This is the latest in a series giving you the cultural context behind certain comic book characters/behaviors. You know, the sort of then-topical references that have faded into the "foggy ruins of time." To wit, twenty years from now, a college senior watching episodes of Seinfeld will likely miss a lot of the then-topical pop culture humor (like the very specific references in "The Understudy" to the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding scandal). Here is an archive of all the Foggy Ruins of Time installments so far.
Today, based on a suggestion by reader Garvis, we take a look at a Chris Claremont reference to the novel that almost destroyed George R.R. Martin's career...
By 1983, George R.R. Martin was really making a name for himself in the world of science fiction and fantasy, with stories of his being nominated for Hugo Awards and Nebula Awards. In 1983, though, he released his fourth novel, The Armageddon Rag, which was about a novelist investigating the death of the promoter of an old 1960s rock band (and later, the murder of the band's lead singer) while the media attention over the murders also set up a successful reunion tour which the novelist ends up being in charge of.
The book was a major commercial failure, to the point where it basically brought Martin's career as a novelist to a halt (he continued as a successful editor, though, of the Wild Cards series of books). Luckily, through a film option for the book, Martin got involved in Hollywood and started writing for TV. He became successful enough there to be able to return to novels and obviously has become an extremely successful novelist with the A Song of Ice and Fire series of books (which are the basis for the Game of Thrones TV show, which I don't need to tell anyone here, except, well, what if I did? Might as well mention it).
In any event, the book itself was filled with J.R.R. Tolkien references, as the lead singer was known as "Hobbit" and the band itself, Nazgûl, was named after demonic creatures from The Lord of the Rings.
The novel might not have done well commercially, but critically it was liked and obviously Chris Claremont read and liked it, as two years later, in Uncanny X-Men #194, Rogue is listening to them on the radio...
That is quite an obscure reference, but much less so back in 1985.
Claremont went ever FURTHER (as commenter Steve and my pal Teebore note in the comments) in New Mutants #29 a few months later, when the singing teleporting mutant Lila Cheney extensively references the plot of Armageddon Rag...
Interesting stuff. Claremont would make some more Martin references over the years, but they tended to be a bit less obscure.
Thanks for the suggestion, Garvis! And thanks for the New Mutants #29 heads up, Teebore and Steve!
If anyone else has a suggestion for a future edition of this column, drop me a line at email@example.com!