Tag Archives: black magic

Rockstars: Issue #01

rockstars_01

When I first heard about this new graphic series, I was immediately intrigued. A series about rock and roll excess, occult, and urban legend drawing inspiration from bands in the 1970’s seemed right up my alley. I added it to my pull list at my local comic store and patiently waited. This week, I finally got the first issue and it is everything I expected.

The tale is basically about two young people—a rock conspiracy theorist and a music journalist—who meet while looking into the mysterious deaths of young women, which they believe to be connected to black magic rites orchestrated by a mysterious rock guitarist.  The opening lines sucked me right in to the story.

Rock ‘n’ roll has always had its secrets. From backwards messages on classic albums, woven references to drugs and madness, or homages to fallen legends and lost friends. Hidden declarations of sympathy for the devil are as stock and trade as anthem calls to both the faithful and the damned.

Author Joe Harris credits the book Hammer of the Gods as an inspiration. I remember reading this book in my younger days and the glimpse it provided into the dark and mysterious world of rock and roll. I would never listen to a Led Zeppelin song the same way afterwards.

Already, this series makes references to some of the great rock myths: the infamous mudshark, the synching of “Dark Side of the Moon” to “The Wizard of Oz,” Jimmy Page’s obsession with all things Crowley, just to name a few. If you were a rock music fan in the late 70’s and early 80’s, you will undoubtedly catch and appreciate these references and how they are masterfully strung together with artwork that evokes the essence of that era.

I highly recommend this and eagerly await the next installment.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature

Doctor Strange: Mystic Apprentice #1

doctorstrange_mysticapprentice_1

“Once you give up trying to understand, you can start becoming comfortable with not knowing. And then your mind will be open to greater possibilities.”

Last night I went to see the new Doctor Strange film, which I highly recommend. Not surprisingly, I was inspired to read this new issue I picked up. The story ties in well with the film, exploring some of the challenges Stephen faced while attempting to master astral projection. But what makes this issue really special is the inclusion of two original installments from Stan Lee and Steve Ditko: “The Origin of Doctor Strange” from Strange Tales #115 and “Doctor Strange Master of Black Magic!” from Strange Tales #110. These reprints are beautifully rendered and provide an insight into the artistic beginnings of this enduring and inspiring body of work.

I’m glad to see a renewed interest in Doctor Strange. Please comment and let me know if you are an old or new Doctor Strange fan, if you have seen the movie yet, and if you think it lives up to the graphic tales.

4 Comments

Filed under Literature

“Odyssey” by Homer: Book X – The Grace of the Witch

CirceAndSwine

In this book, Odysseus continues his tale of his journey. He actually covers three parts of his odyssey in this book. First, he describes his dealings with Aeolus, ruler of the winds. Aeolus gives him a bag of wind to aid in his voyage, but some of his greedy men think it has gold and open it, resulting in the boat being blown back to Aeolia. Next, Odysseus and his crew arrive at the land of the Laestrygonians, who are cannibalistic giants and devour a few of his men. Finally, they arrive at the island of Circe, who is depicted as a goddess but also a sorceress.

What I found the most fascinating about this book are the allusions to magic and ritual. Circe is obviously very skilled in the mystical arts and the imagery of her weaving “by that craft known to the goddesses of heaven” (Fitzgerald Translation: p. 171), her use of herbs and potions, and her wielding of a wand, all conjure some fantastic visions of the mystical woman.

The god Hermes offers to assist Odysseus in overcoming Circe’s spells. He provides Odysseus with instructions on how to use an amulet in conjunction with sex magic to protect himself from the sorceress.

But I can tell you what to do
to come unchanged from Kirke’s power (Note: alternate spelling in translation)
and disenthrall your fighting crew:
take with you to her bower
as amulet, this plant I know—
it will defeat her horrid show,
so pure and potent is the flower;
no mortal herb was ever so.

Your cup with numbing drops of night
and evil, stilled of all remorse,
she will infuse to charm your sight;
but this great herb with holy force
will keep your minds and senses clear:
when she turns cruel, coming near
with her long stick to whip you out of doors,
then let your cutting blade appear,

Let instant death upon it shine,
and she will cower and yield her bed—
a pleasure you must not decline,
so may her lust and fear bestead
you and your friends, and break her spell;
but make her swear by heaven and hell
no witches’ tricks, or else, your harness shed,
you’ll be unmanned by her as well.

(ibid: p. 174)

The plant that Hermes refers to appears to be mandrake, which according to myth will drive a human insane if pulled from the ground.

He bent down glittering for the magic plant
and pulled it up, black root and milky flower—
a molu in the language of the gods—
fatigue and pain for mortals to uproot;
but gods do this, and everything, with ease.

(ibid: p. 174)

Mandrake

Mandrake

Near the end of the book, Circe tells Odysseus that he must open a portal to the underworld, summon the spirit of the blind prophet Teiresias, and inquire about what he needs to do in order to return home. Circe provides instructions to Odysseus, and these instructions read like a dark magic ritual.

Here, toward the Sorrowing Water, run the streams
of Wailing, out of Styx, and quenchless burning—
torrents that join in thunder at the Rock.
Here then, great soldier, setting foot obey me:
dig a well shaft a forearm square; pour out
libations around it to the unnumbered dead:
sweet milk and honey, then sweet wine, and last
clear water, scattering handfuls of white barley.
Pray now, with all your heart, to the faint dead;
swear you will sacrifice your finest heifer,
at home in Ithaka, and burn for them
her tenderest parts in sacrifice; and vow
to the lord Teiresias, apart from all,
a black lamb, handsomest of all your flock—
thus to appease the nations of the dead.
Then slash a black ewe’s throat, and a black ram,
facing the gloom of Erebos; but turn
your head away toward Ocean. You shall see, now
souls of the buried dead in shadowy hosts,
and now you must call out to your companions
to flay those sheep the bronze knife has cut down,
for offerings, burnt flesh to those below,
to sovereign Death and pale Persephone.
Meanwhile draw sword from hip, crouch down, ward off
the surging phantoms from the bloody pit
until you know the presence of Teiresias.
He will come soon, great captain; be it he
who gives you course and distance for your sailing
homeward across the cold fish-breeding sea.

(ibid: p. 181)

I cannot help but wonder whether Homer was schooled in the magical arts. Regardless, this is a very interesting segment of the epic. I am eager to read about Odysseus’ encounter with the spirits. Check back soon for my thoughts on Book XI.

8 Comments

Filed under Literature

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Issue #1

Sabrina_01

I have been eager to begin reading this graphic tale ever since I read the Afterlife with Archie comics. It took some effort to acquire this first copy (it seems Sabrina is in high demand), but persistence paid off and I luckily came across a copy last week at a local shop.

As with the Afterlife series, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is dark, creepy, and reminiscent of horror from the 60s. Stylistically, the creative team draws on writers like Lovecraft, films like “Rosemary’s Baby,” and of course the classic horror comics of the era. All in all, the team has created something fresh and unique while tapping into familiar motifs that have become a part of the darker regions of our society’s collective consciousness.

This first issue traces Sabrina’s early years, from birth to her early teens. Sabrina is a “half-breed,” whose father (Edward Spellman) was a black magician and whose mother (Diana) was human. At age 1, Sabrina is taken from her mother and given to her two aunts to be raised as a witch. Diana resisted and Edward scrambled her memory, then had her committed to a mental institution where she was lobotomized. In a very eerie image, Edward is later depicted as trapped within a tree. It is not revealed why this happened or who was responsible, adding a level of mystery to the tale which works quite nicely.

I think the most impressive aspect of this comic is the wealth of references. The pages are strewn with allusions to occult figures, mythology, literature, and history. I had to look up a couple references with which I was unfamiliar, such as Ed Gein. I discovered that he was a most unsavory character who was a serial killer and body snatcher, exhuming corpses from graveyards and fashioning trophies out of bones and skin. He was supposedly the real-life inspiration for characters such as Norman Bates from Psycho, Leatherface from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs.

The issue leaves off with a very dark cliffhanger, where two foolish teenage girls have summoned a female demon from Gehenna. The imagery associated with this is nightmarish and the implications hinted at suggest that the upcoming installments will be nothing short of terrifying.

The bottom line is, I LOVE this comic and if you are a horror fan I strongly urge you to seek this out and read it. Issue #2 has not yet been released, but I have placed a request for my local comic dealer to hold a copy when it is finally published. One last thing, at the very end of this issue is a short comic strip from the original Sabrina which was published in October 1962. It serves as a nice contrast between the two comics, while at the same time giving a nod to the source of this amazing comic.

As always, feel free to share your thoughts and comments below. Cheers!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Afterlife with Archie: Issue #1

AfterlifeArchie_01

Yesterday I went with my daughter to the Halloween ComicFest at our local comic store. They advertised free comics and treats, so we couldn’t pass it up. We were each allowed to choose three free comics from a table of available issue. One of the ones I selected was this Afterlife with Archie comic. WHOA!! This is nothing like the Archie comics I remember from when I was a kid.

This is some pretty dark stuff. Basically, Reggie hit’s Jughead’s dog, Hot Dog, while driving and kills it. Jughead, in distress, takes Hot Dog to Sabrina and her aunts to see if they can use magick to bring the dog back. The aunts say that since the animal’s spirit has passed to the next realm, there is nothing that they can do. Sabrina decides to use the Necronomicon to bring Hot Dog back from the dead. But bringing back the dead has negative consequences and the story turns very dark and graphic.

I have to say that I have always viewed Archie as kind of fluffy, mainstream stuff. This is anything but. It draws on the horror genre from film, books, and comics. It also makes references to the darker occult practices and beliefs which are pretty accurate. And the illustrations, all in black and white, are about as nightmarish as they come. In fact, I found this to be more graphic and scary than other horror comics I’ve read recently, such as Creepy and Eerie. In fact, this is so well-done and scary, I’m seriously considering reading the rest of this series. I’m not sure how many will be in the series, but I am going to look into it.

If you are into graphic horror, you should give this a read. I say without hesitation that, with the exception of Wytches, it is the best horror comic I have read in a long time.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

“The Witching Hour” by Anne Rice

WitchingHourI recently went on vacation to New Orleans with my family and as I was planning the trip, I thought about what might be a good book to read to get me into the New Orleans’ mood. Then I remembered I had a hardcover copy of The Witching Hour by Anne Rice on my bookshelf. Someone had given it to me as a gift years ago and I had never gotten around to reading it. I knew it was set in New Orleans, so I figured I’d give it a go. I had read several of Rice’s vampire novels and enjoyed them, and I had also met Ms. Rice at a book signing where she signed my copy of Tale of the Body Thief. Needless to say, I had fairly high expectations.

There are things about the book that I enjoyed and found interesting, and there are things that just did not work for me. To begin with, the book is long (weighing in around 1000 pages), and the pace was dreadfully slow at times. I kept finding myself wondering why it was taking so long to tell this story. I genuinely feel that this could have been told in 600 pages, that much of what is there was superfluous. Then, when I finally finished, the ending left me hanging. Come to find out this is only the first book of a trilogy (Lasher and Taltos are the two subsequent books). I have to say that I am personally getting tired of trilogies. I’m beginning to think it is a ploy by the publishers to sell more books. To back up my argument, Nook offers a free e-book every Friday through Facebook. Guess what. Usually these freebies are the first books in a series.

Alright, let me climb down from the soapbox and talk about what I liked about the book. First off, the descriptions of the Garden District were amazing. While I was in New Orleans, I stayed in an old bed and breakfast in the Garden District and Rice’s depiction of the area is magnificent. She perfectly captures the unique blend of southern grandeur and decay which is evident in the area. The scenes that are set in the Lafayette Cemetery stirred vivid recollections of what it was like to walk among the crumbling above-ground tombs.

The deepest connection that I felt while reading the book was with the Talamasca, an ancient order that dedicated themselves to the study of the supernatural and who maintained historical records of people and events. As a bibliophile with a particular love for old books, I could not help fantasizing about spending my days surrounded by aged leather books, carefully turning and reading the brittle pages.

We who live in a world of books and crumbling parchment, of flickering candles and eyes sore and squinting in the shadows, have always our hands on history. (P. 259)

Prominent throughout the book is the theme that science and the occult are closely related. I found this interesting, particularly when you consider that early scientists were labeled as practitioners of mystical arts and persecuted, and also that recent discoveries in the area of theoretical physics support certain occult beliefs and practices, particularly the discovery of how consciousness and human thought affects subatomic particles.

Science has always been the key. Witches were nothing but scientists, always. Black magic was striving to be science. Mary Shelley saw the future. Poets always see the future. And the kids in the third row of the theater know it when they watch Dr. Frankenstein piece the monster together, and raise the body into the electrical storm. (P. 889)

So, to sum up, while I didn’t hate the book and there were certainly things about the book that I enjoyed and found fascinating, I can’t say that I loved it. It definitely did not impress me enough to make me want to read two more books to complete the trilogy. For now, I’m going to say that I am done with the Mayfair Witches. I am curious, though, whether any of you have read the subsequent books and what your thoughts are regarding them. Let me know. I may be swayed.

4 Comments

Filed under Literature