Apr 18, 2015
The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 53: 1602 #7, April 2004
There's an interesting moment in this series when the newly rescued Reed Richards is conjecturing about the nature of the universe within which he and his comrades exist. He posits that the fundamental principles of his universe are stories, that they exist in "a universe which favours stories. A universe in which no story can ever truly end; in which there can only be continuances." There's a couple of ways we can read this. First, it could be a purely metatextual moment, in which we, as readers, have the ironic stance of understanding that Richards is absolutely right, that their fictional milieu is a universe that deals in continuances. If that's the case, though, it flies in the face of what Gaiman has previously stated about the nature of stores, that they have beginnings, middles, and ends. Perhaps, in Richards' case, and coming as no surprise from me, it's not stories that his universe favours, it's myths.
The second way we can read this moment is of a character realizing the nature of his universe. It's slightly different from the metatextual moment, because rather than us having a realization about his reality, he himself is having a realization about his own reality, a realization that is separate from our understanding of reality as readers. When the Human Torch says "Ah yes...atomies and suchlike" in response to Reed's wonderings about fundamental principles, he is reflecting our understanding of our reality. We understand that it rests upon the fluctuations of the quantum foam. So Reed is realizing that his reality does not rest on that sub-atomic level of reality, but on the level of stories.
The third way of interpreting this is the most interesting, however. Perhaps here Reed is not making a claim about his own reality, nor is the comic pointing out a metatextual moment for us, but perhaps it is suggesting that our reality, the one in which we read the comic, is actually based on stories. I know, for the rationalists amongst us, it makes no sense. But if you consider that we place ourselves in narratives all the time, and that these narratives have a far more fundamental impact on our lived experience than the "atomies and suchlike," then we really could say that the fundamental principles of our existence, and thus our universe, is stories.
That's all I've got for today. Conclusion of 1602 tomorrow, and some music.