Tag Archives: Mercury

Recovering Ideals (4)

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The third and fourth stories from DC Comics’ The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes have the most mythological themes. This week, we’ll take a look at Shazam! Power of Hope by Alex Ross and Paul Dini. This features a mistreated boy named Billy Batson who can transform to an adult superhero by pronouncing the name of a wizard.

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You want mythology? This story has it. The wizard’s name is Shazam, an acronym derived from the names of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury. Billy becomes Captain Marvel, “earth’s mightiest mortal”, whenever he says this name. Since he exists alternately as a boy and a supernatural man, he has the characteristics of both. Even as an adult, Captain Marvel shows childlike sensitivity.

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There are plenty of action sequences, but what affected me the most was the theme of Captain Marvel interacting with children in a hospital. The captain is advised by Shazam, the wizard, before embarking on this mission.

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After he has been at the hospital for a while, there is a charming sequence showing the response given by the soul of a boy in the body of a man when he finds himself in a more adult situation: that of being affectionately thanked by the pediatric doctor of the children’s ward. It is innocently nuanced.

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Well, I might as well admit it. The following sequence made me tear up (that’s masculine for “cry a little”). My wife is a school nurse, and this reminded me of a story she told me about one of her students.

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The theme that I found the most powerful is that sometimes Captain Marvel isn’t enough, and it takes an ordinary boy like Billy to solve a serious problem.

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It takes a human being to reach other human beings. In this sense, the incarnation in Christian doctrine makes sense to me. One of our greatest superpowers is that of being a friend.

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Ancient To Modern: Swift Afoot

As I get ideas, I will contribute posts to this new category that occurred to me recently. I thought it would be fun to examine images based on ancient mythology and relate them to multiple media today. This will NOT be a scholarly analysis. Instead, I will deal with surface impressions and similarities: eye candy and an intellectual break. At least that’s the plan. Since time marches swiftly on, let’s start with Hermes.

Souls on the Banks of Acheron by Adolf Hiremy-Hirschl
Souls on the Banks of Acheron by Adolf Hiremy-Hirschl

He is the Greek messenger of the gods, and he likes the fellowship of human beings. He seems to enjoy interacting with them, as he does in The Iliad by Homer  He also intervenes for Odysseus on behalf of Zeus in The Odyssey, also written by Homer.  The above painting is an interesting composition in which he is relatively easy to identify. Below, you can see a photograph of a Roman marble (sculptor unknown) from the Louvre which shows him in an interesting pose.

Hermes Fastening his Sandal
Hermes Fastening his Sandal

Of course, the Romans actually named him Mercury.

Mercury and a Sleeping Herdsman by Peter Paul Rubens
Mercury and a Sleeping Herdsman by Peter Paul Rubens

Based on the original, Golden Age appearance of this next character, it is obvious that he was inspired by traditional depictions of Mercury. As in the case of many comic book heroes, a “scientific” rather than a mythological explanation is given for how he obtained his powers. This combination of science fiction and mythology is one of the features that make good comics so much fun to read. Back to the immediate subject at hand, The Flash is a fixture from my childhood, only not in this particular form.

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 It is the Silver Age Flash with whom I grew up. By then he was wearing a more streamlined and form-fitting speed suit which was strangely prescient.

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For a relatively brief time, life imitated art as elite sprinters in track and field wore body suits made of Lycra.

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The Flash has been updated a little in more recent portrayals. You can see in this and other drawings that he is more mesomorphic and that the artists have played around a little with the uniform. As with most DC Comics updates, this character is also angrier. Of course, there have been a number of successors to the original character in the extended story arc.
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I’m not making any major revelation by mentioning that The Flash has his own television show on the CW network.

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My brother, Doug Jones, did a guest appearance as the villainous Deathbolt on one episode. He also played the same role in Arrow, also on the CW.

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I really like this homage by Alex Ross to the Golden Age appearance of The Flash.

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But I like pretty much anything by Alex Ross. He really trips my imagination. At any rate I saved this image for last. More next week.

p. s. I almost forgot. Not to be outdone, Marvel Comics also has a superhero with similar attributes. Quicksilver was created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee for the X-Men series.

Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics