среда, 21. октобар 2015.

The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture

Serija od pet eseja napisanih za potrebe seminara The Rise of the Superheroes and their impact on pop culture Smitsonijana, Majkla Uslana (profesora Univerziteta u Indijani na katedri za strip i filmskog producenta) i Stena Lija. Eseji su u originalu, kako su bili podnošeni za potrebe seminara, a vremenom ću ih prevesti na Srpski i obogatiti prigodnim ilustracijama. Završni rad, sa temom Panišera sa osvrtom na uzroke njegovog nastanka i uticaja u društvenim tokovima tog vremena, nije uključen ovde i biće posebno izdvojen.  

Essay 1: Mythological interpretation of superheroes/villains

Every protagonist in American superhero universe can truly be identified as one of ancient deities. Some with more, some with less imagination and mythological background. But, to know what truly lies in inspiration of their creators and authors is only for them to tell. Just as any superhero and super villain actually (most of the time) has gone through in-depth evolution of character, where his abilities, background, and sometimes very essence has been changed, probably several times. So, to truly understand their mythological background is to look in very inspiration and interpretation of their makers.
With that in mind, we can give our sighting of mythological background that is sometimes very different from intent of people that conceived them in their mind.
First of all, let's start with a very unique super villain. Actually, not as villain but rather creature of unimaginable power and background, that caught everyone's eye on first reading – Doomsday. Doomsday is a creature, in lack of better term, that was responsible for killing Superman in a event from late 1992. As an ultimate killing machine, we see Doomsday beating his way from underground dungeon, chained and covered, only to gradually see him exposing himself trough this event. His very appearance, as seemingly mindless beast, full of bone spikes, teeth, gray skin, and desire to wipe out any life, puts him in a same perspective as primordial forces, uncontrollable and without remorse – Titans from Greek mythology, very enemy of Olympian gods in Titanomachia. Titans were children of Uranus and Gaia, and first order of Titans counted 12 deities of unimaginable power and personifications of primordial forces that terrified humans – earthquakes, eruptions, floods etc. Titanomachia is a legendary conflict of Titans and Olympian gods led by Zeus. Olympians were actually offspring of Titans, namely Titans Kronos and Rhea. Important thing, or rather – things, are that Titans were not killed after conflict. They are immortal, just as is fear from these primordial forces that even now awake from time to time and threaten our civilization (tsunami, volcanoes etc). Just as them, Doomsday is un-killable. He escaped from underground dungeon, chained, and came to uncontrollably destroy or be stopped (temporarily). He lives on and on, from one devastation to another, and becomes even more deadly every time he "dies". His very origin is from Krypton, planet of Superman origin, but his beginning is veiled in a shroud of time as a proto-project of early Kryptonians in search of genetic perfection. So, in a way, he is a predecessor of Superman that came to battle his "offspring", just like in Titanomachia. And last thing in this regard of Doomsday as first example, is the role of Superman. Morrison compares him to Hercules in All Star Superman, and it is Hercules that tipped the scales in Titanomachia. Olympian gods were to be victorious only after Hercules comes to join their ranks. So, to conclude, Doomsday has its parallel in Greek mythology as Titans, with very palpable aspects of myth that support it.
To continue in same manner to second example. Or, in better words, to continue Doomsday arc and get on to Superman. As it is pointed by mr. Uslan, professor of comics from University in Indiana, regarding his parallels of superheroes and ancient deities,  Superman does indeed have origin story in a certain way similar to Moses. But, rest of mythos just don't fit. Also, Morrison tied him to Hercules in his masterpiece All Star Superman, which is just fine, he is heroic figure with vast possibilities; we can also listen to the words of Wonder Woman in animated movie Justice League: War, when they defeat Darkseid (New52 version at least) and she points out their ties to ancient Greek gods. She calls Flash – Mercures, Cyborg – Hephaistus and so on. But for Superman she points out that he is "something that is never seen before". Well said. But not for lack of certain parallel, but better for presence of too many of them. Superman is combined might of best parts of all ancient Gods. But, if we have to point out one of them, it is certainly Helios, the son of Titan Hyperion, and not in fact one of the Olympians but Titan himself. But as many of them, like Aphrodite or Tethys, he was in peaceful terms with Olympians after and during Titanomachia, and he acknowledged supremacy of Zeus. Helios was a Sun god. He flew across sky in his golden chariot, spreading sun rays across world. He was given island of Rhodes by Zeus, where in ancient Hellenistic times stood his magnificent statue, one of Seven wonders, Rhodosian Colossus. He did not get his strength from Sun, like Superman, but in fact he was Sun. But in other terms, he could fly, like Superman, his power was in close connection with Sun. He did not have any weakness like our Superman had Kryptonite, but when you look at it there really were some connection. Only thing that Helios was afraid, like Olympians, was only thing that could block out his power – escape of Titans from Tartarus (personified in comics as escape of Doomsday). His origin was his only threat. Well, what is Kryptonite if not radioactive corrupted remnants of his home world – his own origin. And to conclude, in mentioned All Star Superman by Grant Morrison, it was Superman that reignited the Sun in the end. That was his actual apotheosis – becoming of deity. He has returned thousands of years later in a book also written by Morrison, JLA One Million, as a golden god bathed in sun rays emerging from Sun – something like Helios.
And to conclude this with an third example, we will be moving from DC universe for time being, and to Marvel comics. Since Greek mythology is foundation for previous analysis we can continue in that tone. Our target now is Captain America, created by Kirby at the beginning of World War II in 1940. Captain America originated as a small, weak patriot who went through experimental testing and got a dose of super soldier serum, which turned him in a perfect warrior in every way. So, he was a human given powers of deity. Unstoppable warrior, strong, with higher stamina, speed, endurance, and better in every possible way then best of us. But his moral founding's, his very essence was his own, uncompromised and incorruptible by anyone, and above all he respects only his own judgment, not any authority or order that he is not considering honorable by his standards. Captain America, what is very well known, was buried for years in ice after mission gone wrong, and was found by members of Avengers, namely Tony Stark, Hank Pym, Wasp and Hulk. From there he was logical person to lead this team of superheroes. Let's stop there with review. So, do we have any deity that fits in this description, even remotely? Well, it is Achilles, Greek hero from Trojan war. Achilles was a son of Myrmidon king Peleus and nymph Thetis. So, he was a mortal, with a godlike part in himself, but still mortal. Knowing this, his mother dipped him in a river Styx (Acheron) when he got his invulnerability, except on his heel where mother held him while doing this. His god part gave him stamina, warrior skills, speed and invincibility. Mother gave him invulnerability by ritual. And gods, namely Hephaestus, gave him best armor in a world. So, Steve Rogers/Captain America was given almost all those things by a scientist (father figure) that injected him super soldier serum. And also he was given vibranium shield, what is his trademark, indestructible armor like Achilles had. Similarities are obvious. Achilles had one flaw, his heel that was his only vulnerable part. Captain did not have weakness like that, but he did have something else. His only weakness are his friends, from Barnes to modern day teammates. Well, Achilles also had a fatal weakness, a love for his friends, especially his cousin Patroclus. When Patroclus was killed wearing Achilles armor, he got in a blind rage and set a series of events that resulted in his death by the hands of Paris. Long story short, Patroclus was killed by Hector, who was killed by Achilles, who was later killed by Hectors brother Paris. And we can't count times when Captain America was in danger by his loyalty for friends and teammates. Concerning Captain's morality and respect of his judgment above authorities, Achilles was also known for his short temper and conflict with kings and warriors alike, especially Agamemnon. So he too didn't respect any authority that was against his moral code.

Essay 2: Rise of superheroes in 1930s

Among numerous factors that resulted in rise of comics, and especially superhero comics in 1930s, and having in mind all political, social and economical sides, we can point out, or rather narrow to three main "why's".
a) Production and distribution
b) Money in times of Great depression
c) Crime, mob and World War II
As for first topic, there is question of production innovations in these times. We all know that XIX century industrialization resulted in great deal of new production techniques, especially steam powered engines. Printing press dates back to Gutenberg in XV century, but it was in XIX c. that we saw first steam powered press that managed to do from 1000 to 1500 impressions per hour (iph). What happened in XX century was greater use of electricity, better machines, and as result better, faster and more reliable printing press. From late 1930s we could count on steady 2500 to 3000 iph, with far less production cost. Thus, printing any form of material, poster, news, book, dime press and pulp fiction, and of course comics, was more and more profitable, with less and less production cost.
Also, there was major break in color printing, especially in 1930s. Up until then, method used for color printing was chromolithography, and later zincography, which were replaced dominantly in 1930s by offset printing. It was discovered in 1875, but was in commercial and wider use from these times, and thus more efficient, less costly and more profitable.
Also, distribution of any press, and comics, by 1930s was easier and less costly.
So, we have a product for wide population, that was now more easy to make, produce, and distribute, and it cost less to make, and by that less to charge to end users. We can say it is very important part in its popularity.
Secondly, money. And "money makes the world go round". In 1929. US initiated Great Depression, biggest economical collapse of world economy... up until XXI century. It started on September 4th 1929. with fall of stock, and culminated on October 29th same year with stock market crash. World was in trouble, and US above all. Unemployment reached to the sky, with increase of 607%, and with foreign trade plummeted 70% in minus. One thing led to another, and we had increasingly more and more poor people, hungry and unsatisfied, especially in urban centers. Public disappointment was increased, and US were on break of chaos. But, old Romans had one very good saying "panem et circenses" – bread and games. People had to be fed and entertained to be calm. Rations guaranteed that there were not to be nation-wide hunger, and low cost entertainment did the rest. And did we mention that comics were 10c? Did we say that everyone could read them? Kids and adults. Literate and others that did not went in good terms with letters. 10c was pretty low cost, even in that times. For example, steak was 20c, new radio was 9.95$, new car 685$, train set for kids 11.98$ and mince pie was only 40c. So, even in that times 10c was something that was affordable to kids. And above all, comics could go through many hands, and could be read many times. And it could be done anywhere: toilet, roof, bed...
A study conducted by Market Research Corporation for Fawcett Comics in 1943. actually concluded that 95% of elementary aged children read comics, and 90% of high school kids also consumed them. So, it was wide array of readers that grew up on them in very troubled times, mainly because it was affordable, available, and immensely fun.

Third and final thing. 1920s and 1930s, as it was mentioned, was a time of great rise of organized crime in US. Not only that, but crime was interesting. Criminals were like movie stars. Politicians were crooked, cops were corrupted... For poor kids raising up in great cities, it was only option, and for some it was like going to Big Brother in these days – way to celebrity and riches. Even "The King" Jack Kirby stated, and I quote: "...Gangster's weren't stereotypes  you see in movies. I knew the real ones, and the real ones were out for big money. The average politician was crooked. That was my ambition, to be crooked politician. I'd see them in these restaurants, and they'd all hold these conferences..."
So, it was desired by many to be one of those people. And, beyond hill there were even greater dangers lurking. Nazi's rose in Europe, Japan went their way. Suddenly ideology was important. And people needed something to inspire them. But people couldn't fight those big battles, especially when they remembered horrors of WWI. People needed to actually escape that reality, in a world when some figure, colorful and shining, someone from beyond our world, or even some rich man that desired justice, something unseen in their reality, could resolve big battles with one punch. People needed to believe that beyond any glasses, hat or cloak there was a figure to lead them to victory on those that oppressed them. People needed to believe that even one small, weak and clumsy boy could fight Nazi's after one experiment. People needed inspiration. Thus, radio drama, pulp fiction and superhero comics. First there was fighting organized crime, when came Superman and Batman, but soon after they, and those that came with them, Captain America, Namor, Wonder Woman, went to bigger battles, and suddenly gave youngsters to wish something else then being "crooked politician". And even one boy that wished that gave us Captain America instead.

Essay 3: Origin of superheroes and their authors

When we are talking specifically about Jewish authors that created bulk of superhero figures in comics throughout end of 1930s and first half of 1940s, namely during times of Great Depression and World War II, we are actually talking about implementation and inspiration of their culture. And that is a culture older than most in our world. So, sources of implementation are vast.
First, I want to divide question of development of comic book industry from actual inspiration of superheroes. Jewish immigrants and first generation of Jewish citizens left a strong mark on rise of industry, just as much as immediate inspiration on superhero culture. Jewish culture is a culture of survivalists. They adapt and search for possibilities in every environment and culture, while trying to maintain their strong imprint and uniqueness. And that culture of survivalists spent hundreds and thousands of lifetimes in specific professions, mainly financial. They were hated for it, and loved, but spirituality and finances are two things that most people associate to Jewish culture. Besides persecution and thousands of years of exile. And in new world, running from new persecution, immigrants and their children tried to do what they know best – survive. One thing about them, they are connected and innovative. Those two features made possible for comic book industry to thrive. It was loved by wide audience of children and youth, thus made a lots of profit, and its creation was all about many people making it together. Didn't Stan Lee say once that he got his first job by family connections? It's how it works in many areas, it was like that way back in 1930s too. Sense of enterprise, innovative spirit, and new frontier for publishing.
Now to head over to authors. From Jewish rich culture, there are several things that give direct inspiration for superheroes:
1. Prophets and messiah
2. Golem
First, culture of prophets and messiah mythos is strong in Old testament and majority of Jewish holy scripture. It was prophets that preached the word of God, and were bestowed special gifts, "powers" if you will, upon them. Need we go over them? Jonah and whale, Daniel and lions... It goes on. Old testament is full of miracles of "chosen ones". Moses and exodus is one long story about "superhero", or maybe dividing Red sea, Manna from Heavens and all other miracles isn`t enough? And not to mention Messiah. Hebrew scriptures preach coming of chosen son, messiah, sent by God (Heavens), to deliver people from evil, save them and be all mighty. Something that two Jewish kids made up and turned in the comic called Superman. Then what is Batman, another creation of Jewish author? Well Avenging angel, of course. One of angels that leveled Sodom and Gomorrah (even sounds like Gotham, don't it), cities filled with sin and crime.
Other approach to creating superhero, other than "sent by God" must be "made by man". And Golem is just that. Creation of man, with great power and some weakness. Story is that masters of Kabala, Jewish mysticism, can create man of clay, Golem, and to breathe life into them by magic and writing word of life on their head. Those creatures have great strength and power. It is believed that one of them was created in XVI or XVII century in Prague by rabbi, and it laid waste trough city. Golem is destroyed by wiping one letter from word of live, transforming it in death. Well, let's remember Human torch. Created by man, a scientist, kept in bottle, and in contact with air it was on fire and powerful. Let's remember Wonder Woman - created by mother from clay. Yes, clay, and given life. Sure, not all superheroes have that origin. Not all derived from Jewish culture. But, not all authors were Jewish too. One inspired others, and those inspired latter. All in one long chain. But inspiration of those thing is undeniable, and should be respected.

Essay 4: Of monsters and men

Decline of superhero comics popularity, emerging of new genres (romance, western, crime...) and especially strong opposition to comic culture, particularly superhero – that was one hard decade, from mid 1940s to mid 1950s. And it was a decade that comics really came in line with other forms of culture media in US. How? Well, it was attacked like all others.
The Cold war was emerging in a post-war world. A strict divide, Iron curtain, has split a world in two. And, say what you want about Cold war, but really it was a war of fear. Let's put it Fear, with capital "F".  Communists were afraid of western capitalism, and vice versa western world was afraid of communists – revolution and nationalization in two words. But here's a thing about fear – it leads to more and more fear. To protect one country, one of leading capitalistic countries of post war world, US government decided to make its citizens really afraid of communism. So they painted very imaginative and colorful picture of that looming threat. Communism was everything you can imagine: homosexuality, crime, hunger, starvation; every possible thing that can put fear in ordinary man and woman. And only thing standing in way to spreading of communism, according to government, was The American Way. And it was portrayed as the ideal of suburban communities, working middle class, home and family, going to church and with high sense of morality. And all thing that just didn't fit in were, amongst other, comic books.
According to experts, parents, teachers and public in general, they were a massive waste of time, poorly drawn, illiterate and violent. That some of them, many of them actually, were really bad didn't help either. Most of inspiration was gone, and society felt that children needed little more guidance other then comic books. So, when dr. Wertham started his crusade, a witch hunt of sort, he hit a society in its weakest spot. Most of children read comics, and parents just needed to be reminded by someone that they can put a stop to it. We all know what dr. Wertham did, and how, so we don't need to go over it step by step, but he did acquire a vast number of followers over years. And all that was devised on a poor and falsified study. His so called case study involving "thousands" of children, actually was a lot smaller in numbers, and he deliberately hid some of facts to fire up his claims. First of all, he concentrated only on children that were with troubled behavior. And he tied their actions to comics. Where in reality one could have dug up almost hundreds of times more kids that also read comics without any behavioral problems. His own example shows a kid troubled with homosexuality that Wertham tied to his reading of Batman. Truth is, not told by kind doctor, that boy was sexually molested, and that he didn't read Batman for years prior interview by Wertham. Those examples go on and on.
But, nevertheless, comics were started to be persecuted, burned, banned, and response of industry was actually weak. They tried to fit in, blend. They downsized production and efforts to produce quality material. Responses were few and weak, only few stand out, like:
"Lately there has been quite a debate about comics raging in the Saturday Review of Literature (...) In an article a Dr. Wertham discussed the problem of juvenile delinquency in America today, and pinned the blame for some of these cases on comic magazines, simply because many of the delinquent youngsters had read comics. 93% of all young people (from 8 to 16 years of age) read comics. Naturally a few young people get into some kind of trouble... so do a lot of older ones... and of course many of the kids who get into trouble do read comics. But what the article does not state is the fact that 93% of the boys and girls who get into no trouble at all also read comics. (...) Once again let us remind you to show our magazines, or any of the other good comics, to people who criticize this form of entertainment. Show those people that your favorite magazines are not harmful. Let them see Dr. Thompson's endorsement on the first page of every one of our magazines, and prove to one and all that the comics you buy and read are good for you." (Timely Comics Editorial, 1949)
Wertham had more than few followers, and some of them were people from medical profession, and others that didn't agree with him remained silent. Why? Fear, with capital "F". Nobody wants to stand out and give his support to something targeted as subversive like comics, and something insignificant like comics too. It was a time of witch hunt after communists in all of States, time of McCarthy and his hooligans in Committees driving many people to suicide, and fear can drive you to many things, even silence. Those that did stood out, mostly editors and authors, actually had a symbolic target on them.
To ease up the pressure, a solution from movie industry came in hand. The Association of Comics Magazines Publishers (ACMP) was formed on July 1st 1948. to regulate the content of comic books. The founding members included publishers Leverett Gleason of Lev Gleason Publications, Bill Gaines of EC Comics, Harold Moore of Famous Funnies, and Rae Herman of Orbit Publications, with attorney Henry E. Schultz serving as executive director. That very body devised Comic Code Authority several years later. Things culminated at 1954, on April 21st, when a Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency was summoned by senator Estes Kefauver. On that hearing dr. Wertham was one of strongest participants, and to everyone's surprise he even stated that comics should not be banned but only regulated. So government had a very strong point regarding comics at that time. Comics Code Authority was established that same year. Absurdly, things were on a way to calm down for comics after CCA have been established. Sure, it was a nuisance for publishers, and for industry itself, but by mere existing of some regulatory body like CCA government and public seemed to calm down; like there was someone to keep an eye on those comics for them and they could rest easy. There were greater threats looming in distance then cartoons and comics.
If CCA was a good thing in general, it wouldn't been abandoned years later, as it should be with any form of control and oppression. But, truth in all, there is one good thing that came out of it. Bound by CCA chains and watchful eye, comic book authors were forced to be more creative than before to survive. That explosion of creativity, new ideas, using new setting of things in world to produce new line of superheroes gave birth of Silver age of superheroes, and God knows if that would happen if superhero comic world have not been shaken a bit during 1940s and 1950s.

Essay 5: Silver age

The very term "Silver age" of comics refers to Greek mythology once again. The term was used to describe five "Ages of men" by Hesiod. Silver age was second age of man, following Golden age, same as here. In Golden age, during of rule of Kronos and Titans, people were noblest and lived longest. After defeat of Kronos by Zeus came Silver age, where people were still more noble then today, lived hundreds of years and were mighty, but not as much as in Golden age. It was a time of beginning of Olympian rule and rule of Zeus that has seen division of year in four seasons. The term Silver age of comics refers to second age of comics, and as its Greek counterpart, has seen some changes in superhero universe, some good, some less nostalgic.
America changed from end of World War II to 1956. That change, besides Cold war and all those things that brought Wertham and McCarthy, reflected in serious and palpable difference in US in just one decade.
Between 1945 and 1960, the gross national product more than doubled, growing from $200 billion to more than $500 billion. Historians use the word “boom” to describe a lot of things about the 1950s: the booming economy, the booming suburbs and most of all the so-called “baby boom.” This boom began in 1946, when a record number of babies – 3.4 million – were born in the United States. About 4 million babies were born each year during the 1950s. In all, by the time the boom finally tapered off in 1964, there were almost 77 million “baby boomers.”
Second thing is real change in civil movements, and above all strong turn towards African American emancipation. A growing group of Americans spoke out against inequality and injustice during the 1950s. African Americans had been fighting against racial discrimination for centuries; during the 1950s, however, the struggle against racism and segregation entered the mainstream of American life. In December 1955, a Montgomery activist named Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give her seat on a city bus to a white person. Her arrest sparked a 13-month boycott of the city’s buses by its black citizens, which only ended when the bus companies stopped discriminating against African American passengers. Acts of “nonviolent resistance” like the boycott helped shape the civil rights movement of the next decade.
But biggest change of all was in people views of young people. The term "teenager" was rarely used before the 1950s. During the Eisenhower years, young people began to see themselves as a distinct group. Their attempts to forge an identity worried adults, who couldn't understand the shift. The change was connected to the nation's affluence. Earlier in American history, young people often had to work full-time jobs to help support their families' basic survival. By the 1950s, that was usually no longer the case. Teens instead worked part-time jobs or received allowances from their parents, giving them money to spend on fun non-essentials. So now, young people had minds of their own, and money to spend on them, with more and more independence. But that change didn't go the way their parents planned, or at least feared.
They owned cars, cruised the highways, and frequented fast food outlets and drive-in movies. They bought records and adopted rock n' roll as the sound of their generation. Rock was a form of music created specifically for teenagers, performed by young people, and marked by a more open sexuality than the kids' parents were used to. But the youth movement of the Fifties did not overturn society, as some grown-up experts feared it would. Youth rebellion was aimed at parents and the confines of daily life, not at society as a whole. The only youthful rebels of the era who you might truly call revolutionary were the African Americans who participated in serious protests against wider injustices in society. Most white teenagers did not concern themselves with social problems and some educators referred to them as a "silent generation." Like many in the Fifties, they were restless. But as they grew up, they tended to adopt to the norms of the wider society. Almost half the young men of the era were drafted and served dutifully in the United States military. So society saw that fears of dr. Wertham and critics of urban pop culture were not real and threatening. World kept on spinning, and youth just needed its outlet. So, they had means to buy and enjoy  comics, they wanted more and more better content, and it sprung dawn of Silver age of superheroes, for much more emancipated and educated youth. It reflected world as it was in that age. Modern, fast, more scientific and exploratory.
And in that world, with youth that didn't just want simple one sided storylines, market wanted human side of stories. And that is what Stan Lee gave them. As he himself stated, he implemented a "human" story in superhero universe. Personal relations, overall grey instead of pure black and white world, that is something that exists even today in all superhero comics. Good ones at least. Not by mere inventing tons of characters, but by knowing desires of that day market, Stan changed way we perceive comics today. Writing to editors, answers to readers, personal and warm reception of everyone's opinion.
There is only left to say few words of Batman TV show that aired those years and revitalized superhero comic industry. It was silly, sure. Funny in some ways. What it was not, it had nothing to do with Dark Knight. We all know Batman, and more dark and mysterious he is, more we love him. What we don't love is almost comedy approach of "pfap", "bang" and "zing" Batman with cherry and merry villains. Joker is most loved villain, not only of Batman but almost in all universe, just for his dark and sadistic part, and we all expect our hero to keep up that tone. None of that was in Batman TV show. But, still, it was almost best thing that happened to superhero comics, and for Batman comics generally. Why? It kept the flame lit. And it even shined it further. It presented superhero in a way that anyone could see and none could judge (parents most of all). So, for a kid that watched Batman and wanted to buy comics parents didn't object. They didn't see anything wrong in it, and didn't want to bother with checking those "silly" comics. That show dulled the sword that every critic held on superhero comics, and it made people forget what they hated about superheroes. In long run, that don't seem to be a strong legacy, but it is. Just like those few superhero comics that survived Golden age, Batman TV show made possible for at least one generation to grow up loving comics, and that generation are very people that are making comics trough 1980s and 1990s, and even today.
Nikola Dragomirović

недеља, 11. октобар 2015.


Blast – Mani Larsene
Nezaustavljivi pad u crnilo
Put koji prelazimo dok čitamo ovaj strip je ono što nas očarava u svojoj bizarnosti, a ujedno učimo važnu lekciju o tome da mi zapravo ne znamo ništa o ljudima pored kojih prolazimo na ulici. I oni ne znaju ništa o nama. Sami smo i ne poznajemo nikoga osim sebe. Sve dok ne otkrijemo da ni sebe ne poznajemo onoliko koliko bismo želeli
Emanuel Mani Larsene je bez zadrške i omaške jedan od najversatilnijih umetnika novog francuskog talasa stripa. Ujedno je i jedan od popularnijih na našim prostorima u zadnjih nekoliko godina procvata strip izdavaštva. U tome svakako puno toga dugujemo izdavačkoj kući Fibra, koja je Svagdanjom borbom (Le combat ordinaire, Dargaud 2003–2008) učinila ovog autora široko dostupnim inovativnim materijalom za ljubitelje devete umetnosti kod nas. Larsene je odjednom 2007. godine, izlaskom prvog albuma Fibre, postao noseće ime za novi francuski talas za šire čitalačke mase; sinonim za ovaj sasvim svež dah strip umetnosti koji se već deceniju vijao frankofonim područjem. Daleko od toga da je on začetnik ove neformalne grupacije umetnika, ali svakako jedan od najplodotvornijih i najcenjenijih. Taj novi francuski talas je, ponikao je 1990. godine osnivanjem izdavačke kuće L'Association, koja je dala šansu novim mladim neafirmisanim autorima da plasiraju svoja autorska dela, ali o tome je već bilo reči u tekstu o Rabinovom mačku Žoana Sfara.

Mani Larsene se etablirao kao značajan i perspektivan strip umetnik već svojim prvim delima iz 1996. godine Soyons fous i 30 millions d'imbecilés: Encyclopédie à poils et à vapeur, da bi do danas bio autor ili koautor na više od 60 stripova. Zaista impresivan broj za autora koji stvara nepunih 20 godina. Prvi radovi su mu objavljeni zapravo već 1994. godine, u magazinu Fluide Glacial, a tome prethode brojne ilustracije iz rok časopisa, ali se početak profesionalne karijere strip autora vezuje za već pomenuta ostvarenja. Usledili su brojni projekti sa znamenitim imenima novog francuskog talasa, među kojima se ističe njegov rad na Tvrđi (Donjon) sa Luisom Trondhajmom, a počev od 2000. godine skoro isključivo se vezuje za prestižnu izdavačku kuću Dargaud.
Na našim prostorima, nakon velikog uspeha sa Svagdanjom borbom, zavladalo je veliko interesovanje za rad ovog umetnika. Usledile su brojne publikacije, kako Fibre tako i beogradskog Darkwooda. Povratak zemlji po scenariju Žan-Iva Ferija (Darkwood i Fibra 2013), Kosmonauti budućnosti  sa Luisom Trondhajmom (Darkwood 2013, Astronauti budućnosti – Fibra 2013), Rokamboleska Sigmunda Frojda: Pasji život (Darkwood 2014), su naslovi koje čitaoci sa naših prostora mogu da nabave od ovog autora. Ono što je zajednički činilac svih stripova koje smo imali prilike da vidimo od Manija Larsenea je to što je reč uglavnom o makar delimično vedrim ostvarenjima, svežeg i skoro karikaturalnog stila, koja se ipak dotiču i ozbiljnijih segmenata. Naime, kao što se već u Svagdanjoj borbi može videti, Larsene oslikava priču koja kreće u vedrom maniru, sa velikom dozom humora i satire u odnosu prema likovima, čak i prema autorovom alter egu iz stripa, da bi se u pojedinim segmentima ton okretao u potpunosti prema raslojavanju ka patološkim osobinama junaka koje vrebaju ispod površine. Tako glavni junak ima napade panike i anksioznosti i prolazi kroz stvaralačku krizu koja polako guta njegov život.
Ubrzo saznajemo da je ovaj vid naracije veoma osoben za Larsenea, odnosno da vremenom postaje sve veći majstor implementiranja emocionalno teskobnih elemenata u sve svoje stripove, a posebno one gde je kompletan autor. Čak i veseli i šaljivi Povratak zemlji nosi naznake ovog manira, pa makar i u satiričnom tonu.

Ali, i Larsene polako menja tok svog stvaralaštva. Nalazi svoj izduvni ventil 2009. godine, i sav tinjajući očaj sliva u njega, stvarajući subjektivno najmoćniji medijum za ultimativni vid depresije i emotivnog ponora. Tako nastaje četvorotomni Blast. Larsene je Blast stvarao u periodu od 2009. do 2014. godine, da bi Fibra izdala sve četiri knjige od 2011. do 2015, i možemo samo probati da izbegnemo panegirike ovoj izdavačkoj kući za izdavanje jednog od najvećih ostvarenja devete umetnosti. Jer, Blast je upravo to – veliko delo i (opet subjektivno) kruna dosadašnje karijere Manija Larsenea.
Larsene u Blastu odbacuje masku humora i celokupan opus sabija u gnusnim talasima čitaocu u lice. Ako možemo da se okoristimo rečima vlasnika Fibre Marka Šunjića, Blast je "šaka u stomak, pa tako četiri puta". I u tome je lepota ovog stripa, jer odlika umetnosti je da nas ponekad i prodrma. Da nas protrese i išamara. Da nas i šokira kada je potrebno. Jer to je svet, a on veoma često nije šaren i veseo.

Narativ Blasta kreće kao saslušanje okrivljenog u policijskoj stanici. Čitalac je od samog početka tako stavljen pred saznanje da je glavni junak stripa, groteskno debeo Polza Mancini, uhapšen i okrivljen za zločin. Čak se nagoveštava i koji je zločin u pitanju. I tako, ceo narativ, ili makar veći njegov deo bez scena na saslušanju i epilogu, je Polzina retrospektiva događaja koji su vodili od smrti njegovog oca pa do hapšenja, a reč je o periodu koji obuhvata okvirno dve godine. I pored činjenice da su čitaocu pokazane sve karte, Larsene nas veoma lako uljuljka u naraciju do te mere da se polako opuštamo i čak osećamo simpatije prema glavnom junaku, koji i pored prvog odbojnog utiska pokazuje veoma visok stepen inteligencije i zanimljivog razmišljanja. Polza pripoveda kako je, nakon smrti svog oca, napustio svoj dotadšnji život i upustio se u lutanje prirodom, šumama, daleko od civilizacije, i prepustio se alkoholu (a vremenom i drugim opijatima) u potrazi za blastovima – kako naziva trenutke kada pod uticajem opijata, alkohola, stresa ili opasnosti oseća kao da lebdi, halucinira i vidi moaije sa Uskršnjih ostrva. 

Polza polako otkriva pojedinosti svoje dvogodišnje samoizopštenosti iz ljudskog društva, uz povremene osvrte na život pre smrti oca, i pritom vidimo kako njegov um zajedno sa životom polako tone u crnilo, dok se teški, neprijatni i mučni detalji nižu jedan za drugim. Polako se otkriva da emotivni ožiljci Polze Mancinija sežu daleko dublje od događaja iz ove četiri knjige, i pred sobom imamo život pun mržnje prema sebi i okolini, kao i čitav niz duševnih oboljenja koje su tinjale ispod površine. 

Dve godine otpadništva, sa svim posledicama takve životne odluke, koje ostavljaju duboke ožiljke na glavnom junaku, a usput i na čitaocu koji često biva prinuđen da nakratko odloži knjigu sabere utiske. A opet, celokupna naracija je zapravo iz ugla samog Polze; njegovo subjektivno viđenje života koji je vodio pre i posle smrti oca. Čitalac ne dobija pravu sliku događaja nego samo jednu interpretaciju, i to onu očigledno poremećenog čoveka, a to je lekcija koja se skupo plati na kraju stripa.

Sa grafičke strane strip je podjednako impresivan. Larsene je strip radio u crno-beloj tehnici sa korišćenjem laviranog tuša. Prenaglašenost u fizionomijama lica, sa karakterističnim nosevima kod većine likova, je odlika autorovog stila, dok su scene prirode i gradova urađene sa još naglašenijom realističnošću i veoma često su opčinjavajuće prijatne za oko. Larsene je u pojedinim segmentima stripa koristio i ekspresionizam, koji se savršeno uklapa u ton naracije naglašavajući posebno stresne momente. 

Jedini kolorni elementi stripa su ciljano najupečatljiviji po svom značaju za radnju. Reč je o posebno stresnim ili emotivno razarajućim trenucima za Polzu, što je još jedan u nizu tragova koje Larsene ostavlja vodeći radnju ka raspletu. Blastovi koje doživljava Polza su bez izuzetka rađeni u koloru, i reč je zapravo o dečijim crtežima autorove dece. Pored blastova, kolor se može videti u nekoliko ikoničkih momenata, poput prisećanja epizode sa ocem, slika koje je Polza otkrio u kući umetnika koji se obesio, kao i bizarnih kolaža koje su radili Polza i njegov prijatelj iz ludnice.

Teško je opisati dubinu crnila u koje nas Larsene gura idući ka kraju četvrte knjige Nadajmo se da se budisti varaju, a da se ne otkriju spojleri u epilogu stripa. Ali sâm rasplet i značaj pojedinih segmenta stripa sami po sebi i nisu cilj ovog četvorotomnog udarca u stomak. Put koji prelazimo dok čitamo ovaj strip je ono što nas očarava u svojoj bizarnosti, a ujedno učimo važnu lekciju o tome da mi zapravo ne znamo ništa o ljudima pored kojih prolazimo na ulici. I oni ne znaju ništa o nama. Sami smo i ne poznajemo nikoga osim sebe. Sve dok ne otkrijemo da ni sebe ne poznajemo onoliko koliko bismo želeli.

Nikola Dragomirović

субота, 10. октобар 2015.

Rabinov Mačak

Teozofija u bajci
Strip je neuhvatljiva i promenjiva umetnička tvorevina koja neprestano istražuje svoje domete i pristupe. Tokom svog postojanja, koje obuhvata malo više od jednog veka, morao je da se popne svim stepenicama za koje su neke umetničke forme imale čitave milenijume. Da boluje od istih dečijih bolesti i predrasuda, da iskusi svaku kritiku i propali pokušaj. I sve to za daleko manje vremena.
Pojedini njegovi aspekti su komercijalniji, neki više usmereni ka čistoj umetničkoj formi; a u retkim i dragocenim trenucima ova dva smera bi se isplela u savršen primerak devete umetnosti, komercijalan, pristupačan i profilisan kao delo od izuzetne umetničke vrednosti. Uticaj i značaj frankofonog stripa na medij u svetskim granicama je ogroman. I kao po pravilu, čim bi se ustalila izvesna mejnstrim scena, priliv novih talenata bi značajno promenio sliku i doneo preko potrebne sveže ideje. To se dogodilo pedesetih kada su se Šarlije, Gošini, Uderzo i brojni drugi talentovani umetnici suprotstavili ustrojstvu dotad neprikosnovenog uredništva "Spirua" i odvažili se na pokretanje sopstvenog "Pilota". Isto se ponovilo i sedamdesetih kada je Mebijusu, Drileu, Dioneu i njihovim saradnicima bio potreban slobodniji životni prostor za stvaranje autorskih dela, čime su udareni temelji izdavačke kuće Les Humanoides Associes i "Metal Hurlanta". Da bi se skoro dve decenije kasnije istorija ponovila. Dotadašnji alternativni idoli su krajem osamdesetih postali mejnstrim. Šarlije je 1989. umro, Mebijus i ostala velika imena su svoje bitke već izborili, a pred kapijama su čekali mladi autori, željni afirmacije.

NOVI TALAS: Na scenu je stupila neformalna grupa autora, novi francuski talas, među kojima se ističu Loren Šabori, poznatiji kao Luis Trondhajm, Žoan Sfar, David B., Mani Larsene, Kristof Blen, Žan-Kristof Meni, Etjen Lakroa, Žan-Iv Feri i mnogi drugi. Trondhajm se od početka nametnuo kao jedna od vodećih figura ovog novog francuskog talasa. Ingeniozna i moderna naracija, grafička i crtačka rešenja koja se često mogu okarakterisati kao svedena, uprošćena, pa čak i karikaturalna, ali svakako nova i savremena. "Prljaviji" i neobičniji stil prožet životnim i ponekad gorkim pričama, čak i kada je reč o očito humorističkim delima. Doba Šarlijeovih avantura i psihodeličnih Mebijusovih kreacija bilo je pred revizijom. Publika je bila željna novog sadržaja, a ova grupa mladih autora je bila u situaciji da im to i pruži.
Za prekretnicu se može uzeti 1990. godina i nastanak izdavačke kuće L’Association, koju su zajednički osnovali Žan-Kristof Meni, Luis Trondhajm, David B., Stanislas, Patris Kilofer, Mat Kontur i Mokeit. Time su prevashodno oni, a potom i brojni drugi umetnici, dobili priliku da plasiraju svoje autorske radove. Među takvima se našla i Marđan Satrapi, iranska autorka koja je za svoju grafičku novelu Persepolis nagrađena na festivalu u Angulemu. Pored nje, L’Association je okupio i plasirao Žoana Sfara, Etjena Lakroa, Džima Vudringa i mnoge druge.
Osnovne odlike ove neformalne grupe – a kada je reč o njima uvek se ističe njihova "neformalnost" s obzirom da svi oni strogo odbijaju da budu klasifikovani kao zasebna grupa – jesu njihova međusobna umreženost i podrška. Granajući se od svojih autorskih radova, česti su i njihovi zajednički projekti. Posebno se ističe serijal Donjon koji su osmislili Sfar i Trondhajm (u izdanju na engleskom Dungeon, a u hrvatskom izdanju zagrebačke Fibre – Tvrđa), koji je na 35 albuma okupio veliki broj učesnika – skoro sva pomenuta imena ove grupe.
Veliku zapaženost su stekli i Mani Larsene sa svojim serijalima Le Combat Ordinaire (Svagdanja borba u izdanju hrvatske Fibre), Povratak zemlji (u izdanju Darkwooda, fr.Le Retour à la Terre) po scenariju Žan-Iva Ferija, kao i nedavno završena mračna i mučna četvorodelna grafička novela Blast. Pored Larsenea, koji zasad uspešno oscilira između humora, satire i očaja, mora se istaći i uloga Žan-Iva Ferija u oživljavanju serijala Asteriks. Naime, ovog oktobra je najavljen već drugi album za koji ovaj autor piše scenario.
Pojedini autori polako ulaze u domen mejnstrima i uspešno komercijalizuju svoje naslove – većina njih su ovenčani brojnim nagradama i uspešno rade za Dargaud, Delcourt ili Gallimard. Prevođeni su na brojne jezike, a veliku popularnost stiču i kod čitalaca u Srbiji.

MAČJA POSLA: Poslednje ostvarenje koje je kod nas ugledalo svetlost dana je i jedno od najzapaženijih, a svakako jedno od najznačajnijih dela devete umetnosti – Rabinov mačak Žoana Sfara. Originalnih pet albuma Rabinovog mačka je u integralnom izdanju objavila izdavačka kuća Darkwood iz Beograda, pod svojim izdavačkim imprintom "Perle integral", sa pravom ga klasifikujući među bisere frankofonog stripa.
Njegov autor Žoan Sfar rođen je 1971. godine u Nici. Majka Lilu je bila pop pevačica i preminula je kada je Žoan imao samo tri godine. Otac Andre, poznati advokat, je uz pomoć svoga tasta podigao Žoana. Njegovo obrazovanje i porodični milje su ostavili dubok trag na ovom svestranom umetniku. Svestranom, jer osim pisanja i crtanja stripova Sfar se sa istim žarom bavi produkcijom filmova, režijom i muzikom. Njegov rediteljski prvenac iz 2010. godine Gainsbourg: A heroic life, o francuskom kantautoru Seržu Gensburu pobrao je brojne nagrade i nominacije, da bi već 2011. godine bio višestruko nagrađen za ekranizaciju upravo Rabinovog mačka.
Sfarova preminula majka je Aškenazi Jevrejka, dok mu je otac sefardski Jevrejin. Majčin otac, koji je podigao Žoana, dobio je francusko državljanstvo nakon Drugog svetskog rata jer je spasao život istaknutom književniku i budućem ministru kulture Andreu Malrou. Nalazeći inspiraciju u svom jevrejskom poreklu, podjednako koliko i crpeći snagu iz slobode i kreativnosti svojih saradnika i prijatelja, Žoan Sfar je od 2002. godine neumorno stvarao krunu svoje karijere – Rabinovog mačka.
O čemu je zapravo reč? Rabinov mačak počinje iz bajkovitih premisa. Sefardski rabin iz Alžira, francuske kolonije u to vreme, udovac i otac mladoj i lepoj ćerci Zlabiji, ujedno je i vlasnik mačka čija nas naracija vodi kroz strip. Mačak je visprenog uma, sarkastičan i drzak, i bezgranično lojalan rabinu i njegovoj ćerci. Međutim, celokupna njegova priroda bi ostala zaključana u nemuštoj glavi da se na samom početku priče ne odigra bajkovit zaplet. Naime, mačak pojede porodičnog papagaja i stiče moć govora. Upravo ta bajkovitost ističe maestralnost Sfarovog pripovedanja. 

Autor jednostavnu premisu izdiže iz bajke u rang remek-dela poput Malog princa i Galeba Džonatana Livingstona. Prvo što mačak izgovara je laž (da nije pojeo papagaja), što je i njegov faktički "izgon iz Raja". Mačak gubi životinjsku nevinost i tim simboličkim činom se svrstava uz ljude, koji su svoj prvobitni greh iskusili u rajskom vrtu. Potom mačak traži svoju svrhu, zahteva bar micvu i verbalno se sukobljava sa svim dogmatskim i egzistencijalnim ustrojstvima koja ga sputavaju u onome što mu je jedino bitno – da ostane uz rabina i njegovu ćerku.
Time se Rabinov mačak pretvara u religijsku, egzistencijalnu i moralnu raspravu, pri čemu je mačak personifikacija samog autora i svih pitanja koja ga sputavaju. Nasuprot dogmatskim i tradicionalnim frazama, mačak se suprotstavlja mešavinom detinje naivnosti i prekaljenosti, a ponekad se čini da njegov bezobrazluk nema granice. Pa ipak, u sredini strogih pravila života, kako unutar jevrejske zajednice tako i van nje (uz neizbežne predrasude prema Jevrejima), čitalac se često nalazi na strani "nesnosne i bezobrazne životinje", koja jednostavno naziva sve stvari pravim imenom. U daljem toku stripa fokus se pomera na odnos između mačka i rabina, pa i drugih junaka, uz nepromenjenu naraciju iz ugla naslovnog aktera.

Uostalom, kakvo viđenje sveta nam pružaju druge dve najvažnije "bajke za odrasle", Mali princ i Galeb Džonatan Livingston? Dok junaka Malog princa pratimo kroz situacije koje on pokušava da shvati i reši detinjim očima, Galeb Džonatan Livingston nam pruža egzistencijalne pokušaje jedne sputane individue da traži višu svrhu od "kopanja po đubretu". Mačak nam pruža sve to u jednom pakovanju, koristeći strip kao umetnički medij do svojih krajnih granica, uz neizbežno zbližavanje sa jevrejskom dogmom, teozofijom i tradicijom.
Crtež Rabinovog mačka je očaravajuć na poseban način. Perspektive i linije su po potrebi drhtave ili oštre, uz izvanredan pastelni kolorit za koji je zaslužna Brižit Findakli, pa se čini da nas autor uvlači u priču iz Hiljadu i jedne noći umesto u moderan francuski strip.
Autor nikada nije u potpunosti napustio mačka, rabina i Zlabiju, čak ni nakon objavljivanja petog albuma 2006. pod nazivom Afrički Jerusalim. Ove godine je objavljen i šesti album, iako pet albuma iz domaćeg integralnog izdanja čine zatvorenu i nezavisnu celinu. Ali Sfar se morao vratiti svom Mačku, kao što mu se vraćaju svi koji ga pročitaju.
Nikola Dragomirović
("Vreme" 1288)

Lens Vorena Taftsa

Više od nostalgije
Profesionalni strip duguje mnogo novinskim izdanjima u kojima je i ponikao. Dok je deveta umetnost bila još u povoju početkom 20. veka, veliki novinski magnati su vodili svojevrsnu bitku oko značajnih strip autora tog vremena. Tokom narednih decenija stvari su malim koracima vodile ka afirmaciji nove zabave, a u Americi se ta evolucija odvijala prevashodno u novinskom stripu. Uostalom, velikani poput Hala Fostera, Aleksa Rejmonda, Miltona Kanifa i brojni drugi upravo su u novinskim stripovima gradili legendu. Činjenica je da su pojedini umetnici provodili i do 80 sati nedeljno za crtaćim stolom da bi proizveli samo jednu nedeljnu tablu, a i tako su bili prinuđeni da unajme asistente da bi postigli stroge rokove. Strip izdanja u Americi, poznatija kao comic book, ponikla su 1930-ih godina skupljajući u kolekcije nedeljne table i dnevne kaiševe poznatijih novinskih stripova tog vremena. A to je ipak bilo vreme kada smo u kontekstu američkih stripova mogli da govorimo o kvalitetu i pravim umetničkim delima umesto o modernim generičkim ostvarenjima, uglavnom superherojskog žanra.  I dok su najveća ostvarenja ovog perioda obeležila prvu polovinu 20. veka, u Sjedinjenim Državama se period nakon Drugog svetskog rata s razlogom smatra posebno problematičnim za devetu umetnost i strip autore. Doktor Frederik Vertam je sa knjigom Seduction of the innocent pod miškom vodio svoj krstaški pohod protiv stripova, strahujući za senzibilni um američke mladeži, a senator Makarti u lovu na veštice obrušavao se na sve što bi mu palo na pamet da bi moglo biti "crvena pretnja", a pre svega na umetnike. 

U takvom ambijentu, dok širom SAD zabrinuti roditelji spaljuju stripove na lomačama, Voren Tafts je stvorio svoja dva najznačajnija dela, prvo Kejsija Raglija (Cassey Ruggles, 1949–1954), a potom i Lensa (Lance, 1955–1960). Oba stripa su smeštena u ambijent starog zapada, samo sa obrnutim hronološkim redosledom – Kejsi Ragli se nadovezuje na period opisan u Lensu.
STO NOVINA: Voren Tafts je bio svestran umetnik, koji se prvo oprobao na radiju, da bi prve ilustracije napravio tokom Drugog svetskog rata. Nakon rata, dok su se nad stripom u Americi skupljali mračni oblaci, Tafts stvara Kejsija Raglija za Junajted Fičers sindikat. Kejsi je i pored popularnosti trajao samo pet godina, da bi bio okončan zbog autorovog razlaza sa Junajtedom. Kao veliki perfekcionista, kako u crtežu tako i u scenariju, Tafts nije mogao ni želeo da nosi teret ritma koji mu je nametnut, te je i pored unajmljivanja asistenata imao velikih problema sa tempom izlaženja i nedostatkom formalne umetničke slobode u svom radu.

I dok je sledeća kratkotrajna Taftsova kreacija, The Lone Spaceman, naučnofantastična i parodična verzija Usamljenog rendžera, poslužila isključivo da se skinu poslednje bukagije ugovora koji ga je vezivao sa Junajtedom, već sledeće godine pojavljuje se Lens. To je bila konačna i dugo iščekivana odskočna daska za Taftsa, sa premijernim objavljivanjem u čak oko 100 novina. Sa potpunom kontrolom nad svojim radom i distribucijom u rukama oca i brata, Voren Tafts je konačno mogao da stvara strip kakav je želeo.
Lens je strip neslućene energije i neiscrpnih crtačkih eksperimenata. I pored očiglednih uzora u velikanima novinskog stripa, poput Fostera i Rejmonda, Taftsov crtež je iznenađujuće dinamičan i klasičan u isto vreme. Kada uporedimo realističnu ali i statičnu lepotu Valijanta, kod Lensa vidimo iznenađujuću živost. Pejzaži, kolorit, detalji i likovi su urađeni u velikoj meri fosterovski, uz neizbrisivu Taftsovu crtu. Crtež je obogaćen fascinantnim krajolicima, uz česta slikarska idejna rešenja bez tuša i crnih kontura, što dostiže kulminaciju u tri table prvog albuma koje su u celosti urađene ovim stilom.
Tokom narativnog toka serijala, Tafts je pokazao izuzetnu detaljnost i verodostojnost kada je reč o istorijskim činjenicama. Po ugledu na Princa Valijanta, u početnom periodu Tafts celokupnu naraciju smešta u tekst, ispod ili u uglu crteža. Tek od uvođenja dnevnih crno-belih kaiševa 1957. godine Tafts koristi prepoznatljive oblačiće.
Druga značajna odlika ovog stripa je smeli scenario kojim je autor u velikoj meri gurnuo prst u oko svim malicioznim kritičarima devete umetnosti. Lens se scenaristički pre može svrstati u evropski nego u američki strip. Pristup likovima i prikazivanje njihovih karakteristika uz vešto izbegavanje klišea, značajne su "evropske" odlike ovog stripa, a neka idejna rešenja se mogu opisati najblaže rečeno kontroverznim. Čak i neizbežni sukobi sa američkim urođenicima urađeni su u maniru kojim se pokazuje simpatija prema njima. Dok je, na primer, Tafts prikazivao tragičan odnos između Lensa i Indijanke Mnogo Haljina, govor Martina Lutera Kinga I have a dream i marš na Vašington nisu bili ni na vidiku, a rasna segregacija u SAD i dalje je na snazi. I u brojnim drugim situacijama, slikajući svoju pripovest starog zapada Tafts unosi elemente na koje će kinematografija, književnost pa i strip čekati još mnogo decenija.

NOVI ŽIVOT: Tafts okončava epopeju o Lensu Sent-Lornu 1960. godine, i nakon nekoliko projekata manjeg obima konačno napušta strip. U narednim godinama i decenijama pozajmljuje svoj glas na televiziji, da bi 1982. izgubio život u nesreći pilotirajući avionom koji je sâm napravio. Nasleđe Vorena Taftsa je ostalo poznato malom broju poznavalaca devete umetnosti, sve dok portugalski restaurator stripova Manuel Kaldas nije uspeo da Lensa otrgne iz mraka. Kaldas se već afirmisao u svetu ljubitelja i poznavalaca stripa svojim restauracijama Princa Valijanta i Cisko Kida, da bi radom na Lensu ostvario neverovatan uspeh. Restaurisane table Manule Kaldasa, koje je koristio Makondo u ovom izdanju, zapanjujuće su svežine i snage. 

Uz pomoć Zorana Đukanovića, čiji predgovori krase oba objavljena albuma, Makondo je stupio u kontakt sa Kaldasom, i ovo izdanje je konačno zaživelo na srpskom jeziku u kvalitetnom formatu i opremi. Domaća publika je dosad imala priliku da Lensa vidi isključivo u izdanjima "Zenita" 1960-ih i "Eksa" deceniju kasnije. Tek ovim izdanjem je omogućeno da se Srbija svrsta na spisak nekoliko zemalja na svetu koje su u potpunosti objavile ovaj klasik svetskog stripa očaravajuće lepote, ne samo za neizlečive nostalgičare.
Nikola Dragomirović
("Vreme" 1290)

четвртак, 08. октобар 2015.

Na listovima Igdrasila

Nordijska mitologija u stripu
Na listovima Igdrasila
Od filma do stripa, od video igre do knjige, nordijski bogovi su služili kao figure na šahovskoj tabli od prvog trenutka kada su autori prepoznali njihov potencijal. Tradicija i verovanja nordijskih naroda su pružili zapadnoj kulturi mnogo više od Entonija Hopkinsa sa povezom preko oka
Popularna kultura je udahnula potpuno nov život nekadašnjim verovanjima nordijskih naroda. Vikinška krstarenja i pljačkanja, koja su se hronološki protezala od kasnog 8. do 11. veka, a ujedno obuhvatala neslućena prostranstva dokle god su skandinavske noge i vesla mogle dosegnuti, donela su nova verovanja, tradicije i, naravno, sujeverja. Nordijski narodi koji su činili horde Vikinga i ruskih Varjaga, danas uglavnom identifikovani sa nacijama Danaca, Norvežana, Šveđana i drugih Skandinavaca, u pomenutom periodu su zapalili obale i gradove Evrope i Mediterana, promenili etničku i kulturnu sliku velikog dela današnje Francuske i Britanije, kolonizovali Island i Grenland i, kao što je danas poznato, "otkrili" Ameriku. Zašto su je otkrili i kako, govore nam sage i arheološki nalazi, koji ne objašnjavaju ujedno i ko ju je izgubio i kada.

No, da se otrgnemo od istorijskih lekcija i zađemo u domen mitologije i religije. Nordijska mitologija, zapravo, ne postoji kao kanonski utvrđena tvorevina, već je reč o skupu narodnih verovanja, priča i legendi, koji su svoje kakvo-takvo ujednačeno i tradicionalno ustrojstvo doživeli u sagama i epovima ovih naroda – opet usmenim vidovima narodnog verovanja – i koji su u nekom trenutku bili zabeleženi za buduće naraštaje. Takvo mitološko ustrojstvo je imalo, pak, neke svoje poveznice. Pre svega, tu je ujednačeni panteon koji je uključivao i kosmogoniska načela. Slika Igdrasila, drveta kosmosa i devet svetova sa svojim osobenostima, koje tako dobro poznajemo iz popularne kulture, zapravo su dosta verno preneti i predstavljaju jednu od osobenosti nordijske mitologije. 

Igdrasil je u stvari i više od toga za prosečnog staronordijca. Midgard, Asgard, Vanahajm, Jotunhajm, Alfhajm, Helhajm, Nidavelir, Nifelhajm i Muspelshajm su za njih bila stvarna mesta, opipljiva i pristupačna za nekoga ko je upućen u puteve i tajne Asa. I dok ih Igdrasil sve povezuje, ujedno se hraneći vodama i energijom sa svetova koji počivaju na njegovim granama, odnosno biva hranjen od strane mističnih i svetih Norni koje nikada nisu u potpunosti shvaćene čak ni od stručnjaka iz ove oblasti, drvo sveta je za ove drevne narode ujedno i cikličnost njihovih života. Igdrasil je neraspletiva tvorevina bujnih grana i korenja, i poput peščanog sata goni ceo poznat univerzum u smeru druge izuzetno važne i dosta verno prenete ideje nordijske mitologije - Ragnaroku, Sumraku bogova. 

Naime, ceo poznati svet, kao što i popularna kultura voli da prenosi, nezaustavljivo hrli ka ovom konačnom obračunu bogova koji će prekinuti ustrojstvo sveta kakvo poznajemo. Međutim, kako god hrišćanska ideja apokalipse bila primamljiva za identifikaciju sa ovim delom nordijske mitologije, zapravo je reč o istinski dijametralnom vidu "kraja sveta". Nordijski narodi su u biti bili individualističke i prkosne etničke grupe, i kao takve su Ragnarok videle više kao zbacivanje jarma bogova. Okidači za ovaj događaj – smrt Baldura, Lokijevo zarobljeništvo, kazna i na kraju beg - pokrenuo bi niz konsekvenci u kojima bi svi bogovi nordijske mitologije stradali u herojskoj bitci. Međutim, kraj Ragnaroka, odnosno ponovno preporođenje Igdrasila i vaskrsenje pravog pozitivca ovog verovanja, Baldura – sada kao jednog boga, ujedno je i nordijsko shvatanje cikličnosti sveta, neprekinute niti koja definiše sve sudbine i povezuje sve pojedince. Upravo na ovom verovanju je i Hrišćanstvo uhvatilo korena među ovim narodima, te je hristijanizacija protekla relativno brzo i lako. Isus Hrist je za prosečnog pripadnika skandinavskog naroda postao interpretatio Baldura.

Druge značajne odlike nordijske mitologije poput mističnosti runskog pisma, berzerkera, valkira, Valhale, pa čak i same ličnosti Odina, Lokija, Tora, Fenrira i ostalih, su nažalost popularizovane i prilagođavane potrebama popularnog medija u kojima su se nalazili, da bi postali do neslućene mere neprepoznatljivi. Od filma do stripa, od video igre do knjige, nordijski bogovi su služili kao figure na šahovskoj tabli od prvog trenutka kada su autori prepoznali njihov potencijal. Tradicija i verovanja nordijskih naroda su pružili zapadnoj kulturi mnogo više od Entonija Hopkinsa sa povezom preko oka. Manadagr, Tisdagr, Odinsdagr, Torsdagr, Frjadagr, Laugardagr i Sunundagr se i danas koriste kao dani u nedelji na engleskom jeziku, sa malo drugačijim izgovorom. Monday je dan meseca; Tuesday je dan Tira; Wednesday je dan Odina; Thursday je dan Tora; Friday je posvećen Freji; Saturday je pak Saturnov dan, mala pozajmica od Rima, jer su ipak samo vikinzi dovoljno ludi da subotu nazovu po pranju i kupanju; Sunday pripada suncu. I tu nije kraj njihovog uticaja na našu modernu, zapadnu kulturu. A poseban upliv tradicije i religije staronordijaca se može ogledati u brojnim ostvarenjima popularne kulture, pa tako i u stripu.
Celokupni opus stripova koji za temu, ili samo kao pojedine protagoniste, imaju ličnosti iz nordijske mitologije je zapravo nemerljiv i prevazilazi obime ovog rada. Bitno je pomenuti da to nije ni cilj. Ova retrospektiva dela devete umetnosti je presek bitnih elemenata ovog žanra, raspoređenih po osnovnim školama stripa i meridijanima na kojima se javljaju.
Hvale vredno delo koje se velikim delom oslanja na nordijsku mitologiju je čuveni i nagrađivan roman Nila Gejmana Američki bogovi, gde većina ljudi i sazna da je sreda Odinov dan. Ali, Gejman je prevejani lisac koji je nanjušio da je nordijska mitologija zlatna koka u svetu književosti i stripa. 

Tako je i u svet Sandmana, subjektivno jednog od najznačajnijih ostvarenja američkog stripa, utkao likove Odina, Lokija, Tora i drugih. Loki u Sandmanu igra i neizmerno važnu ulogu, kako kod ključa Pakla tako i u konačnom epilogu serijala. Sandmanov spinof serijal Lucifer nosi još značajnije elemente nordijskih mitova, i ovaj put nam donosi i lik Fenrira pored već viđenih.
Ipak, ne može se zanemariti činjenica da je u svetu američkog superherojskog žanra najznačajnije ostvarenje sa ovom tematikom upravo Tor. Nakon kratke pojave u Venusu broj 11 iz novembra 1950, nastanak serijala Tor se vezuje za 1962. godinu i strip Jorney into Mystery broj 83. U stripu koji je postao okidač za jednog od najvažnijih i najdugovečnijih serijala izdavačke kuće Marvel, doktor Donald Blejk otkriva štap u skrivenoj pećini koji ga, nakon što njime udari u zemlju, pretvara u Tora, sina Odina, sa neslućenim moćima i ikoničkim Mjolnirom u rukama. Od prvog stripa koji su napisali Sten Li i Lari Liber, iz pera Džeka Kirbija, pa do danas, Tor je prošao bezbroj preobražaja, neprijatelja i avantura. Kao deo Osvetnika, kako na papiru tako i na filmskom platnu, Tor je postao zvezda vodilja brojnim drugim herojima. 

Preživeo je svoje kloniranje, Ragnarok, sukob sa bogovima bogova i neizbežnu apoteozu, nekoliko smrti oca i svoje lične, vaskrsenje i preseljenje Azgarda. Susretao je sebe iz raznih drugih epoha, porazio Gorra Bogoseka (God butcher, ne može se odoleti da ga se ne prevede ovako), Surtura, Malekita i brojne horde demona. Doživeo je, od nastanka iz pera "Kralja" Kirbija, da ga na posletku crta i Esad Ribić, i to maestralno. I na kraju, doživeo je da od Tora na neko vreme postane "Torina", kada je izgubivši moć da nosi Mjolnir isti podigla Džejn Foster. 

Ipak, jedan od najsvetlijih perioda istorije ovog lika je višegodišnji rad Valtera Simonsona na Toru. Simonson je preuzeo rad na serijalu 1983. godine, na broju 337, i jedna od prvih stvari koju je učinio je da raskine sa "ljudskim" elementom kod svog junaka razdvojivši ga od doktora Blejka. 

Potom je uveo lik Beta Rej Bila, vanzemaljca sa moćima ravnim Toru, i na posletku celokupan četvorogodišnji rad na serijalu pretvorio u jednu kontinuiranu mitološku epopeju. Simonson, i sâm potomak drevne Skandinavije, je i pre rada na ovom junaku bio pasionirani zaljubljenik u nordijsku mitologiju, koju je još čvršće inkorporirao u strip. Tor Valta Simonsona i danas ostaje ikonički uzor svim kasnijim autorima koji su se posvetili radu na ovom junaku, a ujedno je i arhetip ekranizovanim verzijama. Uostalom, Tor i Tor 2: Mračni svet su i snimljeni uz konsultacije sa Simonsonom, koji je imao i kameo pojavljivanje u prvom nastavku.

Marvel je sa Torom postao neprikosnoveni lider na polju interpretacije nordijske mitologije. Serijal The Defenders se delom uključio u ovaj okoliš uvođenjem lika Valkire Brunhilde, koja je svoje prvo pojavljivanje imala u serijalu Osvetnici 1970. godine iz pera Roja Tomasa i Džona Bjuseme. Valkira je nastavila svoje postojanje u The Defenders, Osvetnicima, Secret Avengers, pa i u Busiekovoj reanimaciji Defendersa iz 2001. godine.
Konkurentski DC je daleko slabije parirao u svetu nordijske mitologije. Pored već pomenutih pojavljivanja u Sandmanu, kao i vikinške sage Northlanders Brajana Vuda pod istim imprintom Vertiga, tek je Viking glory: The Viking prince vredniji pomena. 

Northlanders, koji je izlazio od 2007. do 2011. godine,  zapravo i nije interpretacija nordijske mitologije koliko veoma detaljna i brižno osmišljena istorijska epopeja vikinških pohoda u Evropi, gde se mitološki aspekt pojavljuje kao kulturološka odrednica ovog etnosa. Daleko od herojske interpretacije epova i saga, Northlanders je zapravo slika onoga što bi smo mogli najbliže odrediti kao istoriografija vikinških pohoda sa kulturološkom retrospektivom tog društva. I kao bonus, na serijalu je sarađivao i Danijel Žeželj, što je dovoljan razlog da se nađe u ovoj retrospektivi.
Viking glory: The Viking prince je grafička novela Lija Marsa i Boa Hemptona, koja objedinjuje elemente saga i mitologije, i koja će ostati najpoznatija po predgovoru Vila Ajznera u integralnom izdanju. Pored ovog, američka produkcija je donela i simpatično strip izdanje po imenu Gods of Asgard Erika Evensena, koje je više ilustrovani dramatizovani udžbenik od pravog ostvarenja devete umetnosti. S druge strane Top Cowov Berserker Rika Laverda i Džeremija Hauna je tipično ostvarenje generičke američke produkcije u kome se motivi nordijskog mita siluju do neprepoznatljivosti. Zaplet prati veterana iz Avganistana Arona koji otkriva da poseduje moć berzerkera, pri čemu dobija prenaglašene fizičke moći poput snage i izdržljivosti - i besa.
Evropska scena je daleko šarenija što se tiče motiva i inspiracije za upotrebu nordijske mitologije u stripu. Pre svega iz razloga što na ovim prostorima Asi nisu implementirani u puke uloge superheroja, već se ovaj mitos koristio sa daleko većom maštovitošću. Najčuvenija predstava ove tematike je svakako čuveni Torgal Rosinskog i Van Hama. Torgal se zapravo i ne može posmatrati strogo u okvirima interpretacije i dramatizacije nordijske mitologije, obzirom da toga nema u većem obimu u samoj priči. Ali, sama istorijska, ili bolje reći epsko-fantazijska pozornica kao osnovu uzima severnjačke narode, odakle poreklo vuku glavni junaci, da bi se nit priče rasplitala u smeru koji je poznat svakom ljubitelju stripa. Denikenovska interpretacija svetskih mitova u Torgalu pruža jedinstven pogled koji je razvijen bez često pratećeg bljutavog senzacionalizma, i upravo taj pogled smešta ovo ostvarenje na mapu stripova koje u svakoj prilici vredi pomenuti.

Valkira, maestralno ostvarenje Silvana Kordurjea i Dražena Kovačevića, dostupno u izvanrednom izdanju System comicsa i Lavirinta, na najbolji mogući način ilustruje jedan fragment nordijske mitologije, Sumrak bogova, uz neizbežnu umetničku slobodu i dramatizaciju sa uvođenjem elemenata koji nisu nužno kanonski preneti iz mitosa. Valkira je jedinstvena i po opčinjavajućoj lepoti crteža Dražena Kovačevića, rađenom u tehnici laviranog tuša i prenetom u domaćem izdanju u svom izvornom obliku, bez naknadnog kolorita.

Domaća publika je imala priliku da se upozna sa još dva ostvarenja nordijske tematike, trodelnim Zigfridom Aleksa Alisa u izdanju beogradskog Veselog četvrtka, i Asgardom Ralfa Mejera i Gzavijea Dorisona u izdanju Phoenix pressa . Zigfrid u skoro epskom maniru, sa bombastičnim ilustracijama, donosi priču inspirisanu Sagom o Nibelunzima, mitom o Zigfridu koji je njen sastavni deo i brojnim drugim inspiracijama iz domena nordijske mitologije. Alis oslikava svet u kojem su i bogovi sputani sopstvenim zakonima i gde se sudbina stvaranja mora podrediti snazi volje smrtnika (ili makar polusmrtnika). Svet Zigfrida je bajkovit i surov, i jedina zamerka se može uputiti katkad fragmentarnoj naraciji koja prekida tok misli samog čitaoca u dovoljnoj meri da izazove povremenu nelagodu. Ali, i ovaj aspekt se može opravdati pokušajem dramatizacije sa strane autora, koji jednostavno nije uvek najsretnije izveden.

Asgard je, pak, dosta opipljivije delo od Zigfrida. Dok je Alis oslikavao bajkovit i nestvaran svet mita i legende, Dorison i Mejer donose sjajno nacrtanu priču koja je inspirisana sa jedne strane Mobi Dikom i ljudskom opsesijom, a sa druge strane brojnim legendama u kojima se smrtnici prkosno suočavaju sa usudom bogova. Nordijske legende i sage, kao i Grčki mitovi, prepuni su primera u kojima smrtnici odbijaju da bogovi oblikuju njihovu sudbinu, pa tako i junak ove strip-sage nadilazi svoj telesni deformitet i suočava se sa svojom verzijom "belog kita", odbacujući i najmanju naznaku da mu je sudbina određena nitima koje predu Norne i Asi.

Ostaje da se vidi da li će se neki domaći izdavač odvažiti da objavi još neke stripove frankofone produkcije sa ovom tematikom. Svakako je zapažen serijal Hannibal Meriadec et les larmes d'Odin Žan-Lika Istina i Stefana Kretija, koji spaja tematiku pirata i izgubljenog blaga sa Odinom.

Jedan od starijih i uglednijih stripova sa ovom tematikom je Ragnar le Viking Žana Olivijea i Eduarda Koelja iz 1955, dok je danski strip Valhalla najdugovečnije ostvarenje devete umetnosti u Evropi, a koji je usko povezan sa nordijskom mitologijom. Valhalla je ujedno i jedan od najcenjenijih strip serijala u Danskoj, nastao 1979. godine, i do danas obuhvata 15 albuma u izdanju Carlsen comicsa. Poslednji album pod nazivom Vølvens syner je izašao 2009, i opisuje sled događaja kojima je Surtur izazvao Ragnarok. Ceo serijal se bavi nordijskim bogovima i mitologijom iz najbližeg ugla, pri čemu su Asi i ostala mitološka bića direktni akteri.

Zapažen je i francuski serijal Odin Nikolasa Žarija i Ervana Seur-le-Bihana, u kome je Odin i glavni protagonist koji se svim silama trudi da prekine ciklus koji vodi do neizbežnog Ragnaroka.

Što se tiče Boneli produkcije u Italiji, pored učestalih susreta Zagora sa Vikinzima, u kojima je došlo i do sporadičnih pomena nordijske mitologije, Marti Misterija je imao daleko bliže odrednice sa ovom tematikom. Od Lokijevog bega iz tamnice u serijalu La vendetta di Loki, pa preko događaja iz giganta Otok leda i vatre (Libellus Gig. 6), likovi iz ovog mitosa postaju još češći gosti kod Martija Misterije u izdanjima Veselog četvrtka koja počinju brojem 279 (288 (10) - Grendel, 292 (14) - Crno sunce). Ruku na srce, i pre prve pojave Lokija u Marti Misteriji, nordijska mitologija je imala kratko pojavljivanje u brojevima 202/3 (SA 68/9 - Vučji ratnici/Odinovo oko), opet sa davno izmrcvarenom temom runa i berzerkera.

Daleki istok je u velikoj meri maštovit kada je reč o ovoj tematici, gde se interpretacije u anima i manga maniru ne mogu u celosti ni nabrojati. Tu su ostvarenja poput Vinland saga i Matantei Loki Ragnarok

Dok se prvi može respektabilno gledati kao solidna istorijska manga o Vikinzima, potonji se teško može ozbiljno posmatrati obzirom da je reč o Lokiju isteranom iz Asgarda od strane Odina... u telu deteta... kao istraživač okultnih pojava. Whatever... Manga i manhua i ostala dalekoistočna produkcija je zaista obimna, i tu je broj naslova svakako  daleko veći, ali se svi, bez izuzetka, toliko udaljavaju od kvalitetne interpretacije nordijske mitologije da se ne mogu svrstati ovde.
Međutim, mora se istaći još jedan primer, a reč je o Brat-Halla, webcomicsu Džeferija Stivensona i Seta Damusa, koji kao aktere uzima nordijske bogove i na jedan izuzetno domišljat i originalan način veoma lako uspeva da izmami osmeh čitaocu.
I za kraj, možemo se osvrnuti na raznolikost motiva nordijske mitologije u stripu, ili na slobodnost interpretacije manje-više kanonski zamišljenih ličnosti jedne drevne i jedinstvene kulture. Nažalost, ne možemo dočarati u potpunosti kakav su stav drevni narodi severa imali prema svojim bogovima, poklonički ili prkosan. Ali možemo sa sigurnošću reći da su bogovi, a naročito smrtnici iz njihovih epova i saga pre svega inspirisali ljude, Vikinge, koji su ognjem i mačem prokrstarili licem Evrope, a i daleko izvan njenih granica. I ta inspiracija i dalje traje. Sa bojnog polja se preselila u domen popularne kulture, ali je i dalje tu. A mi, prosti i prostodušni stripofili, možemo da uživamo u sve više rastućem opusu ostvarenja devete umetnosti koji su nadahnuti sa jednim ili više elemenata nordijske mitologije. 

I, voleli mi frankofoni strip više neko američki superherojski, ili mangu više nego italijanski, retko ko od nas kada ugleda munje na nebu i začuje potmulu grmljavinu u daljini ne otkrije dete u sebi i ne pomisli poput Nika Fjurija: "E pa, moj bog nosi čekić!"

Nikola Dragomirović