Singing the Body Imaginative: The Elemental Flesh in Alan Moore’s Promethea
Comic Arts Conference, 2006; Comic-Con International, San Diego, California
In July of 2006 Ms. Stuller presented at the annual Comic Arts Conference held in conjunction with San Diego’s International Comic Con. The conference is designed to bring together comics scholars, practitioners, critics, and historians who want to be involved in the dynamic process of evolving an aesthetic and a criticism of the comics medium. Comics professionals who have participated in past years include Will Eisner, Scott McCloud, Steve Bissette, Trina Robbins, Donna Barr, Mark Waid, and Paul Levitz.
Founded in 1992 by Communications professor Randy Duncan and American Studies doctoral student Peter Coogan, the conference was held concurrent with either the Comic-Con International or the Chicago Comicon. In 1998, the Comics Arts Conference became an official part of the Comic-Con International.
“I am Promethea, art’s fiercest spark. I am all inspiration. All desire. Imagination’s blaze in mankind’s dark. I am Promethea.” – Sophie Bangs
“If she didn’t exist, we’d have to invent her.” – Alan Moore
Word and image in the comic narrative combine to create a storytelling experience that resonates with the way we inhabit the world. By invoking visceral experience that connects inner and outer worlds, body and mind, reality and imagination, this form of narrative has a unique power to influence the ways we perceive ourselves, our environment, and our imagination.
By using Alan Moore’s graphic novel, Promethea, in relation to Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological concepts of the elemental Flesh and the Chiasm or “crossing,” this paper will illustrate how comic narratives can do more than entertain. They have the power to encourage us to see the world anew, and to experience it as profoundly magical.
Promethea, as a comic narrative, and Promethea as a progressive superhero reminds us that there is something deeper in the world, something that connects us that we can not quite articulate, but that we have somehow gotten ourselves away from. Comic writers may call this something “Super.” Magicians call it “Magic.” Philosophers like Merleau-Ponty have named it “Flesh,” and Christians call it “God.” But no matter the name It’s both larger and smaller than humanity. It’s intertwined throughout everything. How do we reconnect to that which is ethereal, yet elemental? What would the world look like if we opened up or expanded our perceptions of it? What would it feel like?
Promethea can show us.