Saturday, July 26, 2008

Morrison, India, and Lovecraft

So, if all goes according to plan, at almost the same time that Grant Morrison is depicting the birth of the Fifth World (with inspiration from Jack Kirby, Hopi mythology, and elsewhere) in Final Crisis comic books this fall, he will also be depicting the story of the birth of the (Hindu) Fourth World, the violent age of Kali Yuga in which we have supposedly lived for the past 5,000 years.  Morrison’s recently-revamped website says he’s writing an animated series based on the Indian epic Mahabharata, about a war between two clans that climaxes with the death of Krishna, an embodiment of the god Vishnu.

But what about the Third World, you say?

Well, in the DC Comics mythos, at least, “Third World” seems to refer to the pagan pantheons (Norse, Greek, etc.) and to the giant gods who were precursors to Darkseid and other Kirby-created Fourth World/Fifth World characters — with one of those giants, Gog, now making waves in the monthly Justice Society of America comic book.

And if they’re sticking at all to the cosmology that comics writer John Byrne worked out in the 90s, mortals are the “Second World,” while the First is composed of all the primordial, Lovecraftian beings that existed in the dark times before we arose (like that tentacled space-thing in the Lovecraft-influenced first Hellboy movie).  I wouldn’t mind seeing them work with that First World idea a bit more, when (inevitably) even a revamped Gog and Darkseid have become too familiar to be creepy enough.

Of course, dread Cthulhu himself might not seem too creepy if he were fighting Green Lantern.


Jacob T. Levy said...

“if they’re sticking at all to the cosmology that comics writer John Byrne worked out in the 90s”


M’Nagalah is an in-continuity Cthulian beastie kicking around the DCU.

But I’d thought that, e.g., the Titans that preceded the Olympian gods were the second world (after all, there came a time when the old pantheons were born, too), with the implication that the DCU God / Heaven/ Silver City etc was First.

Todd Seavey said...

I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they’ve given differing descriptions — and wouldn’t really blame them, since I can easily accept that supernatural beings (like time-altering crises) might not fit neatly into human categories (I’d worry more if, say, mere mortal Bruce Wayne had a sister in one story and was an orphan in another).

However, the very explicit Byrne description of the Worlds went (1) primordial cosmic beasts, (2) mortals, (3) mythological pagan pantheons, and (4) New Gods — and explicitly left out still-active religions to avoid being offensive, which means even the Hindu gods weren’t used as part of Byrne’s _Genesis_ miniseries (Darkseid also at one point implied the New Gods are older than the pagan gods, but he was later described as exaggerating).

There’s no reason they should feel bound to stick to that system, which has been largely ignored by later writers, but even if you’re correctly remembering some alternate description, we could rationalize that the Titans arose with mortals and that Jehovah was a contemporary of Cthulhu and so forth.

My lumping Gog in with the likes of Odin may seem odd, too (and may not be what Geoff Johns, currently depicting Gog in _Justice Society of America_, has in mind), but it’s not far from Kirby’s original plan, which was reportedly to do the New Gods stories as sequels to _Marvel’s_ Thor comics, with the New Gods arising in the present day after Ragnarok arrives at last (Marvel has since decided Ragnarok is cyclical, incidentally, but that of course has no effect on DC’s pantheons).

If it were up to me, though, I’d be inclined to say all the pagan gods have to keep to the Third World, Titans or not, maybe even giving the pantheons their own subsidiary “pasts” that contradict and parallel each other, like a divine multiverse, which is what I vaguely recall thinking _War of the Gods_, with its war over creation myths, was going to be about, more or less. But it never much delved into that neat idea — and was arguably even worse than _Genesis_.

Best to just leave it all up to Johns and Morrison now, I suppose.

Jacob T. Levy said...

“But it never much delved into that neat idea รข€” and was arguably even worse than _Genesis_.”

No. Not even arguably. Not even remotely. Not even close.

Dee Lightful said...

Hi: Have you read Knowles’ Our Gods Wear Spandex? Any good? I have seen it picked apart all over the bed but content-wise it seems delightful. Yes, delightful.

Todd Seavey said...

Truly delightful? It does look interesting. I have my leisure reading planned out through the first half of 2009 (mostly sci-fi classics for a spell, though for my November Book Selections I’m reading about global warming after some recent badgering), so I may have to settle for your summary if you read the Christopher Knowles book.

Dee Lightful said...

Have not read it. Also, I meant picked apart all over the web. There are not pages flapping around on my bedspread. It is on my leisure reading list as is that Cocoa Puffs & Rock ‘n Roll book by Chuck Klostermann. But Lovecraft & the occult feature prominently in Our Gods Wear Spandex, which is why I brought it up.

Todd Seavey said...

Well, I can attest that the Klostermann is good — it also made me come to a realization about how my brain is wired, since I spotted him on the street about two weeks after reading the book and realized celebrities are everywhere in New York City but I only notice ones I’m actively thinking about (like Penn Jilette, though he’s hard to miss). They’re probably standing near me _right now_ and I can’t even perceive them (unless, today, it’s Grant Morrison or Lady Miss Kier).