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Cigars of the Pharaoh
The monstrous and ancient Egypt in comic-books and cartoons

George Richards
Monstrous Antiquities: ...
Outline
1. Main themes
2. Background to the texts
3. The dream sequence in Cigars of the Pharaoh
4. The Sphinx in Silver A...
Main themes
1. Magical powers
– Alien powers (superhero comics / ThunderCats)
– Unexplained forces vs. narcotic-fuelled ha...
Tintin
Adventures of Tintin written and drawn by Georges Remi (nom de plume: Hergé)
Serialised comic strip in Le petit vin...
Tintin
Classic example of “strange”
effects of Egypt
Unexplained
Amenability of ancient Egyptian
art to comic-books / cart...
Tintin
2 examples of “magical
powers” / “supernatural
forces”
Silver Age superhero comics
“Golden Age” of American comic-books ran from their first publication in the late
1930s (viz, ...
The Sphinx in comic-books
The Great Sphinx of Giza is still subject to speculation as to its origins:
– Limited evidence t...
Master Comics 1:66 (1946)
Green Lantern 1:14 (1945)
The Sphinx in comic-books
Unlike Golden Age, Silver Age American comic-books brought the Sphinx
directly into the story-li...
Magical powers
Writers have long afforded magical properties to ancient
Egypt – e.g., the sorcerers of Pharaoh's court who...
Alien origins
Blending antiquity with aliens – similar to the “ancient
astronaut” theory associated with fringe Egyptology...
Strange Tales 1:70 (1959)
Strange Tales 1:70 (1959)

Early Silver Age comic
Less experimental / creative
Sphinx inhabited by an ancient spirit
Mystery in Space 1:36 (1957)
Action Comics 1:240 (1958)
Wonder Woman 1:113 (1960)
Fantastic Four 1:19 (1963)
Fantastic Four 1:19
Case study:
– special powers
– suitability of ancient Egypt for comic-book art
ThunderCats
ThunderCats is a television series animated in Japan that
first ran on American television between 1985 and 19...
Mumm-Ra
“Black Pyramid” – Mumm-Ra's
home
Inhabits a sarcophagus in a hall
decorated with statues of
animal-headed gods
Mumm-Ra
“Magical” / supernatural powers
Derived from Spirits of Evil
Electromagnetic?
Transforms “mummified” MummRa into p...
Conclusions
Little regard to accuracy (perhaps unsurprisingly)
But little need to veer too far from the imaginative /
colo...
Questions
Cigars of the Pharaoh: the monstrous and ancient Egypt in comic-books and cartoons
Cigars of the Pharaoh: the monstrous and ancient Egypt in comic-books and cartoons
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Cigars of the Pharaoh: the monstrous and ancient Egypt in comic-books and cartoons

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Transcript of "Cigars of the Pharaoh: the monstrous and ancient Egypt in comic-books and cartoons"

  1. 1. Cigars of the Pharaoh The monstrous and ancient Egypt in comic-books and cartoons George Richards Monstrous Antiquities: Archaeology and the Uncanny in Popular Culture Institute of Archaeology, University College London 3 November 2013
  2. 2. Outline 1. Main themes 2. Background to the texts 3. The dream sequence in Cigars of the Pharaoh 4. The Sphinx in Silver Age American comic-books 5. Mumm-Ra in ThunderCats 6. Conclusions 7. Questions and comments
  3. 3. Main themes 1. Magical powers – Alien powers (superhero comics / ThunderCats) – Unexplained forces vs. narcotic-fuelled hallucination (Tintin) 2. Unexplained sophistication of ancient Egypt – Religious (ThunderCats) vs. alien (superhero) vs. artificial (Tintin) – Above all, not ancient Egypt 3. Artistic interpretation of ancient Egypt for comics / cartoons – Animal-headed gods, the visual style of hieroglyphs – Creative interpretation of hieroglyphs: far from realistic, hieroglyphs are used in their purely superficial form and/or invented
  4. 4. Tintin Adventures of Tintin written and drawn by Georges Remi (nom de plume: Hergé) Serialised comic strip in Le petit vingtième, children's supplement to Belgian newspaper; later re-published as albums (books) Tintin is a boy reporter, who investigates various cases accompanied by his dog, a white terrier called Snowy Cigars of the Pharaoh: story of Tintin investigating an organisation of narcotics traffickers (narcotics smuggled in cigars, hence title) First published in Le petit vingtième in black and white in 1932-1934 (re-published, colour, 1955) Egypt sequence: – Tintin, on holiday on a liner to India, meets an eccentric Egyptologist, Sophocles Sarcophagus, on board. – Wrongly suspected of smuggling narcotics and under cabin arrest, escapes when the liner docks at Port Said. – Encounters Sarcophagus and joins trip to discover the lost tomb of the pharaoh Kih-Oskh.
  5. 5. Tintin Classic example of “strange” effects of Egypt Unexplained Amenability of ancient Egyptian art to comic-books / cartoon (graphic art) Throne of Tutankhamun
  6. 6. Tintin 2 examples of “magical powers” / “supernatural forces”
  7. 7. Silver Age superhero comics “Golden Age” of American comic-books ran from their first publication in the late 1930s (viz, Superman's debut in Action Comics #1 in 1938) until the early 1950s “Silver Age” ran from mid-1950s (viz, first publication of a successful rebooted superhero, Flash, in Showcase #4 in 1956) until c. 1970 American comic-books fragmented into sub-genres, especially science-fiction In this lecture, we consider the following Silver Age comic-books: – Mystery in Space 1:36 (1957) – Action Comics 1:240 (1958) – Strange Tales 1:70 (1959) – Wonder Woman 1:113 (1960) – Fantastic Four 1:19 (1963)
  8. 8. The Sphinx in comic-books The Great Sphinx of Giza is still subject to speculation as to its origins: – Limited evidence to support the conventional wisdom (Khafra / Chephren) Instantly recognisable as: – ancient – mysterious (“Riddle of the Sphinx”, unexplained origins) – powerful (by its age, size, and lion symbolism) Perfect for sci-fi / mystery writing Earlier Golden Age comic-books tended to use the Sphinx merely as part of the background, bringing a sense of antiquity / mystery / power
  9. 9. Master Comics 1:66 (1946)
  10. 10. Green Lantern 1:14 (1945)
  11. 11. The Sphinx in comic-books Unlike Golden Age, Silver Age American comic-books brought the Sphinx directly into the story-line A more sci-fi, fantastical approach The origins of the Sphinx commonly given as: – alien technology – an alien life-form “Superpowers” of the Sphinx include: – lasers / rays – flight – size
  12. 12. Magical powers Writers have long afforded magical properties to ancient Egypt – e.g., the sorcerers of Pharaoh's court who sparred with Moses in the Book of Exodus In comic-books, “magical powers” have been translated into sci-fi as “advanced forces”:  death rays  time travel  flight
  13. 13. Alien origins Blending antiquity with aliens – similar to the “ancient astronaut” theory associated with fringe Egyptology / pyramidology Sphinx is foreign and ancient: – made by alien race – Sphinx is itself an alien life-form
  14. 14. Strange Tales 1:70 (1959)
  15. 15. Strange Tales 1:70 (1959) Early Silver Age comic Less experimental / creative Sphinx inhabited by an ancient spirit
  16. 16. Mystery in Space 1:36 (1957)
  17. 17. Action Comics 1:240 (1958)
  18. 18. Wonder Woman 1:113 (1960)
  19. 19. Fantastic Four 1:19 (1963)
  20. 20. Fantastic Four 1:19 Case study: – special powers – suitability of ancient Egypt for comic-book art
  21. 21. ThunderCats ThunderCats is a television series animated in Japan that first ran on American television between 1985 and 1989. The ThunderCats are a race of alien humanoid cats exiled across Space when their planet dies, and led by Lion-O, their prince Arriving on Third Earth, the ThunderCats encounter MummRa, high priest of the Ancient Spirits of Evil and a native of Third Earth Name is clear reference to mummies and the ancient Egyptian god Ra
  22. 22. Mumm-Ra “Black Pyramid” – Mumm-Ra's home Inhabits a sarcophagus in a hall decorated with statues of animal-headed gods
  23. 23. Mumm-Ra “Magical” / supernatural powers Derived from Spirits of Evil Electromagnetic? Transforms “mummified” MummRa into powerful villain
  24. 24. Conclusions Little regard to accuracy (perhaps unsurprisingly) But little need to veer too far from the imaginative / colourful fantasy of ancient Egyptian cosmology and art Trend towards scientific / sci-fi explanations for origins of complex ancient Egyptian culture Commonality – always portrayed as evil
  25. 25. Questions
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