Today we’re talking about Through the Cognitive Rift, a graphic novel project currently seeking funding on Kickstarter.
The project is about the human mind and hypothesizes that the universe we know and love is simply the thoughts and dreams of a single individual. The story takes place in a universe experiencing the apocalypse because its creator has severe mental problems and is contemplating suicide. The plot is about the one person in this universe that has been given the opportunity to connect with its creator and attempt to save the creators life and, by extension, all of existence.
The project was created by Natalie McKean and is seeking to raise $3,200 by August 9th.
Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nataliemckean/through-the-cognitive-rift-graphic-novel?ref=category_newest
Why I like it
The first reason I like this project is because I have a tremendous amount of respect for the creator.
Now, I never knew Mrs. McKean before I saw her project but when I learned that she is doing all of the writing, art, and production work by herself I couldn’t help but take my hat off to her.
Trust me when I say that creating comics takes a lot of work. Heck, all I do is write mine and I’m still frazzled.
The second reason that I like this project is its subject matter.
When I saw that this book was about the internal workings of people’s minds and thoughts my mind immediately thought of this:
Now, Inception is one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s deep, thoughtful, and trippy as all hell.
Now, it looks like Through the Cognitive Rift promises to be trippy as well, just in a different way.
But I think this book promises to be more than Inception, in fact I think it has the potential to be more.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but respect for Christopher Nolan and the cast of the film, but as a director he’s more of a robot than a human.
Don’t believe me? Go back to any of his films and try to find a character that conveys emotion and feeling through something that isn’t exposition or dialogue that doesn’t move the plot forward or reveal some sort of great theme or world shaking plot point.
I like this project because it looks like a more human and thoughtful version of Inception and while I don’t know if that was the creator’s intention, I write this with nothing but the highest praise and excitement.
Why you should donate
Take everything I said about Inception,
throw in the awesome artwork,
AND add the fact that this is probably one of the most creative and interesting stories that you will ever see dealing with depression, suicidal thoughts, and mental health,
and you have a recipe for a book that is engaging, thoughtful, and gorgeous to both read and look at.
Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nataliemckean/through-the-cognitive-rift-graphic-novel?ref=category_newest
Let’s take a bite into the comic book industry’s version of vanilla ice cream and talk about Batman.
Batman is one of the most popular superheroes in the world for a reason. He’s got a great design, he’s got a cool story, he’s got tonnes of history, but most importantly…he has great villains.
Yes, it seems pretty cliche to talk about how awesome Batman’s villains are but we all know that Poison Ivy is awesome,
Mister Freeze is tragic and deep,
and the Joker needs no introduction.
But how does Batman manage to have so many great villains?
Easy, because he doesn’t kill them.
Batman’s aversion to killing criminals (even if the justice system he’s sworn to protect would have put the Joker to death a long time ago) and distaste at using guns is well documented. With that being said, we’ve talked about how the Batman of the Golden Age wasn’t above using guns, or even killing criminals.
The Golden Age Batman was a much darker and violent superhero than a lot of modern iterations and as a result, he either needed equally dark and violent villains or a small army’s worth of disposable henchmen.
Today we’re going to talk about one of Batman’s first adversaries, a creature of the night who wasn’t just violent and unquestionably evil, but one of Batman’s first important villains: The Mad Monk.
Origin and Career
The Mad Monk made his first appearance in Detective Comics #31 in September of 1939.
He beat out the Joker by 8 months.
The character was created by Bob Kane and Garner Fox.
Kane is the man who is widely credited with the creation of Batman (while he did play a part, a lion’s share of the credit does go to Bill Finger) and Fox is the man who helped create little known DC heroes like the Flash, Dr. Fate, and Hawkman.
The Mad Monk is special because he was the main villain for one of the first multi part stories in Batman’s career. While the first super villain to face Batman in a multi issue series was the imaginatively named Dr. Death,
The Mad Monk was a bigger, and much more mystical and terrifying, threat.
The Monk’s real name was Niccolai Tepes, a homage to historical crazy person and real life inspiration for the actual Dracula: Vlad Tepes aka “Vlad the Impaler”.
The Mad Monk was a literal vampire complete with the need to drink blood, the ability to turn into a wolf, the ability to hypnotize people into a trance, and an assistant named Dala.
While it is unknown why the Monk wants to kill Batman it is made apparent that the Monk does know his secret identity as Bruce Wayne when he kidnaps Bruce’s girl friend Julie Madison.
The Monk and Dala hypnotize her and use her to lure Batman into a trap in Paris where he has to fight a giant gorilla.
After defeating the beast, Batman is captured and is trapped in a net dangling over a pit of snakes. Because this is a comic book and nobody just wants to shoot their captured adversary.
Fun fact: This is the first time Batman ever uses the Batarang in comics.
After escaping, Batman tracks the Monk to Transylvania (because of course) and confronts the villain in his mountain castle. The Monk puts up a good fight by transforming into a wolf but Batman manages to knock the wolves out and escape.
The comic ends with Batman shooting The Mad Monk and Dala as they lie in their coffins.
If you ask me, this was a brilliant display of common sense. While I think the idea for the Mad Monk is cool, I certainly wouldn’t want an immortal blood sucking creature roaming the streets of Gotham or anywhere else in the world.
So what happened?
The Monk remained dead for a long time, probably because he was just two scary and dark for the censorship police known as the Comics Code Authority.
But, like the vampires that he took his inspiration from, he would arise from the grave many years later. In 1986 Gerry Conway, the co creator of the Punisher and the man who killed Gwen Stacy,
reworked the original 1939 story into a modern origin for the Mad Monk in the 1980’s.
In the new version the Mad Monk was a former plantation owner who owned slaves in post Civil War America. He and his sister Dala were attacked by their slaves and turned into the undead in a voodoo ritual.
Personally, I preferred the earlier version better.
The Mad Monk manged to turn Batman into a vampire but was eventually defeated by a wandering priest named Father Green.
The character would be given another fresh coat of paint in 2006 when a six issue mini series was published by DC Comics entitled Batman and the Mad Monk.
It was pretty good.
The Mad Monk is a villain that has been mostly forgotten to history. While he was a pretty one note character who didn’t have much staying power, and while he has been overshadowed by much more complex and interesting villains, he deserves a lot more attention and respect.
He was one of Batman’s first true challenges and paved the way for the rogue gallery that keeps us coming back to Batman comics again and again.
Happy Holidays everyone!
Since it is the week before Christmas, and since we plan on taking Christmas week off from the blog, I thought it would be nice to talk about one of the most powerful superheroes in all of comic books.
He’s big, he’s red, he knows if you’ve been naughty or nice, and he’s listed as one of the most powerful mutants in the entire X-Men franchise…it’s SANTA CLAUS!
Origin and Career
Unlike most of the characters we talk about on this blog, this guy has had a long and illustrious career, and he didn’t even start off in comic books.
If you want to learn about the history of Santa, there are a couple of things you have to understand. For starters, many people use the names “Santa Claus”, “St. Nick”, “Kris Kringle”, and “Father Christmas” interchangeably.
All those names are actually talking about different people throughout history.
The Santa Claus that we know was made popular in the 1930’s as a figure who was used to sell Coca Cola. This was where we get the idea of a jolly man dressed in red with a big white beard and a red nose.
But that image was based off of an earlier drawing by famed political cartoonist Thomas Nast for Harper’s Weekly in 1881, who drew an incredibly popular illustration of the famous poem “A Night Before Christmas”.
This is where we get the idea of Santa with his reindeer and his fascination with giving out toys.
But THAT image was taken from old European Dutch traditions about a jolly old man named “Sinterklaas”, a jolly old man who travels around on Christmas dressed in red and giving out candy to good little boys and girls.
This is where we get the idea of Santa and his elves, since this version of Santa was accompanied by two beings called “Zwarte Piet” who help Santa hand out candy to the children.
It’s worth mentioning that this version of Santa has his origins with the Norse god Wotan, who would ride around on his eight legged horse Sleipnir around this time of year.
It’s also worth mentioning that “Santa” and “Father Christmas” are actually two different people because Father Christmas looks like this.
He’s still a pre Christian figure, just a bit different from the tradition of Santa.
But the real origin of Santa comes from the early Christian St. Nicholas.
St. Nicholas was originally Nicholas, a 4th century Christian bishop of Myra in what is now known as Turkey.
In the Eastern Orthodox tradition he is the patron saint of children, the falsely accused, repentant thieves, barrel makers, and a whole bunch of cities and nations that are too numerous to count. He’s a pretty popular saint.
The legend goes that the bishop had a friend who had the bad luck of only having daughters. Back then, the family of the bride was required to provide a payment to the family of the groom called a dowry as a sign of good faith and friendship.
Unfortunately, if the bride couldn’t provide a dowry the bride couldn’t be married, and the life of an unmarried woman back then was a very difficult one.
When Nicholas heard this he decided to do something about it and late one night he baked a bunch of gold coins into a loaf of bread, climbed up to the chimney of his friend’s house, and threw the loaf down the chimney.
and that is where we get the origin of Santa sending presents via chimney.
So what happened?
Oh, Santa Claus is still around, giving gifts and spreading good cheer.
In fact, he has been so good at it that during WW2, Adolf Hitler had Santa captured in an effort to strike at the morale of America.
Thankfully, Roosevelt had Captain America and Nick Fury of the Howling Commandos rescue Santa.
It was later revealed that Santa is actually the most powerful mutant/superhero ever created. His abilities are widely varied from longevity, to super speed, to the ability to manipulate his size in order to fit down a chimney of any size.
Santa has appeared in several adventures with famous Marvel and DC superheroes,
but it’s worth mentioning that he hasn’t always been a source of good cheer over the years.
Probably the best example of this was when he sold his entire gift making operation to Hydra because he was fed up with all the anger and lack of faith, although it did give us this.
Despite all the misadventures and silly stories, Santa has remained a force for good in comic books and the world in general His friendliness, kindness, and generosity have inspired people to live better lives and to be kind to each other during the Christmas season,
something that is sorely needed in times like these.
Merry Christmas everyone, and see you all next year.
It’s Game of Thrones time!
Forgive my excitement but I’m something of a fan.
Last season I kicked off this entire website with a massive blog series on the history behind the show. It was an in depth look at everything from the dragons to the Free Cities and how many parts of the show and books borrow so much influence from actual history.
For season 6 we’re going to take a more measured approach and release one article a week until the end of the season. This will be more of a reactionary series talking about the historical parallels between things that show up in each episode.
So, without much ado, let’s talk about the Red God R’hllor.
In the show and books there is a god of fire named R’hllor. He goes by several names such as “The Lord of Light”, “The Heart of Fire”, and “The God of Flame and Shadow”.
He’s a fairly popular god in the eastern continent of Essos and while he isn’t that popular in Westeros his servants have played a pretty big role in politics in that region.
The faith itself is monotheistic, worshiping only one singular divine being, and has a fascination with fire, which can be a good thing when dealing with something like the extreme cold but over the course of the show it’s been shown that the Red God is somewhat…demanding when it comes to sacrifice.
They also have a dualistic view of the world, believing in a single “good” god being opposed by a singe “evil” god, and believe that the world will be saved when a messianic figure named “Azor Ahai” will return to beat back the darkness and bring light to the world.
As for the servants of the Red God, they are known as Red Priests. These servants of the Red God are often pledged to his service by They can be male or female and have been seen throughout the show preaching,
and attempting to convert kings.
They also appear to wield some pretty potent magic
and are a faith that is slowly spreading its influence across the world.
With the blog last year we talked about the similarities between the religion of Westeros and religious history in early Europe. The Old Gods of Westeros are similar to old Celtic pagan beliefs while the Faith of the Seven bears a striking resemblance to Christianity.
The religion of the Red God is a bit trickier than the other two. On one hand their fascination with fire and belief in a single divine being bears a striking resemblance to Zoroastrianism, which is one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions.
The Zoroastrians believe in the existence of a single god named Ahura Mazda, who is the sole creator of the world and the representation of all that is good. It’s also worth mentioning that fire plays in important role in worship.
The thing is that while the faith of the Red God in Game of Thrones borrows things like monotheism and the fascination with fire from the Zoroastrians it’s place in the history of Game of Thrones and its rapid spread throughout Essos shares similarities with a more modern religion: Islam.
The first and biggest similarity between the two is doctrinal. When Islam rose to prominence around 600 A.D it firmly believed that there was one God and one God only. This was expressed in a Muslim belief known as Tawheed which confirmed that God ruled alone and was absolute.
This put Islam at odds with Christianity’s view of the Trinity, which stipulated that there was “One God in three parts”. This bears a striking resemblance within the Game of Thrones universe to the Red God’s singular rule vs. the Faith of the Seven “one being divided into seven aspects”.
But doctrine isn’t the only thing that makes the faith of the Red God similar to Islam, it the religion’s place in history as well.
The Red God is something of a late comer to the religious scene and Islam was as well. By the time the Prophet Mohammad received his visions from God, Christianity had been around in the ancient world for over 600 years. Just like the Red Priests the prophet Mohammad and his followers spread the word of their visions throughout the Eastern Mediterranean through preaching,
and engaging in political intrigue by converting kings and nobles.
Just like the Red Priests Islam followed a similar pattern by becoming very popular in the East, while experiencing resistance and outright hostility in the West.
It should be noted that in the show the Red Priests haven’t reached the point of controlling an empire of believers like the early Muslims did.
But I’m sure that if the faith of R’hllor is given enough time they will eventually reach a point where they become one of the most powerful religions in Westeros.