MISC: GODLING # 10: Wild Times

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Sat Jan 6 21:33:26 PST 2007

One question I've often debated with my friends is, is it fair to
criticize something for being the thing that it is?

For example, John Carpenter's Halloween is a horror/thriller/slasher
film.  Is it fair to criticize it for its underdeveloped characters?
Is it fair to criticize a superhero story for having capes and tights
and villains and secret identities?

Depending really on which specific example we're discussing and the
mood I'm in, my answer varies.  And so, as you can see, I'm kinda
ambivilant about it.

Which brings us to this issue of Godling.  Not that I'm ambivilant
about the story itself, per se-- I love it, as I've loved every issue
of Godling.

I love Godling because it's the only series on RACC that really taps
into the Golden Age of Comics, into wish fulfillment and icons.  It's
very appealing at that primitive level, as forceful and strong and
heady as the most feverish fever dreams of my childhood.  The stories
move at a clipped, fast pace, rushing along with enthusiasm and glee.

There's not much grace to them, but grace is not required or really
wanted.  Godling is whatever precisely because it is what it is, and I
love it for the same qualities that might turn others off.

At the same time, a couple things in this issue kinda stuck out and
bothered me.

The first one stuck out, I think, because it was right at the beginning
of the story.

> Godling stared into the black hole of the 9mm pistol raised at him.
> Although with his powers he had no real reason to fear it, he did
> respect it.

Okay, but why does he respect it?  The end of that sentence, "he did
respect it", implies that the next will provide the answer.

> He'd witnessed three thugs ready to set flame to one of
> their enemies and had already taken out one of them.

Is that the answer?  I'm not really sure.  It's a little too vague.

The thing is, if this passage happened in the middle of the story, I'd
probably overlook it; once I'm in a Golden Age kind of mind-set, I'm
completely gelling with Golding and his world.

Let me try to explain what I'm talking about.

There's a Captain America story from the forties, one of the original
Simon-Kirby Cap & Bucky stories, where Cap and Bucky leave Camp LeHigh
to go fight the villains that reside in a German encampment.  Now,
here's the thing:

Camp LeHigh is in America.  Apparently, there is a German enemy camp
within walking distance of an American base, in 1941, during World War

But here's the thing: when I'm in Golden-Age Mode, I don't care about
the geography of it.  I just enjoy seeing Cap kick some ass.

And that's the thing.  The Golden Age, like Beowulf or other works of
early literature (almost ur-literature, in a way), doesn't give two
shits about believability, structure, character development, and
realism.  It just wants to entertain you, it just wants to drive you
wild with excitement.

And, if you're responsive to it, it does.  At least for me.

Godling is like a Golden Age comic in that way, and I mean that as the
highest of compliments.

But, when you're faced with a discrepency right at the beginning of the
story, before you've clicked with it, it calls attention to itself.

But, again, I'm not sure if it's fair to criticize Godling for being
what it is.  The very thing that bothers me about that first sentence
is tied, inexorably, to the very things that turn me on about the

At the same time, Jochem expands on his format, style, and tone, with
each and every issue.  He pushes it to its limits, in new and
interesting ways, ways that are perhaps not apparent at first.  But,
y'know, that's the Golden Age too.

If the Silver Age was a time of synthesis, the Golden Age was a time of
discovery.  The Silver Age merely looked at the experiments of the
Golden Age, at what worked and what didn't, and brought it together
into an easily-digestable and very commercial whole.

On the one hand, this made for "better" stories, in the traditional,
literary sense of the word; on the other hand, it kinda stamped out the
individuality that marked the best early comics.  And so I can say that
Godling is one of the most individualistic works on RACC.

But let me call your attention to this passage.

> Death Dog had his nose to the ground, sniffing out the scent of his
> target, the masked crime fighter who'd dubbed himself Safari. What an
> idiot that guy was. Dressing himself like some SM-version of Tarzan. He
> could take an example from his own style. His expensive red leather
> duster, his Oakley shades... That man was disgrace to the black race,
> making them look like damned cannibals or something. He grinned at the
> thought of cannibals. Actually he liked a casual bite of human flesh
> every now and then himself.

Here, Jochem gets us into the villain's head, undercuts his supporting
hero, and then undercuts the assertion the villain made in the first
place.  The villain thinks the hero is a stereotype and the villain
actually reinforces the stereotype himself.

This is actually a very nice and complex piece of characterization on
Jochem's part, and it still unfolds in the head-long rush of his prose.
 The sentences are unpolished, mimicking the actual cataclysms of human
thought.  This serves to doubly reinforce the identification the reader
has with the villain, and it also serves as a pointed comment on race
and stereotypes.

Now, this isn't the other piece that bothered me (remember, I mentioned
two).  It's this one:

>     "Hi professor," the female in his bed greeted him
>     Startled, he took a step back. He recognized her then. The gorgeous
> blonde was the student who'd tried to ask him out a day earlier.
> "Amanda? What are you doing here?"
>    "Isn't that obvious? I'm waiting for you," she said
> seductively.
>    "How did you get in?"
>    "The super offered to let me in. I told him I'm your sister."
> She brushed a strand of hair behind her ear. "A little charm is all
> it took."
>    "Please, put some clothes on and leave," Quentin pleaded. As
> good-looking as Amanda looked, the whole scene felt morally wrong to
> him. And besides that, he would get in a lot of trouble were he to
> sleep with her.
>    "Don't you want to join me?" she asked, running her hands over
> her body.
>    "Again, please leave."
>    "I can't believe you don't want me. I've seen you looking at
> me during class, professor."
>     Quentin was getting sick and tired of the whole affair. He walked
> over to Amanda and grabbed her by the wrist. "Please get out of
> bed."
>    She struggled, but Quentin wrapped the sheets around her and got her
> out of bed. He found her clothes on the floor and handed them to her.
> "Put them on and get out of here before I call the police. You're
> trespassing in my house."
>     She glared at him. "Nobody has ever turned me down, professor.
> You'll pay for that."
>     "Invoice me," Quentin said.
>     Angry she put her clothes on. She stormed out the door. Shouting
> again at him, "You'll pay for that!"


> "Hello?" he said, surprised. He wasn't used to encounters with
> policemen in his civilian guise.
> "Hello, professor. I'm sorry but you'll have to come with us,"
> Janson said.
> "Why? What happened? Has something happened to someone? Monica? My
> brother?"
> "No sir," Janson said. "We're putting you under arrest for the
> rape and assault of Amanda Reese."

The thing I'd really like to know is, _why_ did Amanda act this way?
Now, I understand that

1) some women sleep with their professors/try to put the moves on them
2) some women make false claims of rape as a means of revenge

But I've never seen that combination before, and for some reason, it's
just not gelling.  I don't really get Amanda's whole attitude in this
thing in the first place: why does she want to sleep with her
professor? why is she so indignant when he refuses?

I mean, does she expect anyone she asks to have sex with her to do it?

>     She glared at him. "Nobody has ever turned me down, professor.
> You'll pay for that."

Okay, so maybe she does.  Which makes me wonder, how many people has
she done this to before?  And why does she do it?

I'm not saying the character doesn't work; I'm saying that the
character interests me.  Her motivation interests me.  I wish I had
seen more of her character in the scene, hinted at if only obliquely.

And yet character motivations and complex introspection and subtle,
oblique characterizations aren't the hallmarks of Golden Age comics.
So maybe it's not fair to criticize this story for this incongruity.
Why fault it for what it is?

I think the problem is, the Death Dog scene spoiled me.  I liked the
way it provided some insight into the villain.  And with a character
like Amanda-- potentially a more complex and interesting antagonist
than the supervillain-- I guess I was kinda hoping for more insight.

Compared to the Death Dog scene, Amanda seems more like a plot device,
a way to put our hero's civilian identity in peril.

And, who knows?  Maybe the next issue will give us more insight into

> A Woman Scorned

And so I'm kinda hoping that, at least in the case of this character,
Jochem breaks from the Golden Age vibe-- just a _little_.  I'm hoping
that "A Woman Scorned" is actually about that woman, and not only about
how Quentin gets himself out of this mess.

But that's kinda like hoping for a tragic ending to a romantic comedy
(or a romantic uplift at the end of a tragedy).  It's not that it can't
happen-- but that it really shouldn't.  Just like Silver Age
superheroes shouldn't kill and Golden Age ones shouldn't fight talking
apes in a Giant Musical Instrument Emporium.

Things should be what they are.

Shouldn't they?

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