“El elemento primordial del superhéroe es El Cambio, el punto donde se apropia de este aspecto…”
Siempre me ha fascinado la manera en la cual el prolífico autor británico Warren Ellis estresa la importancia de comprender los aspectos que hacen funcionar a la propiedad intelectual del comic mainstream. La forma y fondo del superhéroe, las cualidades que lo hicieron popular en principio de cuentas, el formato y presentación, la tónica y estilo narrativos a exaltar con el fin de volverlo relevante tras períodos prolongados de obsolescencia. Con un ingenio sobresaliente para atacar estos temas desde una perspectiva y mentalidad ‘out-of-the-box’ lo ponen por encima de muchos de sus colegas en el medio del arte secuencial.
Han sido pocas las instancias en las que Ellis ha participado en esta tendencia del rescate del superhéroe (popularizada por escritores de la talla de Frank Miller, Alan Moore y Grant Morrison), ya que su interés se suscribe primordialmente en crear material nuevo y alineado a los adelantos que ofrece el mundo contemporáneo.
Pero cuando se lo propone, no cabe la menor duda que es uno de los mejores revisionistas del género. El siguiente texto surge durante sus ratos de ocio en su ya difunta plataforma ideológica del Warren Ellis Forum en el extinto Delphi dot com: una reflexión on-the-fly muy aguda, novedosa, divertida y sorprendente sobre el personaje y concepto de BLUE BEETLE, de longeva existencia dentro de la popular editorial estadounidense de DC Comics.
Sin mayor preámbulo presentamos lo que llamo La Duología de El Cambio, cuyo título provisional rondaba entre “Arqueología Clandestina” o “Warren Ellis vs. Blue Beetle, in the Pub”.
© Warren Ellis; publicado originalmente en 2001.
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Jesus. Blue Beetle. That was just cruel, you know that?
For a start, you have to pick your version. There was the one who rubbed his magic scarab and said his magic word — “Khajida” or something similar — to turn into the superpowered Blue Beetle. Or there was the rich young electronics genius with his gadgets and flying beetle, whom Alan and Dave riffed off with Nite Owl II in WATCHMEN.
So we’re assuming I’ve been offered a stupid amount of money to think about this (rather than using it as a warm-up exercise in the pub, which is what I’m actually doing).
It begins with what I want to talk about, and whether I think the character can carry it. What themes are suggested by Blue Beetle that are worth discussing? With two Blue Beetles, there’s the generational option that Alan played with a little, but that kind of bores me.
It’s not big enough. No space to move.
For me, one of the primal elements of the superhero is The Change, the point where they take on their aspect. For that reason, the original appeals to me more — the flash of light, the emergence of the superhuman. In the original, it’s achieved through an archaeological artifact.
What was that doing just laying around in ancient times? Is there a new angle to be had on Egyptian mysticism and the “forbidden archaeology” field? I’ve got a book by David Hatcher Childress in the attic called FORBIDDEN ARCHAEOLOGY, all the “pyramids were made by aliens” stuff. I’d read. As I mentioned earlier, Lovecraft had a thing about pyramids. Read that too.
The guy who found a slot in one of the pyramids that was supposedly designed to funnel the light from a particular star down into the guts of the building — re-read all that. I’m going to need research on the symbolism of the scarab beetle in the period. To a great extent, magic was science in that era, all part of Chaldean priestcraft. Along with fiddling with little boys, but we’ll gloss over that for the moment. Why would the savants of the era create a voice-activated device that transformed the holder into a superhuman?
Do some reading on celestial precession: what stars were in the sky of ancient Egypt? In what configuration?
Deep time. Lost knowledge.
What’s on the scarab? The Rosetta Project is an effort to encode every world language on an indestructible disc. Are those really scales on the scarab?
Or are those marks the encoding of an entire scientific system? Incised by a team aware they were living in politically volatile times and terrified that all their work could be wiped away in an instant? Perhaps they couldn’t make it indestructible — but they could lock it onto the device their spear-resistant superhuman would possess.
It’s about The Change (as opposed to Change in general). It’s about lost knowledge and deep time. It needs the human element and, being superhero fiction, it needs some form of dramatic conflict. What does someone with the scarab do with The Change? This is such old ground now. This is one reason why it’s hard for me to write superhero fiction. It’s such a stripmined seam that finding new jewels in it is just a pig of a job.
It’s got to have the ring of the new to it, or it’s not worth me doing it. I don’t want to go too deeply into the archaeology riff, for fear of repeating PLANETARY, but the thing is starting to demand a theme of Exploration to me. Which suggests the conflict of a post-exploratory society.
People who don’t even want the knowledge for themselves. the worst kind of ignorant people — they don’t want to know, and they don’t want anyone else to know. People who’d rather kill than know something. The sort of people who don’t even read evidence of climate change.
Ignorance is the enemy. Three thousand years ago people died to preserve their knowledge for us, encoding it on a blue stone scarab that rendered its protector superhuman, so that we may take their gift and become great. But the more things change, the more they remain the same; and the holder of the blue beetle has his own mad kings to fight.
I think that’s the general direction I’d head in.