Carolyn Bick's Blog

An Oberlin course blog

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‘Fortress of Solitude’

April 10th, 2011 by Carolyn Bick · Uncategorized

First of all, I just wanted to say how incredibly good and how incredibly depressing that book was.  I also really enjoyed the shifting perspectives, and the odd way in which the book was broken into three different segments.

I wanted to address a few things about the novel.  First of all, when the notion of the ring bestowing the wearer with superpowers was introduced, I didn’t believe it.  I just thought Dylan and Mingus were seeing and experiencing what they wanted to experience.  However, it later became clear that the ring really did endow the wearer with superpowers.  My question is, why did Dylan and Mingus experience the same superpower?  Is it because, despite what Dylan wanted to think in his later years, he and Mingus really were incredibly alike, after all?  Truthfully, it seemed to me as though Mingus was the better-hearted of the two–Dylan just managed to avoid jailtime because he was white.

Which brings me to my second question.  Why is Mingus’s experience since age eighteen given such short shrift?  As I recall, it’s literally only twenty pages (maximum), and it really only covers his time in prison.  Is it because Dylan cared so little for him that the book relegated Mingus’s life to only a few pages?

Lastly, I really enjoyed the fact that we didn’t see when Dylan killed Robert in the end.  The entire novel had, in a sense, been building up to it, yet we never got to see it.  I think it may have been because, in the end, it really came down to a tussle between boys; that old grudges aren’t as important as adult life, and we can’t waste our precious time worrying about them.  Why do you think that is?

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Parallels Between ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘The Iron Giant’

March 20th, 2011 by Carolyn Bick · Uncategorized

There are an incredible number of parallels between The Iron Giant and Beauty and The Beast that I had never noticed before!

1) The scene in which the old fisherman comes into the diner and starts telling the other diners about a massive robot he saw.  The diners dismiss his tale with laughter, calling him a drunkard who does not know what he is talking about.  This is similar to Maurice telling the inn’s customers about The Beast: His established reputation as a “loony scientist” provokes laughter at the revelation.

2) The scene in which Hogarth comes across the Giant is much the same as when Belle discovers The West Wing of the castle.  His terror at discovering the Giant mirrors Belle’s when The Beast comes after her.

3) The Giant and The Beast are both Other, from which the villagers must protect themselves and their families.

4) Both “villains” in the films have it in for the character of the Other, and have their eyes set on the female leads.

4) Hogarth and Belle both take it upon themselves to “civilize” the Giant and The Beast respectively.

Were there any other parallels that you all saw?

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‘Charlie Brown’ and ‘The Fortress of Solitude’

March 15th, 2011 by Carolyn Bick · Uncategorized

As we were watching A Charlie Brown Christmas yesterday, I was suddenly reminded of the book we’re reading, The Fortress of Solitude.  Admittedly, we haven’t finished it yet, but the first few chapters detailing Dylan Ebdus’ life as a younger kid growing up on Dean Street seemed to sync with the portrayal of Charlie Brown’s life.  Sure, the lives of the children in Charlie Brown aren’t as depressing as those detailed in The Fortress of Solitude, but they both have a rather melancholy quality to them.

Charlie Brown is constantly depressed, and feels unloved.  I haven’t read much Charlie Brown, but the sense I always got from the strips I did read is that Charlie Brown isn’t quite one of the kids.  He always stands apart, and is often disgusted at and tired of the way the children in his neighborhood treat one another.  Sure, there are funny bits to Charlie Brown, but there are a lot of depressing moments that are sometimes masked by the rather blue humor.

Dylan Ebdus feels like an outsider at first, and, though he makes his way via pristine skully caps into the kids’ Henry-centric “society”, never feels as though he quite fits in, especially as all the children lose interest in skully after Dylan creates the perfect caps.  Furthermore, Dylan’s mother, the eccentric, off-kilter Rachel, brags about Dylan being one of the only white kids in his public school.  Though that may be true, the reality is that Dylan does not feel as though he stands out in any special way, and simply blends into the woodwork.

Neither Charlie nor Dylan are fully integrated into the societies in which they live.  This seems to be a trend of this class lately: First Gerald McBoing-Boing, then Dylan, now Charlie.  All are shunned in certain ways from the society of “normal” children, because of the differences about themselves that they cannot help.

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‘Rocky and Bullwinkle’ and the Shadow of the Cold War

March 14th, 2011 by Carolyn Bick · Uncategorized

I am sure I am not the only one who noticed this, but the far of the Cold War and the Russians is clearly present in Rocky and Bullwinkle. Not only are the two villains from Russia, but they’re trying to steal the rocket fuel formula from our two American heroes. This speaks to me of the space race against the Russians–particularly the fact that Rocky and Bullwinkle are the ones on the moon, not Boris and Natasha. Furthermore, they are discovered there only by scientists (and “eggheads”) who are trying to disprove the idea that there may be hostile lifeforms on the moon (i.e. hostile Russians may have made it there first).

I was curious as to what everyone else noticed in the Cold War vein of Rocky and Bullwinkle, and whether or not you all noticed other political comedy in the cartoon.

Also, in case you’re interested, here’s an article claiming the marijuana subtext in the jet fuel episode:

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Hello, racism my old friend…

March 8th, 2011 by Carolyn Bick · Uncategorized

I know I shouldn’t be surprised at all the racism in early comics, but I did a double-take at the end of the Satin sequence in The Spirit.  The black bellboy is a typical portrayal of an African American: Monkey-like, with large lips and poor speech.  And though this kind of depiction is typical in early comics, I guess it never occurred to me that it would happen in superhero comics, too.  For some reason, I assumed such racism would be kept out of hero comics.  Clearly, I was wrong.

It also got me thinking about Mock Duck in Krazy and Ignatz, and, especially, about the deleted Fantasia scenes, which I am sure some of you have seen.  Here they are, in case you haven’t:

I was wondering when animators and illustrators lightened up on the racism (and sexism) in comics and cartoons.  And did they stop, because they realized it was wrong, or because it was no longer “politically correct” to draw non-Caucasian characters that way?

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The Female Body in ‘Fantasia’

March 6th, 2011 by Carolyn Bick · Uncategorized

As I was watching Fantasia today, I realized just how much subtle and not-so-subtle female imagery there is in the film.  The imagery tends to revolve around the physical female body, rather than what a majority of society at the time of Fantasia’s making might consider “feminine” traits.  The female body is employed in various ways in the film, standing from everything such as the concepts of good and evil, to tools men may manipulate.

The ways in which the “good” female and the “bad” female are distinguished are quite different.  Take the female centaurs (I refuse to call them “centaurettes”–Disney, you’re doin’ it wrong) of the Bacchanal scene, and the harpies of the Walpurgis scene.  The good, pure, female centaurs are nearly sexless.  They have no genitalia, and, even though we see their bare breasts, no nipples.  Moreoever, they all look alike: Doe-eyed, slender beings, whose faces and limbs are almost childish in their softness.  In typical, “appropriate” female fashion, the female centaurs doll themselves up for the male centaurs they wish to attract; but, when the male centaurs try to kiss them–blast those hormones!–the female centaurs demure, and act coy.

(For whatever reason, the Embed function has been disabled for this particular part of Fantasia, so here’s the link to the segement:  )

The harpies, in contrast, are horrific-looking creatures, with untamed hair, wild eyes–and breasts with nipples on them.  Unlike the shy female centaurs, they fly at the camera in a rage, almost as if they wish to destroy the viewer.  Satan summons the harpies, and they fly among the daemons of Hell and spirits of the damned, terrorizing the little town on Walpurgis night.  This is a startling departure from any of the females we have seen in the film so far, and I find it interesting that, when given more sex than just two small mounds on a pastel-colored chest, women automatically represent evil.  What is it about woman as a sexual being that suddenly demotes her to the bottom of the moral ladder?  Why can the lusty male centaurs get away with wanting to kiss the female centaurs, but any slight addition to the female form that would suggest she is a sexual being automatically condemns her as evil?

In the Hours piece, the male alligators essentially have their way with the other animals in the ballet, all of whom are female.  They chase the females; ride them like horses; pull them out of hiding, though they are clearly upset and frightened; etc.  Maybe I am going a little too “Oberlin” with this, but I still think it’s important to motice that the ones who are victimized and manipulated in this piece are female.

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“Ugly” Comics

March 3rd, 2011 by Carolyn Bick · Uncategorized

I thought that Wolk’s point about what we might perceive as “ugly” comics are often the ones that make the most important/interesting points about society and culture.  Mad Magazine is a fabulous example.  The reason I could never read Mad Magazine in the car when I was younger was because the combination of the motion of the car and the look of some of the comics made me sick.  But, now that I look back on it, the “ugliest” comics in Mad were the ones that made the keenest remarks on American society.

This isn’t the “ugliest” cartoon out there, but it is still not aesthetically appealing.  The sweat drops; Obama’s ears, and the disproportionate nature of the characters’ bodies all contribute to the “ugly” aesthetic.

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Lil’ Lulu and Lil’ Jinx

March 1st, 2011 by Carolyn Bick · Uncategorized

I liked the Lil’ Lulu comics.  I’d never read them before, but they remind me of Lil’ Jinx from Archie Comics.  Lil’ Jinx was a character unassociated with Archie and the gang, but who appeared in her own separate strips within Archie editions.  Until now, it never really occurred to me to wonder why Lil’ Jinx never appeared separately.  Does anybody know?

In any case, there are some similarities between Lulu and Jinx: They often cause trouble, and do things that drive their parents and other adults crazy/exhaust them.  However, Lulu is definitely not as well-behaved as Jinx.  Jinx stories are often “cuter”, and Jinx is less like a rude kid than a silly one.  Lulu, on the other hand, is a more obstinate child, and, in my opinion, behaves like a bratty kid actually would.  To me, this makes her more real than Jinx, and funnier, because I can actually see a kid who has not quite yet acquired a “filter” (mental or otherwise) doing the things Lulu does.

Lastly, Jinx often breaks the fourth wall: She has (and loves) Archie Comics.

I wish I could add some pictures of Jinx, but, for some reason, the site isn’t allowing me to put them in via the Add Media button.  Here are the two I wanted to show you:

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Cute parodies in ‘Curse of the Wererabbit’

February 27th, 2011 by Carolyn Bick · Uncategorized

As I was watching Curse of the Wererabbit today, I noticed so many parodies of other films that I had never noticed before!  Most noticeable are the  elements of Young Frankenstein, Beauty and The Beast and King Kong.  The scene in which the crowd attends a town meeting presided over by the police officer is just like the town hall scene in Young Frankenstein in which the town’s residents and the police officer try to figure out how to deal with young Fredrick Fronkenstein.  There are several scenes reminiscent of Beauty and The Beast, especially the angry mob scene, and the scene in which Wallace/the Wererabbit/the camera is looking down at the pompous British guy hanging from the side of the mansion (I forget his name).  And the King Kong scene is probably pretty obvious: The scene in which the Wallace/the Wererabbit was hanging off the top of the mansion, holding the frightened Toddy under his arm.

Also, the rabbits are adorable.  Just saying.

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Sexism in Comics

February 26th, 2011 by Carolyn Bick · Uncategorized

I know that not everyone has the comic books yet, but I wanted to point the blatant sexism in DC: The New Frontier and Marvels.  I’m sure it has to do with the fact that both are supposed to be modeled on a time period in which women were thought to be inferior, though, and I am actually pretty impressed that the artists and writers got the dialogue and male-female dynamics down so well!

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