Tag Archives: Book of Revelation

Castle In The Sky

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From: Castle in the Sky (1986, Studio Ghibli), directed by Hayao Miyazaki

On a weekend visit to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, I was in their renowned Asian art gallery when I noticed it: an ancient Chinese painting of paradise. I stared at it for quite a while. It showed a floating landscape with hills and mountains. A spacious cave or hollow space at the center of this landscape contained what appeared to be a palace or city. There were symbolic elements in the picture, as well, but I won’t belabor all of the details. This painting influenced my own concept of paradise for a story I was writing at the time and which I am in the midst of slowly revising. When I went back to the museum on a subsequent visit, the painting was no longer on display. I have been unable to find it since.

Examples of floating cities or islands can be found in religion, art, literature, and animation. The book of Revelation mentions the new Jerusalem descending from heaven.  I doubt that this is what the artist of the following painting had in mind, but I couldn’t help but notice the similarity of concept. Since it shows a restored Temple of Herod along with the current mosques (not to mention the ruins and human figures in the foreground), this painting raises questions and draws the eye. Click on the image to see it in more detail.

Floating Jerusalem by Howard Fox
Floating Jerusalem by Howard Fox

The floating island of Laputa appears in Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.

From: Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (illustrated by J. J. Grandville)
From: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (illustrated by J. J. Grandville)

 Everything I’ve said so far is background. Castle in the Sky from Studio Ghibli incorporates this idea and even borrows the name, Laputa, for its floating city. Without going into too many details, the story is centered around Sheeta, a descendant of a royal line with supernatural insight, and Pazu, the boy who befriends and helps her when he finds her floating down from the sky, as they try to foil the plans of the sinister Muska, another descendant of the royal line.

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Sheeta and Pazu

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Sheeta and Muska

The point of contention on which the characters are focused is a stone of mysterious power which is released by an incantation that only Sheeta and Muska know.

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Sheeta wearing the Laputa stone

The city of Laputa, the apparent source of the stone,  is a supernaturally wonderful place corrupted in the past by the use of its power to develop destructive technology. Added construction has converted it into a fortress of cataclysmic capability. Their is an interesting scene in which all of the wrong-minded embellishments are stripped away to reveal the righteous and beautiful core of Laputa.

Laputa purified
Laputa purified

The animation is, as usual for a feature directed by Hayao Miyazaki, wonderful, and the story is an imaginative blending of mythology, science fiction, and social commentary on war and environmentalism. Also typical for Miyazaki is the refreshing portrayal of self-sacrificing friendship between children of opposite sexes.

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If you haven’t seen this one yet, I definitely recommend it.

Graphic Mythology: Kingdom Come

I bought Kingdom Come (DC Comics) because I appreciate the artwork of Alex Ross and because of the concepts behind the plot. The story was written by Mark Waid. This effort was an interesting combination of superhero imagery with quotations and themes from the book of Revelation. The first person POV character, a minister named Norman McCay, makes the storytelling approach distinctive. He is based on Clark Norman Ross (the real life father of Alex Ross and a minister himself).

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Biblical accuracy is not the purpose of this story, but Ross did want to honor his father’s character and profession. I noticed nothing disrespectful or blasphemous as I read through it. Philosophical implications concerning the extent of human and divine responsibility add depth to the plot.

In a couple of posts four and five weeks ago, I questioned the validity of Wonder Woman as a feminist icon. Last week, I qualified that by saying that this depends on which version of her is being used. She is treated much more respectfully in this series. This time around, she and Superman are portrayed as an eternally young, middle-aged couple – an approach which I found refreshing.

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Even their arguments seem more mature…

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… and their relationship develops over time.

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Another character with mythical dimensions is Captain Marvel (whose name confused me because of the Marvel character by the same name). I looked up his origin and found that a boy named Billy Batson was endowed with the powers of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury to become “Earth’s mightiest mortal.” His appearance in the story is connected with the coming of Armageddon.

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But the characters that impressed me the most were the Spectre and Norman McCay (who play the role of the two witnesses from Revelation). The Spectre’s origin is hard to describe because he went through several incarnations/revisions since first appearing in 1940. He is essentially the undead spirit of a murdered policeman named Jim Corrigan, but he takes on or enters physical form. He seems to be in between the states of human and angelic beings in Kingdom Come.

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One of my favorite panels shows a more human Jim Corrigan having lunch with Normal McCay as Diana Prince (Wonder Woman), Bruce Wayne (Batman), and Clark Kent (Superman) walk by.

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I couldn’t think of a better conclusion to this year’s series on graphic mythology.