“This time around I’m going to leave the metaphors in a drawer at home.” Grant Morrison, linked via Ian Brill.Well. THAT didn’t work out so well?
I mean, I liked Seven Soldiers a hell of a lot. But it was never the straight-foraward series of seven completely seperate comics that it was billed as.
But here’s the thing. It’s COMPLICATED. There’s lots of what-ties-into-which-WHERE? To the whole experience, and more than a little what-the-blue-heck-did-THAT-mean?
And metaphors. Here Be Metaphors.
Basically, the whole thing takes a heck of a lot of Thinking about to Understand. This is entertainment that takes work.
And even then… You might STILL be in the dark about that last issue. If you haven’t read all the other minis you’re completely lost, if you have it’s STILL freakin’ tough to grasp.
So, in order to help us muddle through Grant’s latest magnum opus, I’m assembling a list of links to smart folks have lent their noodles to figuring out the Way It All Fits Together and What It All Means.
And also a list of Supplemental reading materials: Either comics that Morrison is directly referencing in Seven Soldiers or Comics and books that thematically or connect to the Seven Soldiers project or provide some background. With Notes!
Annotated Seven Soldiers Links:
Let’s start with the solidly put-together Wikipedia article on Seven Soldiers, giving us some background on the original Golden Age S-7.
One notch more in-depth, Barbelith hosts a whole Wiki on the project.
And here’s Jog, who’s way smarter than we are, providing us with issue by issue reviews of the books as they come out. From his take on Mister Miracle # 3:
Then [Mister Miracle] must truly escape Apokolips, the perception of life as self-loathing, and all of the brutalities that accompany it (the inattentive conversation of the goons mutilating Shilo is a bit obvious – ha ha, they’re desensitized to violence! – but it conveys the point appropriately in the midst of a scene of a superhero having his man parts shorn). Can this material land on the non-acclimated reader? Maybe not as direct homage to Kirby, but I think the idea of ‘escape’ as a truly mental thing does register clearly in this issue, and it interacts nicely with the other character bits of the project as a whole.
I Am Not the Beastmaster gives us the most detailed and best review of Seven Soldiers # 1 I’ve seen. And more!
” Obviously there’s the industry critique of comics that conflate cynicism with artistic maturity, and Morrison’s call for a renewed belief in heroism–which becomes so overt by the final issue that it hardly deserves the name of “theme” anymore. “Lecture” might be more like it. (Whatever happened to “It’s so like, down-to-earth and non-preachy”?)”
And Ragnell, in some of my absolute favorite pieces of witting on the entire blogsphere, ties the Shining Knight,
and …. er….. hypersexualized reflection on the current state of female superheroes who hangs out with wise crone.
From Shining Knight:
“Morrison clearly wanted us to never look at Ystin the same way again. Well, once puberty sets in, the change is far more drastic for young girls. Nobody ever looks at you the same. If you develop early, there’s leering and jealousy. If you don’t, there’s an attitude that you are not good enough. You’re no longer innocent after that age. You can’t play with the same friends, or even the same games anymore. All of the adults you dealt with before react very differently to you. All of the rules have changed, right underneath you.”
And here’s RAB on Seven Soldiers number One:
So maybe all this stuff about time-traveling evil fairies at the end of the world was a ruse. The real story is about child victims of psychological abuse by a bad adult manipulating people and events to bring down their abuser. The wronged children, grown to be neurotic and guilt-ridden adults, finally redeem themselves for their past crime of killing one of their own.
And I even found a nice bit from Kronin on the storytelling style in Klarion the Witch-boy.
ADDED: 11/14/06: Patrick writes Almost issue-by-issue summanalysies (I made a word!) of the whole series. (Which I’m about halfway done reading at this juncture.)
Here’s his summary of the whole She-bang, written after the last of the minis were released.
This project had a lot of Grant’s classic themes, extradimensional beings, meta commentary on the nature of fiction and characters moving into dimensions of higher consciousness, it also brought in some major new themes with the exploration of sexuality and growing up. There’s good growth and bad growth, the characters who find their own way are able to grow up well, but the characters who have adulthood or sexuality forced upon them all wind up messed up. This is what happens to the Newsboy Army, to Sally Sonic and even to Alix, who is ultimately unable to adjust to the life that Lance forced on her.
And here’s a Seven Soldiers site which looks really cool and well thought out, but that I can’t read through all the annoying pop-up ads.
Seven Soldiers Useful Reads:
Morrison’s been pretty up-front about the fact that the Seven Soldiers project is HEAVILY drenched in DC history, specifically the works of Jack Kirby and Len Wein.
So, I thought I’d try to list some of the works that SS references or is influenced by:
JLA Classified 1-3: Grant Morrison writer, Ed Mcguiness artist:
It’s REALLY STRANGE that this hasn’t been collected yet, as Morrison SAID this JLA story from 2003 was intended as a prequel to Seven Soldiers.
And I s’pose it’s actually not all that relevant to the plot, and a tad contradictory. But it still gives us the first appearance of the Sheeda and the new Nebula Man.
Justice League of America (First Series) 100-102: Len Wein writer, Dick Dillin artist:
It’s a big Justice League/Justice Society/Seven Soldiers (Earth-Two version) team-up and gives us the rise and fall of the Iron Hand, AKA the dude who was stuck in prison in Bulleteer # 2. Also features the Crimson Avenger’s sidekick Wing being named the eighth of the Seven Soldiers, which explains why Spyder seems to join the “Seven” at the last possible moment.
Reprinted In: CRISIS ON MULTIPLE EARTHS VOLUME 3.
More Fun Comics 57: Jerry Siegel writer, Bernard Bailey artist:
The Zatanna/Zor fight in Zatanna # 4 was supposedly a panel by panel recreation of the Spectre/Zor fight in this issue.
Reprinted In: SPECTRE ARCHIVES.
Swamp Thing (Second Series) 50: Alan Moore writer, Steven Bissette, John Totelben and Rick Veitch artists.
Yet another story directly referenced in Zatanna. Here, there’s a coven of mystics gathered at Baron Winter’s house, and some of ’em… nah. Spoilers. Anyway, Zatanna # 1 is a play on this.
Reprinted In: SWAMP THING VOLUME 4: A MURDER OF CROWS.
Mister Miracle (First Series) 1-10 and 18: Jack Kirby writer and Artist.
Not a direct tie-in to Seven Soldiers. In fact, I don’t recommend the issues that had the Shilo Norman version of Mister Miracle in them, and Darkseid who was the main baddie in Morrison’s version hardly shows up a’tall. (Although he does get the VERY last panel of the series, in a scene that’s darn close to Darkseid’s appearance in Seven Soldiers 1.)
But still: Kirby did the whole interlocking series forming a cohesive whole bit here, first, and it’s worthwhile to compare his take on free will and escapology with Morrison’s reinterpretation of the material.
Reprinted In: JACK KIRBY’S MISTER MIRACLE: SUPER ESCAPE ARTIST has 1-10 and Jack Kirby’s Fourth World: Featuring: Mister Miracle (Paperback) has 18, along with the (weaker) rest of the series.
The Faerie Queene: Edmund Spencer writer, and Mort D’arthur by Thomas Mallory
Are two prose works which (I think) are directly referenced in Shining Knight. Mort D’arthur is the first modern collection of King Arthur Legends (along with a buncha stuff Mallory just made up) and is STILL the most important work of Arthurian Fiction anyone’s ever done. And a pretty good yarn, even translated.
The Faerie Queene’s the primary example of Elizabethan mystical fiction. It doesn’t actually feature evil faeries, but Spencer’s kiss-ass take on queen Liz could certainly be seen as the basis for Gloriana, and the idea of guilt as a physical creature was probably either lifted directly from this book or by something influenced by it. But the idea of everything (And I do mean EVERYTHING) being an allegory gets you in the right mind-set to untangle Morrison’s metaphors.
The Demon (First DC Series) 7, 14-15: Jack Kirby writer and artist.
Not really Seven Soldiers relevant; In fact, Seven Soldiers ret-cons them out of existence. But still these first couple appearances of Klarion the Witchboy were just too fun and too creepy for me not to list.
Leading Comics 1: Mort Weisenger writer with assists from Jack Lehti and Jerry Seigel, writers Mort Meskin, Hal Sherman, George Papp, Jack Lehti, Craig Flessel artists.
First Appearance of the Seven Soldiers AND the hand.
Reprinted In: SEVEN SOLIDERS OF VICTORY ARCHIVE VOLUME 1.
Nominate for inclusion by Douglas.
World’s Finest 209 and 214; Mike Friedrich writer of 209 Steve Skeates and Denny O’Neil writers of 214, Dick Dillin pencils.
J. Kevin Carrier notes two more minor cross-overs from the short strech of World’s Finest where Superman had a different co-star each book instead of always haning with Batman.
I’ll let him tell it, since I’ve never read these issues:
“WORLD’S FINEST #209 features Superman and Hawkman fighting “The Tempter”, the same demon that Zatanna and Misty are shown fighting in ZATANNA #2. And WORLD’S FINEST #214 has Superman and Vigilante fighting a werewolf. There’s nothing in the story that indicates that Vigilante was “infected”, but it’s proximity to the other WF issue makes me suspect that this is where Morrison got the idea from.”
JLA: ZATANNA’S SEARCH Trade paperback: Gardner Fox writer, Murphy Anderson, Carmine Infantino, Bob Kane, Gil Kane, Mike Sekowsky, Carmine Infantino, Joe Giella, and Sid Greene, artists.
This trade reprints the first Silver Age crossover, as Zatanna searches for her father stopping by for single issue visits in Hawkman, the Atom, Batman, the Elongated Man and Green Lantern stories before the tale wraps up in Justice League of America.
It’s the initial “Zatanna and her daddy issues” story, a theme which permeates and soaks the four ish Zatanna mini.
Nominated by Douglas.
AND A QUESTION: What else should go here? We’ve seen my takes on the Best SS related writing on the web and on what you should read outside of Seven Soldiers to better understand the project.
But d’you all know of any good Seven Soldiers related writing?
Or any material directly or thematically referenced in Morrison’s Seven Soldiers that I missed?
Tell me, and I’ll add it. I’d like to get a fairly-complete compendium of all the Seven Soldiers resources out there, although I’m avoiding straight-up Reviews with minimal commentary.
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