“There’s only one joke worth laughing at and it’s the joke of existence”. Too existentialist for you? Well, if it is, I strongly advise you to take a few classes of contemporary philosophy and come back to Grant Morrison’s KID ETERNITY. This is not your average retcon or your regular miniseries about an obscure character of the DC Universe. This is a metaphysical adventure that involves super-powered beings, hereafter metaphors and even hell itself, albeit a hell so chaotically ferocious only Mr. Morrison could have come up with.
Kid Eternity was one of those characters that wouldn’t have escaped oblivion if not for Morrison’s attempt of bringing it back for a more postmodern audience. But what does postmodernism has to do with it? Well, our era has strengthened the exscinded subject. We live in more schizophrenic times than, say, a century ago. Kid Eternity is the battlefield in which the never ending struggle of unconscious versus “conscientious I” carries on. I’m not suggesting that this work is less complex than others, but certainly at first glance it might look a bit more complicated, which is why I think psychoanalytic theory can come in handy, specially Lacanian theory. Jacques Lacan stated that there is no ‘I’ in the subject. The ‘I’ is the ego, and as such can remain pretty much consistent throughout time. The subject, on the other hand, as the very words implies, clearly derives from subjectivity and it’s prone to alteration and constant modification. Kid Eternity is both: ‘I’ and ‘subject’. However at the beginning of the story there is no divisiveness, the kid is still whole. As the story moves on changes are put into place and the reader discovers along with Kid Eternity that identity relies heavily on the gaze of the other. After all, the only question that matters is “what am I in the eyes of the other?”.
Much has been said about deconstruction; nonetheless Morrison takes upon a rather different approach which I could denominate de-configuration: the fragmented narrative lines, the seemingly chaotic order, the focus on multiple unrelated moments have but one goal which obeys a carefully orchestrated tapestry displaying different characters experiences and interpretations of what’s going on. In the end nothing is random: Kid Eternity, Jerry, the Priest and the Woman will each play a fundamental role in chapter three; for the readers, though, this grand design might make little sense in the first pages. The Scottish writer’s work in this case is more akin to such films as David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive which requires a much larger amount of work and concentration; these authors will not spoon-feed the public, quite the opposite indeed. De-configuration then is the key to understand what Morrison is trying to do in this miniseries.
It’s up to you, the one holding the book, to come up with the answers. All necessary hints are provided within the 144 pages lavishly illustrated by Duncan Fegredo, an amazing artist that creates remarkable images. Why is it that “Kid Eternity” goes very much unnoticed by most Morrison fans? If only for the art alone this is a miniseries deserving of praise. Perhaps it is the complexity of underlying themes, from Saussure’s linguistics (signifier versus signified): “there is no meaning, the sound is the meaning” to the apparently inconsistent nature of Kid Eternity. It is then necessary to understand that consistency has no place in this tale, because as the kid learns while facing the Unnamed Five, reality can dissolve and reconfigure very easily. The audience with the Five, arcane creatures of uncanny power, reveals a number of things: first of all, Kid Eternity has spent years fighting for forces he did not know at all, he will then be shocked as he understands who has he been secretly serving all this time; but it’s not just a dramatic anagnorisis, this information changes everything about him. Thus the ‘I’ and the ‘subject’ become exscinded as required by postmodernist guidelines. In the same way Kid Eternity’s subject has been built upon safety blankets, id est, repressing the traumatic memories of his childhood (he had been sexually abused by a pedophile captain), his identity had also been built upon false pretenses, thus the impact of the truth threatens to destroy the very ‘self’ of the character. Rather than deconstruction I’d like to think of this as a much needed de-configuration of a character that otherwise would have remained forever forgotten.
"La única broma de la que vale la pena reírse es la broma de la existencia". KID ETERNITY de Grant Morrison es una aventura metafísica que apela a diversas corrientes intelectuales y que involucra personajes del Universo DC, seres sobrenaturales y un infierno tan caóticamente desquiciado que solamente Morrison podría haber inventado.
¿Quién es Kid Eternity? Bueno, es uno de esos tantos personajes de DC que podrían haber permanecido para siempre en el olvido si no fuera por Morrison. Se trata de un sujeto escindido, es decir, un sujeto típicamente postmoderno (recordemos que la postmodernidad está más vinculada a dinámicas esquizofrénicas de lo que podríamos adivinar a simple vista). Lo interesante es que la diferencia que establece el psicoanálisis lacaniano entre el yo y el sujeto está claramente presentada en la personalidad de Kid Eternity. El yo vendría a ser el ego, mientras que el sujeto estaría supeditado al super-ego y al mismo tiempo sería vulnerable a alteraciones y constantes modificaciones. Cuando Kid Eternity descubre que todo lo que ha hecho en los últimos años ha sido en beneficio de fuerzas siniestras empieza la crisis. Porque, al fin y al cabo, si lo vital es la respuesta a la clásica pregunta "¿qué soy yo en los ojos del otro?", entonces Kid Eternity se preguntará qué es él ante el mundo. Si su vida ha consistido en servir a las fuerzas equivocadas y en reprimir las verdades traumáticas (entre ellas, el abuso sexual que sufrió a los once años a manos de un capitán pedófilo), ¿cómo evitar la escisión final y el desmoronamiento de la identidad?