In the interview with John Smith and Sean Phillips that ran in the UK comic fanzine Speakeasy that we mentioned a couple of segments back, Smith makes a statement that I find somewhat curious: we already examined, albeit briefly, his glib remark that the Biblical references contained in Straitgate were added for “pretension value” — which presupposes that there is, in fact, any value at all in being pretentious — but more specifically he states that his five-chapter narrative is “based on the structure of the first five chapters of the Bible.” I found that intriguing, to say the least, so in my most recent re-read of the strip the other night, I kept that thought in the back of my mind and actively looked for these supposed “structural similarities.” You know what I found? No evidence whatsoever that they existed.
Okay, fair enough, the individual titles of each of the chapters are “Geneis,” “Exodus,” “Leviticus,” “Numbers,” and “Deuteronomy,” respectively, but beyond that — seriously, folks, nothing.
Please don’t get me wrong : I’m no Biblical scholar by any stretch of the imagination and generally only open the so-called “good” book when I want to chuckle derisively at my fellow human beings for believing such a load of malarkey (a much more frequent occurrence when I was younger and more into feeling intellectually superior to the masses than it is now, which is either a sign that I’ve matured and adopted more of a “live and let live” attitude, or else that I’ve just given up and succumbed to a more resigned, perhaps even cynical, outlook on the gullibility of most people — take your pick), but I honestly don’t think that even the most ardent and devoted student of the Bible would find the structure of those dusty Old Testament chapters (or should they be called books?) reflected in the proceedings here. The whole thing’s just an exercise in derivative — and, yeah, pretentious — labeling.
To take things a step further, it’s quite clear that these chapter (or, again, book) titles really have no bearing on the events that play out in the narrative after we get past Sean Phillips’ striking title pages, either. Dave already exists and is well on his way toward madness when the story opens, so the first chapter can hardly be considered his “Genesis;” there’s no exodus of any sort going on in “Exodus” — you get the idea: all the way down the line, the titles of each segment of this strip have fuck-all to do with the story itself.
Could there be a more oblique correspondence hidden in there somewhere? Maybe, but again, I don’t think it’s structural: “Genesis” and “Exodus,” which both ran in Crisis #50 (cover-dated September, 1990), each clock in at eight pages in length; “Leviticus,” which ran in Crisis #51 (cover-dated October, 1990 — given that it was, ya know, a monthly publication, which I think means that you’re smart enough for me to omit these cover dates from here on out if that’s cool with you) is a further eight pages; Crisis #52’s “Numbers” balloons out to ten pages; and the final segment, “Deuteronomy” (which appeared in — wait for it —Crisis #53) sees a further swelling in size to twelve pages. Do these varying lengths reflect the relative page counts of their Biblical quasi-antecedents in relation to each other? Again, the answer is no.
I’ll let you in on a little secret, though: despite the fact that they’re clearly just empty labels, I think that these chapter headings just feel intuitively right. I wish I knew why, but given that they’re only there for so-called “style points,” the simple truth is that there is no “why” to be mulled over here. And I think that’s okay. A lot of what makes any given work of art “successful” or not can be quantified and analyzed and measured and obsessed on in painstaking detail, sure, but a lot of it simply can’t, and the inherently subjective nature of an individual viewing, reading, or gawking-at experience means that what “works” for some isn’t gonna “work” for others, anyway, so why get too tripped up over the pesky details? I like the way Straitgate is laid out, I admit that I have no real reason for feeling that way, and you may or may not agree — and may or may not have well-thought-out, intellectually rigorous reasons at the ready to support your interpretation/opinion. Whatever works. If you’re actually taking the time to read my rambling, near-incoherent thoughts, then you’re a solid individual in my book regardless of how much, and for what reasons, our outlook on this — or anything — may differ.
Unless you’re a supporter of, say, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, or any of those other right-wing jackasses. If that’s the case, then I seriously think you need your head examined. But that’s really got nothing to do with what we’re talking about here, so I’ll just shut up at this point and invite you to come back in a handful of days for our examination of the concept of “likability” in title characters as it relates to this story.
Assuming I haven’t pissed off, confused, or otherwise alienated you, that is.