Month: November 2006

Back to Animal Man

Back to Animal Man
(now with tentative title)

After ranting about Grant Morrison’s series for years, I’m finally on the verge of writing a genuine paper on the material! Here’s the proposal (which may, or may not, make sense out of the context of the seminar I’m writing it for–at any rate, the PAPER will have to have legs, because I currently conceive of it–or a slight variation upon it–as the penultimate chapter of the ol’ dissertation!):

tentative title– Conciliating Perfection: Fan Identity and Genre-History in Animal Man #1 to 26

Grant Morrison’s Animal Man (1988-1990) stages a series of encounters/conjunctions between the autobiographical (prefatory, digressive-discursive) persona, the “generically competent” reader, and the politically engaged subject. Through its myriad permutations, the figure of Buddy Baker (Animal Man)—enmeshed in a plot that capitalizes upon the unique editorial/narratological policy operative at DC Comics during this period—enables Morrison to challenge reader expectations concerning “character development”, the stability of identity and of the storytelling/autobiographical act, and, by extension, the viability of a host of political scripts. Inexorably, the textual maelstrom engendered by this inquiry pulls the authorial persona out of the paratextual realm (of letters-to-the-editor columns and introductory pieces) and into the “narrative proper”.

In Animal Man, this metafictional reversal (which bears some resemblance to a move that has become almost de rigueur in postmodern literature) functions very differently from superficially comparable devices in contemporary works. In lieu of commenting upon the vexed relationship between author and audience, Animal Man finishes by foregrounding the even more vexed triangular relationship between the producers of genre-texts, particular iterations of the same, and their historiographically-adept readerships.

This project will be informed by a great deal of research (already completed) into manifestations of intersubjectivity in early (1961-1966) superhero comics letter columns. However, my reading of this specific work will depend mainly upon a close-reading of the 26 issues of the series (including all paratextual elements). The objective will be to determine the applicability of Barthes’ still-largely psychological/individualistic model of the self (an “organized network of obsessions”) to collective or intersubjective entities like fan subcultures. What organizational principles become operative in these instances? How strong does the pull of obsession have to be in order to counter the centrifugal force generated by the extension of the “network” beyond the parameters of demographically coherent subject positions? What is the relationship between fan identities and more politically visible identity-constructs like citizenship/nationality? (in this case—American citizenship/nationality/identity)    

it’s due on December 15th–so I’ll see ya then!

Good Day friends!