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ENG235 Final Test

Gengyu Xu | 999677256 | Professor Andrew Lesk

Part A Question1: When Kate shows up in the fundraiser in a tuxedo she is met with a
cold reception from her step mother, who does not believe it is appropriate for a woman
to wear tuxedos in public. The significance of this passage surfaces when one considers
the story of Batwoman not as a standalone book, but as a part of the grand history of
comic books. Elegy portrays the first comic book character who is openly queer. The fact
that Kate does not want to stay hidden is a critique on the old fashioned, close-minded
mentality that is saturates our culture.
Essay Response # 2: Created by Brian Maruca and Jim Rigg, Afrodisiac features a
scrapbook of fast paced hypothetical comic book stories starring the titular Blaxploitation
hero who possess immense seductive power over women. The book is not a traditional
graphic novel that tries to tell a coherent story. Instead, it focuses on building up one of
the most stereotypical black character possible. Besides the obvious shock value, what
really separates this book from others is the fact that it features multiple distinct art styles.
Some stories feature solid blocks of vibrant colors while others seem they are done on a
really cheap news print. On the surface this seem completely out of place, but upon
further examination, one can see that they work well together to create a deep character.
Afrodisiac is a parody, a social commentary, a cultural reexamination; every aspect of its
bizarre narrative is made better by the choice to experiment with different comic forms.
The authors narrative strategy is what some may call a single punch line comic.
Each individual adventure, no matter how long, is centered around one joke: Afrodisiac
seduces alien invaders; Afrodisac defeats Hercules; and so on. This kind of narration

greatly benefits from the mixed art style because no two scenarios will be regarded as
connected. It gives the authors a clean canvas to work with every single time. In fact they
do take full advantage of this freedom that most graphic novel creators do not enjoy. The
origin of the Afrodisiac has been left intentionally ambiguous by the authors. He has been
described as a janitor for various locations (Maruca and Rigg 54), a night club owner
(Maruca and Rigg 37), and even a government-created super soldier (Maruca and Rigg
60). Each of the origin stories is subsequently followed by a bizarre adventure, drawn in a
new art style. This convoluted lore behind the Afrodisiac pokes fun at some of the bigname superhero comics, which often had unintentionally self-contradicting origin stories
because they are too deep for their own good. By constantly switching art styles, this
phenomenon is portrayed to be a reoccurring one that is found throughout history. 1950s
pulp fiction magazines (Maruca and Rigg 73), 1970s superhero craze (Maruca and Rigg
54), and the rise of the popularity of manga in the 1980s (Maruca and Rigg 58), each of
these eras saw its own embodiment in the book. In short the authors lighthearted parody
on the confusing nature of the comic universes is enhanced by their bold decision to
incorporate drastically different art styles into one single book.
The unlimited artistic freedom also allowed the authors to discuss the ever-present
issue that is racism in a less direct manner. This is a subject matter that had plagued the
graphic novel community for decades; the lack of African American super heroes
illustrates the problem perfectly. Be it American comic or Japanese manga, a black hero
as iconic as Superman or Batman was nowhere to be found. It was like an elephant in the
room that everyone knew about, yet no one would formally address. The comic forms
explored in the book transcends numerous cultures. By over-saturating different cultural
contexts with the idea of an all-dominant African American alpha male, the authors are

effectively criticizing people (everywhere)s inactions (in the past and the present)
towards the pressing issued of racism, without explicitly calling anyone out.
Clearly the artist did not just roll a dice to come up with the next art theme for the
Afrodisiac. Every artistic style that appeared in the book are there for a reason: they
enable better story telling. When stories are as short as they are in this book, the role that
art plays become especially critical.
Essay Response # 3: Flex Mentallo by Grant Morrison has achieved somewhat of an
infamous status due to its perplexing premise. It features multiple contradictory narratives
that seem equally valid. It is convenient to simply dismiss these choices and claim that
Morrison asserts the very idea of choice as an illusion. However I argue that the message
is in fact the exact opposite. We do have choices. In fact our lives are shaped by the
decisions that we make. The multiple narratives are symbolize for the endless
possibilities we face. We create our own trials and challenges in life. If we fail, we have no
one to blame but ourselves. This might seem farfetched, but it all is evident when we treat
the story not as separate narratives but as one collective metaphor for the world that we
live in.
On the surface, the novel consists of four books, each corresponding to one of the
four ages of comics: bronze, silver, gold or modern. But examining the changes in Wally
throughout the story reveals another possible interpretation. They might in fact represent
four stages of human mental development. We start with childhood (Morrison 18), when
we were always fascinated by the idea of superheroes. Then we become teens, as sex
and puberty enter our lives (Morrison 63). However we are not yet ready to abandon the
comics because there is still a child in each of us. After that we enter adulthood, where

we no longer need comic books because we have more important thing such as a job or
a family to worry about (Morrison 73). The last book is when one revisits his/her childhood
and re-evaluate it with all the knowledge that s/he had gained through the experience of
life (Morrison 92). Each step of this life long journey is filled with choices. As a kid who
reads comic, who has not doodled or acted out his/her own super hero? As a teenager,
we discover our first crush. As an adult, we may choose to settle down with the person
we love. The multitude of possibilities these choices represent is exactly the message
Morrison is trying to convey; each choice is equally valid. But once we make our decision,
we will have to live with the consequences.
The main character Wally is a metaphor for all of us in general. He lived his whole
live trying to climb to the top of society. But when he finally does it by reaching a rock star
status he ultimately finds no meaning left in his life, which is why he had to resort to drugs.
This can be generalized to everyone. If we spend our entire lives chasing after something,
what happens when we do get it? What purpose does life have anymore? Again, this is
Morrison telling us that we all make our own choices. Of course, in the end our lives will
diverge onto drastically different paths; but that does not matter. What matters are
choices that we make along the path. Because it is through living that we find meaning,
not having lived.
Of course the true meaning behind a story as avant-garde as Flex Mentallo is often
largely up to personal interpretation. But that is perhaps what makes it beautiful. We may
choose to understand the story however we like, and allow it to influence our lives to
whatever degree we wish. The result does not matter. Its all about the process and what
we learn about ourselves through it.