You’ll have to forgive us for being a little slow to get this final set of notes out. We’ve had a terrible affliction whereby something seems to have got stuck in our eyes all week. Sniff. And our hayfever is just terrible. Yes. That’s definitely it.
Needless to say, you shouldn’t be reading this if you haven’t yet read issue #641 of Journey Into Mystery but might be planning to do so at some point. Even if you have, you probably shouldn’t be reading it – it might reopen all sorts of painful wounds – but what the hell, we’re still publishing it anyway.
Hark to the tale of Loki!
And the girl* he loved so dear
They remained the best of friends**
For years and years and… <sobs>
* handmaiden of a vengeful goddess of death
** although not if anyone’s watching
Page 1, Panel 1
Salisbury Plain, Britain – Wiltshire, to be precise. This is the large plain where Stonehenge is, as you’ll learn on – spoilers! – the following page.
Page 1, Panel 2
“There really is an app for everything.” – Loki seems to be falling victim to a popular misquoting of Apple’s advertising slogan, which is in fact “There’s an app for that”. The poor boy’s excited, we’ll let him off.
(An alternative explanation, of course, is that the Marvel Universe’s popular smartphone brand “Starkphone” does have the advertising slogan “There’s an app for everything”.)
Page 1, Panel 4
“It’s symbolic.” – It sure is, Loki. It sure is.
Okay, so. If you’re reading a comics website and yet somehow inexplicably don’t get this, let’s have a bit of fun explaining it. Loki and Leah are, of course, wearing “V” masks. V is the eponymous hero – well, the eponymous lead character, anyway – of Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V For Vendetta, a comic originally published in the UK’s Warrior magazine and later reprinted (and completed) by DC Comics before being collected into a hugely-selling collected edition. It lays a legitimate claim to being one of the best comics of all time – in the opinion of at least one, perhaps both, halves of Alternate Cover it surpasses Moore’s own Watchmen – and tells the story of a morally ambiguous vigilante-cum-terrorist who wages an explosive war on a totalitarian alternate-future regime. Politically, it’s very closely aligned – albeit reaching to a few further extremes – with everything that Loki has chosen to side with in this particular conflict.
The mask, incidentally, is a play on the popular image of Guy Fawkes, a British historical figure from the late sixteenth century who was either – depending on whom you believe – the figurehead of a Catholic plot to destroy the Palace of Westminster (aka the Houses of Parliament) and assassinate the Protestant King James; or a patsy in an elaborate government-led conspiracy designed to whip up anti-Catholic sentiment (and legislation). Either way, the so-called “Gunpowder Plot” failed, and – for reasons nobody’s really sure about – Fawkes became a near-mythological figure as part of the annual November 5th (aka Bonfire Night, aka Guy Fawkes Night) celebrations, in which the narrow escape of the government/monarchy is (supposedly) celebrated. Moore’s choice of the mask – which subsequently became used on effigies during Guy Fawkes Night celebrations – for V was therefore entirely apt, particularly given that at the beginning of the book V actually succeeds in destroying Westminster.
However, its appearance here arguably draws on a secondary source. Following the movie adaptation of V for Vendetta (the relative merits of which will be debated some other time), the Guy Fawkes mask was appropriated by the anarchists/hacktivist collective “Anonymous” as a means of hiding their identity during protests. This was in part inspired by the arresting image (albeit one that pretty much entirely missed the main point of Moore’s work) of the film’s climactic scene, in which the assembled masses of London wear the masks in tribute to V and defiance of their rulers. It’s also turned up for similar reasons being worn by members of the Occupy movement. Both of these groups are anti-establishment, broadly anti-wealth, and largely interested in redistributing power from the rich rulers to the poor ruled. Again, the theme of class is represented.
And in one final, beautiful piece of irony, because DC and Warner Bros own V For Vendetta, and produce the replica masks, they make a substantial amount of money from all this anarchy-inspired protesting.
“Symbolism is important.” – Kieron Gillen, there.
Stonehenge – Discussed last issue, and the issue before that. Before Stonehenge, incidentally, there was Woodhenge and Strawhenge, but a big bad wolf came and blew them down.
The Long Man of Wilmington – A giant (two hundred-plus feet tall) chalk figure on Windover Hill in East Sussex. Supposed by most to date from around the sixteenth or seventeenth century, although others believe it dates to pre-historic times and is the work of Celtic Druids. As if there hadn’t been enough Sandman links in JiM already, the Long Man made an appearance in the famous “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” issue – where, as opposed to the scythe and rake (or pair of staffs) that the man is generally accepted to be holding, the figure was the keeper of a doorway between Faerie and the “real” world.
“I have become death! The destroyer of Otherworld! I am the lightbringer!” – The first two parts of Loki’s exclamation are a paraphrasing of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s reputed words upon the testing of the first atomic bomb (although this is generally considered to be apocryphal – in fact, Oppenheimer, the director of the Manhattan project, only said in later interviews that the words had come to mind during the test). This itself was a misquoted line from the Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita.
“Light-bringer”, although more commonly “light-bearer”, is one translation of the Latin name “Lucifer”. You know, him with the tail and pitchfork. If Loki weren’t so against “old people’s media”, we’re pretty sure he’d dig John Milton.
Glastonbury Tor – A hill in Somerset which, despite the name, has no connection to the Glastonbury Festival Of Contemporary Performing Arts, Posh Hippies And John Peel Worship. In fact, the Tor has all manner of indelible links to legends of England past – including, most notably, the belief of some that it is the location of the mythical Avalon of Arthurian Legend.
Page 4, Panel 2
“Ahem” – Yeah, we all remember Agent Coulson, you bastard.
Page 5, Panel 1
“Camelot” is, as we all know, the company who administer’s Britain’s national lottery (aka “the Lotto”). We trust that clears up any confusion.
Page 6, Panels 1-4
The first three buildings are locations from or related to Arthurian Legend – Merlin’s (or, in Marvel’s continuity, Merlyn’s) tower, the castle owned by the sorceress (and sometime Avengers villain) Morgana Le Fay, and the home of the Green Knight. The last, the Starlight Citadel, is where Otherworld’s protectors (most frequently Merlyn and Roma) have operated ever since its first appearance in Daredevils #1 (1983).
Page 7, Panel 1
“Iron tracks burst from the ground […] they swept in on their engines.” – It’s hard to tell whether Herne is remembering the battle he’s just fought, or if he’s just watched the Olympic opening ceremony and is describing that. Either way, it’s apparently an idea whose time had come.
Page 9, Panel 3
Kingston Upon Hull, popularly referred to as “Hull”, is a port city in Yorkshire (as Wilson suggests, in the North) and as such, played a major part of the industrial revolution. It has since lost much of its prestige, and famously placed first (by vote) in the book “Crap Towns: the 50 worst places to live in the UK” published in 2003. Its juxtaposition against “hell” here would be considered apt by many Brits.
Page 10, Panel 1
Cheap non-franchised fried chicken outlets are a staple of modern British high-street life. We don’t think there’s one called “Choice Chicken” in Camden, but maybe there is in the Marvel universe. As pretty much the worst type of fast food imaginable, it’s an apt choice for a Prince of Hell to be seen eating.
Maybe he had the Junior Spesh. We hope so, anyway.
Page 10, Panel 2
“A guy who’s usurped a few thrones in his time” – The definition of “hell” in the Marvel universe is almost as confusing as the one in the DC universe, but we think Daimon has ousted the leaders of, and temporarily ruled, at least two of them.
Page 11, Panel 2
The Lady of the Lake – Mentioned last issue. There are actually lots of different Ladies in Arthurian legend, but the one in the Marvel universe is named Niamh Chinn Oir, and takes inspiration from the classical Nimue. In addition to being the keeper of Excalibur, it appears here that she guards the Holy Grail.
BECAUSE “LEAH” IS AN ANAGRAM OF “HELA” AND SHE’S A “HAND”-MAIDEN AND OH GOD WE CAN’T TAKE IT
Ikol explains on the next page how the timelines don’t necessarily match up (as they so rarely do with myths) – but it is indeed said in the thirteenth-century Icelandic work Prose Edda that Loki is the father of Hel (who is, of course, the antecedent of Marvel’s Hela).
Muspelheim – One of the Nine Worlds of Asgardian cosmology (both classical and Marvel). Inhabited by the sons of Muspell, who are ruled by Surtur – and yes, he’s the big red fire demon taking up the entirety of this page. In Norse mythology, the Ragnarok prophecies state that the destruction of the Bifrost bridge by the sons of Muspell is the signifier of the end of times. The Marvel version is even more specific: in Thor #128, way back in 1966, Odin states that the freeing of Surtur by Loki will be the cause of Ragnarok.