Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

My Shadow Complex Characters

Originally posted on October 1, 2017

The ”Shadow” complex is the English word for what Jung called all those parts of the usually unconscious psyche that are ordinarily repressed, that are incompatible with most people’s self-esteem. Yet I am somewhat aware that I played with characters associated with this complex in some of my old drawings and cartoons. I’m a bit embarrassed about them now, but I need to admit  confidentially to you alone (plus all the others) that some of my favorite characters really were unpleasant figures—reflecting my “shadow” imagination.

Of course, evil characters are essential  in  comics books! Recently I read a not-too-great book with at least an interesting theme—a fabulously bright fellow who was otherwise socially awkward, and who chose to express it by becoming and evil genius—or as the book, Soon I Will Be Invincible calls it, “Malign Hypercognition Disorder.” (Haha, giving a psychiatric diagnostic label is just one of the tropes here, but the book failed to “wrap it up” well.)

I have become aware (even before I read that book) that I found somewhat fascinating the ways a number of wicked villains behaved—including Captain Marvel’s nemesis, Doctor Sivana, or other villains. Also, I was early on interested in the various conquerors of mainly the Middle East. (I was insatiable reader of the historical reconstructions of Harold Lamb.) Right now I’m doing a bit of auto-analysis and note that I was overcompensating for having an older brother who picked on me a little —a punch on the shoulder at most, but it was bad for me—“MOM! Irwin hit me!” As I revisit my state of mind back then, I unconsciously figured that if I ruled the universe my brother couldn’t pick on me.

So my “shadow” complex took the form of a cruel conqueror, although I con-sciously was frightened of and hated cruelty. I expressed these in a few of my own cartoon characters, such as “Snidely Whiplash,” a caricature of a villain portrayed in melodramas popular around the beginning of the 20th century. I made him the editor of my imaginary Journal of Punitive Psychiatry! Other monsters were fun to cartoon because it’s much easier to draw ugly than attractive.

On the whole, though I’m pretty nice. Anyway, I used to enjoy playing the bad guy.  But I’m moving away from it also. I just thought I’d admit it.


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