"Elias Nebula is practicing Japanese but no one knows."

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Jor-El: What's Wrong With a Prison?

It's very easy to become bored --- disheartened --- actually depressed -- when you are reading about the planet Krypton before it blew up. It's such dull stuff. And at the crux of this energetic maelstrom of dishwater, the eye of this vortex of dullness, is none other than Jor-El, the father of Superman.

Partially it is because we have read the origin story of Superman so many times that we would as lief eat a pincushion as read it once more. We wish these superficial marionettes conjured up before us like so much trivial vapour would vanish. And this is,  indeed, what generation after generation of writers has been striving -- and failing -- to accomplish, and will do so from now til time immemorial -- until, no doubt, the Earth itself blows up in a manner very like the planet Krypton.

Got to try to re-invest the Superman origin story with intrigue. Doomed to fail miserably.

That said, I was reading with, if not pleasure, then a sort of degree-zero lack of boredom, the DC limited series, World of Krypton (1979). This has some surprisingly nice art by Howard Chaykin -- nothing like his later, more characteristic style. It's unusual for an artist to wane as he develops, but that's what Howard Chaykin seems to have done. Mr. Damian Morgan of Brixton Town, England, tenderly loves Mr. Chaykin and has all his copies of American Flagg preserved in a shoebox decorated with ribbons and rosettes and Mr. Morgan will probably read these words with tears in his eyes. That is to be regretted.

In World of Krypton, anyway, all Jor-El's well-trod scientific endeavours and breakthroughs are explored in "loving detail" - the Phantom Zone, anti-gravity thrusters, etc.  One of his "brainwaves" however is in the field of shall we say criminal rehabilitation. It doesn't make sense to me.

Jor-El recommends that criminals should henceforth be placed in suspended animation and launched in bubbles into orbit in the planet Krypton's immediate atmosphere, where they can float above the planet until they have served out their time.

I fail to see the advantage in this. How exactly does it benefit the polis, sage Socrates? It seems downright eccentric to me -- perverse -- unwholesome. Need I point out what is obvious to the followers of one FRANK CASTLE's many adventures, that the essence of capital punishment is that it is punishing -- even if it is not always capital. If the malfeasant miscreants are in suspended animation (being brainwashed by rehabilitating subliminal mind-control tapes, incidentally -- but I shan't even pursue that rather tedious course of leftist media critique here) then they are not actually awake to appreciate the wrong that they have done. What's the point of time passing if you're asleep? It makes of the prisoners mere Rip Van Winkles. They're put in the bubbles and then they wake up and come out of the bubbles. It's like having your wisdom teeth extracted.

Also, floating about unconscious in solitary bubbles above Krypton's surface they are under no threat whatsoever from grisly prison rape, which is -- I naively thought -- a cornerstone of civilized society's deterrents against breaking the law. The threat of prison rape is, in fact, the single greatest deterrent against wrongdoing. Without it, the world will be in anarchy.

 The reason why Jor-El's crackpot scheme prevails is because of the alternative that is even more outre.  The solution offered by Jor-El's competitor, one "Tron-Et" (his real name, apparently), is the ingenious "Matter-Dissolver". This -- as you might imagine -- succinctly "eliminates the problem of the criminal." If Frank Castle was a denizen of Krypton ( -- idea for a Marvel/DC crossover event -- ) he would be a keen supporter of Tron-Et.

Or not: unfortunately this canny device is discredited in the end when it turns out that "Tron-Et" is a master criminal himself who wanted to kill all the criminal lackeys who worked for him, before they could be put in Jor-El's rehabilitator-capsules. He was frightened -- reasonably enough -- that they would emerge from Jor-El's bubbles older, wiser and rehabilitated, and that on emerging from the bubbles, and after only a rudimentary snack, they would go directly to the criminal courts and tell the judge that Tron-Et was a criminal kingpin.

Hence the "Matter-Dissolver."

Hence the success of Jor-El's prison-capsules.

I see that I have taken up quite enough of your time. And I can see from your faces, having read this far, that you agree with me entirely -- Krypton and Jor-El are very boring.



[This afterthought is really only for you comics twerps. It occurs to me now, as I write this, that the origin story of Superman has some resemblances to the origin story of Galactus. Superman is the last survivor of a dying planet -- for Galactus it is a dying multiverse -- but the "core myth" (pardon the dreadful pun) is the same. It'd be like that story where it was intimated that the Phantom Stranger is actually the son of Superman and Wonder Woman.

As I said, dull dry stuff really which I very much regret having to say, but sometimes -- as an academic -- or as a lapsed academic I should say --  I have to "publish" my findings, dry and loathsome as they are, to add them to that infinitely expanding, pulsing pool of knowledge we call HUMAN CIVILIZATION! This pool of knowledge is, as Jor-El would no doubt agree, our only hope for the endurance of a sensitive society.

That and the vile spectre of the ever-present threat of prison rape.]

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