Friday, 17 June 2011

UXM #14: "Among Us Stalk... The Sentinels!"

("Are you now, or have you ever been...?") 


Bolivar Trask is an anthropologist? Without wishing to seem rude, when in all of history has the press given two hoots what an anthropologist has to say?  Though I suppose "When they're being racist as fuck" is a fairly good answer. I mean, look at The Bell Curve. [1]

"ARTIST'S INTERPRETATION OF FATE OF MANKIND IF MUTANTS ARE NOT DRIVEN OUT". I doubt if even the editorial pages of the Washington Post would print that.  Unless they were claiming Obama is a mutant, obviously. 

Or perhaps I should say Communist, because it's pretty clear that this issue is using the analogy of mutants=Pinkos.  Stan Lee has never done anything subtle in his life, of course, so what would otherwise have been subtext (however blatant) is spelled-out explicitly by a member of the unwashed masses watching Xavier on TV "I'll bet he's a Communist!" (along with someone else who wonders aloud whether he's a mutant too).

Still, overstated or not, this is the issue both in which mutant hating steps into high-gear, and which gives the lie to all those who have argued the "mutant as analogy" idea came about long after the comic was created.

It's just the analogy itself that's changed.  In the '80s it was race ("they're coming to take what's ours by right!"), in the '90s it became more about sexual preference ("they hide in plain sight, and they're swimming with deadly disease!").  These days, you could even colour an argument that says the analogy is best thought of as being related to Native Americans ("They're almost gone, but they still have land we could use!"), though that's a bit of a stretch.

Here in issue #14, published in 1965, though, mutants are the Red Menace.  Which means that not only are there baying mobs in the streets, but both media campaigns and authoritarian initiatives as part of a prolonged campaign with an end result aimed at being somewhere between total discrediting and outright extermination. If Norman Osborn is the Marvel Universe' Dick Cheney, then Bolivar Trask is its Tailgunner Joe.  And, like McCarthy before him, Trask doesn't realise that he's overplayed his hand. Professor Xavier might be a loose fit for Joseph Welch, and the Sentinels some distance from the Watkins Select Committee , but the idea of one's own cupidity and obsession turning against you fits like a (massive, metal, jet-propelled) glove. 

For God's sake, Professor X calls his mutants to him with a psychic clarion call of "Condition Red!"   What more proof do you need?(Mind you,  I thought Fraggle Rock was about Communism, so what do I know?)[2]


This story takes place over two days.

Well, the Juggernaut has clearly made his mark.  I guess coming to the X-Men during the '90s as I did, I'm used to every issue being about 90% fighting to 10% moping about the last fight.  Referencing the scars of a new battle is quite new at this point.

It also means that we have to build in at least some convalescence for the team.  What with mutants tending to heal faster than mere humans, and the hi-tech gizmos at the Professor's command, it's difficult to put too precise a figure on our protagonists' downtime, but let's make it a fortnight. Angel mentions that their vacation will be their "first one in years!", but I think we'll have to put that down to youthful exuberance (read: bullshit).  I suppose that if they've not had a holiday since the team was first founded, then it's certainly been over a year.  Close enough, I reckon. 

Naturally, there's not a bare tree in sight, still.


Tuesday 5th S to Wednesday 6th of September, 1978.



Compression Constant

1 Marvel month = 4.98 standard months.

Contemporary Events
The Camp David accords begin.

Stand-Out Line

"Now that I'm truly the Beast again, I feel that I could lick my weight in neanderthals!" Oh, come on.   I've spent most of this post mired in political analysis.  I've earned the right to finish on another dick joke.
[1] Yes, yes, I know.  That was a psychologist and a political scientist.  But I'm sure an anthropologist could have got in on the action.  Pretty much anyone could have.  So long as they were white.

[2] It bloody was, though.  More specifically, it represents the period immediately prior to the Russian Revolution.  The selfless, workaholic Doozers are the proletariat, and the hapless, care-free Fraggles are the bourgeoisie.  The only time this middle class has anything to worry about is when the aristocracy (the Gorgs) start making a fuss. Margery the trash-heap is Lenin, offering advice on how to overthrow the Tsar Gorg King.  The lighthouse is obviously heaven, making the lighthouse keeper God, and Sprocket the Dog the ghost of Karl Marx.  Uncle Travelling Matt is that guy Alec Guinness played in Doctor Zhivago.

Admittedly, it's not a perfect fit, mainly because the Doozers proclaim to love having the Fraggles eat their buildings (to the point that they'll leave the caverns if they're work isn't periodically ruined).  It's therefore best to view the show as a supply-side American's re-telling of pre-Revolution Russia, where it's the borgouesie that are the heroes, and who could live in harmony forever with their societal inferiors if only that pesky monarchy were out of the way.

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