While casting about the 'Net for usages of "The key to the treasure is the treasure" I chanced to discover a fascinating extended discussion of stories about stories. Its title is "Promethea and Metafiction" and it appears to be a university thesis by "Brian", who is a friend of "Eroom Nala", who in turn ran an online essay contest in late 2003 on the theme of Promethea, which itself is a graphic novel series by Alan Moore, author of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and a writer of whom "Eroom" seems to be a devoted fan. (Whew! See [1] for the full text of Brian's essay; it was awarded Second Prize among all of the entries. Note also the reversed spelling of "Eroom Nala".)

With such a self-referential topic at its core "Promethea and Metafiction" is obviously something that I need to read. Brian's dissertation wrestles with symbology and postmodernism, yet manages to only use the word "semiotic" once --- a big point in its favor. It also contains razor-sharp barbs at clichés of comic-book artwork, e.g.:

While they fight their way to a confrontation Moore, through Promethea/Grace, derides the talent of the writers of the pulp novels, especially the sexist approach to her. For instance, Promethea/Grace remarks "All that drivel he wrote about my taut thighs and heaving bosom ... I mean, I don't think I can remember my bosom ever having heaved, has yours?" At this point, Promethea/Grace feels she is being watched, and in a little piece of breaking the fourth wall, Moore has her yell directly at the comic reader, "Who do you think you're spying on, you grubby little adolescent?" Of course, Moore works it into the story that she is actually speaking to Kenneth, the aforementioned surrogate reader, but the sentiment remains there. The writer that Moore just derided for his sexist approach to pulp novels partially writes that way because that is what his or her audience wants, and that continues on to the comic book audience. The skimpy costume for heroines has been a given ever since Wonder Woman first made her appearance in 1940. Moore took his little shot at that mentality by yelling at the audience who constantly asked for this kind of titillation.

Amanda Williams [2] has, coincidentally, mused on this and related topics recently in her public writings and in private correspondence. Brian's essay also reminds me of Arnold Schwarzenegger's brilliant box-office-bomblet metamovie The Last Action Hero ... and, on a more literary-historic plane, the intimately related metaquestion "How Did You Know What You Were Reading?" which HarrietNowellSmith focused on in her 1996 comparative-lit dissertation re fictional elements in Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

More than anything else, however, "Promethea and Metafiction" brings to mind the fire-hazard-high stacks of graphic novels, anime posters, and rôle-playing paraphernalia at Barbarian Books, a notorious local used-book-and-gaming store that is also a popular hangout for a peculiar subculture of adolescent males. Whilst browsing at The Barb some years ago, my wife reports, she overheard the loud lament "Women: you can't live with 'em, and you can't kill 'em!" --- quickly followed by an embarrassed "No offense meant!" disclaimer as the young man who said it belatedly spied her ...

(see also GibbonNowellSmithThesis (14 Sep 2001), Extraordinary Gentlemen (29 Apr 2003), Rider Haggard (27 Jun 2003), KeyToTheTreasure (23 Apr 2004), ... )

TopicLiterature - TopicArt - TopicPersonalHistory - TopicHumor - 2004-04-26

(correlates: EmersonOnFame, SemioticArsenal, Extraordinary Gentlemen, ...)