Friday, April 08, 2005

I Really Dig Me Some Misty Magic Land

One of the things that I loved most about Alan Moore's comic book, Promethea, was the whole concept of Misty Magic Land.

Misty Magic Land, or Immateria as it is referred to by all other Prometheas, really gave J.H. Williams a chance to flex his artistic muscles. This is a land where imagination is reality. This is the land that author John Barth dreamed about in “A Life-Story.” It is a powerfully surreal place, a place that is “like a recurring dream...or maybe she just dreamed she had that dream, or she dreamed it once, but in the dream she remembered dreaming it before”.

Here, Sophie Bangs (the modern Promethea) meets her guide on her journey, Little Red Riding Hood, or rather, Sophie’s Little Red Riding Hood, for as any writer about archetypes can tell you, there is no definitive Little Red Riding Hood, for she is whatever each reader creates her to be.

Sophie’s Little Red Riding Hood is based upon a drawing that Sophie once drew of her after Sophie and Stacia had seen Reservoir Dogs, a little doodle of Little Red Riding Hood with a gun saying, “Let’s go to Grandma’s”! The doodle was not funny, and it was quickly thrown away, but as Hood tells Sophie, “She threw a piece of paper away, maybe. Ideas ain’t that easy to get rid of”. This is the land where all ideas live as actual things. In Immateria, Little Red Riding Hood is a foul-mouthed girl with a machine gun who quite appropriately in the land of stories, smokes Marloe cigarettes.

There are actual solid things in the “real” world, but most of those things have ideas behind them, and in Immateria, those ideas are the solid things. The Dark Woods in fairy tales may represent all sorts of things, most of which probably have to do with sex, but in Immateria they exist as literal Dark Woods. In Immateria, the stories exist as well perpetually, so Little Red Riding Hood will always go into the Dark Woods to her Grandmother’s House, and the wolf will always come after her.

The encounter with the Big Bad Wolf also brings to light another important distinction that exists in Immateria. In Immateria, ideas exist as “the unvarnished idea, without any adult defenses like distance or irony or whatever”.

Therefore, the Big Bad Wolf exists as he actually is in the actual story. He is an almost demonic figure in the story, but the story has taken on such a familiar character, readers cannot distinguish the actual figure of the Wolf from their “grown-up” view of the Wolf.

After the incident with the Wolf ends with both Wolf and Hood rushing to resume their predestined parts, Sophie/Promethea has to save Stacia from the Weeping Gorilla. The Weeping Gorilla has been a constant in Promethea up until now. In the Promethea world, The Weeping Gorilla is the most popular comic book in the world. The Weeping Gorilla is essentially, a weeping gorilla that spouts ironic catchphrases, much like the “Saturday Night Live” skit, “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey.”

However, if there is no context, if there is only the idea itself, then satire and irony can be very deadly things, because they are very sad and hurtful. In the case of The Weeping Gorilla, his catchphrases depress Stacia and Sophie to the point in which they are too depressed to leave Immateria.

Eventually, Sophie manages to save them from the Gorilla by simply punching him and running. Still, even something as simple as a punch is not simple in Promethea, for along with the punch comes the sound effect SMACK (74), which is onomatopoeia, which is a literary term which suitably has power in the land of the story.

After escaping from the Gorilla, Sophie/Promethea and Stacia find themselves being chased by the wolf once again. Blasting him, Sophie realizes that she has no power over him. It is at this point that she realizes that the story of the Big Bad Wolf is probably a story that “goes back to the Stone Age”, so he is thereby an older story than Promethea and must be a more powerful story than Promethea.

The only way to escape is to “write” about New York City, i.e. describe it, so that becomes more real to them than Immateria. That is the same strategy that Stacia uses when they come back to help Sophie turn back to herself from Promethea. She helps Sophie “write” about Sophie, all the while still referring to Promethea as Prosciutta, Pro-Lifea, and Propanea. When Sophie finally returns and collapses on Stacia, exhausted, all she can do is say her name, “Promethea”.

Alan Moore rules.


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