Every week I do a column full of comic book reviews as I've done since March 2003 and currently published at Comic Book Resources. Then, after the reviews post, I try to come over to Komplicated and expand on the thoughts and ideas listed there. Why talk about stuff at some other site? Oh, like you've never done any private projects when you're at work! Sometimes things get profound, sometimes it's gibberish, but it's always about comics … let's see what we get this week!
What? This week's reviews …
THE POWER OF MYTH: This week's Journey Into Mystery was very effective in retconning in Odin's eldest brother Cur as the Serpent of Norse myth, a smart remix of ideas we'd all seen before, and one that leaves more questions as well. What happened to Odin's other siblings? A quick Google search will tell you that Vili and Vi are probably creations of the Mouse House of Ideas, so maybe there's a crossover hiding in them somewhere. Hard to tell. Sure they "died" to save Odin from Surtur, but Odin's been dead twice in my memory alone, and he's fine.
In any case, I started to think about the cultural significance of Norse and Greek "myth" (and I use the term loosely, as once it was a wholly accepted belief system practiced by considerable swaths of the world's population, but here I need to use it specifically for reasons that hopefully will become apparent). I am discounting Roman myth, because it's just Greek myth with a new paint job. Anyhoo, when Stan Lee was building his Marvel Universe, he leaned heavily on the legends of the Aesir and of Mount Olympus as creative grist, reinforcing their status in western minds. Backed up by philosphy teaching that all roads led to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, supported by the reverent tones reserved for the Olympics, "ancient" Greece (you'll see why I did it that way in a moment) takes on a place of literally "mythic" in the path of this definition: "A popular belief or story that has become associated with a person, institution, or occurrence, especially one considered to illustrate a cultural ideal." Stan played along with the band, singing his solo and helping reinforce the idea of these stories, these "gods," these "myths" being relevant to this culture.
In my personal life, I practice a form of spirituality based on what was done in the land now called Egypt literally scores of centuries before there was an "ancient Greece." My wife practices a west African form of spirituality that likewise has seniority over the entirety of western culture. To us, Thor is just Shango with worse impulse control, Zeus is a cranky attempt at the energy most people now call Osiris. The idea of these "latter day saints" as important is quaint and amusing to me. However, you won't see Shango's hammer inspire the same kind of reverence as Mjolnir (which I can spell perfectly but cannot pronounce), you won't see the hook and flail get the reverence of thunderbolts or ravens named Munin and Hugin. Why? Marketing. The difference between an active religion and "myth" is numbers, but the difference between a myth that underpines a culture and ones that are marginalized (along with their adherents) is marketing. Getting the message out matters.
My path's "god" of opposition (we don't so much use that specific term, "god," although it applies) has been cast as Seth in Marvel, a punching bag for Thor, and recently Bast (who's the goddess of creativity in my teachings) has been revealed as the Panther God of Wakanda (which is a lot safer than, say, Sekhmet). That's cute. Joe Quesada created The Santerians and I vaguely remember some African influences in DC's War of the Gods. Please don't get me started on Earth Force (sure, an African god would go recruit white Americans as his champions, why not?) and Moon Knight (a descendent of the Hyksos again claiming an Egyptian heritage) and a number of other embarrassing insults to my tradition.
Peripheral. Easily forgotten. At least Black Adam is closer to being African now.
Thor and Hercules are two of my favorite characters in comics, but I can also admit that they help foster European patriarchal concepts to the exclusion of everybody else. I'd like to see more stories like Drums and their ilk, looking at "myths" outside the "mainstream" and expanding the vocabulary of characters. Even when Neil Gaiman made Anansi a central character in American Gods, Zeus still had to horn in (spoiler?). It takes someone who has the skill as a writer and the experience with the "characters" to do it right.
BLOOD STAINED SMILE: "He's still smiling."
That line made it hard for me to get deeper into the latest issue of Daredevil, which was pretty good in many ways. However, Matt Murdock left a trail of bodies throughout Hell's Kitchen (under the influence of other powers or not) and the symbol of his crime, the Shadowland spire, still stands, inhabited by one of his worst enemies while he smirks his way through legal consulting and acrobatic vigilantism. That's ridiculous.
Matt Murdock has escaped the justice he so seeks for other people. He should have the Geronimo Pratt cell. His continued freedom is a prickly moral slope to satisfy the marketers and merchandising division, like he was a blind, superpowered Lindsay Lohan. This is a thorn in my side every time I see him, and his smile still shows blood between his teeth..
THAT'S THE NEWS, AND I AM OUTTA HERE: Couldn't get this done yesterday, sorry. Que sera something!
Playing (Music): "The World (Is Going Up In Flames)" by Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band
[Source: Comic Book Resources]