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

No. 209 – The Hanging Prisons of Sin-Sin

Right panel, top: artist’s impression of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (photo: Alamy); right panel, bottom: Sing Sing Correctional Facility, New York (photo: Brett Weinstein)

Prog 165’s (1980) one-off futuregraph The 7 Wonders of the Galaxy[1] No. 4: The Hanging Prisons of Sin-Sin by Kevin O’Neill v the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and Sing Sing Correctional Facility, New York

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are traditionally thought to have been created in the city of Babylon in Mesopotamia (near Hillah in present-day Iraq) by Neo-Babylonian[2] King Nebuchadnezzar II (c. 605 BC–c. 562 BC), and have been described as a spectacular, ascending series of lush, tiered gardens constructed for his wife, Amuhia (or “Amytis”, c. 630–565 BC), to assuage her homesickness for native Medea (in present-day Iran). Some scholars place the actual site of the Hanging Gardens at Ninevah in northern Iraq, which would have, at the time, made them the property of the Babylonians’ neighbours and foes the Assyrians, and as such the brainchild of King Sennacherib (reigning 704–681 BC); the two sites having perhaps been confused in the mists of legend.

Sing Sing in 1857

Sing Sing maximum security prison, however, is very much under the purview of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, and very certainly located in village of Ossining[3], about 48 km (30 miles) north of New York City on the east bank of the Hudson River. The prison has been in operation under one name or another since 1828, houses 2,000 inmates, and despite a brutal history is considered to be a model prison, due in part to its progressive educational and sports programs, and by whose standard other US correctional facilities are measured.[4]

Notes:

  1. Referring to the Seven Wonders of the Classical World: the Great Pyramid at Giza (Egypt), the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (Mesopotamia, modern Iraq), the Statue of Zeus at Olympia (Greece), the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (Ancient Greek, located in modern Turkey), the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (Ancient Greek, located in modern Turkey), the Colossus of Rhodes (Rhodes, Greece) and the Lighthouse of Alexandria (Egypt)
  2. “Neo-” referring to the Second Babylonian Empire (626 BC–539 BC), as distinct from the First Babylonian Empire (or “Dynasty”, 1895 BC–539 BC) founded by King Hammurabi (c. 1810 BC–c. 1750 BC)
  3. Both the village and the name of the prison are derived from the name of the Native American “Sinck Sinck” or “Sint Sinck” (Eastern Algonquian, lit. “stone upon stone”), a Wappinger tribe from New York and Connecticut, from whom the land was purchased in 1685
  4. Not, all things considered, a particularly high bar

No. 206 – Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Kings image ©National Geographic

Prog 163’s (1980) one-off futuregraph The 7 Wonders of the Galaxy[1] No. 2: Valley of the Gods by Kevin O’Neill v Valley of the Kings, Egypt[2]

Map of the East Valley

In the heart of the Theban Necropolis and standing on the west bank of the Nile River, this valley was for a period of nearly 500 years the resting place for the Pharaohs and powerful nobles of the Egyptian New Kingdom[3]. Almost all of the tombs – ranging in size from a simple pit to a complex tomb with over 120 chambers – have long since been plundered, but what remains still provides an idea of the opulence and power of the Pharaohs. New tombs are still being discovered and excavated, including one in 2005 and another in 2008.

Abu Simbel

O’Neill has taken some physical characteristics of the East Valley – where the tombs are located, but which contains little in the way of giant statues – and incorporated features of other Ancient Egyptian landmarks such as the temples of Abu Simbel, located farther south near the border with present-day Sudan.

There is a Valley of the Queens, where the wives of the Pharaohs were buried, located nearby, close to what archeologists believe is a sacred grotto dedicated to Hathor, Ancient Egyptian goddess epitomising joy, music, feminine love and motherhood.

Notes:

  1. Referring to the Seven Wonders of the Classical World: the Great Pyramid at Giza (Egypt), the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (Mesopotamia, modern Iraq), the Statue of Zeus at Olympia (Greece), the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (Ancient Greek, located in modern Turkey), the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (Ancient Greek, located in modern Turkey), the Colossus of Rhodes (Rhodes, Greece) and the Lighthouse of Alexandria (Egypt)
  2. Not to be confused with the Valley of the Gods, Utah, US – well, in terms of O’Neill’s scale, maybe a little bit
  3. In conventional Egyptian chronology: Old Kingdom: c. 2686–2181 BC (so-called “Age of the Pyramids”), Middle Kingdom: c. 2050–1710 BC, New Kingdom: c. 1570–1069 BC

No. 204 – The Colossus of Rodium

Colossus of Rhodes image courtesy Patrimonios del Mundo

Prog 162’s (1980) one-off furturegraph The Wonders 7 of the Galaxy[1] [No. 1]: The Colossus of Rodium by Kevin O’Neill v the Colossus of Rhodes [Attic Greek: ὁ Κολοσσὸς Ῥόδιος]

Idealised but highly inaccurate 19th century engraving

Considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and certainly the tallest statue of the antiquity at 33 metres (108 feet) high – approximately the height of the Statue of Liberty – the Colossus of Rhodes, a statue of the Greek sun-god Helios[2], was constructed by sculptor Chares of Lindos in 280 BC in the city of Rhodes on the island of the same name, to celebrate Rhodes’ victory over Antigonus I Monophthalmus (382–301 BC), the ruler of Cyprus whose son, Demetrius I (aka “Poliorcetes”, 337–283 BC), unsuccessfully besieged Rhodes in 305 BC. The statue collapsed during an earthquake in 226 or 227 BC, and although parts of it remained it was never rebuilt[3], and the actual location of the original remains in dispute.

Popular depictions of the statue standing astride Rhodes harbour, gleaming in bronze and holding a torch are flights of medieval fancy as the size, weight and composition imagined would have certainly caused the structure to collapse under its own weight; not to mention the fact that Rhodes harbour would have had to be closed to business for several years during construction. The most accurate depictions of how it may have looked are those along the lines of that pictured at the top of this entry.

O’Neill has also incorporated another wonder of the ancient world, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, or Pharos of Alexandria [Attic Greek: ὁ Φάρος τῆς Ἀλεξανδρείας], built in Egypt during the reign Ptolemy II Philadelphus (280–247 BC).

Notes:

  1. Referring to the Seven Wonders of the Classical World: the Great Pyramid at Giza (Egypt), the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (Mesopotamia, modern Iraq), the Statue of Zeus at Olympia (Greece), the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (Ancient Greek, located in modern Turkey), the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (Ancient Greek, located in modern Turkey), the Colossus of Rhodes (Rhodes, Greece) and the Lighthouse of Alexandria (Egypt)
  2. Deity and personification of the Sun in Greek mythology
  3. Following the earthquake, the statue lay in place for nearly eight centuries before being sold off by invaders. Modern plans to rebuild the statue, proposed by a group of European architects in 2015, appear to have been abandoned

No. 185 – In Space No One Can Hear You >Vark!<

Giger’s Alien: Film Design cover image ©20th Century Fox/Titan Books Ltd., 1979, 1989

Varks, from the Judge Dredd story of the same name in prog 503 (1987), written by John Wagner and Alan Grant and drawn by Kevin O’Neill v Xenomorph XX121, designed by Swiss artist Hans Ruedi “H.R.” Giger (1940–2014) for Ridley Scott’s Alien (20th Century Fox, 1979)

Sigourney Bean notices some odd changes in her boys

Giger’s endoparasitoid extraterrestrial xenomorph XX121 and variations thereof have since Alien reappeared in seven other 20th Century Fox films: James Cameron’s Aliens (1986), David Fincher’s Alien³ (1992), Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Alien: Resurrection (1997), the crossover franchise AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004) and AVPR: Aliens vs. Predator – Requiem (2007), and Prometheus (2012) and Alien: Covenant (2017), with a follow-up film, rumoured to be titled Alien: Awakening, due in 2019.

“Alien Day”, April 26, has become the fan celebration date of the Alien franchise. The date derives from planetoid LV-426 on which the original xenomorph was discovered; the “426” converting to “4/26” or “April 26”. Varks, however, hail from the planet Proxima-Proxima, from the Latin meaning [approximately], “the One Close to the Close One”.

No. 166 – The Meknificent Seven

Magnificent Seven British quad format poster ©United Artists

The A.B.C. Warriors [composed of Deadlock (top panel, top), and (top panel, left to right) Blackblood, Mongrol, Tubal Caine, Hammerstein, Joe Pineapples and Steelhorn], here depicted by Clint Langley from the story Fallout in prog 2061 (2017) v The Magnificent Seven (1960)

Designed to withstand atomic, bacterial and chemical warfare, the A.B.C. Warriors were built to take part in the Volgan War, which writer Pat Mills had described in several previous 2000 AD strips, including Invasion! and Ro-Busters.

Although at given points not limited to seven members, the primary characters include Mark III war droid leader Hammerstein, Khaos mystic Deadlock, marksman and former X-Terminator Joe Pineapples, the treacherous former Volgan war droid [General] Blackblood, the beast-like Mongrol, Happy Shrapnel (later known as Tubal Caine*) and Steelhorn/The Mess, an elite war droid reduced to a sentient, amoeboidal blob (later reconstituted).

The Magnificent Seven is based on Akira Kurosawa’s (1910–1998) classic Seven Samurai [七人の侍] (Toho, 1954), starring Takashi Shimura (1905–1982) and celebrated Japanese actor Toshirô Mifune (1920–1997).

*Referring to Tubal-cain [תּוּבַל קַיִן], a descendant of Cain mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, “forger of all instruments of bronze and iron” (Genesis 4:22)

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No. 146 – Dash Decent

Prog 178’s (1980) Dash Decent written by Dave Angus* and Kevin O’Neill and drawn by O’Neill v Flash Gordon portrayed here by Buster Crabbe (1908–1983), with Jean Rogers (1916–1991) as Dale Arden in the 1936 film serial**

The strip featured the madcap adventures of Dash, Dale Ardent and Dr. Zellamy on the planet Pongo, ruled by evil emperor Pong the Malignant.

Flash Gordon – at least the re-runs of the 1936 version with which those of us growing up in the UK in the 70s are most familiar – was the first screen adventure for the comic strip character created by Alex Raymond (1909–1956) two years earlier in 1934.

Although Mike Hodges’ cult classic Flash Gordon (Universal Pictures) was also released in 1980, we reckon Dash Decent was more of an affectionate homage to the earlier incarnation, especially as Hodges’ film was itself something of its own parody/homage.

*Better known for his work on the adventures of Disney’s Scrooge McDuck
**Popular during the first half of the 20th century, a film or movie serial was a feature film divided into a series of short episodes played in consecutive order at theaters, usually advancing weekly until conclusion

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