Monday, January 17, 2005


No, I'm not being cute: superheroes are one of the motifs running through Gravity's Rainbow. There are scattered allusions to real superheroes throughout the book, beginning with a reference to Pirate Prentice's "batman, a Corporal Wayne," on p. 12. Superheroes, or pseudo-superheroes, figure more extensively in two sections. For a stretch in "In the Zone," Slothrop becomes "Raketenmensch" (German for "Rocketman"), with a costume but no powers. And in an one of the episodes in "The Counterforce" that are ungrounded in the book's "reality," Slothrop belongs to a bona fide superhero team.

The most mysterious superhero reference is the description of Sundial, supposedly a 1930s or 1940s comic book "hero--or being... The frames never enclosed him--or it--for long enough to tell. Sundial, flashing in, flashing out again, came from 'across the wind,' by which readers understood 'across some flow, more or less sheet and vertical; a wall in constant motion'--over there was a different world, where Sundial took care of business they would never understand." (550) Raketenmensch seems to be modelled upon the Golden Age superhero Bulletman, at least in appearance, and the Floundering Four (787) are evidently a take-off on the Fantastic Four. But I don't know of any plausible source for Sundial. I couldn't find anything on the Web, and Steven Weisenburger's A Gravity's Rainbow Companion was no help. If anybody out there has an idea where Pynchon might have gotten Sundial from, please email me (my email address is on the sidebar).

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