Friday, 14 January 2011

Black-Eared Bolt

Preface: Should you not have grown up worshipping at the altar of American comic books, you may find the following material easier to follow if I can trouble you to do a little preliminary viewing:

At the very least, knowing the name of Thor's first foes may come in handy at some future quiz night. No? Oh suit yourself.

Now, a lot of comic heads will cite legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as true fonts of imagination. Men of raw originality who created some of the most iconic characters in comic books from nothing but their own dreamstuff and mindgasm. Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men... Lee and Kirby crafted a 20th century pantheon of costumed demi-gods such as the world had never seen before.

Or had they?

Recently evidence has come to light which casts the reputation of these trailblazing imagineers into doubt. Evidence which is as compelling as it is indisputable. Prepare to have your preconceptions flicked sharply with a wet towel...

Let's start with this case study. In 1965, Lee and Kirby wrote and drew Fantastic Four issue #45, in which we met a strange race of beings who lived hidden from mankind in their incredible city of Attilan, high in the Himalayas. Each member of that secretive society had their own unique super-power, some of them barely human in appearance. They were... The Inhumans:

The Inhumans were led by the regal Black Bolt, whose powerful voice could lay waste to skyscrapers with but a single syllable. Thus he remained ever-silent, preferring to communicate indirectly, through the members of his royal family, Medusa of the living tresses, Karnak the shatterer, Gorgon of the thunderous tread, Triton the amphibian and Lockjaw the uh... giant teleporting bulldog. Yeah.

Anyway, I was struck by the similarity between Black Bolt and another popular fictional character, seemingly mute, possessed of uncanny magical powers and attended by a weird extended family of inhuman creatures. Here he is, with some of his friends:

Yes, the similarities are incredible aren't they? Too close perhaps for mere coincidence. Now let's look at the rest of the cast of The Sooty Show:

Sooty's simpering panda girlfriend Soo is an obvious match for Medusa, the excitable Sweep is a dead ringer for Karnak with his funny dome-shaped head, gruff Butch is a perfect Gorgon, Kipper is the other girl so she must be Crystal, and the sinister snake Ramsbottom must be Triton as he's the only one left. Unless you count that little kiddie version of Sooty in the school uniform, who's probably called Spanky or Zipper or something. Maybe he's Lockjaw. No, Butch would have to be Lockjaw coz they're both dogs, so Spanky would have to be Gorgon. Or something like that. Oh, I don't know. But you get the idea.

Anyway, it's compelling darn evidence and no mistake. And here's the shocking twist - Sooty predates The Inhumans by some 17 years! Which would make Lee and Kirby dirty plagiarists who ripped off Harry Corbett's lovable glove puppets and thought they'd get away with it by sticking them in skintight ziggy-zaggy costumes and sticking an inexplicable tuning fork on their main character's forehead. Look at this damning early draft of Jack Kirby's artwork, before Marvel comics' lawyers insisted he redraw 'Black-Eared Bolt':

Well I'm here to tell you that the revelation may be coming some 45 years late, and 50% of the suspects may have sadly passed beyond the veil, but Sootygate is but the tip of the iceberg at the House of Ideas. Which would make it a very big house, I suppose. Maybe the iceberg is sort of underneath the house. I dunno.

Let's look briefly at some other test cases and see if you agree with me. In each instance, I propose to demonstrate incontrovertibly that iconic characters from Marvel comics, and in some cases their competitors at DC, are actually thinly disguised ripoffs of much-loved British childrens' television shows.

Right, so Rainbow is the obvious inspiration for the mythical rainbow bridge linking the world of men to Asgard, the home of the Norse gods, which makes Bungle and his friends all prototypical Asgardians from The Mighty Thor. Bungle is obviously the noble thunder god himself, his dull mate Geoffrey would be Balder the brave, the sneering Zippy just has to be wily Loki the lord of mischief, leaving girly mega-lashed George in the role of the goddess Sif.

And Rod, Jane and Freddy are the Warriors Three. Simple.

Moving over to DC, we note that the super-escape artist Mister Miracle, with his brightly coloured clothing and irrepressible spirit, is nothing but Basil Brush in human form. And his sidekick Oberon is just Mr Rodney/Derek/Roy/Billy/whatever with mutton chops. We also see in Basil's deerstalker and manic laughter the gestating forms of both Detective Chimp and The Creeper.

That of course takes us neatly onto Basil's dark counterpart Emu, who must surely be the ur-form of the New God Orion - ever struggling with his savage nature. Hull is clearly Highfather whose steady hand stays Emu's bestial fury.

And if that isn't enough to convince you that some of the greatest creations in comicdom are nothing but pale mockeries of older myths, just examine this beloved tale of a saggy old Lord of Dreams:

It hardly needs spelling out does it? Neil Gaiman's cast of the Sandman, those archetypes of the human experience known as The Endless, are nothing but the cast of Bagpuss dressed up for the artsy 'comics are for adults' crowd.

Consider: the sandman Morpheus, whose realm is that of dreams, is so clearly Bagpuss that it's not even funny. The dour Despair is none other than Professor Yaffle, that carved wooden bookend in the shape of a woodpecker. Seductive, androgynous Desire is none other than the collective form of those tricksome mice on the mouse organ  pandering to the unwary's deepest needs, even going so far as to perpetrate the infamous Chocolate Biscuit Scam. Smiling pale-faced Death is a ringer for Madeleine the doll, and Destiny with his chained books of secrets is actually Gabriel the toad and his banjo of visions. That just leaves insane Delirium as the clearly disturbed Emily. Destruction is of course not present, though I strongly suspect he is the Hamish:

Why yes, I do have a lot of free time on my hands. Why do you ask?

1 comment:

Ian said...

Dear gods, I can see it all now.

I'm not sure what you just ruined there, mind.