plainly and simply parasitical on the obvious or univocal reading

Thursday, September 09, 2004

The More Things Stay the Same, the More They Change?

Tim O'Neill at the Hurting is the latest to tackle the issue of characters in company comics being fundamentally changed to suit the whims of the current creator. His argument is that it is disrespectful to the original creator to alter the character at its most defining level. He does say that change is okay on certain levels, as long as it does no damage to the narrative consistency of prior work. On the new Question series (which, to be fair, is not yet available for reading), he writes:

One of Steve Ditko’s greatest contributions to the field of comics – if not his single greatest contribution – is the strident and consistent marriage of art and polemic. You can’t separate a Ditko creation from their moral underpinnings without changing the characters beyond recognition. To do so, as DC has consistently done with the character of The Question for almost twenty years (including another well-regarded run with the character by Denny O'Neil) , is an artistic insult of the most egregious caliber.

I would argue that the moral absolutism that defines the Question’s world is as vital to Ditko’s original conception of the character as the mythological trappings behind Thor. Take away Asgard and Odin and all that, and Thor’s just another strong man with a hammer. Take away the Objectivist philosophy, and the Question is just another mentally-ill costumed vigilante.

My sight-unseen opinion on this is that Tim is right in this specific context. While there are probably very few comic readers or creators who agree philosophically or politically with Objectivism, there are still ways to keep characters who do embody that philosophy while at the same time addressing any disagreements that might exist. For example, put the Question through some kind of situation wherein he is forced to acknowledge an ambiguity of some sort. There are any number of ways to logically dismantle Objectivism in a narrative fashion, I'm sure.

But it seems to me that in this case, it's not so much that Veitch disagrees with Objectivist thought, or at the very least he doesn't claim to. It's more that he doesn't seem to address it at all. It doesn't even enter into consideration. Veitch says that the character needs "tinkering" to help him stand out on his own. But why? How many Objectivist comic characters are there? The Question, Mr. A, Rorschach (perhaps, though it isn't so explicitly stated)... the list doesn't exactly go on and on.

So yes, that to me is more the insulting thing. The history and motivation of the character aren't even being considered. It's just the name and the visual being kept, because in the end, that's all that matters to an intellectual property house.

Again, though, I would like to say that these are thoughts I am having prior to even reading the book, and I may be proven completely wrong once it is released.

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