Soundtrack: The Minutemen—“What Makes A Man Start Fires?”

It’s an exciting night here at Motime. Firstly, I’ve been inspired by Sean Collins’ recent Freudian musings upon the horror genre to offer up an essay I wrote a little while back called “Homodiegetic Homicide”. It deals with The Turn of the Screw, and basically, I argue that James’s first-person narrator is one of the most horrific fiends in the history of English Lit… By the way the filmed version of TOS (The Innocents–1961)is pretty damned scary in its’ own right, and it features Deborah Kerr’s best performance this side of The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.

Next! I now have a second blog, which will function as an archive of material that might help flesh out what I’m driving at in some of my more obscure attempts to place super-hero comics within the context of the American romantic tradition… In one essay,I take aim at Harold Bloom’s entire critical project, although I don’t imagine that the Great One felt the tremors… In another, I rant about the problems with criticism motivated solely by political considerations. And, just to go completely overboard, I posted my undergraduate honours thesis, which deals with the interesting (I hope!) question of how the Transcendentalists avoided falling into the pitfall of reactionary politics that plagued their fellow Romantics in Europe…

God! I’ve been battling these html codes so strenuously that I’ve pretty much used up my time for tonight! But a couple more quick points:

<A href="http://www.motime.com/editor/rte/

Eve Tushnet wonders whether what I’m saying about Same-Sex marriage could possibly be as simple as: “Sounds like MLTP is arguing that now that marriage is basically meaningless, we can’t deny it to same-sex couples.” Well, that’s pretty much it. Or put it this way—marriage is only meaningful to people who want to imbue it with meaning. I sure don’t want to. But, I assume that anyone, gay or straight, who bothers to enter into that state, must be ready to do it—and the government really doesn’t have any business deciding who is up to the task. This is not a religious issue. And if you’re going to give tax breaks to some couples who choose to get the piece of paper, you can’t deny that right to other couples—it sends a really bad message, and sending the right message on this issue is far more important than any other consideration anyone could raise…

Eve disagrees:

“I should be crystal clear: People whose parents chose sub-optimal family forms, or had said forms thrust upon them, or some combination of choice and constraint, generally go on to lead only reasonably screwed-up lives just like everybody else. Nobody’s doomed because mommy and daddy didn’t marry. But it makes things harder. Often, a lot harder. Kids grow up, and they work through it, because we’re a tough breed, humans. But why should they have to?”

To all of that, I say: who wants a bunch of pampered kids running around anyway? They’ll just find other “issues” to cry over… Even if it could be proven that there is a direct correlation between marriage’s “loss of status” and the development of neurosis, I wouldn’t alter my argument one whit. But really, I don’t see how forcing two people to stay together, ostensibly for the sake of their children’s tender psyches, is going to make life any easier for anyone.

I wish I had more time to go into this one, but I’ll just toss it out there—Eve, you’re an avowed Catholic, and Catholics are notoriously addicted to institutional solutions for existential problems, and it’s a dead end, as far I’m concerned (my name is Fiore–and as you might guess, I’ve had some experience with the Mother Church). You don’t seem willing to examine some of your fundamental premises, and that makes debate difficult. For example—where is it written that kids “need” role models of both genders? Why is it so important that boys, for instance, learn how to be “men”. A couple of days ago, I was ranting about the pernicious effects of books like My Gender Workbook, but your attitude on this question is just as problematic, as far as I’m concerned. If we ever needed men to be “men”, that time has long since passed, and I, for one, am glad. I don’t ever waste any time thinking about whether I’m living up to my “gender ideal”. I don’t have a gender ideal! And yet, I’m able to function, and even figure out whom I’m attracted to… it so happens, women really do it for me—especially Christine!

Anyway, we just aren’t ever going to come to terms on these questions, so maybe tomorrow I’ll address some of the other fascinating things you’ve been delving into…

And, finally, I want to announce that my “random comics review” has metamorphosed into a more grandiose plan. Starting tomorrow night, I’m going to begin working toward what amounts to an epilogue avant la lettre to my forthcoming dissertation. How, you may ask? Well, I’ll be examining the three late-eighties series (Animal Man, Power of the Atom, and Gruenwald’s Captain America) that, to my mind, constitute, as a trinity, the apotheosis of the Silver Age. What about Watchmen? And Dark Knight Returns? And all of that stuff that Klock talks about? I just disagree, that’s all. (I do think that Watchmen is excellent though, in its’ own way—and I think I’ll re-read it soon. I certainly don’t agree with John Byrne that it never should have happened. But I guess we all understand that he’s an idiot, right?) Anyway, I’ll start tomorrow night with Animal Man #1!

Good Night friends!




  1. (I don’t understand why these links aren’t working, but I guess I’ll stop that now! If anyone can spot what’s wrong, please let me know!)

    At least one of your quote marks in each URL is not an ASCII character (did you do the original in a word processor?). Just to be sure you do it right, using a straight text editor (like Windows Notepad), change all the quote marks using the regular keyboard character. And BTW, even though it usually makes no functional difference, make all your HTML code lower case. It’s the standard.


  2. AC,

    Thanks for the help! I did indeed use a word processor on the original, and that does seem to have been at the root of the problem.


  3. A February 4, 2002 statement by the Americian Academy of Pediatrics supports legal recognition of same-sex parents.”The statement says there is a considerable body of professional literature that suggests children with parents who are homosexual have the same advantages and the same expectations for health, adjustment and development as children whose parents are heterosexual.” Like any study, this can’t be considered a final word. But it is a worthwhile argument, strongly substantiated. It deserves consideration. You can view a summary of the statement at: http://www.aap.org/advocacy/archives/febsamesex.htm.

    – Maggie.

  4. Yes, that was definitely an overstatement on my part. Byrne’s not an idiot, exactly. But he has said idiotic things. And he’s done idiotic things too–witness his awful stint on the Avengers, circa 1989. I haven’t really felt any need to get into the Byrne-wars up until now. But that Watchmen statement was just too much… I do think “Terror in A Tiny Town” (in FF #236) is wonderful though…


  5. I’m not denying that Byrne has, over the years, said some silly and/or stupid things. Comes with the job, I guess. But he was also very good at what he did, and he played an important role in the changing direction of comics in the 1980’s. We are, after all, talking about the guy who re-launched Superman after Crisis, had a fantastic run on FF, and was involved in some of the classic X-Men storylines (how involved is a matter of controversy). I never read his run on the Avengers, so I can’t comment on that.

    As for Watchmen, I think what Byrne was decrying was the whole grim and gritty era of comics which Watchmen helped launch. If you wanted to draw theological parallels, you might compare it to the condemnations of Origen in (I think) the sixth and seventh centuries, which had less to do with Origen himself than with his later emulators.


  6. Josiah,

    Anyone who wants to combine theology & comics is a-okay in my book! I’m going to have to check out your site! Yes, you’re right–innovators often suffer for the sins of their imitators… Forager’s been posting about this issue (in reference to the horrid glut of Tolkien-indebted “world-builders” that have sucked all of the vitality out of fantasy writing–this is just his opinion mind you, I don’t know nothin’ ’bout the fantasy genre!) in his weblog.

    In New England, the analogy to Origen is Anne Hutchinson, who, despite her strident Antinomianism, never did a wrong thing as far as anyone could tell–and was accorded a great deal of respect by the Puritan Magistrates. But they deemed her teaching dangerous (because it could lead to libertinism), and so she had to go! Later on, Emerson went through a lot of this too…

    As for Byrne and the grim n’ gritty stuff: I have to say, if he’s upset about it, he’s only got himself to blame–I mean, wasn’t he the guy who drew that issue of X-Men where Wolverine kills a whole bunch of Hell Fire Club drones? And didn’t he and Claremont create a whole alternate future just so that they could plaster “This Issue… Everybody Dies” on the cover! I do like Byrne’s run on FF, and I like the Dark Phoenix Saga, but we’ve got to face facts–Wolverine & Punisher turned up the violence quotient in comics, not Dark Knight & Watchmen. The latter two series are more notable for intoducing overt sexuality and (often lame–especially in Miller’s case) social critique + self-reflexive attitude about the nature of super-hero comics… and I gathered that Byrne’s comments referred more to that stuff.


  7. This may seem counter-intuitive, but I don’t think being grim and gritty has a lot to do with the amount of violence in the story. Lots of people died in the old John Wayne movies, but they certainly weren’t grim and gritty. I think it has more to do with the way violence is portrayed and with the effect it has on the characters. John Wayne killed out of pure motivations, and by and large the people he killed had it coming, so there is no sense that he is stained by his actions (the Man who shot Liberty Vallance would be a counter-example of this). “Grim and gritty” storylines present a much darker picture. The hero’s motives are less noble, often he is not that healthy mentally or spiritualy to begin with, and there is a greater sense of moral equivilence between him and the bad guys.

    You are quite correct to note that Byrne’s Wolverine was as much a cause of this as anything Miller ever wrote. Of course, he also introduced sexuality into his comics, often in disturbing ways (he devouted an entire issue of FF to the story of someone taking naked pictures of She-Hulk, and then there was the issue of Action Comices where he made Superman become a porn star). But, mercifully, in both cases this was never mentioned again, and didn’t affect the atmosphere of the mag.


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