No. 220 – The Flying Dutchman

The Flying Dutchman image courtesy Delaware Art Museum

Prog 459’s (1986) Brett Ewins (1955–2015) cover for the Judge Dredd story The Last Voyage of the Flying Dutchman, written by John Wagner and drawn by Bryan Talbot v German opera Der fliegende Holländer by Richard Wagner (1813–1883), here represented by Howard Pyle’s[1] (1853–1911) The Flying Dutchman (1900)

Legendary ghost ship the Flying Dutchman (Dutch: De Vliegende Hollander) is said to glow with an otherworldly light and is doomed to sail the oceans forever, forbidden to make port. Sighting the Dutchman is generally regarded a portent of ill fate, and when hailed by another ship the crew of the Dutchman purportedly attempts to communicate messages to land. Although not based on any actual vessel, ghostly or otherwise, the legend probably originates in the 17th century “golden age” of the Dutch East India Company (Dutch: Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, [lit. “United East Indian Company”] (VOC)), and sightings of the Dutchman have been reported well into the 20th century.

The theme of Richard Wagner’s opera, alluded to in the tagline[2] on the prog’s cover, is one of redemption through love: the ghostly captain of the Dutchman, having once invoked Satan, is doomed thereafter to sail the oceans eternally and without respite. An angel, however, intercedes, offering the captain a chance at salvation by allowing him to make landfall once every seven years in order to find a wife who will be true to him, whereupon the curse shall be lifted.[3]

No, you’re not getting the trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (Buena Vista Pictures, 2006), but the opera snippet below is only 2.17 minutes long[4] and seems to have been markedly influenced by the production design of the film:

Notes:

  1. List of works by Howard Pyle at Project Gutenberg
  2. The tagline is either an editorial in-joke or an oversight: John Wagner wrote the story under the pseudonym T.B. Grover
  3. Are you ever going to watch it? No, nor us [spoiler alert]: the curse gets lifted
  4. Depending on the production, Der fliegende Holländer can last anywhere up to three and a half hours

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No. 218 – The Yellow Peril

Left panel: Torquemada possesses Mr. Manchu in prog 393 (1984); right panel: Re-Enter Fu Manchu (1957) cover by Baryé Phillips (1924–1969)

Goth Chinese governor Mr. Manchu (possessed by the spirit of Grand Master Torquemada) in Nemesis the Warlock Book Four: The Gothic Empire (progs 387406 (1984–85)), written by Pat Mills and drawn by Bryan Talbot v Chinese criminal mastermind Dr. Fu Manchu, created by English novelist Sax Rohmer (born Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward, 1883–1959)

The term “Yellow Peril” upon which Rohmer’s Fu Manchu novels capitalise was first coined in 1897 by the francophone Russian sociologist Jacques Novikow (1849–1912) in his essay Le Péril jaune, but the idea can be traced at least as far back as the Greco-Persian wars (499–449 BC) – arguably the origin of the notion of East v West – and in the Middle Ages (5th–15th centuries) the threat posed to Europe by the Mongolian hordes of Genghis Khan (c. 1162–1227). In more recent times the idea was exacerbated by Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859–1941) of Germany, who deliberately misrepresented to the European powers the Japanese victory in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05) as a racialist alliance between Japan and China, the supposed purpose of which was to invade and subjugate the western [white] world[1].

Fear or distrust of China and Chinese culture is known as “sinophobia,” which according to sinologist Dr. Wing-Fai Leung of King’s College London, “blends Western anxieties about sex, racist fears of the alien other, and the Spenglerian[2] belief that the West will become outnumbered and enslaved by the East.”[3]

Most honourable mention…

Aside from the delicious farce of the above-mentioned instance of the arch-racist Torquemada having to possess the body of a despised alien whose very appearance is a caricature of human xenophobia, The Gothic Empire is notably a pioneering example in comics of the steampunk[4] genre; one later explored further by Nemesis the Warlock‘s original artist, Kevin O’Neill, in collaboration with long-time 2000 AD contributor Alan Moore, in the popular League of Extraordinary Gentlemen[5] (ABC/WildStorm/DC Comics (1999–2007), Top Shelf/Knockabout Comics (2009–2019)) series, in which Fu Manchu featured early on as a villain.

As well as 16 Rohmer-penned Fu Manchu stories, at least 14 films featuring Fu Manchu have been produced since he made his cinematic debut played by Swedish actor Warner Oland (born Johan Verner Ölund, 1879–1938) in The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu (Paramount Pictures, 1929).

Torquemada also features in HoH No. 72 – Torquemada.

  1. Germans, eh? Eh? You’re reading these, right?
  2. Named for [ahem] German historian and philosopher Oswald Arnold Gottfried Spengler (1880–1936), whose book The Decline of the West [or Occident] (German: Der Untergang des Abendlandes, 1918 (Vol.I), 1922 (Vol.II)), postulates that any culture is a superorganism with a limited and predictable lifespan
  3. The population of the People’s Republic of China stood at 1,403,500,365 in 2016. It is the world’s largest trading power, with a total international trade value of £2.93 trillion ($3.87 trillion) in 2012, and foreign exchange reserves reaching £2.15 trillion ($2.85 trillion) by the end of 2010, making its reserves by far the world’s largest
  4. An idealised retro-futuristic take on 19th century – particularly Victorian era (1837–1901) British – industrialised steam-powered culture; inspired by the works of Jules Verne (1828–1905) and H.G. Wells (1866–1946); popularised in the late 1990s and largely assimilated into goth subculture, thereby spoiling it for everyone else
  5. The title The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen refers to the novel The League of Gentlemen (T.V. Boardman & Co., 1958) by John Boland (born Bertram John Boland, 1913–1976), filmed in 1960 (British Lion Films); the plot of which concerns the recruitment by one Lt. Col. Hyde of several British army officers, all in poor standing with the military, for a bank robbery, based on their respective qualities and talents