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1 TIME AND NARRATIVE IN DEPTHLESS VISUAL MEDIA By CHRISTOPHER THOMAS EKLUND A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2009
2 2009 Christopher Thomas Eklund
3 To Nikki, for sharing Blankets, Cages, and a Life with me, Kevin for Starry Wisdom, And Donald D. for Counter -Apocalyptic Resistances
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank my committee for their help, input and understanding, and my Chair in particular for guidance, feedback, and support beyond all reasonable expectations. I would also like to thank the staff of Smathers Library, especially Special Collections, for their help and for the opportunity to become involved with library exhibitions; the entire American Studies department at Purdue for taking a chance on me; Ruth Salvaggio and Janet Afary for mentoring; then English office staff and so many others in the univ ersity without whom I never would have finished this dissertation. My love and gratitude go out to my parents for nurturing in me the complementary loves of reading and learning, to my friends for commiseration and serving as sounding boards, and especial ly to my wife, Nikki, for brilliance, love, insight, beauty, and Germans chocolate cake.
5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ...................................................................................................... 4 LIST OF FIGURES .............................................................................................................. 6 ABSTRACT ........................................................................................................................ 11 CHAPTER 1 PROCRUSTEAN BEDS AND PANEL BORDERS .................................................... 13 2 FLATNESS, VECTORS, AND PROCESS ................................................................. 47 Vanishing Point: Drers Melencholia I ...................................................................... 53 Fourfold Anarchy: William Blakes Marriage of Heaven and H ell ............................. 63 Vector Analysis of Comics .......................................................................................... 73 3 SCHIZOANALYSIS OF THE PAGE: TIME, BODIES AND A LIFE IN THE WORK OF ALEX ROBINSON, HONOR DAUMIER AND DAVE SIM .................. 112 The Pool of Time in Alex Robinsons Too Cool to be Forgotten ............................. 118 Two Regimes of the Comics Page: Cutting Up and Sinking Below ........................ 135 The Muse or the Viper: The Chaosmotic Female in Les Bas Bleus and Cerebus 137 A Life on the Page .................................................................................................... 156 4 STRUCTURES OF TIME AND PROCESSUAL NARRATIVE ................................ 181 Several Kinds of Time in Digital Media .................................................................... 186 Becoming Dragon: Postcolonial Fantasy ................................................................. 200 5 CASE STUDY : THE KOHEN GADOL HAS HORNS .............................................. 232 Structures of Time in Dominions 3 ........................................................................... 235 Life Goes On...Until It Doesnt .................................................................................. 236 The Book of Giants ................................................................................................... 238 The Lost Tri be ........................................................................................................... 250 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................................................................................. 268 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .............................................................................................. 273
6 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 1-1 Eisner's masterful page composition in Life on Another Planet here reproduced from his Comics and Sequential Art. ................................................. 42 1-2 the film analogy in McCloud's Understanding Comics. ...................................... 43 1-3 McClouds take on abstraction in art. .................................................................... 44 1-4 t his is the panel that McCloud argues is not comics because it is one single panel, but would be if subdivided (into multiple panels). ...................................... 44 1-5 the original Carl cartoon from Understanding Comics other elements on this page omitted for clarity. .......................................................................................... 45 1-6 Honor Daumier's Le Dernier Bain ....................................................................... 46 1-7 same with lines showing the triangle formed by the mans flat -footed stance, heels on the ground. .............................................................................................. 46 2-1 de Koonings Woman and Bicycle ......................................................................... 87 2-2 de Kooning's Woman with a Green and Beige Background ................................. 88 2-3 layering of paint, wash and varnish (enlarged) from Elkin's What Painting Is ..... 89 2-4 perspective diagram from Panofsky's Perspective as Symbolic Form ................. 90 2-5 T and O map from Edgertons The Mirror, the Window, and the Telescope ....... 90 2-6 Durer, illustration from his Four Books on Measurement ..................................... 91 2-7 Durer, St. Jerome in his Cell .................................................................................. 91 2-8 Durer, The Nativity ................................................................................................. 92 2-9 Durer, Melencolia I ................................................................................................ 93 2-10 Figure from Edgertons The Mirror, the Window, and the Telescope ................... 94 2-11 Figure from Edgertons The Mirror, the Window, and the Telescope ................... 94 2-12 Durers Melencholia I with the vanishing point circled ......................................... 95 2-13 Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell plate 20, copy C .................................. 96 2-14 Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, plate 20, copy H .................................. 97
7 2-15 Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell plate 20, copy G ................................. 98 2-16 Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell plate 20, copy I ................................... 99 2-17 Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell plate 20, copy D ................................ 100 2-18 Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell plate 20, copy F ................................ 101 2-19 Vacation Time splash page, from The Carl Barks Library ................................ 102 2-20 Mondrian, Composition with Large Blue Plane, Red, Black, Yellow, and Gray 103 2-21 Brunetti, P. Mondrian ........................................................................................... 104 2-22 Baker, from Sparrow's Fall ................................................................................... 105 2-23 Moore and White, from The Reversible Man ...................................................... 106 2-24 Moore and Williams, from Promethea ................................................................. 107 2-25 Moore and Williams, from Promethea ................................................................. 1 08 2-26 Moore and O'Neil, from Tygers ......................................................................... 109 2-27 Moore and O'Neil, from Tygers ......................................................................... 110 2-28 Moore and ONeil, from Tygers ......................................................................... 111 3-1 concrete poetry and a universe of reference in Robinsons Too Cool to Be Forgotten .............................................................................................................. 158 3-2 fragments of a life: the composition of Andys dad (left) and teenage Andy (right) out of moments of their shared history, the rest of which is lost beneath the page ................................................................................................. 159 3-3 pages structured primarily by lines other than panel borders, with Andys dad dropping off of the bottom of page 86 ................................................................. 160 3-4 Adult Andys projection above the (normal) projection of the panel borders, and his recuperation into them ............................................................................ 161 3-5 return to the typical style of Too Cool to be Forgotten, after p. 86 -9 .................. 162 3-6 along the bottom of page 72, a wooden railing doubles as a panel border, and in the center of 72 -3, an unsteady, curving panel indicates both intoxication and male sexual arousal ................................................................... 163 3-7 adult Andys face reflected in the portrait of him with his parents, though this scene takes place while he is teenage Andy ...................................................... 164
8 3-8 t eenage Andys first look at the pictures in his familys home ............................ 165 3-9 the infamous Jyllands Posten Muhammad cartoon page ................................ 166 3-10 part of Weinmans great lawgivers frieze behind the bench of the United States Supreme Court, with the much less controversial depiction of Muhammad cent er .............................................................................................. 167 3-11 Daumier, Les Bas Bleus plate 22 ....................................................................... 168 3-12 Daumier, Les Bas Bleus plate 33 ....................................................................... 169 3-13 Daumier, Les Bas Bleus ...................................................................................... 170 3-14 Daumier, Les Bas Bleus pl ate 12 ....................................................................... 171 3-15 Sim and Gerhardt, from Reads ............................................................................ 172 3-16 Sim and Gerhardt, from Reads ............................................................................ 173 3-17 Sim and Gerhardt, from Reads ............................................................................ 174 3-18 Sim and Gerhardt, from Minds ............................................................................. 175 3-19 Sim and Gerhardt, from Minds ............................................................................. 176 3-20 Sim and Gerhardt, from Minds ............................................................................. 177 3-21 Sim and Gerhardt, from Going Home .................................................................. 178 3-22 Sim and Gerhardt, from Going Home .................................................................. 179 3-23 Sim and Gerhardt, from Guys .............................................................................. 180 4-1 a typical beginning to a game of Rogue. ............................................................. 218 4-2 a cleared level (the topright room is dark, which is why it shows empty space rather than periods) ................................................................................... 218 4-3 t he same level, shortly thereafter, with three hobgoblins, a kobald (K), a bat (B), and a giant ant (A) all gravitating in on the @ .............................................. 219 4-4 i sometric perspective in X-Com ........................................................................... 219 4-5 u nclear spatial relations in UFO: Alien Invasion ................................................. 220 4-6 m anaging an underground base in X-Com ......................................................... 221 4-7 t his situation room is Transarcticas analogue to Figure 4-6 ............................ 221
9 4-8 X-Com's world map is set apart from the rest of the game by its structure of time and by being the only 3d effect in the game ............................................... 222 4-9 t he world map in Pandemic 2 .............................................................................. 222 4-10 part of the opening sequence of Singularity ........................................................ 223 4-11 Progress Quest the player has no input whatsoever .................................... 224 4-12 a relatively simple set of orders for a relatively simple situation in LSN ............ 225 4-13 a Laser Marine Grenadier ordered to take opportunity fire lobs a grenade (gunmetal -colored sphere) at advancing Grey Aliens ...................................... 226 4-14 t he force -f ield (blue circle) backstops the grenade back at the grenadier as he retreats, and he is hoist with his own petard ............................................... 226 4-15 Law rence Makoare, in full costume and makeup as the Uruk hai Lurtz from Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring .................. 227 4-16 Southron archers wearing tagelmust (a traditional Saharan head and -face wrap, similar to the Palestinian keffiyeh that Yassar Arafat always wore) atop a war Oliphant from Jacksons The Lord of the Rings: Return of the Ki ng...... 227 4-17 s elected sprites from Flight to Freedom ............................................................ 228 4-18 Malakars portrait. ................................................................................................. 228 4-19 Baphomet, as rendered by 19th-century occultist Eliphas Levy .......................... 229 4-20 t he captured Drakes nightmarish journey to Wesnoth ....................................... 230 4-21 t he River of Skulls .............................................................................................. 231 5-1 t he Kohen Gadol, high priest of Gath in Dominions 3 ...................................... 256 5-2 s chematic of the Choshen (jeweled breastplate) and Ephod (the garment that supports it) of the (historical) Kohen Gadol ......................................................... 256 5-3 a simple image of the Kohen Gadol in full regalia, including Choshen and Ephod, and similar in nearly all details to the figure from Dominions 3 ............ 257 5-4 t he running of the Jews from Sacha Baron Cohens mockumentary Borat ..... 257 5-5 a dministrative time in Dominions 3, with vectors (orange arrows) indicating immanent deand re-territorializations of space ................................................. 258 5-6 s calable time in Dominions 3 ............................................................................... 259
10 5-7 the armies of Gath ................................................................................................ 260 5-8 s prites from left to right: the sinister Baal of Hinnom, the ambivalent Kohen Gadol, the Kohen, and the Abrahamic Abba ....................................................... 260 5-9 i mag es of Abraham and Isaac by, from top-left: Rembrandt van Rijn, Laurent de la Hire, and William Blake ............................................................................... 261 5-10 Jzsef Molnr's The M arch of Abraham .............................................................. 262 5-11 Zely Smekhovs Birkat Kohanim (the Blessing) ................................................ 262 5-12 the template for the Son of the Fallen before player modification (increasing magical and religious power, etc.) ....................................................................... 263 5-13 t he four forms of the Chayot, Tetramorph or Tetrazoa, in Dominions 3 ............. 264 5-14 a n Ophan, shown both in passive (normal) and active states ............................ 264 5-15 a parody of the colonialist attitudes and cheerful presumption in Herges Tintin in Joann Sfars The Rabbits Cat 2 ............................................................ 264 5-16 Sfars rejection of racial caricature through his proxy, the nameless Russian painter 265 5-17 Sfars take on the city of the giants, home to the Lost Tribe of Israel ................ 266 5-18 t he irreconcilability of the fantasy of the Lost Tribe with the real world ........... 267 5-19 the Rabbi and the French Rabbi, his son-in -law, in a public bath ...................... 267
11 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy TIME AND NARRATIVE IN DEPTHLESS VISUAL MEDIA By Christopher Thomas Eklund December 2009 Chair : Donald Ault Major: Doctor of Philosophy in English Even as the medium of comics, especially the graphic novel, has acquired cultural cachet and attracted academic attention, it remains undertheorized as theoretical approaches to Anglophone comics have tended to be proscriptive and procrustean, grounded in unquestioned assumptions from popular sources. This dissertation is an investigation into and invention of concepts specific to flat visual narrative media, particularly comics, in terms of their pote ntial as well as into aspects of caricature and printmaking and games studies, especially sprite based games. An anarchy of method derived principally from the theoretical work of Paul Feyerabend and from Donald Aults alternative narratology is used to broaden the sense of narrative in visual media and to explicate the value of multiple, incommensurable meanings in such media. Methodological tools of close visual analysis from the work of James Elkins, Richard Schiff and other scholars of art history and visual culture are combined with the critical theory of Gilles Deleuze and Flix Guattari, producing an analysis of visual details in terms of the concepts of the signifying surface and the plane of immanence. The advantage of this mode of study is that it aids in the perception and description of
12 the multiplication of narrative meanings or trajectories though a work of comics, caricature, e tc A theory of depthlessness in visual media is developed in which the idea of the page, panel, screen, or interface as a window onto another, complete world must be discarded. These structures may have a false above (projected into a nonexistent plane of higher ontological priority) and a below (or outside) characterized by conspicuous absence and unknowability, but there is nothing behind or through them. From this perspective, multiple processions through time, and multiple kinds of time can be discerned, and analysis of different kinds of time in interactive media becomes possible. All of these concepts are united in the concept of processual narrative, the analysis neither of plot nor gameplay but of the visual structures and intertexts that open up and complicate the meaning of the object of analysis.
13 CHAPTER 1 PROCRUSTEAN BEDS AND PANEL BORDERS Firstly, Terminus, the God of boundaries. Jupiter must bow to him: boundaries are the most important of things Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: Fables and Reflections 107 What is Comics Studies? One defining characteristic of 20th century media and culture is their obsession with boundaries in the face of their increasing failure, producing innumerable border wars of occasionally literal and generally meta phorical nature. Many such wars have been fought as the result of the aspiration to cultural value of a multitude of medial voices. These new voices are made perceptible by the failure of old boundaries that had precluded their access to cultural value. Th eir success in the reterritorialization of cultural value, the re establishment of boundaries, has reified these media into totalitarian forms, imposing limits on their potential, and perpetuating the zero-sum game of cultural capital. The shortest possib le statement of the crisis in comics theory is that it has played this game and been defensive, even reactionary, in character. Proscriptive, even procrustean definitions of the medium and anxiety over control of the reader and over the presumed superior ity of film, have had a chilling effect on discourse. Comics1 in all 1 Throughout, I use the word comics as singular in conformity with the phra se comics is a multiplicity. There are a number of reasons for this sometimes awkward convention. When speaking of the medium overall, I am not limiting myself to any of the specific concrete forms of comics, such as comic strips, comic books, graphic novels, caricature, albums, tankobon etc., and so cannot use any of those terms. Similarly, it would be counterproductive to extend a term like fumetti bande desinee, or manga to cover all comics, and moreover disingenuous as the preponderance of my examples are Anglophone. Because I am arguing that comics are a decentered medium without any single essential trait, I cannot use terms that suppose just such a trait, like sequential art or verbal/visual text. The term comic art is less problematic as art need not be strictly in the fine/visual sense but still carries that baggage as well as the implicit and inco rrect association with comedy. Since I intend to consider comics as a medium and a multiplicity, consistently treating comics as singular is grammatically appropriate,
14 its diverse material forms has been subject to more theoretical binding than most media, perhaps because comics lacks a technological center. Comics has generally been defined in negat ive terms both by its critics and its wouldbe defenders, the latter of which generally seem to feel that they can define or redeem it only through the abjection of some or most of its particular forms and instances. In order to escape this trap, it may be necessary to consider comics as not one self -consistent medium or genre but instead as a teeming multiplicity, possessing as it does a number of technologically dependent forms but no technological origin, unlike film; no stable grammar or convention of reading, unlike text; a highly inconsistent relationship to the idea of the original, unlike painting; and a simultaneously weak and divisive history of self -definition. Though comics and new media both share a propensity for transgression, comics has a long and openended history, whereas the profusion of new, digital, and electronic media count their age in years or, at most, decades. Debate continues over what the first comics were, a debate I will not and cannot engage in, as it depends on wha t one assumes are the necessary characteristics of all comics. In any case, the specific medial conventions of the comic strip date back at least to Rodolphe Topffer and the mid19th century. The art of mass -media caricature dates back at least to the inve ntion of lithography by Alois Senefelder in 1796 and arguably to the ancient practice of woodcut printing. The origins of comics studies as the academic criticism and study of the medium and works in it are murky as early scholarship was scattered and oft en local in and I hope that the slight disruption created by this convention will serve to remind the reader of the fundamental heterogeny of some of the specifics I am considering under the label of com ics.
15 character. It is not possible here to recount all of the origins of a field which has, in any case, existed in North America for over forty years. One starting point is the first PhD on comics, which was granted to Sol Davidson by New York University in 1959, a mere five years after the McCarthy hearings (and comics own brush with Senatorial inquiry when Frederic Werthams infamous comics -bashing Seduction of the Innocent led to Congressional hearings). Davidson, a businessman with a lifelong interest in the medium, would not wind up using his degree. Dissertations on comics would remain a dead end for decades to come, but scholars with a foot in more traditional fields would begin to make inroads in the 1970s. David Kunzle, M. Thomas Inge and Donald Ault are among these early pioneers. In the early 1970s (1972 -4), Ault created courses in Literature and Popular Culture and Literature and Philosophy at UC Berkeley, and was the first to teach comic books and animation as literary narrative at the University level. Kunzle wrote the first great monograph on comics, his two volume History of the Comic Strip, at this timeVolume 1 was published in 1973. Ault and Inge each authored a number of essays during this period, and Inges work would be collected as Comics as Culture by the University Press of Mississippi (UPM) in 1990. The first influential work of comics scholarship in the UK was A Haunt of Fears by Matthew Baker, which first saw print in 1984 but wouldnt cross the pond until 1992. French and Italian comics scholarship would proceed apace, but have little influence on Anglophone comics studies until the translation of Thierry Groensteens System of Comics in 2005. The mid1980s saw the first uptick in general acceptability of comics in the United States since the heyday of the newspaper strips and the popularization of the
16 term graphic novel for long-form comics even as sales continued to slump. Will Eisner, a highly respected practitioner who claimed credit for the term graphic novel, published Comics & Sequential Art in 1985. Based on a course he taught to art students, Eisners book would come to have great influence on comics scholarship and criticism. Despit e this popular interest, no new scholarly monographs saw print until Joseph Witeks Comic Books as History. Witeks monograph was the first to address Art Spiegelmans Pulitzer Prize winning Maus: A Survivors Tale,2 and is particularly notable for its ana lysis of the effect of artistic style and detail on narrative. UPM published Comic Books as History in 1989 and Inges Comics as Culture the next year. UPM would go on to become the leading publisher in the field, launching the Conversations series, collec ting interviews with important comics creators, and the Great Comic Artists series, which I do not consider in detail here. The creation of a community of comics scholars was advanced in the 1990s by the creation of venues for the presentation of conference papers. The least academic of these, the Comic Arts Conference (CAC), would be founded under the auspices of practitioner -theorists Eisner and Scott McCloud, and comics journalist R.C. Harvey, and sustained by scholars Peter Coogan and Randy Duncan. Coogan would also be instrumental in the creation of a comics section at th e Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCA/ACA) conference, along with Gene Kannenberg, Nicole Freim, and others. 2 Maus was serialized in Spiegelman and Franoise Moulys art comics publication RAW from 1980 91, and received critical acclaim with the publication of the first part of the story ( My Father Bleeds History ) as a graphic novel in 1986. Maus was n ominated for the National Book Critics award that year, and went on to win many awards, including a special Pulitzer Prize in 1992.
17 The International Comics Arts Festival (ICAF), now known as the International Comics Arts Forum, intended to showcase international comics and creators and scholarship about them, would follow in 1998. ICAF was the product of the efforts of John Lent, Charles Hatfield, and other scholars, along with interested creators and aficionados. The CAC has always been associated with a fan -supported convention: first in Chicago, now with the Comic -Con International in San Diego, and for most of its existence, ICAF was both a conference and a convention, leaving only the comics section of the PCA/ACA as purely academic. The 1990s als o saw the publication of influential works that blurred the line between popular and scholarly writing on comics. Scott McClouds Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art was first published in 1993 by Kitchen Sink Press, now a Harper property, along with McClouds follow up works Reinventing Comics and Making Comics Ever since, Understanding Comics has remained the best -selling work of comics theory in English, becoming an overnight sensation with fans and creators because it is in the form of a graphic novel. The same year, academic press Routledge published Adult Comics: An Introduction, by British comics journalist Roger Sabin. In 1994, Mississippi published Harveys The Art of the Funnies: An Aesthetic History and, two years later, his parallel work The Art of the Comic Book. The value of Eisner, McCloud, and Harveys contributions to the field, and their problematic legacy, are considered later in this chapter. Another milestone was reached with the launch of Inks: Cartoon and Comic Art Studies ar guably the first journal dedicated to the field, by Lucy Caswell and others at Ohio State in 1994. There had been sporadic efforts to provide a print forum for comics
18 scholarship, including Crimmers: The Harvard Journal of Pictorial Fiction over 19745, a nd before that two issues of the design magazine Graphis in 1972, but they were short lived. Inks was purely scholarly unlike its predecessors which were academic/popular crossover publications. It was a blow when Inks ceased publication in 1997, but it was replaced in 1999 by The International Journal of Comic Art (IJOCA), edited by John Lent. For years, IJOCA struggled to balance its commitment to international and especially non-Anglophone comics with its position as the only dedicated journal in the f ield, but that would change after the turn of the millennium, as would much in the field. Two significant works in the methodology pioneered by Inge, comics studies as cultural studies, would appear on the cusp of the new century: Amy Nybergs Seal of Approval (1998) and Matthew Putzs Comic Book Culture (2000) Nybergs book would typify much of the work of the next decade: she reconsiders the much-derided Comics Code as a valuable development, protecting the industry from government censorship and allowing for the development of original works inspired by constraint. Much of the work done thereafter would also question commonly -held assumptions about the history of the medium. Three such works are Bradford D. Wrights Comic Book Nation (Duke University Press, 2003), Charles Hatfields Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature, and Bart Beatys Frederic Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture (both UPM, both 2005). Comic Book Nation inverts the recurrent parental anxiety over the influence comics might have on children to demonstrate how American comics, especially action and superhero comics, from the turn of the century through the end of the cold war
19 persistently reflected adult anxieties about the world. Hatfields Alternative Comics traces out the largely unconsidered linkages between the countercultural underground comix of the late 60s and early 70s and the graphic novels of the 80s and 90s, with particular attention paid to open and veiled autobiography in both. Beatys cultural biography of psychologist Frederic Wertham makes a good companion to Nybergs Seal of Approval as it redeems Wertham, the boogeyman generally blamed for the Comics Code. Beaty demonstrates how Werthams primary concern was a liberal one, a concern about corporate control of mass media and advertising targeted at young children, and how he was appropriated to support the agendas of reactionary parents groups. In 2007, Kunzle returned to comics studies with a biography of his own, Rodolphe Topffer: Father of the Comic Stri p. It would be inaccurate to suggest that no new critical frameworks for comics studies have been advanced in the past decade. Early Studies in Visual Linguistics (self -published, 2003) collects Neil Cohns essays explicating his semantic grammatical appr oach to reading comics. David Carriers The Aesthetics of Comics takes an opposite tact, drawing on Carriers expertise and ethos as an art historian, as well as McCloud and Harveys theories of comics art, which he cites. Published in 2001, The Aesthetics of Comics is Pennsylvania State Universitys first foray into comics scholarship. Cohn and Carrier have yet to have much impact on the field of comics studies, whereas Beaty and Nick Nguyens 2007 translation of Thierry Groensteens The System of Comics m ay be the most influential work of comics theory to be published in English. Groensteens mode of analysis, arthrology, along with Carrier and Cohns methodologies, will be considered in detail in the next section.
20 So many scholarly and popular cross over books on comics have been published this decade that they cannot all be covered here, but one more kind of book is worth noting: the textbook. Jessica Abel and Matt Maddens Drawing Words and Writing Pictures publi shed by First Second (best known for its graphic novels) in 2008, is a textbook on creating comics, not comics criticism, but it is intended for use as a University textbook, and is attentive to the field of comics studies. The same year saw the publicatio n of A Comics Studies Reader edited by Jeet Heer and Kent Worcester. Continuum, a recent entrant into publishing in the field, put out Randy Duncan and Matthew Smiths The Power of Comics an introductory comics studies textbook, in July, 2009. Instituti onal support for comics studies has been slower in coming. In 2002, comics pioneer Ault inaugurated a new Conference on Comics at the University of Florida (UF), and, in 2006, the first graduate track in comics studies in the US. In 2004, he edited the fir st issue of ImageTexT UFs new peer -reviewed webjournal for comics and animation studies (housed in the English Department of UFs College of Liberal Arts and Sciences). ImageTexT has taken some of the pressure off of IJOCA by offering a more theoreticall y-focused and image-intensive venue. The same year as the first Conference on Comics, M. Todd Hignite began publishing Comic Art a scholarship friendly popular magazine on the medium. In 2009, the subfield of Japanese manga and anime studies acquired its own journal, Mechademia, edited by Frenchy Luning, and the MLA added a comics studies discussion section. Another new journal, Studies in Comics, co edited by Inge, will see print next year. The Problem of Comics Theory
21 Historical and cultural analysis of comics has been the fastest growing approach to comics scholarship and has reached a certain maturity as a subfield. Comics theory has suffered a slower and more tortuous progression due in part to repeated attempts to pin down this amorphous medium and in part to problems of rigor in crossover popular academic work as well as the tendency of scholars versed in literature and language (as are most comics scholars) to reduce a visual and textual system to text. Even the tradition of Film Studies has been of little help given the differences between the arts of cinematography and line art.3 Since its first days, comics theory has been caught up in an effort to define its subject. One of the first definitions of comics was offered by Kunzle in The History of th e Comic Strip Kunzles four -point definition was intended to limit the scope of his project by proscribing the boundaries of what he would consider as a comic strip. For the purposes of his project, comic strips consist of a sequence of separate images with a preponderance of image over text that appears (and was originally intended to appear) in a mass medium and tells a story which is both moral and topical ( Early 2). It is crucial to recognize that Kunzles definition was used to limit the scope of a historical project and not as an essentialist description of comics, though it has often been used as such. Kunzle has never shown any particular interest in comics theory. He has been cited most often in theoretical, not historical, debates, usually by those arguing for or against universally applying his definition of comics. 3 Not all comics consist of line art photocomics and fully painted comics are among the exceptions. Nonetheless, line art and especially caricature have had a predominant influence on comics. See Carriers comment on comics and caricature below.
22 For decades, the only visually attentive application of recognized critical theory to comics was Aults appropriation of the terms and concepts of Lacanian psychoanalysis to descri be the behavior of structural elements of the page including the disjunctive cutting up of the page, vector analysis of lines of sight, and other undrawn or incomplete connections within and especially between panels. In the absence of an organized and productive academic discourse community, popular theories and theorists who rose to predominance among fans and practitioners, including Eisner and McCloud, were imported into the University as well. Many of the commonplace assumptions in comics theory today, and most of the theorists, have their roots in Will Eisners Comics and Sequential Art. Both McCloud and Harvey follow directly from Eisner, Neil Cohn is responding to Eisner and McCloud, and David Carrier builds on McClouds and Harveys assumptions. One such assumption is the interdependence of word and image. In what is clearly an admonition to wouldbe comics artists, Eisner says [i]n comics the drawings are visuals. In textbooks they are illustrations. A visual replaces text [...] an illustration simply repeats or amplifies, decorates or sets a climate for mood. Think of your function as a visualizer rather than an illustrator ( Comics 153). Though intended for fans as well as practicing artists, Eisner often slips into talking about comics from an artists perspective, resulting in a slippage between comics creation and (critical) reading. Thus, when he says that In sequential art the artist must, from the outset, secure control of the readers attention and dictate the sequence in which the read er will follow the narrative, he is speaking out of a practitioners frustration with the tendency of the readers eye to wander,
23 which might easily be confused for a statement that only comics that successfully control the readers eye are good (40). Eisners concept of sequential art requires only two images and some sort of action or progress that is discernable between them. As with his description of visualization as replacing text, Eisners sequential art allows for but does not require tex t. Eisner stops short of equating sequential art and comics. Throughout Comics & Sequential Art the relation of the two is fluid: at times comics is a manifestation of sequential art, at times sequential art is the prime mover in comics at ti mes comics seems to be Eisners term for the physical media and sequential art his term for the conceptual structure of that media. The further Eisner wanders from the practice of creating comics, the broader his claims become, as when he states that film, which is an extension of comic strips, enjoys absolute control of its reading and then moves on without either explaining why he sees film as an extension of comics or defending his claim that it controls how its viewers read it (40). The closest Eisner comes to offering an explanation of the controlling power he ascribes to film is in the caption to an illustration where he says that [t]he viewer sees (reads) only one frame at a time. He cannot see the next (or past) frames until they are shown t o him by the machine (40). Eisners association of the panel on the page of comics with the film cell reveals an anxiety over the similarities of these media Eisner comes close to stating that film is a superior medium when he says that, in comics, [ t]he number of images allowed is limited, whereas in film an idea or an emotion can be expressed by hundreds of images displayed in fluid sequence at such speed as to emulate real movement. In print this
24 effect can only be simulated (24). Eisner offers a page from his Life on another Planet as an illustration of how real movement can be simulated in comics (24, see Figure 11). The effect is ironic as the illustration is a visual collage with a serpentine and circular flow that is only semi -linear and po ssesses no conventional, bordered panels. Eisners control anxiety reappears in his 1996 Graphic Storytelling & Visual Narrative where he says that [a] film watcher is imprisoned until the film ends while the comics reader is free to roam [...] Film proceeds without any concern about the literary skills or reading ability of its audience, whereas the comic must deal with both of these (71). He also cautions comics creators against trying to adopt filmic styles because of the space required to do so and because [w]hen a comic adopts film camera technique, it can lose readability (73). Eisner states here that there is no need for comics to be drawn as if each panel was a photograph or a film still (film camera technique), so it is clear that Eisners wor ries have nothing to do with film per se, and everything to do with the anxiety that film will replace, reshape, corrupt and/or destroy comics as a unique medium. The issue remains regarding what Eisner considers a panel to be. As an artist, Eisner often eschews the outlined rectangle of the conventional panel in favor of shapes determined by environmental factors like windows and archways, or an unbounded empty space that connects all the elements of the page, or densely packed collage-like layouts as des cribed above. In Comics & Sequential Art Eisner states that the panel is like a frame of film, seeming to contradict his admonition against film camera technique, before going on to parallel the panel to the page: In comics, there are actually two f rames in this sense: the total page, on which there are any number of
25 panels, and the panel itself, within which the narrative action unfolds. They are the controlling device in sequential art (41). Eisners control anxiety appears even stronger in his d efinition of the panel: The capture or encapsulation of these events in the flow of the narrative [requires that] they must be broken up into sequenced segments. These segments are called panels or frames (38, emphasis in original). The panel, then, is t he device that controls not just reader attention but events. This analogy to a naturalistic understanding of film is as close as Eisner gets to saying that comics require multiple panels. A confusing ambivalence exists here in the phrase panels or fram es as we saw that, on page 41, he uses frames to describe both panels and pages. Eisner may have found it necessary to blur the relationship of page and panel to frame in order to preserve his analogy to film and avoid contradicting the evidence of h is own comics. Eisner is a master of page layout and composition. His Spirit comics are famous for their opening splash pages that work the series title into physical environments in the form of shadows, architecture, commercial signage, written and printed objects, pooling liquid and more, often in ways that cannot be reconciled with physical properties of matter, three dimensional space, or narrative sequentiality. The Spirit splash pages alone seem sufficient to refute the notion of strict linearity or deterministic control of the readers gaze as necessary for comics and to be sufficient demonstration of the difference between the potentials of the printed comics page and th e cell or frame of film. It may be an understatement to describe McClouds Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art as highly influential. Until the translation of System of Comics, McCloud was easily the most -taught and most -cited comics theorist and h e still retains popular
26 predominance, perhaps due to Understanding Comics being itself a comic. McCloud is greatly indebted to Eisner, but not always in the ways one might expect. McClouds project is ultimately a Confucian rectification of names. Seeking to save both the medium and its devotees from negative stereotypes and cultural stigmatization, he proposes A proper definition, if we could find one, might give the lie to the stereotypes and show that the potential of comics is limitless and exciting! (3). With these words, McCloud codified the central paradox of comics theory: the idea that the proper definition (proscription) of comics will be liberating. The use of the word find is critical: McCloud treats his definition as self evident and natural rather than as a concept he created. McCloud proposes a complete separation between form and content, and starts with Will Eisners term Sequential Art as a seed definition, which he expands into the following definition of comics as [j]uxtaposed pictoral and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or produce an aesthetic response in the viewer (McCloud 9). This definition with the phrase deliberate sequence seems to be an embracing of authorial intent, but McCloud inten ds it as something more like a rule of reading intended to forfend Eisners control anxiety. This rule of reading is the keystone of and the critical flaw in Understanding Comics The word closure, as it appears in Understanding Comics is supposedly one with what Freud called the fort da game (peek -aboo) and with metonymy: [i]n our daily lives, we often commit closure, mentally completing that which is incomplete based on past experience (McCloud 62). Like Eisner, McCloud assumes, and is greatly wor ried about, a fundamental similarity between film and comics. It is therefore unsurprising
27 that, before discussing closure in comics, McCloud explains film in terms of closure in this contradictory phrase: In film, closure happens continuously twenty four times per second, in fact as our minds, aided by the persistence of vision, transform a series of still pictures into a story of continuous motion (McCloud 65). The confusion here is necessary for McClouds argument: film must both be continuous and happ en in twenty four discrete closures per second in order for closure to be both deterministic (leading to a single conclusion) and a natural process that operates identically in film and comics. The incommensurability of the medial limit and sensory percept ion must be effaced for his subsequent argument about comics to work. That argument is that comics have a unique relationship to closure in that closure takes place in the gutter between panels on the page: Nothing is seen between the two panels, but experience tells you that something must be there (McCloud 67). It is a t this point that the conflation of the medial characteristics of film and the sensory conditions of watching a movie become critical. Earlier, McCloud had said that space does for comics what time does for film! However you might say that before it is pr ojected, film is just a very very very very slow comic (McCloud 8, see Figure 1-2). It becomes clear at this point why the medial characteristics and viewing experience of film had to be conflated. McClouds definition of comics depends on deliberate sequence and his definition of closure in comics is between the two panels, which requires that, like a traditional film cell, the panel must be an essential and inviolate medial characteristic, and that panel sequence must be indisputable. On page 67, McC loud says comics is closure, marking the compete replacement of Eisners loose sense of sequential art with a specific and exclusive definition. To
28 unpack this identity between comics and closure, we have to see that McCloudian closure requires two full panels and an abjected gutter which the reader involuntarily fills in. Thus defined, the event of comics always and only requires two panels. The medial limit of traditional film is the celluloid tape or ribbon (and, arguably the screen it is projected on), and it requires only the slightest abstraction to concede that the physical film must generally consist of discrete cells for the projector to function. The conception of film as being this strip of discrete cells and the conceptual notion that eac h one captures a moment in time was important in the early history of film. The conceptual approach to the medial limit of film constitutes what Gilles Deleuze calls the any moment whatsoever and is definitive of what he calls the motion image in his book on early film, Cinema 1: The Motion Image Note that the motion image is incommensurable with the film itself, the conception and the medial limit existing in different registers. The very possibility of Deleuzes Cinema 2: The Time Image is evidence of this heterogeneity. The panel is a conceptual structure, though McCloud treats it as a medial limit. The medial limit for print comics is the page and ink, much as the medial limit of oil painting is paint on canvas (allowing for vast variations in the material composition of page, ink, canvas and paint). As a medial limit, the closest thing to a panel is a line, and even the line projects a conceptual homogeneity onto the ink markings on the page. For a digital comic, the medial limit is the display device it is shown on. Even a formalist artistic approach to the panel does not yield a consistent or coherent object: comics with conceptually distinguishable regions but no separating outlines are common and include examples in which there is nei ther anything resembling an outline
29 nor empty space between panels. What, then, is a panel for McClouds purposes? It is part of the platonic idea of the cartoon and comics most overlooked icon (McCloud 45, 98). McClouds sense of icon is neither conventional nor Peircian and is perhaps best explained in terms of his triangular mapping of all visual material (see Figure 1-3). One corner of this diagram is what McCloud calls the realm of the art object, the picture plane, where shapes, lines and colors can be themselves and not pretend otherwise, and the other two corners are reality and language (51). McCloud is not very concerned with the apparently a-signifying picture plane, mostly treating it in the negative, the direction of nonicon ic abstraction, where no attempt is made to cling to resemblance or meaning (50). McClouds conception of motion toward language and away from reality is, in his terms iconic abstraction until one crosses the border from received information for which we need no formal education into writing/language which is perceived information (49, 50). Bracketing the assumptions about mimeticism, signification, and language inherent in this model, McClouds description of the panel as an icon places it at the extreme of iconic abstraction and assumes a nearly linguistic association with meaning that is still natural and immediately received a status presumably made possible by its Platonic truth. This is the crucial flaw in Understanding Comics: it is simply unable to sustain the metaphysical weight of its definition of the panel. On page 95, in his discussion of time, McCloud presents a (roughly) pagewidth panel of a scene at a party intended to demonstrate the passage of time within a single panel. He ascribes the passage of time to the order of the dialogue in the word balloons in the panel, in a return of the mimetic within the iconically abstracted realm of language: Words introduce time by
30 presenting that which can only exist in timesound (McCloud 95, see Figure 14). This despite his having noted, in two word balloons on page 25, Do you hear what Im saying? If you do, have your ears checked because noones said a word. Furthermore, on page 97, he says with apparent surprise, in some res pects this panel by itself actually fits our definition of comics! All it needs are a few gutters thrown in to clarify the sequence. He then redraws the single panel subdivided into five panels. It is at exactly this point that McClouds argument implodes because it is obvious from his own example that the panel does not need a few abject gutters thrown in and that it works as a single panel. In fact it would be easy to argue that it works better as a single panel but by McClouds definition, it was not really comics until it was divided into multiple panels. McCloudian sequentiality and closure as presented in Understanding Comics do not follow directly from Comics & Sequential Art but instead adopt that works anxieties about the relationship of comics to film and of maintaining control of the reader. In attempting to create a rigorous definition and a comprehensive theoretical model of all comics, McCloud winds up reifying those fears into truths. One example of this transformation occurs on page 104 of Understanding Comics Here, McCloud sets out a model of time in comics: This panel and this panel alone represents the present. Any panel before this that last one, for instance represents the past. Likewise, all panels yet to comethis next panel, for i nstancerepresent the future. This model conflates three different kinds of time, confusing the time or dure spent reading the page, the passage of time in the narrative, and structures of time on the page itself.
31 This conflation is necessary to make the sample comics on page 105 fit into McClouds model (see Figure 15). In this crossword puzzle like comic, one is intended to start at an approved first panel, read panel -to panel, and, at every intersection, choose either the panel below or to the right of the present panel (though these rules are not entirely consistent). The conflation of times is vital here, as the comic only works if one treats each panel as a present moment and each fork as a binary choice. If read thus, this comic is entirely sequential and entirely linear in a manner similar to a Choose Your Own Adventure book. If read according to the rules, there is only, ever, and precisely one next panel in the Carl comic. The notion of the panel as medial, narrative, and readerly present hides the way in which these are not (necessarily) binary choices, in which both is just as good an answer as one or the other and preempts consideration of other structures of the page (such as the direction in which a character is looking). The issue of choice as presented here not only presumes the absolute integrity of the panel, but strict linear sequentiality, conflation of different kinds of time, and ultimately that the reader must play by a set of rules defined by the cartoonist while acce pting that the cartoonist can break his own rules. In this comic there are points at which a theoretically legitimate choice results in a non sequitur that seems in violation of McClouds authorial -intentional dictum, and there is one place where one is required to read to the left even though everywhere else, this is forbidden. The rules are, of course, unenforceable, and breaking them produces some of the most interesting narrative trajectories in the comic. In one instance, reading downdownright -ri ght, which should be a legal sequence, produces a surreal situation in which
32 Carl, the protagonist, goes home only to discover that he is actually in someone elses house, to which he responds by calmly renting a movie from the houses occupant. Moreover it seems that Carl has done this before, as he asks to rent another video (McCloud 105). In another case, going up produces a plot in which Carls mother leaves him a note saying that she has gone to Borneo, causing him to shout in a shocked or outraged voice Borneo! and this ejaculation summons the aforementioned video store clerk, but when Carl decides to rent a movie, the clerk tells Carl that (like his mother) all of the movies are in Borneo. Comics journalist Robert Harvey sets out in The Art o f the Funnies and The Art of the Comic Book to demonstrate that interdependence of word and image is the defining trait of comics and uses the phrase pantomime comics to bracket off wordless comics as a special case that somehow simultaneously violates h is definition of comics and yet is comics. This may be made possible because he phrases his definition not as one of essence (as with McClouds closure), but of value judgment: [o]ne litmus test of good comics art is to ascertain to what extent the sense of the words depends on the pictures and vice versa ( Comic Book 4). He calls this criterion verbal visual blending and applies it in a manner similar to the structuralist mandate for narrative complexity and unity: comics are good to the degree that they manifest verbal visual blending, whereas if the text and images are independent, redundant, or irrelevant, they are aesthetically inferior (4). As we have seen before with McCloud, Harvey takes what we might call the Will Eisner school of comics and r eifies Eisners thoughts and anxieties into law. Harvey, like McCloud and Eisner, is anxious about film, devoting a chapter of The Art of the Comic
33 Book to it, Only in the Comics: Why Cartooning Is Not the Same as Filmmaking. The strangeness of this chap ter is immediately apparent from its title, whose gerunds presume that the activity of cartooning is easily confused with that of filmmaking. Before he has even begun, Harvey has situated his argument as a losing one. He does state on page 175 that film and comics are, after all, different media but that difference is phrased negatively in most of the chapter, for example on page 176: Film is audiovisual; comics are simply visual [...] the images on film move; image s in comics are static and on page 186: A film would give us more [...] A film would show the moments that are here lost between panels. Though he does point out some of the potentials of the comics medium (simultaneity and page layout), because of his filmic assumptions, his examples all contain concessions to film, and the overall effect is as if he were arguing that, despite a few advantages to comics, film is clearly the better medium. Remembering that Harveys definition of comics was based on the combination of word and image, it should be no surprise to see that definition quickly drop out of the chapter on comics and film, as his mimetic assumptions lead easily to the particularly logocentric bias that film, being audiovisual can trump comics verbal visual blending by blending moving images with spoken words. Even as Harveys definition of comics can be traced back to Eisners two major communicating devices, Cohns visual language theory of comics inverts Eisners notion that written language derives from art Instead he argues that we interpret images by breaking them up into words, and that comics are a visual language with a linguistic grammar that he specifically opposes to McClouds concept of closure. Cohn, a doctoral candidate in psychology, is
34 especially critical of McClouds defining closure as occurring only between two panels at a time, preferring to diagram the relations of several panels like that of parts of a sentence. The linguistic -semiotic logocentrism of this approach makes it problematic, as does its linearity, which is just as strict as in McClouds model of closure. Carriers theoretical approach to the medium was groundbreaking for its attention to detail and willingness to consider comics in terms of visual arts other than film, but depends on the Eisner school (including McCloud and Harvey) of comics studies and the reactionary Gombrichian school of art history. Carrier introduces his text by saying of it that [t]his book is the first by an analytic philosopher to identify and solve the aesthetic problems posed by comic strips and to explain the relationship of this artistic genre to other forms of visual art (1). Carrier references Kunzles work and his definition of comics, but Carriers own definition of comics as a narrative sequence with speech balloons is much closer to a combination of McClouds and especially Harveys definitions. Harveys influence on Carrier extends to his terminology: Comics in my view are essentially a composite art: when they are successful, they have verbal and visual elements seamlessly combined and that combination must take place in a word balloon, a device he calls a great philosophical discovery (4). Carrier also relies heavily on E.H. Gombrichs work on caricature in Art and Illusion, and shares Gombrichs view of art as a history of technological progress toward the mimetic reproduction of the world, a progress that caricature and comics do not have a place in, making them posthistorical art[s], incapable of developm ent (7). Many
35 of the problems with McClouds and Harveys theories of comics are present in Carriers analysis, but he doesnt seem to share their anxiety about film. His greatest contribution to the field may be his linking of traditional caricature to s ingle panel comics such as Gary Larsons The Far Side Carrier argues that single panel comics, and most caricature art, actually meet McClouds definition of sequentiality because, unlike paintings, they convey a single, unambivalent next moment that one could translate into McClouds terminology as a real panel followed by a real gutter followed by an imaginary but singular and necessary next panel. The problem of interpretation this poses is evident in Carriers own choice of example, a lithograph by Honor Daumier titled Le dernier bain (the last bath) showing a man with a stone tied around his neck leaning over a body of water (see Fig. 1-6). Carrier first replaces the image itself with an exciting but presumptive reading of it by Baudelaire t hat presumes not only that a suicide is about to take place but also that the man is resigned: He must have really made up his mind, for his arms are calmly folded, and then proceeds, on the basis of Baudelaire, not Daumier, to conclude that Even before reading the title, we are sure that this man is about to drown himself and that any other possibility is as unreasonable as the idea that Buck Rogers could rescue him (15). Carriers conclusions seem valid enough regarding the text by Baudelaire, but are not directly relevant to the image itself, where a great number of inconsistencies undermine any such narrow reading. The mans arms are folded, but not necessarily calmly he seems to be hugging himself, a reading more consistent with his face, which i s pained: his eyes are squeezed shut, and his brows compressed down and in,
36 possibly bracing for impact, but just as credibly straining to resist the weight of the stone, an impression continued by the flat set of his feet against the stones he stands on and the stone which hangs straight down, not out, on its rope. The mans clothes and hair flap straight out over the water as if pushed by a stiff wind, and not back, as they would be expected to if he was falling. His head is also parallel to the water, as if the combination of wind and weight has bowed his neck. The combination of the wind pushing him over the edge, the stable focal point of the weight and rope, whose principle lines are parallel and perpendicular to the edges of the page, and the backgrou nd detail of someone obliviously fishing nearby all contribute to a sense of struggle, perhaps unperceived, disregarded or unvalued struggle. This is not to say that Baudelaire and Carrier are wrong and this reading is right, but instead to avoid a concession to single vision. While the range of reasonable interpretations may not include Buck Rogers, there is no more one, single, obvious reading of an image than there is one, single, obvious reading of a text. Second, any credible argument about a possible meaning of an image must pay close attention to the image itself and not treat the image as merely a window onto a real world in progress. One way to treat this image in terms of its own visual elements is through analysis of the right triangle in the center of the page : one side formed by the almost perfectly straight line from the back of the mans heels to the top of his shoulders, another by the hang of the rope, which is parallel to the side of the page. The third line is subtler but physically p resent as a broken line that starts along the bottom of the mans foot and becomes one of the lines that describe the surface of the water. That
37 line, parallel to the bottom of the page, would form a ninety degree angle with the line of the rope if it were carried through. The shape formed is a right triangle, a very stable geometric form, but an obviously incomplete one, and thereby in danger of collapse (see Figure 17). The only monograph of comics theory in English that does not come out of the Eisner school is, perhaps unsurprisingly, Groensteens transatlantic import. Groensteens work is subtler and more philosophical in tone than those considered previously, but also falls into the traps of control anxiety and procrustean definition. Groensteen, like Eisner, Carrier, and everyone in between, offers a theoretical system that is intended to describe everything that comics (can) do and everything that can be comics. Groensteen builds on Benoit Peeters Case, Planche, Recit which proposes the panel, page and story as the fundamental elements of comics. Groensteen offers a slightly different trinity, that of the physical panel, strip, and page, which are then doubled by his conceptual objects, frame, hyperframe, and metaframe. The articulation of frames, hyperframes, and meta frames are the subject of what Groensteen calls arthrology, a neologism that serves to displace the physical panel into the frame, and the strip and page into the hyperframe, allowing his frames to continue in linear sequence beyond the length of a physical page, and to connect panels that are on different pages in a complex metaframe. An interesting problem with Groensteens arthrology is that he assumes that a comics page consists of several rows of strips, rather than a grid of panels: this is interesting as it connects the single-panel caricature, the comic strip, and the comics page in a way that has not been done in North American scholarship, and it is a
38 problem because it assumes that a page of comics art normally consists of s everal comic strips, each c ontaining several comics panels rather than as a grid of panels or as a network of interactions. The largest problem with arthrology is that the frames, meta and hyperframes of any given work of comic s are neither a matter of the physical object, nor the experience of it but require either a neoPlatonic ideal space where the real comic exists or, as with Carrier, a singular and universal correct interpretation of the comic if not in terms of the meaning of images, then in t erms of the ways they connect to each other once they have been severed from their medial limit. Despite this flaw, there are ways of reading comics opened up by Groensteens work that must not be dismissed, mainly in terms of the potential offered by the metaframe to describe the relevance of parts of separate pages one to another. The most intractable problem with Groensteens theory, including the potential readings offered through the use of the metaframe, is its assumption of the absolutely defined an d self -complete nature of the panel: if the panel is not obvious and natural, then neither is the frame, on which everything else in arthrology depends. The supposition of the panel as the atomic unit of comics is almost universal, and plays a part in every theory described to this point. The inviolate nature of the panel is a counterproductive assumption, even a disorder of thought, in comics theory. The de-supposition of the panel is a necessary part of breaking up the logjam of theory and moving beyond procrustean definition in comics studies. De-supposing the panel as a superior mark that trumps all others on the page allows new structures and readings of the comics page to emerge.
39 The panel is in no way bad or undesirable, but its superior ontological and epistemological status must be called into question. When panels exist, they are not fundamentally different from any of the other lines or markings on the page, and while they have an important structuring power, that power is not absolute but a weak power that must compete with other lines and marks both drawn and undrawn that structure the page. The other effect of this de -supposition is that the absence of panels is no guarantee that a medial object is not comics, and cannot be read as narrative art. More precisely, the effect is that an artificial barrier separating thought about comics from thought about medial objects that do not clearly have panels is removed. Furthermore, the gutter, when present, is no longer defined by a negative exist ence, allowing it to function as a positive presence: a deliberate artistic effect and an interstice of the page, empty or full or overflowingly excessive. Theory Alongside Media: Terminus is Dead The goal of this dissertation is the articulation of mutually compatible concepts and methods for a closer, more visually attentive reading of comics that, rather than imposing limits on what can be considered as comics, are extensible to other visual media, including digital media. As much as possible, my a ssumptions are confined to treating the medial limit that is the physical/technological limit of what is presented as the only necessary limit, and to the assumption that the smallest perceptible detail can be relevant to, or even completely change, a rigorous interpretation of the work. The methods described in the coming chapters are intended to be sufficiently developed and concrete as to allow their application outside this dissertation while also being anarchoepistemological in methodthat is, never convinced of the rightness of
40 their own approach or conclusions. Chapter 2 explains and expands upon this approach and the critical value of uncertainty and doubt, with reference to concepts from art history and the history of science, especially those of Pa ul Feyerabend. The genealogy of the term incommensurability is explored, from its origin in Euclids geometry through its use by Thomas Kuhn and Feyerabend, to its most radical form in Aults Narrative Unbound Shifting the alternative narratology of Nar rative Unbound from the analysis of William Blakes words to a parallel analysis of differences in visual details between editions in Blakes images, produces four anarchistic foldings, the last and most important of which is the anarchoepistemological. A consideration of Aults technique of vector analysis and some works of comics that clearly benefit from such methodology prepares for and transitions into the next chapter. Chapter 3 uses these concepts to articulate a theoretical approach to the comics page, applying Gilles Deleuzes and Flix Guattaris theories of the signifying surface to Alex Robinsons graphic novel Too Cool to be Forgotten in order to explain the benefits of treating comics as completely flat, radically depthless, rather than a re-presentation of a complete world. The critique of the panel begun here is resumed, and the idea of panels and other extradiegetic elements as being falsely projected above the page into a nonexistent higher plane of ontological priority is presented as a way to see how panels conventionally function as well as how those functions can be lost, negated, or assumed by other lines and marks on the page. The equally nonexistent below of the page is presented as a way to conceptualize what seems to drop o ff the bottom (sides, etc.) of the page and what the reader is invited to infer, without falling back into treating the page as mimetic or as a set of windows into a real world.
41 The second half of Chapter 3 applies this methodology to the misogynist work s of caricaturist Honor Daumier and comics creator Dave Sim in order to demonstrate the equal applicability of the method to different works of figural (but not necessarily mimetic) line art, comics or not. The value of the methodology previously articulated in revealing details in the art and generating compelling subversive readings is demonstrated in this section. Everything developed in Chapters 2 and 3 is applied to game studies in Chapter 4, which continues a reading of the non-linearity of time in comics and other visual media. The contrast of the multiplication of the arrow(s) of time in comics and games is considered as a demonstrable property of the commonality of their diegetic and extradiegetic elements, and in explicit contrast to the real time of film and certain modes of gameplay. The different kinds of time articulated here are relevant to comics as well as to digital media. Chapter 5 focuses on one game, Dominions 3: The Awakening, a game that demonstrates all of the kinds of time described in Chapter 4, as well as the properties of the Surface from Chapter 3. Dominions 3s simple sprite art, when considered in terms of the narrative created by reading/interaction (processual narrative) is very much like the kind of narrative produced by a close visual reading of a work of comics. The games rich intertextuality, drawing heavily on Judeo-Christian apocrypha, Middle Eastern mythology, and visual tropes in Western Art, is revealed by this reading, and brings us full circle to the compl exities of visual narrative in comics art and Blakes prints.
42 Figure 1-1 Eisner's masterful page composition in Life on Another Planet here reproduced from his Comics and Sequential Art. The impassive murderers cigarette smoke disrupts the top of the page in a manner similar to that in which his gunsmoke will disrupt his wifes body in the bottom center, these little smokes filling in for the dialogue balloons which Eisner has omitted from this sequence. The wifes words are lost entirely in the face of his only words in the sequence, the bang bang bang bang bang bang click click click of his power to render her speechand life less. Eisners ability to demonstrate the potential of comics is far greater than his ability to describe it. Image W.W. Norton & Co., 2008
43 Figure 1-2 the film analogy in McCloud's Understanding Comics. Image HarperCollins, 1994
44 Figure 1-3 McClouds take on abstraction in art. Note that he uses the term picture plane to describe abstract art and not in the arts sense of framing or surface. Image HarperCollins, 1994 Figure 14 This is the panel that McCloud argues is not comics becaus e it is one single panel, but would be if subdivided (into multiple panels). This seeming paradox results from his presumption that panel borders are ontologically different from (superior to) the other structures of the page. Image HarperCollins, 1994
45 Figure 1-5 the original Carl cartoon from Understanding Comics other elements on this page omitted for clarity. Image HarperCollins, 1994
46 Figure 1-6 Honor Daumier's Le Dernier Bain Image Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001 Figure 1-7 same with lines showing the triangle formed by the mans flat -footed stance, heels on the ground. Original image Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001; overlay image Tof Eklund, 2009
47 CHAPTER 2 FLATNESS, VECTORS, AND PROCESS The issue of mimeti cism and art poses interesting issues from an empiric position: in Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, Gilles Deleuze considers the 20th century painters manipulation of the surface of the canvas, including unorthodox techniques like scrubbing at the canvas to remove some of the paint. The possibility of illusionism and mimeticism must not be dismissed, but insofar as they are natural and trick the eye (trompe loeil ), they are inherently not critical analysis. That can only emerge from the interplay of close visual analysis and re vision of the whole in terms of such analysis, which is why Deleuze cares so much about what Bacon does to the surface of his canvases. This critical visionary cycle or circuit is closely related to Deleuzes circuit of vi rtual and actual images and even more so to Flix Guattaris processes of chaosmosis and autopoesis, conceptual structures elaborated upon in the next chapter. The relationship of this process to comics comes through art history. As the issue of (re)presentation in art history has become problematized, a space has opened up for the analysis of comics and art created by reproduction in ways previously unthinkable. Art historians of E.H. Gombrichs generation mostly viewed mimeticism as the goal of art, and the development of vanishingpoint perspective as its highest achievement. The reaction of modernist painters and critics, most notably Clement Greenberg, was to reject figuration and representation entirely, leaving contemporary theorists to wrestle with t he issue of what to do after both mimeticism and abstract expressionism have succumbed to irrelevance or nihilism. David Carrier, following from Arthur Danto, who he proclaims to be the logical successor of Gombrich and Greenberg, proclaims the post his torical nature of comics (119). Dantos closed-
48 dialectic After the End of Art is the source of this conclusion, a work that uses Hegel and Heidegger in precisely the way that Deleuze railed against, a mode entirely incommensurable with the open dialectics of Fred Dotort in his The Dialectic of Vision: A Contrary Reading of William Blakes Jerusalem Danto and Carrier adopt a post -historical perspective similar to that of Frederic Jameson in Postmodernism: Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism but with a crucial difference: it is only the history of art, and not history as a whole, that they foreclose, and that not for political reasons, but because everything that can be known about art already is: Only now, when nothing essentially new is possible, can we survey the field of art, which we can characterize completely because it cannot expand to encompass novel kinds of artifacts (Carrier 117). This kind of apocalypticism is in the vein of Nietzsches last man, who believes he is (at) the end of all things, because what must come next is something he cannot conceive of. In Doubt Richard Schiff attempts to address this problem of next through the application of uncertainty. His goal is to believe and to doubt with neither more nor less than a beneficial quotient of self -doubt (19). He draws this concept largely from Charles S anders Peirce on the basis that his semiotics, which do not reduce signification to language, make him more compatible than Ferdinand de Saussure with art study, thus, by extension, to the study of comics. Schiffs work serves as a point of articulation be tween poststructual theory and the sphere of art history and aesthetics, alternate to Carriers posthistorical approach. Schiff considers the figural work of Willem de Kooning, including his series of deliberately sketchy crucifixions and his series of m onstrous Woman paintings. The
49 latter cost de Kooning the support of Greenberg, who had accepted de Koonings early figural work but felt that, after pure abstraction, a return to figuration was retrograde. The interesting thing about de Koonings women i s that while they are figural, and were described by some as cubist, they lack the optical obsession of cubisms combination of multiple (optical) perspectives (see Figures 2-1 and 2-2). Instead, they are creatures of the surface, much like Bacons men, their features and shading interrupted and even formed by overt brushstrokes, painterly in their presentation of paint itself. Perhaps this is why, as Schiff notes about the first work in the series, many critics at the time spoke of de Koonings picture of Woman as if it had come alive like a pagan idol (83). He is unwilling to voice his own opinion here, relying instead on those of others and missing a chance to consider the Woman series as not representation, but as present ation making present: fi gural but not mimetic, visual but not optical, at least not in the Newtonian sense of preoccupation with the determination and control of space. This artwork performs an arcane function, in the sense in which both art and work are synonyms for magic neither the magic of theater nor of magical thinking but the kind of magic that comics writer Alan Moore is preoccupied with: the creation of meaning. In his hands, the umwelt (signifying space that a creature dwells in) is a magic circle, and the creative process becomes a ritual of conjuration. De Koonings women have neither a mimetic nor an ideal existence: they are becoming women, emergent structures on their canvases. They reflect what James Elkins considers, via a non-Jungian application of the alchemical tradition, in What Painting Is : the intimacy between painter and materials. For Elkins, painting is paint applied to canvas, an
50 experience caught up in sensation and texture, mixture and what Deleuze described as Humes AND ( Dialogues II 15). Elkins puts it this way: Paint adds like this: 1 + 1 = 1. The three ones are not exactly the same, since the first is a yellow, the second a green, and the third something unnamable and new (41). This something new is what is produced on any page of comic s out of the variably discrete markings there, and it is produced only if one observes closely and then looks closely with fresh eyes at the whole. If one judges comic art by its mimeticism, it will always fall short, and if one sorts out panel borders, wo rd balloons and the rest of what Carrier describes as conventional elements that would not be visible to someone standing in the picture space beforehand, both the surface of the page and any hypothetical picture space are impoverished. If 1 + 1 = 1, the combination of representational, abstract, linguistic and conventional marks add up to something else entirely. There is, however, a crucial difference between reproducible art and painting. In The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, one of the most frequently cited works of modern art history and media studies, Walter Benjamin considers how the possibility of quality mechanical reproduction diminishes the aura of the original art object: Confronted with its manual reproduction, which was usually branded as a forgery, the original preserved all its authority; not so vis -vis technical reproduction (220). The reproductions lack of aura is of less concern than the way the mechanical reproduction diminishes the aura of the origin al, something that is, for Benjamin, melancholy but also hopeful: there is a (largely unrealized) revolutionary potential here, in the idea of an art for the masses, when reproduction and original
51 become equally valid. Benjamin cites Paul Valrys prophetic anticipation of mediaondemand, such as is now provided by the Internet: Just as water, gas, and electricity are brought into our houses from far off to satisfy our needs in response to a minimal effort, so shall we be supplied with visual or auditory images which will appear and disappear at a single movement of the hand, hardly more than a sign (219). Benjamin is aware, however, that capital will be the first to move in on this potential in order to commodify and monopolize it, as with water, gas, and electricity. Thus it is unsurprising that Valrys prediction, unfulfilled by film, would be given only the most limited, unidirectional and monopolistic realization possible through radio and television, and, while it is arguably fulfilled in the widespread implementation of broad band Internet connections in the first world (and, increasingly, elsewhere), the grasp of capital is no less obvious in everything from software license agreements to banner ads. The significance of Benjamins concept of the aura is different for works that have no auratic original: what might be called (fully) reproducible media, which are incarnated as themselves only in and through the act of reproduction. There may still be an original physical artifact, such as a wo odcut, engraved copper plate or handdrawn comic art on Bristol board, but those artifacts are not the medial object: viz., that, while there is a market for comic art originals, they are treated as objects dart usually framed, and often unreadable as comics (unlettered). Even a complete set of originals for a comic book (et al) is not a comic book, any more than a set of cut wooden blocks is a woodcut novel. This becomes more obvious, but does not change in basic character, with entirely digital works, where the distinction between original and copy is entirely arbitrary.
52 For this reason, prints, comics and computer games can all be considered to be (fully) reproducible media, to whom the aura is a stranger. Though the issues of the signifying s urface, vector analysis, and processual narrative apply to painting as well, they acquire special significance for work whose material depth, if discernable, is entirely incommensurable with its surface. Elkins considers the matter of commensurable layering in painting in What Painting Is using a sample from a painting by Renaissance painter Cima da Conlegniano as an example (see Figure 2-3). He does this, however, to make a point about how little such normally imperceptible layers matter Restorers do not try to simulate the layers when they patch damaged paintings [...] Many times force of habit, and reverence for the supposed knowledge of Old Masters, leads historians to postulate layers that have no effect on the eye and may as well not have existed and about the steplessness of modern painting technique (Elkins 176). With reproducible media, this relative unimportance of layers becomes absolute, resulting in a kind of radical depthlessness, where any actual layering becomes functionally identical t o the appearance of layering, and both actually serve as erasure or negation (Verneinung): the nonexistent lower layer can be imagined precisely because of its absence but it is still absent. Any mechanical process of layering is still of interest to a stu dy of printing or display techniques, such as a consideration of the differences in perception of the same image on an LCD display or a CRT, but, as works without an auratic original to claim precedence, there is no inherent importance to any degree of physical layering due to an external mechanical process.
53 This kind of depthlessness does not apply in the same way to the prints of William Blake considered in this chapter, as their individual hand -coloring and high degree of (intentional) variation makes a case for considering each as an auratic art object, but the issue of surface predominates in his work, as does a different approach to variation, namely the idea that they are not individual original works, but different instances of a single work without a true original. This interpretation is made possible by Donald Aults Narrative Unbound : The narrative reveals the narrator to be, at the poems close in order for there to be a closethe hidden ally of the Newtonian reader [...marginal note:] the read er constructs a narrator whose wish-fulfillment enacts the readers own desire for closure (467). Blakes rejection of Newtonian certainty, and of apocalyptic closure and narrative resolution, most fully realized in The Four Zoas is also apparent in his multiple editions, which were not only colored differently, but often contained new plates and/or removed old ones and, perhaps most importantly, were often reordered because Blake knew the importance of process and of shifts therein to narrative, and esp ecially to circumventing single vision in narrative. Vanishing Point: Drers Melencholia I The techniques for producing the illusion of perspective and depth, and the significance of perspectival technique, are the subject of a multifaceted debate. The argument over the naturalness and inevitability of linear vanishingpoint perspective dates back at least to Gombrich and Ervin Panofskys debate over whether such perspective is natural and was waiting to be discovered (Gombrich), or was invented and is only one of multiple theoretically and optically valid methods (Panofsky), and has come back into focus in recent work like Samuel Edgertons The Mirror, the Window, and the Telescope: How Renaissance Linear Perspective Changed Our Vision of the
54 Universe In broader terms, Isaac Newtons Opticks can be considered to be the opening salvo, setting out as it does rules for the behavior of light that bear with them rules for the construction of space and for the conversion of observation, appearance or phenomena into objective fact. In Perspective as Symbolic Form Panofsky demonstrates that several logical kinds of artistic perspective exist, including curved (rather than linear) perspective, which still has a vanishing point, but mimics the marginal distortion of peripheral vision: While [linear] perspective projects straight lines as straight line s, our eye perceives them (from the center of projection) as convex curves. [...] The orthogonals of a building, which in normal perspectival construction appear straight, would, if they were to correspond to the factual retinal image, have to be drawn as curves. Strictly speaking, even the verticals would have to submit to some bending (33, see figure 24). This form of perspective depends neither more nor less than linear perspective on a single focal point, the vanishing point, but it may seem less accurate because it does more to highlight that points existence, especially if there are objects very close up and equally near to the margin of the image, which is where the curvature maximizes. In linear perspective, lines recede toward the vanishing point, but remain straight or rather, are straightened out by degrees as they recede. Film cameras produce images in linear perspective because the negatives are flat (linear) relative to the lens: if the film was concave, like the back of the eye, they would produce images in curved perspective. Neither linear nor curved perspective accurately represents the dimensions of things as they are. Reconstructions of space from perspective drawing are inherently
55 inaccurate unless the creator drew with mathematic al precision and the viewer has access to the values the creator used. Even then the reconstructor must make presumptions about objects (for example, a wall partially obscured by a painting could have a safe or a gaping hole behind it). The problem of accurate measure is solved by isometric perspective, sometimes called isometric projection, in which the scale is made the same along the x, y, and z axes by forcing the angle between them to be a consistent 120 degrees. Mostly used in architecture and des ign, where preserving relative scale is essential, isometric perspective does not have a vanishing point because it does not foreshorten (unlike linear perspective). Other forms of mathematical perspective defined by the angles between the x, y, and z axes (called axiometric perspective or projection) can be defined for any value of x, y, and z as straight lines emerging from a central point, and the values of x, y, and z will always total 360 degrees, but they will have different scales along each axis. Th ese three forms of perspective, linear perspective, curved vanishing-point perspective, and isometric perspective, illustrate the problem of calling any form of perspective natural, as each can be considered more accurate and thus more natural than the others for some purpose. A suspension of judgment and assumptions allows a shift to Charles Forts concept of the more nearly real, which demonstrates the value of starting from the surface. In accordance with his principles of Intermediatism and of r efusing to exclude or damn contrary evidence, nothing said can ever be the final word on the topic; we can make practical judgments about what is more nearly real by dint of one theory being less contradictory than others. Forts approach includes the autoscepticism of anarchoepistemology, the crucial fourth anarachist folding previously
56 discussed in terms of Blakes Marriage of Heaven and Hell As Fort puts it: If we admit that for every opinion we have expressed, there must be somewhere an irreconcil able, we are Intermediatists and not positivists, not even higher positivists. Of course, it may be that some day we shall systematize and dogmatize and refuse to think of anything that we may be accused of disregarding (285). In other words, the end of I ntermediatism is thinkable within Intermediatism. The surface is not prone to problems of distortion, as it represents no space but itself, though it can signify all manner of things including the illusion of space when it plays host to perspectival drawin g, so it is more nearly real than any mode of perspective. Edgerton defends the value of linear perspective, but also contextualizes its development, putting him not quite in either Gombrichs or Panofskys camp. He posits the creation of linear, vanishi ngpoint perspective as a response to a religious crisis: that of the failure of the Crusades. He uses the medieval T and-O map, which placed Jerusalem at the center of the world in a map almost as simple as a compass rose (see Figure 25). Literally the navel of the world, it was consigned by God to be his unique umbilicus mundi, on direct perpendicular axis with heaven, and thus for mortal Christians the holiest of holiest [sic] shrines (13). Edgerton notes that the most sacred shrines of every other great civilization including Islam were safely protected within their own ethnic and ideological confines (14). Edgerton either doesnt consider the Jewish Diaspora to be one of the great civilizations, or is assuming that, given the lack of a Jewish state and the Muslim laws protecting people of the Book, that Jerusalem was as much Jewish as anywhere was. He doesnt clarify the matter, nor does he explain his
57 use of the offensive term Mohammedan for Muslim perhaps a subconscious holdover from or internalization of the biases of period documents. The appearance of religious proto perspectival images and contemporary increase in popularity of mystery plays and other religious performances after the Europeans were driven from Jerusalem for the last time in 1291 is Edgertons evidence that perspective stemmed not originally from any deterministic premonition of secular science, but rather from the longing of medieval Christians to feel that God and his holy works be more palpably present and immanently concerned with their daily lives, assuaging their feelings of spiritual emptiness caused by the loss of Jerusalem (20). Fillipo Brunelleschis lost perspective paintings, generally considered to be the first true linear perspective paintings, and Massacios (Tommasio Casaris) Holy Trinity, the oldest such painting in any museum, both date from 1425. This places their creation well into the intermittent siege of Constantinople, but decades before its fall in 1453. Edgerton agrees with Panofsky that linear perspective with its infinitely extended space centered in an arbitrarily assumed vanishing point [...] entailed abandoning the idea of a cosmos with the middle of the earth as its absolute center and with the outermost celestial sphere as its absolute limit (Panofsky 65). For Edgerton, this is the first blow to the credibility of the religious worldview, struck unwittingly by the devout, as would only be the case with Nicolaus Copernicuss theory of heliocentrism and the elliptical orbits of Johannes Kep ler, steps in a progress away from a theological cosmos to one in which God literally has no place (to exist as a material being). In Edgertons conception, Jerusalem plays the part of the center and navel of the world, as in the T and O map, and Galileos telescopic observations of the moon (the concluding
58 telescope in the title) are the pivot point from which linear perspective turns against its religious foundations. Albrecht Drer, the late 14th and early 15th century artist, is best known for his pri nts, which include woodcuts, a few lead -block drypoints, and some etchings, but the preponderance of his work, as well as his best regarded works, are engravings. Drer was an enthusiastic proponent of linear perspective and much of northern Europe was fir st exposed to it through his Four Books on Measurement which he illustrated with a series of engravings showing the use of the perspectival device known as Albertis window (see Figure 2-6). Albertis window is the titular window of Edgertons The Mirror, The Window, and the Telescope, and was an aid in perspective drawing, not a substitute for the understanding of its principles: Albertis window was intended as a further shortcut that eliminated much of the need for intricate construction drawing prior to setting up a picture, but only after the artist was fully aware of the authors elucidated optical principles (127). Drers own work, however, shows ambivalence about this technique. What was most demonstrably new about vanishingpoint perspective was that it allows an infinite regression to the horizon, whereas proto vanishingpoint linear perspective had required that the focal point be blocked off at some point. Drer, however, almost always blocks his vanishing points in the near or mid-range, and tends to keep them off -center, as in his well known St. Jerome in his Cell where the vanishing point is pushed up against the side of the page (see Figure 27). In all of his prints, there are only two with deep focus, The Nativity (one of Drers many nativity images), and Melencholia I (see Figures 2-8 and 29). The Nativity ultimately blocks the vanishing
59 point with a cottage, in the far distance, so only Melencholia I actually shows the vanishing point, and it reverses the trend, drawing excessive at tention to it. Most of Melencholia I is pushed forward into a cramped space an effect achieved in St. Jerome in his Cell (or Cabinet ) by the sidelong perspective, which pushes the saint back into the corner, and emphasized by the title, which would not hav e connotated imprisonment at the time, but instead monastic sparseness. In Melencholia I the angelic figure takes up more of the frame and is hedged in by clutter. With most of the objects rendered so close up and close together, most of this image neithe r needs nor benefits from vanishing point perspective. Only the wall behind the angel shows the parallel convergence of linear perspective (along the facing with the scales, and those lines appear to be converging not towards the distant horizon outside th e window, as they must, if drawn according to the rules of linear perspective), but toward the blazing comet or falling star in the sky. A falling star seems a blunt metaphor for depression, which its role as vanishing point complicates. The vanishing po int plays a crucial role in linear perspective: i t guarantees the infinity of, as well as the measurability of, space. In doing so, it shatters the final, crucial, crystal sphere bounding the universe as finite and, in so doing, deprives heaven of a place to be. Panofsky says that this entailed abandoning the idea of a cosmos with the middle of the earth as its absolute center and with the outermost celestial sphere as its absolute limit [...] The vision of the universe is, so to speak, detheologized (656). Edgerton notes that Thomas Hariot, a contemporary of Galileos, was one of the first to turn a telescope to the sky, and sketched the moon, but he did not see craters just blotchy markings that could have, according to the theories of the
60 time, been sp ots on the surface of a perfect, solid sphere, or internal, vaprous discolorations in accordance with Francis Bacons (the 16th century philosophers) theory that the moon was gaseous (156, see Figure 210). It was only after reading Galileos Sidereus n uncius that Hariot saw and drew the moon as covered in craters (see Figure 211). This detheologization of space may explain why Melencholia I is jammed full of occult symbols, mainly of protection. Of these, only the magic square above the angels head had received much attention and that mostly because the year it was printed, 1514, is in the bottom middle two sub-squares. Magic squares can be added down any row, across any column, or diagonally to produce the same number. Magic squares are a major compon ent of Medieval and Renaissance European occultism, including Heinrich Cornelius Agrippas De Occulta Philosophia published in 1510, and The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage (or just The Book of Arbamelin ), whose author goes by the nom de plum Arbamelin or Abraham Merlin, which was published in 1458. Agrippas book contains conventional magic squares, whereas The Book of Arbamelin contains magic squares filled with letters, which supports the books claim to be rooted in Jewish Kabbalah (in Hebrew, each letter is also a number). The magic number for Drers square is 34, the same as for Agrippas square for Jupiter, though the squares themselves are different. If, as common wisdom holds, all of the images in Melencholia I are signs of depr ession, then the magic number should be 15, the number of Saturn (according to Agrippa). Saturn is the planet/God/principle of melancholia in European occult thinking, including the widespread theory of the humors, in which black bile, the cause of melancholia, is the Saturnine humor. In alchemy,
61 putrefactio, meaning rot, decay, tarnishing, or blackening is the process of becoming Saturnine Putrefactio is also the first s tep in creating the philosophers stone. Base matter or prima material must be ruined, corrupted, broken down before it can be purified and redeemed. In What Painting Is Elkins associates the works of Wassily Kandinsky and Jackson Pollock with putrefactio because of their interest in the prima materia of paint itself, and their chaotic methods. Jupiter, however, is Jove, the great God, God the father.4 Invoking him is a prayer for deliverance or, more heretically, a binding to prevent his departure. The hourglass left of the square works as either a memento mori or as a suspension of time (epoche), an idea echoed in the star, which either is falling or, if it is a comet, will soon pass out of sight. In that case, the comet/vanishing point can be seen as God (and heaven) receding out of space, as if racing to escape the territorialization and rationalization of space by the vanishing point. There is a sphere, a perfect shape, next to the angel. Next to the sphe re is another geometric solid. This faceted shape may seem at first to be a platonic solid,5 but it is actually irregular in shape, with two pentagonal sides facing us, but a clearly triangular side on top. As triangles were associated with the Christian trinity and pentagons, even when not extended into pentagrams, with the devil, this makes a suggestion as to whom we are left with as God shrinks. Behind the irregular geometric solid is a ladder with seven rungs, the number generally used for the symbol of Jacobs ladder. It ascends, but not 4 Jove, also comes from Jehovah a Christian pronunciation of the (unspeakable) name of God in Hebrew, which can be transliterated as JHVH (as well as YHWH and combinations thereof). The assimilation of Jehovah to Jupiter dates to the Christianization of Rome. In Latin, Jove conveniently means father God. 5 Platonic solids are defined by having: identical sides, the same number of vertices per side as sides, and having all vertices be of the same degree.
62 to heaven, i.e., in the direction of the comet, instead going behind a wall. Were the ladder not here, the wall with the empty scales would appear to connect with the back wall. As it is, the spatial relationships of ladder, side, and back walls is muddied b y the limits of linear perspective. The ladder would seem to lead only to the (unshown) ceiling, but, as no ceiling is drawn in, it could go anywhere. If the comet is the vanishing point and is receding, it also, by the direction of its tail gives the appearance of being in lateral motion (down and to the right). This would mean that, in a hypothetical next second everything in the image would change all the angles would shift, even as the viewer remained still. The side wall, for example, would shrink while the front facing of the same wall would remain exactly where and how it is. Such behavior isnt possible in terms of an individual moving about in a fixed space: attempting to conceive of it in mimetic terms requires imagining that space itself changes as well it might if God is moving. Moreover, it seems that perhaps this has been occurring and space hasnt quite caught up to God (the vanishing point). The parallel lines formed by the moulding along the top of the side wall recede toward the comet. If we look closely or draw those lines through, however, they do not converge on the comet (see Figure 212). Instead, they converge near the comet, marking the comet as ahead of or behind the vanishing point. As if to draw attention to this, the lines em anating from the comet are drawn through the back wall in a way entirely impossible if we imagine them as rays of light and the wall as a real, solid wall. Both because of Drers thorough knowledge of perspective and because of the immediately present ruler offered by the drawn-through rays, this cannot be dismissed as an error. The
63 tension and despair in Melencoholia I is that either the new definition of space must fail or God must. Fourfold Anarchy: William Blakes Marriage of Heaven and Hell Th e choice between rational space and divine presence is, like any other forced choice, a false one. Isaac Newton certainly saw no opposition: o ne might begin to describe Newtonian cosmotheology with the statement that God is what structures space and time, and that God is what makes those structures entirely knowable. ur narrative, privileged originating event, state of consciousness, and so on) whose essential features do n ot irreconcilably and incommensurably conflict with one another but can (in theory at least) be fully captured ( Narrative Unbound 5). Newtonian narrative relies on God as the guarantor of perception and of the solidity and stability of what is observed, even as it relies on the stability of nature to keep God in his place. Now I a fourfold vision see And a fourfold vision is given to me Tis fourfold in my supreme delight, And three fold in soft Beulahs night And twofold Always. May God us keep From Single vision & Newtons sleep (letter to Thomas Butts) Blakes opposition to Newton is ontological, epistemological and teleological, three fold in soft Beulahs night. Even by itself, this line can be used to analyze Blakes multiplicity of vision. At times in Blakes work, Beulah is a place, a kind of female heaven, but there is no external guarantor of ontological stability in Blake, so Beulahs here does not necessarily denote that place. Blakes eccentric grammar plays a role here as well the lack of an apostrophe is not discountable. Instead, it is a fissure of
64 the sort sought by a Pyrrhonean empiricism: Blake neither adheres to nor ignores conventional punctuation, giving rise in this instance to three distinctly possible structures: Beulahs night, Beulahs, night, or Beulahs (as an adjective) night. This is only the beginning, however, of the multiplication of meaning: of the three, only the last one does not require the addition of a punctuation mark, but it is the least intuitive and least consistent with Blakes use of Beulah elsewhere. The possessive form (Beulahs night) is the most conventional and likely, but there are still at least three readings of that formulation made explicitly possible by Blakes text: Beulah as a place is so metimes characterized by its female character, and other times by its connections to delusive Eternity. Moreover, Beulah is sometimes personified, so this Beulah may be a place or a person. Interpreting the line as Beulahs, night offers the most interest ing and diverse readings, not only because of the variety of punctuation marks that could be used instead of the comma, but because it dramatically alters the next line and draws attention to the three fold in its own line. If the previous thought ends w ith Beulahs, the next one becomes night / And twofold always which associates night with twofold rather than three fold and makes the night always as in always night and always twofold. Once the night has been separated, we have And three fold in soft Beulahs, which might seem nonsensical if Blake had combined three and fold as he did with fourfold and twofold. Since they are separate words, the following interpretation becomes possible: And three (people) fold in (with) soft Beulahs, a seeming sexual innuendo made more plausible by the personified Beulah and the Daughters of Beulah that inhabit the Beulah that is a place. Further readings are possible, including reading
65 fold as fall down and reading fold in in the sense of folding a napkin, in which case the task is made easier by Beulah(s) being soft. This is the form of close reading described by Donald Ault as text as flight with its emphasis on extremely close reading and its assertion of the text as the primary authority and ratifier of interpretive statements as well as its emphasis on disunity, disruption, intrusion, the materiality and spatiality of the text/signifier, the subversion of linguistic categories as they bear on the problem of being, and the way that perceptual or interpretive repression of details peripheral to the dominant paradigm parallels the political repression of marginal groups in society ( xxi ). This sort of reading is not exclusively applicable to Blake, but it is particularly fruitful in hi s case because of the aforementioned multiplicity in his work. Aultian text as flight is commensurable with, but not identical to the Deleuzian line of flight which breaks down restrictions (deterritorializes) but must land somewhere and reterritorialize in order to be a successful escape, even if the reterritorialization is immediately restrictive and a new line of flight must be immediately sought. Text as flight is a geometric progression of opening new meanings, whose end is indefinite and whose goal is inherent in its method. Suspension, epoche, is appropriate as a conclusion to text as flight, as, regardless of method or terminology, it would cease to be text as flight if it wasnt possible to return to it at any point, from any point, for the sake of new meanings created. The paradox of Blakes work is the paradox of text as flight: neither is completable, and they offer readings that are incommensurable with each other. That is how both resist the basilisk gaze of single vision.
66 Incommensurabi lity is distinct from incompatibility and incomposability. Incompatibility is a commonplace word used to describe things that do not work together, and incomposability an extreme term for things which cannot co exist, even as potentials. Incommensurability is subtler, and perhaps more extreme, as it indicates things that can co exist, make statements about the same things, and in some circumstances even interact, but cannot be directly compared, lacking a common unit of measurement or value. The term appear s in Euclids Geometry to describe terms in different units of measure which may be comparable, but are not reconcilable, such as commensurable which are measured by the same measure, and those incommensurable which cannot have any common measure (Euclid, bk. X, def. 1, emphasis mine). The sense of commensurability used here may have its roots in Euclid, but is more in debt to Thomas Kuhn, who used the term to describe the difference between two paradigms of normal science in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions a response to Karl Poppers scientific positivism, or critical rationalism in which science progresses with Hegelian certitude through a process of falsifica tion of old theories. Popper argues that sciences progress is inevitable because, in the sciences, a theory is developed by synthesizing experimental evidence and only adhered to until it is falsified by contrary experimental evidence. Kuhn observes, as F ort had forty years previously, that scientists discard data that doesnt suit their theory, or paradigm on a continual basis. If falsification required the abandonment of the existing model, what Kuhn calls normal science would be impossible. Contra ry data emerges all the time, and must be
67 bracketed out if research is to proceed at all. A paradigm shift occurs for reasons that cannot be entirely defined, as after a shift, new research is incommensurable with old because the assumptions are different. In Against Method, Paul Feyerabend extended Kuhns model into a critique of self justifying insularity in the sciences. For Feyerabend, incommensurability is evidence of why a scientific establishment will neither seek new possibilities nor be inclined to consider them when they appear. Citing Albert Einsteins observation as saying that the scientist must appear to a systematic epistemologist as a type of unscrupulous opportunist, Feyerabend argues the value of a methodology of epistemological anarchis m or anything goes (Feyerabend 18). This anarchoepistemology is comparable to the first anarchist folding in Blakes Marriage of Heaven and Hel l regarding which the conventional wisdom is that [e]ven within the context of Blakes canon, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell stands out for its combination of genres [...] and its heterodox perspectives (Eaves par. 1). Blake practices an anarchy of method, which Feyerabend specifically distinguishes from political anarchy and aligns with Dada, in the hope that the reader will remember me as a flippant Dadaist and not as a serious anarchist (21). Feyerabend opposes anarchoepistemology to skepticism on the grounds that the skeptic either regards everything as equally good, or as equally bad, or desists from making such judgments altogether, whereas he cites Hans Richter as saying to be a true Dadaist, one must also be an anti -Dadaist (189). For our senses of epoche and autoscepticism, Pyrrhonian empiricism is a skepticism compatible with anarchoepistemolog y as well as a counterweight to Richters Dadaist who not only has no programme, (he is) against all programmes (Feyerabend 189).
68 Blake rejects Emmanuel Swedenborgs radical worldview for its egocentrism and for not being radical enough: It is so with Swedenborg; he shews the / folly of churches & exposes hypocrites, til he im / magines that we are all religious: & himself the the single / one / one on earth that ever broke a net ( Marriage copy F, pl. 21, 226). The trinity of single vision single / one / one indicts Swedenborg for having, in pious hubris, reified his own position into dogma: He conversed with Angels / who are all religious, & conversed not with Devils who / all hate religion, for he was incapable thro his conceited / notions! ( Ma rriage pl. 22). Like the middle one previously mentioned, notions! is alone on a line by itself, followed only by abstract swirls. This, and the exclamation mark, turn the word into an epithet. A notion is the most casual, and thus the most terrible, of epistemological foreclosures, as it assumes its own reasonability and inoffensiveness. Notions are precisely what the process of conception is intended to avoid. Blakes anarchism is not merely epistemological, it is also ontological, as the fourth Memo rable Fancy in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell illustrates. In it, an angel appears to the narrator and So he took me thro a stable & thro a church / & down into the church vault at the end of which / was a mill; thro the mill we went, and came to a / cave, down the winding cavern we grope d our tedi / ous way till a void boundless as a neither sky ap/ peared beneath us ( Marriage pl.17). The descent into the void begins with a stable and becomes progressively lower, making the church lower than the muck in the stable, but this order of things does not remain stable. In the void is 6 The repetition of the one is formally similar to a printers catch word, a technique in which the last word on a page is repeated as the first word on the next page in order to aid in the ordering of pages. This technique is present in a number of Blakes early works, though Blake neither needed nor heeded such a crutch, choosing to re order plates for different printings, making it a stylistic and narrative rather than purely mechanical technique, much like Blakes significant splitting of words between lines.
69 revealed the fiery abyss of hell though it is significant that here, unlike in the rest of the work, Blake refrains from using the word hell, culminating in the app earance of Leviathan: His forehead was di / vided into streaks of green & purple like those on / a tygers forehead: soon we saw his mouth & red / gills hang just above the raging foam tinging the / black deep with beams of blood, advancing toward / us / us with all the fury of a spiritual existence ( Marriage pl.18). As with the other singleword lines considered, the solitary us at the bottom of plate 18 is significant. The most conventional reading requires that we treat the repetition as unimportant, just a printers technique (see footnote 6) and a reminder of where we were on the last page. Read that way, it is the Leviathan that is advancing with all the fury of a spiritual existence. However, if we read both instances of us as important and infer a comma after the first us, then, while Leviathan is still advancing toward us its behavior may be more magnetic than predatory, because the narrator and angel are luminous: i t is us with all the fury of a spiritual existence that draws Leviathan. Here, more than previously, text as flight serves to uncover multiple narrative trajectories, whose influence on the reader will depend on the readers process of reading: a processual narrative consisting of incommensurable simultaneous readings. Th is is also an example of Blakes anarchontology: t hese readings are not mere forks in narrative, they require fundamentally different bases of perception and, thus, of reality. This point is made more bluntly shortly after, because the angel flees, aband oning the narrator to his fate, at which point the world changes & then this / appearance was no more, but I found myself sit / ting on a pleasant bank beside a river by moon / light hearing a harper (Marriage pl. 19). Rising to meet the angel, the
70 na rrator seizes him and flies him to heaven, which is revealed as seven houses of brick, one we entered; in it were a / num / number of monkeys, baboons & all of that species / chained by the middle, grinning and snatching at / one another, a vision the angel rejects. So the Angel said: thy phantasy has imposed / upon me & thou oughtst to be ashamed. / I answered: we impose upon one another, & it is / but lost time to converse with you whose works / are only Analytics ( Marriage pl.20). There is no kno wing if, let alone which, one of the two has the better vision, only that each is able to impose their own ontology on the other, and that the narrator realizes this, whereas the Angel does not. They are not trading illusions; they are trading basic natur es of reality. It is in this sense that Blakes work is anarchontolgical: the origin and fundament of the world is subject to change, revision, and those visions are incommensurable impossible to value in terms of each other, though perhaps possible to value each in terms of oneself. This anarchontology, bound up with processual narrative, is distinct from the ontological anarchy of Hakim Bey (Peter Lamborn Wilson), as his is an explicitly political anarchism of the sort Feyerabend describes as serious, that is, operating on the assumption that political and social anarchy is possible (and, therefore, desirable). Anarchontology and processual narrative are powerful tools for visual analysis, as images lack the grammatical structure that Blake deliberately subverts. The third fold, perhaps particularly that of soft Beulahs / night, is anarchoteleology. Ault describes this trait o f Blakes work as counter apocalyptic resistances. With Fortean refusal to damn contrary evidence and Pyrrhonian autoscepticism, he says that the reading that follows is an attempt to resist the readers resistance to the counter apocalyptic
71 resistances in the text of Night IX [of The Four Zoas ]. One risk of such a subversive reading is that it, too, will take itself to be final (349). Taking advantage of a Newtonian readers identification with the narrator as guarantor of truth, Blake focuses on the narrators struggle to create a satisfactory positive closure to an unclosable poem in an attempt to convey the failure of closure and single vision to a resistant reader (Ault 447). The telos of Newtonian determinism is negated, as is that of Hegelian progress. Blake doesnt resist apocalypse because no final apocalypse or telos is possible, but because apocalyptic desires, no matter how utopian, bind (as with Urizens net) and produce atrocities. Blakes anarchoteleology can be observed in the differenc es between editions: they may move toward goals, but those goals are never quite commensurable between editions. This can be seen in the illustration on the last page of the fourth Memorable Fancy from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (pl. 20, see Figures 213 through 218). The serpent here is most easily identified with the Leviathan of the story, but this identification is only tentative, as Blakes illustrations often have no obvious connection to their context, and always contain the kind of discrepancies that, if we take Blake seriously at all, we must not overlook. In copies C, D, F, G, H and I, the readily available color copies, none of these serpents have the streaks of green & purple like those on / a tygers forehead or the red / gills of t he description; some of them can hardly be said to be green, let alone purple, in coloration. Of the six, plate 20 of copies C and H (Figures 2 13 and 2-14) can be said to be the most snakelike; copies G and I (Figures 2-15 and 216), with their cleaner lines and ridges on the back of their heads, are more
72 mythic in appearance dragonlike; and copies D & F (Figures 217 and 218), with their dark, blotchy coloring that almost decomposes their form, are the most demonlike. Only on the two snakelike prints can the motto Opposition is true Friendship be largely made out, albeit not easily read. Erdman observes in a footnote that the motto is del by pigment in all colored copies, but this is obviously a generalization. Seeing the snakelike serpents with the motto recalls the fact that the narrator of this Memorable Fancy refers to the Angel as my friend the Angel, and makes similar statements elsewhere (Erdman 802, Marriage pl.19). This suggests that the friendship is sincere, and that there is not merely a dialogue, but a dialectic (of the openended, non-synthetic variety between the two), and that the serpents presence is like that of the serpent in the garden of Eden, a bringer of potentially unwelcome knowledge, a theme repeated on plate 24: I have also; the Bible of Hell; which the world / shall have whether they will or no. This reading, however, is not advanced visually in all versions of the poem. Right before the image of the serpent, the narrator dismisses any possible value in the Angels words it is / but lost time to converse with you whose works / are only Analytics (Marriage pl. 20). In the prints with the dragonlike serpents, and only in those prints, the text is drawn as continuous with the serpents, the space around the letters seeming to be full of the air above the serpent in the water. This makes the serpent into the texts setting, so, given that the dragonlike serpents are much closer to being pr etty than the snakelike or demonlike ones are, and that Figure 16 in particular is set against a beautifully colored sunset, the narrators transformation of the abyss into a peaceful river is supported, suggesting that the narrators account is more corr ect, or more nearly real than the Angels.
73 The demonlike serpents are the most troubling, seeming at first to suggest that the Angels reductive perspective is superior to that of the narrator. Closer analysis of these dark, powerful forms that bleed into their environment suggests that they are not decaying, but of one nature with the space they occupy, a space that threatens to overwhelm the page. This supports the reading of Leviathan as having all the fury of a spiritual existence ( Marriage pl. 20). The angel flees from Leviathan, and the narrator dismisses it, but they might neither of them be right, and there may be something to the demonlike serpents they have both failed to understand. The description of Leviathans forehead as striped like a ty gers links back to the only other use of tygers in the poem, in the Proverbs of Hel l: The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of in/ struction ( Marriage pl. 9). The Angel and the narrator alike are attempting to instruct and are doing so through the structuring of space. This completely incommensurable reading suggests that, as in The Four Zoas it would be an error to rely on the narrator, and makes Leviathan into a powerful instance of text as flight, escaping entirely from the clutches of warring determinisms. This is less anarchoteleology than it is the fourth kind of anarchist folding in Blake, this one most important of all: the Pyrrhonic fold of autoscepticism, an anarchism of anarchy, like Richters Dadaist anti Dadaism. This is th e And twofold Always. God us keep of Blakes letter to Butts. Alternately, and incommensurably with any positive valuation of the scaly Leviathan, The man who never alters his / opinion is like standing water, & breeds reptiles / of the mind (Marriage pl. 19). Vector Analysis of Comics In Carl Barkss renowned duck comics, the apparent simplicity and regularity of the panels [...] exhibit the economy, but belie the complexity that informs Barkss early
74 work (Prodigious Panels 227). Though Barks w ould come to experiment with more varied page layouts, his most atypical structures are hardly daring compared to more recent comics, but they contain structures that are as complex as any, and far subtler for refusing to demand attention. Barkss page layouts required Ault to develop the technique of vector analysis in order to deal with the anarchic pluralities of stories like Bigtop Bedlam, where: words begin to materialize as palpable t wo dimensional things in visual space, and solid black areas attac h the shifter character (Zippo) to the stationary audience, linking the one who wants to be seen to those who think they know what they are seeing. Lines of flight the trajectory of the slingshot and lines of sight Donalds seeing materializing as dotted l ines begin to emerge into visibility on these pages, and these vectors of action at a distance (by slingshot and eye) parallel, oppose, and dislodge the panels jagged shapes and Donalds putative movement through them. (Imagetextuality: Cutting Up Ag ain, pt. III par. 23) Eyelines and slingshot trajectories are just as crucial to the structure of this page as are panel borders. Many of the most important vectors in Barkss comics are not drawn at all, or remain hidden in other forms, as in the splash page for Vacation Time, where we are able to see all at once up under the auto and the bridge, down on the waterfall and whirlpool which seem to bend toward the viewer, and behind the cliff from which the bear springs (Vacation Time 276, emphasis in original). Later in that comic, an angled panel border creates a vector, which directs the reader not to the next panel, but down from Donalds car (the magical vehicle of redemption) [...] to Huey carrying Donalds camera (the realistic vehicle of redemption) (Vacation Time 278, see Figure 219). Vector analysis creates multiple narratives out of a single image through the process of attentive reading. Its use is most easily demonstrated in works much less subtle in their structuring of space and exp licit in their dependence on compositional
75 effects (of the page as a whole) than Barks. Piet Mondrian is the compositional artist par excellence. Many of his most interesting paintings are from a series of Compositions, for example, Composition with Large Blue Plane, Red, Black, Yellow, and Gray (1921, see Figure 220). The near -perfect homogeneity of each colored element eschews blending, shading and the illusion of depth. In fact Mondrians compositions look even flatter than they are erasing even the depth of the physical paint on the physical canvas. Despite being all surface radical in its depthlessness the composition is structured. It does not have a plot: Mondrians rectangles are not panels in the comics sense of the term, but comics panels are rectangles in Mondrians sense. Mondrians art is surface as pure composition. As such, Mondrians art also illustrates the medial limit: for his compositions, it is the canvas. For print comics, it is the page. In both cases, this is the only absolute constraint, but Mondrian illustrates just how absolute it is. In that context, comics artist Ivan Brunettis biography of Mondrian in a one-page comic that looks like a Mondrian might seem nave or misguided, but its layering of comics over Mondrian is perfect (see Figure 221). As Mondrians compositions show, layering is a fundamentally two-dimensional technique wherein there is no substratum, only erasure. Brunettis comic does not proceed linearly in a single vector, but along multiple paths and lines that, like Mondrians art, must be read individually and pulled together into a compositional whole. This compositional narrative is produced by layering comics panels capable of processual narrative and multiple vectors over the non-narrative Mondrianesque re ctangle. Each element on the page is articulated not only to adjacent elements but to the page as a compositional whole.
76 In this way, the comic becomes a complex of readable vectors, with each art element actualized in terms of the virtuality of the page which, in turn, is actualized by the virtualization of the specific art element. Brunettis comic is not a smooth space it is structured by the panels overlaying the page and by the undrawn lines that structure the compositional narrative. A vector analysis of the page reveals the process of capture, the striation of space that takes place on the pages surface. These striations are the only restraint upon vector analysis, encouraging some vectors and denying others. This territorialization, never irresistible in comics, is especially light in Brunettis Mondrian: i t grasps like a ghostly hand that passes though the body. Parrish Bakers Sparrows Fall contains a more highly striated page, structured like a whirlpool, with compelling vectors moving around the page and progressively into its center, and no obvious vectors back out (see Figure 2-22). Each set of triangular panels is part of the same scene as the others of the same size, and can be set into some sort of sequence, but the meaning of those pan els is redetermined by each set further in. The outermost set is comic, but the next set reframes the first as pathetic, the third reframes the second as narcissistic, the fourth reframes the third as addictive and unhealthy, and the innermost three pass through night to circling crows to the vaguely indicated head and shoulders of the main character, Christopher Sparrow. It helps to know that, at this point in the series, Baker intended to end the series with Sparrows suicide. The point of ultimate contraction on the page is, then, that (anticipated) suicide: t he presence there of a murder of crows at night repeats symbols used elsewhere of Sparrows depression.
77 The anthropomorphic possum and river otter are, at this point in the series, Sparrows principl e foils, his only friends, and often his mocking tormentors. They are also reasonably readable as symptoms of delusion. If one reads the page as a hyalosign, it is composed of Deleuzian sheets of the past, in which each inner set encompasses all of the out er sets put another way, Sparrows life is set in terms of mocking self -criticism fueled by depression, with an imminence of suicide at its heart. In some sense, this motion toward the center of the page represents a line of flight for the character inward toward self -destruction, reminding us that not all lines of flight are productive. Some deterritorialize only to plunge into black holes. There are, however, other lines of flight on the page, made possible by the limited ability of comics art to striate space. Some of the same vectors can be ridden back out of the center of the page with an intensity like that of the action movie clich of outrunning an explosion. In comics writer Alan Moores work, the permutations of time, space and sex on the static medium of the page itself as well as above and below the page, where the page is becoming (the whorls and eddies of a plane of immanence or perhaps imminence the penumbra of transcendence, considered more fully in Chapter 3) are everything. To repeat an often -quoted but probably ahistorical saying of T.E. Lawrence: Nothing is written. Writing never occupies the past tense: rather, all texts are in the process of writing themselves in a process inseparable from but irreducible to their material and medi al existence. Time is reversible. Moreover, time is neither separate nor different from space, but it is different from itself. Time is differential, never in being but always bringing other things (spaces) into being. The reversibility of time is the simp lest possible statement of
78 this: that there is absolutely no logical, functional or material objection possible to everything happening backwards. Moores The Reversible Man is an illustration of this principle (see Figure 2-23). The reversibility of t ime is almost as simple as watching a VHS tape rewind, with one addition, that cause and effect remain no less intact or logical, but all the apparent laws of reality subject themselves to the new order. Prisons do not exist to hold lawbreakers, nor do they exist to hold those who will break the law instead, those who are incarcerated go on to the judicial system, which decides what actions they should take, such as using a firearm to bring people to life, then reasons out for them how they ought to do it, and then the ex -convicts go on to either do or not do the prosocial activities they were unconvicted of. In short, nothing prevents such concepts as free will, decision making, and the unconscious mind from functioning as they do in our frame of reference. This is essential, as the commonplace alternative is to assume narrative determinism (as with the rewound tape, constrained to be the same). Moore questions the possibility of free will and its consequences, including sin, but in so doing maintains the fr eedom of consciousness: The divine ghost that is Consciousness [...] can pass back and forth unhindered through the writhing ball of centipedes that is our human world ( Portrait 335). Determinism is not necessarily false, but it is necessarily not necess arily true. This is to say that it is indeterminate: i ts true/false status is either unknowable, or else it is a wrong question, derived from flawed assumptions. Such a position is what Fort calls intermediatist, similar to the role of epoche in Pyrrhonean skepticism. It is also found in the return of the same in Nietzsches concept of the Eternal Return. Deleuze approaches the eternal return through the concept of difference and repetition (here, we
79 are not talking about two different concepts, but one concept, that of difference and repetition). Each movethrough (repetition) is necessarily not identical to the last, but is instead different regardless of the ways it can be considered as the same, because it is a product of the last and of all previous repetitions. To suppose that it is truly the same is a logical fallacy, much as to suppose that two ordered elements are the same is to negate the fact that there are two of them in order to be the same, they cannot be two. The useful concept here is that of the iteration. The Greatest Weight, is an early formulation of the Eternal Return that seems to endorse the notion of the Eternal Return as a return of the same: Do you desire this once more and innumerable times more? ( Gay Science 273). It is not, in point of fact, any such thing. There is no difference between a necessarily deterministic repetition of the same and no repetition whatsoever, or nothing whatsoever. To admit such a nullity would contradict Nietzsches notion of the infinity of past ti me, which states that if anything were going to have reached a fixed state, it would already have done so. The perceptibility of change forecloses the possibility of fixity. Moreover, any possibility of interpreting this passage, with its same succession and sequence as requiring that the Eternal Return be a return of the same denies the possibility of Nietzsche elsewhere enunciating the idea of repetition and difference that Deleuze picks up on. In short, the greatest weight cannot become a deterministic return of the same unless it already is a deterministic return of the same, which is impossible in terms of Nietzsches concept of the infinity of past time if the world were going to come to a fixed state, it would already have done so, and would render pointless the embracing of the Eternal Return.
80 Any possibility for that reading lies in the most contracted form of the Oroborous, of time eating itself which, to be fair, is only a self -limiting possibility, not an impossibility. Having concluded that Tim e is reversible, or, put another way, that Times arrow can be swung about 180 degrees without doing so necessitating determinist consequences, only indeterminate ones, and being able to say the same thing about the Eternal Return, we are confronted by the lack of necessity that time have only two gears, (forward and reverse) or that times arrow point in only one direction. The next question is whether time can have only one or several arrows, that is, move in several directions at the same time. It is easy enough to turn time from a simple river to one with salmon swimming upstream, but the same specter of narrative determinism comes up again if we consider a more complex temporality one with splits, detours, loops and whorls. These arrows of time are ve ctors in the Aultian sense, inscribed visibly or invisibly on the comics page, and the narratives they produce are processual narratives determined by readerly awareness, decision and resistance. Many of Moores stories incorporate these kinds of temporality, as with the self -creating and self -foreclosing existence of white Supremium in his run on Supreme or the r ipples of time created by the climax of From Hell These temporalities only require narrative determinism if the past is presumed to be known and the future unwritten. Deleuze accords the privilege of the present to the present, past, and future. This is an anti phenomenological move on his part, but one that allows for the free play of all possible presents, rather than a reduction to a presumed singular present. There is a heterogeneity between Deleuze and Moore inasmuch as the latter is a Magician and Sh aman and the former an atheist and empiricist, but there is no
81 incommensurability. Deleuze is not a theist, but he is a Spinozan. Spinozas objection to spiritual dualism is a monism of substance, the irrefutable argument that if everything is a valid concept, there can be no basic division between substance and spirit: nothing truly insubstantial could exist because to be in-substantial would be to be outside of everything. Thus, Spinoza speaks of God or nature. Moore is also a monist. This is what all ows his notion of real fictions: t here is no basic difference in substance between imagination and flesh. This notion reaches its broadest extension in his post -Crowleyan approach to Kabbalah. He rejects hierarchical notions of the Sephiroth, instead using it to critique concepts of God and heaven as somewhere else of God as somewhere outside the system in favor of a conception of God as the system. This is much like Spinozas God or nature, equation, which may itself have been influenced by the Kabba lah. In Immanence: A Life, Deleuze presents a life as the product of a plane of immanence articulated with a transcendental field. Much of Deleuzes writing is concerned with a critique of the transcendental and of transcendence in phenomenological tradi tions, so it is important to be clear about our terms. By a field of transcendence Deleuze means that which results in a flow of a-subjective consciousness consciousness in motion, without subject or object. Without subject or object, this consciousness is not self -consciousness. Application of the concept to comics and visual media requires only a Derridean play on imm[a/i]nence: the flexibility between the presence of the divine in all things (for Deleuze, immanent divinity is neither more nor less than immanent immanence) and the about -to -happen. In applying Deleuzes plane of immanence to media as a plane of imm[a/i]nence, the surface of the
82 page comes to represent the imm i nence of imm a nence. Put as simply as possible, it is becoming: not becoming something, just becoming. The articulation of these things produces what Deleuze calls a life as opposed to the life of self and other consciousness. What we normally think of as life is the product of this tempest of becoming: vortexes of impersonal consciousness slow just enough to touch down on a plane of immanence, resulting in an ever -changing singularity, the white hole that blows out the raw stuff (a singular life) that allows for the construction of identity (the individual life). The relationship of the concept of a plane of immanence to the comics page is further considered in the next chapter. The basic critique of gnostic and occult systems of knowledge is two pronged: one is that they are based on the dehistoricization of a belief system and its imposition as a master narrative; the other is that they are based on a schizophrenic failure to discern between ones thoughts and external reality (magical thinking). Moores use of the Kabbalistic Sephiroth seems to court at least the former of these pitfalls. To do so, however, would be to erase or damn, in Forts sense of the word, what Moore calls Idea Space or, in his Promethea comic book, the Immateria. By either name, what is under consideration here is that, given the monism of su bstance, a thing that is thought is necessarily real a real thought. Similarly, fiction is reality real fiction. Given as well the reversibility of time (effects=causes) and the multiplicity of Times arrows as analyzable vectors, one cannot ask whether these thoughts and fictions have only a subjective and transitory existence: they always exist in the present of their time (be that past, present or future).
83 In the third volume of Alan Moore and J.H. Williams III et al.s Promethea, a giant moebius strip that takes up two pages produces a vectorization of time as well as a striation of space similar in power to that exercised by the Sparrows Fall strip (see Figure 224). This page starts from anywherethe readerly upper -left -hand corner and the focal poi nt of the x in the middle of the page are especially good starting points and does not end. A moebius strip in terms of processual narrative as well as artistic design, each word -balloon is a peak of the present and the present moment of the strip is alway s in relation to other present moments that both precede and follow it without end. The narrative of this page consists of two characters discussing how long theyd been on this path, their sense of dj -vu and the voices (their own) that they hear from th e under side of the path. When the reader stops and finally turns the page, it is only because the structure of the page is simply not strong enough to hold us forever. It becomes as we read it, and is always becoming something else, despite its finite c ontent, until we remove our attention, and by then it has etched itself into space and into our consciousness, creating in Idea Space the figure of the reader who never leaves the page simultaneous with the figure of the reader continuing on. Idea Space or the Immateria is just the set (in the mathematical sense) of all ideas and fictions. In Promethea the Sephiroth is accessed through the Immateria, and the Immateria is the one thing that has no clear position within the Sephiroth. This is sensible, as ev erything encountered in the Kabbalistic Journey story arc of Promethea is necessarily a subset of the Immateria. Moreover, the way Moore and J.H. Williams choose to depict the abyss (Daath or the missing sephira) undermines the supposed totality of the s ystem. In the center of Daath, there is a hole that goes all the way
84 through through everything (see Figure 225). Through that hole can be seen beautiful, utterly alien, semi -Lovecraftian things. The importance of this is that the hole in Daath undermines everythingit deterritorializes the Kabbalahh and the Sephiroth from their very heart. A similar deterritorialization occurs in Moores Tales of the Green Lantern Corps story Tygers, (illustrated by Kevin ONeil) about a world of Blakian monstrosities whose cruelties had grown too sophisticated for mortal form who had been chained there after the elders of Oa declared themselves Guardians of the Universe ( DC Universe 153, see Figure 226). These Guardians are the creators of the Green Lanterns, an intergalactic police force that operates in an absolutely oedipalizing manner, subjecting all of the less enlightened worlds, nations and peoples to protection and restriction for their own good. The power of the Guardians is scientific in nature, and opposed to dark and necromantic factions of the starways including the demons of Ysm -/ault. ( DC Universe 153). Throughout the rest of the story, the planets name is written Ysmault, but here, it is split into two lines by a dash, a technique Bla ke often uses to produce a multiplication or ambivalence of meaning, much as with his aforementioned use of catch words. The dialogue balloon with Ysm/Ault contains a total of three such hyphenated words, fully half of the number present in this twelve page story. After Ysm -/Ault comes life /less and for -/bidden, and the hyphenated words create a revision of the story that is told if the dashes are treated as incidental. In the latter case, the planet Ysmault is lifeless and forbidden by the Guardians. In the former Ysm -Ault is life -less, a truth, as the
85 vitality of its inhabitants is locked in the Guardians chains, and by the crash -landing of another ship, the Green Lantern Abin Sur is for bidden to descend to the planet. There he meet s Quill of the Five Inversions, a grotesque, warped body crucified with spikes bearing the Green Lantern emblem (see Figure 2-27). Quill answers Surs questions, and Sur becomes what he beholds, transfixed like a moth on the pins of the Green Lanterns p ower by Quills narration of Surs death when that ring of power you wear eventually fails you and the accompanying vision of his death ( DC Universe 159, emphasis in original, Figure 228). The story concludes with Surs death, a result of his rings predicted failure, but a failure resulting from Surs mistrust of that power after his encounter with Quills inversions. Quill, a writer by name, inscribes one more vision into the story, this before Surs death. He denies the vision of an eternal order maintained by the Guardians and Green Lanterns with a vision of their destruction, which Sur describes as a terrible apocalypse, but it is Sur who practices the inversion here ( DC Universe 161). The apocalyptic desires of the Guardians are laid bare, and compared by Moore to the desire of Urizen in Blakes Book of Urizen to fix everything into eternal stability, a joy without pain  a solid without fluctuation ( Urizen pl. 4, line 10 -1). Quill describes not an apocalypse, but an unbinding: The Empire of Tears / finally released from / entombment, shall / join the assault ( DC Universe 160). From a Blakian perspective, the benevolent infantilizing system of control established by the Guardians, their single vision of what and how all should be, thei r heaven is nothing more than Newtons sleep, in which the Empire of Tears must be set free to circumvent the tyranny of a joy without sorrow, the pursuit of which leads only to chains.
86 In his extended conversation with Dave Sim (originally printed i n Cerberus ) Moore quotes Aleister Crowley as saying The only difference between a schizophrenic and myself is that Im not mad ( Extraordinary Gentleman 324). Moore credits his own assumed sanity to his having prepared conceptual space for cognitive exper iences that might otherwise have been mind shattering. He compares this to ordering a larger filing cabinet in anticipation of a flood of paperwork or perhaps of memes. More interesting is his refusal to claim that his experiences are true or real. Do I actually believe that I have spoken to a trans physical four thousandyear old entity first mentioned in the book of Tobit? No. Do I therefore believe that I have not truly conversed with the aforesaid entity? No ( Extraordinary Gentleman 327, emphasis in original). He does not deny them as false, merely refuses to affirm or deny them. This makes a virtue out of lukewarmness and establishes that, for the Magician, the Unpardonable sin is not to deny a Holy Spirit, but to affirm one to do so is to become schizophrenic in an unproductive way. The inchoate consciousness that forms space (the field of transcendence) only becomes productive when a focal point is created, articulating the two. Seeing the page instantiates a subject who looks at and reads the page as well as an object that is read (the page) as a product of immanent becoming. The page has a life that has nothing to do with its flat surface but instead is found in the articulation of consciousness and becoming along the vectors of the page. Remember that, for Alan Moore, free will does not exist, but free consciousness does. An idea emerges from space to be scripted, illustrated, lettered and printed, but until the reader and the page are wracked by the tempest of becoming, nothing is written.
87 F igure 2-1 de Koonings Woman and Bicycle Image The Willem de Kooning Foundation, 2009
88 Figure 2-2 de Kooning's Woman with a Green and Beige Background. Image The Willem de Kooning Foundation, 2009
89 Figure 2-3 the layering of paint, wash and varni sh (enlarged) from Elkin's What Painting Is. Image Routledge, 2000
90 Figure 2-4 perspective diagram from Panofsky's Perspective as Symbolic Form. Image Zone Books, 1993 Figure 2-5 T and O map from Edgertons The Mirror, the Window, and the Telescope. Image Cornell University Press, 2009
91 Figure 26 Durer, illustration from his Four Books on Measurement Image Dover, 1963 Figure 2-7 Durer, St. Jerome in his Cell Image Konrad Liebmann Foundation, 2009
92 Figure 2-8 Durer, The Nativity Image The Princeton University Press, 1983
93 Figure 2-9 Durer, Melencolia I Image Konrad Liebmann Foundation, 2009.
94 Figure 210 Figure from Edgertons The Mirror, the Window, and the Telescope. Image Cornell University Press, 2009 Figure 211 Figure f rom Edgertons The Mirror, the Window, and the Telescope. Image Cornell University Press, 2009
95 Figure 2-12 Durers Melencholia I with the vanishing point circled. Original image Image Konrad Liebmann Foundation, 2009 ; overlay Chris Eklund, 2009
96 Figure 213 Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell plate 20, copy C. Image The William Blake Archive, 2009
97 Figure 214 Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell plate 20, copy H. Image The William Blake Archive, 2009
98 Figure 215 Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell plate 20, copy G. Image The William Blake Archive, 2009
99 Figure 216 Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell plate 20, copy I. Image The William Blake Archive, 2009
100 Figure 217 Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell plate 20, copy D. Image The William Blake Archive, 2009
101 Figure 218 Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell plate 20, copy F. Image The William Blake Archive, 2009
102 Figure 219 Vacation Time splash page, from The Carl Barks Library. Image The Walt Disney Company, 1947
103 Figure 220 Mondrian, Composition with Large Blue Plane, Red, Black, Yellow, and Gray Image Phaidon Press, 1992
104 Figure 221 Brunetti, P. Mondrian. Image McSweenys Quarterly 2004
105 Figure 222 Baker, from Sparrow's Fall Image Parrish Baker, 1997
106 Figure 223 Moore and White, from The Reversible Man Image Rebellion, 2001
107 Figure 224 Moore and Williams, from Promethea. Image Wildstorm, 2003
108 Figure 225 Moore and Williams, from Promethea. Image Wildstorm, 2003
109 Figure 226 Moore and O'Neil, from Tygers. Image DC Comics, 2006
110 Figure 227 Moore and O'Neil, from Tygers. Image DC Comics, 2006
111 Figure 228 Moore and ONeil, from Tygers. Image DC Comics, 2006
112 CHAPTER 3 SCHIZOANALYSIS OF TH E PAGE: TIME, BODIES AND A LIFE IN THE WORK OF ALEX ROBINSON, HONOR DAUMIER AND DAVE SIM This chapter continues the consideration of vectors and the cutting up of the page, and the issues of close visual reading, and compositional and processual narrative introduc ed in Chapter 2. At the same time, it is more intensively theoretical, dealing in part with potentials of comics that the works in question indicate without completely realizing them. Throughout, the theoretical work of Gilles Deleuze and Flix Guattari wi ll be used more intensely than in previous chapters, not to the exclusion of but in concert with previously articulated theory and concepts. Applications of Deleuzes and Guattaris work focuses on the rhizome, body without organs and/or war machine in the context of their seminal work, A Thousand Plateaus Without ignoring these key concepts, a DeleuzoGuattarian7 approach to comics and visual media must look both before and after A Thousand Plateaus and outside their collaborations, to find the concepts m ost applicable to and helpful alongside these media. This also helps to ensure that concepts are not reduced to academic catchphrases, and to clarify the difference between the theory in its original context and the theory as applied. Deleuzes Immanence and Guattaris solo monograph, Chaosmosis: an Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm deploy advanced concepts from these thinkers that diverge from their collaborative work, providing a useful contrast. In Immanence, Deleuze states that [t]he transcendental field is defined by a plane of immanence, and the plane of immanence by a life ( Pure Immanence 28). His 7 I use the term DeleuzoGuattarian to describe their coauthored works and the theory therein, which are the product of an entity distinct from Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.
113 concerns in this short essay are sweeping in their philosophical breadth, offering a new empiricism of the transcendent while also being concerned with what a life is, as the singular but not individual form of existence, itself built out of singularities that pre exist the self. Though the term does not appear in Immanence, I refer to them as prepersonal singularities, after Guattari. These pre-personal singularities describe a life in the same way that a life defines the plane of immanence. Immanence is not about media, but it comes partially out of Deleuzes thoughts about media, including the circuit or crystal of the virtual and actual a vibration or oscillation in which the reality of the virtual is affirmed as the necessary indefinite to everything we think of as definite (actual). By pre personal singularities, Deleuze refers to the infinitesimal moments, unconsidered sensations (Peircian fir stness), attributes, body parts, reactions, etc., that, taken by themselves, are real or actual and together produce a person. Simultaneously, the pre personal singularities that constitute a life are virtual to the body, self, and individual that i s actualized from them. They are prior to, subsequent to and simultaneous with the actual (embodied, continuous across time and space) person, as the oscillation Deleuze describes is one of constant exchange. The crystallization of virtual and actual images is crucial to Deleuzes theory of the time image (in Cinema 2 ) in film. I find the principle and behavior to be identical: i t is only the indeterminacy of the virtual that allows the actual to signify as anything specific, and to continue becoming something else. This is explicitly not the illusion of motion produced in film, a property Deleuze considered as the motion image (in Cinema 1 ). Some of Deleuzes first writing about virtual and actual images occurs in his writings about painter Francis Bacon, which also connects to Deleuzes consideration of
114 becoming. The figures in Bacons paintings are engaged in a process of becoming: they are, so to speak, caught in between This perpetually having left a purely hypothetical fixed state behind and moving toward but explicitly not reaching another fixed state is Deleuzian and DeleuzoGuattarian becoming, and an apt description of what Deleuze calls a life,  we will say of pure immanence that it is A LIFE, and nothing else ( Pure Immanence 27, emphasis i n original). The connection of this late work to his earlier work on painting and film demonstrates that these concepts are especially applicable to comics and other media that inhabit a visual (medial) plane as well as a conceptual (immanent) plane. Deleu ze illustrates the idea of pre-personal singularities thus: [m]y wound existed before me: not as a transcendence of the wound as higher actuality, but its immanence as a virtuality always within a milieu (plane or field) ( Pure Immanence 32). The individual marks on a page of comics, be they brushstrokes, letters, zippatone dots or computer -colored fills, can valuably be considered to be virtual singularities that precede or, more accurately, constitute a plane of imm[a/i]nence8 overlapping the surface of the page. That plane of imm[a/i]nence precedes the forms, flows and narratives that can be read from the page. A reader who ignores these prepersonal (pre -formal, pre-narrative) marks is likely to fall into the error of taking the forms and narratives as ideals that transcendentally pre exist the page that is, of treating the page as a window into a preexisting world. Approaching the page as a plane of imm[a/i]nence, a place of possibility, means taking the material marks on the paper (computer screen, etc.) as the virtual and pre8 See page 80 for an explanation of the application of Deleuzes plane of imm a nence to the comics page as a plane of imm i nence
115 personal singularities that constitute a life on the page and make possible the life of the actual images, forms and narratives of the page. This methodology recognizes the heterogeneous and largely i ncommensurable but concomitant nature of artistic technique and narration. That is to say that artistic technique and narration are different in nature, just as technique and mimesis are different in nature (photorealism may be achieved in many different ways), and while a certain technique may be used to produce a narrative effect, the effect is not inherent in the technique. In comics, at least, though artistic technique and narrative are different kinds of things, they always come together, and the tec hnique is not identical to the effect; analysis of the effect benefits greatly from analysis of the technique. The contradiction apparent in the statement that artistic techniques are both relevant to and incommensurable with the forms and narratives they create, is answerable through the application of Guattaris theory of chaosmosis and autopoeisis, which offers an explanation complementary to our application of Deleuzes theory of the plane of immanence. Chaosmosis and autopoiesis have an oscillatory rel ationship: a coming and going at infinite speed between chaos and complexity that is much like the relationship between virtual and actual images ( Chaosmosis 75). They are not an opposed binary, but instead irreconcilable while also inseparable. What Gua ttari describes as chaosmic immanence is not identical to Deleuzes plane of immanence, being more like the principle of decomposition that allows for the recognition and existence of pre personal singularities Guattari describes it as an umbilical point deconstructive, detotalizing and deterritorializing which is necessary for the existence of a world ( Chaosmosis 80). Chaosmotic immanence does not describe an unordered
116 set of things (singularities, data, etc.) waiting to be put into order, but a prod uctive chaotic decomposition that processually allows for new structures to emerge. The emergence of these new structures is autopoiesis, or self -generation. When a thing produces something external to itself, like a factory building a car, it is, in biolo gist Francisco Varellas terms, engaging in an act of allopoietic genesis. Guattatri, who borrows Varellas terminology, is more interested in self -creation or autopoiesis than in allopoiesis. When a brush leaves ink on paper, that is allopoiesis. When t he marks on the paper create an image, that is autopoeisis. Varella applied his concept of autopoesis only to living systems, but Guattari, in considering it as a powerful conceptual tool, pairs it with his own concept of deconstructive chaosmosis. The umbilical point of chaosmic immanence is doubled in an autopoietic node that generates the conceptual and existential apparatus by which we produce meaning (Chaosmosis 80). Chaosmosis and autopoiesis are inextricably connected with perception, thus their application to comics is as a concrete microcosm of their general function. Deleuzes concepts of the plane of immanence and pre personal singularities, combined with Guattaris concepts of chaosmosis and autopoiesis, offer the beginnings of a non -reductive model for considering comics and other visual media in light of their specific visual details and the relationship of those details to the narrative and aesthetic effects of the compositional whole. This technique allows us to avoid the errors that may res ult from presuming that the properties of detail and composition are commensurable, or of ignoring one in favor of the other and treating them as unrelated.
117 The details, the pre personal singularities of the page (screen, canvas, image, et al.) do not immediately offer themselves up to us. We must take them apart, isolate them, create them as singularities, through an act of chaosmosis, understood here not as the active taking apart of an image but as the freeing of vision that allow the singularities therein to come apart and display themselves. Only then does the function of the page as a plane of imm[a/i]nence reveal itself. This inbetween moment of becoming does not create a whole, it allows for the immanent possibility of one. An act of autopoiesis is required to create the concepts that will give the singular details of the page some conceptual and compositional meaning. This autopoeietic act is an act of the page that is permitted by the reader and not an act of the readers decision, so it, like ch aosmotic breakdown, is intersubjective rather than subjective. The as a whole meaning that emerges cannot coexist with the details of the page, so we must decompose concepts and meaning alike in order to see again the singular details of the page, not a s results of the whole but in light of the meanings and forms we are now dissecting. Chaosmosis occurs through the simple act of reobservation without subjection to meaning when one allows the autopoietic whole to emerge again, it is not the same whole on e had before, and does not mean the same thing. Neither one is properly first. In Chaosmosis Guattari describes a psychological and ontological theory in which chaosmosis and autopoiesis cycle constantly and at infinite speed. In order to use them as a technique for media criticism, it becomes necessary to slow down and consciously move between them, at various self -conscious levels of composition (panel, page, and book, to cite three possible autopoietic frames). The result is visual close reading of a
118 highly intensive sort. For example, what is said in a word balloon could be considered in an autopoietic phase but analysis must not then proceed as if that recognition was natural or universal. The shape, size and style of letters and their positions on the page become apparent in a chaosmic phase, and the letters acquire an equal footing with all of the other marks on the page. Another autopoietic phase might find symbolic meaning in the style of the lettering, such as a switch from a simple sans -serif style to a stylized font to indicate a formal or self -important mode of speech. A further chaosmic phase might reveal inconsistencies of style that an autopoietic phase then could proceed to interpret. As there is no synthesis that unites the autopoieti c and the chaosmic in a singular meaning, there is no limit to the iterability of the cycle except for human limits of persistence, patience, and persuasion. The Pool of Time in Alex Robinsons Too Cool to be Forgotten The reactions readers will have to Al ex Robinsons graphic novel Too Cool to be Forgotten may depend upon how much time they are willing to spend on a few specific pages. If subjected to analysis of imm[a/i]nence in terms of chaosmosis and autopoesis, its pages reveal complexities of characte r and visual narrative structure that make Too Cool much more than the enjoyable but easily typecast second chance teen/family drama it may appear to be to a casual reader. The effect of such a close reading is by turns eerie, enlightening and wrenching, as well as illustrative of the function and potential of time in comics. By the end, both linear chronology and the conventions of time-travel narratives must be abandoned in favor of a kind of time that comics are especially good at depicting, time as the disturbed surface of a pool, a mode of thought that requires that we wed the aforementioned techniques to vector analysis in order to theorize the expansion of the arrows, or ripples, of time that constitute the divergent
119 process of the narrative. Other comics creators, including Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, have explored this kind of time, but there is no better application than in Robinsons latest work. The best place to begin is at the place/moment that time acquires its consistency in the narrative. Page 12 of Too Cool depends on two devices for its effect: concrete poetry and rudimentary cryptography (see Figure 31). The composition of page 12 gives us the face of the storys protagonist, Andy Wicks, rendered not in line art but in lines of hand -l ettered text. There are three major aesthetic and narrative components to the page: the horizontal lines of text that form Andys face on the left hand side of the page, the heavy use of empty white space in contrast, and the upside -down and backwards diagonal lines of text that fill the empty space on the right hand side of the page. Page 12 functions as an in-between moment of the comic: if it were omitted, its loss, though significant, would be undetectable. Page 11 features a middle aged Andy submitting skeptically to hypnotherapy in a last ditch attempt to quit smoking, and page 13 alone is a sufficient transition to Andys high-school days, which he is forced to relive. Page 12 doesnt even occupy a specific place in the chronology of the narrative. No t despite, but because of this, it is one of the most interesting pages in the book. The horizontal lines of text describe Andys thoughts as he is trying to focus and relax as directed by the therapist, and feed into his rejecting the technique as not working on page 13, only to discover that hes not in the therapists office, but in his high schools library, on page 14. The diagonal lines of text, however, disrupt and complicate this setting, and it is here that a close reading is likely to diverge fr om a casual one.
120 Robinson does nothing to make it easy for us to read those lines: in addition to the words being written upside down and backwards, the letters are not flipped, so reading the text in a mirror would put the order of the letters right, but would render them backwards. Also, many words are split between lines without use of a hyphen, and the convention breaks up in the last few lines (reading from bottom to top). A casual reader might skip over this section entirely. This nominally encrypted text is, however, entirely readable: the lettering is clear; none of the text is missing or cut off; spacing between words is, with a few exceptions, very regular; and ellipses separate the fragments. The diagonal text is nothing but fragments, seemingly of high -school conversations. Though nonessential, these fragments set the tone for the flashback/time travel portion which comprises the bulk of the story. They are repeated later in Too Cool as dialog, producing a sense of dj-vu in the reader when they reappear and are given a context. That, however, is not the whole of their effect on the comic. In Chaosmosis, Flix Guattari describes universes of reference such as mathematics as the incorporeal domains of entities that we detect at the same time that we produce them, and which appear to have been always there from the moment we engender them (17, emphasis mine). The encrypted text on page 12 constitutes just such an incorporeal universe for the narrative of Too Cool linearly preceding contextualization and creating the illusion of that narrative having always been there by inscribing its fragments into a universe of reference for the reader. Much as one comes to the book with personal universes of reference, such as ones own high school experiences, the book gives the
121 reader this universe of reference through seemingly unimportant phrases, producing a relationship between the pre-individual singularities of the page that gives rise to a life. Given that a life is not immanence to life [...] A life is the immanence of immanence, absolute immanence, it is all the inbetween and indeterminate things, in their constant shifting, that give a life to a person ( Pu re Immanence 27). Taking not one but all of the pages of Too Cool as a plane of imm[a/i ]nence, and the page 12 fragments that we have already described as constituting a universe of reference from the moment they are read, those fragments are singular and unmistakable, but not personal, not associated with any character until they appear, la ter, in word balloons. Until they are actualized in this way, they remain virtual, and in becoming actualized, they give a life to the characters and narrative. This analysis might seem to suggest that all comics should have a page 12 and that it is a flaw if they do not, but nothing could be further from the truth. Each page enacts a form of the same creation of a universe of reference, and the singularities of that page give it a life. What is remarkable about page 12 of Too Cool is threefold: one, th e degree to which it is a model for the way universes of reference are inaugurated; two, the degree to which it produces an effect that is not local to the page, but distributed throughout the book; and three, the specific effects it has in terms of the bo oks relationship to time. Too Cool has neither a commonplace linear relationship between time of reading and diegetic time, nor the simple flashback/time travel structure it seems at first to follow. Even as the fragments of page 12 spread themselves ou t across the pages of Too Cool horizontally through the entirety of the book, the compositional elements of pages
122 106 and 107 dig down into the otherwise imperceptible chthonic depths of the narrative (see Figure 32). In The Logic of Sense, Deleuze cons iders the opposition between Lewis Carrolls poetic nonsense and the schizophrenic writing of Antonin Artaud, the former emitted at the surface, the latter carved into the depths of bodies (84). Bodies are at stake on those pages, as it is there that A ndy begins to deal with the impending death of his father. Pages 106 and 107 are divided into two rows and three columns of panels, each one the same rectangular shape. Taken as a compositional whole, they function as portraits, 106 of Andys ailing father, 107 of teenage Andy, but only the bottom center panel of each page is, taken individually, part of a face. All the other panels represent scenes objects or moments, presumably from Andys life with his father. By itself, the top left panel on page 106 is a map of the southeastern US, focused on Florida and Georgia. As part of the page as a compositional whole it is part of Andys fathers head: the aforementioned States become hair, the Atlantic his face, and the Gulf of Mexico his ear. Two chaosmotic -a utopoietic cycles are necessary for full recognition of these pages: the move from mark to the autopoietic image of each panel, and the deterritorialization of those meanings to allow for the autopoesis of the page (the portraits). Whether one sees the faces first or the images (state maps, etc.) that compose them, one must reject, or, more precisely, suspend one's recognition of the one in order to recompose the marks on the page into the other image. This is no mere optical illusion, a duck that is also a rabbit; it is a perfect example of how the oscillation of chaosmosis and autopoesis produces different results when the outlines of the autopoietic form change: in this case, from panel to page. Similar analyses can be performed comparing, for example, pa ge to work.
123 This recognition of the marks on the page is also crucial to avoiding the mistake of seeing these pages as simple optical illusions or, worse, double entendres. The marks on the page are, taken for themselves, neither states nor hair. They are the pre personal, pre-individual singularities that give life to the page. Taken at the level of the panel, they compose scenes from a life: t he parrot in the top center panel of page 107, for example, is presumably a pet but is otherwise unmentioned in th e narrative. It cannot be a specific parrot, as it is unnamed and without place or role in the narrative, but it is a singular one. The baiting of a fishing hook in the bottom -right panel of the same page is similar: t his is the only moment when fishing appears in Too Cool and it cannot be placed in terms of history or ego. The portraits are composed of these singularities on two levels: f irst, they are made up of the same marks on the page, and require that we be able to see those marks as part of the page as a whole and not just as a collection of independent or linear panels. Secondly, the free -floating contents of each panel (Florida, parrot, etc.) literally compose the figures of Andy and his father. To the degree that we understand these portraits as narratively constituting Andy and his father, the scenes and things dug out of an unknown and unknowable past are the pre individual singularities that give each of these characters a life on the pages plane of imm[a/i]nence. Sense does not exist in the depths Deleuze describes sense as a surface effect, being inseparable from the surface which is its proper dimension ( Sense 72). On the sur face of the page, the plane of imm[a/i]nence, an image can be given life by the graphemic singularities of which it is composed, while simultaneously functioning as a singularity in producing another life.
124 This is one of the functions of visual narrative t hat both textual narrative analysis and linear panel based analysis of comics tend to miss. Andy and his father are composed of images that the reader will never know more about, signs whose significance is lost into the churning chthonic depths of a life together that we barely glimpse in this page. At the same time, they are nothing and can be nothing but what is on the page. The illusion of depth, of a past, is a Deleuzian virtual image constructed by the reader in interaction with the actual images, such as a worm and a fishhook, on the page. Even this is not the limit of what pages 106 and 107 tell us. Sentimentality would encourage us to ascribe not only specific memorable contexts to the contents of each panel, but also the false warmth of a Kodak moment. But the oscillation between the chasosmotic churning of singularities and the alchemical coagula of the autopoietic ordering of those singularities into a compositional whole undermines such a reading. The fragments of expression in the bottom center panels are not happy. Andys father bites his lip on page 106, and Andy has a slight frown and narrowed eyes in the matching panel on page 107. That frown becomes more pronounced when we see it completed in the bottom right panel as a hand baiting a fishhook. There is no next moment after the scene with the fishhook and worm in the narrative, but the context threatens mishap: Andys finger pierced by mistake? Or perhaps, as the stubbly chin and worn, hairy fingers suggest, the person with the hook and worm is Andys father. If so, this scene could be one of childhood horror seeing his father as violent for the first time in the banal act of using live bait. The could be is crucial, as the events referred to lurk below or outside of the page, and they cannot be retrieved by looking deeper into the page. Nonetheless, in the context of these
125 pages and their place in Too Cool it would not be unreasonable for a perceptive reader to supply them. In the top center panel of page 106, we see a class ic father -son activity: baseball. An unseen batter has swung and missed and the ball is in the catchers mitt. Again, a conventionally cheerful interpretation is counterindicated, and not just because teenage Andy is a nerdy outsider and not a jock. The mitt and ball form Andys dads eye, and the bat his eyebrow, bent away in confusion or sadness, an affective resonance that is only enhanced as the motionlines in the panel become wrinkles on the page. The fact that the scene shown is a strike rather than a home run resonates with the text on the page: In 1983, my Dads klutziness turned into my Dads A.L.S. Lou Gehrigs disease (106). The baseball metaphor runs through Lou Gehrigs disease and into the idea of Andys dad striking out, a metaphor that tur ns the faceless catcher into Death. Pages 106 and 107 constitute a vertical distribution of time, back and away from the horizontal flow of the pages of the book. Rather than perpetuating the common misrecognition that the panel works like a frame of f ilm, capturing part of a hypothetically complete world behind the panel, they remind us that there is an alien and unknowable depth beneath the page, an imperceptible space/time, except for these images where it irrupts into (our) consciousness. These pages of Too Cool are not unique in behaving this way, but they are exemplars of this behavior, just as page 12 is an exemplar of the horizontal (but not purely sequential) life of the narrative. The inverse of pages 106 and 107 can be found in Too Cool as well, in the form of a space/time above the page that depends on our privileged distance as readers. It is also a form of compositional recognition of the page that depends not on Platonic or
126 even pseudo-Platonic forms or absolute boundaries, but on for ms that project a false image of their own importance above the page. The best example of play with this concept of forms above the page is on pages 86 through 90, culminating on page 89 (see Figures 33 through 3-5). On pages 82 and 83, teenage Andy has just refused a cigarette, changing his own personal history, as he remembers this night as the occasion of his first smoke. Feeling that he has accomplished what he came back to do, he drifts off while being driven home. The surreal sequence that follows depends on the readers recognition of certain elements of the page as forms and on those forms failure to function as such. Taken as a compositional whole, page 86 is a spiral. Formed of a three by three grid of panels, the center panel contains nothing but the spiral, while all the peripheral panels combine it with other visual elements. This gives the page a countervailing narrative flow circular, along the spiral. The importance of this appears on page 90, which changes the meaning of pages 86 through 89. In addition to this unusual spiral structure, the middle row of page 86 has inset panels in its first and third grid panels. These panels are akilter, neither square with the rest of the page nor perfectly rectangular. They also exceed the bord ers of the panels they are set in. The first such inset panel shows teenage Andys face and the second shows middleaged Andys face. Prior to this page, the only time Robinson has used panels that were not perfect rectangles, aligned square with the page, is on pages 72 and 73, the scene of alcohol and hormone muddled makingout, where Andys difficulty restraining himself is depicted by the curving, phallic arc of the pages center row of panels (see Figure 3-6). The page layout depicts Andys erect pen is, complete
127 with engorged head and, in the upper left hand corner of this two page spread, thatched shading for pubic hair. Irregular panels seem to be associated with altered states, a notion reinforced by the bottom row on page 86, where a small silhouette, similar to the outline of middle aged Andy, appears close to the center of the spiral and is repeated larger and further out from the center, sprawled out across all three panels of the bottom row. In the middle panel, inset within the middle of the large silhouette, is a face that we have not previously seen in the book. Despite this, it seems to be Andy at some in-between age: n ot only is it inset in Andys body, but the features are much like middleaged Andys, the receding hairline anticipates m iddle aged Andys male pattern baldness, and it has the same relaxed expression as teenage and middleaged Andy in the irregular panels. Only by reading back from later in the book do we see that it is not Andys face but his fathers that appears here, em bedded in Andys body. We do not see Andys fathers face again until page 104, and never in the same detail and from the same angle until page 113 (see Figure 3-7). Andy looks at family photographs on pages 46 and 47, and one of those photos includes his father, but Andy doesnt think about his father, musing instead on the death of Noodles, a beloved pet dog (see Figure 3-8). As a result, we only get to see part of his fathers facethe panel is centered on Noodles, and all of Andys thought balloons are below Noodles, rather than near the top of the panel (as is most common). The dog, and its death, intervenes between Andy and his fathers death. Neither Andys father nor his death are mentioned. Narratively, this scene can be read as an instance of negation or substitution: unbearable grief over the soon-to -come
128 loss of the father sublimated as grief over a pet that died shortly before the time Andy has traveled to. Page 87 is another threeby three grid, as are pages 88 and 89. But it is much stranger than page 86. First, it is part of a strong compositional whole with its facing page, as the spiral continues into page 87 from its center in the middle panel of page 86. The curving arcs of the progressively larger rings of the spiral have largely displac ed Robinsons characteristic black fills; the bottom row and the middle and right panels of the middle row are largely occupied by a single, brokenup word balloon in which only part of a word that might be Andy and of another that might be wake are visible. Most unusually, middle aged Andy floats above the top left, top middle and center panels. Sequential narrative between panels breaks down entirely on this page, as the representational figure is not engaged in any clear activity nor is he located in any particular panel. This is unlike most pages of comics, wherein the panels can be read as above or closer to the reader than their contents, a notion that feeds into the illusion of a world behind the page. There is some sense of narrative progress between pages 87 and 88, as 88 is very similar but continues its compositional unity with pages 86 and 87, seeming to be further out on the spiral, and the figure of middle aged Andy is larger or closer, spread across the entire middle row of the page. He is still floating above the panels. Page 89 is the final page in this sequence, and it is here that the idea of an above of the page is crucial, because it is here that the illusion of Andy floating above the page decomposes. The top row and the lef t and middle panels of the middle row still contain the spiral, but it is replaced by a diagonal slash in the right panel of the middle
129 row, and that slash grows wider across the bottom row. There is an Andy on this page, but he is rendered too large to fi t on the page, and is cut off at the outside borders of the grid of panels (the lines that compose this Andy do not bleed to the margins). This breaks the illusion of him floating above the page, but a more radical disruption is coming: Andys upside-down head is in the lower -leftmost two -by -two subgrid of panels, and it is partially broken up by them. On a narrative level this can all be read as representing Andy waking up not in the diegetic present (middle aged) but from a dream of returning to that present. The commingling of Andys head with panel borders, his slit eyes (they were completely closed on pages 86 through 88), and the widening slash in each of the last four panels of the page all suggest slow awakening. The fuzzy image of Andys mom say ing, Come on, Andy... wake up, I need to go... in the last panel is just confirmation. The reason this interpretation is possible, however, is more subtle, and depends on the above of the page. The panels on page 89 resume some of their narrative funct ion, but their privileged ontological status is permanently thrown into question by the panels whose borders are commingled with Andys head. On pages 87 and 88, the importance of the panels was not in question because it was rejected entirely as a narrati ve device in favor of the continuing spiral and a page -to -page sequentiality. The behavior of the panels on these pages is one of recognition of their failure as ideal forms or Kleinian good objects, which are complete in themselves and lack nothing. Del euze notes how, falsely, the good object posits itself as having always preexisted in a higher plane, above meaning or sense which is constituted on the surface ( Sense 191). In comics, the panel often functions as a good object, playing at ontological
130 pr iority and universality. When Robinson draws our attention to the arbitrary and conventional nature of panels on pages 86 through 89, they lose their illusionary priority and transparency. The convenient reading of panels to denote passage of time fails, a nd the image of time on the page loses its prior consistency, becoming literally as well as narratively a dreamtime, where the conventions of progress and linearity do not apply. On page 89, the panels begin to resume their conventional function, but are c ompromised by their chaosmotic commingling with the character of Andy in the process. Page 90 returns entirely to Robinsons normal techniques, as Andy realizes that he is still stuck reliving his teen years, but the failure of the panels on page 89 rema ins part of the autopoietic character of the whole of Too Cool. The character of Andy has no comprehension of his existence as a comic book character. Too Cool is not metafictional in that sense. But the representation of Andy awakening on page 89 is highly metafictional, as it depends on our recognition that pages 86 through 88 were abnormally structured, visually, for this work of comics, and page 89 tells us how Robinson is productively abusing his own formal conventions to tell us not only that Andy is waking up, but why Andy is waking up still as a teen and not back to normal. We see the singular marks on page 89, in particular the panel borders that are disrupted but not obliterated by the presence of Andys head, as part of forms that are projected off the page and into our consciousness. Neither these specific panels nor panels in general have any natural privilege, or they would not be disruptable by mere content. If the ontological superiority of the panel is not given, then the rejection of the panels on pages 87 and 88 is not merely an illusion, but evidence of a different kind of narrative structure, or truth. The narrative structure of
131 these p ages is, as we have stated before, an expanding spiral. On page 86, middle aged Andy appears on the right hand side of the spiral, and teenage Alex on the left. As we move to pages that are further right, we keep pace with middleaged Andy and forget teenage Andy until page 90, where the collapse of the narrative spiral pops teenage Andy back to the front. We also forget Andys father, who, embedded in Andys shadow (or, perhaps, his own) drops off the bottom of the page after page 86. He is displaced further from the dream than teenage Andy, only reappearing again much earlier and later. Taking the page as a plane of imm[a/i]nence, the actual singularities on the page can contribute to the virtuality of the understood visual narrative and its structure, even as their virtuality constitutes the life of the page. This is at the heart of Too Cool s relationship to time. Time, in Too Cool to be Forgotten, is not a vector, nor a river, nor a twoway street. Time is a pool, a surface, has two dimensions: horizontal from page to page and vertical, above and below (but never in front of or behind ) the page. My use of the concept of time as a pool comes in part from the notion of time that Alan Moore presents in his graphic novel about Jack the Ripper, From Hell wher e the Ripper killings produce ripples, related events, not just afterward, but before the event in question. For Moore, this is based on Stephen Hawkings notion that space-time is a complete, self -repeating whole, and that cause and effect are therefore reversible. As he puts it in an interview with Dave Sim that first appeared in Sims Cerebus comic: Spread out from this [the murders], there are [sic] a distribution of points that seem on first glance to have a relationship to the central point of impac t [...] These points are seemingly randomly and evenly distributed to either side of the impact zone, which is to say in the past that precedes the event and the future that comes after it. The event is seen as a strange sort of four dimensional shape or entity. ( Extraordinary Gentleman 314)
132 Regardless of ones views as to the true nature of time, this technique produces insights into the relationship between events before and after a chosen key event, and is one way of disrupting the illusion that shoc king events, like the Ripper murders, come out of nowhere. Moore compares major historical events to casting a stone into a relatively -still pond, but he does not explore the most interesting implication of his metaphor. If time is like the surface of a po ol, then time is not a vector, that is, time is not a river, but a twodimensional plane in a threedimensional field. This is already the way that space time has come to be explained since Einstein. The inaccurate but easily grasped image of a rubber sheet, stretched and curved in a threedimensional space helps physics students understand how space and time are warped by gravity, or more accurately, how massive bodies like planets warp space time, thus producing the effect we call gravity. The image of time as a pool is similarly inaccurate but -helpful in understanding how time functions in complex visual narrative structures, such as Too Cool The distribution of singularities from page 12 both constitutes a horizontal structure of the comic and, along with the dj-vu it produces, reminds us that that horizontal distribution does not produce a single forward vector of time: the flat space -time of the comic is all accessible to us, if not simultaneously, at least in any order. This, according to Grant Morrison (personal conversation) is the fundamental structure of comics: t he characters, scenes and dialog are all there, waiting for us to flip to any page. The depths of time that we glimpse fleetingly on pages 106 and 107 are not in any sense before the first page of Too Cool as the narrative world described in the book cann ot precede the book, but it can present itself as having always existed (as a universe of
133 reference). These pages instead tell us something of what is below the comics page in general, that unmappable territory that can only be inferred and never discovered by the reader. By taking us to the edge of this bottomless pit, and dropping the context of each panel in, Robinson demonstrates that the page cannot be the window to a complete and coherent world. The presence of an imperceptible below of the page, detectable, like a black hole, only by its effects on what is present on the page both requires and proves that there is no world behind the page, that there is no behind the page at all. Pages 8689 demonstrate the necessity of a projected above the page (and the absence of ideal forms on the page) through the narrative use of visual elements of the page that normally perform metanarrative functions, which requires readerly recognition of the function they are not performing in order for them to perfo rm their new function. That is to say that the normal function of panel borders must first be recognized to understand the page. Then that normal function must be suspended to allow us to read the page, and that suspension reveals that lines that look like panel borders are not always projected: that they are not the good objects they masquerade as. Time then moves along any number of vectors on this plane: n ot only does it recede into pages 106 and 107, it also constitutes an anchor that Andys lif e on the page can swing around. The image of Andys father is pushed horizontally out of the comic on page 86, but also up above the page, allowing his face to bounce off the resistant surface of pages 46 and 47 (where he is given a body but no face) even as it lands and burrows down into page 106. When page 12 takes us out of what can be described diegetically as the frame story and into Andys teen years, we are not reliving his memories, though the hypnosis model suggests it. Neither are we traveling bac k in
134 time, though the presence of things in the past that Andy did not know were there suggests this. Andys real teen years are lost beneath the page, revealed only narratively by recognition and contrast. The sense of dj -vu produced when a phrase f rom page 12 is encountered produces an eerie illusion of familiarity for the attentive reader, and every time Andy remembers people, places, things and events, they are transformed into irruptions of his lost original past. But Andy is not reliving his past, either though hypnosis or time travel: his past is coming into being through his memory of it and the changes he is making to it in the narrative. His original teen years are something constructed at a tangent to the relived narrative of Too Coo l, along what is not a parallel timeline, but an intersecting one. That is why pages 106 and 107 function as an anchor: a ll the scenes from an unknowable life, and all the inferences suggested therein are not a matter of recognition of sameness to Andys undrawn real teen years or any of the points of difference that the narrative turns on. Instead, they are the point of intersection between these two incommensurable lives, narratives, times. There is nowhere else for Andys real past to exist: i t is otherwise not on the page, and nothing that is not on the page can be said to be in the book, even though the book gives it a place in a universe of value it inaugurates. It resides below and outside pages 106 and 107, an unmappable tangent vector in the p ool of time. The pool of time acts as a Deleuzian transcendental field to the page as a plane of imm[a/i]nence, just as it itself acquires the properties of a plane of immanence when considered from the readerly perspective of the comic taken as a composit ional whole. Put in simpler terms, just as the page acquires life from the marks
135 on it, that life is animated by the readers interaction with it an interaction that is anything but simple or self apparent. Two Regimes of the Comics Page: Cutting Up and Si nking Below The comic page most directly invokes Lacans imaginary order through its pictorial dimension (its visual images); the symbolic order through its linguistic dimension (its letters, words, and syntax); and the real through the interruptions or cuts in the body -space of the page which leave blank spaces between the panels that correspond to (or mark the absence of) events that are assumed to be occurring between the panels.2 Any attempt to keep these three orders separate immediately breaks down, however. Donald Ault Imagetextuality: Cutting Up Again, pt. III par. 1 (footnote in original) In considering the comic book page as a plane of imm[a/i]nence, an affinity can be detected between the chthonic below the page and the Lacanian re al of the page, as theorized by Donald Ault. The former is manifest only in those structures on the surface of the page that evoke the unknowables, the absent foundations that undergird the seeming stability and order of surface signification. The latter appears particularly in the seams and fissures of comics narrative, the panel borders and gaps that are not actually instances of the real, but are its index: Interruptions between panels cannot be straightforward transcriptions of the real, which, for Lacan, is that which resists symbolization absolutely (Cutting Up, par. 2). When the structures of the page are functioning normally, these spaces between panels do not complete, but instead incomplete the page and the narrative: There is nothing in t his space, but it introduces discontinuities into the spaces of representation and allows the panels to assert themselves as fragments. (Cutting Up, par. 6). This incompletion of the page, this fragmentation, lends a reality, a Deleuzian actual, to what is presented, and it is here that the Deluzian below of the page and the Lacanian real of the page relate.
136 The Aultian comics page is cut up by white or empty space, what might be called, though only in the most problematic sense, extra-diegeti c space or non representational space. To refer to that space as the index (in the Peircian semiotic sense) of the real (in the Lacanian psychoanalytic sense) might be the briefest way to define it accurately. The Peircian index is a bit like a pointer in computer programming: It is connected to its object not by visual similarity (for Peirce, that would be an icon) but because it directs interpretation toward its object. The Zen Buddhist notion that Zen teaching is not Zen but a finger pointing at the moon is applicable here, as the Lacanian real is precisely unrepresentable, so the unrepresentable of the comics page cannot, ipso facto, be represented. But it can be pointed to, which is what the blank space on the page does. These spaces correspon d to (or mark the absence of) events which are presumed to be occurring between the panels (Cutting Up, par. 1). For Ault, it is this absence or lack that defines the way these spaces functionthe real being unrepresentable, and not merely unrepresent ed. This is like the chthonic below of the page, the depths which Deleuze contrasts with sense as a property of the surface in The Logic of Sense. Both sense and nonsense in the vein of Lewis Carrolls works are surface properties, sustained by tension with the self -devouring depths, characterized by Antonin Artauds schizophrenic and a-signifying poetry. Artauds nonsense is not silly; it is uninterpretable, breaking Peirces triadic semiotics of sensation (firstness), reaction (secondness) and inter pretation (thirdness) by rebounding upon sensation over and over again. In articulating a below of the page, we not only reject the idea of there being something behind the page (of the panel acting as a window), but we see instead a multitude of
137 finge rs pointing, though what they could be pointing at is forever obscured by an intestinal grinding. The idea of a below of the page is not exactly a super or sub -set of the Aultian-Lacanian real of the page, but a consequence of considering that theory in t erms of Deleuzes articulation of the logic of sense. The Aultian comics page is demonstrably cut up; the Deleuzian below of the page examines what sinks below, as well as what is pushed or propped up. One particular trait of the Aultian comics page is that it rejects the notion of the panel as Peircian legisign, the legisign being a rule of interpretation (a function of Peircian thirdness). In doing so, it breaks radically with most interpretations of how the comic book page functions, as they tend to presume that the panel signifies as a singular, consistent and easily describable rule of reading, much like the property of text that one word follows another, or else that it serves the same mechanical rule of a cell of film, where each image instantly follows the next. If we understand the space between panels as indexing the unrepresentable real, then their behavior cannot follow a single proscriptive rule. Sequentiality of panels, an assumption of most theories of comics, cannot be necessary. Even the integrity of the panel itself cannot be assured, as the imm[a/i]nence of the real overturns both the carefully structured order of the symbolic and the identificatory order of the imaginary. The argument that panels are not inherently privileged in comics is n ot contrary to the structures of the Aultian page, but resultant from it. The Muse or the Viper: The Chaosmotic Female in Les Bas Bleus and Cerebus In Frank Stocktons 1882 short story, The Lady or the Tiger?, a young man is guided in a life or death choice by his lover, and the unanswered question of the storys title can be interpreted as a condemnation of women as fickle hearted and torn by
138 jealousy. Interpreted a different way, however, Stocktons story illustrates a key point in contemporary literary analysis: knowledge of character, intent and desire is not only insufficient to determine outcome and meaning, it can be functionally irrelevant. The content of a work is always in process, chaosmotically autopoietically rewriting itself. A statement of c haracter, intent or desire in a work is only a singularity whose meaning changes as the body it co -creates changes. In The Lady or the Tiger? Stockton explains the character of the princess in detail, but this only serves to confuse the reader as to wh ether she guided her lover toward certain death or toward marriage to one of her rivals. Moreover, and easy to miss in the explicit riddle of the princesss decision, there is the subtler riddle of the young man. We are told that he knows the princesss na ture, that he believes that she knows which choice is death and which is forced marriage, and that after her hands slight, quick movement toward the right he chooses the door on the right ( Lady or the Tiger 9). We do not know whether he hoped for a li fetime bound to another or a quick death. We are told in so many words that he understood her nature, which implies that he knows her dilemma, and thus implies that his decision was to abide by her decision and not to choose either life or death, but what the princess chose for him. But we do not even know whether he trusted her, because we cannot know whether he did what she advised: that is merely suggested by the parallelism of right to right. Who can say what such a gesture might mean between lovers? Ultimately, the question is not a choice; it is not only unanswered but unanswerable, and might as well be a conjunction the lady and the tiger. The princess is deterritorialized and is no longer herself she is the chaosmotic node of lady and
139 tiger. The truth of what comes out of the door does not exist asking is a false question, because what comes out at the end of the story is the irresolvable question. It is in that sense that Dave Sims Cerebus (1979 -2004) and Honor Daumiers Les Bas Bleus (1844) produce muse and/nor viper. Both of these works are, in some open, declared sense, misogynist. Sim, once best known as a defender of comic creators rights and an advocate of self -publishing, has since become infamous for declaring that women are emotional voids who devour male creativity and reason, and, more recently, that a feminist -homosexualist axis is taking over the world. Daumiers Les Bas Bleus is a series of caricatures for the generally progressive French newspaper Le Charivari tha t mocks bluestockings, a period term for women with intellectual, scholarly, literary and/or professional aspirations. The sexism in these works, and the censure their creators deserve, is neither in debate nor particularly interesting. Neither is any re demption germane, but only an act of justice of the sort Jacques Derrida was speaking of when he said that deconstruction is justice (Acts of Religion Force of Law 243). The chaosmotic node in these works is inevitably in their women who, despite their position and characterization, refuse to stay put. Meanings breed in images, spawning and eating their own young, just as they do in texts. As we continue to see, cartoons and caricatures tend to be taken as simple and transparent in meaning, unlike real art, which is accorded complexity or at least inscrutability. One recent example of this is the difference between reaction to cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in Jyllands -Posten, and the relative nonissue of the Supreme Court frieze depicti ng Muhammad among other great lawgivers like Charlemagne and Napoleon (see Figures 39 and 3 -10). Part of the difference is in the
140 lingering aura, in the Benjaminian sense, that the frieze retains as a unique work of art. This atmosphere of historical significance and irreplaceablility may not have been enough to protect the Bamiyan Buddhas from the Taliban, but it was sufficient to shelter Adolph Weinmans frieze from a short -lived removal campaign in the immediate aftermath of the Jyllands -Posten debacle. In theory, the issue is the same, a violation of Islams taboo on artists depictions of the Prophet (or, in some traditions, any person). That taboo itself has a complex history, but that history is immaterial here. The Jyllands Posten cartoons stirred more rage because they were new, because they were immediately accessible, and because they had no aura, not only by virtue of being reproduced but because they are of the sort of low art that only becomes itself through reproduction. But there is anoth er, unconsidered reason why they, even unseen, provoked outrage, and that is because people presumed they already knew exactly what these caricatures meant. Political and social caricature is no more necessarily simple or obvious in meaning than print satire, which is not to say that all caricature is visual satire. The art of caricature is the art of exaggeration, and of the grotesque, and it is almost always line art. All three of these contribute to its seeming obviousness, because the first two traits m ake the objects of caricature distorted and ugly, and most of all because of the flawed logic that connects simple, clear style to simple and clear meaning. Honor Daumiers caricatures are more detailed than those in the Jyllands -Posten, but they are part of a tradition of line art and reproduction that connects to the Muhammad caricatures and to Sims B&W ground -level comic Cerebus In order to analyze these images, one must not presume the primacy of the natural forms that appear at a casual glance. The
141 individual lines and marks on the page are only partially separable from forms, but once one recognizes them, the forms one sees are revealed as only a partially detanglable accretion of linework the marks on the page are not the discrete lines made by an artists pen, having become nets and spiderwebs in their unauratic existence as comics. A chaosmotic autopoietic close visual reading of Daumier and Sim severs the silver thread connecting them to universes of reference in which their work must be ob vious in meaning because it is caricatural in style and in which that meaning must be simple misogyny. This kind of analysis of Les Bas Bleus and Cerebus produces out of the obvious, something nearly the opposite: strong, interesting, independent, credible and likable female characters. It is not so much that these powerful women do not exist in an analysis of the work in terms of authorial intent or transparent meaning as it is that they cannot be thought there. The external universes of reference attac hed to the work by either of these forms of analysis produce single vision and the assumption that whatever is being said about these women, it cannot be good. Thus strength becomes unnatural manliness, power makes a woman into a cold bitch and independence gets stuffed into the mold of flightiness. In short, to read Les Bas Bleus or Cerebus in terms of authorial intent or on the presumption of transparency of meaning is to do them, and the women in them, violence. There is something monstrous, excessive about these women, and it may be intended to demean and mar, but it itself is not ugly. They exceed their narrative role and place, seeming in the case of Daumiers bluestockings to turn their imperfections
142 into character, and their ill -manners into a parody of mens expectations; and in the case of Sims Astoria and Jaka to embody something that is neither muse nor viper. In this image from Daumiers series of bluestocking caricatures we see three seated figures and one, standing, in their midst (see Figure 3-11). The standing woman holds a large script or something similar, and is in an animated pose, her face inspired or avid. Two of the seated figures appear to be women, one of whom has an intent expression, while the others is mostly obscured. The thir d, a man, is in the foreground, his back toward us and his head down, possibly asleep. The caption, translated, is as follows: The bluestocking reads her play. Act six, scene one... the theater presents, on stage, a tiger asleep in the desert... Rosalba m ov es along with difficulty as she pulls along with even more difficulty her five children and her old father. Rosalba f alls at the foot of a palm tree covered with coconuts and cries out in despair!... Heavens when will this torment end...(all the people listening, with lowered voices) and when will our torment end, oh heavens! The joke here, one often repeated in Daumiers Les Bas Bleus, is that women are melodramatic and boring writers who cannot write moving fiction. But without the text, there is no joke. If we take a closer look at the standing woman, we see that while she is not conventionally beautiful, neither is she ugly. Instead, as with most of Daumiers bluestockings, enough detail has been lavished on her to give her face character note the l ines that give her high, sharp cheekbones, and the dark curves that make her chin jut, but also the large deep circles of her eyes, and the gentler careful shading that makes her neck long and the contour of her collarbone visible. The combined effect in t his case is humanizing, more so than a perfect figure would bethese singularities give the figure a life, incarnated in a body whose uniqueness suggests unknowable
143 richness below the page. Given that caricature generally proceeds by exaggeration but also by simplification, and that the goal of propagandistic caricature is generally to dehumanize its targets (often by way of zoomorphism), the logical conclusion is that this is not a typical caricature. Another common joke in the series is women can act like men, but they cannot successfully perform mens work. At the same time, Daumiers art often gives the lie to that notion. If one imagines male figures of similar build and features them doi ng the same things that the women are doing in this imag e, it acquires an (anachronistic) resemblance to the homey art of Norman Rockwell (see Figure 312). Only the caption clarifies that women acting like men is futile: Here we are to write the first volume of our newspaper, The Extreme Literary Republican... what shall we knock off first? To start with... lets knock the whole thing off!... That futility does not inhere in the art. The bluestocking on the right does not appear to be despairing, but is hard at work, quill to paper and faint v-lines on her forehead indicating concentration, though Daumier often gives his bluestockings unattractive furrowed brows. Close examination of the woman on the left with the bun reveals that she is engaged in the difficult task of shaping a quill the curved black line is very close to her bulging eye, and her other hand grips something straight two simple lines that autopoietically become a knife or possibly a pair of shears. The only figure that can be visually read as giving up is the center figure. Seated between the other two and smoking a large cigar, she is not engaged in manual labor, but her expression is serious, the chunky line of her forehead and heavy drawn-down eyebrow suggesting the male stereotype of the office boss. The phallic cigar and pronounced A dams apple in her thick neck contribute to this figures
144 masculinity and authority, traits perhaps intended to indicate a threat to her womanhood that are simultaneously a threat to the idea that women cannot be manly and, by implication, do mens work. The semi androgynous figures here invite another anachronistic comparison, to Rosie the Riveter, whose ostensible purpose was to reassure women that they could do mens work, and whose masculinity was intended to be compatible with, not a perversion of, her femininity. The most common theme in these caricatures is the bluestocking as neglectful of her domestic work and, especially, as a bad mother. Note how the bluestocking in this image is barely present she is nearly consumed by the shadows around her, even as her husband and son are front and center (see Figure 313). The caption to this image connects to the first theme, mockery of bluestocking writing: [bluestocking:] Out! You dissolute child from hell! Let me compose my ode to the joy of motherhood in peace! [husband:] Its ok, its ok, hell be quiet! Im going to give him the strap in the other room (aside) the fact is, that of all my wifes works, this kid stirs up the most commotion in society!... Close visual analysis of the childs face reveals that the description of him as from hell! is less hyperbole than simple description. The long, sharp drawn-in brows and curving jowl lines are angry, even threatening and anything but cute. What completes the effect is a chaosmotic autopoietic transf ormation: the childs upper lip, considered as a mark on the page, is a sharp, white crescent shape that, when one looks at the childs face again, looks more like the jutting fang of a fiend or a vampire. Though also exhibiting drawn -down eyebrows and the forehead v lines that weve noted previously, the mothers expression is less terrible than the childs. She may have cause to be angrythe curtains behind her are absorbing her into them. The vertical lines that form and darken in the curtains continue unbroken into the
145 bluestockings dress and body, and in some places she is only distinguishable from the curtains because of the white scratchlines that outline her body, temporarily interrupting the lines of the curtains. These lines show a continuity w here we were expecting an absolute boundary. This could all be intended as a visual pun on the bluestocking mother as not there, but also suggests a great effort undertaken in order not to vanish into the domestic background, and, in another anachronisti c resemblance, resembles to the imagery and themes of Charlotte Gilmore Perkinss feminist 1892 short story The Yellow Wallpaper. Both Perkinss protagonist and Daumiers bas bleu experience boundary failure: t heir bodies are paranoid, invaded and sustained by their environments, the organs are continuously under attack by outside forces, but are also restored by outside energies, as Deleuze and Guattari put it in A Thousand Plateaus (150). In the first case, the shadowy female behind the wallpaper is really below the depthless surface of the wallpaper there is no behind the wallpaper that signifies in terms of the surface with its absurd, unblinking eyes and florid arabesque, reminding one of a Fungus (Yellow Wallpaper 16, 25). But the shadowy female that Perkinss narrator both connects to and cannot understand is part of her body, displaced to a trace on the wallpaper. She cannot know the shadowy female, because what is truly below the surface is unknowable. Beneath the outline of the shadowy female, in the chthonic depths of the wallpaper, lies a metonymic organ of the narrators body, something of herself that approaches the purity of a body without organs by virtue of its contents being indeterminable. It should be no surprise that Perkinss narrator ends by tearing down the wallpaper: it projects bars above itself that prevent the shadowy female from
146 escaping: she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through the pattern it s trangles so [...] if only the top pattern could be gotten off from the under one! As a legisign, a rule for interpretation that is more than a symbol of the oppression of women, it is the law that intervenes between her and the body without organs (Yello w Wallpaper 30). In the end, because the top pattern is only projected from the surface and not actually above it, and the under pattern with the shadowy female is not behind it, but a surface trace of an unrepresentable and unknowable (because it lac ks sense, a property of the surface) below, the only thing she can do is eradicate the surface, which she does, tearing the wallpaper down. She then passes below the surface, out of sense and into the shadowy female who is revealed to be one of many: Th ere are so many of those creeping women [...] I wonder if they all came out of the wall paper as I did? ( Yellow Wallpaper 35). The narrator had previously wondered if there was more than one shadowy woman, but now that she has become a shadowy woman, she is one of a pack, a multiplicity, you cant be one wolf, youre always eight or nine, six or seven. Not six or seven wolves all by yourself all at once, but one wolf among others, as Deleuze and Guattari explain multiplicity ( A Thousand Plateaus 29). S he is not herself anymore, she is one creeping woman among others and her behavior, motivations and thoughts are inexplicable to those who are not her others. It is impossible to say if the bas bleu and her curtains have as complex a relationship, if ther e are any number of bas bleus among the curtains, but the caricature is so accurate to the narrative of The Yellow Wallpaper, including the child that the mother cannot tolerate and the husband whose blame is sanctioned and sanctified by
147 his claiming that he is the victim of her irrationality, that if one were to remove the original caption and shade the curtains and dress alike in yellow, Daumiers caricature would seem an illustration of Perkinss story. The culmination of Daumiers ambivalence about hi s caricatures of women appears in this caricature, which presents a figure that may be the meanest and ugliest in the series (see Figure 314). At first glance, at least to a contemporary reader, this seems to be a bas bleu refusing to do housework, but a more attentive visual reading reveals that this is not a bas bleu but her husband, forced to carry a feather duster. Casual readers may only discover this fact when they read the caption: To think that Arsinoe wasnt satisfied with having her portrait don e, a daguerreotype made of her, and her biography written!...Now Ive got to pay three thousand franks for a bust of her in marble... its tough! The hardest part is that I have to dust off my wife every morning...and this wife of mine sure makes a lot of dust!... The jape here is that bluestocking ambition comes down to nothing more than female vanity, but something both countervalent and much more complex is taking place in this caricature. When we chaosmotically deterritiorialize the husbands face, the lines we find are sharp, like spears and arrows, immanent to violence. When we look at the face again, not as that of an ugly bas bleu but of a man staring at a bust of the woman we thought s/he was, those sharp lines render his brow pinched with hos tile intensity, his nose protuberant, pointing like an accusing finger, and the angry lines of his face that suck in toward his eye. The eye itself is sinister tiny, solid black and glassy, like a taxidermists fakes. He is even uglier as a man than she wa s as a woman: t he combed up receding hairline, the squared off ear and the multiple jowls are unattractive, but it is the jeering
148 turn of the mouth that completes the devilish quality of the face. In contrast, while there is something undignified about the marble bust with its acute smirk, it lacks the odd malice that seems to exist in the husbands face. The phallic nose is an arresting touch, as it is by far the most phallic, and the most masculine, thing about the figure. The answer to this puzzle lies in performing the same kind of analysis we applied to his face to the rest of his body. When we thought this figure female, the line that curves in from her jacket lapel implied a female breast, and we must return to the curving line to see that it has not changed just because we now know that the character is male. Similarly, but to a more pronounced degree, the generous curve of hip into buttock conforms with female proportions, and the flat drop of the figures groin is transformed by the v -shape formed by the characters hands, right where the pudenda would be. The feather duster, with its associations of womens work, completes the effect of making the body female, and, while it is long and narrow enough to be phallic, if so it is an impoverished phallus, slender and pointing down. The suggestion is that, if men are forced to do womens work they will become effeminate, the inverse of the women becoming masculine in the first bas bleu caricature we considered. Perhaps the underlying anxiety revealed by the graphic details of these two images is the fear that women are capable of and would enjoy mens work, and that it is men who are proud and petty, a truth revealed when they have to do womens work. In other caricatures, Daumier renders husbands in the presence of bluestockings as bemused or long-suffering, but in this private moment, the fear and anger bleed through the page like ink stains
149 A similar anxiety over emasculation, gender displacement and revelation of male pettiness can be found in the pages of Dave Sim and Gerhardts Cerebus Volume 9, Reads covers a crucial moment in the series, in part because it consists of both the ongoing comic and two serialized texts, each of which is independent of the comics plot. The first text series i s about author Victor Reid, and comes across as a veiled autobiography of Sims experiences with the comics industry, displaced into a part of the world of Cerebus the publishing house and bookstore, that we have never previously seen. The second takes th e form of an interaction between the reader and Viktor Davis, and is divorced from the fictional world of Cerebus entirely. The Viktor Davis section contains Sims infamous diatribe against The Devouring Rapacious Female Void ( Reads 253). The comics section contains a longawaited confrontation between Cerebus, Cirin and Astoria. Cerebus and Cirin are anthropomorphic Aardvarks, and each is in religious and political conflict with the other, though Cerebus is mostly motivated by a personal desire for pow er and wealth, whereas Cirin is attempting to create a female theocracy. A third Aardvark, the mysterious Suenteus Po, appears and tries to talk them out of bloodshed, which can only happen if they all give up their ambitions and mutual grievances. Astoria, the only human present, is a Kevilist, a term that Sim will later use as equivalent to feminist and pro -choice. Sims position on feminism is unmitigatedly hostile. Despite this, Astoria is the only one of the three to listen to and think about Pos words. As Po delivers his piece, we also get to see Astorias expression change as she listens, thinks and eventually agrees. Here she travels in three panels from bored superiority to surprised interest as Po catches her attention: Astoria. The moment you set foot outside that hotel...without an entourage,
150 without an army...without so much as a single bodyguard...at that moment, you were truly free ( Reads 62, see Figure 3-15). Over the next few panels, the handful of lines rendering Astor ias face flow through several expressions, as Po continues: Had you walked away from there into the lower city there to lose yourself among the masses of ordinary people...you would have remained free. Instead. Instead, you came here...and in doing so, you have traded the spiritual captivity of a political figure...for the more wretched imprisonment [ sic ] of a wouldbe messiah... ( Reads 62, see Figures 325 and 3-26). At the end of Pos speech we see on Astorias face a look of acceptance, and something that at least approaches enlightenment: [Astoria:] I [Po:] Once a profound truth has been seen...it cannot be unseen. Theres no going back to the person that you were. Even if such a possibility did exist...why would you want to? ( Reads 62, see F igure 3-16). Unlike Cirin, who is too committed to reconsider, and Cerebus, who is spoiling for a fight, Astoria finds she agrees with Po, and attempts to persuade Cerebus to give up his ambition. Her words seem to be a comment on Cerebus as a whole, and i ts title characters obsession with acquisition of power: But youll always find the same thing you found as prime minister, and, Im sure, as Pope: its a charade. A stifiling, [sic] insulating frustrating practical joke from Terim...or Tarim. Does it really matter whether its [sic] a God or a Goddess whos laughing at you? ( Reads 100, see Figure 3 -17). The rest of the 300issue long series confirms that, whether it should or not, it does matter, but Astoria, whose face is rendered in profile in all of these panels, faces backwards (against the direction of reading) and suggests a possibility that goes against the grain of the comic. Cerebus fails to understand this backwards speech, responding with
151 incomprehension, boredom, and ultimately, threats: No! no more talk! [...] You have two choices[:] One! You can shut up and leave[.] Two! You can shut up and DIE! ( Reads 945) In the final two panels on this row, a few small changes in rendering yield a large change in affect The image of Astoria in each of the previous four panels looks something like the panel on the left. In this case, a slight frown, a looseness in the lines that form the area around the eye and a slightly raised eyebrow give her a look of tired resignation, a what now? look. But the panel on the right presents a completely different Astoria with a few lines that shift her slight frown into a slight smile and give her a more focused gaze. In a few pages, Astoria will leave the pages of Cerebus and neither she nor Suenteus Po will return until the last issue of the series, over a decade later. But that smile and that look suggest that she is not simply giving up or retiring, but has found meaning in her own words, even if Cirin and Cerebus are deaf to divine laughter. Astoria, who r epresents better than any other character in Cerebus everything that Sim has, by this point in his writing, personally decried as wrong, achieves a personal epiphany and is allowed to leave both the temple and the comic unmolested, at least until the final issue, where Sim condemns most of his characters, including Cerebus, to some sort of hell. Jaka poses a more difficult problem. She weaves in and out of the story, and is clearly the love of Cerebuss life, but she is not the creature of his desires. Sim seems determined for much of the series to not allow their relationship to go forward, as in this scene from Cerebus book 10, Minds Cerebus is communicating with something that claims to be his creator, but not God, and calls itself Dave. Cerebus hears Dave as a
152 voice in his head and sees visions when Dave wishes it.9 Here, the Dave -daimon is showing Cerebus what married life with Jaka would be like. You've been married for a year and five months the daimon says ( Minds 205 see Figure 318 ). Jaka looks more than tiredshe looks miserable, and the daimon says that she is unhappy because Cerebus is her intellectual inferior, as well as violent and controlling. In this sequence, an even more distant and miserable looking Jaka is passive as the daimon answers Cerebuss question uh what happens now? Usually? You say masturbating under the covers...not for pleasure, of course for lubrication. If she isnt sufficiently lubricated when you try to mount her you accuse her of being frigid and then you're angry with her through the whole next day... ( Minds 208, see Figure 3-19). Whats going on here? Given Sims typology of women as Voids who destroy men through relationships, especially marriage (which he refers to as merged permanence) it seems backwards that it is Jaka who is destroyed when Cerebuss wishes are granted. Based on the fact that Jaka is consistently more sympathetic than Cerebus, Jaka must be an exception, something that Sim allows for: there are a few worthy females, the handful of muses in the nest of vipers. The Davedaimon states that Jaka is smarter, more practical and more ethical than the violent and appetitive Cerebus. By Minds readers have had ample opportunity to observe this for themselves: i t does no t contradict what has gone before. The Davedaimons stated goal is to convince Cerebus that Jaka deserves better than him and could not be happy with him. The route taken to this goal, however, is discomforting, if not flatly perverse. 9 To avoid confusion between this Dave and Dave Sim, I hereafter refer to this Dave as the Dave daimon, because he acts as an inner voice or guide to Cerebus.
1 53 Close visual analysis of Jakas face in the time for bed panel reveals several disturbing features. Sims linework causes her left eye to droop in a drugged or insensate fashion, and this suggestion is confirmed when one performs a vector analysis of he r eyelines they dont converge. It is nearly inconceivable that her eyes could be looking in the same direction, let alone at the same thing. This isnt bored, unhappy or merely mistreated woman, this image is of a Jaka broken, possibly even driven mad by unknown and unspeakable abuse. Her stare, and the readers knowledge that Cerebus is capable not only of murder, but also torture, hints at horrors far beyond those stated by the Dave-daimon, lurking below the page. This scene of quiet domestic horror para llels that of The Yellow Wallpaper, wherein the rest cure is revealed as psychological torture, and the image of the bas bleu vanishing into the drapes: t his Jaka is furniture, part of the bed, like the sheets and pillows. After this tableau, Cerebus demands that the Davedaimon make or show him, the difference being imperceptible, a Jaka who would always be happy with him. The results are, if possible, even more horrifying (see Figure 320). It isnt clear why, but her happiness seems to inspire Cerebus to violence: Jaka merely asks what she can do to make Cerebus happy, and he hits her. This leads her to ask Cerebus why he isnt happy, and he hits her again. This is supposed to be an object lesson for Cerebus about his unsuitability for Jaka, but the result is that Jaka becomes a victim of domestic violence. The Davedaimon attempts to minimize this scene with the disclaimer that the brutalized Jaka isnt real, thus projecting the daimon and the real Cerebus above the page into a higher realm of n arrative priority. There is, of course, no true space above the page, but only the convenience of the legisign as functional order (as with the
154 imputed integrity of panel borders). As a result, when subjected to a close visual reading, this projection falls flatter than most: Jaka is, like Cerebus and the daimon, already a fictional character, and her suffering is on the same plane of imm[a/i]nence as the daimons words, contradicting them. Something else happens in this scenario. The lines that form Jakas nose are deformed in a surprising way. The circular shape of the underside of her nose, the damaged wrinkling along the length of it and an inexplicable smallness to her smashedup nostril s reshape her nose into something like a snout, as if in parody of Cerebuss aardvark snout. Moreover, her right hand is distorted she only has four fingers in this rendering, whereas she is normally drawn with five. Cerebus, in the funny animal tradit ion, only has four fingers per hand. What emerges is that, in becoming a victim of Cerebuss temper, Jaka comes to resemble Cerebus, perhaps in the way dough comes to resemble the cookie cutter. If Astoria is Cerebuss not viper, Jaka is the corresponding not muse. She seems to inspire nothing but jealousy and violence in Cerebus, and, in general, the desire of men to possess her as a trophy or mascot, as well as a sex object. Rick, Cerebus, F. Stop Kennedy and her Uncle Lord Julius all behave as if she were a lucky charm the image, perhaps, of what a muse would be, but none of them benefit from treating her this way. On the other hand, she is quite capable on her own, and when she takes the initiative she tends to be successful. Even though, as we have seen, she is not safe from Cerebuss rage, she takes direct action to protect him from harm. Late in the series, in Cerebus book 13, Going Home some Cirinists plan to rescue Jaka from Cerebus by the simple expedient of having him killed when he goes ashore without her.
155 Jaka reasons this out just in time, and races to catch up with Cerebus, escorting him through a crowd of Cirinist soldiers who respect and love her too much to defy her regardless of their orders (see Figures 3-21). Closer examination of t he very masculine soldiers reveals that they are female. This is no surprise, as Cirinist soldiers are always female. But these soldiers are not wearing the face-covering headscarves of Cirinist soldiers or even the partial headscarves of nonmilitary Cirinists. They wear practical helmets that leave most of their face and neck visible, as well as much of their hair. With their jutting chins, strong, squashed noses, facial piercings, Venus -symbol tattoos and lack of visible sex traits, they conform to a specific stereotype of the bull dyke. By way of confirmation, some of them look at Jaka, who is classically femme in appearance, with worshipful awe, while symbolic hearts hover in the air and in one soldiers eyes. The Cirinists have long been established n ot as feminist in any contemporary sense, but as female-dominant ultra-conservatives, for whom all females remain children (Daughters) until they give birth (becoming Mothers). The unexplained and unexplored paradox of lesbian soldiers in such a societ y is similar to that of the cigar -smoking (female) boss in Daumiers caricature. Both images, after a superficial analysis, suggest that women should not be allowed into male jobs because they would be incompetent and become unattractively masculine, but attentive analysis shows that they actually convey competence and the idea that some women who might have no place in a more traditional society would flourish if allowed into these roles. In this case, the military becomes an acceptable locale for big, s trong, aggressive and homosexual women, just as all male armed forces have been for men with those traits since time immemorial.
156 Certainly theyre not less effective a younger Cerebus slew larger groups of armed men single handedly (during the comics form ative years as a Conan -parody), but was stymied by the Cirinists and is depicted here as in mortal peril. The only aspect of all this that appears to register with Cerebus is that he has to accept female protection, and to do so without a clue as to why. On this page, Cerebus is reduced to child status, his shortness exposed by his need to reach up in order to hold Jakas hand, his arm outstretched and his head craned around backwards in uncomfortable curiosity about this thing that Jaka, suddenly a surrogate mother, wont let him stop to explore (see Figure 3-22). The palpability of the danger Cerebus is in, rendered in part though use of perspective, confirms Cerebuss infantilization. In books 1-4 of the series, Cerebus was an unstoppable killing machine. Much as with Daumiers caricature of the husband with the feather duster, this image reveals a terrible fear of not being the man anymore, though this is not in the form of a becoming woman, but a more pure loss of dominance. That particular fear of bei ng sexually out of control emerges in Cerebuss nightmares, such as this one from Guys featuring Joanne, another woman Cerebus is involved with (see Figure 323). The combination of the diaper and the erection reveals Cerebuss fear of loss of masculinity and dominance through sex. The fact that Cerebus continues to seek out Jaka, the woman most capable of revealing his sexual immaturity, is perhaps telling as to what Jaka is neither muse nor viper, but lady and tiger, a creature whose existence Sim canno t admit to, but that he seemingly cannot help but represent. A Life on the Page This sort of analysis allows us to find a life on the page, contrary to our expectations and fears, something that is constantly, processually emerging and
157 becoming richer t hough the attention we (libidinally) invest in it. What emerges is not a personal determination of meaning, but a chaosmotic activity, as Blake put it to cleanse the doors of perception: a commitment to possibility, positionality, interpretation and mean ing. Visual narrative is not transparent, but rather so complex and nuanced that casual interaction requires a lack of thought about what the image perceived is constituted out of, and how those marks and lines inaugurate it. The need is only greater, therefore, to perform close visual analysis of comics, using such techniques as vector analysis and chaosmotic deterritiorialization in order to recognize their complexity and their becoming as images, their unceasing movement toward something incommensurable with their nature and constitution. This mode of analysis is by no means restricted to comics, being equally applicable to any image or series of images that have a narrative component or impulse.
158 Figure 3-1 concrete poetry and a universe of referenc e in Robinsons Too Cool to Be Forgotten. Image Top Shelf Productions, 2008
159 Figure 3-2 fragments of a life: the composition of Andys dad (left) and teenage Andy (right) out of moments of their shared history, the rest of which is lost beneath the page. Image Top Shelf Productions, 2008
160 Figure 3-3 pages structured primarily by lines other than panel borders, with Andys dad dropping off of the bottom of page 86 Image Top Shelf Productions, 2008
161 Figure 3-4 Adult Andys projection above the (normal) projection of the panel borders, and his recuperation into them Image Top Shelf Productions, 2008
162 Figure 3-5 return to the typical style of Too Cool to be Forgotten, after p. 86 -9 Image Top Shelf Productions, 2008
163 Figure 3-6 along the bottom of page 72, a wooden railing doubles as a panel border, and in the center of 72 -3, an unsteady, curving panel indicates both intoxication and male sexual arousal Image Top Shelf Productions, 2008
164 Figure 3-7 adult Andys face reflected in the portrait of him with his parents, though this scene takes place while he is teenage Andy. This is the first reappearance of Andys father since page 86 Image Top Shelf Productions, 2008
165 Figure 3-8 Teenage Andys first look at the pictures in his familys home. In the bottom right, what is shown in the panel and the thought balloon draws attention to the death of Andys dog, and away from the imminent death of his father Image Top Shelf Productions, 2008
166 Figure 3-9 the infamous Jyllands Posten Muhamm ad cartoon page. Image Jyllands Posten, 2005
167 Figure 310 part of Weinmans great lawgivers frieze behind the bench of the United States Supreme Court, with the much less controversial depiction of Muhammad center This image is in the public domain.
168 Figure 311 Daumier, Les Bas Bleus plate 22. Image Vilo Inc., 1982
169 Figure 312 Daumier, Les Bas Bleus plate 33. Image Vilo Inc., 1982
170 Figure 313 Daumier, Les Bas Bleus plate 14. Image Vilo Inc., 1982
171 Figure 314 Daumier, Les Bas Bleus plate 12. Image Vilo Inc., 1982
172 Figure 315 Sim and Gerhardt, from Reads. Image Aardvark -Vanheim, 1997
173 Figure 316 Sim and Gerhardt, from Reads. Image Aardvark -Vanheim, 1997
174 Figure 317 Sim and Gerhardt, from Reads. Image Aardvark -Vanheim, 1997
175 Figure 318 Sim and Gerhardt, from Minds. Image Aardvark -Vanheim, 1996
176 Figure 319 Sim and Gerhardt, from Minds. Image Aardvark -Vanheim, 1996
177 Figure 320 Sim and Gerhardt, from Minds. Image Aardvark -Vanheim, 1996
178 Figure 321 Sim and Gerhardt, from Going Home. Image Aardvark -Vanheim, 2002
179 Figure 322 Sim and Gerhardt, from Going Home. Image Aardvark -Vanheim, 2002
180 Figure 323 Sim and Gerhardt, from Guys. Image Aardvark -Vanheim, 1997
181 CHAPTER 4 STRUCTURES OF TIME AND PROCESSUAL NARRATIVE Atari commercially released Pong its first and most famous video game, as a standalone arcade game in 1972. The original pencil andpaper Dungeons and Dragons (DnD ) saw press in 1974. It is telling, then that, despite the sharp limitations on computer resources and access in the late seventies, by 1976 several DnD based games had been developed for university -housed mainframe computers and released, free of charge, by their creators. These games owed their creative inspiration to DnD in much the same way that DnD owed its own underpinnings to The Lord of the Rings and Tolkienesque fantasy. Early DnD based games were text adventures, though many would incorporate inci dental graphics in later versions. The computer game Rogue was first distributed in 1981. Rogue was different: it was one of the first teletype-style games intended to take advantage of Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) displays, and the first true top -down DnD inspi red game, of a type that has come to be known as the dungeoncrawler. Depending on ones definition of graphics, it is also the first graphical dungeoncrawler. Early teletype games, including text adventure games and the classic (unlicensed) Star Trek g ame, were played via teletype, a dumb terminal that consisted of a keyboard, a daisy wheel printer, and a modem. All of the processing was done by the mainframe. Rogue was developed for a new kind of terminal: the glass teletype, which used a CRT display for output, as opposed to printing and re-printing the games state every turn. Nothing about Rogue makes playing it from teletype printouts impossible, but the pace of play would be glacial and the amount of paper used would quickly become prohibitive. T his is because, in Rogue play focuses on the movements of ones
182 Rogue/avatar/ampersand (@) and the appearance of periods, dashes, plus signs, hash marks (. -+#) and more in response to the movements of the ampersand (see Figure 41). As moving a single space would require a teletype to reprint the entire floor of the dungeon, crossing an empty room would use a half to a full dozen pages. The plane of the page or screen is absolute in Rogue Other characters vanish when the ampersand moves over them, such as the asteri sks (*) that vanish but increment ones gold counter, and other items that will then be given text descriptions in the game inventory and can be dropped. Singular in their behavior are the games challenge monsters or capital letters, as t heir movement is not random: they inevitably gravitate toward the ampersand. They cause the HP counter to decrement until the ampersand attempts to move over them enough times to cause them to vanish (much like a moved over asterisk ), but instead incrementing the games XP counter. Rogue, a game about the structuring of space in terms of pure presence and absence, and of the self -destructive love that letters have for an ampersand, immediately became a hit. Some ASCII based games that use a Rogue -like model of gameplay continue to be developed, and they are commonly described as roguelikes in homage to the original. The best known of these is Nethack a vastly expanded variant on the original Rogue, and one of the most radical varients is Dwarf Fortress a mine/city building simulator. There has never been a commercial market for these games: both Nethack and Dwarf Fortress are free, and the former is open -source. Furthermore, every top down tile-based CRPG, as well as those which use that model for combat only, owes a clear debt to Rogue and such games are often called roguelikes as well. Dungeon -
183 crawling and room full of monsters games still bear marks of the influence of Rogue Blizzards Diablo games are a commercially successful implementation of the premise and gameplay of Rogue albeit with high production values and in real time. In Cinema 2, Deleuze articulates a theory of time in film in which what is seen on screen is only made actual by what has just been seen and what is immediately to f ollow, virtual images that make the actual image signify. The actual image, however, immediately becomes virtual in order to actualize what is next seen, creating a circuit of virtual and actual. In Cinema 2 Deleuze does not separate the virtual be fore from the virtual after the actual. By taking this step, a tripartite structure useful in the analysis of Rogue appears. The players understanding of the game as an actual, and as playable in any purposeful manner, depends on two virtuals: that o f the last -revealed thing from the players perspective, and that of the structure of the game as it is present in the computers memory. In Rogue, each new level is randomly generated by the computer when the ampersand descends to a new floor, before an y of it is displayed on-screen. In terms of gameplay, this is functionally identical to the level being produced procedurally during play. Whether the motion of the ampersand reveals the level or produces it is indeterminable from within the game. This is entirely different from the effect if the levels were predetermined and mapped as they are, for example, in film, which is why Deleuze has no need to distinguish the two virtuals. In the last chapter, we considered the implied but unknowable depths of a li fe in Too Cool to Be Forgotten as a phenomenon that exists below the page. In Rogue these chthonic depths are still unknowable, but they have a definite location and a definite value, in memory. In The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque
184 Deleuze considers the baroque as the product of folding, producing a complex pleated exterior by simultaneously producing monads singular, hermetic interiors. The ASCII characters used by Rogue are such hermetic monads. The ampersand is sealed away from everything else in t he game: it can neither touch nor overlap anything. In presenting itself, it absents anything that had previously occupied the space. Every bit of the screen has the potential to become something else (see Figures 42 and 43). From a gameplay perspective, an empty room may produce monsters, and every section of wall has a nonzero chance of turning into a door (hallway symbol) if searched just one more time. Each new door creates some discoverable quantity of new, finite space out of pure absence. Th at new, finite space itself produces new indefinite but always non -zero potentials for expansion. The virtual content of the level that exists in RAM provides a necessary finite limit to such territorialization, as does the actual boundary of the screen (a level in Rogue unlike in latter games of this type, is never larger than the screen). Were it not for these constraints, one could play a single level of Rogue forever. The goal of Rogue is to reach the bottom of the Dungeons of Doom and acquire the Amulet of Yendor. But there is neither a true down in Rogue, nor any but the thinnest illusion thereof. There are staircases, represented by percent signs, and each level has exactly one, which will take you to the n ext level. There are no staircases going up, nor ever any representation of them in-game. In gameplay terms, it is much more accurate to say that the level counter has been incremented by one, and the game space recreated, taking the increment into account. Just as there is no world
185 behind the pages of a comic book, there is no world to be discovered behind or spatially down from the plane of the monitor. Rogues staircases might as well be pit traps, or teleporters, or smelling salts that wake you up from the dream into another dream. They are not even signifiers, at least not in the Saussurian-Lacanian sense: signifiers are subject to a shifting of meaning. They are code for increment the level counter by one and deterritorialize space. In computat ional terms, the level below doesnt even exist until it is first perceived/entered, and in gameplay terms the new level is a palimpsest a re writing of the old space, with traces of the old left in the games numeric variables (HP and XP counters, etc.). The old level isnt above the new one, it has been absented in order that the new level may be presented. However, Rogue isnt a pure play of ASCII characters, numeric counters, and space. Some text is necessary to gameplay: the game will list your inventory when prompted, let you know if you have successfully hit a monster, and give variably cryptic descriptions of the effects of spells and potions. These interventions help produce the baroque faade of the game, in which a Rogue (a classic DnD class) is descending through a dungeon, finding weapons, food and other items, fighting monsters, and dealing with traps, all to recover a magic amulet. This faade conceals the actual game that is played, a dance of monads with exclusively coded values whose behavior alters variables and acts to present and absent other monads, but whose value is never changed. The appearance of change is always just a play of pure presence and absence a defeated monster isnt changed, it is absented.
186 This simple example presents basic concepts useful in the analysis of video and computer games. First, that there is no actual space for gameplay other than the surface of the screen, regardless of how detailed a games faade may be. Second, that the concepts of flatness and surface we have articulated in terms of comics and caricature are equally applicable to gaming. Third, that the presentation of game information on-screen is nothing less than the structure of the game itself. Last, that that actual structure and its virtual conc omitants, may be altered by the process of play within finite but indefinite limits. Acceptance of these concepts reveals the gaming industrys obsession with ever increasingly more detailed 3d rendering as an obsession with the nave concept of a real world behind the screen, of misunderstanding the ontological status of the faade and thinking of it as a goal rather than as a secondary effect. Such a nave approach is just a continuation of the mimetic fallacy and territorialization of space, concepts e laborated upon in Chapter 2. Pyrrhonic empiricism demands that we not mistake these four concepts, or the conclusions drawn from them for truth. At the same time, they are consistent with all of our theories up to this point, not only those of flatness, im m[a/i]nence and autopoesis, but also of intermediatist inclusion of all data and anarchoepistemologist suspicion of data. Several Kinds of Time in Digital Media Just as there is a relationship between the nave approaches to comics and video games in terms of the notion of a world behind the page or screen, there is also a relationship between the nave approach to time in comics and to the nave approach to time in games. The time spent playing a game and the structures of time that inhabit the game structure itself are incommensurable. These terms are analogous to the time of
187 viewing and structures of time on the surface of the comics page, as elaborated in Chapter 3. Many games encourage the conflation of the two under the banner of real time. In this t erminology, real time is the valued half of a false dichotomy, with anything that is not real time necessarily turn based, the devalued half. Rogue, by this measure, would be turn-based because nothing happens between keypresses. The fact that each keypress is structured in the game as a moment a single step, potion quaffed, or blow struck, is, according to the dichotomy, unimportant, as is the way that this creates a scalability of time of play relative to the games structures an empty room can be crossed in a twinkling and a pathetic kobold dispatched without thought, but time slows in dramatic fashion when the player needs to consider how to survive a fight with a troll, or whether to run from a balrog. Less dramatically but equally importantly, the player can leave the game to go to the bathroom at any moment whatsoever, including when the ampersand -rogue is three steps from starving to death. This scalability of time is not a consistent property of turn based games, and, as we will see, it is true of parts of some real time games. In many turn based games there is an on-screen button to click in order to end or execute the turn. In terms of the time of play, this is only another moment, if a decisive one. It is not fundamentally differe nt from clicking a button in order to execute an important command in a real time game. These decisive mouse -clicks are structures of time that are much more like each other than either is like the action of pressing a key to move one ASCII characters w idth left in Rogue
188 From Rebelstar Raiders for the ZX Spectrum in 1984 through 2005s Rebelstar: Tactical Command, Julian and Nick Gollup (who joined his brother with 1990s Lords of Chaos ) have made original strategy games, many of which exhibit unusual and/or hybrid structures of time. Their most famous game, UFO: Enemy Unknown (1993), released in the US and Canada as X-Com: UFO Defense (X-Com ), makes use of multiple, incommensurable systems of time in a functionally layered game structure. Laser Squad Nemesis (released 2002, in continual development) creates an entirely eccentric relationship between real time and time of play. The heart of both games is a squad-level strategy setup, complete with an end/execute/ submit turn button, but neither game is turn based in the dichotomistic sense. X-Com s squad -level combat is based on a model that goes back to Rebelstar Raiders and may owe something to the complex miniature-based wargames of Games Workshop, particularly Space Hulk (1989), though who influenced who is debatable. Julians Chaos (1985), also for the ZX Spectrum, was released by Games Workshop in one of that companys sporadic ventures into computer gaming. There are three principle systems of time in X-Com : the administrative time of base-management screens, the variable time of the world map, and the decimalized and interrupted time of the combat engine. The lions share of time of play is spent in the squad -combat segments of the game, and base management is second. Despite this, the time sp ent on the world map is primary, as it is the matrix within which base management actions such as research are completed, and from which new combat segments depart. X-Com s squad -level combat engine is much closer to being turn based than are the other two structures of time in the game. The original X-Com uses sprite graphics
189 and isometric perspective to represent this part of the game, though open-source fangame/remake UFO: Alien Invasion recreates this environment using a 3d rendered model, with interesting side effects, particularly the ability to scroll and zoom freely, accompanied by the need to do so, as the consistent clarity of vision in the original is lost in the transition to 3d (see Figures 4-4 and 45). Isometric perspective was originated in drafting as a way to depict threedimensional structures without the distortion inherent in linear perspective, thus it serves the schematic spaces of X-Coms combat engine well. Combat is divided into rounds: first all of the players soldiers act, and then the computer -controlled aliens get their turn. Each character has a limited number of Action Points (AP) per turn, a convention that dates back at least as far as Rebelstar Raiders and Space Hulk However, a turn is not a secure thing in X-Com It, like the board game Space Hulk has opportunity fire orders that allow units to snipe at the enemy during their turn. This tactic is not unique to the player -controlled humans: the computer -controlled space aliens use it to dramatic effect. A simple example of this would be a soldier walking around a corner and coming under fire from an unseen foe during the players turn. This interruptive time becomes much more complex, and successful play requires more than relentless assault: the player has to think of the squad as one organism that must be able to control the game space and protect its components not only during the players turn, but also during the computers turn. For example, the player might leave a rookie unit exposed at the end of the turn, as bait. The computer, moving an alien, spots the rookie but, before it has a chance to fire, another soldier, given an opportunity fire order and wielding a weapon with smoke
190 rounds, goes first. The shot goes wide, but its purpose is accomplished: a cloud of smoke impairs the aliens view of the rookie. The alien shoots but, possibly because of the smoke, it misses. Before it can shoot again, another of the players soldiers, with slower reflexes but better accuracy, who has also been given an opportunity f ire order draws a bead on the alien and kills it. This all happens without player input, but it only happens this way because of the spatiotemporal structure the player has created. In a very similar situation, but with poor planning, the second soldier m ight be behind the third and, instead of creating a smokescreen, shoot his buddy in the back, injuring or killing him and giving the alien a chance to finish off the rookie and move back to cover. The structures of time in X-Com create a placid, controlled progression of events, but, as that placidity can at any point be interrupted, the games combat segments are tense, with a palpable sense of suspense. The feel of gameplay in the base management screens of the game, however, is administrativetime is not rushed here (there is absolutely no time constraint in these screens) and there is no active opponent (see Figure 4-6). The only threat is mismanagement by the player. Prioritizing research and manufacture, beginning the long -term project of building new facilities, managing the budget, and equipping X -Com aircraft with material and human resources all have their own screens. Failing to research new technology quickly can be as devastating as failure to maintain sufficient stock of ammunition. Decisions are unhurried, but once taken, are often irrevocable, and require the passage of diegetic time to come to fruition and that cannot happen in these screens.
191 This contrasts with another European game which deploys similar structures of time, Transarctica (aka Arctic Baron ). Released in French in 1993, the same year as XComs multilingual release, and only later translated to English, Transarctica often requires the player to perform resource management tasks while a kind of scalable time passes (see Figure 4-7 ). In contrast, scalable time in X-Com only exists on the world map, which also features the only 3d rendering in the game: a perfectly spherical globe which can be rotated and zoomed freely (see Figure 4-8). The only other controls in this screen are for the scaling of time in increments ranging from 5 sec (per some number of processor cycles) to 1 day (per the same number of cycles). The effective range for any playable processor speed is from very slow but not paused to fast forward to the next ev ent, though there is no option to literally do so. This is neither real time, nor is it turn based. It is scalable time, much like the keypress action triggered structure of time in Rogue As in Rogue, there is no possibility of missing a key event. Whenever a significant event occurs, the game pauses and displays a dialog window announcing the event and giving the player the option to re scale the structure of time to 5 sec. Except for this all important manipulation of variable time, there is l ittle possibility for player interaction on this screen. Aircraft are dispatched from bases, and air -to air combat with UFOs takes place in a window that opens on the world map, but the player is almost certain to spend comparatively little time of play on the world map. The ability to zoom around X-Coms world map is secondary to its temporal function on the world map, one can wait from any perspective, and one must wait, but one waits at ones own pace. Transarctica has a similar map, where one watches on es
192 train travel between mines and various human encampments on an image like a printed map, though it has only two rates for scaling time: slow and fast. Recent freeware games Pandemic II (2008) by Dark Realm Studios and the opensource Endgame: Singularity (2005, ongoing development) make use of X -Com like scalable time. Both games also set their scalable time setup in a world map, though they use a flat projection rather than a globe (see Figures 4-9 and 410). Pandemic II situates the player as a virus, bacteria or parasite that begins to spread globally, with the ultimate (if counterproductive) goal of infecting and killing every human on the planet. Singularity situates the player as a spontaneous AI (a hard takeoff) trying to self realize even as fearful humans seek to eradicate it. Singularity also makes some use of the managerial time of X -Coms base management screens, as the player builds, outfits and upgrades secret computer labs. Though all of these games feature some of the expansi onist gameplay that characterizes board games like Risk only Pandemic II focuses on uncontrolled expansion. Scalable time is a primary temporal structure in all three of these games, and the effect of this, especially in X-Com and Singularity is of waiti ng for the sword of Damocles to fall. This scalable time may not make sense if viewed from the perspective of the oft cited ludology/narratology divide. From the former perspective, it seems that ending the turn or skipping ahead to the next event woul d be desirable, as the players scaling of time does not influence which events will happen ingame, or, in terms of ingame chronometers, when they will happen. From the latter, no new story or plot can occur until that event so why not just skip ahead? The Pandemic series is an argument in point against that perspective: the first two Pandemic games, Pandemic (2007) and
193 Pandemic: Extinction of Man (2007) were both turn based. Pandemic II (the third game in the series) adopts X-Com like scalable time, pr oducing an awareness of time and a kind of suspense that would not exist if there was only a go to next event button. The filmic analogy would be edit ing out all of the scenes in which one is just waiting for something to happen a travesty which would reduce Hitchcocks films to badly -paced slasher flicks, if not to outright comedy. This demonstrates the value of waiting as a structure of time in gaming. This structure, however, is much more over than under used, most egregiously in the form of lengthy graphical effects when there is no narrative gravitas, and in the less obvious form of constant slight waits for 3d motions to complete themselves, especially when dull tasks require one to wait through the same animation any number of times. The Massivel y Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG) satire Progress Quest suggests why unnecessary waits continue to be accepted (see Figure 411). The only interactive part of Progress Quest is character creation: one selects the characters race and class, ad justs attributes, names the character and decides whether the character will be single or multiplayer. So-called multiplayer characters are tracked online. After character creation, the character goes on to do what MMORPG characters do: fight monster s, collect loot, level up, complete quests, etc. There are precisely two gameplay differences between Progress Quest and regular MMORPG games: one is that there is no graphical display in Progress Quest just text listing the characters attributes, equipm ent, spells known, etc., and a series of progress bars that fill up at different speeds killing a monster quickly, completing a quest slowly, etc. The other is that the player is completely irrelevant: the game runs on its own, as
194 opposed to requiring the player to click on each monster until it dies, click on its corpse to collect loot, and click some more to slowly walk back to town to sell the aforementioned loot. The satire is biting: MMORPGS consist mostly of waiting and most of the time that isnt spent waiting is instead spent in repetitious action. Whats strange is that the satire may have backfired: Progress Quest hasnt vanished, its point made, but instead has become increasingly popular, with players letting the application run for countless hours and tracking their characters meaningless progress online. The truth is that Progress Quest partially fulfills the same desires that MMORPG games do, albeit for $30/month less. It is almost surprising that there hasnt yet been a realistic career -building MMORPG such games do exist in other genres, from Jones in the Fast Lane (1991) to the highly successful The Sims (2000, with many expansions since, at additional cost) to casual games like Kudos (2006) and its sequel (2008). It is almost surpri sing that no such game exists, but a career building MMORPG might be too honest a structure for its own good: career building games are mostly about having Godlike power over someone elses life and about the joys of consumerism work reduced to, at most, a brief animation. MMORPGs have elements of control and consumerism, but they are much more fantasies of the honest days work and the Protestant work ethic, in which, as long as you keep punching the clock (punching Orcs, Dragons, etc.) you will get promot ed/level up. The present -day lack of job security, and the lack of correlation between effort and reward in the workplace makes a game where work is always rewarded an appealing fantasy. In MMORPGs, the only way you can go wrong is to get too big for your britches (e.g., try to play in zones
195 beyond your level) or to not play by the rules of the game (such as by spending too much time actually roleplaying and not enough leveling). Furthermore, the social complexity that emerges in these games (clans, guilds, organized raids, virtual weddings, etc.), is only made possible by the very stability and predictability of the game world. Being a Fighter (Thief, Mage, Antipaladin, Beast -taming Snake-man, et al.) is steady, reliable work. The character may get killed on the job, but death is a trivial inconvenience, as transitory as, and generally over more quickly than, a smoke break. Moreover, real estate is absolutely secure: if one buys a house/fort/dungeon/secret base, it will never be destroyed by fire, flood or legions of the undead, though it can be repossessed if the player stops paying the games monthly fee. This constancy marks a ludologically interesting aspect to the MMORPG that strikes me as being a lot like the early 90s movie Groundhog Day In Groundhog Day Bill Murrays character, Phil, is cursed to re-live the same day over and over. Every morning he wakes up in Punxsutawney, only to find that its Groundhog Day, and everything is the same as it was yesterday. No one else remembers that it was Gro undhog Day yesterday. He remembers everything. Eventually he knows all the habits and secrets of everyone in town; hes read, if not every book in the library, at least all of those that he cares to; and hes mastered skills as diverse as jazz piano, ice s culpting, and the Heimlich maneuver. If he dies, he wakes up next morning and its Groundhog Day again. This is the defining temporal structure of the MMORPG, that everything is on a constant loop except for players and their characters, who benefit from t heir ability to
196 learn the details of the structure and to apply newly learned skills, equipment, etc. to the same challenges. It is not the static structure that is remarkable many games are entirely static in their spatiotemporal structures. It is the ability to loop through the same static structure many times to ones benefit, as when players camp a rare monster, killing it every time it respawns (after a fixed interval of time, in the same location) in order to acquire the rare items it occasionally drops. The ability to take new material goods back into the same day is something Phil might have envied he learns how to steal from Punxsutawney s armored car and its incompetent guards, but he must do so again every day if he wants to have the money. In a MMORPG like structure of time, he could take the cash to the bank and deposit it at interest, and next day the money would still be in the account, and the incompetent guards would still be there to unload the same sack of cash that he could steal again and deposit again, ad infinitum. The Gollup brothers Laser Squad Nemesis ( LSN ) is, like most MMORPGs, a subscription-based game (e.g., having a monthly or annual fee), but that is the end of the similarities: it is a squad -level tactical game, like X-Com and, like chess and other traditional games, it is a two player game without progress or memory: the board is reset for every game. There is no virtual property to own; there are no levels to gain or quests to complete. The only persistent aspect of the game is the players win/loss ranking relative to other players, which is posted online. LSN can be described as a play by email (PBEM) game, in which players plan their turns offline, and then send their plans to the LSN server, which processes the turn and sends back the results. This makes the game, in some strict sense, turn based. At the same time, turns of LSN are resolved in real time, and once resolved, flow
197 seamlessly into each other that is, they cease to be turns. This may seem contr adictory, even incompossible, but that is only because the industry terms turn based and real time are, as previously noted, a false dichotomy. In LSN there are three kinds of time, though one appears only as a virtual. There is the time one spends pl anning ones turn and issuing orders, which may seem at first to be similar to the tactical combat portions of X-Com as the commands are similar, as is the isometric view. The kind of time, however, is administrative, as every order is testable and revocable. Ones orders are not immediately executed. Instead, they are traced onto the screen as colored lines, each relative to units that remain frozen in space and time until one tests ones orders (see Figure 4 -12). Then, all of ones soldiers, be they Laser Marines, Grey Aliens, or Gigeresque Spawn spring into simultaneous action, each executing the orders it was given as quickly as it can. This shifts into the games second kind of time, scalable time, as the players ability to issue and change or ders is replaced by an ability to play, pause, fast forward and even rewind time, the one thing that was disallowed in our previous examples (see Figure 413). At any point, one can shift back to administrative time destroyed buildings are rebuilt in an instant, every unit returns to its starting place, and the colored lines that represent commands reappear. One can adjust orders and tweak commands as much as one likes, in order, for example, to ensure that two of ones soldiers arrive at opposite sides of an open space simultaneously, thus catching any enemy units there in a crossfire. Nothing is final until one sends ones orders for the turn to the game server. The server waits until both players have sent in their orders, and then resolves them simultaneously, including their interaction and the unpredictable consequences
198 thereof. This takes place in the third kind of time, epoche or ein sof, that the players can know only as a necessary virtual like the information about a given level hidden in memory in Rogue This virtual image of time actualizes the turn results that each player receives back from the server. These results are viewable in a manner identical to that in which orders are tested, except that they are placed into continuity with all previous turns, and one can watch any portion of the game todate with VCRlike controls. A hard -fought game, played out over months, might result in a gameplay video mere minutes long, but it would be a mistake to presume that this was the whole of the game. Playing LSN is an exercise in contingency planning. In addition to the territorialization of space that characterizes X-Com every move must be planned in consideration of what the other player might do and where his/her units might be. Only the greenest of rookie players plan their strategy as if the other player wasnt going to do anything that turn. An example of this is the marines Grenadier unit, which, true to its name, lobs grenades that bounce a set number of times before exploding. Experienc ed players can get those grenades to go around corners, through windows, and off of backstops all in one lob, so the grenade explodes right next to a sniping hostile with near -perfect cover (see Figure 414). The above example presumes that nothing else interferes with the grenades trajectory. A clever player, faced with a Grenadier, might charge headon in hopes of kicking a grenade back at the Grenadier, to hoist him with his own petard. Given this possibility, the player controlling the Grenadier might lob low and close, to catch a charging enemy in mid -rush. Expecting this, the other player might zigzag his unit around the possible blast area, etc.
199 This quickly turns into a head -spinning circular process much like Wallace Shawns performance as Visc ini in The Princess Bride In Viscinis poisoned wine monologue, Shawn comically exaggerates the problem of trying to reason out an opponents next move when you know that your opponent is trying to do the same: But its so simple. All I have to do is divi ne from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemys? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me. (The Princess Bride) In order to avoid this ki nd of feedback loop, learning to read ones opponent becomes very important, as does control of information, which allows one to rig the situation in ones favor: They were both poisoned ( The Princess Bride). In the above situation, the player with the Grenadier might be best off having that unit dash behind cover while a previously hidden unit opens fire along the line between where the Grenadier just was and where the enemy starts the turn. These kinds of interactions are theoretically possible in Real Time Strategy (RTS) games, but only in theory, as the arcade -like rush of action makes setting up ones own plans more important than out -thinking the other player, and success is often more dependent on clicking a series of on-screen buttons with literally split second timing than it is on the plan itself. This aspect of RTS play is more like mouseavoidance games than anything else. In mouseavoidance games, one must move navigate the
200 cursor through some sort of on-screen maze without touching the walls or getting hit by moving obstacles or enemies and before an on-screen timer reaches zero. RTS games nearly always have a control that scales the passage of time, but it tends to be buried in a sub-menu along with other settings like brightness and sound volume and is locked at the start of a multiplayer game. Unlike the passage of time in an RTS game, in LSN time is scalable both forwards and backwards, and sheds loops and whorls of time as play progresses: one can loop through the passage of a set of orders as many times as one wants, changing them slightly to see how those changes alter events and the world they are set in. Unlike the looping time in a MMORPG, these loops are irreconcilable, and even the final loop may be entirely different from the results. Groundhog Day is again an apt metaphor: on the final day of the movie, Phil arranges everything so as to spend the entire day doing good deeds, and thereby earns both his freedom from the unexplained curse and the love of Andie McDowells charac ter, Rita. Inasmuch as the good in a strategy game is immediate progress toward eventual victory, all the looping that gameplay consists of in LSN goes toward producing as good a turn as possible. Becoming Dragon: Postcolonial Fantasy Battle for Wesnot h (Wesnoth), an open-source fantasy strategy game, offers a case for how processual narrative can enhance scripted narrative, and, in the case of the user -created Flight to Freedom campaign, can also challenge the colonial assumptions of the genre. As an open-source game, Wesnoth is distributed free of charge, and players can modify the game as they see fit. The standard scenarios that come with the game fall prey to the same colonial and Orientalist attitudes about race that plague the genre of High Fantasy in general. The use of the term race to
201 describe sexually -compatible but fundamentally better and worse peoples is the problem. In the ur text for High Fantasy, JRR Tolkiens The Lord of the Rings, Elves are immortal, beautiful, more graceful, skilled, wise and less corruptible than men, who themselves are subdivided into a variety of races from the superior High Men of old to the debased Southrons who literally come from south and east of civilization. Tolkiens Dwarves, derived from the inhuman Dwarves of Teutonic legend, are literally children of a lesser God, and are, as a result, greedy and narrow minded. Orcs fare worst of all: the descendants of Elves who were corrupted and brutalized by Sauron, they are intellectually and morally im poverished beyond redemption the best thing you can do for an Orc is to kill it. The Orcs are an object lesson in racism and eugenics: it is possible to fall, but it is not possible to rise. Even the semi divine Wizards can be corrupted, but there are no redeemed Orcs in Middle Earth, nor even any Southrons who see the light. Virtue as well as strength is in the breeding, and while it can be lost, it cannot be regained. In High Fantasy, good breeding retains its old meaning: manners are inherited, as are talent and moral values. Therefore, all of these things can be diluted though mixing with inferior bloodlines, or worse, miscegenation. Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits and men are all Caucasian in complexion. Only the evil races are nonwhite: in Peter Jacks ons filmic adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, Orcs have sloped foreheads, jutting jaws, bad teeth, narrow eyes, wide slits for nostrils, pointed ears (their only Elf -like feature), dark, matted or dreadlocked hair, and dark skin, especially the Uruk-ha i (see Figure 4-15). They are the very picture of the native savage: subhuman,
202 apelike and dangerous, but obviously no match for the white adventurer. Jackson, faithful to Tolkiens descriptions, depicts the evil Southron men, as some combination of Ara b, Indian, east Asian, Carthaginian and perhaps especially Moorish North African in complexion and dress (see Figure 416). The are the very picture of Edward Saids Orientalized other: exotic and intriguing while also morally debased and decontextualized. Given this pedigree, it isnt surprising that Heir to the Throne, the original Wesnoth campaign, features the blond-haired, blue eyed and pale-skinned Prince Konrad, an Arthur type, complete with oldwizard mentor, allying himself with even paler el ves to fight legions of dark -skinned Orcs and goblins. It is the user -created scenarios for the game that offer a greater variety and the potential for commentary on and criticism of the standard campaigns. Each of these scenarios has a primary creator, but, unlike the single -creator indie games, the creation of an original campaign for Wesnoth tends to be highly collaborative, with many contributors who do everything from playtesting to creating original art to suggesting major changes to plot or level design. Flight to Freedom was originated by MadMax (forum handle), who is also the principle creator and designer of the campaign. The protagonists in Flight to Freedom are Drakes, flying lizard men like the Draconians in Dungeons and Dragons Their racialization in Flight to Freedom is that of the colonized native people, though in a sympathetic postcolonial sense, as they are neither the intellectual nor moral inferiors of the Knights of Wesnoth: their vulnerability to invasion, enslavement and literal colonization is a result of the greed of humans and not a failing of the Drakes. Young drakes have green skin, but that of more
203 mature Drakes is a sandy greybrown in contrast to the stereotypical whiteness of the humans and elves in the campaign (see Figure 4-17). Even as they are treated sympathetically, they are not idealized, giving them a human depth of character that the heroes of Fantasy games often lack and avoiding the stereotype of the noble savage. The basic premise for Flight to Freedom is a shock: in the opening narrative of the campaign, the Knights of Wesnoth, the chivalric good guys in most campaigns, land on the Drakes island, and a tribal leader, Malakar, sends his openminded daughter to parley with them. She is killed out of hand, and the first scenario consists of the humans overwhelming the player -controlled Drakes. The player is expected to lose, though a recently added campaign fork allows the player to retreat into the swamp and all y with another tribe, which only postpones defeat the humans always conquer the Drakes. Either way, the surviving Drakes are sold into slavery, their young held captive to ensure their compliance. When Malakar leads a slave revolt (this occurs in the secon d scenario of the original campaign) the young Drakes are whipped and, if the player does not move quickly enough, killed. By this point, anyone familiar with High Fantasy can see a few familiar tropes, and a number of departures. As many posters on the forum for the campaign noted, the deposed king or surviving heir who must recover his (nearly always his ) kingdom is a common theme in Fantasy. A Wesnoth-specific example is the plot of Heir to the Throne, where Prince Konrad must depose his wicked aunt af ter beating her Orcish mercenaries. Even being sold into slavery isnt novel, but it is usually in the
204 Romanesque form of gladiatorial or galley slavery, as in Ben Hur and the pulp fantasy of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard. The narrative of Flight to Freedom undermines the individualism and egocentrism of that scenario. The figure of the rightful heir to the throne is not only Mediaeval, it is fundamentally patriarchal and oedipal: his battle cry is my people need me, which is just a reformulation of le tat, cest moi. The people are infantilized and oedipalized by this claim: only the great man of state can save them. The absolute war of these scenarios amounts to a scorched earth campaign: If I cant be king, no one can, a notion so s elfish that it can only be justified by the demonization of the enemy (the party in power). In High Fantasy, the false king is usually literally demonized as a figure of supernatural evil. In Lord of the Rings this is true, if one degree removed: it is the diabolical evil of Sauron that forces Aragorn to reclaim the throne of Gondor from its inferior Stewards. Flight to Freedom deviates from this model: Malakar is neither deposed nor separated from his tribe. His status as chieftain is not only of no concern to the Knights of Wesnoth, it is imperceptible: they see all Drakes as interchangeable. In fact, they are semi interchangeable, with Malakar serving less as the exceptional Drake than as an icon of Drake life, in the Peircian semiotic sense: his resemblance to other Drakes is predominant. The collective identity of the Drakes is re -singularized in him (see Figure 4-18). When Malakar broods over the murder of his daughter, that is our window onto the loss of family that all of his tribe has suffered. His slow coming to acceptance of the human pirate, Kogw, is analogous to the Drakes experience of a suddenly broader world, one that can never resume its precolonial shape.
205 The experience of the Drakes in Flight to Freedom is almost unheardof in Fantasy : they are captured enmasse and shipped overseas to serve as plantation slaves (see Figure 420). In early posts to the campaign forum, there is concern that plantation slavery is inappropriate and some posters complain that the scenario is unWesnothi sh. This discomfort may have its roots in the Humanocentrism common to High Fantasy. Early in Flight to Freedoms development, Turin (forum handle) posts: Wesnoth belongs to the humans. Drakes should not take over wesnoth [sic] (Flight to Freedom 1). Wesnoths humans are typical fantasy Humans, the nation of Camelot: good feudal lords, chivalric, merciful and clean. Dirt, dishonor, dark skin, and nonEuropean styles, such as curved swords and loincloths, are reserved for lesser races. The sprites for the Drakes were created for a minor role in a different campaign, and illustrate this otherness. The sprite for Malakar features a scimitar, loincloth, and garish red armor. The sprite for the Armageddon Drake is literally demonized, with pronounced backswept horns framing a face even more triangular than the other Drakes like the figure of the Satanic goat or Baphomet (see Figure 4 -19). This effect is only enhanced by the sprites hellfire and brimstone coloration, angry eyebrow ridge and crocodile grin. After the initial controversy, concerns that Flight to Freedom is unWesnothish drop out of forum discussion and the parallels between the campaign and American history (and thus an implicit rejection of the norms of High Fantasy) are embraced. DavidByron (forum handle) is the first to justify the campaign explicitly in terms of American history: Slave revolts are an interesting feature of US history. They usually dont go well because the ruling class has all the advantages. As I understand f rom
206 reading the comments in this thread you have the Drakes becoming something of a criminal mob, (beating up a caravan, teaming up with pirates) as they attempt to flee back towards home a basically sound approach to an impossible dream. What else could t hey do indeed? (Flight to Freedom 24) This approach marks an increase in the moral complexity of Flight to Freedoms linear, textual narrative, and Malakars pragmatic rather than noble decisions. It is not merely the scripted story of Flight to Freed om that is atypical: the nomadism, morality, and pragmatism of the Drakes are reflected in gameplay, and can be demonstrated through a vector analysis of the game display. In A Thousand Plateaus the nomad and the war machine are associated, as both operate by ignoring or overcoming territorialization that is, they do not respect boundaries. The war machine in this context is separated from the military organization (army) of a nation state, as the latter is a structure designed to direct and contain t he functioning of the war machine. The state operates by capture and negotiation, which create boundaries: e.g., territorialization. The war machine de-territorializes, breaking boundaries. In general, war games are about territiorialization: taking and holding territory, and this is built into the Wesnoth engine. Units are recruited at camps or castles by a singular leader and conquer villages to increase a players income. A typical scenario for the game pits two or more players in a war of all against all to conquer all of the villages and kill all other leaders. Though some of the scenarios in Flight to Freedom follow this model, in many of them the goal is simply travel: a pure nomadology, a line of flight. The line of flight in DeleuzoG uattarian theory is most likely to be productive when it is a methodological approach to their conception of philosophy as the generator of concepts: a line of flight
207 can be a reaching towards the boundary of the thinkable. A line of flight is not an escap e from something (it is not reactionary), but an escape to something, that is, an act of creation. All lines of flight, if successful, end in reterritorializations, that is in a reestablishment of boundaries and norms. The pathos of the Drakes in Flight t o Freedom is not so much in their brief enslavement as it is that their flight is aimed at the impossible: a return to the garden, a recovery of lost time and innocence. The Drakes are well equipped for travel, as almost all of them can literally fly. In-game, this smoothes out the striation of space created by different kinds of terrain. This metaphor is carried through in gameplay: when the Drakes are enslaved, their wings are bound or removed and they lose the ability to fly. They recover the ability to fly after they kill their exploitative master, without further explanation, in a moment of Marxist utopianism. Freedom and flight are equated throughout the campaign. Impeded travel scenarios are the most common challenge in Flight to Freedom. The organized retreat is a strategy game trope, but it is usually used sparingly and early on in fantasy games, the prelude to a triumphal conquest. In Flight to Freedom there are no classic fighting retreats (e.g., hold line X for Y turns, then fall back to Z), but the player must do all the following: flee superior forces, escape from a flanked position, fall back on one front while advancing on another, contain (rather than destroy) enemy forces, and maneuver through dangerous and/or hostile territory as unobtrusively as possible. In one scenario, while at sea with a pirate flotilla, the player must pass through pea-soup fog, a literalization of the fog of war in games like this, while evading sea serpents, kraken and other hazards. It is impossible to win by fighting though: instead, careful exploration and maneuvering and the judicious sacrifice of your own is
208 necessary to get your flagship through. Later on, the Drakes and their pirate allies sail though someone elses warzone. Both sides will attack the Drakes just for being in the way, and the player doesnt have the resources to hold against either side, let alone both, so for the closing trap of the opposing navies, a vector through must be found, and again, sacrifice is necessary. Perhaps most interesting is the scenario most commented on and most hated on the forum, River of Skulls. Prior to River of Skulls, the Drakes are forced to flee underground, pursued by the Knights of Wesnoth, with no idea of where to go from there. The Dwarves who live in the caves react with anger, and the player must survive while trying to figure out what to do. Game mechanics make it impossible to negotiate with the Dwarves, but narrative text makes it clear that the goal of the scenario is to find an exit, not to annihilate the Dwarves, and defeating all enemy groups, though possible, is not sufficient to complete the scenario (unlike most strategy games, where more specific goals can be ignored if one wipes out the opposition). As escape is the goal of many of F light to Freedoms scenarios, River of Skulls isnt unusual in that aspect. What makes River of Skulls unique is that, to a degree unequaled in any other scenario in the campaign, the Drakes freedom of movement is negated (see Figure 421). The Drake s wings are an impediment in this maze of cramped passages, with the game effect of reducing their movement and their ability to avoid attacks. The only advantage they derive from having wings is that they can cross the occasional rift or pit in the cave floor. In DeleuzoGuattarian terms, this is a highly striated space.10 Control or 10 In The Smooth and the Striated from a Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari describe how a space (physical, social, or psychological) can be relatively smooth or striated. These are not opposites: one might speak of perfect smoothness as a striation value of zero, and absolute striation as having an infinite value. To the degree that a space is striated, it resists lines of flight (new ideas or unexpected
209 striation of space is not evenhanded: River of Skulls can be read as a treatise on how social privilege works to provide one group with advantages and suppresses another whil e maintaining the appearance of evenhandedness. The cave map is the same for Drakes and Dwarves, but the Drakes navigate it slowly and awkwardly, hindered by their wings, whereas the stereotypically slow Dwarves negotiate their caves with ease and enjoy the protection of the law in the form of a high defense rate. More subtle is the fact that Drakes are strongly diurnal, getting a bonus at day and a penalty at night, while in the caves it always counts as night. As a result, fighting through the Dwarves is slow and difficult, bottleneck to bottleneck, with every unexplored passage a risk of being flanked and every open space a risk of encirclement. In Twisty Little Passages Nick Montfort offers a history and theory of Interactive Fiction (IF), that is a pplicable to the twisty little passages of River of Skulls. He identifies IF with the Oulipo: IF works are potential literature in the sense of the Ouvroir de Littrature Potentielle (Workshop for Potential Literature, abbreviated Oulipo) (26, emphas is in original). For his purposes potential literature describes objects that are not, in fact, narratives, but produce narratives when a person interacts with them (23). This approaches a definition for what we have been calling processual narrative, but Montfort draws a line between IF, which is textual and usually explicitly narrative in character, and other varieties of computer games. He compares IF to riddles and Choose Your Own Adventure stories, and explicitly excludes visual effects that are n ot of themselves narrative: Directorial techniques [in film] may be used in ways that do not bear on the story  the quality and impact of certain techniques may have little or behavior). Moreover, what is not permitted is, to some degree, unthinkable (moving through the cave wall, for example, or up off the map and off the computer screen). In a purely smooth space, any motion would be a line of flight.
210 nothing to do with the narrative per se (13). What Montfort excludes is exa ctly what we are interested in: the process by which narrative is produced out of nonnarrative visual elements through play. This application of close visual analysis to games is based on the narratology of Narrative Unbound which is incommensurable with conventional narratology. Montfort uses Gerald Princes definition of narrative as the representation of real or fictive events and situations in a time sequence, a conventional definition that does not allow for visual flatness, vector analysis and t he complex structures of time, the prerequisites for processual narrative. Hereafter, the kind of narrative Montfort describes is referred to as scripted narrative chunks of diegetic text that are accessed through play, as opposed to processual narrative, which may be informed by descriptive text but is created through the autopoietic conjunction of pre narrative elements. The scripted narrative goal of River of Skulls, when it is eventually revealed, is to escape the Dwarf -tunnels by following a river of magma to the surface. The processual narrative of the scenario has a fixed end: moving Malakar to a specific position on the far side of the map, which requires the abandonment of the players starting camp, and with it the ability to recruit more soldiers. Nova, a poster who became a major contributor to Flight to Freedom says of this part of the campaign that These next couple of missions are a Drake deathmarch (33). The term deathmarch evokes historical forcedmarches such as the Bataan deathmarch of US servicemen in WWII and the trail of tears, the forced march west of the Mississippi of Native American nations in the 1830s, including the Cherokee, about a third of whom died as a
211 result. While the Drakes are going home rather than being forced from it, River of Skulls and the scenarios immediately following it confirm the truth of Novas statement. To successfully navigate the River of Skulls, the player must recognize that that this scenario rewrites rules of the game. Instead of fighting against the restrictions imposed by this highly striated s pace, one must figure out how to take advantage of them. One possible strategy is to use the bottlenecks to contain and bypass the Dwarven Lords and their soldiers, rather than besieging them. This requires two changes in the players behavior, however. Th e first is the shift from thinking of the Drakes as highly mobile, hard -to kill soldiers to thinking of them as slow and vulnerable. The second, more difficult shift requires that the player choose not to explore and conquer the entire map. The second shif t in thinking is the true line of flight for the Drake war machine, because exploration and conquest are basic components of Wesnoth and the entire genre of strategy gaming. Deterritorializing strategy gaming in this way necessarily throws the other conventions of the genre into question. The processual narrative produced through play feeds back into the scripted narrative, wherein Malakar claims that the Dwarves are not his peoples enemies and that the Drakes should only fight them where necessary. The processual narrative of River of Skulls raises the question of why extermination of the enemy is the goal of most videoand computer games. This question of ingame violence, usually raised only by the mainstream media and only in terms of graphic 3-d v iolence, is a nonstarter with most gamers. The common response of Its just a game dodges the underlying conundrum: if nothing one does in a game matters outside the game, then games cannot be meaningful or useful in any way; but if
212 games can be meaningful, their meaning can be objectionable. There is no narrative reward for sparing the Dwarves in Flight to Freedom, but there are several strategic rewards: a contain and bypass strategy not only speeds up play, but it allows the Drakes to gain experience and level up (necessary to success in future scenarios) with less risk of getting pinned down and killed. A slower, but viable and more conventional strategy is to work cave-to -cave, keeping ones strongest units close together, putting low level (expendable) units first when entering open areas, and making sure that no Dwarves, and especially no Dwarven Lords (who can recruit new units) are left in ones wake. This leave-no survivors strategy makes the turn counter ones real opponent: extermination is easy, but extermination in a hurry is hard. The image of ones Drakes scouring the Dwarves subterranean home with their fire breath evokes unpleasant images of 20th century brushfire wars and ethnic cleansings. Of course, ethnic cleansing is the goal of many strategy games and CRPGs, whether one is cleaning out a cave full of Orcs or nuking a Zerg hive. The darkest part of Flight to Freedoms scripted narrative unfolds after River of Skulls. The path to the surface follows the magma river, and the heat is too much even for the descendants of Dragons. The script informs the player that many Drakes die in the journey, but one soon discovers that the casualties must have been civilian: in the next scenario, all of your soldiers are fine. This makes a sad kind of sense: soldiers may die in battle, but civilians are more likely to die of hunger, disease or exposure resulting from shortages, war damage, and the necessity of procuring supplies for the soldiers.
213 This tragedy is followed immediately by another. Right after the Drakes reach the surface, Malakars chief lieutenant, Theracar, rebels. The player is forced to put down the uprising in a disturbingly easy scenario: apparently, all of ones experienced units remain loyal, and fighting Theracars low -lev el rebels feels less like a battle than a purge. That ugly aftermath of colonial rule, ethnic cleansing, a subtext in River of Skulls, lurks under the surface of this scenario as well. The horror is mitigated after the fact when the script tells us that Malakar forgives the surviving rebels after Theracars death, but the processual narrative is of slaughter. In military terms, Theracar commits mutiny, but the Drakes are a tribe and the rebellion is an issue of tribal identity: the Drakes had to flee underground because they refused to give Kogw up to the Elves, who promised safe passage away from the Wesnothians in exchange for the pirate.11 Malakar justifies this decision by adopting Kogw into the tribe. As all members of a Drake tribe are Drakes, this also makes Kogw a Drake. Theracar claims that he has a legitimate claim to challenge Malakar, not only because of the deaths of tribe members, but because Malakar broke the law in admitting Kogw to the tribe. His case is that Kogw is not a Drake, so his admission to the tribe was not just a mistake but an abomination. This is more complex than it seems. Once again, it is important to remember that this is fantasy and that Drakes, like Humans and Elves, are races The concept of species does not exist in this context. Since before history, human tribes, nations and family groups have adopted individuals of other ethnic groups into their society. A slave 11 The scripted narrative tells the player something that Malakar doesnt know: the Elves are preparing an ambush even as they parley. Talking among themselves, they refer to the Drakes as monsters, which is fantasy jargon for not people. The denigration of a race, ethnicity or culture as sub human or savage has been the justification for everything from the breaking of treaties with indigenous peoples to the horror of the Holocaust.
214 captured in battle may remain an outsider, but someone (almost always a woman) who marries in becomes a member of that group in every way. This was certainly true in colonial America, where white women were sometimes taken captive by Native Americans in raids: some were ransomed, but others married into the tribe, becoming members not just of that family group b ut also of that nation. In this context, Theracar is saying that Kogw cannot be a member of the tribe because of the color of his skin (and his lack of scales). The most morphologically distinctive traits of Drakes, wings and the ability to breathe fire, a re not possessed by all Drakes, and so cannot be considered integral. We do not even know if Drakes and Humans are sexually incompatible: if the anthropomorphic Drakes are half -Dragons, the other half is implicitly human. MadMaxs plans for further development of the campaign contradict the literal possibility of Drakes being half -human: they call for the revelation that Drakes are larval Dragons and therefore could literally be Dragons, but the rituals to induce a pupal (liminal) state have been lost.12 Throughout the campaign, Kogw is engaged in a becoming Drake, a motion that can never reach its goal. In The Ritual Process anthropologist Victor Turner described rites of passage as involving a period of liminality, in which ones former status is l ost but no new status has been established. When Deleuze and Guattari speak of becoming (becoming animal, becoming woman, becoming imperceptible), they are talking about something similar, but entirely positive, which is not to say entirely good, merely that, like a line of flight it is a motion towards, not a motion away from. Considered this way, some of the apparent contradictions resolve themselves: Kogw 12 conversation (email) with MadMax
215 never ceases to be Human, he is just moving towards a Drake identity, which never requires him to grow scales or breathe fire precisely because it is never complete. In short, Kogws becoming Drake is like Turners state of ritual liminality, only without its defining characteristic, as the previous state is never (fully) lost, and the result is never fully achieved. Similarly, as Drake units level up, they are engaged in a becoming Dragon, which reaches its highest degree in the Armageddon Drake, the most powerful Drakish unit, described in -game as follows: Were it not for the armor they wear, some drakes might be indistinguishable from true dragons. What marks them as still (and forever) becoming rather than being Dragon is a matter of clothing: a human trait (in the general rather than the High Fantasy sense), the icon of that which they cannot leave behind. In River of Skulls there is a more unexpected becoming Dragon: there is a statue of a Drake, and when one moves a unit in front of it, that unit is lost only to be replaced by a Skeleton Dragon.13 Narrative text explains that the unit died i n a rockfall which woke the undead Dragon, but the gameplay effect is one of becoming. Even here, the process of becoming Dragon is not complete, though perhaps in the opposite direction: the Skeleton Dragon is not a complete Dragon (lacking organs and ski n) because it is becoming dead: that is to say, it cannot fully die. MadMaxs campaign notes include the possibility of awakening a Drake into true dragonhood just before the Knights of Wesnoth destroy the council of elders who have rediscovered this sec ret, but no such event exists ingame at present.14 13 In an earlier version of the game, the Skeleton Dragon was hostile. 14 conversation (email) with MadMax
216 In a scenario that comes shortly after the defeat of Theracars rebels, Kogw convinces Malakar that the Drakes must destroy the Gate of Storms, a supernatural portal whose opening threatens the entire worl d. This influence is made possible by Kogws status as an (incomplete) Drake and a member of the tribe, a shift singularized in Malakar opening up to Kogw for the first time. By this point, the Drakes efforts to return home have earned them the enmity not only of the Knights of Wesnoth, but also of the Elvish, Dwarven and Oricsh nations. In terms of the plot, the Drakes dont have to lift a taloned finger: there are four other armies in the area which could be left to deal with the problem. Moreover, as th ose armies are hostile and in pursuit of the Drakes, this would be strategically practical. Instead, the Drakes give their pursuers a chance to catch up by stopping to fight the storm demons and destroy the gate. This is all part of the scripted narrative: the players role is limited to devising a strategy for fighting the storm demons. One might expect the campaign to end here, with the other races thanking the Drakes for saving them, but Flight to Freedom is not so melodramatic. Not only are the Drakes not honored as heroes, but their good deed goes entirely unnoticed. From the virtual perspective of the civilized Elves and humans, the Drakes are incapable of great accomplishments, so the Knights of Wesnoth do not notice that theyve been saved by the Drakes because the Drakes couldnt possibly do such a thing.15 15 Deleuze and Guattari write about becoming imperceptible in much the same way they write about becoming woman in both cases, it is a motion toward something that is not part of middle-class, white, male, western identity. The Drakes, as a colonized people, have been made imperceptible: individual Drakes do not matter to the Wesnothians, and everything they do will be read in terms of their perceived inferiority. In Spivak's sense of the subaltern, the truly oppressed are those who are denied the opportunity for self definition or even to speak against how they are defined by others. From the player's perspe ctive, the Drakes are anything but subaltern: one experiences them in their own words, but if one imagines a Wesnothian perspective on the Drakes, they are fully defined before they do or say anything, and, as a result, anything they do or say will be inte rpreted as conforming to that definition.
217 When Malakars Drakes get home, they find that their island has literally been colonized, and the rest of the Drakes enslaved and forced to work in mines. There is even a new unit representing the children of the slaves, described as suffer[ing] from stunted growth and other deformations. Metaphorically, these Cave Drakes read as the victims of malnourishment and child labor, physically and psychically scarred: their internal fire never bur ns as intensely as it should. In the end, Flight to Freedom, is nuanced and realistic enough that there is no possibility of justice and no point in retribution. The games scripted narrative addresses the troubled ancestry of Fantasy gaming, but something more interesting is at work in this strategy game. The process of play, like the process of close visual reading, produces its own narratives, incommensurable with those describable though plot summary. In Flight to Freedom those processual narratives actualize in play the ethical values presented by the scripted narrative, and in so doing, give a noncompulsive and minimally didactic ethicoaesthetic dimension to the process of play.
218 Figure 4-1 A typical beginning to a game of Rogue. The Rogue (@) is in a room with a hobgoblin (H) and three doors (+). The rest of the level will only be actualized through the motion of the @. Rogue is in the public domain. Figure 4-2 A cleared level (the top-right room is dark, which is why it shows empty space rather than periods). There may still be hidden passages between rooms, or even a hidden room in the unknowable space to the right of the @. Rogue is in the public domain.
219 Figure 4-3 The same level, shortly thereafter, with three hobgoblins a kobald (K), a bat (B), and a giant ant (A) all gravitating in on the @. The cleared level has become a deathtrap. Rogue is in the public domain. Figure 4-4 Isometric perspective in X-Com This kind of cut away view can be moved up one story at a time to show higher floors of buildings, the outsides of UFOs, etc. X-Com Microprose, 1993
220 Figure 4-5 Unclear spatial relations in UFO: Alien Invasion. One of the problems here is the realistic light sourcing (the setting is a mineshaft), which makes it nearly impossible to identify where ones soldiers are except by the green circles at their feet. This was the clearest angle on this scene I could fi nd. UFO: Alien Invasion is in the public domain.
221 Figure 4-6 Managing an underground base in X-Com New construction is in progress (large block numbers on the base map), but no progress will be made until the player return to the world map. X-Com Mic roprose, 1993 Figure 4-7 This situation room is Transarcticas analogue to Figure 4-6, with a vital difference. The gilded age clock in the lower -left corner of the screen never stops ticking one can only choose slow or fast scales of time. T ransarctica Silmarils, 1993
222 Figure 4-8 X-Com's world map is set apart from the rest of the game by its structure of time and by being the only 3d effect in the game. During the games more placid interludes, one can watch the passage of day and night from any angle and distance. X-Com Microprose, 1993 Figure 4-9 The world map in Pandemic 2 time can be frozen (paused) or scaled at one of three paces (slow med-fast), and countries/regions slowly turn red as the infection spreads. Pandemic 2 Evil Realm Studios, 2008
223 Figure 410 The large blue window part of the opening sequence of Singularity After this, the timer on the top of the screen begins advancing and the player can scale its pace with the VCR -like interface at top right. Singularity is in the public domain.
224 Figure 411 Progress Quest the player has no input whatsoever and can only scroll the windows and watch the grey progress bars fill at different rates in parody of the time spent in repetitious activity in MMORPGs. Progress Quest is in the public domain.
225 Figure 412 A relatively simple set of orders for a relatively simple situation in LSN Here, player -controlled Spawn units (red) are engaged in an advance (green line going off the screen to the left) under cover -fire (yellow lines going toward blue computer -controlled Spawn) while a fast moving Buzzer acts as a decoy (zig zagging green line on the right side of the screen). This screen is shown in schematic view, which reduces terrain to blueprint like outlines (gr een circles with black dots in the center = trees, etc.). This emphasizes the architectural origins of isometric perspective and the plane of the screen. Laser Squad Nemesis Got Game, 2005
226 Figure 413 a Laser Marine Grenadier ordered to take opportunity fire lobs a grenade (gunmetal -colored sphere) at advancing Grey Aliens. The VCR -like controls below Time are now active and can be used to scale and even rewind time. This scene is shown in perspe ctive view, with realistic trees, walls, etc. Laser Squad Nemesis Got Game, 2005 Figure 414 The force -field (blue circle) backstops the grenade back at the grenadier as he retreats, and he is hoist with his own petard. Laser Squad Nemesis Got G ame, 2005
227 Figure 415 Lawrence Makoare, in full costume and makeup as the Uruk hai Lurtz from Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, terrifying an unnamed white child. Image BBC News online, 2003 Figure 416 Southron archers wearing tagelmust (a traditional Saharan head and -face wrap, similar to the Palestinian keffiyeh that Yassar Arafat always wore) atop a war Oliphant from Jacksons The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. New Line Cinema, 2003
228 Fi gure 417 Selected sprites from Flight to Freedom. From left to right they are: Malakar, the Drake Chief; Malakar as a slave, with his wings bound; an Armageddon Drake followed by the Skeleton Dragon, both figures of becoming Dragon; a Drake hatchling, with the potential to become an Armageddon Drake; and a Cave Drake, who, malnourished and deformed by human colonization of the Drakes island, can never become anything more. Battle for Wesnoth is in the public domain. Figure 418 Malakars portrait, as it appears next to dialogue from that character. Battle for Wesnoth is in the public domain.
229 Figure 419 Baphomet, as rendered by 19th-century occultist Eliphas Levy, incorporating alchemical and Hermetic symbols and the words solve and coagula. Image Taschen, 1997
230 Figure 420 The captured Drakes nightmarish journey to Wesnoth. Despite the simplicity of the homebrewed graphics, this scene is a powerful departure from the conventions of High Fantasy. Battle for Wesnoth is in the public domain.
231 Figure 421 The River of Skulls. The Drakes in this screen have about the same number of soldiers as do the Dwarves, but are at a strategic disadvantage. Drakes can fly over the pits in the cave floor (such as those just ri ght of the center of the screen) but only move a few spaces per turn and cannot fly over or around around the Dwarves soldiers, so the Drakes in the upper -right corner of the screen cannot easily aid their comrades in the center. The Drake just above the center of the screen is pinned between two Dwarves and cannot move, and the two below him cannot retreat because there is a Dwarf next to the one-space gap in the cave wall. Meanwhile, Dwarven reinforcements pour in from the top left corner and the Dwarf L ord in the center (pinned by two Drakes) will recruit more soldiers next turn. Battle for Wesnoth is in the public domain.
232 CHAPTER 5 CASE STUDY: THE KOHEN GADOL HAS HORNS Johan Karlsson and Kristoffer Ostermans Dominions 3: The Awakening (Dominions 3) is a micromanagement -heavy, statistically detailed, turn -based fantasy strategy game with a detailed combat model but no player input during combat. Rather than conform to the standards of Tolkienesque fantasy, it uses a plurality of mythological and historical narratives as intertexts, fictionalized and welded into a common universe of reference. Dominions 3 has an over arching historical progression through three ages but no character -centered plot, and this richness of context and lack of scripted narrative make it an exemplary source of processual narrative. Karlsson and Osterman make no claim to mythological, let alone historical, accuracy. In the games voluminous (294 pp.) manual, Osterman offers this sardonic explanation o f the ex -nihilo Amber Clan Tritons: The Amber Clan Tritons mainly frolic, this has made them powerful. While frolicking, they listen to whale songs, this has made them magical. When they occasionally do not frolic they fashion items made out of the ambe r that is so prevalent in their special provinces, this has given them the name The Amber Clan Tritons. (4) Some of the factions are based on fiction, and some do have Dungeons and Dragons (D&D ) elements (Early Age Rlyeh, with its Lovecraftian monsters an d D&D Arboleths, is both), but most factions are grounded in a historical culture and its myths. The faction of Hinnom/Ashdod/Gath (Early/Middle/Late Age) is one of the most dynamic in the game. This society of giants and humans is based on Jewish, Christi an and Manichean mythology, theology and apocrypha about the antediluvian (pre -flood) world. At first glance, this factions presentation of pseudo -Judaic giants is disturbing: the Rephaim (giants) of Hinnom and Gath practice Blood Sacrifice and Blood Magic
233 (use of either in-game requires the player to first assign units to hunt for sacrificial victims). They also have horns. The most powerful priest of Hinnom is the Baal, and for Gath it is the Kohen Gadol. Kohen Gadol is the Hebrew word for High Priest, a historical, rather than mythical, role of great importance: the Kohen Gadol was responsible for going into the Holy of Holies in the Temple once a year to perform the most important rituals. In Dominions 3 the Kohen Gadol unit is depicted as an old man (Giant) with a long white beard, dressed traditionally, complete with what appears to be a pixilated Choshen, the ceremonial bejeweled breastplate worn by the historical Kohen Gadol: You shall make a breastplate of decision (or judgment), [...] Set in it mounted stones, in four rows of stones. [...] The stones shall correspond (in number) to the names of the sons of Israel: twelve, corresponding to their names. They shall be engraved like seals, each with its name, for the twelve tribes (Exod. 28 :15a, 17a, 21).16 This unit can perform Blood Sacrifices and Blood Magic. The sprite for this unit is nearly identical to depictions of the historical Kohen Gadol, except that this one has goats horns, similar to those of the Armageddon Drake sprite considered in Chapter 4 (see Figures 51 through 5-3). This monstrous figure bears unpleasant echoes of the Mediaeval European myth of the old Jew as diabolist. The word cabal for a sinister, secret group or cult comes from a corruption of Kabbalah, Jewish mys ticism. Some versions of the Faust myth claim that an old Jew introduces Faust to or teaches Faust how to summon the demon Mephistopheles. In George Sands (1st wave, suffragette) feminist Faust -inspired play The Seven Strings of the Lyre, Mephistopheles takes the form of an old Jew, to 16 Biblical citations from the new JPS translation of the Tanakh
234 literally bedevil Helen, the heroine of this version of the story she finds him to be a disgusting old man! and shortly thereafter he nearly drives her to suicide: I will kill myself. It is necessary. This wicked Jew ha s shown me all my miseries (58 -59, 65) A more contemporary image, of the running of the Jew sequence from Sacha Baron Cohens movie Borat with its grotesque, green, horned masks, also comes to mind (see Figure 54). Perhaps the most uncomfortable association is of the Kohen Gadol with Blood Magic and human sacrifice, evoking the old anti -Semitic blood libel (the myth that Jews kidnap and sacrifice Gentile children). Second only in infamy to the Czarist propaganda piece, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the blood libel is still often reported as true in the Middle East, especially in combination with the Protocols.17 It would be easy to condemn Dominions 3 and its creators for perpetuating this image. The depth and complexity of meaning present i n the texts and sprites of the nation of Giants resonates not only with the canonical religious texts of Genesis and Ezekiel but also the apocryphal Book of Enoch ( 1 Enoch) and the Zohar the most famous work on Kabbalah, both of which are mentioned in Os termans development diary (Gath, dev diary 9). The Book of Giants, a lost Manichean text revealed by the Dead Sea scrolls to have preexisted Manicheanism, and the Sepher Ha-Razim a Kabbalistic spellbook that predates the Zohar seem to be outside the scope of Ostermans research, but their relationship to and influence on the final versions of the aforementioned texts nuances the context and meaning of Ostermans Jewish giants. The resulting picture is consistent with Dominions 3s dark and often ruthl ess tone, but 17 for example, Mustafa Tlasss 1986 The Matzoh of Zion
235 also offers interesting possibilities in terms of processual narrative. Analysis of the narrative and ethicoaesthetic dynamics of Hinnom, Ashdod and Gath requires contextualization in terms of the ur -texts about the giants, and how Dominions 3 allows these narratives to emerge. Structures of Time in Dominions 3 In Dominions 3 administrative time predominates, though scalable time and the virtual time of simultaneous resolution are also important. Much like Laser Squad Nemesis ( LSN ), Dominions 3 is a PBEM game, so the time of play is completely different for different players, but the ein sof of turn resolution is identical and equally virtual for all players. As in LSN vectors trace across the screen, lines of potential connection between provinces and arrows that indicate planned deand reterritorializations that indicate paths of reading directions that the future may take when these virtual motions are actualized (see Figure 55). Unlike the similar structures in LSN there are no whorls or loops of discarded time in Dominions 3: there is no option to preview events, only to view the virtually determined results of military engagements that occurred last turn (see Figure 5-6). Battles are (re)played in scalable time, where a kind of staggered turnorder ensures that military formations act together while presenting the appearance of real time. One can fast forward or skip to the next round of actions, but there is no option to rewind, only to replay. As with other instances of scalable time, player interaction is limited to scaling the passage of time neither the course nor outcome of the engagements shown can be altered. The administrative time of Dominions 3 is as pure as that of LSN all of the games actual times and events are enacted though the virtual time of simultaneous
236 resolution. All of the time of play spent in the games structure of administrative time is incommensurable with the diegetic order of events and passage of time in the game. The remove is even greater than in LSN where one knows when in the turn/next 10 seconds ones contingencies are intended to trigger: in Dominions 3, there is no relationship whatsoever between the order in which commands are given and the order in which they are executed. The most dramatic effect of this is in terms of processual narrative and a third structure of time in Dominions 3. The game has no plot to reveal, but it does have a history, incarnated as a universe of reference in every instance of flavor text in the game, but that history is only valid until gameplay begins. Ones decisions in the games administrative time constitute an intent to alter history, and their actualization in messages and scalable time constitute something entirely different: new events. Gameplay becomes an intervention in history, and the creation of a processual narrative that is neither dependent upon plot nor a simple mirror of player intent or even skill. Life Goes On...Until It Doesnt One of the most remarkable aspects of the ficti onal world of Dominions 3 is that, for most of its inhabitants (serfs, villagers, etc.), life goes on, and indirect management of this biopower is essential. Strategy games tend either to leave the civilians out entirely, or else treat them as replaceable/ disposable. Dominions 3 is similar to the Civilization (Civ ) games in how it handles populations, but it goes further by virtue of being simpler. Population is the primary determinant of everything from tax revenue to resource production to whether a province produces enough food to feed your armies, but, unlike in the Civ games, you dont get to shuttle around units of population from job to job or place to place. Nor do you have technology and city building trees to
237 climb. You can build a temple, a (m agical) laboratory and an appropriate fortification in any given province, and thats it. If you want to decrease unrest, reduce the tax rate or assign units to patrol the countryside. If you want to increase faith (dominion), build a temple or assign a priest to preach the good word. Because the player can only do things to them, and neither simply ignore them nor tell them that theyre moving to Barnards Star tomorrow and giving up their work in the high tech sector to be farmers, populations behave in a more human and more civilian manner in Dominions 3 than they do in most such games. Most people in any society are neither soldiers nor sages, but they do pay their taxes. Given that you play as a God and a warlord, and that the average person is implic itly a serf or a peasant, theyre not going to give you much trouble. Despite being literally a God game, this is not a God game. One can set the tax rate so high that people begin to starve to death, but the player cannot order them all to go to war o r even to move to the province with the iron mine. There is no graphical representation of the common people in Dominions 3. They appear in text messages and as numbers associated with provinces (sample province Tirannea is home to more than 9500 souls, and the peasants are content, or at least subdued). This makes it easy for the player to maintain distance, from the hypothetical concerns and suffering of the populace A calculus of (fictional, electronic, abstract) human life is the result. Random events and hostile spells can drive away or kill 20% or more of a provinces population in a single turn. Thats at least hundreds and more likely thousands of common people. Patrolling a province to reduce unrest kills ten population per p oint of unrest reduced. Low levels of unrest can be eliminated by
23 8 temporarily reducing taxes, but high unrest usually requires patrolling in order to prevent a local revolution and loss of control over the province. Managing unrest is a necessary part of the game. Unrest values in a recently conquered province sometimes start at over one hundred, which means it is likely that a thousand or more civilians will die in the pacification of the territory. In comparison, a successful blood hunt might turn up six to ten appropriate sacrifices (blood slaves). Thats a tenth of the number likely to be killed by patrolling in the same turn, and a hundredth of the damage a disaster (natural or supernatural) would produce. Unfortunately for Pretenders who use Blood Magic, every Blood Slave collected produces at least one point of unrest, increasing the real cost of blood magic at least tenfold. Even so, this is likely to do no more than offset the provinces growth rate, and again, life goes on.18 Deliberate reduction of populatio n isnt hard. The player can inflict substantial casualties on a provinces population by use of magic to produce a tidal wave, plague of locusts, etc. Armies can be ordered to pillage the province they occupy, producing a little gold and a lot of dead peasants. This makes it possible to break the production capacity of an enemy held or hotly contested province. It is very difficult, however, to entirely empty a province. The Book of Giants Gath is a historical city of the Philistines, as is Ashdod, from wh ich the Middle Era nation of Giants in Dominions 3 takes its name. Gath is the Biblical home of Goliath: His name was Goliath of Gath, and he was six cubits and a span tall (1 Sam. 17:4b). 18 High unrest (for any reason) increases greatly the chances of people abandoning the province (effect the same as population death of same amount). Also, Pretenders who have blood slaves sometimes get a random event in which a hero kills your guards and frees many of your slaves.
239 Paradoxically, not long after David kills Goliath, he and his arm y seek refuge from King Saul in Gath: So David and the six hundred men with him went and crossed over to King Achish son of Maoch of Gaul (1 Sam. 27:2). Gath is, therefore, home to both Goliath and David, if not simultaneously. The same might be said of Gath in Dominions 3, as most of its troops are modeled on the tribes of Israel, including Benjaminite Slingers, who get a bonus to Pillage (Benjamin is a ravenous wolf [...] in the evening he divides the spoil), well equipped Asherite Soldiers (Ashers bread shall be rich, / And he shall yield royal dainties), and Levite Zealots and Priests (Gen. 49:27, 20). At the same time, it has Goliath-like giant soldiers and its most powerful leaders are Rephaim giants (see Figure 5-7). Early Era Hinnom consists of giant Rephaim and demi giant Avvites, and Middle Era Ashdod of different tribes of Rephaim with some human slaves, but Late Era Gath (subtitled Last of the Giants) suggests a Post -late Era in which the human tribes make their way alone, and the last Rephaim Kohen Gadol would be succeeded by a Levite High Priest. Further anticipation of this coming change is furnished by the Abbas (Hebrew Fathers), recruitable heretics who reject human sacrifice and the superiority of giants to humans, as they find the bloody cult of the Kohanim despicable and have sworn their [lives] to aid the meek. They tend to the human population of Gath (see Figure 58).19 No such figures existed in Hinnom, a nation of giants and demi giants, or Ashdod, where humans were impoverished slaves. These patriarchs are Gittites (lesser giants) and so lack the horns of the Rephaim. The Abbas simple robe, unkempt white hair, and 19 In Dominions 3, heretics are commanders who preach an alternative to the dominant religion and therefore reduce the populaces faith in the players Pretender (reduce dominion).
240 beard are congruent with (Western, Christian) traditional images of Abraham preparing to but ultimately not s acrificing Isaac, and thereby rejecting human sacrifice (see Figure 5-9). Moreover, Abraham is often painted wearing blue and sometimes with a blue sash belt, as in Jzsef Molnrs The March of Abraham (see Figure 510). A blue sash belt is one of the st andout details in the image of Dominions 3s Abba, contrasting with the red sash belts of the Kohenim (see Figure 5-11). Given these trajectories, we may hypothesize a Post -Late Gath in which an Abrahamic figure, a father of a multitude of nations (Gen. 17:5), is produced when the fathers (Abbas) heresy becomes law and human sacrifice is banned. This still says little of the Giants themselves The processual narratives players create with Hinnom and Ashdod are the stories of the Giants, and even Gath is unplayable if one eschews them. So far, we have redeemed Israel at their expense. It would be a mistake to dismiss the Nephilim and the lesser Giants as Biblical boogeymen, but explaining their place in Dominions 3 requires a digression into apocryphal texts: 1 Enoch and the Manichean and Jewish versions of the Book of Giants Mention of Giants in Genesis is brief and equivocal. Genesis 6:2&4 states that the divine beings (or sons of God) saw how beautiful the daughters of men were and took wives from among those that pleased them. [...] It was then, and later too, that the Nephilim appeared on earth when the divine beings cohabitated with the daughters of men, who bore them offspring. They were the heroes of old, the men of renown. This passage has h istorically been interpreted as the mating of angels and humans,
241 producing giant offspring, partially because elsewhere the word Nephilim is associated with great strength and size. The divine beings or sons of God it mentions have also been interpre ted as noblemen, and their children as larger than life in deeds (the heroes of old) rather than physical size. This interpretation is rational, but its plausibility requires what Charles Fort calls a damnation of contrary evidence. In this case, the evidence is in extended versions of this story that can be found in 1 Enoch and the Book of Giants There are also 2nd and 3rd books of Enoch, of more recent provenance, but they are not relevant here. The Qumran fragments, better known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, establish the historical importance of 1 Enoch: The caves at Qumran have produced twenty manuscripts of Enoch as many as the book of Genesis (Abeg 481).20 The Qumran community existed from some point in the middle 2nd century BCE until about 70 CE, s o the scrolls are at least that old.21 The oldest functionally complete version of the Book of Enoch is the Ethiopian text, from somewhere in the 4th-6th century CE (Knibbs 22). No complete text of the Book of Giants exists, but both the Manichean fragments and those from the Dead Sea Scrolls seem to be an expansion of the first part of the Book of Enoch the Book of the Watchers J.T. Milik, who first tra nslated the Enochic Dead Sea Scroll fragments, argues that the Qumran Book of Giants was the original beginning of the Book of Enoch, and was later censored. 20 Martin Abeg Jr., Peter Flint, and Eugene Ulrich. Despite the prevalence of 1 Enoch fragments, Abeg, Flint and Ulrich do not include it i n their Bible Because the text is available elsewhere, and because of the admittedly speculative nature of including it even in a Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (481). 21 Abeg, Flint and Ulrich give about 150 BCE to 68 CE as the lifespan of the Jewish communit y at Qumran ( xv).
242 The origin of the Nephilim in 1 Enoch starts nearly identical to that in Genesis, but soon diverges by naming the angels, the sons of heaven [...] Semyaza, who was their leader, Urakiba, Ramiel, Kokabiel, Tamiel, Ramiel, Daniel, Ezeqiel, Baraqiel, Asael, Aramos, Batriel, Ananel, Zaqiel, Samsiel, Saratel..., Turiel, Yomiel, Araziel. These are the leaders of the two hundred angels, and of all the others with them (1 Enoch 6:2, 7b8). This listing of angels will later be repeated in a litany of skills taught by these rebel angels, and is similar to the listing of angels for magical purposes in the Sepher Ha Razim. These angels, called Watchers, or Grigori, after the Greek word for watcher ( or Egregori : took wives for themselves, and everyone for himself one each. And they began to go in to them and were promiscuous with them. And they taught th em charms and spells, and showed to them the cutting of roots and trees. And they became pregnant and bore large giants, and their height (was) three thousand cubits [a cubit is the distance between elbow and thumb about m or 1 ft]. These devoured all t he toil of men, until men were unable to sustain them. And the giants turned against them in order to devour men. [...] and they devoured one anothers flesh and drank the blood from it. (1 Enoch 7:14,5b) This may (or may not) be the end of the Nephilim, but not of the Watchers sin: Azazel taught men to make swords, and daggers, and shields and breastplates. And he showed them the things after these, and the art of making them: bracelets, and ornaments, and the art of making up the eyes and of beautifying the eyelids, and the most precious and choice stones, and all (kinds of) coloured dyes. And the world was changed (1 Enoch 8:1). Other angels proceed to give their Promethean gifts, including magic, astrology, and herbology. Initially it seems that it i s the Nephilims hunger that drives them to destroy one another, but part of the judgment against the Watchers is that their sons will destroy
243 each other. And the Lord said to Gabriel [...] send them [the Nephilim] out, and send them against one another, and let them destroy themselves in battle (1 Enoch 10:9). This, like the two creation stories in Genesis, creates parallel and incommensurable events: in this case, of the destruction of the Nephilim. Either their hunger compelled them to it, or they were set up by Gabriel. The Book of Giants offers a third explanation: that the giants fought the (unfallen) angels and lost: With the strength of my powerful arm and with the power of my might / ... (a)ll flesh, and I did battle with them, but I (am) not a ble to prevail for us(?), for my adversaries / sit (in heaven), and they dwelt with the holy ones, and no / ...(the)y are stronger than I (Reeves 65). This creates an image of the Nephilim that is more tragic and human than that of the cannibalistic monst ers who ultimately devoured each other. The Watchers are punished more harshly than their children, and their punishment is cruelly ironic: When all their sons kill each other, and when they see the destruction of their beloved ones, bind them for seventy generations under the hills of the eart h until the day of their judgment and their consummation (1 Enoch 10:12). They were tasked to watch and not interfere, and because they became involved, they are forced to watch one last event, the slaughter of their children before being deprived of their function (watching) by being buried alive. The importance of being denied the ability to watch is emphasized in the fate of Azazel, who is singled out for especially harsh treatment: And further the Lord said to Raphael: Bind Azazel by his hands and his feet, and throw him into the darkness. And split open the desert which is in Dudael, and throw him there. And throw on him jagged and sharp stones, and cover him with darkness; and let
244 him stay there for ever, and cover his face, that he may not see light (1 Enoch 10:1 -5). Azazel is covered twice, once with darkness and once explicitly to deny him sight. Azazels fate sets the stage for the scapegoat rite of Leviticus 16, in which two goats are prepared one marked for the Lord, and the other marked for Azazel (Lev. 16:8b). The Lords goat is sacrificed, along with a bull, and the temple is ritually cleansed, after which the live goat shall be brought forward. Aaron shall lay both hands upon the head of the live goat and confess over it all the iniquities and transgressions of the Israelites, whatever their sins, putting them on the head of the goat; after this, Aaron is to send it off to the wilderness for Azazel (Lev. 16:21a, 10b ). In the notoriously error -ridden Tyndale Bible and the largely Tyndale -based King James version, Azazel is mistranslated as (e)scape. These concepts are reflected in Dominions 3 s Giants, especially Early Era Hinnom. Hinnom, Ashdod and Gath have access to a unique Pretender: The Son of the Fallen is the last of the Nephilim, ancient giants of Godlike power. When the other Nephilim lost purpose, he began to hunt them down and devoured them all (see Figure 5-12). This is a logical transformation of the story of the Nephilim devouring each other someone has to be the last once left standing. The sprite for the Son of the Fallen evokes carnality and appetite. He is depicted wearing only a cape, and his stance is wide, leaving his genitals and pubic hair in full view. He is shown leaning forward, emphasizing the large pair of golden bulls horns that crown his head. In game terms, the Son of the Fallen consumes fifty times as much food as an elephant, and is naturally skilled at Blood Magic. The Son of the Fallen, if made the Pretender of Hinnom (Early Era nation of Giants) can perform a sacred ritual to free one
245 of the Grigori. Doing so requires a lot of research, high skill in Blood Magic, and the largest sacrifice of Blood Slaves in the game. This rite, called Release Lord of Civilization requires the sacrifice of 177 slaves. By the calculus we provided before, capturing 177 Blood Slaves will produce so much unrest that keeping the civilian population in control (through military patrols ) will result in the deaths of two thousand or more civilians. Despite the high cost of Release Lord of Civilization, the spell describes the Watchers in positive, Promethean terms: The Grigori, or Watchers, were angelic beings who taught the forbidden lore of civilization, warcraft and magic to the Avvim. The Avvim, a Canaanite tribe mentioned in the Torah, have no Biblical connection to the Grigori or Nephilim, but in Dominions 3 the human women the Grigori married are the Avvim, and the children of the Nephilim and the Avvim are the Rephaim. In the Torah, the words Rephaim and Nephilim are not directly connected, though both are translated as giants. It is hard to read the nation that can summon the Grigori, Hinnom, as in any way virtuous: the word Hinnom is the Hebrew form of Gehenna and its home province contains the infamous city of Gomorrah. This leitmotif of Biblical horror carries through to the Melqart, a horned Rephaim warrior and skilled Blood mage with an appetite that almost rivals the Son of the Fallens hunger. Melqarts have gruesome appetites and many of th em feast on their smaller kin. This is more than flavor text: each Melqart requires twenty times as much food as an elephant, and, if supplies run short, they making up the difference by eating people (population). There is also the magicianpriest, the Baal, similar in appearance to Gaths Kohen Gadol, but his robes are of red, black and gold. In Hebrew, baal is an honorific similar to lord, and it is often used in the
246 Tanakh to designate a foreign God. One such deity, Baal Zebub, lends his name to the Christian demon Beelzebub. Moreover, the word Baal has a particular resonance in the back history of the Dominions games. Karlsson and Ostermans first collaboration, Conquest of Elysium 2 is an early ancestor of Dominions 3. Among the playable characters (each the leader of a faction) are two opposed religious leaders: the Cardinal of El and the High Priestess of Baal. The Cardinals faction has a Neomediaeval Catholic feel, complete with an unpredictable inquisition, and Baal, described in the games m anual as the hungry God demands human sacrifices (par. 50). Unlike its darker descendant, Dominions 3 in Conquest of Elysium 2, only two factions practice human sacrifice: that of the High Priestess of Baal, and that of the Demonologist. Conquest of Ely sium 2 is also more High Fantasy in style, with Tolkienesque Elves, Dwarves and Orcs as playable factions. Despite this, the use of El as the name of the pseudo-Catholic factions God is significant, as that is a Hebrew title meaning Lord and one of the names of God (ex. El Shaddi, usually translated in the Christian Bible as the Lord your God). Baal (or Baal) is, as mentioned above, properly a prefix, and is still used in Hebrew to indicate that someone is the lord or master of something, for example, founder of Hasidic Judaism Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer, known by the honorific Baal Shem Tov (good master of the name). The golden calf of Exodus 32 might be an icon of a Baal also known as Hadad, a storm God sometimes depicted as a bull (Iconography Baal). The golden calf has become part of the Christian syncretic demon Baal. Thus, the golden bulls horns of Dominions 3 s Nephilim Pretender connect him with the golden calf and Baal/Hadad as well as with Christian demonology.
247 Furthermore, Baal has been associated with human sacrifice in Karlsson and Ostermans games since Conquest of Elysium 2, so connecting Baal with the maneating Nephilim is a logical step. The Melquart in Dominions 3 is named after the patron deity of Tyre, also known as Baal Sur, and is more likely to be the Baal of 1 Kings than is Hadad ( Iconography Melquart). Like the magicianpriest Baal, this bloodthirsty warrior giant is named after a rival God to that of the Jewish people. In this context, the disappearance of the Baal and Melquart after the Early Age, and simultaneous with them any possibility of freeing the Grigori, can be read as a moral/ethical advance. Unlike Hinnom and Gath, Middle Era Ashdod does not practice Blood Magic or Blood Sacrifice. Equally or more significantly, it has access to new spells that summon angels, culminating in the Merkavah, or Chariot of the Lord, which appears in Ezekiel 1, in the Haggada about Enoch, and in pre-Zohar Jewish mysticism. 1 Enoch and the Haggada expand upon Genesis 5:24 Enoch walked with God; and then he was no more, for God took him. In these texts Enoch practically commuted to heaven and back; at least once by Merkavah Enoch was carried into the heavens in a fiery chariot drawn by fiery chargers (Ginsberg, Ch. 3 Par. 52). In 1st Enoch as well as in the Haggadah, the approach to the throne of God is described in a panoply of fire, ice, and lightning that culminates in And I looked and I saw in it a high throne, and its appearance (was) like ice and its surrounds like the shining sun and the sound of Cherubim. And from underneath the high throne there flowed out rivers of burning fire (1 Enoch 14:1819a). This structure around the throne is one form of the Mekavah. A more chariotlike form is described in E zekiel : I could see that there were four wheels
248 beside the cherubs, one beside each of the cherubs [...] and when they moved, each could move in the direction of any of its four quarters [...] Their entire bodies backs, hands and wings and the wheels, the wheels of the four of them, were covered all over with eyes. It was these wheels that I heard called the wheelwork. Each one had four faces: One was a cherubs face, the second a human face, the third a lions face, and the fourth an eagles face (Ezek 10:9a, 11a, 1213). The Merkavah in Dominions 3 is described in similar terms: In a blaze of otherworldly splendor, four wheels covered by four wings move the Merkavah in four directions. Above the four wheels, at the center of the solar glory is a livi ng being with four faces, four wings, four colors and four lives. Above the living being is a sapphire dome of stellar might, beyond which the unbearable might of the Celestial Thrones is visible.22 The in game effect of this is to give the player the powerful Tetramorph (four forms), also called the Chayot (chariot), as well as four Ophanim (wheels, see Figures 5 13 and 5-14). The Tetramorph is an important mystical figure, sometimes called the Tetrazoa (four animals a possible origin or influence on Blakes The Four Zoas ) and often associated with the Tetragrammaton, the four -character/syllable unpronounceable name of God. Diverse Tetrazoa appear throughout Jewish and Christian mysticism, including t he four holy animals of Revelations 4:7: And the first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face as of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle (ASV Bible). The Dominions 3 interpretation is neither four -sided and four -faced nor four separate creatures, but of four eye-covered 22 This is one of a very few instances where the graphical economy of the game is regrettable: after all of the work that goes into researching and casting this spell, the summoning itself is marked only with a text message, like any other ritual spell.
249 winged wheels (Ophanim), and a single Tetramorph that is humanoid in shape, but has four forms, one humanheaded, and one each with the head of an eagle, lion, and ox. The game explains it thus: The divine might of the Chayot is so vast that it cannot be contained in a singular physical body and only one form of the Tetramorph is manifest at any time. In Dominions 3, one of the names given to an individual Tetramorph is Ezekiel, presumably after the book/prophet. The Merkavah has powerful symbolic significance: in 1 Enoch, the Grigori ask Enoch to carry their petition for mercy to God, because they cannot enter his presence. The Merkavah is associated with the intense presence of God, and one has to be worthy to see it and live in the Haggada about Enoch, after he was carried up in the chariot, They found snow and great hailstones upon the spot whence Enoch had risen, and, when they searched beneath, they discovered the bodies of all who had remained behind wit h Enoch [after being told to leave] (Ginsberg, Ch. 3 Par. 52). In Dominions 3, the inhabitants of Hinnom, who are still tied to and revere the Grigori, cannot call the Merkavah. In Ashdod the Baal and the Melquart, along with their cannibalistic appetites, have been replaced by the Talmai Elder and the Adon, Rephaites inspired by the Nephilim of Numbers 13: They went up into the Negenb and came to Hebron, where lived Ahiman, Shesai, and Talmai, the Anakites. [...] All the people that we saw in it are men of great size; we saw the Nephilim therethe Anakites are part of the Nephilim and we looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them (Num. 13:22a, 3233). Adon, like Baal, means Lord in Hebrew and can be the title of a God, but
250 unlike Baal it is not reserved for foreign Gods in the form Adonai, it is a speakable substitute for the Tetragrammaton (and other taboo names of God). In Dominions 3 s Ashdod, the giants who were denied a chance to repent in 1 Enoch and T he Book of Giants can be redeemed and made right with the heavens. After extensive preparation, including disciplined frugality by the player, as the spell requires 222 astral pearls, more than any other spell in the game, the Merkavah will descend and (literally, in game terms) bless the giants of Ashdod. This is despite the fact that the flavor text for the Anakim reveals that they have not given up the teachings of the Grigori: The Anakim adorn themselves [with] jewelry and practice the cosmetic arts of the Watchers. This reinforces the Promethean aspect of the Watchers, as they were punished for giving their gifts to mortals, but the giants of Ashdod (and Gath) are not punished for using the Watchers gifts. Processual narratives of play could includ e the messianic redemption of the Anakim, or their descent into obsession with their potent ancestors, or some ambivalent combination of the two. The Lost Tribe Dominions 3 s Ashdod combines a number of different canonical and apocryphal Biblical themes: t he Anakites, a Cannanite people descended from Nephilim who somehow survived the destruction of the Giants, only to be (eventually) supplanted by the Israelites; the aforementioned messianic theme; and, because the Anakites have human slaves, the captivity in Egypt. Given that Late Era Gath will be nearly overrun by human tribes named after the twelve tribes of Israel, the human slaves of Middle Era Ashdod are logically their ancestors. Gath, where human sacrifice has reappeared, seems to follow from an Ashdod that either failed to redeem itself, or suffered a second fall from grace before the Late Era. The theological potential of Gath is circumscribed by
251 its ability, on one hand, to summon demons but not the Grigori, and on the other, that it can call the Merkavah. Again, ambivalent combinations are possible, allowing for processual narratives in which, for example, the Shedim (storm demons) aid the holy Ophanim in routing the legionnaires of neo-Roman Pythium. In the Post Late Era Gath posited earlier, the Abrahamic Giants of Gath, the Abbas, have put an end to human sacrifice. If repentance comes in the Middle, Late, or hypothetical Post Late Eras, these gentled Giants then slot into place as the lost tribe of Israel. Joann Sfar posits just such a lost tribe of Giant Jews in the 2nd volume of his series The Rabbis Cat In it, the titular cat accompanies the titular Rabbi, an Algerian Sephardic Jew, his Muslim cousin, a blonde, blue eyed Russian Ashkenazi Jewish artist, and his black ex -slave African bride on a quest to find a hidden city, home to the lost tribe. After a great many confrontations with prejudice, including the patronizing attitude of a young Belgian reporter (a parody of Herges Tintin ), they meet a lascivious older European artist who tries to convince the Ashkenazi painter that it is anatomically correc t to draw black people with monkey like features. To this the Ashkenazi painter replies, in the French his wife has been teaching him, In country of me, they make same drawing on Jews (Sfar 122 see Figures 5-15 and 5 -16).23 This prepares us for the ambiv alent encounter with the Lost Tribe of African Jews that concludes the book. In the end, it is only the cat, the artist and his wife (all of whom are unnamed) who find the city, and it is populated with giants, dark-skinned Jewish giants dripping with golden jewelry (see Figure 5-17). They are Blacks whom nobody ever enslaved. Jews 23 This form of racist caricature has also been applied to, among other groups, Indians and Pakistanis (thus the slur macaca, after the Macaque monkey), and the Irish (through the 19th century). It is also the origin of the persistent ter ms highbrow and lowbrow to describe more and less intelligent and sophisticated people and culture.
252 who never left the land of their ancestors. Happy, balanced people who radiate self confidence (Sfar 126). Unfortunately, these happy, balanced people are unable to perceive th ese smaller, less happy people as their kin, and take offense when tells them that he is Jewish, like them. The cat, who understands the giants speech, translates their answer as, He says theres no such thing as a white Jew. He says they are the real Jews. He says youve offended them and we have to leave (Sfar 128, see Figure 5-18). This is an ironic echo of the Rabbis words of much earlier, nobodys ever seen such a thing as black Jews [...] look: blacks, they have slavery; Jews, they have pogroms. Its a lot to bear. Now imagine a people that has both at the same time. It just cant be (Sfar 84, see Figure 5 -19). The Lost Tribe of black, giant Jews is a fantasy of absolute freedom from those oppressions, which is the real reason the artist and his wife cant stay there: they are living contradictions to the fantasy these giants represent. Dominions 3 s Rephaim are deathly pale skinned, rather than black, but a player can enact half this fantasy, processually creating the story of a proud, unoppressed Jewish people. A similar African image of the lost tribe of Israel is presented in James Sturms The Golems Mighty Swing In this graphic novel, a barnstorming pre-league baseball team whose gimmick is that theyre all Jewish accommodates a black player their power hitter, with the fiction that he is from the lost tribe. Later in the story, he is instead costumed as the titular golem, further emphasizing his height and girth to make a demi giant of the man. The mythic St. Christopher the Christ Bear er is another such apparition. John Mitchell, in his speculative art history The Earth Spirit says of St. Christopher that in
253 his person the old giants of the earth returned to infiltrate the Church (56). Though accounts of St. Christopher are highly inconsistent, he is often described as a Giant, said to have been a cannibal and a man of war before his conversion, depicted with a dogs head (mainly in Greek Orthodox and Coptic North African images), and said to have served as a living ferry, wading a r aging river while transporting travelers on his back, including an impossibly heavy child who turned out to be an apparition of the Christ -child, who was in turn bearing the world on his back. The different versions of St. Christopher reiterate, refigure and conflate a profusion of giants and Gods: like the Nephilim he was ravenous and cannibalistic (prior to his conversion); like Atlas he bears the world on his shoulders (albeit, through an intermediary); and he shares traits with Gods of the dead, includi ng the Egyptian dog headed Anubis and the Greek Charon, the ferryman, who themselves were conflated after the Roman conquest of Egypt, in accordance with the Roman practice of assimilation of local Gods to their pantheon, an assimilation preserved in Christianized Rome through the cult of the Saints. The plural figure of St. Christopher is a survival of the giants, but also an incident of the good giant as the exception that proves the evil of giants in general. Thankfully, this is not the only way to read the giants of Dominions 3. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell William Blake describes Antediluvians and giants thus: The Giants who formed this world into its sensual existence and now seem to live in it in chains are in truth the causes of its life & the sources of all activity, but the chains are the cunning of weak and tame minds, which have the power to resist energy. [...] Thus one portion of being, is the Prolific, the other, the Devouring; to the devourer it seems as if the producer were in his c hains, but it is not so [...] Messiah or Satan or Tempter was
254 formerly thought to be one of the Antediluvians, who are our Energies (pl. 16, 17). Blakes Antediluvian giants are not appetitive, that is projection: it seems here that it is sensuality and Prolific production that define/make a Blakean giant, and it is the weak and tame who chain them, and can be read as the same as the Devouring that live off of the excess of the Prolific giants of the earth, and if the weak and the Devouring are the same (a dangerous presumption) their weakness requires that they see the giants as the dangerous consumers who must be contained. The scapegoat is sent into the desert laden with sins for the Nephilim Azazel to consume so that the penitent can continue to blame Azazel for producing carnality they crave. Messiah, or Satan, or Tempter is not an identity (Messiah=Satan=Tempter), but an indiscernability. In gnostic theology, that which is generally perceived as God is really the imprisoned and imprisoning demiurge and the divine is external and elusive, but ultimately constant and knowable. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell knowability and constancy are suspect: knowability depends on constancy, and anything constant is imprisoned/ ing: the more constant the more imprisoned/ -ing. Blake writes not of the good of the Prolific or the evil of the Devouring, but that whoever seeks to reconcile them seeks to destroy existence. Religion is an endeavor to reconcile the two (pl. 17). The Prolific cannot be truly bound: it must continue to exceed its bounds in order to remain prolific. Excess is the goal and end of the approaches to time and narrative presented herein, so the more nearly real thing that emerges from close visual analysis is not synthesis, but the opening up of multiple, incommensurable times, places, and narratives.
255 Conclusion The anarchic foldings of Blakes Marriage of Heaven and Hell bring us full circle and back to our original setting out of the problems and potentials of comics theory, and, more broadly, what might more accurately be called visual narrative theory. Neither Blakes images nor Dominions 3 are easily accessible through either film theory or traditional literary analysis. However, their visual complexities yield a great deal of i nformation when processed chaosmotically, including visual intertexts, references, and the suppressed potential images that drop off the page/screen into nonentity. The false ontological priority of the interface is revealed in Dominions 3, just as the fal se priority of the panel was in Too Cool to Be Forgotten, and a processual narrative emerges, the product not of the straitjacket of the interface or panel but of the reader/viewers interaction with the surface structures of time and narrative that emerge as boundaries fail.
256 Figure 5-1 The Kohen Gadol, high priest of Gath in Dominions 3 Note the black goats horns emerging from his forehead. Dominions 3 Shrapnel Games, 2006 Figure 5-2 Schematic of the Choshen (jeweled breastplate) and Ephod (the garment that supports it) of the (historical) Kohen Gadol. Note the similarity to the breastplate in Figure 5-1 (in game, the Kohen Gadols armor is described as a jeweled breastplate). This image is in the public domain.
257 Figure 5-3 A simple image of the Kohen Gadol in full regalia, including Choshen and Ephod, and similar in nearly all details to the figure from Dominions 3 from the gilded sash belt to the bare feet. This image is in the public domain. Figure 5-4 The running of the Jews from Sacha Baron Cohens mockumentary Borat The goblin -like giant green mask, complete with (small, red-tipped) horns is a parody of the monstrous Jew of Faust and the blood libel. Note the similarities to the High Fantasy racial caricature of the Orc di scussed in Chapter 5: large, plump lips, dark unruly hair, sloping forehead and, of course, green skin. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazahkstan Four by Two, 2006
258 Figure 5-5 Administrative time in Dominions 3, with vectors (orange arrows) indicating immanent deand re-territorializations of space. The yellow lines show the potential lines of flight from the selected territory (province). All of these motions are narratives: the orange lines towards the middle left of the screen indicate a pincer movement in which Gittite giants are advancing through a mountain pass, splitting the nation of Ulm in two. The holy Merkavah cleared the pass to prepare the way, and now it descends upon an Ulmish fortress with the wrath of (the players Pretender) God. Dominions 3 Shrapnel Games, 2006
259 Figure 5-6 Scalable time in Dominions 3. In this image, Giant soldiers (in light blue) are flanking Ulmish archers and crossbowmen (center to right side), as ranks of blessed Levite soldiers (in bronze) have broken the Ulmish pikemen. This strategy had to be planned in advance without precise knowledge of the strength or formation of the Ulmish soldiers and cannot be altered during the battle, but can be replayed, paused, sped up and skipped forward in at will. Dominions 3 Shrapnel Games, 2006
260 Figure 5-7 the armies of Gath. The Benjaminite Slinger is highlighted (in red), and a Kohen Gadol and three Gibborim (fearsome Giants descended directly from the Rephaim of old) are in the Recruitment Queue. Dominions 3 Shrapnel Games, 2006 Figure 5-8 Sprites from left to right: the sinister Baal of Hinnom, the ambivalent Kohen Gadol, the Kohen, and the Abrahamic Abba. The Baal and Kohen Gadol are Rephaim, thus the greater stature and horns; the Kohen and Abba are Gittites lesser giants. The image o f the Abba shown here is the active image; the rest are the normal or passive images. See Figure 58 for comparison to the size of humans. Dominions 3 Shrapnel Games, 2006
261 Figure 5-9 Images of Abraham and Isaac by, from top-left: Rembrandt van Rijn Laurent de la Hire, and William Blake. Most images of the sacrifice of Isaac, like Rembrandts classic painting, focus on Abrahams apparent willingness to do the deed, often showing the physical intervention of an angel. Blake, with typical contrarine ss, gives Issac an expression, seemingly one of anger. His Abraham is no less unique: he shelters Issac under his arm, and his worry lined face gazes up with reproach or despair at an absent god. It is this kind of Abraham that I refer to, cloaked in blue (the color of Chesed, the kabbalistic sphere of fatherhood and mercy ), and without any red (the kabbalistic color of Gevurah, the sphere of judgment).24 Images (clockwise from top right) Hermitage State Museum, 2006; Nicholas Pioch, 2002; and AMICA / Cart ography Associates, 2007 24 Rembrants painting is rare in that his Abraham wears neither blue nor red, and in the complete obscuration of Issacs face.
262 Figure 510 Jzsef Molnr's The March of Abraham Note the symbolic uses of red, blue and white. Image DEA/G. Dagli Orti/DeAgostini Picture Library, 2005 Figure 511 Zely Smekhovs Birkat Kohanim (the Blessing), showing t he Kohen Gadol and Kohenim, with the same symbolic colors as in Molnr's March of Abraham and the sprites from Dominions 3. Unlike the male, Christian, period artists featured in Figures 9 and 10, Smekhov is a contemporary, Jewish, female artist. Image Judaica Art, 2009
263 Figure 512 the template for the Son of the Fallen before player modification (increasing magical and religious power, etc.). Unlike the (optional) uncensored artwork for the Lord of Fertility, a Bacchus -like Pretender with a giant erection, the Son of the Fallen is flaccid, suggesting that his sex drive has been sublimated into hunger. Dominions 3 Shrapnel Games, 2006
264 Figure 513 The four forms of the Chayot, Tetramorph or Tetrazoa, in Dominions 3. In slight disagreement with the book of Elijah, but matching other sources, such as the Christian book of Revelations, the four faces are (left -right): human, lion, eagle, and ox. Dominions 3 Shrapnel Games, 2006 Figure 514 An Ophan, shown both in passive (normal) and active states. This interpretation of the wheelwork is consistent with images of Ophanim in the hermetic tradition. Dominions 3 Shrapnel Games, 2006 Figure 515 a parody of the colonialist attitudes and che erful presumption in Herges Tintin in Joann Sfars The Rabbits Cat 2. Image Pantheon, 2008
265 Figure 516 Sfars rejection of racial caricature through his proxy, the nameless Russian painter. This does raise the question, however, of whether the also nameless African woman has been formed to Western ideals of beauty, with her large but also high and firm breasts, thin waist, small butt and tiny nose. The offensive European suggests to the painter that he should ask her to pose naked, shortly before this scene, but the bite of this satirization of European painters like Gauguin and their nudes of native women may be cut short by the fact that Sfar draws the African woman naked, in and after sex with the painter, before and after their marriage. The result is a complicit critique which participates in sexual idealization and objectification even as it rejects racial superiority and colonial power. Image Pantheon, 2008
266 Figure 517 Sfars take on the city of the giants, home to the Lost Tribe. The com bination of Semitic, African and classical traits is interesting: the Giant in the bottom -right panel has an exaggerated Jewish nose (unlike the Ashkenazi painter); the boy or man in the bottom -left is built like Adonis, but has Hasidic forelocks; an d the women in the middle-right and lower left panels might almost be Greek statues as well, but for their African hair and skin color. That color itself is a dark, cool grey, almost blueish, to contrast with the warm terracotta color of the artists wife s skin. Image Pantheon, 2008
267 Figure 518 The irreconcilability of the fantasy of the Lost Tribe with the real world. Sfar implies that, if such a people existed, they couldnt possibly recognize their kinship to either Jew or African, as they cannot understand how subjugation and suffering have diminished them. Without those experiences, the giants are just as proud and insular (thus the cool, unconcerned grey) as those who have oppressed Jew and African alike, albeit less destructive: the painter and his wife are cast out, not enslaved. Image Pantheon, 2008 Figure 519 the Rabbi and the French Rabbi, his son-in -law, in a public bath. The French Rabbis carefully-rendered bare chest and the Rabbis hemispheric Charlie Brown nose are reminders of Sfars relative even -handedness with nudity and willingness to switchup art style without transition: the same character may be rendered in two different styles, with different basic physical proportions, on the same page. This fluidity gives the art an intersubjective quality: we seem to see characters as they are seen by others. This mitigates the critique made of Figure 517: we see the African barmaid-turnedbride as the painter sees her, which is as the perfection of what he has been taught is beauti ful. Image Pantheon, 2008
268 LIST OF REFERENCES Ault, Donald. Imagetextuality: Cutting Up Again, pt. III. ImageTexT: Interdisciplinary Comics Studies. 1.1 (2004). Dept of English, University of Florida. 12 Jul 2009.
269 Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation 1st ed. Univ. Of Minnesota Press, 2005. Negotiations 1972 -1990 Columbia University Press, 1997. Pure Immanence: Essays on A Life Zone Books, 2001. Spinoza: Practical Philosophy City Lights Publishers, 2001. The Logic of Sense. Columbia University Press, 1990. Deleuze, Gilles, and Flix Guatta ri. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press, 1987. Deleuze, Gilles, and Flix Guattari. What Is Philosophy? Columbia University Press, 1996. Derrida, Jacques. Acts of Religion Routledge, 2001. Dominions 3 Shrapnel Games, 2006. Dominions 3 Forums. Gath, dev diary, or something. 29 June 2009.
270 Groensteen, Thierry. The Sys tem of Comics University Press of Mississippi, 2009. Guattari, Flix. The Three Ecologies Continuum, 2008. Guattari, Flix, and Paul Bains. Chaosmosis: An Ethicoaesthetic Paradigm. Indiana University Press, 1995. Harvey, Robert C. The Art of the Funnies: An Aesthetic History University Press of Mississippi, 1994. Iconography of Deities and Demons in the Ancient Near East. Ed. Christoph Uehlinger, et al. 29 June, 2009.
271 Panofsky, Erwin. Perspective as Symbolic Form. Zone Books, 1993. The Princess Bride. Dir. Rob Reiner. Act III communications, 1987. Progress Quest (freeware), 2002. Reeves, John C. Jewish Lore in Manichaean Cosmogony: Studies in the Book of Giants Traditions Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1992. Robinson, Alex. Too Cool To Be F orgotten. Top Shelf Productions, 2008. Rogue 3.6. (opensource), 1981. Sand, George. A Woman's Version of the Faust Legend: The Seven Strings of the Lyre Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989. Sepher HaRazim = The Book of the Mysteries Chico, Ca: Scholars Press, 1983. Sfar, Joann. The Rabbis Cat 2. Pantheon, 2008. Shiff, Richard. Doubt New edition. Routledge, 2007. Sim, Dave, and Gerhard. Cerebus: Going Home. Aardvark Vanheim, 2002. Guys Aardvark -Vanheim, 1997. Minds Aard vark-Vanheim, 1996. Reads Aardvark -Vanheim, 1997. Ricks Story Aardvark -Vanheim, 2002. Stockton, Frank R. The Lady, Or the Tiger? and Other Stories Charles Scribners Sons, 1915. Stuckenbruck, Loren T. The Book of Giants from Qumran: Texts, Translation, and Commentary Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997. Sutton, Damian. Deleuze Reframed: A Guide for the Arts Student London: I.B. Tauris, 2008. Transarctica. Silmarils, 1993. UFO: Alien Invasion (opensource), 2006.
272 Wolk, Douglas. Reading Comics : How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean. Da Capo Press, 2008. X-COM: UFO Defense (PC) Microprose, 1993.
273 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Chris Tof Eklund is an interdisciplinary scholar with an interest in visual narrative and particularly in comics. H is other academic interests include critical theory and philosophy, feminist/gender theory, mythology and folklore, new/digital media, genre fiction, silent film, surrealism, postmodernity, and literature. He graduated cum laude from the University of Te xas at Dallas with a double major in literary and historical studies, earned a masters in American studies at Purdue University, and a PhD in English (comics studies track) at the University of Florida.