Famous comic illustrator, Jim Balent, and Hollywood actress, Tonya Kay, team up to create a story that will “break Medusa’s spell”.
Broadsword Comics (November 25, 2009) 34 pages The Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose comic series is the story of Tarot, a warrior witch, and her family, foes and Lovers. Featuring stories of fantasy action and adventure, frequent scenes of nudity have grown progressively stronger as the series has gone on. Each issue is backed up with interviews with actual magicians and spells written by actual witches, whom sometimes choose to pose nude themselves. One of the strongest aspects of the Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose series is the reader community which has developed around it. Community readers are often included in photographic as well as drawn-in publication.
In Issue 59, “Medusa’s Stare”, Tonya Kay, (featured in Stan Lee’s Who Wants to Be a Super Hero, and an actress and chaotic witch) finds herself trapped in a nether world of despair with Tarot. Queen Medusa rules in this underworld and intends to turn both witches to stone, preventing them from shining their inspiration and light to the waking world forever more. Surrounded by living stone serpents, the two witches must battle for their freedom or face eternity as statues by the magick of the Medusa.
Jim Balent, best known for his long run on Catwoman, only writes roles for unstoppable females. His popular comic, Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose, challenges socio-sexual stereotypes with its artistic nudity, gender equality and pagan storyline. Jim Balent felt that Tonya Kay’s life was already heroic and would inspire his readers.
Twice in its 9 years of publication, Jim Balent, the author and illustrator, has selected real-life public pagans to star as heroines in his comic series. The first tribute comic starred Australian Wiccan/ author/ recording artist, Fiona Horne, and the second tribute comic stars Tonya Kay, chaote/ Hollywood actress/ raw vegan activist. Tribute issues are special to Tarot’s community-building focus, as readers value strong, female role models and visibly public witches illustrated as heroines in their favorite graphic art series.
“I want to see every woman daring to be her unique self. Whether it’s biased news, an unrewarding job, a mediocre relationship or destructive marketing, women and men both find themselves trapped in unfulfilled lives — essentially; turned to stone” says Tonya Kay, whose real life is a courageous example of daring to be unique.
When she is not volunteering with endangered wildlife or writing on raw vegan health and nutrition, Tonya Kay is a film actress and television personality in high demand. This year alone, you have seen her on The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien, ABC’s Criminal Minds, Comedy Central’s Secret Girlfriend, Showtime’s Live Nude Comedy, the History Channel’s More Extreme Marksmen and she just shot a role on the Hallmark movie of the week.
“My dreadlocks used to keep me from booking, but I knew it wasn’t as simple as ‘cutting my hair’,” says Tonya Kay. “My uniqueness encompassed my spiritual beliefs, dietary choices and dangerous hobbies as well. I decided long ago that there is nothing wrong with me being bold, but rather there is something wrong with the uninteresting roles women are expected to play.” Tonya Kay’s choice to stay true to her self has rewarded her as Hollywood’s go-to girl for what she calls “the fun” parts. “I want to see the archetype of the unstoppable woman written into roles — written into society.
“I am grateful for how my acting career has skyrocketed, though I am still looking forward to a film/tv writer to be a visionary, like Jim Balent, and write a breakthrough role for an unstoppable woman like me,” says Tonya Kay, who feels that art and performance affect world consciousness. Tonya Kay feels it is essential, now more than ever, for women and men to live their dreams. And she’s not afraid to show them how.
War is hell — neither pretty nor kind, and it is bringing lamentation and suffering to so many in the world right now. People have hated war ever since there was war to be hated. It shouldn’t be terribly surprising then, that Mars — the Roman God of War — was not well liked around Mt. Olympus. He was much maligned by his father Jupiter, his sister Minerva, and all others who preferred peace and order to wanton savagery.
But if Mars is so easy to hate, then why is our media saturated with iconic characters that are clearly born under the influence his planet? Let’s see: Off the top of my head, we’ve got ninjas, samurai, marines, Navy SEALs, Jedi, medieval warriors, Roman gladiators, cowboys, hitmen, gangsters, secret agents, martial artists, renegade cops, and (wait for it. . !) super heroes.
Like it or not (and some of us love it), the red planet of Mars’ namesake is present in all of our birth charts. However, the negative attributes ascribed to the Greco-Roman war god are usually found in individuals who have an afflicted Mars. Mars being a malefic force, a stressed placement in a chart can lead to a very unstable person — someone who throws a punch when diplomacy is called for, or who screams at loved ones against his own heart’s wishes.
A healthy Mars, however, will usually lead to the qualities we revere in our action heroes — men of will, vision, courage. Our Clint Eastwoods, John Waynes, Bruce Lees; our Schwarzeneggers, Stallones, Bruce Willises (Willii?), our Steve McQueens, Jackie Chans, and various James Bonds — these are the guys who put a presentable face on wrathful action.
Turning our attention to the higher echelons of geekdom, there is only one comic book character I can think of who so singularly personifies the Mars archetype. Love him or hate him, Wolverine is about as Mars as you can get as one of the good guys.
When we think of the word “hero,” Wolverine’s gruff visage is hardly the first conjured up. The heroes of myth are usually Mars archetypes who have received Jupiter’s blessing and been given a task from a Saturnine figure.
Perseus, for example, who decapitated Medusa and destroyed the sea monster called Kraken. He wouldn’t have performed these deeds if he had not been given marching orders from Zeus (his father) and Athena, who charged him with an epic task. And while they’re the ones who ordered him around, they’re also the ones that gave him the gifts he needed to succeed. His heroism was bestowed on him by providence.
A modern parallel might be a character like Captain America. The U.S. government granted Jupitarian blessings on skinny, meek Steve Rogers, but they only did it so they could make him into a weapon. Spider-Man is another example: He was granted amazing powers by a freak accident, but was tasked to responsible use of those powers by the dying wish of his Uncle Ben, the man who raised him.
Wolverine was born a mutant; he was born with his healing factor, his heightened senses, and his bone claws. There was no divine hand to guide him along a quest — he was simply thrown out into the world with the innate ability to destroy.
Wolverine was bestowed with his adamantium skeleton by the clandestine Weapon X program, but there’s not much Jupitarian about having metal surgically bonded to your skeleton. No, this transformation seems much more like Pluto’s work, especially if we consider that the Lord of the Underworld is often known as Lord Pluton, God of Hidden Riches. Adamantium is, after all, a very rare and sought after metal.
As for Saturn, the cornerstone of discipline and self-control, well, it’s plain to see that Wolverine has serious issues with authority.
For these reasons, Wolverine is what we call an “anti-hero.” While there’s less glory and bluster in his story, and while he doesn’t always behave in a manner that society would condone, there is a primal element that we can all relate to. He is human because he is animalistic, and is possessed of a brutality that many of us hideaway deep within ourselves.
We relate to his pain, too. Though our own personal torments are not usually quite on par with his, his suffering and frustration are familiar.
His image has been somewhat softened since his early days, but as much as he as labeled as a “super hero,” his anti-hero nature remains at the core of his character. Which is fine — most of the people he eviscerates have it coming.
Logan has a ton of Aries signatures; if we were to assemble a fictional chart for him, it’d probably be where his Sun, Mercury, and Mars all reside. He acts like an Aries, he talks like an Aries, and he sure as hell fights like one.
Aries is Cardinal Fire, represented by the ram in the West and by the dragon in the East. It is the first emergence of divinity, sustained by self-belief and through conflict with others — creating “sparks” with which it can add fuel to its fire.
Like the ram, Aries often seeks out esteem through dominance of others — think of that Aries jerk you know who just savors the experience of butting heads with you. And like dragon, Aries is a paragon of willpower (as evidenced, of course, by its exaltation in the Sun). Though the dragon is a mythical beast, I think we can safely imagine that there’s not much stopping one from doing what it wants. And being possessed of bestial super powers, soaring through the air and affecting the weather, the dragon (like Aries) probably had little regard for the affairs of the other animals down on Earth’s surface.
Wolverine is relatively self-centered. Always standing slightly apart from the rest of the X-Men, always hogging cover space, always taking off at the drop of the hat to explore a lead in the search for his lost past — he’s basically commandeered the entire franchise.
It’s not that he doesn’t care about others. It’s just that he’s the center of his own universe.
Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, as well as the eternal child. In a sense, Wolverine is “first” among the X-Men, being far older than almost any living mutant, but kept relatively young by his mutant healing factor. Despite his age and inflated attitude, his short stature ensures that he’ll always have the nickname of “runt,” another obvious indicator of his eternal childhood. Also like a child, and like a certain other “first man,” Wolverine has a habit of assigning nicknames — “bub” and “darlin'” are his basic means for designations of male and female.
In addition, Wolverine has a tendency to group himself with younger people. Even in a group of young people like the X-Men, he seeks out the youngest as his sidekicks. First there was Kitty Pryde, then Jubilee, and most recently, a young mutant named Armor seems to be soaking up his shadow.
What’s more, straddling the line between totally childish and completely badass, Wolverine is world-famous for his berserker rage, a homicidal frenzy that overtakes him whenever the battle turns serious. While it’s cool to see our angst-ridden anti-hero flip out and kill things, it should also be noted, in correlation with the notion of Aries-as-child, that his berserker rage is a glorified temper tantrum. This is why I, for one, have never really bought Wolverine as a ninja/samurai/master of Japanese martial arts. Because, seriously, when do you ever see him fight in a manner possessed of any discipline? And while one of Aries’ innate qualities is betterment by way of self-mastery, it seems pretty clear that Logan missed a memo somewhere and skipped over all his training to get to the bloodlust.
A final evidence of Aries lies in Wolverine’s most used mutant ability: his healing factor. Unlike Leo, whose fire is sustained by social approval, or Sagittarius, whose fire is simply fueled by excitement and vision, Aries’ runs on self-belief. This can translate into a stubborn “never say die” sort of attitude, so it is appropriate that Logan’s mutation keeps him alive through ordeals that would kill a normal man.
While Aries’ signature is certainly the largest zodiacal signature on Wolverine, the Mars war god’s other half, Scorpio, also seems to have a marked presence. Though I believe Logan’s Sun would have its exaltation in Aries, I’d also believe his second luminary, the Moon, to be fallen in Scorpio.
The Moon is the mysterious foundation of our souls — a bundle of intrinsic needs and desires that we are often unconscious of. And while a good understanding of one’s emotional base is healthy, the Moon often contains mysteries that we have unconsciously locked away from ourselves, truths that we cannot deal with. Dredging up painful psychological complexes can be most unsettling, and the Moon — being the foundational structure of the psyche — should not be unsettled.
At first glance, watery Scorpio, notorious for its connection to stories of intrigue, should be right at home in the mysterious structure of the Moon. The problem is that in all those detective or spy stories, the Scorpionic character is the one who works toward unraveling the mystery — in short, Scorpio doesn’t like any mystery that it isn’t at the center of. And so, a Scorpio Moon relentlessly tries to solve itself, which is equal to a drilling of, and eventual negation of, this all-important emotional base.
This circumstance is pretty easy to apply to Wolverine. If the Moon is a mysterious foundation, it can also be a person’s past. A different man might be content to let sleeping dogs lie, and get on with enjoying his new family with the X-Men and finding gratification in super heroics. Not Wolverine. No matter how excruciating the truth is, Wolverine cannot help but delve into his past at every possible opportunity. And this is a past that is most painful to relive, and was probably buried for a good reason. Though he’s lived for ten lifetimes, he’s seen nearly all his loved ones cut down at the start of their lives.
Battle Without Honor or Humanity
Considering his mass appeal, rich characterization, and constant involvement, it seems odd that Wolverine doesn’t get a lot of glory. There’s not too many major villains that he’s toppled — sure, he’ll get a good cut in on Magneto every now and then, but that’s usually only after he’s been nailed by Cyclops, punched by Rogue, and has been mind-raped by Professor Xavier. And even then, he only really tags the super villains when he sneaks up on them. Most of the time, Wolverine’s the guy who’s ripping through henchmen while others rumble with the big fish.
Again, this is an echo of the Greek God, Ares. Ares was bested by Athena, defeated twice by Hephaestus, and was injured by mortals on two separate occasions. There aren’t very many stories about the war god winning important battles. Those big victories usually rely more on clever thinking (Hermes,) a brilliant strategy (Athena,) or raw power (Zeus.) Battle frenzy has its place, but that place is usually reserved for chewing through the ranks of foot soldiers. That’s what Ares was good at, and that’s what Wolverine’s good at.
A Venusian Menagerie
He’s no Remy LeBeau, but Wolverine does all right with the ladies. He usually ends up with long-standing relationships that are ultimately doomed, but which carry explosive emotional weight for him until they disintegrate.
Many of the gods, following Zeus’ example, would just have sex with whomever they pleased with little regard for the consequences. But Ares, despite his gruff function, would have relatively consistent and consensual consorts. The most notable, of course, being with Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty.
Venus is represented in the tarot as The Empress, and Wolverine tends to attract women in that sort of role. His late lover, Silverfox, ended up being the leader of a terrorist organization known as HYDRA. He was betrothed to Mariko Yashida for years, before the yakuza princess was tricked into an untimely death. He had a relationship with another beautiful crime lordess in Madripoor, Tigerlily. His best-known romance, of course, is his unconditional (yet unconsummated) love for Jean Grey …who was in many ways the “Empress” de facto of the X-Men.
©2009 Nick Civitello
Edited by Sheta Kaey
Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes
by Christopher Knowles
Weiser Books, 2007
I had a number of reasons for being really excited about reading this book. One, I am a geek. While I’m a bit of a latecomer to comic book geekery in specific, I’ve done a good bit of catching up. Two, I’m also a sometimes-practitioner of pop culture magic (a concept that my husband, who wrote a practical guide on it, introduced me to). There’s really not much about the intersection of occultism and pop culture out there other than some examinations of trends in movies and books in general, so this text pinged a lot of my geek buttons.
The idea itself is excellent: Examine the trappings of the occult in various comic books, from both major publishers like DC and Marvel, and smaller indy publishers, as well as the relationship comic book fans have to the characters and stories as modern-day mythology. There’s plenty of material available, some of it subtle, a good deal of it (especially recently) more open.
Knowles most definitely knows his comic books, at least more mainstream ones. He draws on a wide variety of titles, and brings in a lot of little details about their origins (occult and otherwise). He also explains the contexts in which different characters were created and/or revived, particularly social and political issues, which adds significantly to the depth of his research. His research on the various flavors of occultism in and of itself is pretty solid as well; I’m not sure how active he himself is, but if he’s coming more from the perspective of an observer, he’s done pretty well.
His enthusiasm for the topic comes through in his writing, and I’d love to hear him speak about comic books sometime. He makes nonfiction into a story, as his writing has a narrative quality to it. I would love to read just a straight comic book history from this author. This book could have used extra proofreading, as there are some typos, but that’s not on the author.
Unfortunately, the execution of the material wasn’t nearly as good as I had hoped. First, the book feels more like it’s written for the comic book end of the audience rather than the occultists, despite having been picked up by one of the premiere occult and pagan publishers in the industry, and seems to have been promoted primarily within the comic book scene. It’s a book entirely composed of theory and research, rather than any practical material. This isn’t a bad thing, per se, other than that the bias may be a bit disappointing to those expecting more occult-specific material.
The organization of the text leaves much to be desired. The chapters don’t always segue well from one to the next. Additionally, and this is a big complaint on my part, Knowles spends a lot of ink interjecting 101 material both about the history of comics and occultism. Given that there are numerous texts that cover these concepts more than adequately, the space could have been better put to use. The same goes for the bulk of the material on the actual occult aspects of comic book characters. It reads mostly like a laundry list or a high school report; there’s not a lot of analysis of the information amid the statement of the facts. And while Knowles does cite some sources here and there, he engages in a lot of speculation about the supposed occult influences on various characters. Granted, we know a lot more about the activities of, say, Grant Morrison than we do about Jack Kirby, thanks to interviews and so forth. However, speculation should be presented as just that, not as undisputed fact.
I really think that the laundry list should have been shortened significantly, and a lot of the not-directly-relevant 101 material cut out. What would have been more valuable would have been extending the more solid information that we do have — for example, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman and their occult-influenced works could easily have been given a chapter apiece. While I don’t think the contributions of Kirby and others should have been ignored, I think Knowles missed the chance to go more in-depth with some of these creators and their creations.
The same goes for the “reverent” approach towards heroes that Knowles attributes to many comic book fans. He hints at it here and there, but never really examines it in detail. Given that there are people who work with comic book characters in magical practice, and folks who see them as modern manifestations of ancient archetypes in spirituality, he could have done some research on this sort of modern practice. Of course, he also refers to Joseph Campbell’s work as “obscure” (p. 193), so he may be more mainstream than I had initially assumed (again, reference the heavier influence towards the comic book audience in the book overall).
Finally, one quibble in gender-related terminology I’d like to bring up. On p.167, Knowles states, “In Miller’s stories, Elektra is essentially devoid of a recognizably feminine personality, and became quite square-jawed and muscular in his later renderings. One can even argue that Elektra is essentially a transvestite or transsexual character, and that the trauma of her father’s death effectively removes her femininity” (italics mine). No, no, and furthermore, no. A masculine woman is not automatically transgender. Given, however, that the comic book aesthetic relies quite a bit on gender dualities, I’m not surprised to see this misunderstanding of nondualistic gender and sexual identity.
Given that this is the first (to my knowledge) book to explore the occult history of comic books, it’s not surprising that there are some flaws — this is common with the first of any sort of book. Despite my complaints, it’s a good effort, all told, and still worth reading (albeit with some caveats). I’m a pretty picky reviewer, and as mentioned, geeky enough to have nitpicks that other readers may overlook. However, I’m going to give it…
Three pawprints out of five.
Review ©2008 Lupa
Edited by Sheta Kaey
Lupa is the author of Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, A Field Guide to Otherkin, and co-author of Kink Magic, among other works. You can read her blog at http://therioshamanism.com and see her website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.