“Listen, kid, you take my advice. You don’t wanna go looking for folklore. And you especially don’t want folklore to come looking for you.”
Stumbled across this yesterday at the library, and since I’ve heard nothing but good things about Alan Moore from Neil Gaiman, I snatched it up. And now of course I’m desperate to finish the series, because damn has this comic got it all. Superheroes! Mythological creatures! Literary intrigue, a spunky, geeky heroine, magical realms, the Armaggedon, and flying cars. Plus it’s got a feminist sensibility and snarky humor. Promethea is like an ancient Egyptian Wonder Woman, an Amazonian Warrior, Queen of Hy Brasil. She’s kind of a literary archetype, a character that reappears in different literary works over time, and when the conditions are right, when the artist/writer is really firing on all cylinders, she becomes physically manifest through them. They literally become Promethea, and fight evil-doers. Talk about alter-egos. And with a premise like this, you have to be a bit tongue-in-cheek: our heroine, Sophie, encounters a chain-smoking, gun-toting, trash-talking Red Riding Hood on her first journey into the Immateria (The Imagination, kind of like a collective unconcious or universal soul. Very Jungian.):
“There’s only one dark woods. I mean, I oughtta know. Five hundred years takin’ this friggin’ basket to my friggin’ grandma.”
And Hy Brasil (a region of the Immateria) has been taken over by a pulp fiction hack writer who spun stories of Promethea in dime store novels in the 40s and 50s, and I swear to god he’s a parody of Piers Anthony.
Sophie: Besotted? What, you mean this wizard guy? With you?
Grace/Promethea: Well, I should have thought it was rather obvious. All that drivel he wrote about my taut thighs and heaving bosom…I mean, I don’t think I can remember my bosom ever having heaved. Has yours?
In the Immateria Sophie meets the previous incarnations of Promethea: Anna, Margaret, Grace, Barbara, and Bill (Promethea doesn’t seem to care if you’re actually female, just that you’ve got a vivid imagination). Moore’s sci-fi New York is governed by a mayor with 42 different personalities, and is protected by a group of superheroes called the Five Swell Guys, one of whom seems to be a transgendered woman named Roger, “the muscle” of the group.
Five Swell Guys: Please don’t be alarmed. This is purely routine. You may recognize us. We’re New York’s resident science-heroes, The Five Swell Guys, and we’re just out on patrol as usual…You’re not being menaced by strange, overwhelming forces, by any chance?
Sophie: Uh…no. Well, I’m having a lot of problems with completing my term paper, but, y’know. That’s all.
Five Swell Guys: Hmm. So no extraterrestrial creatures bothering you? No government conspiracies, ancient demon cults, nothing like that?
Anyway, what I really love, what hooked me, is that Promethea is about the magic of words, the power of the imagination. Sophie becomes Promethea by writing a poem about her. Charles Sennet conjures her in his epic romance; you get to Immateria by imagining yourself there. Promethea’s power is the power of words, myth, fantasy; her mission, according to Margaret/Promethea, is nothing short of post-modern revolutionary struggle and liberation politics. Or, to put it more simply, to help humanity imagine a new world.
“We have many names for this event. We call it ‘The Rapture.’ We call it ‘The Opening of the 32nd Path.’ We call it the Awakening, or the Revelation, or the Apocalypse. But ‘end of the world’ will do…’The world’ isn’t the planet, or the life and people on it. The world is our systems, our politics, our economies..our ideas of the world! It’s our flags and our bank-notes and our border wars. I was at Ypres. I was at the Somme. I say end this filthy mess now.”
Promethea’s enemies are for the moment the vague and shadowy Jack Faust (what a cool villain name), Benny Solomon (also vague and shadowy), and a mysterious organization known as the Temple. Essentially they’re the folks who want to preserve the status quo and power structure they profit from (gee, sounds familiar…). Anyway, on to Book II. I can’t wait to see how this turns out.
Sophie: What did I do? I haven’t done anything! I’m a college student! All I ever did was read books!