Archive for February 2010

Celts, Pagans, and Superheroes, Oh My!

February 25, 2010

A few entries ago, I told you about my idea for the Celtic League of Superheroes, a team of costumed crime-fighters originating in the Celtic countries and saving the world from various nasties found in Celtic mythology and folklore. It seems I’m not the only one to think of such a thing, because now Pendant Audio. is producing its own original Celtic-themed superhero show, “Genesis Avalon” that has a good many similarities to my Celtic League concept. What’s more, in the director’s commentary for the first episode, the show’s creator, Kathryn Pryde, says she has the first three seasons of the show, 36 episodes, plotted and scripted. After two years, I’m still floundering around with the first draft of my main character’s origin story.

I didn’t listen to the first few episodes of “Genesis Avalon,” first of all, because I didn’t want them to influence my development of the Celtic League of Superheroes concept. I reconsidered my decision because I decided I needed to see how others are developing similar material. After all, if you’re developing a product, you have to know what the competition is up to. The second reason I chose not to listen to the show, however, was that I feared it would devolve into what was essentially a commercial for neo-paganism and its contemporary incarnations such as Wicca—something that, as an author, a practicing Catholic, and a person of Celtic ancestry, I did not want to happen with my Celtic League concept.

Let me make two things perfectly clear. First, I love Pendant Audio. I listen regularly to many of their shows, especially the “fanfic” type shows based on DC Comics characters, and wouldn’t have known about Genesis Avalon at all if I didn’t. They are an extremely talented group of people who do a lot of hard work of very high quality solely because they love it.

Second, I realize that there have been elements of mythology, mysticism, magic, and mumbo-jumbo in superhero comics probably ever since Billy Batson learned to say “Shazam!” and become Captain Marvel. That, in and of itself, does not bother me. What bothers me, both as a Celt and a Catholic, is that certain modern neo-pagan occultists have appropriated names and terms from Celtic mythology and folklore (including the word “Celt” itself) to fabricate a modern religion for themselves and to promote that religion and its ideology—a religion and ideology that are directly and deliberately opposed to my Catholic faith.

My original nickname or handle when I first ventured out onto the internet via AOL was MrCelt (“Mr. Celt”). My user profile listed Catholicism as one of my interests. I was told by some grossly misinformed person in a chatroom, “You can’t be a Celt and be a Christian.” I am wearing a Celtic cross around my neck that says otherwise. Irish, Scottish, and Welsh converts to Christianity brought the gospel to much of the rest of Europe, thank you very much, founding churches, monasteries, and schools that are in existence to this day. I daresay that millions of Celtic Christians in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales today, both Catholic and Protestant, would also disagree with that statement. I resent the fact that the mythology and culture of my ancestral countries is being used to promote an agenda contrary to my faith, which once brought there, took deep root in those ancestral countries.

It’s not hard for me to wonder if there’s an agenda behind “Genesis Avalon.” The pilot episode begins with a prayer to “The Goddess” (to which goddess I’m not sure) and, six episodes in, there have already been numerous direct references to Wicca, and rituals of “The Craft.” The story begins when a young woman finds a mysterious amulet that enables her to become the superhero Avalon, endowed with the powers of the ancient Celtic gods. She invokes these powers by speaking the names of the gods aloud. That in itself wouldn’t bother me so much if the protagonist and other characters didn’t toss the name of Jesus around as if it were a garden variety interjection, a curse, or an insult. I realize that in real life and in fiction, people can and do say the name of Jesus in vain. Regrettably I’ve done it myself on more than a few occasions. However, in a work of fiction, when characters speak the names of pagan gods and receive or invoke great power, and then utter the name of Christ with little or no result, you can’t help wondering if this betrays the author’s bias.

I realize much of what I’ve just said may sound like so much sour grapes because an author has successfully developed a concept similar to mine, while so far I’ve failed miserably to develop my own work. The folks behind “Genesis Avalon” may not have any agenda beyond the desire to tell a good story. Judged purely as an action adventure or a work of audio drama, the show isn’t bad, and it may be possible to take all the New Age, neo-pagan woo-woo with several grains of salt.

Looking critically at my own work, I worried that it too could be construed as promoting a particular theological agenda, which would be the opposite of what I intended and believed, and that’s perhaps one reason that the writing has gone so slowly. I wanted to borrow bits, pieces, and motifs from Celtic mythology and tell cool stories of costumed superheroes slugging it out with evil druids on the streets of Dublin (and other places), not to advocate for a false or fabricated religion. I fretted over this problem with my blog buddy D. G. D. Davidson at Sci-Fi Catholic, and he told me not to worry because, as he astutely pointed out, Christians have been borrowing from pagan mythology to tell stories for centuries.

Will the Celtic League of Superheroes ever be anything more than a vague idea in my head? Should I listen to “Genesis Avalon” or avoid it? I don’t know the answers to either one of those questions. But I’ll let you know when I find the answers.

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This Is What Happens When You Can’t Get a Song Out of Your Head . . .

February 20, 2010

You post a video version from YouTube and start studying Scottish and Irish history.

OK, so I’ve been listening to an audio podcast version of Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale of high adventure, political intrigue, and skullduggery in the Scottish Highlands during the 18th century. It gets my pride in my Scottish ancestry all stirred up, which means that my pride in my Irish ancestry can’t be far behind (I think I have Scottish, Irish, and Welsh family connections). I go scrambling for Irish and Scottish music videos on YouTube, start listening to lots of music in Gaelic, and start singing the song “Oro sé do bheatha bhaille” almost compulsively. The song was originally sung by Irish Jacobites, or supporters of Bonny Prince Charlie” Stuart during the 1745 uprising (“The Bold ’45”), an attempt to restore the House of Stuart to the English throne. It didn’t work out. The events of the Bold ’45 take place just a few years before Kidnapped begins.

Later, the Irish nationalist poet Padraig Pearse rewrote the words to the song to refer to Grace O’ Malley, (also known in Irish as Granuaile) an Irish noblewoman who took up a life of seafaring and piracy to protest the English domination of Ireland. When her relatives were captured by the English, Granuaile went to London to meet with Queen Elizabeth I to negotiate for their release. According to legend, during the meeting, Granuaile sneezed, and the queen offered her a handkerchief. Granuaile took the handkerchief, used it, and threw it into the fireplace, explaining that a used handkerchief was dirty and should be thrown away. According to the social customs of the time, disposing of the handkerchief would have been a calculated insult to the queen, a symbol of defiance. The queen must have been impressed with Granuaile’s pluck, however, because she granted her request, and Grace O’ Malley became a national hero, a symbol of Irish pride and refusal to knuckle under to the English. The song was used as a rallying cry by the IRA during Ireland’s war of independence and has been recorded by many Irish singers and musicians, ranging from The Clancy Brothers to Sinead O’Connor. This version is sung by Paul Brady, and the accompanying animation tells the life and legend of Granuaile. You’ll notice the melody is very similar to “What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor?” and I defy you to get it out of your head once you’ve heard it. This video was broadcast on Irish television’s all-Gaelic channel, TG4.

"Beware My Power . . ."

February 16, 2010
In brightest day
Or darkest night
No evil shall escape my sight
Let those who worship evil’s might
Beware my power . . . GREEN LANTERN’S LIGHT!

Hey everybody! Happy Mardi Gras! Because nothing says “Mardi Gras” and “Last chance to blow it out before Lent begins” like costumed superheroes, I give you my latest super team: Green Lantern Corps, The New Recruits. Except for John Stewart, I made them up on the spur of the moment last night (Please don’t sue me, DC!) As usual, click on the image to see a larger version. Also as usual, I used HeroMachine v. 2.5, HeroMachine v. 3.0, and Paint.NET 3.5.3 to create the images. I like the idea of a band of costumed interplanetary do-gooders, and I like the way the GLC uses just three colors (green, black, and white) to produce nearly endless variations in the Green Lantern costume. Anyway, enjoy, and leave feedback.

Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps, ©DC Comics.

The All-American Family

February 13, 2010

Once upon a time, in an alternate reality, the superheroine Lady Liberty, the leader of the Liberty Legion, married Freedom Fighter, commander of the Freedom Force. They produced a plethora of patriotic, powered progeny, a sensational series of super siblings. Here’s a candid shot of the happy family at home: Mom, Dad, and the kids! Click on the image to see a larger version of it. Please enjoy and feel free to submit feedback.

Images created with HeroMachine v. 3.0, Shakti Warriors, and Paint.NET v. 3.5.3.

Itz Sooper Kitteh!

February 9, 2010

A superheroz work  is never done
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

More Superheroes

February 9, 2010
Click here to see a larger version of the image.

I had thousands of requests (well, OK, one) from loyal readers to post more of my superhero creations. I actually created the Celtic League of Superheroes nearly two years ago using Heromachine v. 2.5. (Also available for download here). Version 3 of Heromachine is now in development, but after a weekend’s worth of experimentation and fiddling, I decided I didn’t like the Version 3 remakes as well as the originals. Don’t get me wrong. I think HM 3 will be 31 flavors of awesome when it gets finished, but for these characters and this portrait, I thought the original versions would be better. I used Paint.NET v. 3.5.2 to create the group shot.

As for the characters themselves, they are avatars or champions of the Celtic countries, charged with defending these lands, and indeed the whole world, from the machinations of a sinister, evil wizard, druid, mage type guy and his band of assorted nasties. The concept crosses the standard superhero motifs with bits freely filched and adapted from Celtic mythology, in much the same way that Thor or Wonder Woman comics borrow from Norse or classical Greek myths. My ultimate goal is to create a series of stories about these characters which could be published alone, included as part of a novel, or converted into comic book scripts. A silly pipe dream? Perhaps, but I thought it would be fun to try. Right now, I’d settle for one complete, coherent story instead of the jumble of vague ideas in my head.

Superheroes

February 6, 2010

Just a little something to show you what I’ve been up to these days. Here’s a quartet of patriotic superheroes, The Liberty Legion: Red Rocket, Whitewater, Blue Eagle, and Lady Liberty (Red, White, and Blue, get it?) I’m also working on writing their origin stories. At any rate, enjoy!

Click on the image to see a larger version. Images created with HeroMachine v. 3.0 and Paint.NET v. 3.5.2.