7.30.2013

Captain's Blog pt. 45: The Original Series

David Gerrold's The World of Star Trek is arguably the greatest written analysis of the Trek phenomenon, all the more remarkable in that it was published when only The Original Series and The Animated Series and a handful of non-canon books existed. (And when its author was in his early 20s!) It's tough to parse for quotes, since so much of it is spot-on and worthwhile, but for our purposes here (i.e. launching this conclusion of the Captain Blog's series, focused exclusively on TOS) I'll only focus on his comments re: format, formula, and "Green Priestesses of the Cosmic Computer."


"FORMAT is the flight plan for a series (...) and just like any other flight plan, the slightest error will magnify itself over a period of time if it isn't corrected or compensated for (...) Something that seems quite workable in the first 2 or 3 stories may turn out to be a very rigorous trap by the 13th or 14th iteration."


"The FORMULA story is the pat story, the easy story, the one that gets written by the book. It's a compilation of all the tried and true tricks. It's six devices in search of a plot. In Star Trek it might work something like this:

"The Enterprise approaches a planet (...) Kirk, Spock, and McCoy get captured by 6-ft green women in steel brassieres."


"They take away the spacemen's communicators because they offend the computer-god these women worship."


"Meanwhile, Scotty discovers that he's having trouble with the doubletalk generator, and he can't fix it. The Enterprise will shrivel into a prune in 2 hours unless something is done immediately. But Scotty can't get in touch with the Captain."


"Of course he can't. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy have been brought before the high priest of the cosmic computer, who decides that they are unfit to live. All except the Vulcan, who has such interesting ears. She puts Spock in a mind-zapping machine which leaves him quoting 17-syllable Japanese haiku for the next 2 acts. 


"McCoy can't do a damn thing for him. "I'm a doctor, not a critic!" he grumbles. Kirk seduces the cute priestess."


"On the ship, sparks fly from Chekov's control panel, and everyone falls out of their chairs. Uhura tries opening the hailing frequencies, and when she can't, she admits to being frightened... Scotty figures there's only 15 minutes left. Already the crew members are wrinkling as the starship begins to prune."


"Down on the planet, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are being held in a dungeon."

"Why is it always a dungeon?"
"The girl Kirk's seduced decides that she has never had it so good in her life and discards all of her years-long training and lifetime-held beliefs to rescue him, conveniently remembering to bring him his communicator and phaser. Abruptly, Spock reveals how hard he has been working to hide his emotions and then snaps back to normal. Thinking logically, he and Kirk then drive the computer crazy with illogic."


"Naturally, it can't cope, its designers not having been as smart as our Earthmen. (...) It shorts out all its fuses and releases the Enterprise just in time for the last commercial. For a tag, the seduced priestess promises Kirk that she will work to build a new civilization on her planet - just for Kirk - one where steel brassieres are illegal."


"GREEN PRIESTESSES OF THE COSMIC COMPUTER has no internal conflict; it's all formula. Kirk doesn't have a decision to make (...) It's a compendium of all the bad plot devices that wore out their welcome on too many Star Trek episodes. It's all excitement, very little story. (...) FORMULA occurs when FORMAT starts to repeat itself. Or when writers are giving less than their best. (...) Flashy devices can conceal the lack for awhile, but ultimately, the lack of any real meat in the story will leave the viewers hungry and unsatisfied."

Let me break in here - I can't argue with Gerrold's storytelling logic, here, and maybe it says more about me and having internalized a taste for bad TV trope junk food over the years, but I get an equal kick out of the trashier Trek episodes than the more refined. I agree that the more worthwhile stories eschew these conventions and challenge the audience (and the writers,) but it's an eternal question for me with regards to my own preferences. It's undeniably fun to watch a Trek story unfold in the manner described even as I fully recognize the validity of what he's saying.


Part of it, too, is that I take the long view when it comes to storytelling. The small dramas we debate from the last 50 years have been playing out more or less the same way for thousands of years. Humans like tropes and repetitive arcs. Then, we like to deconstruct those, defy them and improvise. But we always come round again to the same old, same old, then round to the deconstruction again. (This is expressed more eloquently in things like Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces among other places.)

This doesn't mean I see something like "Spock's Brain" as an equal storytelling achievement to "City on the Edge of Forever," only that I don't quite see the logic in getting too big a head about recognizing how one is superior to the other. Well-spotted, but I still know which one I want to watch when I want to have some beers and yell at the tv, and who's to say which is the "superior" approach?

I'd argue both activate the same synapses in the brain or provide equal capacity for degree of "cosmic revelations." (As would Chuck Klosterman or Doug Coupland. Not bad company to keep.) There's plenty of room for both Tarkovsky and Sharknado.

Gerrold continues:

"There are 2 ways in which Format turns into Formula. One is a hardening of the arteries; the other is erosion. Hardening of the arteries is the process by which a TV show limits itself by setting up conditions which will affect all episodes that come after. The Kirk/ Spock relationship is a good example. As the leads, it made sense for them to get all of the away missions (but) the focusing of attention on 2 characters who should not logically be placing themselves in physical danger but must do so regularly (minimizes the rest of the cast.)

Reaching perhaps its crescendo in this ridiculous business from The Motion Picture, where the Captain feels the need to put on a space-suit and personally go and fetch Mr. Spock.
"They were a good team, but the overuse of Mr. Spock enlarged him out of all proportion to everything else on the Enterprise. (...) This is the real pity of hardened arteries - the show ends up telling and retelling only variations of the same story because it has so limited itself it can't tell any other story."

John Byrne writes of this "Super-Spock Phenomenon" and how it played out on TOS:

"'Where No Man Has Gone Before' - a mysterious force at the edge of the galaxy causes strange change in people with ESP - but Spock is unaffected."


"'Dagger of the Mind' - Spock's first mind meld, but we're cautioned that it is extremely dangerous, requiring as it does that changes be made to the subject's nerves and blood vessels. Simon Van Gelder, when he submits voluntarily to it, is taking a huge risk."


"'Court Martial' - there is no mind meld in this one, but I find myself wondering why if the mind meld exists, courts still function in a manner so similar to our own time."

(Not to mention the psycho-tricorder, internal sensors, or any other aspect of twenty-third century culture we've seen.)
"In 'A Taste of Armageddon,' physical contact is no longer required, as Spock does a mind-meld through a wall and a door."
(This is referenced again in "By Any Other Name.")
"In 'The Changeling,' Spock is now able to use the mind-meld on a machine. By this point, it has become pure telepathy, no longer even requiring the subject to having a living brain."
"In 'The Omega Glory,' now Spock is actually able to do it without any physical contact, from across the room."
"In 'Spectre of the Gun,' for the first time Spock uses the mind meld to actually alter the thoughts of his subjects."
"And in 'Requiem for Methusaleh,' in an extraordinary invasion of Kirk's privacy, Spock, without Kirk's consent, uses the mind-meld to compel his Captain to forget a robot he's been humping."
And so on. 

Lastly, Gerrold's thoughts re: the 2nd example of format hardening to formula, erosion:

"The Enterprise becomes a cosmic meddler. Her attitudes were those of 20th century America - and so her mission was (seemingly) to spread truth, justice, and the American way. Star Trek missed the opportunity to question this attitude. While Kirk was occasionally in error, never was there a script in which the missions or goals were questioned. Of the surface, most of these intervention stories were intended to make very dramatic points.

"Individually, any episode was designed to make a specific point. Slavery is wrong. Exploitation is wrong. Racism is wrong, etc. Cumulatively (...) each situation had been constructed for Kirk to make that point (...) a set of straw men - or straw cultures, actually - for Kirk to knock down (...) If the local culture is tested and found wanting in the eyes of a starship Captain, he may make such changes as he feels necessary."


"Everytime Kirk knocked down a straw-man culture, he was re-enforcing the message: In the name of my morality, this is the proper action."

I wonder how he feels about MSNBC and Fox News? Or every State of the Union address going back several generations, for that matter...

There's a lot of value in all of the above insights. These are the things casual watchers don't really get about Trek , while Trekkies and Trekkers never stop discussing them. And while I'm certainly in the latter category, I'm on the more-forgiving side of it. Any story we tell ourselves is going to be of our own era/ on some level only meta-commentary on ourselves. Whether or not the story in question embraces this inevitability or goes to great pains to disguise it isn't as relevant to me as to whether or not it says something of value about said culture.

(Conversely, I enjoy the Ragnarok story not because it drives home perhaps the only essential truth we can all relate to - that we all pass away and life moves on without us - but because Thor fights a huge serpent with a hammer, the sky is filled with Valkyries, and a giant wolf eats Asgard. Sometimes the details don't even need to have "value," in other words; they just need to kick a little ass.)

And I'd argue that TOS is if not loaded with than certainly generous with opportunities for the viewer to question whether or not Starfleet/ Kirk's course of action is morally sound. Gerrold is correct to point out that we never really hear much internal debate, i.e. Spock and Kirk don't voice this debate in the dialogue. But many episodes ("A Private Little War," "Who Mourns for Adonis?" "This Side of Paradise," "Return of the Archons," just to name a few) pose questions that (at least for this viewer) provoked the discussion Gerrold charges TOS as failing to elicit. I prefer it being left to the viewer, actually, rather than just putting the words in the Captain's mouth.

"You'd make an excellent fascist, Captain."
At other times, I get the impression the Genes (or whomever) are telling me they actually do think Kirk is right to knock over whatever culture he's knocking over, and I enjoy that aspect of it, too, as then I can say "Wait, what?" This isn't 24, after all, (or the real world) where the government's right to torture you in the name of nebulous national security is the holy communion of every episode; actual ambiguity and debate is part and parcel of the Trek experience, even when you disagree with the outcome. (And even when every civilization in the vastness of the universe is predicated on the unchallenged superiority of humanoid life.)

All of which is stuff I wanted to take into account when approaching this project. I knew when I started the Captain's Blog that I'd save TOS for last and do a top 50 of some kind. But I kept changing my mind on how to determine what 50 episodes. Eventually, after much trial and error and many nights of heroic screencapping, I came upon a grading system I liked and began sorting it out. Which is where we'll pick up next time.

7.29.2013

King's Highway Road Map

From May of 2012 to February of 2013, I made my way through (almost all of) Stephen King's work and blogged the journey in a series I called "King's Highway." The below is what happened.

While I did do some polishing on these (fixing some fonts and formatting) I've so far resisted the urge to edit any of them. (Well, for the most part; I did add some pics and fix some typos and re-word some things here and there.) Part of the fun of the project was discovering it all as I went along, so while some entries contain some questions or observations rendered irrelevant by later entries, I tried not to pull a George Lucas on anything.

RANKINGS

(What good would any such project be if it didn't yield a few "Worst-to-Best" lists?)

- Novels - Worst-to-best by decade and altogether. (Re-ranked in 2016 here. Use that one.)
- Novellas and eBooks - Also includes Cycle of the Werewolf, Blockade Billy, and The Colorado Kid. (Additional lobstrosities here and here.)
- Richard Bachman - This was my first attempt to rank the Bachmans, but I revised the list somewhat for the Best of All-King post. (For an additional review of The Regulators, click here.)
- Dark Tower - Also includes Bev Vincent's The Road to the Dark Tower (2004.)
- And I ranked what short stories have been collected in book form in two posts, pt. 1 and pt. 2.
- The Miniseries.

NON-FICTION

- Danse Macabre  (1981)
- Nightmares in the Sky (1988, with F-Stop Fitzergald)
- On Writing (2000) Also includes thoughts on George Beahm's excellent The Stephen King Companion.
- Faithful (2004, with Stewart O'Nan) Also includes "Face in the Crowd."
- Guns (2013) King's Kindle essay on gun control/ gun tragedies.

DARK TOWER 

(For this stretch of the Highway, I followed the highly recommended Suggested Reading Order from The Truth Inside The Lie which as you can see includes some books outside the official Dark Tower series.)

- The Gunslinger (1982)
- The Stand (1978) and The Eyes of the Dragon (1987) were covered in one post, "Flaggs of Our Fathers."
- I didn't finish The Talisman (1984, with Peter Straub,) but nevertheless, here's the entry for it. 
- Salem's Lot (1975) Also includes "One for the Road," "Jerusalem's Lot," and Night Shift (1978.)
- The Mist - Also includes "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut" and "The Reploids." ("The Mist" also materialized here.)
- It (1986)
- Insomnia -(1994)
- Rose Madder (1995)
- Desperation (1996)
- Bag of Bones (1998)
- Black House (2001, with Peter Straub) I didn't finish this one, either, but this also includes reviews of "Little Sisters of Eluria" and "Everything's Eventual."
- The Wind Through the Keyhole (2012) This was a joint venture with Bryant Burnette, aka the author of this Suggested Reading Order at TTITL. Pts. 1 and 2.
- The Dark Tower (2004) Pts. 1 and 2.

NOVELS

(If there is a film based on the novel, it's included in the linked-review unless otherwise noted.)

Joyland (2013) Putting this one first as it contains the King's Bingo Scorecard, your scratch-off guide to common tropes and themes of the Kingverse, aka my personal souvenir of making the journey. (Caution: Scorecard only for amusement - not for surgical use or soothsaying.)
- Carrie (1974)
- The Shining (1977) For the Kubrick film, click here. For the Mick Garris mini-series, click here.
- The Dead Zone (1979)
- Firestarter (1981)
- Cujo (1981)
- Christine (1983)
- Pet Sematary (1983)
- Misery (1987)
- The Tommyknockers (1987) (Also revisited here.)
- The Dark Half (1989)
- Needful Things (1991)
-Gerald's Game (1992)
- Dolores Claiborne (1992)
- The Green Mile (1996) Also includes "Shawshank Redemption."
- The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999)
- Dreamcatcher (2001) I, DUDDITS!
- Cell (2006) (Also revisited here.)
- Lisey's Story (2006) I didn't finish, but like Rex Reed, I didn't let that stop me from reviewing it.
- Duma Key (2008) (Also revisited here.)
- Under the Dome (2009)
- 11/22/63 (2011)
- Doctor Sleep (2013)
- Mr. Mercedes (2014)
- Revival (2014) pts. 1 and 2.
- Finders Keepers (2015)
- End of Watch (2016)

SHORT STORIES AND MISC.

Night Shift (1978) here, Skeleton Crew (1985)  here, Everything's Eventual (2002) and Just After Sunset (2008) here. Nightmares and Dreamscapes (1993) here and here. And hey! Additional thoughts here and here. Huzzah! ALL PRESENT. (And The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (2015) reviewed here.)

"In the Tall Grass" (with Joe Hill) here. (Also contains Kingdom Hospital, "Chinga," that episode of the X-Files King wrote, "The Cat from Hell" from the Tales from the Darkside movie, and Secret Window.)

FILMS

(Fairly incomplete. You want a serious breakdown of Stephen King films? Look no further than right here.)

- Creepshow and Creepshow 2 (1982 and 1987) I didn't bother with Creepshow 3. Maybe someday.
- Sleepwalkers (1992)
- Maximum Overdrive (1986)
- Children of the Corn (1984) Just the first one.

TV

(Fairly incomplete, as well.)

- The Langoliers (1995)
- Rose Red (2002)

AUDIO

Black Ribbons (2010, with Shooter Jennings)

COMING SOONER
OR LATER...

Ghost Brothers of Darkland County (2013)
American Vampire (2010)
Kingdom Hospital (2004)
The Plant (2000)
Return to Salem's Lot (1987)

Cat's Eye (1985)

Created July 29 2013. Last Edited 1/27/2015

7.24.2013

Fashion Beast

My credentials as a fashionista are a bit sketchy:


nor am I all that well-versed in queer theory, if it's still even called that. It was when I studied it briefly as part of an Intro to Literary Study II course at Rhode Island College in 2002, when the above pic was taken. (I'd love to tell you this was everyday wear, but it was for a Halloween party. I went as "Captain Communism.")

So while I might not be the best person to review those two aspects of Fashion Beast, the recently-wrapped 10-issue series from Avatar Press by Alan Moore, Malcolm McLaren, Antony Johnston, and Facundo Percio, I was fascinated and greatly entertained by this series, and I should say up front that you don't have to be a queer theorist or someone who knows all the ins and outs of haute couture to enjoy it. You might have to be predisposed to like Alan Moore to enjoy it, but then again, you might not. On that score, I wouldn't know; Moore's been in my top pantheon of writers since the late 1980s and I'm an avid consumer of his work.

I've tried to get a little better at understanding fashion over the years. Sites like this, which deconstruct the costume design of Mad Men to compellingly illuminate the subtext have been very eye-opening, as have things like this. Evaluating the costume design is an important part of cinematic appraisal, and I appreciate reading such in-depth analyses, as for me it's been a weak point.

Okay, so maybe not everything yields such productive results when examined closely.
But on a personal level (beyond the rather lazy and clueless way I dress myself) fashion has always struck me as - and here I'm just being honest not casting aspersions - rather silly. Or, to use the scientific description, gloriously up its own aperture.

I used to see this walking to and from the train everyday. No further comment is necessary; fashion people - like all artists, perhaps, but maybe even moreso - are a bit loopy.
Yet in issue 6 of Fashion Beast (I think) Celestine delivers a very Moore-ian monologue about how fashion is the cornerstone of what makes humanity human, what separates us from the beasts, and for me, it was a bit of a revelation. Good Lord, I thought, is this what I've been missing all these years? Could all these ridiculous fashion magazines and reality shows actually be important

The face of genius?
I doubt it will revolutionize my wardrobe, but it definitely made me approach the topic in a wholly new way. Moore is so good at that. More than many writers, reading him almost always transforms and deepens my appreciation of something, be it Tarot, Kabbalah, Masonic Architecture, Superheroes and Fascism, Lovecraft, or the CIA.

Before we continue, maybe I should tell you the plot. Fashion Beast takes place in a dystopian future, one in the throes of nuclear winter. Society is somewhat inexplicably dominated by a fashion house, run by the enigmatic and isolated Celestine. Doll and Jonni, two gender-bending aspiring models/ designers, rise through the ranks, leading to a truly bizarre conclusion that I did not see coming in the slightest. 

Moore wrote this as a screenplay back in 1985 after being solicited to do so by Malcolm McLaren. Yes, the Malcolm McLaren, one-time manager of the Sex Pistols and entrepreneur of London's famed SEX boutique. I was familiar with McClaren before reading this but often via negative impressions such as Johnny Rotten's memoir or posthumous reports of his estate. I knew he was into the Situationists, as am I, but beyond that, I didn't know much about the guy. (I'd always assumed he was gay, for one - shows what I know.) The story was McLaren's, based on re-imagining Beauty and the Beast and aspects of his own life, (which aspects those were, I don't know) but the execution/ dialogue/ structure/ ease-with-symbolic-word-and-visual-play is unmistakably Moore's.



The movie never happened (which is a shame - it seems like it would have fit in perfectly as a product of 1980s London; hell if it was recreated as a "very special season of America's Next Top Model" here in 2013, it'd still be pretty wild) but McLaren and Antony Johnston agreed to adapt it as a comic book about 10 years ago, eventually being released in 2012/2013. Facundo Percio, an artist with whom I was unfamiliar until reading this, brought it to life.

Moore is well-known for writing scripts dense with detail and "camera" angles. As mentioned in ComicVine's review:

"Under Antony Johnson’s sequential editing, Percio approaches scenes with a director’s eye. Often (the perspective is) stationary and lets the active contents of the environment shift around as the scenes play out. This is a cinematic practice and has a way of anchoring you in that world. Where many comics are more Michael-Bay-on-meth frantic, this one takes its time shifting to different perspectives (...) Other times, when called for, the points of view are more intimate, and the emotion of those moments are amplified by sad and sensual imagery. The art style is perfect for the vaguely steam punk, pre-apocalyptic veneer of the setting, where horses and carriages are the way to get around."

I assume horse-and-carriage is meant figuratively, as the lack of horses is self-evident from pages like this. (And wouldn't it be post-apocalyptic rather than "pre?" Perhaps ongoing-apocalyptic? Shrugs.)
The art is definitely amazing. Highest possible praise to Percio and the gang. Avatar is known for its abundance of "variant covers," something which kind of annoys me. I got out of serious collecting when comicdom went nuts for variant covers in the early 1990s, strip-mining its audience in the name of profit, but in this instance, the variant covers all add dimensionality that would otherwise be missing. It's worth reproducing them all here - enlarge for a better view, you won't be disappointed.


Issue #1
Issue #2
Issue #3
Issue #4
Issue #5
Issue #6
Issue #7
Issue #8
Issue #9
Issue #10
The Tarot ones by Paul Duffield are particularly interesting as they (as does Celestine’s Tarot-reading throughout) foreshadow or give an interesting spin on unfolding events.

The variant covers also rather cheekily embody an ethic of the fashionista world: rather than choosing between Ready-To-Wear, Cruise and Haute Couture collections, readers can choose the cover that best fits their lifestyle from Regular, Wraparound, Haute Couture and Tarot. 

As mentioned above, this all takes place against an Orwellian backdrop. We see policemen/ soldiers forcibly stripping people of their clothes and burning them, as wearing the same thing for too long spreads radiation. (Or something.) 


Electricity is intermittent. Poverty, crime and violence are all too prevalent. Yet amidst it all, "the new fall collection" remains an ongoing preoccupation and organizing principle of society. "Conscription," "Army," and the far-off war are all advertised next to or in the same manner as new designs. It sounds absurd, but it works. 

From the Comicsbeat review:

"What’s clothing got to do with all this? It’s obvious that it’s a meaningful metaphor for something, and occasionally dialogue breaks through, often from Jonni, to provide a frame of reference, as well as from Celestine. For Celestine, clothing is about separateness and enclosing the individual, almost an armor forged to hold back the changing, and increasingly dark world outside. It’s cool and remote. For Doll, clothing is about building an outer identity to match an inner sense of self, and her Marilyn Monroe look of the first issue dominates the world she moves in despite her stumbles. She thinks she knows who she is. Jonni’s clothes set up an intentional bind of gender, a challenge to expectations, racy." 

It's worth noting two things here. One, Jonni's style (miniskirts and more sexual bravado) is not ascendant until the bound sophistication/ Victorian repression of Celestine’s era has consumed itself. And two, Celestine (itself a word that is both masculine and feminine) has grown up in sexual and psychological isolation. The designs with which he's bewitched his little world are the result of endlessly sketching his mother - who instilled with him a deep religious insecurity and belief in his own ugliness, despite his looking like some scruffy goth-rock god - over and over, in various dresses. Some broad strokes, perhaps, but well worth considering vis-a-vis our own evolution.

As Jonni says of him in one issue: “It’s not sex he finds erotic… it’s the buttons and stays that get in the way of sex. His clothes don’t allow any sexual access, reducing people to a lot of furtive groping under layers of gown for something they’re not even allowed to see.” 


Gender Bender

This series is very much about gender ambiguity. It's unclear at least to this reader whether Doll is a transvestite, a hermaphrodite, or a woman. This confusion is deliberate. The constructed nature of these "gendered" terms is very much at the heart of the questions Fashion Beast asks, so not only did I not mind not being told explicitly, I feel it added another layer (or layers) to things.


In reading reviews of the series, though, (such as here) I quickly gave up trying to figure it out, as everyone seems to have a different opinion. At times it seemed very much to me that Doll was a boy who considered herself a girl, and at other times I wasn't sure if she was bisexual, or a boy who dressed as a lady but was still heterosexual, or something else. The narrative is deliberately misleading on this point, as are the visuals:

These last two panels employ the sort of transition most often associated with Alan Moore.
This scene is particularly interesting as Celestine has been so isolated as to not even know what a woman's body looks like unclothed, so he is the prototype unreliable-narrator.
She seems almost wholly transformed by her tenure as Celestine's Top Model... does she become a girl at the end, literally? Or is that merely the result of taking on the dress and mannerism of a girl? i.e. constructing her gender? I love that it's designed to be read or interpreted in multiple ways. The fashion-accessory-of-your-choice that goes with everything.



I think it's open-ended enough by design, but others disagree. The blog linked to above takes issue with the ending as a betrayal of the set-up, privileging a hetero-normative finish. It certainly seemed to me that both Jonni and Doll were gender-ambiguous and that having sex with one another wouldn't even knock on the door of "hetero-normative privilege" or what not. But again, I'm likely not the person to ask.

Celestine’s matrons are ghoulish, even in their more human moments. 


They are drawn to resemble the walking dead and in between keeping Celestine in his prison and all beneath them in their place, they rule over a world of decay, surrounded by armless mannequins.

The End

After Celestine is out of the picture, Doll agrees to let the matrons remove Jonni (whom he has named his heir) and continue business as usual. Once Doll realizes Jonni was taken to the front lines, she puts in a call to HQ and lets the army know he's a homosexual. They declare him unfit for combat and send him back to the fashion house, where he assumes control and launches a fashion show with his radical re-designs. The crowd that gathers (including several swipes at those vapid celebs who line either side of the runway for their SWAG and "to be seen") is at first turned on by Jonni's more provocative designs, but when Doll appears in a blood-stained wedding dress


they turn violent. One reporter / critic screams "THAT'S PORNOGRAPHY!" over and over until forcibly removed. Jonni swoops Doll up in a variation of the fairy tale ending and takes her away to have sex. As Doll gets naked and stretches out in anticipation, Jonni preens and regards himself in the mirror, whereupon he sees "the beast" in his reflected image in the vanity mirror:



Now that's an ending! 

Comicsbeat again with an especially-relevant-to-these-days take on it:

"Fashion Beast leaves you with the unsettling sense that people, even the most free-thinking can be the product of reaction, and in doing so, like Jonni, become part of what they loathe. Or, in a lighter interpretation, compromises are inherent in power attained, a corruption hidden in power, part of the Faustian bargain. Some of the biggest questions left for the reader concern how much people are self-determining in their identities, and how much a product they are of their heroes or mentors, taking the good with the bad."

I can't argue with that interpretation, but I was left with an entirely different association. I grew up in the 70s and 80s and watched the gender-bending fashions of the glam rock era transform into cock rock. Cock rock kept the visual motifs of glam rock (the high heels, the ladies dress, the make-up) but lest anyone get any damn ideas, the bands who fall under its umbrella went to amusing lengths to proclaim their hyper-heterosexuality:


From Britny Fox's "Girlschool" video. They totally missed the boat by not writing "We've Got a Serious Case of the Not-Gays."
As a result, cock rock is rather hilarious to deconstruct, as Chuck Klosterman did so well in Fargo Rock City and elsewhere. But these last couple of panels really made me think of those days. The 80s (the decade from which Fashion Beast originates) started off with New Wave and Frankie Goes to Hollywood and ended with bands who looked more or less the same but angrily insisted all they wanted to do was bang as many chicks as possible in a totally non-gay ROCK AND ROW-OHOHO-WHOLL!!

I don't for a moment suggest this was on anyone's mind while designing this series, but the appearance of the beast in the mirror/ self-deception/ the lengths we go to outwardly define ourselves / what we become when we put on the mask/ costume, etc. put it in my mind, at least.

Highly recommended and well worth your consideration.