The Secret Lives of Villains #293

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Comic book showcase: Black Lightning

So I just watched the season premiere of CW’s Black Lightning yesterday.

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It’s pretty good.  The effects were great, the character dynamics were well thought out and have a lot of potential, and it pulls absolutely no punches when it comes to dealing with the…well let’s be polite and say “strained” relationship between black Americans and the police.

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By all accounts the CW has another hit on their hands and it looks like Black Lightning is here to stay, so let’s look at his origins and see what’s changed and if the show can learn anything from the comics.

Origin and Career

Black Lightning was created in 1977, a few decades after the Golden Age of Comics and the favorite time period of this blog.  This is going to require a little explanation.

It’s widely believed that the Golden Age of Comics ended in 1956 with the publication of Showcase #4 and the introduction of Barry Allen as the Flash.

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This brought along the Silver Age of Comics, a time period that was known for comics that focused on a more sci fi and technological oriented appeal.

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Magic had been replaced by space science and monsters had been replaced by aliens.

This was also the time when Marvel Comics came into the world as the comic book company we all know and love today.  A little known creator named Stan Lee decided to create a super hero family that traveled across time and space to defeat strange and fantastic threats.

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It did pretty well and helped kick off the Marvel Universe that we all know and love today.

However, by the 1970’s things were changing again, and comics were moving out of the high concept science fantasy of the Silver Age.  Times were changing.  There were protests,

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racial violence,

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and there was a general sense of doom and gloom.

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Yes, the 1970’s were a unique and special time that we will never have to live through again.

The great thing about these changing times was that in the comic book industry restrictions on what comic books could be talk about were becoming looser and looser, and in 1970 we entered a time that comic book historians called “The Bronze Age of Comics”.

This was a time where comic books got darker and edgier, talking about issues like drugs,

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not shying away from violence,

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and launching an explosion of black superheroes.  Luke Cage is probably the most famous and successful of these heroes.

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Anyway, DC had a problem in the 1970’s, Marvel was growing too fast and taking away a huge portion of their business.  So DC decided to try and beat Marvel by flooding the market with a slew of new titles.  One of these titles was going to be DC’s first black superhero and they eventually decided to publish….the Black Bomber.

The Black Bomber was supposed to be a white bigot who hated black people, but thanks to an accident he gained the ability to turn into a black superhero when under duress.

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This is the only picture I could find of him.  The only other reference he got in a comic book was a small reference in a Justice League of America comic written by Dwayne McDuffie.

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Yeah, this was probably not a good idea.

So what convinced the editors at DC to change their mind?  Why one of the writers of Luke Cage of course!

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The guy on the right is Tony Isabella, one of the early writers of Luke Cage.  DC had hired Tony to create their first black superhero and in 1977 he partnered with artist Trevor Von Eden,

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to create Black Lightning.

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Black Lightning’s real name is Jefferson Pierce.  He actually grew up in the poorest part of Metropolis known as Suicide Slum.  After becoming a highly successful athlete an scholar he returned home and he used a newly created power belt that helped him shoot bolts of electricity to clean up the streets of drug dealers and gang members.

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Where was Superman in all of this?  Probably saving Earth from aliens but whatever.

Black Lightning did initially play up a lot of stereotypes that were prevalent among the black community in the 1970’s.  His costume and accent were over the top and almost comical but his intentions were good and he proved himself to be a respectable hero in his own right, gaining the trust of Superman and several other figures in the city in his battle against the gang that had made Suicide Slum their home, a group called The 100 and led by a large man known as Tobias Whale.

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Aside from changing the location, the show appears to be pretty loyal to the comics.  Granted, in his early appearances Black Lightning isn’t married and doesn’t have kids, but that would come later.

So what happened?

Unfortunately the individual series for the character only lasted 11 issues.  While DC had high hopes in regaining its market share by flooding the market with new comics, it didn’t work out so well due to rising printing costs, the 1977 blizzard, and an awful economic recession.  A year later the company cancelled 40% of its titles in an event known as the “DC Implosion”.

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Black Lightning survived, although he would only show up in other books for the next couple of years.  In 1983, he joined a group called the Outsiders, a group of superheroes led by Batman and featured mostly new characters like Katana and Geo-Force.

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So yes, the idea that Batman is everything is nothing new.

In 1989 it was revealed that his powers weren’t the result of his power belt, but they were actually derived from a genetic abnormality known as the “Metagene”, a plot point that has been used throughout the DC universe as the source of power for a large number of their heroes.

DC’s first black superhero would get another crack at a solo series in 1995, and they even brought back Tony Isabella to do the writing.

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Unfortunately, history has a nasty way of repeating itself and the series was cancelled after 13 issues.

Black Lightning has continued to exist in the DC universe as a hero making appearances in other books.  At one point, Lex Luthor actually made him Secretary of Education when he was elected President of the United States.

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But let’s not delve too much into the fact that a comic book company had a corrupt businessman elected to the Presidency, that’s just too unrealistic.

He would also get a family and two children to look after.  Their names were Anissa and Jennifer Pierce and they have been a staple of Black Lightning’s identity ever since.

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Even though he’s never had much of a solo career, Black Lightning is a capable and talented hero with a great backstory and plenty of potential.

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He is a teacher, a mentor, and a very capable role model for everyone in the DC universe but most importantly of all…he has the respect and attention of Batman.

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I think this CW show is going to be awesome.

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Crowdfunded Comics that deserve more attention: Girl’s Heist Out

So I was puttering around on Kickstarter and I found this:

Alright…tell me more.

Today’s Kickstarter highlight is for a four part comic book mini series called “Girls Heist Out”.  According to the description the girl who is swan diving off the balcony is named Julia who has just been set up by her boyfriend (although I would assume ex boyfriend at this point) and has to make a quick escape.  The series follows Julia as she recruits three other women to take revenge on her boyfriend and steal his stuff away from him.

"Trust is easy to lose, hard to win, but always, always valuable."                "Think retweeting their account info will be distracting enough?"               "You're about to learn the difference between being beaten by a girl and being beaten. By a girl."

I would talk more about the comic if the description wasn’t so frustratingly vague (am I going to have to donate to this campaign?  Because I think I’m going to have to donate in order to learn what happens next.)

Kickstarter campaign link:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/327614846/girls-heist-out?ref=category_newest

Why I like it

This is one of my favorite movies.

I like it because it’s well written, well paced, well directed, and the actors have some of the best chemistry I’ve ever seen.  It’s a bunch of whip smart guys coming together to solve a problem in a whip smart way that results in the main characters winning, the bad guys losing, and nobody getting hurt.

You know what else I’ve been doing recently?  Reading Robert Kirkman’s Thief of Thieves.

Not as whip smart or as funny as Ocean’s Eleven but it is still an amazing book and does a fantastic job of bringing the reader into the life of a group of people who make a living stealing things.

While I don’t know much about Girl’s Heist Out everything I’ve seen reminds me of these two stories and that is some of the highest praise I can give.

Why you should donate

I could go on about how comic books could use more stories centered around women, I could go on about how the crime genre is one of the best kinds of stories for comic books, and I could go on about how it’s important for the health of the comic book medium to support indie creators and branch out into new and exciting stories but I’m not going to.

I’m not going to do that because better writers than me have done that already and I don’t think  the discussion needs another voice added to the mix.  What I am going to do is leave you with a screenshot of a tweet from John Rogers, creator of the tv show Leverage.

John Rogers, creator of Leverage, speaks the truth.

My thoughts exactly.

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/327614846/girls-heist-out?ref=category_newest

The Primordial Soup: The most interesting sci fi show you’ve probably never heard of

Here at Cambrian Comics we talk about many things from comics, to Game of Thrones, to tech, to Game of Thrones, to superheroes, and Game of Thrones (okay so mostly Game of Thrones but hey, there’s a lot to talk about with that show).  Today I’m going to talk about one of my favorite sci fi television shows out there and one of the most radically different and interesting ideas in science fiction: Farscape.

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While most of the sci fi television landscape is dominated by joint Canadian and American shows for tax reasons (and the same reason why almost every single planet in these shows looks like the same patch of British Colombian forest) Farscape was a joint American and Australian show that ran for four season from 1999-2003.  The show was written and run by the future creator of the current Sci Fi channel show DEFIANCE Rocke S. O’Bannon and has developed something of a cult following over the past decade.

The show begins with the series protagonist and audience surrogate John Crichton, played by science fiction television stalwart Ben Browder

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being flung into a distant part of the universe via wormhole.  After being dropped in the middle of a alien spaceship dogfight he finds himself aboard a living ship that was transporting a group of prisoners which include a Luxon warrior named Dargo.

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A renegade priestess, who is also a living plant, named Zhaan.

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A small, fat slug like creature named Rygel who needs a hover chair to get around and was once the ruler of over 600 billion people.

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And one of their former jailers.  A mysteriously humanoid soldier from a race of menacing soldiers called Peackeepers (because with a name like that what else could you be other than a militaristic warrior society dedicated to using violence in the name of order?) named Aeryn Sun.

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And the ship itself, a biological organism known as Moya who is controlled by her Pilot, a creature grafted into Moya’s systems in order to help her function and navigate the stars.

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And that’s the main cast.  There were several other characters that joined the crew as some of the original cast left but the show followed the ship and its crew as they wandered the galaxy and searched for a way home all while dodging Peacekeepers and trying to stay out of trouble.

This is my favorite show for two reasons.  First, you may notice that Pilot and Rygel look like they’re puppets.  That’s because they are.  Farscape was produced by Hallmark and Jim Henson Productions, the same guys who helped bring the Muppets to life.  As a result all of the prosthetic body work and puppetry was done by a company that knew what they were doing and really cared about their work.  This resulted in creatures like this.

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and this

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and this

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Sure some of the designs looked freaking and were occasionally clunky but in an age where real visual effects were becoming a rarity (this was the early 2000’s, CGI was king) this level of creativity and dedication deserves a lot of respect.

The second thing I love about this show is the sheer imagination it had.  Instead of having everyone speak the universal language of English and just have the audience accept it, Farscape said “no, we’re going to have each of the characters injected with translator microbes and give a plausible explanation as to why everyone speaks English”.  They were also the first show in my memory to not only treat the concept of a “living ship” as a gimmick but as a fully developed character as well.

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Over the course of the show Moya displays signs of love, loss, anger, and even depression and if she’s upset you can bet the crew will feel it.  They even wrote a plot line where Moya gives birth to a baby (it turns out to be a berserk hybrid warship baby but to go on would spoil a huge part of the story).

Oh, and for any fans of the new Battlestar Galactica series, you know how they replace the word “fuck” with “frack” in order to circumvent censors?  Guess who did that first?

Bear in mind I’m just scratching the surface of what Farscape did, I didn’t even get to the interdimentional vampires or the time Crichton got turned into a statue because he was a genetic match for an alien princess, but you get the idea.  That being said the show was not without its problems.  The show was so full of creative ideas and creatures that it tended to wander about, what was originally a group of fugitives trying to get home turned into an inter galactic manhunt for something in Crichton’s head that would help the Peacekeepers win a massive war and it just got silly after a while.  Also some of the dialogue is incredibly campy and weird but it was the early 2000’s where that sort of thing was understandable.

Still, the show’s faults and foibles were few in comparison to it’s many strengths.  Farscape is an awesome show that deserves a look if you have chance.  It’s on Netfilx instant if that’s your thing and there is talk of a movie coming in the not too distant future.  Whether you’re a fan or not we can all appreciate the genius and imagination the show brought to television.

History and Legends of Game of Thrones: The Century of Blood

After the Doom, a huge cataclysmic event that destroyed the Valyrian peninsula and the seat of Valyrian power, everything started to go to hell in a hand basket.

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With the center of their empire destroyed all the little city states and lords with half a brain realized that they no longer had to fear a legion of dragons descending from on high to wipe them out if they stepped out of line and promptly revolted.  There were three major events during the Century of Blood that would shape the history of the Westeros and Essos for ever.

The first of these big events was the attempted reconquest of the Valyrian Empire by the city of Volantis.  Volantis was the single largest Valyrian city that survived the Doom and realized that it was in a position to reconquer and preserve the Valyrian Freehold.  As a result, they promptly invaded and re conquered the cities of Myr and Lys.  However, their attempts to conquer the remaining cities who had declared their independence: Pentos, Norvos, Quohor, Tyrosh, and Lorath met with failure and eventual military defeat partly due to the aid of the mysterious “secret city” of Braavos and the refusal of the last remaining Dragonlords to help Volantis re establish control: the Targaryens of Dragonstone.

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While all this was going on in the former empire the Targaryens were busy plotting their own moves on Dragonstone.  Aegon did not want to re establish the Valyrian Empire, instead he looked west and saw a massive land filled with rival kings and ruler ripe for the taking.  Westeros was currently undergoing two huge invasions: the Ironborn from the north and what would become the Dornish from the south.

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We’ve already talked about the Ironborn and their empire but it’s worth mentioning Dorne.  They currently live in the southern most part of Westeros and are not native to the island.  They were actually from Essos and came to Westeros as refugees from the rule of the Valyrians.  We’ll talk about them later but for now there is one more important event we need to talk about, one that shook the entire known world to its core and still makes the cities of Essos and Westeros shake in terror: the Dothraki.

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The Dothraki were nomadic horsemen from the large steppes of central Essos known as the Dothraki Sea.

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We’ll cover aspects of Dothraki culture and their historical counterparts next time because it really deserves a post of its own but for now all you need to understand is the impact they had on Essos.  The Dothraki came charging out of the steppes like wildfire and with no central power to keep them in check they ran rampant, killing and burning everything in their path.

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Only two cities were able to withstand their rampage.  Mureen was able to buy them off with gold while Qohor was able to finally halt the advances of the horde by beating them in a pitched battle thanks to a contingent of Unsullied warrior eunuchs.  Despite the Century of Blood living up to its name the cities and culture of Essos remained and even began to prosper.  While the Valyrians had fallen it was replaced by a patchwork of old tradition and new cultures, ready to welcome the rise of Westeros with everything from goods to soldiers.

As stated in the previous article the Doom of Valyria mirrors the fall of the Roman Empire in our history.  While there was no cataclysmic event that shattered the Romans all at once there were several smaller events that led to the collapse of half the Empire and the sack of Rome itself.

While theories about the fall of Rome abound from the the struggling economy to the decline of moral principles, one of the most popular and dramatic explanations was the hostile takeover of Rome by barbarian hordes. See, the Empire had been suffering almost constant civil war, plague, and barbarian raids starting in 235 A.D and ending around 285 A.D, a time known as the Crisis of the Third Century.  By its end the Empire was teetering on the brink of collapse when the emperor Diocletian decided to split the Empire into the East and West Roman Empires.

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It worked for a while with Rome continuing to exist and the new Eastern Roman Empire flourishing from its new capital of Constantinople.  However, while the East prospered the West faced a new set of challenges when a large number of Germanic tribes began to move into Roman territory and set of a new set of wars.

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These new tribes like Ostrogoths, Visigoths, and Vandals were fleeing a greater threat, one of the many historical equivalents to the Dothraki, the Huns.

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We’ll talk more about the Huns and their descendants later but for now all we need to know is that they fought from horseback, came from the steppes of Central Eurasia, and were reknown for their ferocity in battle.  Once the Germanic tribes were clear of the Huns by entering Roman territory they struck a deal with Rome.  In exchange for allowing to live on Roman land the Germanic tribes would help protect the empire from the Huns.  Sadly, it didn’t work out for long and in 476 A.D an Ostrogoth leader named Odoacer (who had adopted Roman customs and rules but was still culturally Germanic) sacked Rome in order to pay his soldiers and by default became King of Italy.  For all intensive purposes, Rome had fallen.

The reaction to the sacking of Rome mirrors the ending of the Century of Blood in the Game of Thrones universe both in the reactions it fostered and effect it would have on the former empire.  After the hostile takeover by the barbarian hordes Italy was no longer unified.  Instead it was carved into various small kingdoms ruled by different ethnic groups that would eventually looked like this.

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How each of those states sprung into existence is for another time but it mirrors the formation of the Free Cities in Essos.

As for the attempted re establishment of the Valaryian Freehold by Volantis that shares similarities with the Eastern Roman Empire.  Despite the fact that Rome had fallen in 476 the Eastern Roman Empire in Constantinople was thriving.  Under the rule of the emperor Justinian.

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The Byzantines invaded and retook most of Italy, and while he was initially successful his reconquest stretched Byzantine resources too far and left them vulnerable to revolt and even more foreign invasions.  The Roman Empire was done with for good this time and would never rise again.  Europe was fractured into hundreds of petty kingdoms all fighting with each other.  Now all the players and pieces are in place for the events of Game of Thrones and the Medieval Ages.

History and Legends of Game of Thrones: Aegon the Conqueror

Welcome to the post in this blog that is about one specific person.  The one man who united all of Westeros under his sole rule and shaped the modern day events of the book and show more than any one individual: Aegon I Targaryen more commonly known as Aegon the Conqueror.

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Aegon was not a native of Westeros and did not claim to be a descendant of any ethnic group that made up the population of Westeros.  He was from the neighboring continent of Essos and, unlike the Andals, he claimed to be one of the last surviving members of one of the continent’s last great superpowers, The Freehold of Valyria.  We’ll talk about Valyria and Essos later but for now all we have to know is that Aegon saw that his homeland was dying and there was a large continent to the west that was divided among seven squabbling kingdoms and was ripe for conquering.  With his two sister wives, Visenya and Rhaynes, Aegon looked west and headed towards Westeros.

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After successfully sailing his army across the sea and making landfall at the spot that would eventually become the city of King’s Landing (the people of Westeros are many things but creative naming is not one of their forte) Aegon would set about the daunting task of subjugating and ruling the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.  It would not be easy.  Even though the Seven Kingdoms were not united and were fighting among each other they still possessed armies and resources that were vastly superior to his own and Aegon was a foreign king in a strange land who didn’t even speak the language of the people.  However, he did have one distinct advantage over everyone else, one that would prove to be so successful and complete that it allowed him to conquer a continent and establish a legacy that would last for thousands of years: dragons.

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After the Viking invasion of Britain, and their eventual assimilation into British culture, the cultural hodgepodge that was the British Islands would experience one final invasion that would forever change their culture and way of life: the invasion of William the Conqueror.

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Now, while there are several parallels between Aegon and William there are several key differences.  First and foremost, Aegon was Valyrian, a group of people who were ethnically and culturally different from the people of Westeros while William was the Duke of Normandy, a kingdom in Northern France that was founded by Viking settlers at the point of a spear.  Fun fact: the name “Normandy” literally means “land of the Northmen”

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Also, William had loose familial ties to the kings of England, and in fact the reason he invaded was over a dispute over who should hold the title of King of England while Aegon was completely separated from the culture and ruling class of Westeros.  He was a foreign invader in every sense of the word.

That being said, there are still many similarities between the two.  For example, while the Norman invaders of England did share the same ethnic background they had spent enough time apart to develop their own distinct culture and language.  The Normans spoke an early version of French and had developed many ideas that we would later associate with the Medieval Ages.  Ideas like chivalry, reverence for the sword as the weapon of choice, and the use of plate and mail armor.  However, the biggest similarity is that both Aegon and William had a secret weapon up their sleeve.  A weapon that would allow a comparatively small fighting force to conquer a large collection of many different kingdoms under their rule.  While Aegon had his dragons William brought a new style of fighting from his home that would prove very effective: armored cavalry.

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We’ll talk about how both rulers would use their innovations on Wednesday.

History and Legends of Game of Thrones: The Andals

So after the First Men and the Children of the Forest fought, made peace, and beat back an invasion of evil undead winter themed zombies which we won’t talk about here because they are pure fantasy and have no real historical counterpart, peace reigned in Westeros for a while barring a few small land disputes and the odd local war.  All of that would be changed again with the arrival of another new ethnic group coming from Essos across the sea: the Andals.

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The Andals came to Westeros roughly 6,000 years before the events of the book and they are the group who has the biggest influence over Westeros politics and culture.  Their two biggest contributions to the land where the use of iron tools and weapons and a new religion: the Faith of the Seven.  The Faith of the Seven or the “New Gods” is interesting in one aspect that it’s not really worshiping seven separate gods but rather one God divided into seven parts or aspects: the Father, the Mother, the Warrior, the Maiden, the Smith, the Crone, and the ever popular Stranger.

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To talk about the Seven in further detail would take more up more time then we have but for now all we need to understand is that the Andal occupation of Westeros was incredibly successful and the end result were the seven kingdoms of Westeros: Dorne, the Reach, the Stormlands, the Rock, the Vale, the Riverlands, and the North.  It is Andal language, ideology, and armed knights that dominate Westeros in the books, although it should be noted that most of the ruling class considers themselves to be mostly Andals, especially the ruling families of the Vale and the Lannisters, the Andals also did quite a bit of intermingling with the First Men and to this day a lot of common folk consider themselves to be a mix of both with the North claiming almost no influence by the Andals at all.

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Culturally the Andals are a mix of several important ethnic and cultural groups that played an important role in Britain.  However, if we look at them within the context of history there are two very distinct ethnic groups the Andals share similarities with: the Angles and the Saxons.

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After the Celts arrived in Britain the island was relatively peaceful.  Then the Roman Empire came marching in and Britain remained under Roman rule for the better part of 400 years.  The Romans don’t play very much into the Game of Thrones mythology although there was one very important structure they created that has a huge impact in the books (the image presented is a hint for later)

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Around 400 A.D the Romans left Britain and it was thrown wide open to marauding Germanic tribes, two of biggest were the Angles and the Saxons.  Both these tribes fought and conquered the Celtic inhabitants, although they had difficulty conquering what is now known as Scotland, Wales, and Cornwall.

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The map above shows the Celtic territory in green with the Saxon held kingdoms all named.  As you can see there are seven of them.  It is also important to consider that there was quite a bit of intermingling between the Saxons and the Celts, especially in the lower classes since Britain was a big place and it was easier to simply assimilate into the culture than try to replace it.  Finally, there is also the name.  Andal could be seen as a combination of Angle and Vandal (another group of barbarians who sacked Rome further to  the south) so the similarities are almost uncanny.

There is another similarity between the Saxons and the Andals: religion.  The Andals were responsible for bringing the dominant religion of the Seven to Westeros and the Saxons were responsible for bringing Christianity to Britain.  We’re going to run an article on religion in Game of Thrones next week but for now all we need to understand is that the Saxons were eventually converted to Christianity after meeting missionaries from the Roman Catholic Church.

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So we have the third and biggest mass migration to Westeros/Britain.  The Andals/Saxons were effective conquerors and were able to assimilate the First Men/Celts into their way of life so effectively that they became the dominant culture of their new home.

Further Reading:

Simon Schama’s History of Britain is a very good book for looking into the Saxons within a wider context while The Anglo Saxons by James Campbell, Eric John, and Patrick Wormald is a great insight into the history and culture of the Saxons specifically.

 

The history and myths behind Game of Thrones: The Children of the Forest

Due to the non profit educational value of the material presented in this post all images and sources are used under Fair Use of the Copyright Act of 1976.  All images and sources used belong to their respective owners.  This blog post is presented without spoilers to the television show or the books.  Please read at your leisure.

Welcome to our first post about the history and mythology behind Game of Thrones.  In honor of beginning this epic odyssey we are going to start from the group of people who occupy the continent of Westeros at the very beginning: the Children of the Forest.

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In the books George Martin describes the Children as the original residents of Westeros before the continent was settled by mankind and roughly 12,000 years before the events of the show (don’t worry we’re only going to discuss things that have no relation to the plot, I said this is spoiler free and I meant it).  Not a lot is known about the Children because they left no ruins and had no written language to leave records behind.   They preferred to live off the land, foraging for berries and roots, and wearing clothing made from bark and leaves.  There are two more details about the Children that will be important for our discussion.  First, they worshiped the Old Gods of Westeros (we’ll get to them later) by carving faces into trees and second, they had very powerful magicians called Greenseers that used magic that drew its power from nature to create spells that could allow its user to talk to animals or control the elements.

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The three known facts about the Children of the Forest: their lack of evidence about their existence, their worship of trees and naturalistic spirits, and the fact they utilized powerful magic rooted in nature would lead us to believe that the Children of the Forest were heavily rooted in Celtic mythology.

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Now the Celts are a group of people we will be talking about later but for now all we need to know is that they were one of the first people to inhabit Britain and it is widely believed they were animists and spiritualists.  They believed that the world around them was part of the divine, that their gods and goddesses lived in and influenced the world around them.  One of the most important aspects of Celtic religion was the worship of trees (again, we’ll get to that later) but another important aspect of their culture was the belief in fairy folk.

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Now, there is more to the Fairy folk then wings and pointy ears, a lot of tropes we associate with elves in modern fantasy comes from fairy lore and there are so many different types and so many different interpretations between different cultures that could fill several books, but almost every interpretation can agree on a couple of things that solidify the similarities between faeries and the Children of the Forest.  First, the Fairy Folk were smaller than humans.  Second, they used powerful magic that was tied to nature and the world around them (woe betide a farmer who angered even the smallest fairy, for his milk would go bad and his crops would fail) and it is widely believed that they once shared the world with mankind but were slowly driven extinct or forced into hiding, a topic that leads nicely into our next article: the arrival of the First Men and their war with the Children of the Forest.

Further reading:

If you would like to learn more about the Children of the Forest and how they relate to the Game of Thrones books and show there is a very good wiki about the novels which you can find here

If you would like to know more about Celtic mythology and the Fairy Folk there are countless books on the subject.  Here are a few to get you started.

If you’re looking for a more academic view on Celtic mythology then Celtic Myths and Legends by Peter Berresford Ellis is pretty good and so is Celtic Gods and Heroes by Marie-Louise Sjoestedt.

If you want more of an entertaining fictionalized look at Celtic mythology then I suggest the works of Stephen Grundy, Juliet Marillier, and Morgan Llywelyn.

The history and myths behind Game of Thrones: Introduction

Before we begin it should be noted that this article, and every article concerning Game of Thrones that runs on this website, is intended to fulfill a non profit educational purpose and therefore claims protection under the Copyright Act of 1976.  All images are not owned by Cambrian Comics and belong to their respective owners.  Should anyone viewing these articles see something they view as incorrect (and if you should be reading this George Martin, hello, huge fan of your work) please direct you complaints to corrections@cambriancomics.com.  Thank you

So this little show is starting its fifth season today.

  GOT

As you might imagine we here at Cambrian Comics are huge fans and are very excited for the show to start again.  It’s pretty obvious that Game of Thrones is kind of a big deal and that it has created a legacy that will change the landscape of television and the fantasy genre for a long time.  But what exactly makes this show so popular?  What makes it so appealing that millions of people tune in every week to watch this epic tale of kings and dragons?  Well, over the next couple of weeks we are going to attempt to answer this questions and look at the legends and stories behind the show and who knows, maybe at the very end we’ll all have learned something.

In order to try to figure out what makes Game of Thrones so great we have to go back to its source material and in order to do that we have to go back to the beginning of the modern fantasy genre, which starts with this man.

JRRTolkien-Writing

This is J.R.R Tolkien, a professor of languages at Merton College and a titan of the fantasy genre.  It’s fair to say that his contributions to fantasy have had some of the most substantial and longest lasting effects on the genre and it wouldn’t be where it is today without him.  Seriously, when was the last time you read a fantasy book from 1954 to 2000 that DIDN’T include elves, dwarfs, orcs, the rise of man, and some great implacable evil that had to be stopped for some vague yet definitive reason or at the very least paid homage to it?  What Tolkien did was special, creating an entire set story tropes that influenced a generation and Game of Thrones took all that and threw it out the window.  George R.R Martin is the anti-Tolkien and we are going to find out why.

In order to figure out what makes George R.R Martin’s work so different form Tolkien’s we have to go back to the source material for each of these epics.  Tolkien was a professor of Anglo Saxon and English literature and spent a lot of time studying and translating the epic Old English poem Beowulf which meant he was surrounded by images like this.

beowolf

 You can see all of these influences in Tolkien’s work.  and there are other similarities as well: Norse and Anglo Saxon mythology also feature such fantasy stalwarts as elves and dwarfs quite heavily and the final climactic battle of the Lord of Rings can draw several parallels to Ragnarok, the world changing confrontation between good and evil in Norse mythology.

If The Lord of the Rings is special because it created the standard from which most fantasy is based off of then Game of Thrones is special because it destroys most of these conventions and helps create a new standard.  What George R.R Martin did was nothing short of revolutionary.  Instead of basing his epic around mythology Martin bases his work around history.

Again you can see the influences throughout the books and television show.  Take one look at a map of Westeros and tell me it doesn’t look a bit familiar.  Here, I’ll help.map-of-westeros-1351122403britain

If you compare a map of Westeros to a map of modern day Britain you have to admit they look a bit similar, and that is what makes Game of Thrones so great.  So much of what George Martin puts in the history and lore of Westeros is taken from Early and Medieval British history and we are going to break it down bit by bit.

Starting tomorrow we will take one aspect from the extensive pre-history of the books and compare it to its real world historical equivalent. It will be a long, bloody, and enlightening journey filled with legend, invasion, blood, warfare, politics, and excitement because sometimes actual history can be just as exciting as the stories it inspires.  We hope you enjoy this series and that it is as exciting and interesting to you as it is to us.