Richard Wagner's Cycle Has Made Its Mark On Comic Books

Richard Wagner's Cycle Has Made Its Mark On Comic Books

Richard Wagner's Cycle Has Made Its Mark On Comic Books

The roots of Thor and many other comic book figures stretch back to Wagner's epic and earlier.

Excerpts from LA Times article:

To whom do we owe our super-saturated superhero culture? It would be easy to lay all of the credit (or blame) at the feet of comic-book artists and Hollywood executives. But superhero roots go much deeper than that, and if you excavate long enough, you will inevitably bump smack into Richard Wagner, the 19th century composer whose four- opera cycle "The Ring of the Nibelung" is regarded by many as an important genetic mother ship for today's fleet of action heroes. In terms of its cast of characters alone, Wagner's "Ring" tetralogy has fanboy potential written all over it. The complex saga stars maidens, angry gods, female warriors, a temperamental dragon and an angsty teen hero whose powers get him into a lot of trouble. Holy Siegfried! The comic-book artist P. Craig Russell sees the "Ring" as a crucial evolutionary step in the development of superheroes as we know them today. "I think it's a continuum -- from Ulysses to Wotan to Superman," he said by phone from his home in Ohio. Russell, whose recent credits include "Hellboy" and "Coraline," penned his own comic-book version of the "Ring," a two-volume series published in 2002 by Dark Horse Comics that he considers the most personal project of his career. An opera fan, he has even spoken to gatherings of so-called Ring Nuts, extreme fans of the "Ring" cycle. "It's almost like going to a comic book convention -- you see the same faces," he said.

Even those who have never experienced Wagner's epic should have little trouble recognizing the names of some of its chief protagonists such as Wotan and Brünnhilde and her fellow Valkyries. That's partly because Wagner himself borrowed from a number of well-known myths and legends -- the 12th century Germanic poem the "Nibelungenlied" was his primary source. But it's also because pop culture has taken Wagner's creations over the years and liberally repurposed them into a multitude of hit incarnations.

Perhaps the most popular of the "Ring" characters are the Valkyries -- the airborne female warriors of the cycle's second opera, "Die Walküre," who carry slain soldiers from the battlefields to their final resting places in Valhalla.

Marvel Comics created a character in 1970 named Valkyrie who continues to resurface in various forms in the company's many franchises. Tall, blond and muscular, she is the essence of contemporary female empowerment.

She first appeared in "The Avengers" and has subsequently popped up -- sometimes using the name Brünnhilde, sometimes in the form of a modern woman known as Samantha Parrington -- in issues of " The Incredible Hulk," "The Defenders" and others.

Strains of Valkyrie DNA can also be found in page-to-screen heroines such as "X-Men's" Jean Grey, who shares Brünnhilde's suicidal tendencies, and the title character of "Elektra," who experiences a Brünnhildian resurrection from a death-like state.

Ralph Macchio, a longtime writer and editor at Marvel, said mythological characters such as Wagner's "have the angst and sense of absurdity and alienation that speak to a current reader. It's all about wish fulfillment and hero worship," he said, speaking from Marvel's New York office. "That's why they have lasted so long."

Check out the link below for the full article where they talk more about Thor and others...
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