Thursday, December 31, 2015

30 Days of The Fade Out: The Death of Me.

The Fade Out Number Two: "The Death of Me"

  • Released September 31st, 2014, following a widely-distributed three-page preview
  • Subsequently given a second printing following an immediate sellout at the distributor level; this was the last issue of the series to receive multiple printings, with a black-and-white version of the cover art displayed beneath the familiar red-ink logo
  • Received with a good number of positive reviews, with 23 critic reviews awarding an average score of 9.2 on a ten-point scale

The sophomore issue of Brubaker and Phillips' period piece begins with the funeral of Val Sommers and then reveals the secret ghost-writing arrangement between the psychologically paralyzed Charlie Parish and the blacklisted Gil Mason.

The Movie.  After paying for the funeral for the film's leading actress, studio co-founder Victor Thursby reviews the in-progress footage for Shadow of the Valley with its director and writer.  He would have preferred scrapping the film altogether, but the studio system is about to collapse in the wake of the Supreme Court's recent anti-trust ruling, and they have nothing else to release.  He gives Franz Schmitt and Charlie Parish a scant two extra weeks for re-shoots with a replacement actress, to wrap shooting in 25 days.  The director then pushes Charlie into accepting his idea of using the added time as an opportunity to rewrite the entire film.

The Murder. Evidently resigned to the cover-up, Charlie is agonizing over his betrayals -- his unintended complicity in destroying the evidence of Val's murder, and now his collaboration in erasing her from her last film -- and he realizes that even his telling Gil was a kind of betrayal, so he could be the strong one in their shared distress.  Gil is falling apart even more than Charlie, drunkenly spying on Val's funeral and visiting the new grave again that night.

In this chapter, we see an expression of Charlie's issues with alienation and invisibility:  his daydream of disguising himself in the bandages of the film's main character.  We also see how that daydream transitions seamlessly to the rough cut that he watches with Thursby and Schmitt.
"He imagined it would be a relief, to have a mask everyone could see...
"...but that made them all look away at the same time."
It reminds me of the opening lines to David Gray's moody 2002 song "Freedom."
Take your eyes off meThere’s nothing here to seeTrying to keep my head together...
We also see that, in contrast with the actors' cynicism toward the man, Thursby is torn up by Val's death:
"Thirty-five years... a life's work, he thinks, and for what?
"For what?"
Val's friend and fellow child actor from the Krazy Kids, Flapjack Jones grouses at her grave's headstone, engraved with her stage name Valeria Sommers rather than her birth name Jenny Summers:  "She wasn't any... aristocrat... just a girl from Pasadena."

In issue #11, we learn that there was a "kind man" who saved Val from her old life as a child actress.  In a line that has added importance in hindsight, she says of him, "He helped me stop being Jenny."

We've mentioned having a theory about this man's identity.  To be clear, we surmise that he was Victor Thursby himself,.  If he knew that Val Sommers associated her birth name with her old life of trauma and abuse, he very well may have put her stage name on the headstone as an act of kindness that may always be seen by others as an act of callousness.

In a story where numerous acts of betrayal are seen as business as usual, we have this shining act of love, mistaken for indifference.

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