Get the Picture? Archetypes in Comics and Related Media Essay

Submitted By Tony-O'seland
Words: 2362
Pages: 10

Tony O’seland

Get the Picture? Archetypes in Comics and Related Media While the majority of the worlds population goes about its day in a state of relative oblivion to the constant barrage of messages, meanings, and somatic structures that bombard them there are those few who not only acknowledge but embrace these bits and pieces of information as a form of communicating a deeper meaning, a form of transmitting a deeper structure to those who live their own lives of quiet desperation and dumbness. To mis-quote M. Night Shamalan’s lines from “The Sixth Sense;” “I see oblivious people…every where. And they don’t even know they’re oblivious.” C.G. Jung developed a method of relating to these deeper structures and meanings and christened them “archetypes.” According to Jung's own definitions there are the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. The collective is not individual but universal and “it has contents and modes of behavior that are more or less the same everywhere and in all individuals” (Jung 4). He further broke down the concepts into Animus, the female aspect of the soul; Anima, the male aspect; Syzygy, the “divine couple” or yin/yang concept; the Child, who represents new beginnings; the Self, also called the “ultimate pattern” after Jung’s belief that the human self and the divine self are not able to be separated in distinction; and the Shadow, the most potential source of experiencing the unconscious side of our personalities and selves. Jung also tells us that “dreams and myths are constellations of archetypal images. The archetype speaks through us. It is a presence and a possibility of ‘significance’” (Infopedia 2004). Even nightmares. Archetypal energies can be activated in a variety of ways. A specific archetype can be activated in the psyche of one individual, but it can also be activated in the collective psyche of a group or a culture. Jung argued that when an archetype is activated in a group’s collective psyche, the images of its energy will appear in the group’s stories, myths, and folktales. He further believed that any story that has spread across the oceans and the millennia has done so only because it speaks to a psychological experience that is common to us all (Hort 6). Comics are rife with archetypal images and concepts that range from basic representation of the dreams and nightmares of the collective to the symbols and semiotics used to represent concepts that may well be universal. Using the caveat that different cultural bases tend to interpret the same concept using different symbology the observer can, if they work past the surface level, see the underlying metaphor and archetype if they choose to do so and don’t become lost in the overlaying illusions. The late Douglas Adams put it this way in his trilogy in five parts, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: “The underlying design flaws were only overshadowed by the obvious design flaws” (Adams 135). According to Hort, “every human psyche is composed of basic elements called archetypes. We an define archetypes as the constellations of energies or traits that make up our personalities; they are what we obtain when we carve the rich complexity of our internal experience at its natural joints. Thus, the images we use to symbolize archetypes can help us comprehend the whirling kaleidoscope of our psychic energies. When our archetypal energies are activated, we feel as if we are moved by internal characters who are acting out gripping stories on the stages of our lives” (4). The writers and artists of comics and graphical media rely on these archetypes and their ability to stir what Stephen King refers to as the “alligator brain,” that little primordial bit of us that lays just beneath the surface of our thin veneer of civilized behavior (King 188). From the earliest records of writing through the use of symbols as shown in cave paintings depicting animals and life in the Paleolithic era to the