Soundtrack: The Breeders– Title TK

Don’t have much time tonight–and I don’t know what I was thinking of, planning to discuss Madcap when we’re on the verge of a major(minor)holiday! (no day off, but a lot of comics specials, over the years–i think that ought to qualify Hallowe’en for major-minor status, no?). I don’t know why I love the autumn festival so much, because I hate dressing up, and I’m not into horror–I think it might all be traceable to those Marvel/DC Rutland/Halloween stories, which I’ll discuss tomorrow night… Plus the Great Pumpkin, of course… In the meantime, check out this site, devised by a native Rutlander!

And before I go, I wanted to take this opportunity to address a couple of things that have come up via e-mail:

First, here’s a little something I received moments ago:

I really think you should go back and reread those (DeMatteis Captain Americas). Sure, the whole “old Cap” gets a little wonky, but that battle-to-the-death with the Red Skull was amazing, and the Deathlok story was amazing. And Bernie’s a heck of an interesting character. Add in the last good run of art (the Mike Zeck issues) on the title until, arguably, Ron Garney, and I think JM’s run was much stronger than Gruenwald’s (with the exception of the Operation: Galactic Storm issues, which was a fantastic storyline).

I’d love to see more of why you think JM’s role sucked.

I’m not exactly sure who sent me this, but it’s certainly worth responding to!

1–you’re right, I should probably have gone back and re-read those issues, if I wanted to go around shooting my mouth off about them, but the damage is done now (and I have read them, although, much like the Jack Kirby issues that Forager loves so dearly, it’s been a long time, and my opinions are bound to show the rust that has built up on them since 1989).

2.One thing I do remember very well is how much I hated the Cap/Red Skull confrontation that my esteemed interlocutor praises. I have never liked the whole “hero-villain relationship as twisted love affair” type of story, and this one represents the apotheosis of that tradition. I’ll have to admit here, (if it wasn’t already obvious) that I’ve never had the slightest interest in villains, and I don’t care how the Red Skull got to be his bad-ass self. As far as I’m concerned, he’s just an allegorical necessity (like Moby Dick), not a three-dimensional character (I think Darren Madigan just gave up on me entirely, but that probably can’t be helped at this point). Of course, there are a few “villains” that I have been able to motivate myself to think about for what they are in themselves–like Magneto, some of the members of the Serpent Society (especially Diamondback, obviously), the Mimic, Madcap, the Swordsman, and Kang/Rama-Tut/Immortus–you know, vacillators like that. But those “evil/ambition incarnate” characters (including Dr. Doom, Red Skull, Mandarin, Kang-when-he’s-just-Kang, most of the biggies, really) are just so many white whales to me…

2.Bernie Rosenthal is pretty cool, I’ll give ya that. And even though Stern & Byrne introduced her, DeMatteis deserves credit for developing her into one of the more interesting supporting characters in the Marvel Universe.

3.But what’s all this about Zeck being the only good artist to work on Cap in the 80’s? I don’t hate Zeck, but I much prefer Kieron Dwyer. Am I alone here?

4.I can’t really comment on Operation Galactic Storm, because I quit buying comics at just about that time. It doesn’t seem like my kinda thing though…

On the whole, it looks like I’d better go back and read the DeMatteis stuff before I make any more strong statements about his run, and I will, when I can get a hold of them… Thanks for writing!!!

Also, Justin Colussy Estes got in touch with me about my discussion of “open-endedness”, just as I was attempting to refine my discussion of “seriality” in the proposal which I posted about a month ago. It was Kismet–at least of a very minor sort! Anyway, here’s what I’ve come up with JCE(I’ll just post the two paragraphs I’ve changed):

The Marvel Universe, with its realistic New York and fantastical science, can be read as a vast “theatre, a little removed from the highway of ordinary travel”, and the overwhelming emphasis the texts place upon endless individual quests for (an impossible) moral and epistemological certainty situate them firmly within the American romance tradition. From the moment of their inception, in the 1930s, super-hero comics had always been published serially, but it was only in the 1960s, at Marvel, that the texts began to reflect an awareness of this formal “seriality”. In his editorial capacity, Stan Lee built a sense of “continuity” into the texts, barraging readers of the various series with exhaustive references (and footnotes) to the protagonists’ previous adventures (not to mention events occurring in other titles published by the company). The injection of “total recall” into these basically static—or, at least, anti-teleological—narratives (the characters don’t really age, and evil is never in danger of being eradicated) had unexpected side-effects. Inevitably, as each monthly issue established a new plateau of “presentness”—suspended above an increasingly protean body of temporally unclassifiable “past” experiences—inconsistencies arose, and narrative logic became muddled. This problem did not go unnoticed by those readers who contributed to the letters pages, and the most persuasive instances of this epistolary exegesis bled back (at least implicitly, and sometimes explicitly) into the ongoing narrative.

In The Office of the Scarlet Letter, Sacvan Bercovitch examines Hawthorne’s strategy of eliciting “personal response in order to allow each of us to contribute to the expanding continuum of liberal reciprocity”(22). The structural innovations at Marvel, fuelled by the tension generated between “editorial call” and “readerly response”, allowed these works to take Hawthorne’s practice to a new level. Readerly contributions, at once deeply engaged with the material and ironically distant from it, introduced unassimilable elements (the Vietnam war, the civil rights movement, and women’s liberation among others) from outside the ostensible text, dramatizing (at least a portion of) the “American Self” grappling with the inadequacies of its own intellectual tradition. In a way, the letters page functions as a “support group” for subjects seeking to move beyond (without discarding completely) the stale categories of Calvinism. This project will explore the ways in which this interpretative Babel transmuted these categories into new continua of meaning for an “age of dissensus”.

Okay, good night friends



  1. Dave–

    This is very tasty; really interesting stuff. Much for me to chew on.

    I’m interested in open-endedness (deriving from the serial nature of comics and comic strips) and how that informs our understanding of character and narrative in ways different from closed texts. As Ben Fisher noted as we were talking about this whole idea: Ignoring plot and character development (which I think is a red herring; it’s totally irrelevant and maybe even impossible in an open-ended structure), how does each issue of, say, Batman contribute to our general understanding of “Batman-ness.” This is a concern/notion that precedes your interest: how Marvel complicated this structure by introducing memory– thus the texts are transformed from serials to serialized narratives, or at are caught in a tension between the two. Shut me up if this isn’t making sense. (I won’t even go into my pet project: overlaying this on the novel Mrs. Bridge– I’m guessing that, as fascinating as your blog is, readers can only take so much wild spinning off into tangential academic skies)

    What might be interesting is to take a look at the early (40’s) Captain Marvel run by CC Beck, which competed with Superman in the marketplace precisely because it had a serialized plot– How then did Beck/CM escape this Calvinist cycle? How were those stories NOT Marvel stories?

    Of course, memory was only pertinent inasmuch as the storyline was continuous (with the introduction of a mystery: Who is the villain?) and thereby teleological; injecting conventional narratological concerns into the structure. Maybe I just answered my own question.

    Sorry for the ramble


  2. Justin,

    Please, ramble on!I don’t know enough (or much of anything)about the “Mr. Mind serial”, but I’m very interested to know more. My understanding of the Golden Age is all based on second-hand data filtered through Roy Thomas–and I’d love to see how someone who knows these texts deals with them in connection with the ideas we’ve been kicking around.


  3. I haven’t hear Kieron Dwyer mention in years until I started reading your blog. I remember his work being quite consistent and uncluttered. I might have to re-visit those Gruenwald/Dwyer issue again….

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