As promised, occasional guest-Adventureblogger GW Thomas is back. He's actually sent in a couple of posts that I wanted to have up before now, but needed to figure out how to fit in with Countdown to Halloween. Not tone-wise, but just schedule-wise. Having to post a couple of times a day for the last couple of days helped me figure that out though, so this morning we have GW on the importance and influence of gothic literature (very timely for the season!). Then this evening I'll talk about another horror movie. Enjoy! And thanks to GW for the great piece! -- Michael
But he wrote it anyway. And published it under a pseudonym. It was a bestseller. For the second edition, he revealed his authorship and some felt it was a cheat. For he had presented it as an old manuscript, not a new story. Others didn't care and wrote more stories just like it. The book was called The Castle of Otranto (published in 1765). It was the first Gothic novel and it's importance (or perhaps more importantly the Gothic's importance) is only now being truly revealed. Horace Walpole's tale of lost heirs, gigantic armour, family curses, fleeing through tunnels, improbable plot twists and operatic dialogue seems quaint by today's standards, but its legacy drives all the most popular media of today.
Let's skip ahead 174 year after Otranto to 1939. A young artist named Bob Kane teams up with writer Bill Finger to produce a new, stranger kind of detective to stand out from the crowd of Superman wannabes. Masked (of course) but winged as well, he was Batman (first appearance Detective Comics #27, May 1939). Not since Superman started leaping tall buildings in a single bound had a character caught the public's fancy so strongly. But unlike the Man of Steel, Batman is dark, creepy and utterly Gothic. Where Superman is an alien from another planet, Batman is just a man tortured by loss, the Heathcliff of superheroes. Where Superman gained powers given him by his birthright, Batman has to rely on his own inventiveness to create new gadgets. Superman faces forces from outer space, while Batman deals with insane criminals of a more earthly nature.
I have often thought humanity divides pretty easily here. Let's call it the Otranto Line. For some the world of facts, ledgers, evening news, sports, DIY and all things seeable, proveable. On the other side: Walpole's camp, are the dreamers, the LARPers, the fanboys, those who stood in line for hours to see The Lord of the Rings first, who see that this season we have Arrow plus three other DC shows and cry tears of joy. These are my people. They are the Children of the Gothic. Those who dwell upon the unseeable, the unproved. Who felt a little chill the first time Michael Keaton said "I'm Batman!" Long live the Gothic!
GW Thomas has appeared in over 400 different books, magazines and ezines including The Writer, Writer's Digest, Black October Magazine and Contact. His website is gwthomas.org. He is editor of Dark Worlds magazine.