Tag Archives: Chicago

“American Gods” by Neil Gaiman: Issue 04

I recently had a discussion with my wife regarding the founding of the United States. We came to the conclusion that, although many Americans like to think the country was founded upon the principles of freedom, it was actually commerce and enslavement that were the driving forces that led to the founding of America. With that still fresh in my mind, I came upon an interesting passage while reading this installment of Gaiman’s “American Gods” series.

The important thing to remember about American history is that it is fictional. It is a fine fiction that America was founded by pilgrims seeking the freedom to believe as they wished. In truth, the American colonies were as much as dumping ground as an escape. In the days when you could be hanged in London for the theft of twelve pennies, the Americas became a symbol of clemency, of a second chance. Transportation, it was called: for five years, for ten years, for life. You were sold to a captain and shipped to the colonies to be sold into indentured servitude–but at least you were free to make the most of your new world.

Another part of this comic really interested me was the three sisters. Gaiman based his three characters on the Slavic myth of the two sisters who watched the stars for a sign that the universe was about to end.

In Slavic mythology, the Zorja (alternately, Zora, Zarja, Zory, Zore = “dawn”; Zorza in Polish, Zara-Zaranica (Belarusian: Зара-Зараніца), Zvezda, Zwezda, Danica = “star”) are the two guardian goddesses, known as the Auroras. They guard and watch over the winged doomsday hound, Simargl, who is chained to the star Polaris in the constellation Ursa Minor, the “little bear”. If the chain ever breaks, the hound will devour the constellation and the universe will end. The Zorja represent the Morning Star and the Evening Star.

The Zorja serve the sun god Dažbog, who in some myths is described as their father. Zorja Utrennjaja, the Morning Star, opens the gates to his palace every morning for the sun-chariot’s departure. At dusk, Zorja Vechernjaja—the Evening Star—closes the palace gates once more after his return.

(Source: Wikipedia)

In Gaiman’s retelling of the myth, he adds a third sister. It seems that Gaiman did this to also tie in the mythologies of the triple goddess, the three fates (Moirai), and possibly the three witches from Macbeth.

You wanted to know what I was looking at. The Big Dipper. Odin’s Wain, they call it. The Great Bear. Where we come from, we believe that it is a thing, not a god, but a bad thing, chained up in those stars. If it escapes, it will eat the whole of everything. And there are three sisters who must watch the sky, all the day, all the night. If he escapes, the thing in the stars, the world is over.

So far, I really love this series. Even though the artwork is a little weak, the quality of the writing makes up for it, and then some. I think I will have to reread the original text of American Gods at some point when this graphic series is finished.

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“American Gods” by Neil Gaiman: Issue 03

As I finished reading this third installment in the arc, I concluded that while the artwork is kind of flat, the quality of Gaiman’s writing certainly compensates for that shortcoming. He is able to create wonderfully evocative text that conjures rich imagery in tight, neat snippets. A great example is the description of what it is like to arrive in Chicago by car.

Chicago happened slowly, like a migraine. First, they were driving through countryside, then, imperceptibly, the occasional town became a low suburban sprawl, and the sprawl became a city.

The focus of this issue is the exploration of forgotten gods, gods who were once important and then faded from memory. When we forget our gods and do not feed them through our consciousness, they die and disappear from existence.

These are the gods who have been forgotten, and now might as well be dead. They are gone. All gone.

These are the gods who have passed out of memory. Even their names have been forgotten. Gods die and when they die, they are unmourned and unremembered. Ideas are more difficult to kill than people, but they can be killed in the end.

Since America is a country founded on immigrants, the people who came to America brought with them their old gods. These gods remained for a while, but eventually they were replaced by a new set of gods, or ideas, that arose along with the new country.

No, we are all relatives. We come over here together. Long time ago. First, we come to New York. All our countrymen go to New York. Then, we come out here, to Chicago. Everything got very bad. In the old country, they had nearly forgotten me. Here, I am a bad memory no one wants to remember.

As I observe what is happening in the world around us, I cannot help but sense that these recent gods we created in our modern world are about to collapse. There appears to be a paradigm shift beginning, one that will reshape our dominant ideas. I think this is why there is such a heightened sense of fear and urgency in our global society. I do not know how it will all play out, but it is definitely a fascinating time to be alive.

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Witchblade Issue 156: The Space Between Us

Witchblade_Issue156

I LOVED this issue! Not only is the writing flawless and well-crafted, but the artwork is superb. In addition, while it ties in with the larger Witchblade story, it is a stand-alone piece that can be read on its own. Basically, Sara Pezzini is investigating an apparition’s recurring visit. The spectral woman, who howls in agony, appears to her boyfriend who is tormented by his inability to end her anguish. It draws on the theme of the transition between life and death, particularly the purgatorial realm between the planes.

Early in the episode, Sara muses on the reasons why displaced spirits haunt particular places.

They say that haunted places are the home to people that couldn’t move on. That the ghosts found comfort in their old stomping grounds.

I see this as true on a psychological level also. As humans, we seek solace in those places of our psyches that are comfortable to us, that we associate with our ideal of what was good about our pasts. I have often found myself retreating and haunting the areas of my mind that are connected with pleasant memories. I see spiritual “hauntings” as the physical manifestation of our innate desire to return to a place of safety and familiarity.

The purgatorial space between dimensions populated by ghosts is referred to as the Ashen Lands. It is visually depicted as a spectral realm, void of color and painted with shades of grey. One of the ghosts explains the main reason why they choose to remain in the Ashen Lands: fear.

It’s the world beyond the Ashen Lands. Where the dead are meant to be. None can know if it’s heaven or hell, or an eternal, silent sleep. Those of us here… we were too afraid to go.

There are two appendices to this comic. The first is a supposed excerpt from a book that discusses The Ashenlands. It works really well and there is a great passage that describes the difference of appearance between the living and the dead.

You may think me mad to have such a preoccupation with hues after such a traumatic event. But when one walks the Ashenlands, one comes to learn that it is the colour that sets us apart from the dead.

Finally, the part of this story that I found the most fascinating is the inclusion of urban legends. The second appendix is a recounting of a Chicago ghost story that is referred to in the comic, that of Resurrection Mary. I did a search online and found plenty of sites discussing what is deemed as Chicago’s most famous ghost story. Click here to read a short summary of the tale.

I love stories that blur the lines of distinction between real and fantasy, between life and death, and between the conscious and the subconscious, and this comic does that masterfully. If you can find this issue at your local comic store, I highly recommend that you pick it up and read it. You won’t be disappointed.

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