|The only existing photograph of Destroyovski - circa 1959|
Artist, writer, performer and agitator, Destroyovski has remained in the shadows for decades. Although he was linked with many of the great artists and writers of the latter half of the twentieth century, including William Burroughs, Bryon Gysin, Salvador Dali, JG Ballard, Michael Moorcock, Kenneth Anger and Andy Warhol, he shunned publicity, refusing to publish or sell any of his artworks, apart from the infamous 'Latex Mask' pornographic art comics, which were produced for an anonymous Russian oligarch and erroneously attributed to Shaky Kane himself.
In the waning years of his life, Destroyovski is finally, and with some reluctance, moving into the public eye. He has agreed to contribute an occasional piece to Waiting For Trade, beginning with this commentary on artwork produced by Guillem March for the comic book Catwoman #1. The comic, written by Judd Winnick, became the center of some controversy as it depicted a comparatively graphic scene of sexual intimacy between Batman and the eponymous heroine. For Destroyovski, it was the imagery of the cover that drew his interest and now that the furore over the contents of the book has died down, I have invited him to share his critical observations here.
Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend
A voluptuous young woman, clad in a fetish costume of finest figure-hugging leather, reclines above a city street. She pulses with post-orgasmic eroticism, her expression languid, her lips parted in satisfaction. She is sated. This is clearly no ordinary woman and this no everyday urban setting. This is Catwoman and the city is Gotham. But this is a Gotham we have never seen before, the Gothic architecture delicately defined in pastel tones, the streets below delineated in shades of violet that recall the blushing pink of her own sensual skin. Batman's Gotham has been transformed from dismal, brooding grey to a landscape that vibrates with life and energy and sexuality. This is Catwoman's Gotham.
There is, of course, a story behind this image. What we are seeing is the post-coital epilogue to the story within. Catwoman has seduced the Batman. We, as readers are privileged to know that Batman, in civilian life, is the playboy Bruce Wayne, a man who has had innumerable sexual encounters - out of costume. Batman in costume is something else. He is an iconic figure of uncompromising justice, a creature of the night, a troubled 20th Century interpretation of the archetypal masculine hero. As such, he is depicted as a dominating force, his body toned to perfection, his square-jawed features masked and anonymous. In a post-Freudian age we acknowledge that Batman is also a symbol of sexual virility, his body tumescent with unconsummated potency. The emphasis must be on unconsummated. We may see Bruce Wayne, spent and exhausted after a sexual bout, but Batman must be eternally ready and able to perform.
To appreciate the full significance of this image, we have to return to Batman's origins. Over the years there has been an evolution of the scene where the young Bruce Wayne sees his parents murdered in front of him as they leave a movie theatre. The theft of his mother's pearls has become the key image from this scene and its depiction is repeated over and over in endless reconstructions of the traumatic event.
Pearls have long been associated with fecundity, the milky gemstone mysteriously nurtured within the soft tissue of living molluscs. One of the best-known of Victorian underground pornographic magazines was named The Pearl. It was notorious for featuring stories of incest. More recently the term 'string of pearls' has come to signify male ejaculate, particularly in pornographic movies where the male ejaculates onto his partner's body.
When Grant Morrison wrote Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, he created the key text for a psychoanalytic understanding of the Batman myth. In the following scenes from the graphic novel, illustrated by David McKean, we see the associations made between Bruce Wayne's mother and the word 'Pearl'. These associations inevitably become connected with the violent death of his parents.
Morrison makes it clear that the young Wayne also associates the death of his mother with rejection and guilt and implies a separation of the boy from the man he will become. In the following sequence, he explicitly equates this with masochistic self-abuse.
Batman is motivated by guilt as much as by revenge. His mother died at a time when the adolescent Bruce Wayne was tormented by his confused feelings towards his mother. As his sexuality was awakening, the object of his love was taken away from him by an act of violation. On a subconscious level he has always blamed himself for his mother's death. The violence of his lifestyle is ultimately directed against himself. The pearl becomes transformed into a drop of blood. Sexuality, violence, pain, death and - if we are to read any significance into the final panel - a Messianic self-image, all coalesce into a classic Oedipal complex.
The motif, which has come to epitomize that devastating event, is the string of pearls. Here Darwyn Cooke links the pearls to the image of his mother's loving touch as Bruce falls asleep.
|'Ego' written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke|
Then, the scene repeated endlessly, like a recurring nightmare: the pearls ripped from his mother's neck, catching the light as they fly like a spontaneous ejaculation across the page...
|Frank Miller - 'The Dark Knight Returns'|
|Jim Lee - Batman 'Hush' written by Jeph Loeb|
|Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea - 'Batman R.I.P.' written by Grant Morrison|
Let's return to the cover of Catwoman #1. For years, while Bruce Wayne has indulged his passions, the persona of Batman has remained inviolate - the eternally potent male. But this story leaves no doubt that Catwoman has finally succeeded in giving Batman that long deferred climax. Here she lies, holding aloft her trophy - the limp genitals of Gotham's Dark Knight, spilling the last of their seed in a mocking imitation of the porn movie 'cum shot'. The milky pearls, symbol of fertility, have been transformed into diamonds - formed not within the nurturing womb of an oyster, but crushed by the weight of the earth, cold and sterile.
She has given him the relief he has yearned for and, by doing so, has effectively emasculated him.
COMING SOON... Destroyovski reveals the reason why, on the cover of Catwoman #2, Batman is emerging from a giant, ossified vagina!