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Soundtrack: Le Tigre — Feminist Sweepstakes

I finished Julia Tausch’s Another Book About Another Broken Heart (scroll down to second item) yesterday, and I’ve gotta tell ya, the book’s got me convinced (never mind how–all I’ll say is that St. Hubert Chicken is involved) that good first-person narration must be tinged with Tourette’s (specifically, the aspect of the syndrome which compels the sufferer to say “the exactly inappropriate thing”–at inopportune times)… Tausch does a great job of setting up epiphanies and killing ’em in their sleep. The book is anti-teleological, plot-driven against its will (in a crazy pinwheeling sort of way), and damned fun from start to finish–long live the anti-bildungsroman!!!

There’s a lot of Animal Man talk goin’ on lately, and man, as far as I’m concerned, the more the better!!! So check out Eve Tushnet’s post on the “Coyote Gospel” (will there be more in this vein Eve?) and (via Eve) this article by Scott Tipton, from Comics 101, on the history of a the character, from Strange Adventures to Animal Man #26! I plan to get back to Buddy Baker sometime soon, but for now it’s on to:

Nomad/Madcap/Cap III

Liberalism is a fighting faith. It thrives on opposition, founders in calm waters. This is why you get wonderful things going on in the Antebellum North, when the “Slavepower Conspiracy” gives intellectuals something to chew on. Same goes for the thirties/forties & the Fascism-provoked “Popular Front”. But whenever the conspiracies don’t exist for real, Americans have always been up to the task of conjuring one. (Anyone remember the Antimasonic Party? Their only goal was to get rid of the (Free)masons!! And they elected a Governeor in Vermont in the 1830s!!) Best book ever on this subject? Richard Hofstadter’s The Paranoid Style in American Politics.

Previous writers had relied overmuch on Fascism/Conspiracy mongering, using Cap as the flashlight which illuminates the problems with tyranny. I read Gruenwald’s Captain America run as an attempt to turn that light back upon its’ source–using other radical (political) choices (Madcap’s nihilism, Flag-Smasher’s anarchism, the Power Broker’s “oligarchism”, and Nomad/Englehart’s Cap/Super-Patriot’s Machiavellian cult-of-the-hero republicanism/”patriotism”) to help bring out the essence of Cap’s liberal commitment. Of course, with the return of the Red Skull, in issue #350 (and maybe the craziest, most over-the-top conspiracy ever to envelop a comic book super-hero–which can be read in a number of ways, and I’ll get to all of them, in the days ahead), the series shifted gears…

The first step, as I argued yesterday, was to rescue Cap the Symbol from the Cap-the-super-hero-in-your-neighborhood mess which Englehart and, especially, DeMatteis created. Gruenwald set about doing this in a jiffy. The Nomad-Madcap clash pits one kind of super-heated emotionalism against another–they fight, the police mistake them for one another, they hang out together, steal food from a diner, cause a bit of mayhem(and yes–I’m aware that you can read Madcap as a “queer” character, but I’m sure, as time goes by, a lot of academics who like doing that kind of analysis will take care of the “gender theory” aspects of Gruenwald’s run, which is great, because although I don’t have any problem acknowledging that that stuff is valid, I just find it immensely boring…), and finally wind up duking it out at Coney Island–with the end result that Nomad and his brand of “heroism” depart from the strip, leaving the title character alone once more, in all of his abstract splendor.

And a side-note on Madcap–has anyone ever noticed that the guy’s origin and powers are basically the same as Bruce Willis’s in Unbreakable (which I really disliked)?–except that Bruce gets a nice explanation for what happens to him, courtesy of “fragileman”, while Madcap has to make do with the idea that there is no reason for his survival…

Anyway, Cap celebrates his new status as a “free symbol” by marching into his boss’s office and announcing:

I know that advertising plays an important role in America’s free enterprise system. But I can’t escape this feeling that our promotion of material things contributes to a consumer-oriented society–one that places more value on possessions than people.

To this, the boss replies: “Rogers– we’re talking toothpaste here!”

No one talks like Gruenwald’s Cap–which is great because he’s not supposed to be a person! And it’s easy to make sure that a symbol always has enough to eat. You just, ummm, arrange for the army to decide they owe him backpay since 1945. Yeah. Right! Problem solved. As I was saying yesterday–you don’t do that kind of thing with Peter Parker, but it’s totally appropriate here–CAPTAIN AMERICA doesn’t punch the clock!

More to come!

Good night friends
Dave

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