Correcting past ‘errors’ in comics and animation.

Interesting this controversy surrounding the Simpson’s ‘Apu’ character who is now described as a nasty racial stereotype. Not sure about that claim given close to all the convenience stores and discount petrol stations I know are owned and operated by Indians with limited English and understanding of western culture. Apu is an exaggeration more than a stereotype. But who cares, soon all entertainment will feature lots of special effects and non-white males and females running around for no apparent reason (as in Fury Road) asserting their empowerment in combat against we-are-no- sure-what but looks like vicious white males in BDSM drag. The concept of narrative dead and buried forever. Talented scriptwriters may as well update their resumes and all that possibly because the intended audience has limited ability to follow a complex narrative from establishment to resolution and so there is no point in writing one. One situation of empowerment to the next and punctuated by a crash and explosion will suffice thank you very much.

Anyways… this situation may not be limited to cinema as I found looking over some old comic strips and how they have evolved over the past say fifty years. ‘Alix’ created by Belgian Jacques Martin in the late forties is a case in point. His stories set in antiquity, ‘Alix’ for those who are unfamiliar with Belgian/French comics, is a young blond blue eyed hero who native of Gaul and separated from his parents is sold into slavery and by some miracle becomes this teenage, highly idealistic, pure of mind and body, brave, heroic, Roman super-hero.

cover alix l'intrepide

Alix cover that always reminded me of depictions of Alexander the Great who coincidently had a friend with a name similar to Enak.

Like Tintin he is faultless, has limited needs and no wants, no quirky personal characteristics, no irrational likes or dislikes and as such is a flat character and the dehumanized impossible standard to which all boys of the time were expected to aspire.  Aside from also been good providers for wife and family and good soldiers for the nation.

tintin and snowy

Basically Tintin is a flat character.

page from Tintin in Tibet

In ‘real life’ Chang and George Remi or ‘Herge’ (the creator of Tintin) met at the Brussels Royal Art Academy where Chang was a student.

The only problem being today with Alix and some suspect with Tintin as well, is a homosexual subtext which may tell us more about the authors than their characters. Tintin and the Chinese orphan boy Chang and Alix’s sidekick Enak who is a younger, pretty and coincidently orphaned Egyptian prince. Whether these two inclusions are hinting at an inner and undisclosed aspect of their creators’ self will be debated forever and a day and would not be a problem in these times of gay marriage and gender uncertainty were it not for the fact that well – Enak, as he originally appears, is not in the currently approved age range for a sexual partner of a person of Alix’s apparent age.

alix and enak as originally created

Enak as he first appears and drawn by Jacques Martin.

alix and enak in the sphinx d'or

A later version of Enak in which he has grown a bit maybe because of the excessive age gap suggested by the difference in height in the original drawings. See picture below.

alix and enak as originally created

If in this picture Alix is in his mid to late teens then Enak is?

Translation is Enak to woman “Do not touch me! I am big enough to wash myself!”

jacques Martin himself emphatically denied there was anything other than pure, innocent and idealistic friendship between Alix and Enak and the only reason Alix has a male and not a female sidekick is that law regulating children’s books in the late forties forbade him from depicting Alix with what could be construed as a girlfriend. It follows then that what could be construed as a boyfriend was perfectly OK.

 

What’s the word? Kitsch?

Drawing of Alix and Enak naked

Enak looks upon his hero with adoring eyes.

Still the aura of homosexuality, as in sexual attraction, remains but it is not necessarily homosexuality as defined by today’s LGBTQI persons but rather is closer to what Plato had in mind when writing his Socratic dialogues and Phaedrus in particular. I know people believe Platonic love is love with no sex but that was not exactly what he meant and in Republic (from memory and I could be confusing his books) he suggests the way to make soldiers (adult males) fight harder in battle is to reward the bravest with first choice of the boys and for sure the idea was not that brave soldier and boy would sit under a shady tree and discuss rhetoric. I think the relationship between Alix and Enak Martin was trying to describe was closer to what the Greeks called ‘arete’, meaning excellence in all things, body and mind, and that male-on-male attraction was an expression of excellence. The Japanese samurai had a similar cult of male excellence and one which also crossed the boarder into areas that today are problematic. Actually I read somewhere that bonking boys was considered by the samurai as a ‘virtue’ a bit like in Sufi Islam the contemplation of a beautiful boy was as a ‘prayer to God’. Some – LOL – must have been extremely pious.

Japanese print with samurai and boy.

Japanese ‘Shunga’ (erotic art) depicting a samurai with his young wakashu (young male lover).

I think in these times when the simple idea of male excellence is verboten and relationships between races and genders have to always be equal and unambiguous, the writers and artists who took over the ‘Alix’ franchise were handed a problem difficult to fix. One solution they adopted if we look at the picture below was to make Enak bigger and stronger and Alix weaker and more submissive. Clearly Enak in this picture is giving thought to whatever it is Alix is putting to him but is not convinced.

An Enak now the same size and strength as Alix.

A more recent version of Enak in which he is roughly as big as Alix and therefore leveling out the relationship.

Maybe all this correction didn’t work because the latest variation on the Alix and Enak theme is a gray-haired Alix and as for Enak? Well – he is dead. Problem solved and everyone happy .

cover of comic strip 'Alix Senator'.

Problem solved? No more Alix the blond, blue-eyed hero and no more Enak the pretty, dark skinned boyfriend.

Page from comic strip Alix Senator

The kid Alix is telling off in the last frame of this page is the son of the deceased Enak. Can we expect more ambiguity?

OK – finally and as if all this was not sufficiently confused already, a page we are unlikely to ever see again in any comic strip book that can be brought at the local store.

orgy scene from Alix and Enak comic book

Enak unable to resist sucking on Alix’s grapes?