Friday, 3 January 2014

Neil Gaiman's Prose III

This post has been slightly revised, 4 Jan '14. See below.

On careful inspection, the attached image is not, although it closely resembles, "Talking After Midnight", the introduction to Neil Gaiman's Midnight Days (New York, 1999).

(Even closer investigation reveals that it is the back cover.)

In the introduction to the story from the Swamp Thing Annual, Gaiman writes:

"I'd read the two Brother Power The Geek comics as a small boy, and thought they were seriously weird. Rereading them as an adult they were still seriously weird, and funny, and touched with a sad, strange nostalgia." (p. 16)

All nostalgia includes sadness but why is this also "strange"? It is nostalgia not only for boyhood but also for fiction read in boyhood. Thus, the object of the nostalgia is at two removes - backwards into the past and sideways into fiction. Further, "...the idea of Brother Power as a final remnant of flower power began to possess me." (ibid.) Thus, there is a third remove, at a tangent into a flower power future that never came to be?

Gaiman tells us that the narrative voice in the captions is an impression of Alan Moore. There is a uniformity to the character introductions.

"There was a man who tried to do more good than bad, born out of his time." (p. 17) - Chester.
"There was a woman who had been damaged..." (ibid.) - Liz.
"There was a man who sat in shadows..." (p. 20) - the intelligence officer, Steel.
"There was a man who was no longer a man..." (p. 21) - the superhero, Firestorm.
"There was a man who wasn't a man..." (p. 26) - Brother Power, a blood- and water-soaked doll animated by lightning. (That is how it happens in this type of fiction.)
"There was a man who dealt in ephemera and dreams." (p. 27) - the proprietor of the "Third Eye" shop, a venue created by Alan Moore.
"There was a barren woman who lived surrounded by dolls." (p. 28) - an innocent victim created by Gaiman to appear on a single page.
"There were men and women doing their best in adverse circumstances." (p. 30) - emergency services coping when Brother Power's satellite crashes in Tampa city center.
 "There was a man who lived in darkness; in night; in caves; in the unquiet shadows of the human spirit." (p. 32) - this is the best introduction, Gaiman's equivalent of "Meanwhile, in the Batcave...," after Steel has phoned Special Line 5, Codename Fledermaus.
"There is a woman, Abigail Cable." (p. 31) - Codename Fledermaus advising Steel.
"There was a woman heavy with child." (p. 34) - Abby.
"There was a man who lied, and betrayed, and murdered his countrymen, for his country's good, and for his country's honor." (p. 35) - Agent Triangle.

Revision starts here, 4 Jan '14:

After these introductions, the main characters have similar sign-offs.

"There was a man who wasn't a man: call him Brother." (p. 55) - Brother Power goes looking for America.
"There was a man whose dreams had died, who changed his name like most people change their minds: call him Triangle." (p. 56) - this summarizes what we have learned about Triangle during the story.
"There was a man who helped to rule the world with a cold iron hand: call him Steel." (ibid.) - this character has played his role but not developed during the story.
"There was a woman who waited: for her love, and for her child: call her Abby." (p. 57)
"There was a woman...There was a man...Call them lovers. For the moment." (p. 58) - Liz and Chester, but Chester has realized during this story that their relationship cannot last.

Are Chester and Liz walking in or out of a house on the last page? We see vegetation through the window but also on their side of the door. Is this ambiguity deliberate or just my visual misinterpretation?

Telling dialogue -

Triangle: Aren't you scared of monsters, Mrs Holland?
Abby: When you've met as many of them as I have...the only monsters that scare you are human beings, Mr Endor [his current alias]. (p. 38)

Triangle has just threatened to kill Liz, then blackmailed Abby, but shows no sign of understanding that she might be referring to him. He even agrees with her, in the process misquoting Howell Forgy and misattributing the quotation to Benjamin Franklin. Chester, "...not to get uncool...," starts to put him right but is told, "Nobody asked you, hippie." We learn that, by hating Chester, Triangle is hating his younger self.

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