Crowdfunded Comics that deserve more attention: Persephone

Today we’re taking a look at a graphic novel project called Persephone that is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter.

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The story is a revisionist look at the popular Western myth of the abduction of Persephone, the daughter of the ancient Greek goddess Demeter and queen of the Underworld after she was kidnapped by Hades.

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The project was created by Allison Shaw and is currently seeking $16,000 on Kickstarter.  At the time of writing the project has collected over half its goal with 26 days left in funding.

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/19365079/persephone-one-volume-comic-adaptation?ref=category_recommended

Why I like this project

I like this project because I’m a sucker for Greek mythology.

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More specifically, I like how the Ancient Greeks used their gods and heroes to tell stories about the human condition.  Hercules wasn’t just a hero, he was a tortured soul looking for redemption through his twelve labors.

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The Greek gods weren’t just the rulers of the world, they were petty and vindictive bastards who had no problem screwing with mortals who upset them.

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The story of Hades and Persephone is one of the more popular stories in Greek mythology.  The god of the underworld sees the daughter of the goddess of the harvest, kidnaps her.

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In most interpretations of the story Persephone is kidnapped against her will and becomes a cold and distant queen.

But this Kickstarter project is different.

This story reworks the myth from a more modern feminist point of view and bucks thousands of years of tradition to ask: what if Persephone wasn’t forced by Hades to travel to the Underworld?

Honestly, it’s an interpretation that never really crossed my mind.  After Persephone was kidnapped her mother became very upset and refused to let anything grow.  The end result of the story is that Persephone ate the food of the dead and has to spend three months out of the year with her husband, during which Greece must suffer through a three month winter.

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I always read the story as a tragedy but this comic?  This comic frames the story as a romance between Persephone and Hades, which is something that I think is different, new, and very interesting.

Plus, I really like the art style.

To me it looks like a mix between Japanese manga and ancient Greek pottery,

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Why you should donate

There was a certain movie released this year about another female comic book character who is based in Greek mythology that did rather well at the box office.

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I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Wonder Woman and the Persephone of this comic are really similar.  Both of them are women in a world dominated by men, both of them are different interpretations of Greek mythology, and both of them prefer to change the world using love and kindness.

The difference is that Wonder Woman prefers to show her love through extreme violence and pointy objects,

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while Persephone has a softer, gentler, and more erotic approach.

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This isn’t just a reworking of an ancient myth, it’s a type of story that comic books really haven’t paid much attention too over the years.

Sure there have been romance comics in the past,

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but romance comics really fell out of the limelight in the 1950’s in favor of characters who solved their problems with violence.

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Now I like a good fight as much as the next person, but why do we need so many characters that let their fists do the talking?

Persephone is a story about a different kind of female hero.  She doesn’t solve her problems by punching.  Instead of struggling and fighting her captor, she reaches out to him, tries to understand him, and winds up falling in love with him.

Persephone Chapter 7 by Eupraxia

The end result is a comic that forgoes violence in favor of a gentler and more sensual story, a story that provides a different kind of comic that we really haven’t seen before, and is worth your attention.

Persephone Chapter 3 by Eupraxia

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/19365079/persephone-one-volume-comic-adaptation?ref=category_recommended

Golden Age Showcase: Anteas the Bouncer

So this weekend I went to Rhode Island Comic Con and had the great pleasure of meeting comic book artist Jim Steranko.

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The man is a living legend, one of the medium’s greatest artists, and about a million times nicer than he has any right to be.

Anyway, while I was talking to him I told him about this blog and what I was trying to do.  I asked him if he knew any obscure Golden Age superheroes that I could write about.  He got a sly smile on his face, took out his pen, wrote a name on a piece of paper, and handed it to me.

He introduced me to the comic book hero Anteas the Bouncer.

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Mr. Steranko, if you are reading this I want to thank you from the bottom of my decrepit heart.  You are a king among men and I hope this becomes the greatest article I ever write.

Origin and Career

Anteas the Bouncer first appeared in his own titled comic in 1944.

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He was published by Fox Feature Syndicate, the company that was most famous for giving us the Blue Beetle.

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Fox was an interesting company.  On one hand they published one of the first blatant Superman ripoffs in comic book history, on the other hand they made crazy heroes like the Anteas the Bouncer.

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Despite his ridiculous name and appearance there was actually quite a bit of thought and talent that went into this guy.

He was written by a man named Robert Kanigher.

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Not only did Robert write Wonder Woman for over 20 years, he actually wrote the first appearance of the Silver Age Flash: Barry Allen.

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Anteas was also drawn by Louis Ferstadt, a man with few known credits but he did do some work on Plastic Man.

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So the character had a pretty impressive team behind him, but why would they commit to something so ridiculous?

Well, the answer is pretty simple, Anteas is an actual figure from Greek mythology.

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He’s featured prominently in the Legend of Hercules as the son of Gaia, or Mother Earth. While working on his 11th labor of collecting the golden apples of Hesperides, Hercules is confronted by the giant Anteas.  While Hercules was strong there was a problem.  As long as Anteas’ feet were on the ground he was invincible and even stronger than Hercules himself.  If Anteas hit the ground he would rise again and his strength would be restored.

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As you might have gathered from the totally not suggestive sculpture above (they’re just wrestling, honest), Hercules defeated Anteas by lifting him up off the ground and crushing him to death.

This particular piece of Greek mythology would inspire Robert Kanigher to create a modern take on the character, and the results were actually quite clever.

It turns out that Anteas’ had a family and they continued to survive thousands of years into the 1940’s and Anteas’ great, great, great (honestly I don’t know how many greats there are to go back that far, let’s just assume a lot) grandson actually shared the power of his ancient ancestor,

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That’s him on the right with the beret and glasses and this is a part of his origin story.

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He was driven away from being a superhero when he realizes the trouble his powers cause.

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 He became a sculptor who didn’t care much for the world and just wanted to make things.

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Unfortunately, he made a sculpture of his famous ancestor so lifelike that it became a living being.  Because that is how this stuff works.

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The statue would drag Anteas Jr., yes that was the sculpture’s name, on various adventures and crime fighting forays.  The sculpture possessed immense strength that was tied to the Earth just like his namesake while Anteas Jr., who had similar powers, fulfilled the role of a sidekick.

The adventures of the Bouncer were a mixed bag.  One day he would be fighting standard gangsters and another he would be fighting clowns dressed like Satan

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That being said, there was one particular gimmick to the character that was pretty cool.

The comic encouraged readers to send in letters to the studio along with pictures of themselves for a chance to be in the comic and accompany the Bouncer and Anteas Jr. on their adventures.

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Think of it like an early version of a Kickstarter reward where being in the comic is offered as a reward tier.  This led to some bizarre meta humor and fourth wall breaks in the comic where the Bouncer would acknowledge the winners and encourage readers to participate and buy the comic.

So what happened?

He’s the immortal spirit of a figure from Greek mythology who lives in a statue and fights crime by bouncing, he was just too perfect for this world.

Sadly the Bouncer and his sculptor sidekick only lasted five issues.  Despite the audience participation gimmick, the talented writing, and halfway decent art, the comic couldn’t sell well enough to stay in print and it was cancelled.  While he made a few appearances in other titles nobody seemed interested in reviving and/or reprinting the character.

The Bouncer was a ridiculous hero with a ridiculous backstory and a ridiculous gimmick.  But despite all of that I like to think there was a genuine passion behind his creation and it looks like everyone involved worked hard on his stories.

In other words, he is the kind of dopey and sincere comic book character that is perfect for this kind of blog.

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If you like this article and want to support more content similar to this, please feel free to donate to our Patreon page here.

History and Legends of Game of Thrones: The Ghiscari Empire

WARNING:

THE FOLLOWING POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE CURRENT SEASON OF THE GAME OF THRONES AND MOST OF THE BOOKS.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Today we’re going to talk about one of the oldest and most powerful civilizations in Essos and in the entire Game of Thrones universe: The Ghiscari Empire.

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The Ghiscari were one of the first and most powerful empires in the world until they were eventually conquered by the Valyrians (who we will talk about on Friday) and eventually reduced to a handful of cities along Slaver’s Bay: Astapoor, Yunkai, and Meeren.  This is where Daenerys Targaryen has been spending most of her time throughout the series and books and it is the remnants of Ghiscari culture that have caused her the most problems.

Not a whole lot is known about the Ghiscari Empire itself, most of it is so old that a lot of the original culture and heritage has been lost to legend and old ruins.  However, there are three things we definitely know about the Ghiscari.  First, they were famous for their fighting force of “lock step legions”, groups of soldiers who were famous for their rigid discipline and fighting in close knit ranks with spears and shields.

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Second, they worshiped the Harpy, a wild creature with the head and upper body of a woman and the body of a bird.

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Whether or not the Harpy was the only god the Ghiscari worshiped or if it was just part of a pantheon it is widely believed the Harpy played a major part in Ghiscari religion and is so important to the region that it is currently being used as a symbol for everyone who doesn’t like Daenerys’ rule to rally around and form the group the Sons of the Harpy.

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And then there is the final, and most lasting part, of the Ghiscari legacy and perpetual source of conflict and violent debate: slavery.  The Ghiscari were renowned for their ability to enslave and subjugate other people.  In fact, they were so good at it that when the Valyrian Freehold decided that the Ghiscari Empire would be a lovely addition to their new empire the Ghiscari were able to survive and prosper by convincing their new conquerors they could be useful as slave drivers and trainers.

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Today the Ghiscari Empire is a memory since most of their ruling elite were wiped out.  The rest of the Ghiscari realized they had been conquered and assimilated into their new culture, so much so that the original Ghiscari language has been lost.  We’ve met several of these descendants over the course of the show and in some cases.

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It did not end well.

The Ghiscari have also ensured their legacy through the use of the Unsullied, the famed warrior eunuchs that fight in a matter similar to the lock step legions of the old Empire.

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and the worship of the Harpy has continued, although I would assume that there are many powerful people who would prefer to see that particular god disappear for good.

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Long story short, while the Ghiscari Empire no longer exists and most elements of its culture have been wiped out or faded with time there are many people (usually slave masters or powerful families around Slavers Bay) who look back on the Ghiscari with pride and as a part of their glorious past.

When we look at the history and culture of the Ghiscari they are just vague enough with just enough nods to a whole bunch of ancient cultures to make classification incredibly difficult.  For example, if you watch the show you see Daenerys living in a giant pyramid that was built by the Ghiscari, a building that would make them similar to the ancient Egyptians.

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While their “lockstep legions” and massive empire put them on par with the Romans.  But I think the Ghiscari occupy a place in history between these two cultures and are the Game of Thrones equivalent of the Ancient Greeks.

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First, there’s the name, if you listen hard enough “Ghis” and “Greece” sound kind of similar.  Second, there are the military similarities.  Granted, the Ghiscari soldiers were called legions but their fighting style of closed ranks and blocks of foot soldiers tightly pressed together bears more of a resemblance to the Greek phalanx and hoplite warfare.

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Third, there is the subject of slavery.  While the Greeks didn’t build a reputation as slavers that was as brutal as the Ghiscari, they were certainly enthusiastic and supportive of the practice.  Most of Greece’s most famous philosophers like Plato and Aristotle believed that slavery wasn’t just right, it was necessary as part of the natural world order.  While there were some Greeks who spoke out against slavery like the Stoics they were more concerned with personal moral and philosophical perfection than freeing slaves.

Finally there is the impact the Greeks had on the world at large.  What makes the Greeks especially similar to the Ghiscari is their history of maintaining fragments of their culture and serving as an inspiration for the future despite their long history of being conquered.  It’s pretty clear that not a lot of people speak ancient Greek anymore but the impact the Greeks had on the world as a whole, and the people who would eventually come to rule them, makes them perfect candidates for the historical equivalent of the Ghiscari Empire.