Chuck Dixon Has Issues With Modern Takes on Joseph Campbell’s ‘Hero’s Journey’

 

Bounding Into Comics reported that Dixon’s recently told in one of his podcasts how he disagrees with the storytelling method professor Joseph Campbell wound up influencing, the “hero’s journey”:

 

Campbell, convinced during his time that people innately shared a desire for the same kind of story, believed in and championed the concept of a template that was “hardwired into our brain” across civilizations and throughout time.

He believed that many stories followed this template, and explained to his peers that the template was a common path of steps for peoples and mystical figures of all cultures to follow in order to complete their journeys.

Dixon says he’s met writers during his career in comics and in Hollywood who swore by this template and calls them “hacks.” Speaking specifically to Campbell himself, Dixon feels Campbell pontificates about the power of these timeless stories and the myths surrounding them, but doesn’t come to conclusions Dixon himself appreciates as a storyteller.

“Most of those writers are hacks, the ones who embrace this, because…it tells you that as long as you follow the right moves you’ll have a successful story,” Dixon said. “And it doesn’t take into account all the many variables of the human psyche as if we are not all unique.”

Continuing, he explained how each of us, writers especially, is unique and has a unique perspective, “unless, of course, you’re hacking and when you’re hacking you’re just following formula, you’re just lining up the tropes,” and putting together a mechanically-derived conflict with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

“Now you can be very successful as a hack, but I don’t think you can be very happy as a hack,” Dixon added.

 

You know who I’m guessing aren’t happy hacks? The people who’ve shoved Batman front-and-center as the pinnacle example of how to make a successful entertainment formula in the past decade. All at Superman’s expense, to cite a most prominent example of a creation tragically sidelined by the lurch to political correctness. This PC direction also caused serious damage to everything science fiction is all about.

 

More than the writers he says are into the craft “for all the wrong reasons,” Dixon finds fault with producers who embrace Campbell’s outline as a recipe for making the perfect picture. Dixon noted that he found it sad how some producers will break storytelling down to a soup based on instinctive or genetic desires, allowing for few variations and no consideration of individual experience.

 

Certainly, the movie industry is just as big a victim of these shifts to PC, particularly at a time when “tentpole blockbusters” have taken up the bulk of what you may see released throughout a year, and assuming the world will be able to return to normal after this whole Covid19 crisis, it’ll still remain that way. What I agree with Dixon about here is too many writers in comicdom entering the medium for the wrong reasons. One early example of a PC storyteller I know of could be James Robinson, whose Starman series was grossly overrated, and got rid of a successor son to Ted Knight just for the sake of another one stepping into the starring role only halfway. That David Knight returned as a ghost a few times until Robinson’s series ended is no alleviation. In retrospect, Robinson was a very PC-advocating writer, and if his Starman series got awards, it won’t be shocking if it was all rigged by the PC advocates now in charge of various award shows.

There is something where I may not agree with Dixon, depending on the situation:

 

Often, that means creating unnecessary characters, love interests, or chasing trends to the point of ripping them off. Using the Cannon film Ninja 3: The Domination as an example, Dixon explained that the film used elements of Flashdance, as well as the spiritual possession aspect of The Exorcist, because it was popular at the time.

 

This may relate to moviemaking, but in comicdom’s serial fictions, it can lead to economy writing, and as I’ve noted before, this was decidedly a problem with team titles where superheroes would increasingly be seen pairing up and dating/marrying each other, leaving less room for a Lois Lane, a Steve Trevor, or even a Mary Jane Watson (and lest we forget how Joe Quesada and Axel Alonso misused her horribly). The X-Men were also an example of a team title where mutants would be paired with each other almost entirely, and few would be seen dating outside the superpowered segment, or, it became less so as time went by. At least, that’s the perception I got by the turn of the century from some superhero comics going forward. I would just disagree here with if Dixon implies he doesn’t see much concerning economy approach to character casting.

However, if he’s alluding to stories like the Phoenix Saga and the directions taken with Batman post-Dark Knight Returns, that’s where I will agree. The influence these stories had on much of mainstream comicdom going forward is alarming, and writers who obsess over stories emphasizing such devastation and bleakness are taking very narrow directions, effectively destroying creativity, along with a sense of humor, something sorely lacking in an atmosphere adhering to such visions.

Dixon does have some pretty good viewpoints, if not all, on what’s gone wrong in the entertainment world, and only if people are willing to consider the best of what he says in contrast to professor Campbell will there ever be an improvement.

 

 

Originally published here

Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1

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