Actually, I have described a partial pantheon of Astro City characters I cherry-picked for the purposes of my blog. Though I have praised this series in the past, I need to emphasize that this does not mean that I approve of everything it contains. Their are some characters and stories that I find objectionable due to my Christian orientation, but I this has not prevented me from reading them and at least learning how another writer thinks about various topics. Various people have various levels of tolerance when it comes to this sort of thing, and part of the reason I have read the graphic novels to which I am alluding in this series is that I want to know how a growing segment of our population thinks and what it likes. Anything should be read critically and with discernment as to quality of thought. Having said this, here is a visual review of the characters about whom I have posted:
The Crossbreed (Noah, Mary, Peter, Daniel, David, and Joshua)
The Hanged Man
The Pale Horseman
This list is far from complete, and further reading of the series fills in more back stories in bits and snatches. There are other prominent characters who have superpowers but who do not seem to fit the mythological theme of my blog. More next week…
Last week, I alluded to a superhero named Cleopatra.
She is evidently a supernatural entity derived from the original Cleopatra. Her identity is transferred from one individual to another by means of something called the Gem of Thebis. This is independent of race. Her former incarnation was white, her present incarnation black. In the story arc of The Dark Age from the Astro City series, we see the passing of the mantle. In order to get the Gem of Thebis away from a villain named Hellsignor, a hero called the Point Man throws it around the neck of Sarah Brandeis, one of many innocent bystanders who have been taken captive. She becomes Cleopatra, confirming that her superhero identity resides in the artifact which she is wearing.
This character appears in several Astro City stories. She is somewhat similar to Winged Victory in that she transforms between her superhero and ordinary identities by means of what she wears around her neck. Also like Vic, she can fly and is abnormally strong. Her age and beauty are preserved, and she controls the weather (with, guess what, bursts of lightning) by means of an implement she wields which is known as the Sun-Staff of Ra. So writer Kurt Busiek has drawn loosely from Egyptian mythology in the creation of Cleopatra.
As I have already said, there are a number of stories in which she appears, and I am still faithfully working my way through this excellent series. I still have a lot to learn about her, but she is another feminine superhero who is written and drawn from a more mature and dignified perspective.
Cleopatra and Winged Victory appear together, sometimes as members of a superhero team dubbed the Honor Guard, so read up on their exploits.
Not all mythic characters can be heroes. For the sake of writing an interesting story, one must have villains, including those of the supernatural variety. Hellsignor is a good example of this in Part 2 of The Dark Age storyline from Astro City.
I like the way that this character typifies evil. He’s a conceited blowhard whose power is wasted on his ego, and his appearance is appropriately brief. His accomplishments? Well, he enslaves some susceptible souls as his acolytes, takes innocent captives, and defeats various superheroes only to have one of them, the Point Man, foil his plans. During Hellsignor’s boastful proclamations and his preparations to receive the power of something called the Gem of Thebis, the Point Man swipes the stone and throws it around the neck of a captive bystander. She is transformed into the latest incarnation of Cleopatra, the superhero who immediately sends Hellsignor into another dimension.
This is satisfying. Threaten, conquer, boast, and – Poof! You’re gone. Even the most powerful dictator is a squashed bug on the windshield of history, a mere foil for something or someone more enduring and important. I fear that there is at least a trace of the egomaniac in all of us, and he needs to be vanquished accordingly.