Friday, September 16, 2005

i'm confused



If writers and academics won't (or can't) be overt about their intentions, people lacking in hardline convictions, like myself, are just going to end up confused. To me, and I am sure to you, the image on the left is a metaphoric (but hardly!) representation of a man masturbating. It is reproduced in a book called Comic Strips and Consumer Culture by Ian Gordon, and published by the Smithsonian Institute Press. It is included in the book not as an example of how comic artists could portray superheroes with huge penis-shaped weaponry at crotch level, in the company of young naked boys, and get away with it/use it to sell comics but as an example of comic heroes' tendency to 'fight Axis foes before and after the United States entered the war' (p. 139). It appears in a chapter called 'The Comic Book' in a sub-section called 'The superhero as wholesome symbol'. There is some discussion in the section about attacks on comic books on the basis of immorality but nothing about this kind of symbolism. So I am left wondering. Does the author recognise this as a celebration of phallophilia? Or did he just look at it and think 'oh yeah, the Human Torch is attacking some Japanese soldiers with that spurting wet canister?' Or whatever it is. I can't see it as anything other than a big penis-shaped object. The other possibility, which recently occurred to me, is that Marvel comics said he could use the image, but not make any reference to it as sexualised, which is possible, I guess, but if it had been me in that case I would not have used the image, because it is so obviously sexualised it leads you to question the validity of the author's opinions if he can reproduce something like that with no comment. Hmm.

6 comments:

Michael said...

This reminded me of a recent post on Maddox' blog.

Were the artists aware of this sort of thing? It seems unbelievable that they weren't, and I remember a quote from Ed Emshwiller, a fairly well-known pulp SF illustrators of the 50s, saying "all spaceships are phallic symbols". So at least he knew what was going on.

But, possibly, the same psychological mechanism that prevents Gordon from noticing this sort of thing, prevented some of the artists and editors from noticing it in the first place.

boy said...

As a child, I knew the Torch didn't have a penis so I wasn't surprised when he'd pretend with automatic weapons because that's what I did even though I didn't have to.

Mr Bob said...

boy is back. hooray.

David said...

The post Michael recommends is fascinating.
I would posit that if those artists weren't aware what they were doing, they were too stupid to live.

Anonymous said...

well let me see the Torch was an android so maybe that is why Gordon was more interested in showing the Torch burn Japanese sailors alive

Robert said...

Well I think you are stupid because you see penises everywhere. Lord, those telegraph poles in your street are surely phallic.