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Darkseids Ring: Images of Anti-Life in Kirby and Tolkien
Darkseids Ring: Images of Anti-Life in Kirby and Tolkien
Darkseids Ring: Images of Anti-Life in Kirby and Tolkien
Darkseids Ring: Images of Anti-Life in Kirby and Tolkien
Darkseids Ring: Images of Anti-Life in Kirby and Tolkien
Darkseids Ring: Images of Anti-Life in Kirby and Tolkien
Darkseids Ring: Images of Anti-Life in Kirby and Tolkien
Darkseids Ring: Images of Anti-Life in Kirby and Tolkien
Darkseids Ring: Images of Anti-Life in Kirby and Tolkien
Darkseids Ring: Images of Anti-Life in Kirby and Tolkien
Darkseids Ring: Images of Anti-Life in Kirby and Tolkien
Darkseids Ring: Images of Anti-Life in Kirby and Tolkien
Darkseids Ring: Images of Anti-Life in Kirby and Tolkien
Darkseids Ring: Images of Anti-Life in Kirby and Tolkien
Darkseids Ring: Images of Anti-Life in Kirby and Tolkien
Darkseids Ring: Images of Anti-Life in Kirby and Tolkien
Darkseids Ring: Images of Anti-Life in Kirby and Tolkien
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Darkseids Ring: Images of Anti-Life in Kirby and Tolkien

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"Darkseid's Ring: Images of Anti-Life in Kirby and Tolkien" is a paper presented at the Comic Arts Conference at Comic-Con Internation, July 29, 2007 in San Diego, CA. It disusses themse of good and …

"Darkseid's Ring: Images of Anti-Life in Kirby and Tolkien" is a paper presented at the Comic Arts Conference at Comic-Con Internation, July 29, 2007 in San Diego, CA. It disusses themse of good and evil, free will and domination, as they appear in the Fourth World saga by Jack Kirby and the Middle-earth stories of J.R.R. Tolkien.

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  • 1. July29, 2007 Charles F. Huber Comic-Con International Darkseid’s Ring: Images of Anti-Life in Kirby and Tolkien Charles Huber Davidson Library University of California Santa Barbara, CA 93106 huber@library.ucsb.edu Presented at Comic Arts Conference, ComicCon International, July29, 2007
  • 2. July29, 2007 Charles F. Huber Comic-Con International Visionaries of Cosmic Struggle • Jack Kirby and J.R.R. Tolkien were two of the most influential fantasists of the 20th Century, whether in their own chosen media or others (e.g. film.) • Though they had very different backgrounds, both drew from myth (especially Biblical and Norse) to create their own cosmic struggles of good and evil. • Their most recognizable symbols of Evil were, respectively, the Anti-Life Equation and the One Ring.
  • 3. July29, 2007 Charles F. Huber Comic-Con International First Glimpses • Both the Ring and the Equation appear much different when we are introduced to them than they would later be portrayed. • In The Hobbit, the Ring simply confers invisibility, it is not yet a corrupting force of domination. • In Forever People #1, the Equation is referred to as “the ultimate weapon”, but sounds like merely a WMD. • In Forever People #3, Glorious Godfrey refers to Anti-Life as though it is the ultimate form of fascism, a philosophy for subjugating the weak.
  • 4. July29, 2007 Charles F. Huber Comic-Con International Expert Opinion: The Equation • New Gods #1: Highfather – “The right of choice is ours! That is the Life Equation!” Metron: “The Anti-Life Equation…means the outside control of all living thought!” • Forever People #5: Big Bear: “This man knows the Anti-Life Equation! This man can control all living beings!” Beautiful Dreamer: “If someone possesses absolute control over you, you’re not really alive!”
  • 5. July29, 2007 Charles F. Huber Comic-Con International Expert Opinion: The Ring LOTR “The Shadow of the Past”: “One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.” Gandalf refuses the Ring, as it would turn him into a new Dark Lord. • LOTR “The Council of Elrond”: Elrond, too, rejects the use of the Ring. Only one who is already powerful could wield it, and such a one would be corrupted by the Ring.
  • 6. July29, 2007 Charles F. Huber Comic-Con International Seduction of the Innocent? Can anyone resist the temptation of absolute power? Tolkien and Kirby provide suggestive examples. In LOTR, the mysterious Tom Bombadil appears totally immune to the Ring’s power – he can even see the Ring-wearing Frodo. It is not that he has power over the Ring, but that the Ring has no power over him. Lacking the desire for power, he cannot be touched by the Ring.
  • 7. July29, 2007 Charles F. Huber Comic-Con International Seduction of the Innocent? In Forever People, the mighty martial artist, Sonny Sumo is discovered to possess the Anti-Life Equation, and wields it with the help of Mother Box. However, the Forever People do not fear him (because Mother Box accepts him) and after he is transported to the past, he apparently never uses the Equation again.
  • 8. July29, 2007 Charles F. Huber Comic-Con International Wielding the Power: “Billion-Dollar” Bates In Kirby’s work, we only see one person wield the Anti-Life Equation with evil intent: “Billion-Dollar” Bates (FP #8) Like Sonny Sumo, he needs artificial stimulation to access the Equation. Unlike Sumo, his victims retain the ability to think and react, though they must obey his orders, perhaps because he sadistically enjoys watching them squirm.
  • 9. July29, 2007 Charles F. Huber Comic-Con International Wielding the Power: Galadriel In LOTR, we are never shown the Ring being wielded at full power. However, Galadriel shows Frodo a vision of what she might become if she took the Ring: “And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord, you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night. Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain. Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!” Again, the Ring would be a tool of domination of other wills, but the form is dependent on the personality of the wielder.
  • 10. July29, 2007 Charles F. Huber Comic-Con International Wielding the Power: Frodo Galadriel also warns Frodo that he would have to train his will to dominate others in order to wield the Ring, and warns him against it. Indeed Frodo rarely does so, though the Ring does wear down his will and torment him. But he does, twice, invoke the Ring’s power against one of the beings most enslaved by it: Gollum. Gollum does not behave robotically, like a slave of the Equation, but his will is bent to Frodo’s service (though Gollum’s lust for the Ring proves even more powerful.)
  • 11. July29, 2007 Charles F. Huber Comic-Con International Wielding the Power: Sauron Though we never see Sauron with the Ring in the main story of LOTR, we are told repeatedly that with it, he would be invincible. However, we are also told that he was defeated by the Numenoreans, and later the Ring was cut from his finger when he was defeated at the end of the Second Age. Is this not contradictory? No: Tolkien explains that his “defeat” by the armies of Numenor was a trick, so that he would be taken to Numenor as a prisoner, where he could corrupt them and bend them to his will. His true defeat came when Numenor was destroyed by The One (God), and caught in the disaster, he had not regained his full power when he fought Elendil, Gil-galad and Isildur. Nonetheless, it is clear that the Ring’s power is far less absolute then the Equation’s.
  • 12. July29, 2007 Charles F. Huber Comic-Con International In Other’s Hands: The Anti-Life Equation After the cancellation of Kirby’s Fourth World titles, it was not long before other writers at DC began drawing on the mythos. Jim Starlin’s Cosmic Odyssey (1988) recast the Equation as a sentient entity, a notion since ignored by other writers Walt Simonson’s Orion (2000-02) reverted to the original notion, adding a theme of corruption by its power reminiscent of Tolkien. Darkseid cloned Bates to get the Equation but it falls into the hands of Orion, who uses it to bring order, first to Apokolips, then Earth, then the universe. He can only be stopped by Scott (Mr. Miracle) Free, who we learn has always possessed the Equation, but has no temptation to use it. His utter devotion to freedom is a counterpart to Bombadil’s innocence of power.
  • 13. July29, 2007 Charles F. Huber Comic-Con International In Other’s Hands: The Anti-Life Equation Grant Morrison’s Mr. Miracle (2005-06) introduces a radically different take on the New Gods, and proposes that the Equation is a mental construct which instills a sense of futility and despair in the minds of those exposed to it. In a three issue run on Firestorm (2007), Dwayne McDuffie takes the concept of the Firestorm Matrix (a pocket reality from which Firestorm’s powers are derived, introduced by a previous writer) and makes it a component of the Life Equation (the antithesis of Anti- Life). Darkseid intervenes to seize the discoverer of this theory, Prof. Martin Stein, but the series ended before we could see how this would play out.
  • 14. July29, 2007 Charles F. Huber Comic-Con International In Other’s Hands: The Ring Thus far, the Tolkien estate has not authorized any other authors to work in Tolkien’s universe (and probably never will.) However, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens did present their take on the Ring in the three-part cinematic adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. They hewed pretty closely to Tolkien with a few variations. Most notably, the show the Ring giving off sparks when Gandalf attempts to touch it in Fellowship of the Ring. Also, they depict the battle between Sauron and the Last Alliance, in a manner perhaps influenced by the battle between Morgoth and Fingolfin in Tolkien’s Silmarillion.
  • 15. July29, 2007 Charles F. Huber Comic-Con International Destiny, Freedom and Enslavement Just as Tolkien and Kirby both include the struggle between Good and Evil as major themes, both deal with the tension between Destiny (or prophecy or Divine Providence) and human freedom. In Kirby’s Fourth World, many prophecies emanate from the Source. But Highfather insists that all have the choice of whether to follow them or not. Most of Tolkien’s prophecies come from seers or dreams. Other events, like Bilbo’s finding of the Ring, show signs of Providence. But in all cases, Tolkien stresses the importance of the character’s choices.
  • 16. July29, 2007 Charles F. Huber Comic-Con International Destiny, Freedom and Enslavement Throughout Tolkien’s fiction, he stresses that the domination of free wills is evil, even when carried out with “good” motives, by “good” characters. Examples: The Wizards are forbidden by the Valar to use their power for coercion; The Valar Aule’s creation of the Dwarves is a defiance of the natural order, redeemed by his humility. Kirby’s emphasis on freedom is shown most strongly in Mr. Miracle, where the example of Scott Free is the greatest symbol of rebellion against Darkseid.
  • 17. July29, 2007 Charles F. Huber Comic-Con International Conclusions Though neither the One Ring nor the Anti-Life Equation display their full power in their respective epics, their roles as the incarnation of the ultimate Evil in Kirby’s and Tolkien’s views, namely, the domination and enslavement of human freedom, has given them iconic power that has fascinated the readerships of Middle- earth and the Fourth World for decades.

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