“…you can’t think yourself out of the story you are caught in with the rules and elements of the very story in which you are caught. You can’t free yourself with the tools that the master provides you. You need a new story and new cognitive tools. You need an intervention from the outside (even if this outside turns out to be a deep inside).”
—Jeffrey J. Kripal, “Mutants And Mystics”
With so many things of note happening in the world at the moment, I know the one thing you would like me to sound off on: what do I think of Ben Affleck no longer being Batman?
I think The A.V. Club put it best with their headline, “Ben Affleck finally achieves lifelong dream of not having to play Batman anymore.” This was a man who never truly seemed happy being Batman. I think Warner Bros., with whom he already had a contract, presented him with this “golden” deal that his agent told him he just couldn’t refuse…I mean, getting a multi-picture deal to play a comic book icon is like making money hand-over-fist.
But Affleck had already got his ass kicked by a superhero movie—2003’s Daredevil. He had to painfully scrape his way back into relevancy over the years that followed…finally scoring big by not only starring in, but directing, the Oscar-winning 2012 movie Argo (which…to be fair…was also kind of a “comic book movie”).Finally: Affleck was considered to be a serious Hollywood contender and not just another pretty face.
And then came Batman!
Now, what Zack Snyder was trying to do with Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice (which I’ve analyzed here) was bring a Frank Miller “Dark Knight”-type vibe to the character. Batman was a bit older, a bit more violent, and kind of cranky in that way only recovering alcoholics can sometimes be right at the very beginning of sobriety.
And so you had Bruce Wayne’s “Trump Scowl,” Batman trying to run Superman over with the Batmobile, and other delights. A sign of the times, perhaps; I appreciated it, actually, for what it was. But Snyder—who had made such a splash with 2009’s Watchmen—really wasn’t allowed to apply a full vision of “dark & grittiness” to this new DCU trilogy. What we had instead was a bit of a schizophrenic blend of Frank Miller + a tacky Happy Meal-level “toyetic” quality to the proceedings.
Look: I’d watch Batman v Superman again…even though its main plot point is literally a jar of urine. It’s flawed, it’s cringey in places…but it’s more or less entertaining to watch. It’s better than Batman and Robin. I’d probably sit down and rewatch Batman v Superman before I did the same for Batman Begins.
Anyway, for every era, we need a new Batman; just like for every era, we need a new Joker. These are very dynamic archetypes, and each generation gets the one they “deserve.”
Of course…with time sort of “quickening”…a “generation” now is like five years or less. But I digress.
At least I got this nice desktop wallpaper out of the experience:
Well, Ben, you can relax now; your long national nightmare is finally over.
Here’s your Tip of the Day regarding what I’ve just written about Ben Affleck & Batman: sometimes in life, you just need to say “NO” to Opportunity.
Sometimes, what SEEMS like a Great Opportunity is just going to be something that fucks your shit up.
Here is an interesting thing I meant to share with you, from the alt.magick Google Group: a reminiscence by legendary editor/writer Catherine Yronwrode about the comics/magick scene of the 1970s. While the link to the article she references doesn’t seem to work, Yronwrode herself provides a vivid picture of what was nothing less but the powerful intersection of the occult, superheroes, and alternative sex practices.
In the process, she sort of “outs” Sinister Forces author Peter Levenda as being the famous “Simon” from the mass-market paperback version of the Necronomicon. Though to be fair, that’a pretty much a very “open” secret, though one that Levenda himself still denies. However, if you read Simon’s book Dead Names: The Dark History Of The Necronomicon—which, I believe, also mentions that comics/occult scene—and compare the style and subject matter with Sinister Forces…it’s kind of obvious it’s Levenda. Though I would imagine you wouldn’t put mass-market paperback version of the Necronomicon on the top of your resume—though, depending on where you send it, you just might.
Anywho, we get some insight from Yronwrode’s post how “real life” occult practices (among other things) influenced comic books like The Uncanny X-Men and Dr. Strange during that time period:
Bonnie and Chris Claremont were quite active in the New York City demi-monde of the 1970s-80s. Bonnie was a gifted artist and jeweler, and she had her own coterie of friends in Gardnerian Wicca as well. Chris enjoyed a certain amount of celebrity at the time due to his comic book work and because he was using the pages of the X-Men to introduce his own interest in BDSM to comics, in the person of the “Black Queen” persona of the X-Men character known as Jean Grey, Marvel Girl, or Phoenix. Bonnie and Chris had an open relationship, and in the late 1970s, Peter Levenda and Bonnie were lovers, as is mentioned in the article by Alan Cabal. Together they investigated psychedelics, as well as neo-tantric and ceremonial sex magic.
In 1977, as assignments at Marvel were being shuffled, Chris Claremont asked to be given the job of scripting “Dr. Strange,” Marvel’s “Sorcerer Supreme” or magical hero. “Dr. Strange” had recently come off a very impressive run of issues under the hands of the occult-inspired scripter Steve Englehart, but was faltering in direction after Englehart’s departure. Unfortunately, due to the popularity of Chris’ “X-Men” work and the perennial low sales of the cult-favourite “Dr. Strange,” it was decided by the powers-that-be that Chris should stay with the better selling titles, and thus “Dr. Strange” was languishing under a series of short-term scripters, none of whom had any background knowledge of the occult arts, even through fiction.
Chris was disappointed, but he was a team player, and he wanted “Dr. Strange” to succeed. Because i had a grounding in occultism and had also written a series of essays on the magical system utilized in “Dr. Strange” as if it were an internally consistent real-world magical tradition, Bonnie and Chris asked me to help any new scripters who got the “Dr. Strange” assignment by giving them a crash course in the history of the Western Esoteric Tradition, so they could make appropriate in-group references, and to provide them with copies of a booklet i had written called “The Lesser Book of the Vishanti,” which was an annotated index to the internal continuity of magical tools, spiritual powers, and chanted spells that had been published in “Dr. Strange” comics from its outset in 1963.
This intersection between magick and comics is really not so surprising, when you think about it—after all, the superhero icons are just our modern religious/mythological figures. Which is why I believe the behind-the-scenes business, “fan,” and personal drama in the comics industry is so intense. Because they’re basically playing with the fate and iconography of the latest Messiah(s).
As I finished up this post, I got a long call from my doctor with the results of my bloodwork: which was pretty much like, if I don’t go on statins & a dramatically different diet immediately, I’m going to die.
Actually, this is not a surprise, and I’ve known it was coming for a while. Not sure why the “hammer” has been coming down on me for like EVERYTHING at the same time for the last month-and-a-half, but…it has to happen. I have to make these lifestyle changes.
And that’s it. I have to do it. I gotta change my life.
Have a good Friday.