I responded to Calmgrove’s post, “Locked Room Cozy is a Page-turner” , making an observation on the nature of the whodunnit. This is pure speculation, but if we keep in mind that all forms of Mass Media contain values, beliefs and ideologies, one can see how male biasesand values could shape the characteristics of mystery stories and the development of the literary detective. I suspect that the whodunnit almost falls into male and female categories. Obviously readers and writers of both genders can move from the one type to the other. However the evolution of the genre appears to have evolved out of a societal-cultural role pattern and expectations. Early detectives, tended to rely on the male preference for a mechanistic approach to solving the mystery. Their knowledge and observational skills concentrated on the how of the mystery. In effect, the whodunnit is very often a process of discovering how it was done in order to catch the perpetrator of the crime.
The early Lady Detectives were written in the model of the male detectives, using their skills and knowledge in the same manner as their male counterparts. Their advantage was in how society under estimated them and in their observation of things, most men would have considered inconsequential, the emphasis was on the how in order to arrive at the who.
Male whodunnit – How-dunnit discovers the mechanics of the mystery.
Female whodunnit – Why-dunnit leads to the mechanics of the mystery.
Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple demonstrates a shift as observations about human behaviour places more significance on emotions and motivations. The one detective figures out how it was done to discover who did it. The other detective investigates motive, the why, which leads to who. The who then helps provides the means of unravelling the method . Both detectives are essentially puzzle solvers who approach the puzzle from different sides.
The Hard Boiled detective follows a convoluted emotional path full of ethical grey areas. Lots of physical encounters, where action & threat are a metaphor for the detective’s emotional vulnerability. The solitary male detective follows a physical trail to the emotional heart of the mystery. The puzzle/mystery is cracked open (to crack the case); the detective seeks emotional whys in a hands on manner. The mystery always involves the eternal mystery of the dangerous/unattainable woman, Femme Fatale.
In the Noir world of the Hard Boiled Detective, women could be obstacles, goals, and antagonists. Even so, the Lady Detective could play out the role of protagonist, as long as she followed the masculine path of the knight errant down the mean streets.
Comicbook characters such as Batman are part of contemporary iconography – a modern mythology on which we project values, beliefs & ideologies in the forms of hopes & fears. Batman, being one of the earliest comic superheroes ( 75 years ), has his roots in the Pulp Magazine & Pulp Hero tradition.
He blends the qualities of characters such as The Shadow & The Spider with the master savant detective first crystallized in the character of Sherlock Holmes. Batman’s comicbook universe setting ranges from Hard Boiled Noir to Gothic Fantasy, with stop overs in the cosmic metaphysical realms associated with speculative fiction. This makes the character both flexible and challenging, whether being portrayed in print or other media, such as movies and television. Bryan Hitch‘s observations, as writer & illustrator of the current JLA comic, provide some insight into this creative balancing act.
— I wasn’t sure about Batman. When I had that abortive attempt to do “Justice League” 15 odd years ago with [Mark] Waid, I couldn’t figure out, visually, how to handle Batman. And I kind of translated that mentally into, “I probably wouldn’t be able to write him, either.” The odd thing, when I started writing the story out, was just how much Batman took care of his own business for you. You just find a situation, drop Batman in it, and he writes his own dialogue. It’s hilarious.
Batman, at the same time, he’s the guy that has the detective skills, and the analytical skills, to be able to look at all this stuff, and start putting the picture together with the jigsaw pieces, and make that leap that some of the other characters may not be able to — because they’re looking very closely at the individual points, where Batman’s experience is a little wider, I think. I was worried about Batman, but I’m actually having such a nice time writing him in the context of these stories. And he’s such a useful character, because he’s the guy that figures everything out.
I actually find him hilarious to write. He’s got that kind of grim visual, certainly, but I find that he’s the guy with the sarcastic one-liner — not necessarily because he’s trying to be funny, but you have a funny situation, and he nails the line at the end of the scene. And it’s funny because of that, not because he’s trying to be funny. I find that in that group environment, there’s a lot of humor to be had. I’ve been writing him a scene between him and Aquaman, and they’re actually talking about magic crystals, and just these two characters talking about magic crystals, they realize that they’re having an absurd conversation. FULL INTERVIEW at CBR: Bryan Hitch Stays Put at DC with “Justice League of America”
Here are some EQMM covers, plus an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine cover featuring some well known detectives from the realm of classic mystery. Notice the differences in cover layout of the two magazines . While both are effective, they construct a different emotional tone to draw in the reader. The classic detective portraits, do not reflect the content of the magazine directly, rather they play on the atmosphere of classic quality and collectible status.
The Hitchcock cover is introducing a character that most would be unfamiliar with, so there is a need to establish identity and setting. Direct eye contact with a potential reader entices the buyer to pick up the magazine and check look at the interior. This is basic AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire & Action.