Power is in the eye of the beholder. It’s the meaning that we assign to people, places and events that give control; in order for that power to work, there must be a willing surrender to this control. Whether the controlled party wants to admit it or not is another matter. Such is the case in Heavy Metal, of all places. While the mysterious Loc-Nar possesses immense power, there is a simple, substantial fact that cannot be ignored: it does not have power over anyone outside of its abilities; the power is either surrendered or rejected by the individual. Therefore, the entire concept of Loc-Nar operates under a confidence game: though it has supernatural ability, the choice to surrender to its power is ultimately in the hands of the person being courted by it.
|Buried underneath all the cartoon T&A is a story of power.
Loc-Nar likes to imagine that it has power. It narrates in between segments within the frame story to reinforce this notion, as though the litany of examples will provide further evidence not only of its nature, but of the fact that it is inescapable. “You are in my control,” its booming voice tells The Girl of the frame story. “Look at me. I am the sum of all evil. Look carefully. My power infests all times, all galaxies, all dimensions.” From there, it attempts to demonstrate its power through story: it causes a double-cross motivated by greed in “Harry Canyon,” is the root of a sacrificial society in “Den,” influences a meek man to become a rage-driven monster in “Captain Sternn,” causes dead soldiers to reanimate in “B-17,” and incites an attempted sexual assault in “So Beautiful and So Dangerous.” One could argue that Loc-Nar is the source of evil in these instances, and its influence is readily felt. Each segment provides a dark instance of destruction and suffering. As an introduction to each segment, Loc-Nar peppers the tales with assertive phrases, such as, “Very few escape my grasp. Even in death, my powers continue.” Loc-Nar wants you to think that it has these powers, and that it cannot be defeated.However, the problem here is that we have not only an instance of rebellion, but an instance where the one that rebels does so in the face of the warnings and is successful to boot. In “Taarna,” Loc-Nar crashes into a volcano and sets immediately to mutating a group of people, who then start destroying everything. Taarna is summoned to defend the planet’s people, and in doing so is captured, tortured and injured. Things are looking pretty grim, and Loc-Nar attempts to persuade Taarna from engaging in further battle: “Taarna, do not sacrifice yourself. You cannot destroy me.” Taarna’s response is not to give up, but to die in battle in order to destroy it and break the cycle. This act of defiance breaks the power of Loc-Nar, which in turn flows over into the frame story. If you listen to its wording, you’ll realize that it has been telling The Girl a series of stories in order to scare her: it has to terrify her into thinking that it can’t be beaten before announcing the intention to kill her. The result is that the mansion is destroyed and The Girl is revealed to be the reincarnation of Taarna, who we are told is the universe’s “new defender… the power of evil is contained for another generation. And a new Taarakian is born to protect the next.” This strips the power of Loc-Nar down, because it is not infallible: it can be beaten in cycles, meaning that there are limitations to what it can control.
|A green glowing light. How scary.
It’s this notion that causes us to go back and re-examine the autonomy of the characters in the other stories, and what we find makes the power of Loc-Nar out to be a total crock of shit. Everyone acts of his or her own volition, whether it’s a deep impulse or a strong personality. Den defeats the evil cult leaders because he is a good person that doesn’t want to see innocent people getting killed (and he really likes getting laid). Meek, mild, bumbling Fiste is the one that unleashes a lurking rage that turns him into a literal monster. Dr. Anrak tries to rape Gloria. Taarna has a need to defeat Loc-Nar and save others. While Loc-Nar is a catalyst, the motivation for each act is something that already exists in each character. Loc-Nar taps into that and exploits it, which is where the perception of power originates. Yes, it can melt people, but really, it enjoys influencing something that’s already there, which begs the question who truly wields the power in this symbiosis. Loc-Nar is happy to claim the credit for the chaos, but in reality, the actions and intentions are already present; it is whether or not the individual chooses to act upon what preexists in his or her nature. This leaves the power of action solely up to the humans; Loc-Nar is a convenient scapegoat for someone else’s activity. It’s nothing more than a confidence game when it speaks to The Girl of the frame story: it’s trying to freak her out because it knows that it’s up to her to decide if she wants to give up or fight it. It has no real power because it’s up to her to act, proving that you are only in control of your own actions. Once she owns this, it’s easy to see Loc-Nar as powerless; it needs to feed off of others and present verbal manipulation in order to bolster a sense of power when there truly is none.
|She chooses to win. Even when she dies.
The simple fact that Heavy Metal slyly presents is that you can’t be controlled unless if you consciously submit to something that wants to proclaim authority. Loc-Nar lets its hand slip when it tells The Girl, “Even when someone has the strength to discard me, my power is not diminished. Someone always finds me.” It’s mighty and all-knowing, but even then, it can be defeated. It just wants you to think that it will go on to find someone else. The problem with this line of thought: once enough people clue in to the fact that they have the ability to reject something that wants to control it, the power will diminish. And once there’s no one to rule over, it gets exposed for what it truly is: a hunk of rock that can melt stuff, with no real power over the thoughts, feelings and actions that were already there.