Baltimore: Dr. Leskovar’s Remedy & The Play

We return to the misogynistic world of comics Baltimore.

 

Things look less terrible this time, though!

Today’s girl is Tomboy. She does the fishing for her family and has a younger brother she’s in charge of.

…it’s all downhill from here, unfortunately, which is why I identified the woman last post as the best female character we’ll have.

We learn that they’re refugees from a village that’s been taken over by a mad scientist’s science vampires. His kid became a vampire, and, obsessed with a cure, he kept infecting people and trying to fix them then getting more when it didn’t work instead of continuing to work on the ones he had, so we have all sorts of vampirey monsters that look different and some can go about in the sunlight this time.

We learn that the scientist has known for some time the cure was impossible and is actually being forced into this by the monsters, so we’re repeating the vampire nuns thing but without the women. As such, it precedes with a lot less torture. The guy turns into a giant monster with the intent of killing all the other monsters. Baltimore is sure this is a bad idea because after he kills the others won’t he just keep killing people? I don’t know what makes him so sure suicide isn’t in the plan, and even then, killing one giant monster seems like it’s a better idea than killing a town’s worth of regular sized ones.

Back to the girl and her brother, the days of her knowing more than him just by virtue of being years older are past. He suggests going into town to see what’s happened to Baltimore, knows where they should hide out, and knows that not all the monsters are hurt by sunlight.

The kids discuss the nature of evil. Vampires are objectively evil because they burn in sunlight, but many of the monsters don’t burn in sunlight. Also, the monsters were mostly willing volunteers, which seems good. On the other hand, they don’t look pretty, which makes them evil. (But the fighting ones are the scientist trying to kill them all to stop their evil and then others willingly sacrificing themselves in an attempt to kill the scientist for the horrors he committed on them.) Therefore oh wait we weren’t actually going anywhere with this.

As you can see, she is very much not leading anything. The scientist-monster kills the rest, at which point she begs him to spare them, while her brother waves goodbye to him with a smile. Then he follows to save them from the giant monster crabs, dying in the process.

Naturally, the only one to get murdered on screen by said crabs is female.

All in all this is pretty forgettable. The only suspense is on how many minor characters will die to crabs before the hero saves them. The monsters that don’t want to be monsters was done last time and with slightly greater depth. The mad scientist who makes different monsters is a cliche, and and the different monsters being just slight modifications is a dull cliche. And it’s just annoying that the mad scientist gets so much power – the power to harm others, then the power to take control again and destroy his creations, then die a hero protecting the remaining people. The best the nuns could do was devour some guy and then burn up.

But at least it’s just kind of middling. Sure, it’s annoying how smoothly the girl gets sidelined, but it’s not particularly hateful like last time.

The next story, The Play, starts well, with people throwing the corpses into the river. Baltimore berates them, and they say there’s not enough people left to bury them and they’re worried burning is just spreading the plague. It’s great. Then we go back two weeks and the terrible begins.

It’s about the main actress of a play that Baltimore’s vampire is financing because he’s in love with her.

This story is about how sexy women are monsters who control men.

She’s not an ordinary woman, you see, she’s a muse. A two-timing muse. She’s only stringing this guy along because she wanted him to resurrect her preferred artist, Poe, and she’s stringing the vampire along just for fun.

She is supposedly doing all this for herself, except that all she wants is to be an object. This is easily the most disgusting of the series. It’s taking something men do to women, blaming the woman for making them men feel things, then saying they want (only want, even) to be stalked and obsessed over and it’s all their evil master plan.

The fact that men regularly kill women over stuff like this doesn’t register, even when violence against her is the “plot” of this story.

Because apparently she can’t even be hurt! But she makes him feel bad about hurting her anyway due to how super pretty she is, because she’s manipulative and power tripping. That’s definitely a great message.

Yes truly this is a much greater horror than the fact men assault and murder women all the time. She made them do it! And indeed, the vampire’s plan is to murder her in a desperate attempt to get revenge for what she’s done to him, but it turns out that was all her plan, to trick the men into killing each other while the hussy trots off into the sunset with her Poe head. (The vampire had previously warned the other guy that one of the many terrible things about muses is they’ll pick their artist by who’s best, because god, women choosing which man they belong to? What’s the world coming to? Next they’ll want the vote or something!)

I’m not absolutely certain it’s impossible to have a powerful muse character without it being terrible, but I sure haven’t seen any evidence to the contrary. You might be able to fanfic your way to her being sick of this bullshit and her whole plan was because muses need obsessive poets or they die and with a head in the jar she finally had someone who couldn’t slap her around, but that requires turning her into a victim which is only an improvement because what we have here is so, so terrible.

19 Comments

  1. SpoonyViking says:
    “I’m not absolutely certain it’s impossible to have a powerful muse character without it being terrible, but I sure haven’t seen any evidence to the contrary.”

    Hmmm… That IS an interesting creative challenge, considering the role of a muse, by definition, exists to inspire someone.
    I suppose the first step would be to focus on how the muse feels about their job, instead of on how the artist feels about the muse.

    1. Farla says:
      There’s an old webcomic, 9th Elsewhere, I don’t think is up anymore, that has the muses as sort of therapists and avoided this whole mess, but it had really little do to with the traditional muse setup as a result.
      1. SpoonyViking says:
        I tried looking for it, but you’re right, it seems to have vanished, I could only find its TV Tropes page.

        To be honest, though, from the way it’s described in TV Tropes, I’m not sure I’d have liked the comic. What was your opinion of it?

  2. SoxyOutfoxing says:
    See, the only other muse narrative I’m familiar with is that thing of Neil Gaiman’s, in which the muse is enslaved and raped, and her sisters tell her it’s all her own fault and only agree to help her because the rapist trades her away to be enslaved to and raped by a different man, which is apparently not quite kosher to the abandon-our-sister-to-repeated-rape laws that govern the muses because Gaiman is so edgy and deep. I actually prefer the Poe head lover story above, but it still isn’t any good. Just less bad.

    You could probably write something amusing about a woman complaining that she is stuck with a muse who is not her sexual buzz at all because she’s het and male muses don’t seem to exist at all in the pseudo-mythology these sorts of stories use. (Of course, nor do creative women.) And have the lady muse going “What? My boobies don’t inspire you to churn out epic poetry? I’ve never had this problem before!” They could discuss what to do about it and the woman could learn to be inspired by other women. Though even then you’d have to be careful to avoid implying that ladies are not allowed to write about teh sex.

    1. Farla says:
      I feel the Gaiman thing worked because the whole series was horrendously depressing and awful and unfair, but yeah, it’s really not anything I’d want to export to any other story.

      They could discuss what to do about it and the woman could learn to be inspired by other women. Though even then you’d have to be careful to avoid implying that ladies are not allowed to write about teh sex.,

      Well, she could be blocked on her yaoi fanfic.

  3. Katrika says:
    Darwin Carmicheal is Going To Hell has a good muse character, Melete. It’s a webcomic. She starts out in the initial role of wanting to create but only being able to paint reproductions because she gives her inspiration to her current boyfriend/protoge, who is a dick. Over the course of the comic she realizes she’s been defining herself through other people, dumps him, doesn’t immediately hook up with someone else, and starting to do her own original work.

    Of note is that DCiGTH’s Melete is the mythological Melete of the original three muses, so she’s been stuck in that bad cycle for a long time. The only reason she hadn’t done what she eventually did sooner is she didn’t realize it was possible, she thought she could only inspire others and not create under her own power.

    1. Farla says:
      Ah, that seems like a good twist. I’ll have to check it out sometime.
    2. SpoonyViking says:
      But then she’s no longer a muse, right?
      1. Katrika says:
        No, she’s still a muse! She’s just granting inspiration to /herself/. She could theoretically choose to grant it to someone else again.
        1. SpoonyViking says:
          Hm, I get what you’re saying, but I feel she’s stepped out of the traditional role of the muse. She’s an artist, but I wouldn’t say she’s still a muse – in storytelling terms, I mean.
          1. Katrika says:
            Well, I mean, she’s… literally one of the three original muses.
            1
            1. SpoonyViking says:
              Yes, but she’s not acting like one in the story. :-)
              Reply
              1. Katrika says:
                What is that supposed to mean? In the original myths, muses were artists and visionaries themselves who would whisper to the minds of their chosen benefactees to inspire them, and they’d inspire multiple people at a time. Melete taking up art herself but not inspiring someone else right at that moment seems to me to be as close of an interpretation than her letting herself be sucked dry of inspiration by a single person who didn’t respect her.

                Or are you arguing muse characters always have to fall into the trope of only being around to inspire others, when the discussion here was how we can avoid those implications? I mean, yes, inspiration is part of what makes a muse, but not the whole of it, and you could probably have a story where a muse is a creator themselves who mentors someone and encourages their vision that way.

                1
              2. SpoonyViking says:
                I mean: “if Melete stops inspiring other people and just inspires herself, she became a full-blown artist and is no longer playing the part of a muse; she might be a strong character (I wouldn’t know, having never read that webcomic), but she’s not a strong character who is also a muse. Or a muse who is also a strong character, whichever order you may prefer.” :-)
              3. Katrika says:
                But she literally is because it’s a species description.
              4. SpoonyViking says:
                I’m talking about her role in the story, not what she’s described as. :-)
                To put it in other terms: Edward Cullen may be a vampire in-story, but he shares no resemblance to the traditional Gothic vampire archetype, nor to any other mythological or literary vampire archetype.
              5. Katrika says:
                And I’m arguing that the mythological basis for the literary muse trope is different than the literary muse trope, and Melete of DCiGTH fits into the latter.

                Sorry if we were talking at cross purposes, by the way – I have some communication issues and I honestly did not understand what you were trying to say.

                1
              6. actonthat says:
                I think– and he can correct me if I’m wrong here– that he’s trying to point out that the only way to give her true agency was to remove her from the traditional muse role, which kind of inadvertently proves Farla’s original point of it not being possible to do a traditional muse in a not-creepy way. Even though she’s still technically a muse, it’s now at whim, which isn’t the usual “I call upon thee” part they play.

                It’s a great deconstruction of the trope, actually.

                *scuttles away*

              7. SpoonyViking says:
                Yes, exactly! :-)

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