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An Imaginary Mongoose: Comics, Canon, and the Superhero Romance

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  • Jason Tondro
    I am happy to note that my dissertation was filed last week. I am talking with UP of Mississippi about publication, but that is in very early stages. Since the
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 23, 2008
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      I am happy to note that my dissertation was filed last week. I am
      talking with UP of Mississippi about publication, but that is in very
      early stages. Since the project concerns the topic of this list quite
      closely, I have taken the liberty of pasting in the Abstract and
      annotating it [ with bracketed expansions for our community ].

      An Imaginary Mongoose argues that the superhero is a continuation of
      the romance tradition, exemplified by works like Malory's Morte
      d'Arthur and Spenser's Faerie Queene. The project argues that not only
      can we better read and analyze superhero romances equipped with a
      knowledge of Medieval and Renaissance literature, but that the
      opposite is also true; because the superhero romance grapples with
      many of the same themes and problems that canon romances do, an
      awareness of superhero literature and comics criticism is useful to
      the scholar of traditional literature.

      Chapter One examines Spenser's Faerie Queene, especially Britomart,
      Arthegall, and Talus "the yron man." Superheroes like Captain America
      help us understand Spenser's use of "shadows," allegorical characters
      who represent one facet of a real individual (such as Elizabeth). Iron
      Man's struggle with alcoholism illuminates the importance of
      self-control in both the superhero romance and the knight who is his
      forebear. Tony Stark's slippery identity, often confused by his
      superhuman suit and his identification with it, help us to understand
      how Arthegall's identity as the Knight of Justice is temporarily
      bestowed instead on Britomart, who acts as an exemplar. [ A version of
      this chapter, edited for size, is forthcoming in IJOCA. The links
      between Spenser's Prince Arthur and Malory's Arthur are also unpacked,
      with the conclusion that Spenser's "Prince Arthur" is specifically
      Arthur after he has drawn the Sword from the Stone but before he has
      been crowned king, an assertion backed up by internal evidence in
      Spenser, such as the presence of characters like Ryons and Ygraine. ]

      Chapter Two surveys the use of Arthurian myth in comics, and creates
      adjectival categories which may be applied in a non-exclusionary
      manner to these Arthurian comics. [ This chapter is based on my
      10-year old, 15 page article "Camelot in Comics" from "King Arthur in
      Popular Culture," Elizabeth Sklar and Don Hoffman, editors. The
      chapter is two and a half times as long and has the luxury of not only
      talking about Arthurian comics in the last few years -- such as
      Hellblazer's "Last Man Standing" arc and the Veitch Aquaman -- but
      also unpacking some of those comics in greater detail. In particular,
      I have a lot to say about Camelot 3000, Hellblazer, Knights of
      Pendragon vol 1, and Iron Man #150. A survey chapter, this is probably
      the part of least interest to Arthurian comics scholars, who will know
      all these books already, but important for Medieval scholars new to
      comics. Also the most illustrations, at 40. Some conclusions about the
      attempt to globalize the Arthurian myth and identify it with the
      environmental movement. ]

      Chapter Three is a close reading of three comics by Grant Morrison –
      JLA, The Invisibles, and Seven Soldiers of Victory –focusing on his
      use of the Holy Grail. His Arthurian sources, including Wolfram von
      Eschenbach, Wagner, Chretien, and Malory, are traced. Morrison's Grail
      is a symbol of communion, of the exchange of ideas between forces
      which seem opposite but are, in fact, the same. [ This started out as
      part of Chapter Two but grew into its own project. Slated for
      inclusion in Michael's Arthuriana collection, edited for space as
      required. Arguably the most interesting chapter for scholars of
      Arthur. ]

      Finally, Chapter Four is an analysis of Jack Kirby's "Fourth World"
      epic, with a comparison made to Ben Jonson's innovative work on the
      court masque. The Judeo-Christian and anti-fascist elements of the
      two-year experiment are unpacked, challenges of collaboration are
      examined, and the argument is made that, like Jonson, Kirby took a
      well-established form known for its limitations and went beyond those
      limitations to make the genre definitively his own [ No Arthurian
      content at all in this chapter. Sorry! ]
    • Dominick Grace
      Congratulations, Jason. I look forward to the book version. Dom [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      Message 2 of 2 , Jun 24, 2008
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        Congratulations, Jason. I look forward to the book version.

        Dom




        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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