil… Dagger is merely content to rule over other people and satisfy his own ego. Strange is willing to sacrifice his own sanity for his principles…His trials are not just fights to see who’s the stronger—they are struggles to keep one’s sanity, to act effectively in a world wherein everything appears incomprehensible and opposed to one’s goals…Doctor Strange’s world is now less the real world assaulted by supernatural forces [than] it is the real world seen as a kind of nightmare.
The letter takes up the whole column, working overtime to establish Silver Dagger as a stand-in for the Catholic church and its’ repressive policies throughout the centuries. Which is fair, I suppose—if you’ve read any Spenser and Milton, you know that the “Scarlet Whore of Rome” has been represented by much uglier allegorical figures than Silver Dagger. Sanderson doesn’t use any theological terms, but he’s basically calling the Doc an antinomian, when he discusses Strange’s radical outsider status—and there I would take issue with him (Marvel super-heroes never experience the kind of “assurance” of “election” that a true Antinomian feels—they are always in doubt as to whether they are “saved” or “selfish worldlings”. Peter Parker is the classic exhibitor of this relentless spiritual uncertainty, but pretty much all of the characters share this trait, at least to some degree…)
–And speaking of Mr. Parker, a letter from Amazing Spider-Man #66 (Nov ’68), attributed to something called “The Flowerpower League of Yuma Arizona”, does a good, although certainly simplistic, job of zeroing in on the key characteristics of the classic Marvel Hero:
Spider-Man is a poor slob under abnormal stresses. He is consistently frustrated in his love life (he hasn’t made a pass at Gwen in 62 issues that had a ghost of a chance of success). He represses desire for Mary Jane (inhumanly) and manages to do exactly the things that alienate friends and lose chicks. Every time. And he can talk about his hang-ups casually…
Try reading John Winthrop’s journals sometime. It’s substantially the same thing! (Although he was somewhat more successful with the ladies)
Anyway, I’d better go! But let me know if this stuff interests you, okay? Obviously, my judgment in these matters is a bit off.
Good night friends!