Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Deadfool And The File Cabinet Of Infinite Memory

It always seemed to me that the most powerful fictional characters would not be determined by their strength, wealth, or intelligence – but rather, by their ability to realize they were fictional.

For what good is everything else if you are not aware of your own fictionality, of the true nature of your very existence?

In this sense, a character like Deadpool's exemplary physical durability is really just a metaphor for his enlightenment as to the fact that he is a fictional character. Fictional characters can be chopped up, burnt, exploded, decapitated, what have you – but they cannot truly die, as long as there is at least one person existing who can keep creating stories (official or otherwise) about them.

Deadpool represents the first card of the Tarot deck – techincally the first card, but not the card labelled "1." No, the first card, The Fool, is a "0." The Fool is off the grid. The grid being interpreted as Maya, as the delusional/fictional reality. Or: the grid as comic book grid, as a sequence of panels on the page.

Thus, Deadpool plays the part of Fool, but he just might be, due to his self-awareness, the most powerful character in the Marvel Universe.

Similarly, the entity known as Superboy/Superboy Prime/Superman Prime is by far one of the most powerful beings in the DC Universe (though Animal Man, by virtue of his close collaboration with Grant Morrison, comes in a close second, I think).

Of course, The Super Prime Entity is insane, which shows the inherent danger in this entire game. He took things too seriously. He devolved into insanity. Whereas Deadpool protects himself by insanity & foolishness being his initial starting point. The Super Prime Entity needs to know it all, hence his obsessive trolling of message boards, what have you (which would really drive anyone insane)...

...on the other hand, Wade Wilson, like any of the Fool/Trickster archetype – Heyoka, Coyote, Loki, Eshu, Bugs Bunny – seemingly knows nothing, and only is interested in jokes and tricks. Deadpool is an idiot – and yet he has achieved contact with the world outside the boundaries of the grid. Deadpool has achieved enlightenment but wears the cloak of insanity/foolishness in order to process it. Whereas the Super Prime Entity is a know-it-all douchebag with no sense of humor.

As an interesting side-note, the traditional colors of the Yoruban Fool/Trickster god Eshu are red and black, as is of course Deadpool's costume.

Now, you might have experienced a certain "tingle" at those moments in fiction when the character turns around and acknowledges you. There is the famous scene in Animal Man, of course, where Buddy Baker turns to the world outside the panel and freaks out, locking eyes with yours. Or how about when Ferris Bueller (another Fool/Trickster archetype) addresses you throughout the course of his movie? In these instances, something truly special is taking place – you and the fictional character are "having a moment." There is a real interface that takes place, if only for those few seconds of contact. Yes, just like in the A-Ha video.

It is not coincidence that the two comic book writers who have most explicitly discussed these matters in their work, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, have both practiced magick. They are shamans using the tool of the comic book quite literally and purposefully as part of a mystic working stretching/expanding our conceptions of fiction & reality. They are not merely gently touching the invisible barrier between reader and read – they are like the Super Prime Entity smashing that last wall, "punching time."

The sequence of panels in my old blog banner used to bother me. If we read the three panels in the standard Western way, from left to right, it seems that "I" (Occasional Superheroine) start as as pencil drawing, get color and ink dropped in, and then become a photograph of a real person. Whereas the way it really happened, of course, is that it started with a photograph given to an artist, penciled, and then ink/color dropped in. Though ACTUALLY, it started with me (real me) taking the photograph, then photograph itself, then pencils, then color/ink, then scan/digitization.

But then again, even that woman in the photograph no longer quite exists. Her hair is different. She's older. Her thoughts have developed. A good number of her cells have died and been replaced. The photographs, her writings, her memories, and the memories of others are the only real touchstones that this particular version even existed at all. We can't go back and find this 2007 me, physically point to her, and use her as some sort of hard evidence for the fact that she actually existed. All we have are memories and various media.

It is said that to our subconscious, fantasy & reality look pretty much the same. That a dream vividly experienced registers in the subconscious the same as a "real" event. How does our brains, then, process the fictional? In the grand matrix of our minds, where are the adventures of Deadpool, the Super Primes, etc. stored, and how are they regarded? They are filed away with our memories of real life events. Memories and media, anecdotes and images, recollections and typed words transfered into thought – it's all in the same file cabinet.

All we have is This Moment. And if "this moment" happens to be you curling up with your favorite movie or comic book – in that pinpoint of a moment, it is all real. In that pinpoint of a moment, Ferris Bueller is really locking eyes with you and addressing you, playing the part of Heyokah, playing the part of the Fool, playing the part of Bugs Bunny, trying to make you understand not just the nature of his world but your own. And trying to do it with a degree of good humor, frosting it with sillyness and humor, so as for your tender minds not to be completely blown.

Of course, I'm probably full of shit.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Twilight Time Warp: Stuck In A Moment

Love is forever...after marriage

I've found Christopher Knowles's interpretations of the "Twilight" phenomenon – that it is heavily rooted in Mormon/Christian culture and traditional ideas of courtship/marriage – very provocative. Certainly, he is not the first writer to make this connection, but he summarizes the situation very succinctly.

Of particular interest is the possible explanation he offers for why comic book fans are so angry about young hordes of teenage Twilight fans "invading" their conventions:

"And of course Twilight has brought armies of young girls into cons, infuriating the older male fans. Almost as if armies of Christian families had descended on formerly Gnostic or Neoplatonic shrines in the Roman era. It's fascinating how many of those aging male fans are objectivists or militant atheists and/or skeptics, and how many of them are unmarried and childless.

If demography is indeed destiny, then the Fanboy as we've known him may be entering his own twilight."

Ironic that the girls were screaming in the 1950s for Elvis Presley's unrestrained sexuality, his promise of passion as enshrined in his gyrating hips – and now they scream for the antithesis of sex, the palid and proper Edward Cullen. Certainly, both figures possesses great, if not epic, hair. But completely different vibe.

If we are indeed, as some have pointed out, currently in a strange analogue of the 1970s, is the fan-worship of such clean-cut figures as Edward, The Brothers Jonas, etc. really the equivalent of the worship of the Brothers Cassidy (Sean and David), Leif Garrett, and the rest of the Tiger Beat crew?

After the Summer of Love matured into the Summer of Murder and Manson's flower children were either incarcerated, burned out, or training to become the soulless businessmen of the 1980s, America needed a more wholesome set of young entertainers. Enter The Carpenters, the brother and sister team who in their cheery-and-chaste companionship had about as much real sexual tension between them as Edward and Bella. A legion of "clean" teen idols followed.

Go back in time and you will see the same phenomena happening in the late 1950s, as a number of rock icons (Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis) get busted for various indiscretions & Elvis enters the army. We see the ascendancy of that upholder of good Christian values Pat Boone, and of the Mickey Mouse Club school of Entertainers of Tomorrow.
Elvis, Tamed
This all means, if the Timewave Zero theory of repeating returns is accurate, that all the Twi-mania will settle down in a few years, as its stars, and the other teen idols that currently fill the pantheon, attempt to do as many outrageous and "adult" things as possible to kill the golden goose and become "serious" performers. I anticipate with glee the Pattinson sex tapes, his upcoming Vanity Fair photo shoot where he frenches Adam Lambert and JUST DOESN'T CARE DAMMIT!!!

Eff Bella

But this shift will not fully take place until Republicans/Conservatives are back in power in some form and there is something left to rebel against in contemporary society. I mean really, what do teenagers have to fight against in a status quo that gives them condoms in school, frowns on restrictive rules and regulations, and generally says that they are OK just the way they are? Certainly, I am not arguing against any of the aforementioned phenomena. I'm just saying that the evolutionary drive in the human animal seems to be wired in adolescence to rebel against something. Anything. Even sex.

And so the girls rebel, participating in the chaste bacchanalia that is Twilight. The "Punk-Rock" ethic of saying "fuck you" to TPTB has become Palinized. Sarah Palin is more hated by the status quo than Charles Manson, and meanwhile "Uncle Charlie" sits, well-groomed and grandfatherly, in a cell in Corcoran espousing a program of environmental awareness not that much different from Al Gore's.

"Uncle Charlie"

This is the biggest irony of all, the one that those who incessantly complain about "Twi-tards," Sarah Barracuda, Glenn Beck, and the rest of the usual suspects just...don't...GET. The targets of their hate are the rebels, get it? These Conservative icons are the current moment's equivalent of Marilyn Manson's assless leather Nazi pants. These are whose names you mention in polite company and elegant dinner parties if you want to get a rise just for the lulz. It used to be that a girl masturbating with a cross was considered the most blasphemous image to be shown on film. But if you really want to piss people off in the mainstream media now, have a girl in a movie just hold up a cross. Punk rock/Jesus saves! Whoooo!!! Tellin' it to the MAN!

Punk Rock

The fundamental history lesson is this: IT ALL COMES BACK AROUND, AND IT ALL FLIPS TO ITS OPPOSITE POLARITY. This always happens.

This is the nature of reality: it is an eternal game of Pong, between the poles of Left and Right, Yin and Yang, Black and White, Communist and Capitalist, Religious and Atheist. Each side defining themselves in relation to the Other.

Those Who Know, they understand how to quietly step to the side and to observe the entire absurd dance from a distance. And they do. And sometimes they even make good money off of it, these "Polarity Profiteers."

As for me? I do it largely for the lulz.

BONUS: Man, 41, just finds out that his real dad is Charles Manson. No joke.

"My hero is Gandhi. I'm an extremely non-violent, peaceful person and a vegetarian. I don't even kill bugs."

Lady Gaga: Danse Macabre

Lady Gaga's outfit at last night's American Music Awards really caught my eye:

With her white, ethereal outfit and bone-mask she is the personification of Death: of the pretty Mexican Catrinas in their elegant dresses...

...the worship of Santa Muerte...

...both who take their ultimate inspiration from the ancient Aztec goddess of the Underworld, Mictecacihuatl.

Such anthropomorphous images of Death are ancient archetypes that are burnt into our collective memory. It does not matter that the majority of people in the audience do not make the specific connection. All that matters is that Gaga tap into that immortal current, something she does as well as her forerunners, David Bowie, Alice Cooper, and Marilyn Manson.

This is not the first foray of Lady Gaga into the world of death-related iconography, as she simulated fatally bleeding in a performance at the VMAs earlier this year, sparking a wave of "blood-stained chic" that infected the fashion runways. Her lyrics and music videos are also chock-full of morbid imagery, especially in homage to the works of Alfred Hitchcock:

"I want your psycho
Your vertigo stick
Want you in my rear window
Baby you're sick "
-- Bad Romance

Gaga is the antidote to the oft-antiseptic world of teen music, the necessary shadow-side of Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, et al. Her performances are communal and cathartic thanatic rituals allowing the public to process the publicly-televised death spirals of performers like Amy Winehouse and Lindsey Lohan. Performances like her blood-splattered VMA rendition of "Paparazzi" pretty much spell it out, are almost accusatory against the very audience she entertains.

My first instinct is to believe that by so consciously appropriating these symbols, she is immune from/protecting herself against her own self-immolation in the spotlight of fame; however, remembering the many celebrities who have consciously courted the iconography of death and have themselves died young, I'm not 100% sure on that point.

In a future post, I will look at female representations of death in the comic book medium; I was going to include it in this one, but I think the topic deserved a special focus.

But as a preview, I wanted to show the character that, for me, resonates the most with Gaga's AMA outfit, Silver Banshee:

A banshee, of course, is known for her outstanding vocal abilities.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Angry Woman"

Hey, I figured I'd just let you know that I've got a lot on my plate at the moment, but will be back on Monday the 16th – which of course is the 3rd Anniversary of "Goodbye To Comics." I think it is too early to say whether or not I have anything special planned for this blog for that date – but you never never know. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

When Work-Worlds Collide

I work in two fields right now: writing & marketing.

Basically, here is how it works: marketing 9 to 5 (but from home, so it's pretty cool), and writing after work & on weekends.

It's all very left-brain/right-brain. Two totally different worlds, too.

But here's a funny story:

So I was writing something that involved action, guns, explosions, etc. And I said to myself: "Self, it behooves you to be familiar with the basics of this here action stuff." So I did research on Wikipedia, bought some books, etc. Was really proud of myself.

Around the same time, I went to a dinner party and explained to somebody about how to market their work. And this is what I said:

"Sure, I'd be happy to write you a little squib or something for my blog."

"A what?"

"A squib...uh, a blurb. I meant to say blurb."

A squib is, of course, an explosive device.

Blurb, squib: it all sounds the same.

As long as I don't accidentally confuse CPC with IED, I should be fine.

(Runner-up "worlds collide" situation, but in the strictly sci-fi geek sense: I actually used the word "grok" as a verb when speaking to a marketing associate. Yeah, gonna try to avoid that for now on.)