Saturday, February 06, 2010
Aku Woo And The Matrix
On the surface planet Aku looks like any other world populated by terran-type humans. The Aku inhabitants have created a super-scientific civilization, suggesting what the planet Earth might become in the future.
But appearances are deceiving. The entities living on Aku's surface are phantoms, thought-images projected from corporeal bodies in suspended animation underground.
Of course, the world Aku isn't real. It only exists in the pages of a Green Lantern comic book story called “The World of Living Phantoms,” published in GL #6 in 1961. Back in the days when a comic sold for a mere 10¢. The price was plainly displayed on the cover with big type. Compare that to today's comics that hide the price in tiny print, outrageous sums like $3.99 / 4.99 / the-sky's-the-limit.
Besides the large price box, there was also a seal stamped on the cover in the upper right-hand corner: Approved by the Comics Code Authority. After parental hysteria in the 1950s that tried to connect comic books with juvenile delinquency, impaired eyesight, sexual deviancy and other evils, comic book publishers formed the CCA to make sure their publications were wholesome (i.e., bland), thus assuring no governmental oversight.
But getting back to Aku and its sleepers with phantom bodies. Now this SF concept sounds familiar. Ever see the movie The Matrix?
Maybe The Matrix was inspired by this story; who knows? If you dug back far enough you might find the sleepers-with-phantom-bodies concept in some old "scientifiction" pulp magazine.
Unlike the humans in The Matrix, the people of Aku have willingly put themselves in suspended animation to live longer, experiencing life through a projected reality.
But one day an alarm goes off. The projected Doppelgangers acquire independent thought, they become evil. The living phantoms set out to destroy the original physical humans but are stopped by a superhero from Earth, Green Lantern.
After defeating the evil phantoms, Green Lantern uses his magical power ring to examine the mental switchboard that creates the thought images. He discovers that two of the sleepers, Cosmo and Alyshha, are causing a short circuit that allowed the phantoms to act independently. Unlike the other sleepers, the Aku couple want physical bodies to express their love, so GL releases them from suspended animation.
As the reanimated couple walks away, hand in hand, GL thinks: "So now there will not only be thought-phantoms moving about the strange world of Aku -- but also a real flesh-and-blood living pair. And who knows... but some day a whole new race -- not of sleepers but of real people -- may spring from this."
Then Green Lantern flies off to take care of a menace on another world.
But wait a minute -- this whole physical body/virtual reality situation leaves open some big questions.
Aku phantoms can't engage in physical contact or at least the simulation of it? With their advanced science Aku sleepers can't add virtual sex to the mental switchboard? Or virtual pregnancy and procreation?
Granted, this GL story was written back in 1961 before terms "virtual reality" or "The Matrix" became common -- but for some reason the whole issue of physical/phantom sexuality was glossed over.
Curse you, Comics Code Authority!
Posted by Ray Palm (Ray X) at 9:43 PM