By Elizabeth MacLeod | | May 11, 2017 |
By Elizabeth MacLeod | | May 11, 2017 |
For fellow mythology stans American Gods, STARZ’s television adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s (Sandman, Coraline) titular novel, is sweet, pure undiluted cosmology crack beamed straight to one’s brain via maestro Bryan Fuller’s direction and visuals. What card-carrying cosmologist hasn’t wondered who would win in a no-holds barred beat down between Ares and Shiva, or placed a bet on which of the trickster gods would win in a battles of wits and trickery? To further whet our appetites while waiting for a new American Gods episode, I’ve pulled together a list of five other properties where the multiple mythologies that have formed the bedrock of our global culture and beliefs co-exist with one another. It has led to quite a…unique selection below:
Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Kane Chronicles and Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard
Rick Riordan (Tres Navarre) sure hit a career stride when he wrote Percy Jackson and the Olympians (2005-2009). The quintology following the adventures of twelve-year old Percy Jackson, who discovers he is a “half-blood,” a child born of a mortal and Greek god, who must learn to harness his unique abilities and becomes embroiled in a prophecy that foretells the potential destruction of the Greek pantheon. Percy Jackson was the first in Riordan’s series of books featuring Greek and Roman mythology under the media franchise The Camp Half-Blood Chronicles. The Heroes of Olympus (2010-2014) and The Trials of Apollo (2016-) are sequel/adjacent series set within the same Greek/Roman mythological setting. Riordan has also written additional series based on Egyptian and Norse mythology, the The Kane Chronicles (2010-2012) and Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard (2015-) respectively. As the different series were being written it eventually became clear they all exist within the same fictional universe. There have been brief mentions of other mythological pantheons across individual series and, and the titular Magnus Chase is the cousin of Annabeth Chase, a central character in the Camp Half-Blood Chronicles media franchise. I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if Riordan is gearing up for a Greek, Egyptian, Norse cosmology crossover. A crossover trilogy of short stories, Demigods and Magicians (2013-2015), between the Greek and Egyptian cosmology-based protagonists has already happened so it is only a matter of time before an Avengers-esque mythological team-up takes place.
The Wicked + The Divine
The Wicked + The Divine comic series, created by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (Phonogram, Young Avengers) and published by Image Comics, is a self-referential, razor-edged meta-examination of what it means to be worshiped and exalted in the 21st century. The central premise is every ninety years, twelve young individuals are reincarnated as gods and goddesses from various cosmologies in an event called the “Recurrence.” These all-powerful individuals are known as “The Pantheon,” and gifted with immense power, fame, and fortune. Sounds like a pretty good deal at first glance, but there is a catch - within two years each and every one of them will be dead. “The brightest flame” and all that jazz. WicDiv focuses on the 2010 Recurrence where this generation’s Pantheon are all pop stars a la Katy Perry and Kanye West, and the series begins with a Pantheon fangirl being drawn into the affairs of the Pantheon by the current David Bowie-esque Lucifer reincarnation. As expected, things get muuuuuuuuuuch crazier, colorful, and mind-boggling from there. The series digs deep and asks uncomfortable questions about the nature of fandom, fame and power in the 21st century, filtered through the Insta-filter of #instantgratification. The members of the Pantheon serve as cultural influencers - and who is a bigger cultural influencer in the 21st century than a pop star? Who is a bigger cultural influencer than a god?
Everworld (1999-2001) follows the trials of four teens, led by Obligatory Self-Appointed Male Leader David, who are transported by their friend Senna, who turns out to be a witch, to another world inhabited by gods and goddesses of every mythology. It is revealed the gods created this parallel world when people stopped worshipping them on Earth. Each god and goddess has a sphere of influence and worshippers, but each cult is militant; their followers are constantly fighting and killing one another for worshipping the “wrong” god. Its basically like Big Brother: Mythology Battle Royale, except the gods/contestants can kill off their followers/voters for not worshipping/voting for them.
The first book features an Aztec-Viking war, and things then get exponentially worse when the pantheons of alien cosmologies arrive and proceed to wipe the floor with Earth’s pantheons, who aren’t exactly inexperienced in warfare and pettiness themselves. I have to salute author K.A. Applegate’s for taking the world’s collective cosmologies and making them even more ruthless and sinister than their original stories. I wouldn’t expect anything less from the creator of the similarly disturbing 1990s Scholastic cult classic Animorphs. Unfortunately, the twelve book series ends in a cliffhanger and as of today is still unresolved.
Kamigami no Asobi
A mythological dating SIM you say!? Well there is a lid for every pot. Our heroine Yui Kusanagi is an average high school student who also works as a miko at her family’s shrine. She discovers a mysterious sword that transports her to a different world, created by Zeus (yes, that Zeus) where all the gods live. He invites her to attend the world’s high school, intending for her to teach the eight young godlings attending the school about love and friendship in a time where the bonds between humanity and the gods are fading. And if she refuses, she will be punished. I have to give the video game publisher props for truly thinking outside of the box, although I have serious doubts about whether anyone on the development team actually picked up and read any texts about mythology. How anyone could consider a god to be a potential romantic catch is mindboggling. Sure, dating an immortal being with immeasurable power would have its perks, but the gods all have so many red flags in their romantic histories (in particular the Greek and Norse gods) that they make Christian Grey look like the poster boy for Healthy Romantic Relationships. When one of your dating options is Apollo, a god with one of the messiest romantic lives across all cosmologies and whose most famous romantic tale was of a wood nymph who would rather have been turned into a laurel tree by her father than be pursued by Apollo, it’s time to cross off all-powerful gods from one’s list of potential dating prospects.
Greg Weisman’s 1994 animated magnum opus Gargoyles was truly one of a kind in the 1990s. I am still astounded Disney green-lit such an amazing show. Following the adventures of a clan of gargoyles, a nocturnal species who turn to stone during the day, who awaken after a millennium-long curse in modern day (well, the 1990s) New York City, Gargoyles blended genres, from high fantasy to science fiction to mystery, with Shakespeare references thrown in to boot! Mythology was a crucial component of the show. In Gargoyles there are three races of beings: gargoyles, humanity, and Oberon’s Children. Many of Oberon’s Children, an umbrella term given to the magical paterfamilias of beings, turn out to be the basis of humanity’s legends about faeries, magical beings, and gods of mythology, from Anubis to Odin. Another offshoot race, called the New Olympians, consising of the offspring of humans and Children of Oberon, and appear to have established the foundation for the Greek and Roman mythological figures such as the Minotaur and Echidna. If I was in high school in the late 1990s, I would have devoured the show, but alas I was but a wee three years old when it was airing. My major fandoms at that point were The Muppet Babies and Winnie the Pooh. Still, even thirteen years later Gargoyles holds up as a must-see classic featuring multi-dimensional and memorable characters and an intricately plotted narrative.