Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Gross Intermission

I'm really busy with Thesis Stuff right now, so the Grotesk blogging journey has slowed somewhat. Never fear. It will soon return, stronger than ever. Meanwhile, here are a few of my favourite advertisements from X-Men #41 (1963).

Superhero comics of the 60s clearly traffic in shame.

I'm interested to see that stories about heroic super dudes are accompanied by advertisements targeting readers who are encouraged to see themselves as physically and socially inferior. It somewhat reminds me of women's magazines today. The old 'look at this model now buy a concealer and a detox program you fatty' trick. Old as the hills.

Please note - at no point should you apply a "vacuum pump" to your pimples. Even if it is "scientifically designed." At least try Clearasil first. I'm just saying.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Grotesk Marvel: Part 2

Picking straight up where part 1 left off... The next portion of the story features more flagrant untruths as the X-Men continue to deceive their lady friends.

More importantly, Grotesk retreats into underground tunnels to mull over his new and lost identities.

Who was Grotesk before he was grotesque? Luckily his memory comes back quickly in the form of a flashback. Cutting a short story shorter: Grotesk used to be Prince Gor-Tok of the Gor-Tokians, a civilisation living beneath the surface of the earth.

Despite their obvious architectural talents, the Gor-Tokians were prone to warring with each other. Just as it seemed Prince Gor-Tok had sorted everybody out, nuclear testing caused the caverns to explode and pretty much ruined everything. It also mutated the prince, who is the last of his group left alive.

I'm going to pause here and pick out a few interesting points.

First, the fact that Grotesk lives in underground caverns is significant. The word 'grotesque' evolved from the Italian grotta or 'grotto,' meaning cave. Grotesque is the modern version of 'grotto-esque' - from the cave. The fact that the writers chose to name a subterranean character grotesque/Grotesk suggests that they were aware of the term's etymological origins.

It is also interesting that the writers continually reinforce the sub-human nature of the grotesque character. The grotesque is not just unusual or disgusting, it is less than human. In this context, being subterranean is equated with being sub-human: below the ground, below the species. This interpretation segues with historical ideas about 'primitive' cultures, and reminds me of Leonard Cassuto's discussion of the racial grotesque. However, unlike other racial grotesques, Grotesk is consistently depicted as pale skinned. Still, many of his other attributes could be argued to resemble the stereotype of the 'wild man' or 'primitive.'

Anyways, back to the story.

Professor X is clearly up to something, but none of it makes sense until the next issue, so I'm going to ignore it for now.

Having remembered the whys and hows of his primal rage, Grotesk heads off to the nearest nuclear facility to bully some nerds and maybe steal a nuke.

Thus engaged, he is interrupted by more dweebs.

Will the puny surface-dwelling worms save the world from grotesqueness? Or will our hero prevail?

You will have to wait and see.

'The Death of Professor X' is quite a famous issue, so beware of copious spoilers in my next few posts if you were planning on reading it. Where Grotesk goes, I must follow!

To be continued... again...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Grotesk Marvel: Part 1

As promised in my last post, the blogging odyssey begins with the very first comic starring Marvel's Grotesk.

Uncanny X-Men #41, published in 1963, features Grotesk as a new adversary for the X-Men crew.

They are definitely going for the 'wild-man' look with this cover, which is strange considering Grotesk's relatively civilised back-story. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The story begins with a giant, as-yet unnamed 'sub-human' erupting into a subway tunnel in front of a train. The drivers exclaim with excitement (spelling out their every observation and sensation, as comics characters in the 60s were wont to do).

Who should happen to be riding in that same train? Why, Beast and Iceman from the X-Men, of course!

After ditching their non-super girlfriends with an excuse about finding matches or something, the two dudes transform into their mutated alter egos and engage the antagonist in spirited discussion.

I gently draw your attention to the last panel, where the first overt discussion of grotesqueness takes place.

Here 'grotesque' is used to indicate something unpleasant to look at. The 'sub-human' adopts the description willingly, as a replacement for a lost identity.

It is odd that the spelling is changed, and 'grotesque' turns into 'Grotesk.' Especially as this distinction is speech-bubble relevant only. Both words sound the same, so this transition is presumably significant to/aimed at readers only...

Having accepted the mantle of grotesqueness, our (anti)hero makes sure everyone knows it.

And Grotesk slips away into the darkness, leaving only the echo of his "loud booming voice."

Where did he come from? Where is he going? What's with that outfit? Stay tuned to find out more.

To be continued...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Phlegm Fatale

I've mentioned the Marvel character 'Grotesk' a few times on this blog, and have recently decided to dedicate a series of posts to him. Why not. He's big, buxom and mutated. He also comes from a secret subterranean world to seek revenge on surface-dwelling haters. Not a big fan of ladies - if the number of times he screams "WOMAN!" are any guide. Overall a fascinating fellow.

Grotesk is a rare character. He has appeared in a small scattering of comics since the 1960s. I own them all, as far as I know.

I was going to start today, but then decided I want to post on the comics in chronological order, so it's going to take a bit longer to organise things. This could end up being more complicated than I thought...

Oh well, I'm doing it all for:

Tangent: I love old comics. They smell so nice and musty. And they have great advertisements.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Se7en Things

I would like to say a quick hello to all the new people visiting this blog. April has only just begun, but Groteskology has already had more visits in 2011 than in the whole of 2010! Greetings, people of the Internet. I salute you.

Hila was kind enough to tag me with a versatile blogger award on her lovely blog. The award entails sharing seven facts about yourself, plus tagging others who might also like to share and pass it on. I'm going to tag Eleanor (robot expert) and Tammy (literature and poetry guru) for being awesome.

I had some trouble thinking of seven facts, but here goes...

1. I have a very loud laugh. People have claimed to hear it across great distances and through multiple walls. Combine this with my general impression that life is wacky, and you get a fair bit of noise pollution. Luckily I work from home. That was at least three facts. I'm not doing this correctly.

2. I completed a BA in Communication Studies (at UWA) in 2005. I sometimes wonder if an English degree would have given me a better foundation for my PhD.

3. One of my all-time favourite books is Illusion by Paula Volsky. It is a fantastical re-telling of the French Revolution involving political intrigue, sentient killing machines and impoverished street urchins. I find the riches-to-rags plot totally compelling. It is one of the few books I re-read on a regular basis.


4. I eat the exact same thing for lunch every day. It is one of the many things Jennifer Aniston and I have in common.

5. I do not own a single pair of high heel shoes. I borrowed a pair once, for bridesmaid duty, and the resulting blood blisters on my toes made grown men cringe in horror and disgust.

6. I wrote a feature film script for my Honours in creative writing. It is a sci-fi comedy set in outback Australia called 'The Wombat Principle.' Lots of ridiculous characters, aliens and a nonsense plot. The Australian film industry isn't exactly booming, but I'm hoping to get back to screenwriting once I finish my PhD.

7. I have a bunny. His name is Leonard, after the main character in Memento. I liked how Joe Pantoliano's character shouted "Lenneeee" all the time. Now I have an excuse to do the same. I got Lenny in my first year of university. He is now 10 years old, lives in his cage in my office, and spends his time sleeping and playing with newspaper

He also enjoys hiding.

And putting his ears in things.

You just know this whole post was an excuse to post pictures of my bunny.


Proof that Lenny is sometimes awake! Here he is doing some newspaper origami: