Month: December 2004

‘It’s Always Been Politics

“It’s Always Been Politics”
(Soundtrack: The Levellers — Levelling the Land)

Has anyone noticed that the “mind-wipe” conundrums that Meltzer is exploring in Identity Crisis go back directly to Squadron Supreme, but with a reactionary twist? (I’ve only read the first two issues, so maybe I’m off-base here…)

Here’s how it looks to me: the most interesting thing about Squadron Supreme, as a series, is the fact that it declares absolute war upon the hero-villain dynamic… As usual in Gruenwald, the thing is not to “beat the villains”, but to bring them on-side… (by hook or by crook, as they say!) If you’re out to change the world–do the opponents of the new order have the right to the “sanctity of their personalities”? What you get, in Squadron Supreme, is Calvinism freed from the constraints of nature (and Augustinian quotas) by science (the subtitle of the paper I intend to write any day now is “Science and Soteriology in Squadron Supreme)… The “b-mod” machine is a “virtual grace” dispenser. At long last, “sanctification” can be mass-produced–and the theological doctrine of the “perseverence of the saints” can be “guaranteed by the manufacturer” (Tom Thumb)! All of this ties in with the question of technology’s capacity to expand the “possibilities of the human” (anyone ever read Bernard Stiegler’s La Technique et le temps?) and theories of sovereignty (notably Carl Schmitt’s) that emphasize the centrality of “The Decision” to all polities (despite the liberal dream that laws can be drawn up to account for every contingency)…

What intrigues me is that, while Gruenwald’s book sets up this problematic perfectly (I call it “metahuman momentum”–in contrast to the logic of the “Machiavellian moment” that you find in a different type of superhero narrative, like, say, Kingdom Come), it balks (although it certainly does raise the possibility–at least implicitly!) at forcing the Squadron Supreme to consider making “the final decision” (to force everyone–including themselves–to undergo the b-mod process…)

Here we are haunted by two Emersons:

1. “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private
heart is true for all men – that is genius. “

2. “I would write upon the lintels of the doorpost ‘Whim’.” (with its corollary: “our moods do not believe each other”)

So which is it? Isn’t it both? That’s why the world is so fucked! (and also why I’m so in love with Gruenwald’s book!)

In Identity Crisis, of course, we’re back in mythological territory. The show must go on. The idea that “villainy” (or human conflict) should be dismantled (mainly through technological innovation), rather than opposed, is not even considered (even if, in SS, this is ultimately shown to be an “undecidable” question… The title of my paper is “TKO’d by The Decision”). It’s significant here that Meltzer’s “b-mod” equivalent is a magic spell (which depends upon the supernatural, not human ingenuity) that restores the status quo by making sure that villains play by “the (mythological) rules of the game”

Good evenin’ friends!



Yule And Void

Yule And Void

(Soundtrack: Ella Fitzgerald — Ella Wishes You a Swingin’ Christmas)

Well, it’s only December 2nd and already I’m giving up on “Yule-blogging” for this year… (last year I lasted eight days!) Too much to do! Very sad–because I still love this time of year as much as I ever did, back when I had my nine-year old brother Matt convinced that our dog Shelly was an elf (she used her whiskers to transmit reports on his conduct back to The Pole) and that magical things really do happen on Christmas Eve (like: everyone stays sober this year…and, for once, the only family member in danger of melting down will be the snowman out front… Still waitin’ on that one, I’m afraid!)

Yeah, we had some rough times. (And my brother still managed to misbehave, whenever Shelly and I made our neighborhood rounds!) But the things that made it wonderful, despite everything, were the albums, the movies, the stories, and, yes, the comics! Oh yeah–love too. But love is a double-edged sword, right? And whenever it threatened to cut too deeply in the wrong direction, I was pretty grateful for It’s A Wonderul Life, Charles Dickens, and the splendid Levitz/Garcia-Lopez Legion story that I’ve referenced above! (Steve Chung wrote a fine tribute to it last year, ’round about this time…)

Anyway, I do hope to get in a little Yule-bloggin’ this month, but I’m not making any promises to myself, let alone you, my dear readers!

When I played Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas, back in fifth grade, I offered up a quotation from the Gospel of Luke in answer to my bald friend’s inquiry into the meaning of Christmas, and Luke is great; still, if I had been given the chance to script the scene my way, I would’ve quoted Dickens instead… So here it is again (from What Christmas is, as we Grow Older), just in case you missed it last year:

On this day we shut out Nothing!

“Pause,” says a low voice. “Nothing? Think!”

“On Christmas Day, we will shut out from our fireside, Nothing.”

“Not the shadow of a vast City where the withered leaves are lying deep?” the voice replies. “Not the shadow that darkens the whole globe? Not the shadow of the City of the Dead?”

Not even that. Of all days in the year, we will turn our faces towards that City upon Christmas Day, and from its silent hosts bring those we loved, among us. City of the Dead, in the blessed name wherein we are gathered together at this time, and in the Presence that is here among us according to the promise, we will receive, and not dismiss, thy people who are dear to us!

Oh yeah, and don’t forget to check out Scott and Dave’s respective sequential art countdowns!

Good night friends!