(Soundtrack: Peter Parker — Migliore!
…unquestionably one of the greatest albums of the past ten years…)
This business with the “parapersonae” in The Filth really intrigued me. Not happy with your life? Don’t worry–we’ll snort that out for ya in a jiffy. Greg doesn’t have a sex life–so if the “bio-ship” carrying that persona winds up in a clinch, a new identity becomes necessary. Enter Ned Slade. “Without Warning!!”
There is an organic substratum beneath all of the character-stylizations in this book. It’s the man we first meet as “Greg Feely”. He’s a natural born “not-self detector”–the ultimate subject–and he never quite plays the role he’s assigned. Objects are closer to him than they appear.
“Greg’s not a pervert. He’s just got his own tastes, that’s all.”
No. Greg is a pervert. But the guy that we accompany through this book isn’t Greg. “Greg Feely” is a parapersona that drinks all day long, watches porn, and lets everything go to Hell. But the protean subject (the I-Life) beneath Greg/Ned is focused solely upon the cat. Think about it. He goes through the randy bachelor and super-agent routines on auto-pilot. Only his concern for Tony is genuine–overwhelming. The man we meet in The Filth #13 has lost everything–including his raison d’etre… He has no identity at all–and yet he goes on, free to become “care in the community”.
Of course, no one can remain in that state for long. If you want to “take care of the little ones”, you have to siphon off a lot of yourself into a “parapersona” that gets things done. The key, I suppose, is never to forget the reasoning behind the sacrifice. In issue #2, “Greg/Ned” asks: “What’s my fucking motivation?”.
Morrison’s answer–“with great responsibility comes the need for great power”. Or something like that.
And this brings me to Gruenwald & Capullo’s Quasar #18–“The Bearable Lightness of Unbeing”. I’m sure most of you never read Quasar, but it was a very interesting series, and this was the best issue of the run. A one-shot that opens with an amnesiac Wendell Vaughn wandering through the streets of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, thinking “I’m in my hometown… Right up the street from my mom’s house! Don’t know why I’m feeling so confused, but it’s pretty obvious that I’ve come home for a visit.”
So he goes home, and he has a nice time catching up with his family, talking over the small details of a life that doesn’t seem to include any superheroic activities… While taking a nap, he dreams that he can fly, and it all feels oddly familiar to him. Later on, he is introduced to Billy Betelheim, the kid next door who aspires to become a comic book artist someday.
Billy drags Wendell up to his tree-house to show him all of the superheroes he’s been making up. But this isn’t “Earth-Prime”, or “Liddleville” or anything like that, this is the Marvel Universe, and Wendell feels obliged to challenge Billy: “Wait, did you say you created all these characters? Some of them look kind of familiar. This one, for instance, looks like Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four.”
“I know,” Billy replies, “I created him.”
Wendell tries to mitigate the lie: “You mean you created the drawing of him. Mr. Fantastic’s a real guy. You know. He has his own comic and everything.”
Soon, Billy is confessing that he is “secretly a really old cosmic entity whose name you couldn’t pronounce…” The little brat claims responsibility for every superhero on earth, including “Quasar”, whom Wendell has never heard of. And here’s where it gets really interesting–i.e. goes beyond rote metafiction:
Wendell: “You mean you made me up? I’m a figment of your imagination?”
Billy: “No. That’s silly. You’re a real person.”
Wendell:”That’s good to know.”
Billy:”When I say “create”, I don’t mean like I created something out of nothing–everyone knows matter can’t be created or destroyed. What I did is take people who already existed and turned them into superheroes whose names, costumes, and powers I invented!”
In other words–Billy’s mixin’ up “parapersonae” in that tree house! That’s what writers do. They take real people and turn them into characters that serve the purposes of narrative. And that’s what each of us does every day when we leave our sanctums to take part in the grand storyline of civilization. In Marvel-U terms, this means taking your powers back–and that’s Quasar works toward, for the rest of the issue.
This has always stuck with me. Every organic being, at its core, is a “not-self detector”–and to be reminded of that fact is to experience unspeakable joy. There’s nothing onerous about “unbeing”. Unbeing is pure awareness of “otherness”–in this state we skip happily along “The Crack” between the subject and the object. “Being” is the tricky part–that’s where “stepping on the crack” can “break your mother’s back”. The important thing to remember is that, while everything we do may be pointless, it’s not in vain.
Tomorrow: “Young Goodman Brown”
Good Day Friends!