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

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Golden Age Showcase: Wonder Woman

Just getting this out of the way now.  This is a SPOILER FREE article about Wonder Woman.  While it discusses aspects of the movie and its cast it contains nothing that might ruin the movie for you.  Enjoy!

I went to go see the Wonder Woman movie this weekend, and judging from the box office a lot the people reading this article probably went to go see it too.

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My opinion of the film?  I loved it!

The actors were great, the action was phenomenal, and in a rather refreshing change of pace it was set in World War 1 instead of World War 2.  This deserves special mention because I feel that it did a very good job of showcasing the ugly reality of that conflict,

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despite the movie’s PG-13 rating.

But is it a good Wonder Woman film?  Does it live up to the ideals of the original hero and deliver a positive and upstanding message to comic book fans?

Well, if we’re going to do that we have to talk about her history and what inspired her.  So with that being said….

Origin and Career

Wonder Woman’s real name is Diana, Princess of Themyscira and ruler of the Amazons.

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The comic book Amazons are an immortal race of warrior women, but they have an actual basis in real world history.

Believe or not, the Amazons are mentioned in actual historical documents.  The Greek historian Herodotus claims they were a tribe of warrior women who lived near the Thermodon River in modern day Turkey,

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and the Amazons made appearances in Greek mythology.  The two greatest examples were the Amazon queen Penthesilea, who fought and died in Homer’s Iliad,

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and her more famous sister Hippolyta, the lady who gave up her girdle to Hercules and is Wonder Woman’s mother.   

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According to the legends the Amazons were fierce warriors, something that translated well into comics.  Also, they were known for cutting off their left breast in order to draw their bowstrings better, which is not something that translated to the comics at all.

Historically, they may have been related to a group of people known as the Scythians, who were a group of nomads who lived near and around the Black Sea and weren’t above letting their women fight along side the men.

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Back to the comics themselves, Wonder Woman made her first appearance in All Star Comics #8 in October of 1941.

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While she wasn’t the first female superhero published during the Golden Age of Comics she was clearly the most successful.

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The funny thing is that, if you take a close look at the original Wonder Woman’s power set, a lot of it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

For starters, her costume isn’t exactly what you would call practical, or even remotely reminiscent of what the ancient Greeks or Scythians wore.

And then there’s her invincible gauntlets which she uses to deflect bullets,

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and a lasso that compels people to tell the truth.

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It all seems strange (some might even say…wondrous) but a lot of it makes sense when you take a look at Wonder Woman’s creator: William Moulton Marston.

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Marston was a psychologist and was especially active during the 1920’s and 1930’s.  Aside from Wonder Woman he developed a way to measure people’s heart rate and blood pressure, an important aspect of modern polygraph tests.

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See those black bands across the man’s chest?  Isn’t it weird how man of the people who get lassoed by Wonder Woman have the lasso on the exact same spot?

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So that’s the Lasso of Truth explained, but what about the bracelets?  Well, take a look at this photo.

You see the lady on the far left taking notes?  You see the bracelet she’s wearing on her wrist?  That’s Olive Byrne, one of the main inspirations for Wonder Woman.  She and Marston were engaged in a…deeply personal relationship.  Oh and by the way, this is his wife Elizabeth.

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That’s Olive in the background, bracelet and all.

By all accounts the three were happy together, and that’s how Wonder Woman got her indestructible bracelets.

Aside from living in a poly-amorous relationship the Marstons were huge fans of bondage and submission, which I will not show here because there may be kids reading.

You don’t need to take my word for it, it’s all over the early issues of the Wonder Woman comic.

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And we thought Fifty Shades of Grey was controversial.

Speaking of controversy, you know how a portion of the internet became inexplicably upset when a movie theater chain announced an all female showing of the Wonder Woman movie?

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Well, if he was still alive today Marston would have approved of the theater’s decision.  In fact, he probably would have encouraged more theaters to do just that.

Marston was a feminist.  In fact, he wasn’t just a feminist, he believed that women were inherently superior to men in every single way.

It’s subtle, but if you look closely you can see it in his work.

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Normally this is the part where I talk about her adventures but first, we’ve already talked about many of her adventures before and second, there are only so many ways “fights and beats Nazis to a pulp” can sound interesting.

So there you have it, a pretty convincing explanation for Wonder Woman’s appearance, equipment, and world outlook.  It’s a bit crazy and kind of awesome.

So what happened?

Despite the incredibly progressive and forward thinking ideals that Wonder Woman set for the comic book industry in the early 40’s the industry wasn’t exactly the most accommodating to William Marston’s super heroine.

Want proof?  When she joined the Justice Society of America, the first superhero team up of its kind, Wonder Woman was the secretary.

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In fact, secretary and nurse seemed to be the only jobs she was capable of holding in man’s world.

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This lady can bench press a goddamn tank and they have her typing.

Maybe it’s Marston’s sly critique of the way women were treated?  I don’t know, but it makes sense to me.

William Marston died in 1947 and while Wonder Woman remained one of DC Comics’ biggest heroes, things did not get much better for her.

The Silver Age of Comics in the 1960’s had her fighting with her boyfriend Steve Trevor a lot, and these arguments often ended in tears.

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Yep…really empowering.

I won’t go into everything that happened to Wonder Woman over the years but I get the feeling that a lot of the writers and creators at DC didn’t know what to do with her.  In the 60’s and 70’s she ditched the star spangled corset and skirt,

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and at one point she lost her powers and was trained by a Chinese martial artist named I Ching.

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You’ll notice that she cries…a lot.

However, through all this she remained a female icon in the industry and was the star of a pretty popular tv show in the 1970’s starring Lynda Carter.

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Thankfully it wasn’t all bad.  Wonder Woman got a revamp in the late 80’s, along with the rest of the DC universe.

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Ever since then DC has realized just how important, and marketable, Wonder Woman is for them.  If you ask me they’ve done a pretty good job at accommodating the quintessential super heroine and her weird mythology into the regular DC universe and she remains an important part of DC’s so called “Trinity”.

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Personally my favorite adaptation of her is in the excellent Justice League cartoon series where she was voiced by Susan Eisenberg.

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So what about today?  Did the Wonder Woman movie live up to the legacy and message of the original Wonder Woman and is it a worthy addition to her long and storied career?

I think so, and I highly recommend that you answer that question for yourself by going to go see the movie if you haven’t already.

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Golden Age Showcase: Etta Candy

WARNING!  THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS FOUL LANGUAGE USED FOR COMEDIC EFFECT!  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

Today is the third day in our coverage of the new Wonder Woman movie, which comes out this Friday!

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I am so goddamned pumped for this movie!

Now, while it would probably make sense for us to talk about Wonder Woman this week we’re not going to.  Don’t worry, an in depth discussion of Wonder Woman is coming next week but for now I want to talk about a member of our heroine’s supporting cast.  She’s a redheaded (sometimes blonde) powerhouse who takes no lip from anyone and if this was any other comic book movie she would probably be the focus instead of the heroine.

Today we’re talking about Etta Candy.

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Origin and Career

So remember when I said there would be foul language in this article?  It’s mostly here.

The character was conceived by Wonder Woman’s original creator, William Moulton Marston.

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She made her first appearance in Sensation Comics #2,

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the issue that also gave us Dr. Poison who we talked about last week.

Her backstory is pretty simple.  She was  skinny, scrawny girl who Wonder Woman met in a hospital, waiting to get her appendix removed.  When she was cured she put on a few pounds.

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How do I describe Etta as a character?  Simple.

Etta Candy gives no fucks.

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Etta Candy takes no shit.

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Etta Candy once helped defeat an ENTIRE NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMP with nothing but a box of chocolates because she heard there were starving children being held there.

Etta knocks out a Nazi guard as she takes down the power grid.

Etta Candy is amazing.

Some of the more eagle eyed readers might observe that Etta Candy is a rather large women, some might even say she isn’t all that attractive.

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Etta hears your comments and doesn’t give two shits about what you think.  She’s large and damn proud of it.

You will also notice that Etta has something of an…unhealthy obsession with sweets.

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I love how in this universe filled with super humans, monsters, and legitimate gods that walk the Earth, Etta takes it all in stride and treats it just like nothing is out of the ordinary.

She needs no gods or men,

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chocolate is the only god she needs.

Despite her awesomeness, even Etta realized that she can’t take on the entire Nazi war machine alone, so she brought along some help in the form of her sisters from the fictional Beta Lambda sorority of Holliday College.

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Naturally, Etta was their leader.

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The girls proved to be incredibly helpful to Wonder Woman’s mission and kicked all sorts of ass.

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They would have given Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos a run for their money.  Why the Allied war effort even bothered to send regular troops to Europe is completely beyond me.

We even got to learn a bit more about Etta’s life after the war.  It turned out she had a family who lived on a Texas Ranch.  She even had a boyfriend.  His name was Oscar Sweetgulper.

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Are you picturing these two getting it on?  Because that is what I’ve been imagining for the past week.

Naturally, Wonder Woman brought Etta back to her home, where she was adored by her sister Amazons.  Also, she had no trouble going up against the more mythological creatures and villains of the comic series.

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In short (pun not intended) Etta was one of the greatest sidekicks in the early days of comics and remains one of Marston’s most fantastic creations.

So what happened?

You see this man?  The one smoking the pipe?

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That’s Robert Kanigher, a comic book writer who took over writing the Wonder Woman comic from Marston when he died in 1947.

Now, Kanigher is pretty well known and did some cool stuff over his career.  He wrote some of the early Blue Beetle adventures and he wrote what is widely considered to be the first Silver Age comic, which saw the introduction of Barry Allen as the Flash.

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However, when Kanigher took over Wonder Woman not only did he barley use Etta, he changed the character to the point where she was no longer the leader of her sorority and she was insecure about her weight.

To make things even worse, she was relegated to the position of idiot secretary in the Wonder Woman tv show, where she was played by actress Beatrice Cohen.

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BOOOOOOOO!!!

POOR FORM!

WHAT THE SHIT DC?!

She became so obscure that I can’t find a picture of her from the 1950’s all the way to the 1980’s.

Thankfully, the writers and creators at DC realized what they had done and managed to bring Wonder Woman’s best friend back from the grave…sort of.

In 1987 artist writer/artist duo Greg Potter and George Perez revamped Wonder Woman for the modern age and brought Etta back.

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She was no longer a large woman, but she was a capable Air Force officer and an aid to Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman’s former love interest.

I say former, because Etta and Steve wound up getting married.

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She still had reservations about her weight and even developed an eating disorder.

During the New 52 revamp, DC brought Etta back again.  This time she was a black lady who was Steve’s secretary and close personal friend.

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She would also make a comeback in DC’s Rebirth series, where she’s still Steve’s secretary.

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That’s how she’s appeared in the main continuity of DC comics.  Some of it was good, most of it made it seem like DC was embarrassed of the character which is just…a crying shame.

Thankfully there were plenty of spin offs and interpretations of Wonder Woman that brought Etta back into her original role.

For example, here she is in the non continuity of DC’s Earth One timeline.

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and more recently the comic series The Legend of Wonder Woman brought her back to her original Golden Age appearance.

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She will be portrayed by British actress Lucy Davis in the Wonder Woman film,

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and if the trailer is any indication, I think she’ll be amazing at it and do the character justice.

Etta is an amazing character and a good friend to Wonder Woman.  In an industry that gets a lot of flak for not being very friendly to women, especially large women, Etta takes those critiques and smashes them over the head.  All with grace, poise, and a box of chocolates in hand.

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Golden Age Showcase: Doctor Poison

Today we continue our feeble contribution to the marketing campaign of the new Wonder Woman movie by talking about one of the villains of the movie: Doctor Poison.

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Now, it’s widely accepted that the Ancient Greek god of war, Ares, is going to make an appearance as well and will probably be the actual main villain of the movie,

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(and before you go complaining about spoilers, understand that he’s credited in the movie’s Wikipedia page so it isn’t exactly a secret) and this makes sense.  After all, Ares is probably Wonder Woman’s greatest and most powerful foe from a comic viewpoint and a moral viewpoint (we’ll cover that later) but today I want to talk about Doctor Poison.

Why?  Because it’s my blog and because her Golden Age comic debut was a bit…well…

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terrifying.

Origin and Career

Dr. Poison made her first appearance in Sensation Comics #2 in February of 1942.

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This was one of the earliest issues of Wonder Woman which makes Dr. Poison one of her first true villains.

Fun fact: this was also the first appearance of Etta Candy, a long standing Wonder Woman side kick of the Golden Age and character in the new movie.

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Dr. Poison was created by Wonder Woman’s creator: William Moulton Marston,

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and artist Harry G. Peter.

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Marston in particular has a very interesting backstory, but we’ll get to that later.

In her first appearance, Dr. Poison’s role was very straight forward.  She was working for the Nazis and was tasked with disrupting the Allied war effort through her knowledge of poisons and toxins.

Since this is a superhero story, which practically requires the villain to kidnap someone, she manages to hold off Wonder Woman by kidnapping her “friend” Steve Trevor.

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Her plan was to dose Allied soldiers with a chemical she called “Reverso”, a chemical compound which messed with people’s minds and forced them to do the opposite of what they were ordered to do.

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It’s a very comic book style plot but who knows?  Maybe it could have worked.

By now I’m sure you’re noticing something peculiar.  I’ve been calling Dr. Poison “she” and “her” while all the pictures suggest that it’s a man under those robes.  Well, after Wonder Woman foils her plot (because of course) it is revealed that “he” is actually a woman named Princess Maru.

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She did manage to escape (because again, of course) and she would make two more appearances in the 1940’s.  First in 1943 where she tried (and failed) to help the Japanese by developing a gas that would clog up the engines of the Allied planes.

Her final Golden Age appearance was in 1948.  After the war was over Wonder Woman imprisoned a whole bunch of her villains on an Amazonian prison called “Transformation Island”.  In Marston’s last book, he had several of the bad guys escape and form a group known as Villainy Inc.

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So what happened?

Doctor Poison was the polar opposite of Wonder Woman in every way.  While Wonder Woman sought to bring justice to man’s world, Doctor Poison sought to bring tyranny.

While Wonder Woman embraced her feminine side and challenged the men around her to accept her as a woman, Doctor Poison actively suppressed it and attempted to use her disguise to convince the men around her she was worth keeping.

While Wonder Woman believed in honorable combat, Doctor Poison believed in using cheap and underhanded tricks to win the day.

Basically what I’m trying to say is that the two should have gone one to become long standing rivals.  Sort of like Lex Luthor and Superman or Batman and the Joker.

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Sadly, this was not the case.

The well known backlash against comics in the 1950’s hit Wonder Woman hard, especially given her…well let’s just say some of her early stuff wasn’t really for kids.

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Like I said, we’ll get to that.

Dr. Poison wouldn’t make another appearance until December 1999 in Wonder Woman #151.  The new villain was actually the granddaughter of the original Dr. Poison and…

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yeah…yeah that’s terrifying.

In an interesting twist, she revealed that her grandmother had actually been killed when she was doused with Reverso and discovered that the drug made her younger and younger until she was just a baby.

The new and revived Dr. Poison also joined the new and revived Villainy Inc.

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‘before moving on and joining another group, the Secret Society of Super Villains.

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While this might have worked out DC Comics had other plans.

When the company launched a massive reboot of their comic universe known as “The New 52”.

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Dr. Poison was brought along.

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She lost the costume and the Japanese heritage and became a Russian biological and chemical weapons expert with a grudge against the United States.

If you ask me this was a poor move.  She went from intimidating and creepy bad guy to stereotypical comic book scientist with a grudge and that seems like just a waste.

Thankfully, DC seemed to get the idea that the entire New 52 universe was a bad idea and rebooted their universe again with an event called “Rebirth”.

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Once again, Dr. Poison was brought along for the ride.

This time the writers brought back the Asian heritage and her original name, only this time she was a soldier in charge of an organization called Poison and went around infecting people with a rage inducing bio weapon known as “The Maru Virus”.

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Sure, it’s a step in the right direction, but someday comic book creators are going to have to come face to face with the fact that sometimes readers actually LIKE crazy backstories and weird costumes.

So that’s an abridged history of Dr. Poison, one of the main villains for Wonder Woman in the new movie that’s coming out soon.  Honestly, I think this is a good move.  She’s got a great set of of skills, she’s intimidating and can provide a great challenge for our hero, and she’s intimidating as all hell.

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Golden Age Showcase: Hippolyta

So this little movie is coming out in a couple of weeks.

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I’m excited.

The funny thing about this movie is that it promises to be huge but strangely enough, DC and Warner Brothers aren’t doing a whole lot to market and promote the film.

Granted, there is a precedent for this lack of marketing push, but I like to think that part of the reason why the film isn’t getting a lot of love is because the producers and film makers are banking on the hoards of angry nerds who are so desperate to see a female superhero succeed that they are willing to give this film a bunch of free advertising.

Thankfully, I am incredibly desperate and angry and I intend to do my part and contribute to the madness.  For the next couple of weeks leading up to the release of Wonder Woman I intend to devote this blog to Wonder Woman and her supporting cast.

And since yesterday was Mother’s Day, I thought it might be fun to talk about Wonder Woman’s mother: the Greek Amazon Hippolyta.

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Origin and Career

Unlike almost all the superheroes of the Golden Age, who can trace their origins to the popular culture of the day, Hippolyta has one of the most accomplished and famous pedigrees in comic book lore.

In fact, probably the only modern day superhero who has changed less than DC Comics’ Hippolyta is Hercules himself, and that’s only because Hercules is an integral part of Hippolyta’s story.

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Hippolyta was the queen of the Amazons, a group of savage warrior women who claimed to be descended from Ares, the god of war.

As part of his twelve labors, Hercules was tasked with stealing an item called the Golden Girdle, a belt that gave Hippolyta incredible strength.  Hercules was successful in seducing Hippolyta into giving him the belt,

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but sadly perished when he goddess Hera convinced her battle sisters that Hercules was kidnapping her.

This story must have struck a chord with a man named William Moulton Marston,

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because he used this exact myth to inform the creation of Hippolyta in All Star Comics #8 in October of 1941.

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We’ll save the specifics for later but for now all you need to know is that the story of Hipppolyta remained relatively unchanged from its classical roots.  Hippolyta was the queen of her people and the mother of the book’s main character so she was tasked with talking to the ancient gods, looking after the welfare of the Amazons, and trying to control her daughter without much success.

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So what happened?

What do you mean “what happened”?  She went on to have an illustrious career as the mother of one of the most successful superheroes on the face of the planet!

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Granted, there have been some changes to her story.  Various versions of the character have her as a blonde badass,

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and at one point she actually took up the mantle of Wonder Woman,

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(yes that is actually Hippolyta and not Diana with a different hair do)

Her origin story with Hercules was changed up a bit in 1987 by writer George Perez.  It was a bit more…uncomfortable than the original with the new version of Hercules forcing himself on Hippolyta after he drugged her and her Amazons.
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It’s worth mentioning that he did this after she beat him in fair combat and attempted to reason with him.

Hippolyta has played an integral part in the DC universe, both in the comics and in other forms of media as well.  She has made regular appearances in a whole bunch of cartoons and animated movies,

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and is often treated with the respect and reverence that a queen and leader of her stature deserves.

In the upcoming movie the director decided to go the blonde route and have her played by the actress Connie Nielsen.

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To list every achievement and important event that Hippolyta has been part of would take forever and I highly encourage you to do more research on your own.  All that I really have to say is that while Wonder Woman is considered to be one of the greatest superheroes in existence, she would be nobody without the strength and wisdom of her mother behind her.

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Happy Mother’s Day everyone.

New mythologies for comic books: an introduction

Today I’d like to start off a small blog series about mythology in comics.  Let me be clear, I’m not here to talk about the mythology of comics, this won’t be a series where I dissect the stories of heroes like Superman and Batman

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Instead this is going to be a series about the myths and stories that tie comic books to the ancient past and heroes like Thor and Wonder Woman.

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Amazons

It’s no small secret that ancient mythology is a favorite source of inspiration for characters and material in comics and it works so well because these ancient stories were meant for a comic book.  Sure the rage of a godlike personification of warfare and bloodlust like Achilles may seem a bit over the top and overly dramatic to a modern day reader

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But it’s downright subtle when compared to that modern day personification of rage of violence: The Hulk.

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And having a near immortal trickster god filled with spite and jealousy attempting to wage war on his former family and suffering for it by tying him down and having snake venom poured onto his eyes?

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That’s Loki, a character so over the top that he fits right into our modern day myths.

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So it’s pretty clear that ancient mythology and modern comics have a pretty well established relationship but which ones are the most popular?  Let’s take a look.

Greek/Roman mythology

This one is probably the most blatant and well established set of myths and stories in comics today.  DC Comics is probably the most famous company to utilize it as source material and they’ve done so with tremendous success.

The most blatant example is Wonder Woman.  Shaped from clay and given life by the Gods (you could write an entire PhD thesis on the symbolism of that) the gods and monsters of ancient Greece and Rome factor heavily into her story and character.

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While characters in the DC universe come into contact with Greek mythology in obvious ways like battling Ares the god of war

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and claiming classical heroines like Hippolyta as family (Fun fact: Hippolyta was killed by Hercules during his 9th labor while her Amazons made a name for themselves fighting in the Trojan War of Iliad fame) Greek mythology dominated the DC comics mythos in more subtle ways as well.  Take for example the three biggest and most powerful gods in the Greek pantheon.

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They are Zeus, king of the gods and ruler of the skies, Posieden, ruler of the seas, and Hades, lord of the underworld.  You have the powerful king, the ruler of the seas, and the dark brooding one who spends most of his time underground.  Sound familiar?

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There’s also the name of the hero SHAZAM!

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which is an acronym for a series of classical heroes standing for the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury.  With the exception of Solomon all of them are Greek/Roman and all incredibly powerful.

Norse mythology

Norse mythology is a bit newer to the comic book scene and is utilized a bit differently.  Thor was brought into comics by the legendary writer/artist team Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

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While Lee wanted to bring Norse mythology into comics Kirby (who you could argue was responsible for more of the creative grunt work than Lee) was a big fan of something called the Ancient Astronaut theory.  Basically it states that what our ancestors called gods were actually aliens who landed on Earth possessing technology far beyond comprehension.  This led to Kirby combining Norse mythology with sci fi elements and using it to display some of Marvel’s more…interesting space related adventures and inter dimensional tomfoolery.

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That being said, while the setting was different from the ancient stories the characters and names remained pretty much the same.  From the gate keeper of Asgard, Heimdall

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To the nine realms of the World Tree

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Norse mythology has played a huge part in the Marvel comic book and cinematic universe.

Japanese mythology

This one’s a bit tricky.  The most popular religion in Japan is Shinto, a polytheistic religion centered around the worship of spirits and nature.

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There really isn’t a unifying mythos within Japanese comic culture like you would find at DC or Marvel and many creators don’t bother with it at all but spirits have been a major part of several important works.  Death Note, which has a Japanese death spirit called a shimigami, is one

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while aspects of respect towards nature and nature spirits feature heavily in the works of creators like Miyazaki.

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Judeo-Christian mythology

Angels, demons, Heaven and Hell, the eternal war for the soul of mankind, you know the drill.  This is more of an idea than a cast of characters, although Jesus himself has appeared in several comics.

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and you’ve also seen it in comics like Spawn

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and Ghost Rider

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Basically if you’ve read any comic that thinks it’s edgy by putting angels, demons, or a Christ like figure that works towards saving humanity (Superman comes to mind) then you’ve come into contact with Judeo-Christian mythology in a comic book.

So these are the four mythologies that have dominated the comic book industry since the beginning.  But here’s the thing, the world is a big place and is filled with other stories and legends than these.  Countries and places like India, Africa, pre Colombian America, and the Pacific islands all have their own stories and mythologies that have shaped their world view for generations.  Each culture has their own Superman that stands for what they believe in and don’t you think we owe it to ourselves as global citizens and comic book fans to branch out a bit and explore?

Here’s how this is going to work.  Every week I’m going to pick a place, region, or time period that isn’t necessarily very well known to popular culture and talk about it.  Each article will give a brief description of that place’s history in the comic book industry (like if there were any heroes or villains to took inspiration from this period in a previous time), a general idea of the mythology of that place, and what a hypothetical comic book character based around that mythology could look like or say.  So strap in, sit back, and get ready to learn about gods, heroes, and villains that you had no idea existed.

Cambrian Comics Friday Showcase: My favorite comics #4

Out of all of my favorite comic books that I enjoy and endlessly recommend to everyone I meet this is the one that has probably enjoyed the most mainstream success.  But before that we need a brief history lesson.

Vertigo is an imprint of DC Comics (for those of you who aren’t sure what an imprint is think of it like a company within a larger company that focuses on one specific thing) and is one of the most popular brands in comics.  It was founded in 1993 with a lady named Karen Berger at the helm.

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Mrs. Berger had originally been responsible for bringing some of the most popular British comic book writers of the modern era into American comic books.  Names that included Grant Morrison

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Alan Moore

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and Neil Gaiman

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among many others.  This “British Invasion” of comics created some of the darkest, edgiest, and most exciting work the industry had ever seen with new takes on heroes like Animal Man, Hellblazer (this is the title of the comic that has Constantine in it), and The Swamp Thing.  This new sophisticated take on comics, coupled with an opportunity for DC to take over some projects that Disney comics had abandoned after an implosion in the 90’s (no really), led to the creation of the Vertigo imprint and the publishing of one of its most iconic series and my 4th most favorite comic.

4. Sandman (Vertigo Comics)

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Author: Neil Gaiman

Artists: Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Jill Thompson, Shawn McManus, Marc Hempel, and Michael Zull

Number of Issues: 75

Sandman is very intelligent storytelling told by a man who is very passionate and interested in things that often seem a bit childish.  It’s a fantasy series but this is most definitely not for children.  Gaiman loves to talk and write about magic and mythology and one of the best ways to tackle such massive subjects is to give them humanoid shape and personalities.

The comic follows the imprisonment and subsequent escape of Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams.

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After being imprisoned for decades by a black sorcerer Morpheus finally manages to escape and make his way back to his kingdom, a land where he rules over the dreams and imaginations of every human being in existence.

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It’s a strange world that seems both familiar and unfamiliar to the naked eye and is home to a large cast of strange and mysterious characters such as Cain and Abel

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Lucien the Librarian who looks after all the books and works ever created but were never made.

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and a whole host of dreams such as the terrifying Corinthian.

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It also turns out that Morpheus is not the only one of his kind.  The Lord of Dreams is one of seven “Endless”, a group of immortals that represent various aspects of the universe: Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium, Destruction, and Dream.

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And that brings us to the second aspect of the comic and my personal favorite.  While the crux of the series is about Dream and how he tries to piece his life and his kingdom back together after being held in captivity, the Endless are immortal and powerful beings that hold sway over so much of humanity and access to every corner of the universe.  This gives the comic ample opportunity to jump across time, space, and dimension to bring stories about whatever the author wants to talk about.  In one issue Dream could be conversing with his brothers and sisters and trying to figure out what to do with some strange universe shattering phenomena in the next issue Dream could be sitting in a bar with an immortal human being discussing the nature of life.  The Sandman deals with the forces of Hell, Heaven, Norse Mythology, the French Revolution, Greek myths, inter dimensional travelers, super heroes, serial killers, Shakespeare, actors, and even normal everyday human beings trying to live their lives.  The story is massive, sprawling, and offers a glimpse into an imagination that is ripe with wonderful stories and tales to tell.

If you would like to read the series you can buy it digitally on Comixology or the Vertigo store.  Also, DC launched another Sandman title called “Sandman: Overtures” which is in stores and online right now.

Crowd funded comics that deserve more attention #2: Devi and Modern Myths

Today, for our second post talking about crowdfunded comics that deserve more attention we are going to talk about a company that is bringing the massive, complex, and epic mythology of the Indian subcontinent to comic books and in order to help they have launched a Patreon campaign to bring one of their creations to life.

Link to the campaign: https://www.patreon.com/Devi?ty=h

What is it?

The company running the Patreon campaign is called Graphic India.  It is a new company dedicated to bringing the history and mythology of India into the mainstream.  To that end they are already well into production of a web series called “18 Days”, a retelling of the great epic the Mahabharata and it is written by none other than Grant Morrison (for those who don’t know Grant Morrison one of the best comic book writers alive today), you can find out about that here.

The Patreon campaign is for Graphic India’s second major undertaking, a weekly motion comic web series called Devi.  Written by film director Shekhar Kapur the story follows the adventures of Devi, a mystical avatar of the Hindu gods as she does battle with an evil demon named Lord Bala.  Devi is set in a futuristic Indian city called Sitapur and looks like this.

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Aside from looking like she can rip any opponent the shreds the story itself looks incredibly promising.  Sitapur is a futuristic Asian city filled with high buildings, low morals, and a blend of magic and technology that creates something new and different.  Also, the trailer is awesome.

Why I like it:

Besides looking amazing and promising a story with the kind of blood and violence I like Devi, and Graphic India’s other projects, is bringing new ideas and new traditions to comic books that make all kinds of excited.

A little bit of history, comic books are known for adapting and reworking existing mythologies and stories into the present day.  Greek and Roman mythology was especially popular in the early days of comic books and DC is known primarily for utilizing it for some of it’s biggest stars.

While Marvel turned to Norse mythology for its mythical heroes and created this guy.

It seems to me that Graphic India is looking to give Indian mythology the same treatment, and when you have stories of monkey kings

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Multi headed demons being defeated by mythical arrows.

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And humans of immense strength battling giants with fallen trees.

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You have the makings of an amazing comic book universe with plenty of amazing and epic stories.

Why you should donate:

Devi is currently being developed as a weekly motion comic series and they’re already six episodes in.  The Patreon campaign was launched to help with the cost of creating the videos and you can contribute on a per creation basis, meaning you pledge for each video produced.  So if you want to expand your horizons with an epic story, awesome characters, and usher in a new mythology into the pantheon of comic book myth, consider donating today.

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Campaign link: https://www.patreon.com/Devi?ty=h

History and Legends of Game of Thrones: The Dragons

WARNING: SPOILERS!

So the season finale just happened and that means this is going to be the last week of Game of Thrones blog posts for the site.  I know there has been a lot of creepy, upsetting, and disturbing stuff on the show lately but there are plenty of people who can talk and discuss that kind of thing better than I can so instead we’re going to start our final week by talking about the dragons.

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In keeping with the traditions of the show and the direction it seems to be heading (I was both impressed and terrified by Arya’s sadistic streak) the dragons are the very personifications of violence and power.  As the ancient weapon of the Targaryens the dragons are the Game of Thrones super weapon, an advantage that allowed Denarys and her ancestors to conquer half the known world with a comparatively smaller army.

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The dragons don’t represent any particular person or place in history.  Instead they represent an idea and theme that rears its head from time to time throughout history.  In my opinion the dragons represent technology and how each technological leap brings about newer and more terrifying methods of destruction and violence.  Now this may sound like a very modern theme and it is, an all powerful beast capable of melting steel and killing thousands of people at a time sounds suspiciously like a modern nuclear weapon but the notion that new inventions can change the face of warfare for the worse goes back hundreds of years.

Many people have a notion that Medieval warfare was a noble endeavor filled with knights in shining armor, noble kings, and honorable combat.  It seems so noble because we the Middle Ages gave us the notion of chivalry: the knights code of conduct while engaging in battle and how to live and act in everyday life.

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Sadly, the idea of chivalry couldn’t be farther from the reality of Medieval warfare.  Actual fighting was brutal, violent, and awful in ways that would make even Ramsey Bolton shutter (although out of all the characters in the show he probably had the right mindset for it) and nowhere was it more apparent with the start and evolution of the Hundred Years War.

The Hundred Years war was a series of long and complicated wars between the kingdoms of England and France over who ruled what and who owed allegiance to whom.  There have been countless books, plays, and movies about the conflict but one of the most interesting things was the role technology played in the war.

The war started out with the traditional concepts of chivalry and honorable combat intact, it was a dynastic dispute and thus would be fought honorably between two noble houses.  However, as the war went on things changed and technology began to play an important role in the fighting.

Much like their Norman ancestors utilizing the mounted knight the English were the first to unveil and utilize their super weapon: the longbow.

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It may not look like much but this six foot piece of yew wood would revolutionize warfare.  Now an army made up of peasants and lowborn could go toe to toe with armored knights and win, and win they did.  Granted, utilizing the longbow took strength and skill which required extensive training from an early age (ever wonder why Robin Hood was so good with a bow and English?) but the English were able to utilize the bow to great extent.

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However, that would pale in comparison to what came next.  With England winning battle after battle and the French nation on the brink of defeat they were saved by a young and possibly schizophrenic prophet girl named Joan of Arc.

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After Joan helped light a fire under their buts the French were able to get their act together and begin to take back what they had lost.  Under the leadership of King Charles VII and Philip Duke of Burgundy the French restructured and remodeled their armies to defeat the English.  This saw the rise of a weapon more terrifying than the longbow and one that would change the face of warfare forever: gunpowder.

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Now while gunpowder had been in use for a long time, the Hundred Years War was the first time gunpowder weapons were used on a European battle field to great effect.  Like Denarys’ dragons they spat fire and death at their enemies and were able to completely destroy them, one of first (and definitely not the last) times a leap forward in technology helped man kill his fellow man more efficiently.

History and legends of Game of Thrones: The Wall and Age of Heroes.

So our last blog post covered the Andal invasion of Westeros and the Saxon invasion of Britain.  We’re going to back the timeline up a bit and talk about a time period before the Andals which led to the foundation of several of the key ruling families of Westeros and the creation of one of the series most iconic landmarks: The Wall.

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The Age of Heroes was a time after the First Men and the Children of the Forest made their peace where things stabilized and mankind to focus of ruling.  During this time there were several legends of certain kings, lords, and vagabonds who accomplished deeds so great they were remembered in legends.  In fact, they were so integral to the history of Westeros that several of the most important families of Westeros believed it was important to claim ancestry to these special individuals in order to lend credibility and pedigree to their names.  Four of the biggest names were:

Durran the Storm King: 

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Durran was the first Storm King and the alleged founding ancestor of the Baratheon household.  According to legend Durran was a mortal king who fell in love with Elenei the daughter of the god of the sea and the goddess of the winds.  Despite her parent’s displeasure they were married anyway and the sea and wind resolved to make Durran miserable.  They destroyed every castle he attempted to build and almost succeed, until Durran finally built Storms End, a castle with walls so thick not even the sea and wind could knock it down.  Durran and his Baratheon descendants made Storm’s End the seat of their power and it has survived to this day.

Lann the Clever:

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Lann the Clever is more famous for his wit and intelligence rather than strength and brawn.  According to legend he was a bastard with no title or prospects, until he poisoned a son of one of the great lords of the Reach named Garth Greenhand and made away with part of the son’s inheritance.  But by far his most famous story is how he became the Lord of Casterly Rock, the current stronghold of House Lannister and the House that claims his legacy.  The story states that Casterly Rock used to belong to House Casterly and was an impregnable fortress, until Lann discovered a secret passage that was so small he had to coat himself in butter to fit.  Once he was inside, he proceeded to drive the residents insane by stealing trinkets, terrifying them with screams and unseen threats, and picking them off one by one until the Casterlies gave up and left.

Bran the Builder:

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Bran the Builder is one of the most stalwart legends to arise from the Age of Heroes and is the mind behind its most lasting legacy: The Wall.  Legend has it he also helped build Winterfell with the help of the giants and while not much is known about his birth and life, his building projects have secured his legacy to a point where the Starks of Winterfell claim the be his descendants.  He is also known as the first King of the North, a title that has been used in the books and the show by many of the Northerners to assert their independence and as a symbol for them to rally around.

We decided to talk about the Age of Heroes after the Andals because the Age of Heroes is based more around early British mythology rather than history, although the Wall does have definite historical counterpart: Hadrian’s Wall which was created to keep the Scots away from Roman occupied Britain.  Granted Hadrian’s wall isn’t as epic as the Westeros counterpart, but they both set out to accomplish the same thing.

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Once we get past Hadrian’s Wall the Age of Heroes shares more similarities with Celtic folklore and mythic heroes.  Like what we see in Game of Thrones, Celtic folklore deals with men of exceptional talent and skill interacting with the gods and elements and eventually triumphing over them to gain great power and wealth.  An exact match to a specific god or hero is almost impossible considering that the records of these stories are quite vague but there are two important figures of note: Gwydion and Culhwch.

Gwydion:

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Prince Gwydion shares quite a few similarities to Lann the Clever in the books.  Like Lann he is a trickster and has no problem using other people to his own nefarious ends.  In one famous instance Gwydion, who is the nephew of a Welsh King Math the Mighty steals a herd of pigs from a rival king in order to incite a war between the king and his uncle so he can sleep with one of his uncle’s servants.  In another instance, Gwydion assists his kingdom by enchanting a forest of trees to fight the forces of the Underworld.

Culhwch:

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The story of Culhwch and Olwen is another Welsh folktale that shares some similarities with the story of Durran and Elenni.  Like their Westerosi counterparts Culhwch and Olwen fall in love despite Olwen’s family objecting to the marriage.  The difference in this story is that while Elenni is the daughter of gods, Olwen is the daughter of giants.  Culhwch resolves to marry her and after gaining the help of his cousin King Arthur (this story is also one of the earliest accounts of King Arthur and his knights) and after accomplishing a series of seemingly impossible tasks Culhwch and Olwen are married.

Besides the story itself the legend of Culhwch and Olwen is important for another reason.  I mentioned that this story is one of the earliest records of King Arthur, another very important figure in British mythology.  Now, Arthur’s adventures would take up another article, but the most important detail is how he is viewed.  It is told that Arthur is the King of the Britons and will arise from the grave when his people need him the most.  This has made him an important political tool through the ages as a rallying cry for the British against any oppressors, just like how the great men in the Age of Heroes are used by the ruling families of Westeros to claim their identities and assert their status as rulers.

Further Reading:

Evangeline Walton’s Mabinogion is one of the definitive translations of Welsh mythology and tall tales and the source of both the stories mentioned in the article.

There are also several very good BBC documentaries about Welsh and Celtic mythology that can be found on the internet.