Comics Enriched Their Lives! #19 and #20


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Thursday, January 6, 2011


Okay, these are both gimmes, basically, but since there are two of them, maybe that’s the equivalent of one solid post. Plus they’re both literary, so you know this is some well thought out bloggery.

First, in the immortal words of Paul Hardcastle: 19.

Rocketman, like comic books, is assembled by the Raketen-Stadt in order to serve Their designs. When he no longer serves Their ends, They dismantle him. But fragments of him survive in Pynchon‘s text. No one who reads Gravity’s Rainbow will forget the legend of Rocketman, the greatest preterite super-hero of the postmodern world. For a moment, he defied Their will and fought for truth, justice, and the Pynchon way.

—H. Brenton Stevens, “‘Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s . . . Rocketman!’: Pynchon’s Comic Book Mythology in Gravity’s Rainbow

I haven’t actually done more than skim that essay yet, by the way, as I am currently nearing the halfway mark in Gravity’s Rainbow, and don’t want to spoil things for myself. From a cursory perusal, it looks like Stevens may miss or downplay some of the subtler comic-book connections going on, such as the repeated Plastic Man references, but more knowledgeable others (and a future me) are better positioned to determine that. I will say that at this point I better understand why Thomas Pynchon tapped Frank Miller for the cover, a move that no longer seems intentionally perverse, but rather extremely apt—I just wish Miller hadn’t ultimately turned in such a relatively restrained image.

And now, 20:

At first I was read to. My grandfather had taught Greek and Latin at Columbia, and he read to me from a book that had abbreviated versions of The Odyssey and The Iliad—plus a lot of classic fairy tales, which, as you know, are extremely disturbing. Then I began reading on my own. I read mostly Westerns. My parents approved of that, because at least they were books. But when I got into comic books, they disapproved. I would read them by flashlight under the covers. No one realized in those days that 1930s Action Comics and DC Comics, Superman and Batman, would become legendary in American culture. They taught me a great deal about narrative—lots of invention and no pretense of realism.

—Harry Mathews, interviewed in the Spring 2007 issue of The Paris Review

Also no real surprise, considering the various Ou-X-Po connections, but there you go.

[Tip of the hat to DB for the latter.]

P.S. I finally got a copy of Neonomicon #3, so anyone interested in the CCCBC should find and read a copy before next week if you want to follow along.

UPDATE: Since I posted this, I found a more up-to-date and comprehensive article about Pynchon/comics connections online at The Walrus, written by Sean Rogers. I recommend it and you can read it here.

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8 Responses to “Comics Enriched Their Lives! #19 and #20”
  1. Andrei says:

    Harry Mathews also recently blurbed a certain book of comics–well, ok, mine: http://blotcomics.blogspot.com/2009/06/some-horn-tooting-if-i-may.html

  2. horus kemwer says:

    “Pynchon tapped Frank Miller for the cover” – is there any evidence that this was Pynchon’s decision? Given Pynchon’s famed reclusive nature + shunning of interviews / photo ops / etc., my guess would be that this was purely the decision of Penguin, with nothing whatsoever to do with Pynchon. Poked around online and couldn’t find any evidence to the contrary, but would certainly be interested if there was some . . .

  3. Sarcastro says:

    Pynchon always struck me as more of a Geoff Darrow sort of fellow.

    • Jesse McManus says:

      if joe sacco and s. clay wilson had a bastard child that they foisted upon h.c. westermann…..all his book royalties would go to child support, gyuck-yuck-yuck!!!

  4. Abhay says:

    I just started Inherent Vice a couple weeks back. I’m having fun with it so far– the private detective genre seems to suit him.