by John Holbo on November 8, 2017

Congrats to Democrats on their wins! It’s a good day. Virginia ain’t for haters after all!

But before that news broke, my Facebook feed was taking note of the big news that ‘Marvel suffers ‘gut punch’ of losing Bendis’; ‘Bendis Signs Exclusive Deal With DC’. Some people where all ‘what’s Bendis?’ You could read the NYTimes article. Or you can just take my word for it that it’s all footnotes to Plato. Bendis is a Thracian huntress/moon goddess, so DC is showing it is committed to serving its ancient Thracian readership. This is the biggest move for Bendis since … well, there’s some controversy about it. Then as now, the comics world was abuzz. As the geographer Strabo wrote in the 1st Century BCE: “Just as in all other respects the Athenians continue to be hospitable to things foreign, so also in their worship of the gods; for they welcomed so many of the foreign rites that they were ridiculed for it by comic writers.” As in ancient Athens, where the point seems to have been a kind of deliberate, syncretic blurring (Artemis/Bendis), so today we read in the NY Times interview: “I was trying to break down that Marvel vs. DC craziness that some fans have.” That’s smart. Obviously all this is crucial to Plato’s Republic, because Book I begins with Socrates ‘going down to Piraeus’ to celebrate the civic ratification of the Bendis move deal. In Republic Book I the focus is not (yet) on justice but more injustice, as exemplified by the confused thinking of the three interlocutors – Cephalus, Polemarchus and, above all, Thrasymachus. DC, of course, has a major series focused on the theme of injustice and gods among mortals.

You can read about it all in my book [Amazon], especially pp. 281-88. Or you can read it for free here. You want Chapter 9.



Neville Morley 11.08.17 at 6:57 am

Plato? DC has always been first and foremost about the Thucydides, now explicitly acknowledged in the Wonder Woman film.


Johann Tor 11.08.17 at 8:18 am

Can I just thank you for this?


Lee A. Arnold 11.08.17 at 12:37 pm

I wonder how many moderate Republicans will bend it like Bendis. There may be a wave on the horizon. In the special elections in deep red districts earlier in the year, the GOP kept all their seats, BUT the Democratic challengers closed the gap by an average of around 10 points. That was remarkable. It was a signal that the purpler places mightn’t be so forgiving to Republicans.

At last count — before the Virginia & N.J. results last night — 11 GOP congresspeople had announced retirement from the House of Representatives. A lot more of them had realized they are going to be primaried by the Freedom-Tea-Party-Mercer-Bannanons, and so were trying to make peace. (Breitbart headline early yesterday: “Steve Bannon Accepts House GOP’s Cease-Fire in GOP Civil War”.) After last night, they are all in a bigger quandary.

How’s that swampy-drainy thing workin’ out, for ya?

At the same time, on the Democratic side, the possibility of taking over the House, the enthusiasm of voters, and the negative reaction to Trump, may encourage better Dem candidates to run, and encourage donors to put a lot more money into those races. These Dem candidates may include a lot of war vets. In purplish districts there are Republican voters who are closer to the middle than they let on, and so they might quietly pull a Dem lever next November.

So it looks like the election next November depends on three factors: 1. whether Trump can reform his imbecilic ways, 2. whether the “tax cut” plan can be anything but the shit sandwich that it is now (unlikely), and 3. whether Mueller returns indictments that accelerate the calls for impeachment.


John Holbo 11.08.17 at 1:07 pm

You are most welcome!


Jo Walton 11.08.17 at 1:31 pm

That’s exactly what I thought.


Matt 11.08.17 at 1:49 pm

The coverage of the Bendis switch almost makes me think that people writing about comics today have never heard of John Byrne! (the cases are not 100% similar, as the switch from Marvel to DC was slightly more gradual – but not that gradual! – for Byrne, but the general idea is not so unusual.)

As to the older Bendis, I’m happy to see the mention, as I’d just finished reading John Kenyon Davies’s _Democracy and Classical Greece_ (*), and there is a nice discussion of the introduction of “foreign” gods, such as Bendis, there.

(*) The book turns out to be misleadingly named, as it’s really not very much about democracy in classical Greece at all. It’s a sort of general political history, pretty interesting, but not very focused on democracy.


The Baron 11.08.17 at 6:55 pm

@ Neville Morley Plato? DC has always been first and foremost about the Thucydides, now explicitly acknowledged in the Wonder Woman film.

Besides Wonder Woman where else does DC show being about Thucydides. Does Marvel follow have an allegiance?


Fake Dave 11.10.17 at 1:06 pm

I think Marvel clearly owes a debt to Homer. DC characters exist in a mythical present where all the Argonauts Justice League members can come from different eras and mutually contradictory backstories, but they’re all eternal and unaging in the prime of life and the same (vaguely 30ish) age and they’ve always been heroes for “a few years” and they simultaneously act like they have decades of shared history and they’ve only just met.

Marvel characters are more reminiscent of the Odyssey. They don’t quite age the way they should (seriously, Penelope must have been about fifty when she was fending off those suitors), and some of them seem to get younger when the plot calls for it, but they do age and their origin stories largely stay rooted in specific moments. Like Homer’s heroes, they’re not all the same age and the age differences matter. They never quite get “old” but they do get “seasoned” and Odysseus’ touch of gray at the temples is at least implied.

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