The project to which I alluded in my previous post has nothing to do with the theme of "otherworldly fantasy" that was the original basis of this blog. However, it is about what I term "comic book myths"-- that is, the types of mythic discourse that arise from the popular fiction in comic books. Therefore, this project is similar in form to my mediations regarding prose science fiction and fantasy.
THE FANTASTIC FILES is a project I conceived years ago, and which has almost been completed as I write this. The superhero series THE FANTASTIC FOUR, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1961 and published by Marvel Comics, is for me a high-water mark in terms of the making of a popular-fiction myth. The four characters-- Ben "the Thing" Grimm, Reed "Mister Fantastic" Richards, Johnny "The Human Torch" Storm, and Sue "The Invisible Girl" Storm-- are on one level as simple as the characters of folktales. Yet over time the social and psychological attitudes of the feature's two gifted creators manifested in a complexity that had almost no precedent in American superhero comics.
I conceived at one point the idea of launching THE FANTASTIC FILES as a blog-series. However, I had concerns. In most cases, companies like Marvel and DC are tolerant in giving tacit permission for the "fair use" of images and words from their comics for the purpose of review. I wasn't sure Marvel would be so benign regarding a blog devoted to one of the company's copyrighted series. But, I thought, if I print FANTASTIC FILES here as part of a general-interest fantasy-blog, that reduces the blog's dependence on one topic alone. I may or may not print all my "files" on this blog, just as I may or may not wish to "monetize" this blog at some point. But if I did monetize a blog called FANTASTIC FILES, I might be seen as making money off a Marvel product. I recall a case in which comics-creator Dave Sim got a legal letter from Marvel Comics because he had, for three issues running, featured a spoof-version of Wolverine on the cover of his comic CEREBUS. Had Sim not desisted, then even though he was within the law to satirize another comic book, the other side would surely have argued that he was making money off Marvel's property.
WHAT THE PROJECT IS ABOUT:
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby exclusively collaborated on 103 regular-length stories for the FANTASTIC FOUR magazine and six stories featuring the heroes for the first six FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUALS. Of the 103 stories, one was rejected by editor Lee, and the story was not published in Jack Kirby's lifetime, though parts of that unpublished story were cannibalized for a derivative narrative. As of this writing I've written analytical essays on all the Lee-Kirby collaborations except the last two, which I'll be finishing up by the end of this year.
My approach is one of depth analysis, derived in part from academic critics like Northrop Frye and Leslie Fiedler. These superhero stories, though intended principally as juvenile escapism, are rich with mythic oppositions-- age vs. youth, maleness vs. femaleness, humanity vs. "the other"-- which sprang not out of conscious intellectualization but from the sincere search of two comics-professionals for fruitful story-material. Much of the symbolic dialogue plays out on the subconscious level, but it's no less artful for that.
I've a few thoughts about how I might publicize the project. Normally I don't self-publicize my other blogs, but this Jade Varden post emphasizes how much authors need to toot their own horns in the current blogosphere. I don't think I'm actually humble in actuality, but I might be in practice, so I'll have to fight that tendency.
But before beating any drums of publicity, I need to actually put something out there. If I get enough response in terms of traffic and/or comments, then I may have some data I can take to a prospective publisher of a book-version of FANTASTIC FILES. If I don't get said response, I probably won't continue the blogging of the essays.
The first FANTASTIC FILES follows this post--