This book can be ordered from Amazon at: https://www.createspace.com/5301621
From the Preface:
The following is a book, not so much about superheroes, but about the kinds of heroes made possible by transformations of media. The twentieth century has perhaps seen more media transformations than in the entirety of human history since the dawn of those first mud-brick cities in ancient Mesopotamia five thousand years ago when the first media were simply clay vases painted with petroglyphs that soon migrated into the cuneiform signs incised onto wet clay tablets. The Egyptians, meanwhile, were painting red and black hieroglyphs onto papyrus scrolls, which the Greeks also used, although with the innovation of the phonetic alphabet, while the Romans, who also used the papyrus or vellum scroll, went on to invent the codex, that is to say, a book with a spine and pages, a format very much favored by Christians as opposed to Jews, who preferred to continue with the scrolls. Egyptian hieroglyphs became extinct by the end of the fourth century AD, but scrolls continued, in both papyrus (plant) and vellum (animal skin) form well on into the Middle Ages right beside the codex up until about the eleventh century, when the Arabs introduced paper into Spain, an art which they had learned from the Persians who, in turn had derived it from the Chinese. Paper was cheaper and easier to make than drying out animal skins and so the format of the illuminated manuscript continued right down to the fifteenth century when, around 1439 in Mainz, Germany one Johannes Gutenberg transformed a wine press into the first printing press. (Dionysus, as it were, into Apollo). The Arabs were engulfing Constantinople at just about the same time in 1453, chasing out refugee Greek monks carrying satchels full of manuscripts unknown to the West for centuries right into the waiting arms of Rome and Florence, where they were promptly translated and the Western Clearing of Being began to “light up” (with its idea of Being as “objectivity”) while the Eastern world slowly began a process of darkening from which—if one may so without Orientalist bias–it has never recovered.
All these media transformations took place over thousands of years, and each of these media favored a particular kind of narrative hero: the incised lines of the Babylonian tablets, for example, might favor a Gilgamesh—the one who conquered death—while the calligraphy of Egyptian papyrus did not favor epic heroes so much as exemplary characters like The Eloquent Peasant or Sinuhe, the man who committed sins against Ma’at for leaving Egypt and living his life amongst the barbarian tribes of Palestine. There is something eternal and unchangeable about the deeds of Gilgamesh (perfect for baked tablets), and a sense of ephemerality and historical contingency about Sinuhe or the Eloquent Peasant. The Hindus, meanwhile, invented the five Pandava Brothers—the original Fantastic Five—simply by telling oral tales about them, while the Homeric epics, written down around 750 BC, were acts of commemoration of an age of giants when men capable of deeds like the Trojan War lived long before the time of Homer himself, who was looking backward at them and trying to capture and preserve them in writing.
The twentieth century media explosion—still ongoing, and apparently gaining force, as every day seems to yield yet another new gadget for one to contend with—has been prodigious, and it has made possible a gallery of heroes and superheroes of great diversity and richness. The following manuscript, written (on a laptop) over approximately nine years, upon which I worked off and on between projects, was meant as a sort of cultural archaeology of these heroes. The thesis of the book is that the gods have survived and live on precisely through these popular media which favor their survival, while in the mainstream literary tradition they have mostly died out. And certainly, their cults no longer function. The gods, as both Holderlin and Heidegger lamented, have absconded from us, but yet Heidegger—engaged in writing his Contributions–never bothered with popular culture, where he would have found them alive and well and still continuing to draw breath amongst us.
Thus, the following book is a chronicle of the survival of the gods—to echo Jean Seznec– and a report on their state and condition. Many more media transformations still await us, and indeed the very thought is cause for nausea, since one can already foresee a plague of Titans spewing forth from out of the microchips implanted into all these gadgets. One can only keep head above water for so long.
If anything, now there are too many media making too many competing demands for the media-user’s attention and so it is getting harder and harder for one to focus amidst this welter of digital chaos and make commitments to specific media.
Find your patron god.
And stick with him.
This book can be ordered at: https://www.createspace.com/5301621
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