We took a bit of a hiatus from the Marston/WW blogging there. My apologies; hopefully we’ll get back on track with out once a week posting, and push on through until the end of the run (which is #28…so 3 more months if I keep to the once a week schedule.)
Anyway, one of the things I tried to do with my time off was read Marston’s academic treatise, The Emotions of Normal People, from 1928. I have to admit I only got a handful of pages in. Marston is an entertaining writer, and you can see it even when he’s trying to be boring and academic…but, well, overall, it’s still kind of boring and academic. I thought this anecdote was nicely revealing though:
I can still remember vividly the fear I once experienced as a child, when threatened, on my way to school, by a half-witted boy with an air-gun. I had been taught by my father never to fight; so I ran home in an agony of fear. My mother told me, “Go straight by F____. Don’t attack him unless he shoots at you, but if he does, then go after him.” I was an obedient child and followed orders explicitly. I marched up to F_____ and his gun with my face set and my stomach sick with dread. F_____ did not shoot. I have known, ever since that well-remembered occasion, that fear does not give strength in times of stress. Part of the strength with which I faced F_____’s air-gun came from my own underlying dominance, newly released from artificial control. But most of it belonged to my mother, and she was able to use it in my behalf because I submitted to her. Dominance and submissions are the “normal”, strength-giving emotions, not “rage” and “fear”.
It’s all so Freudian you just can’t stand it. Though on the surface this may be a conflict between Marston and the “half-witted boy”, you don’t have to go too far into the subtext to see it as a conflict between paternal authority (it’s his father who forbade him to fight) and maternal dominance. It’s also telling, in terms of Marston’s general view of the world, that violence here is definitely gendered, but that gendering doesn’t break down quite the way you would expect. On the one hand, the half-wit boy has the gun (very phallic) and it’s the father who lays down the arbitrary law, which is universally applicable and not to be altered no matter the circumstances. Still, it is the Dad who is the pacifist, and the Mom who is willing to continence violence…albeit tailored to individual circumstances, and administered with love. And, of course, the whole point here is that fear and (typically male-identified) rage are less effective and powerful than submission to love. The phallic gun is no match for the mother’s will.
It’s fun, too, that Marston has apparently written a whole book here to demonstate, scientifically, once and for all, that everyone else is wrong, and his kink is normal, normal, normal. Speicfically, it’s a “normal emotion,” which is how he gets to call his book “Emotions of Everyday People,” rather than, say, “The Pleasures of Dominance and Submission: A Field Guide.”
Marston is, as always, easy to make fun – but there are also some interesting ideas here, I think. Dominance and submission maybe are a lot more common and important as motivating forces than we generally think about. People are certainly influenced by hierarchies and affection more or less constantly. Freud relates those to subconscious motivators, but it would be possible to think of them too as more natural, or above-board emotions. You can see too why Marston was occasionally accused of fascism by the advisors/censors in the editorial offices; strength through giving up your will to a higher authority must have sounded ominously familiar in the 1940s (though, of course, Hitler wasn’t a mother, which was probably an important distinction for Marston.)
(As a parenthetical aside to the parenthetical, I was just skimming some writing by medieval theologian Meister Eckhart (why? Never mind why.) Anyway, he was arguing that obedience was virtue; more important than love or humility or charity or anything else. The argument was basically that obedience brings you closest to God, since through obedience to a superior you most thoroughly abnegate self, and when self goes, God comes in. The best use of free will is to destroy your own will.
I can’t say I find that especially convincing – it seems to be deliberately abrogating moral choice in a way that seems pretty problematic from most moral standpoints, including Christ’s as far as I understand it. I actually have more sympathy for Marston’s position, which at least argues that obedience has to involve love and presumably some level of trust. Obedience in and of itself, to any random hierarchy, just doesn’t seem like a virtue, much less the virtue. But I’m a liberal secularist steeped in modernity, so I guess that’s what I would say.)
Anyway, on to WW #12, where we’ve got WW, not for the first time, seizing control of a suggestively shaped missile:
I believe this is the first WW issue written after the end of the war. Marston’s not quite ready to dispense with the military plots, though; this story is all about the evil European munitions manufacturers and their glamorous women spies who are plotting to cause yet another war for fun and profit.
I kind of feel bad for the European arms manufacturers, actually. I mean, they just helped win WW II; if they were ever going to enjoy any popularity, you’d think this would be the moment. But no, as soon as the wars done, Marston is blaming them for everything. Still, I guess I should be glad that Marston hasn’t gone right back to blaming the Jews.
In any case, as it turns out, the European munitions manufacturers are little more effective than that half-wit boy with the gun. Even Diana Prince can take them out:
So inevitably they’re defeated and taken for treatment…not to Paradise Island, but to another matriarchal, peace –and-dominance loving society (Marston’s got a million of them.) This one’s on Venus. You can tell the Venusians from the Amazons because the Venusians have wings, which Harry Peter seems more or less born to draw.
As you see at the end there, the Queen of Venus is promising to transform the evil munitions men and their glamorous girlfriends into good, loving law-abiding citizens. And though there are a couple of blips (as you see in the last panel) she does have some success, primarily because of the power of magnetic gold, which makes you happy to be captive.
Any similarities to the golden magical lasso are presumably intentional; I think Marston believed that the color yellow encouraged feelings of submission. Anyway, this is also where we first have the Venus Girdle, the belt made of magnetic gold which makes people happy with their captivity:
Marston’s paradises are so Edwardian and upper-class.
The thing here is that the men are all perfectly happy with their captivity; they all want to wear Venus Girdles all the time. It’s only Velma, one of the glamorous girlfriends, who has the gumption to figure out a way to break the spell, following the letter of the law (a patriarchal move, incidentally) in order to break free.
Later Velma, in pursuit of a nefarious plan, actually places the girdle on herself, and then summons the willpower to break free despite the post-coital spell.
Velma has to hold the men at gunpoint in order to get them to rid themselves of their girdles.
I’ve probably said this before, but I think this shows why it was that Marston so often resorted to female villains. Men in his world just don’t have that much gumption. It’s really hard to imagine any male in Marston’s world, from Steve to Ares, throwing off the matriarchal power of the girdle. Men, like young Marston, want to submit their will to a more powerful feminine control. Only another woman like Velma can resist Venus – and offer men the opportunity to be controlled by her will.
Of course, Velma is eventually captured and renounces her evil ways…which seems kind of too bad, since she was pretty fun to root for. But no fear; I’m sure they’ll be an evil villainess to root for in an upcoming issue.
Nothing much else to say about this issue…except that Harry Peter just keeps getting better and better, damn it The effects with the ray that transport everyone to Venus are thoroughly weird and lovely, for example:
as is this visit from the ghostly Queen of Venus:
Peter is also experimenting very effectively with some more complicated page layouts. I think this is the first time I’ve seen him use the kind of narrow tiny panel he does in the middle here:
and I know I’ve never seen him use that odd jagged panel before:
And then there’s this weird, sensuous ghost whispering sweet nothing in WW’s ear:
I think my favorite panel, though, is this one:
The perspective is so scattershot that it actually looks like Paula is floating in mid-air; like it’s some magician’s trick that Velma is demonstrating, with WW standing there thinking, “How on earth did she manage that!” The shadow adds to the effect too; it’s weird and doofy, and completely works with Marston’s themes of control and magic. I really wish there were still mainstream artists like this around. Darwyn Cooke is cool and all, but this is the shit.