Thursday, November 4, 2010

A New Frontier

I was asked to write a short piece about my own contribution to Irish comics for the convention fanzine Drink Tank which I did and this is what I came up with.

A New Frontier

Storytelling is rooted deeply in Irish culture and even more importantly in our very fabric. Who we are today and
how we see ourselves stretches back centuries, before television, before radio, before theatre when the only
means of communication was the spoken word and tales were told across the land of brave men and women
heroes and villains, gods and demons. Tales of a mythical Ireland, filled with magic and bloodshed.
Some of these heroes have survived over the centuries and their names remain somewhere in our consciousness
dormant, but not dead. Heroes waiting for their chance to come back to into our lives. Waiting for the
mist to lift and for us to see clearly again beyond the trappings of the modern world, waiting and hoping that one
day soon we embrace our past and our culture and learn again how to connect with our heritage and how to
understand who we are and what we are capable of.
This need to know ourselves is inherent in all walks of life and all societies. As we told tales of Cu Chulainn and
Finn Mac Cool, other heroes came to life across the globe. Baba Yaga in Russia, Sigmundr in Germany and
Kibuka in Africa. All with one common goal, to know ourselves by expressing our deepest fears
and our greatest hopes in the form of mythologies big and small.
But as society moved on, the magic of old, lost its wonder and the dark forests that held so much fear and
fascination were cleared to make way for a new world, one made of steel and concrete.
This new world had little time for the stories from old. People left in their thousands in search of
freedom and prosperity, leaving behind the shackles of religion and monarchy. There was 'gold in them there
hills' and land waiting to be claimed.
America's first real mythology appeared in the shape of the cowboy, presented to the American public by journalists of the time as
rugged, courageous men with a high moral fibre. The perfect representation of what America was supposed
to stand for. This image spread over time with the introduction of mass media.
One of the most popular forms of entertainment of the time being the frontier melodramas and none were more effective
than those presented by Buffalo Bill Cody in the form of Wild West shows. These shows toured America
and Europe right up into the early part of the twentieth century helping to create the cowboy myth worldwide.
As the image took hold, cowboy characters began to appear in dime store novels, no longer herding cattle
they now took on the even more romantic image of crime fighters, saving the damsel and righting wrongs even
though they themselves, more often than not, were operating outside of the law.
Two of the most enduring and relevant characters to emerge from this tradition (even though created a lot later)
were the Lone Ranger and Zorro.
Their popularity proved so great, their adventures were serialised in TV shows and made into motion pictures
increasing their popularity and more importantly exporting the image of the American hero around the globe
on a scale never before seen.
These two characters may have been the bridge between America's first and until recently, it's most identifiable
mythology, the cowboy and its modern counterpart, the superhero.
And over the next three decades, the American public were witness to a plethora of new heroes, each one
representing the time and place of its creation. Superman, an alien from a far off land, finding a new home in
the new world, the ultimate immigrant. Captain America, champion of justice, fighting the Nazi horde in a
blaze of patriotic propaganda. By the 1960s things had begun to change again and this was reflected in a
new wave of heroes most notably, Spiderman. A shy teenager with real, human problems, his powers
reflecting his hidden potential unseen by the rest of society. Or the Uncanny X-Men, mutants feared and hated
by the world around them, they can be seen as an attempt to highlight the racial tensions of the 1960s. Like all
myths, these characters helped their readers to understand the world around them and how they themselves
fitted in to it.
America had finally created its own myths in the shape of those colourful do-gooders, gods for a modern world.
A world that spread its message across the globe, affecting millions of teenagers and how they themselves
viewed society around them.
And while there are still great merits to those wild adventurers from a foreign land, there is also a price to pay.
Over the years our own myths have been forgotten and with such a constant influx of stories in all forms of media
there seemed to be no need for new heroes of our own.
It is this lack of Irish characters in the comic medium that has been on my mind for some time now, and
I am hoping over the coming years to help turn the tide in my own small way by introducing new creations

along with breathing new life into heroes long forgotten.
Some of Atomic Diner's new titles due for release are Roisin Dubh, a young woman living in Nineteenth Century
Ireland who has the world torn from beneath her and is forced to become a champion against the oncoming
The League of Volunteers is a World War 2 adventure book and centres around a Government sponsored super
team called in to keep the balance of neutrality during one of our country's most interesting periods.
And then hopefully later on in 2011 or early 2012, Jennifer Wilde, Glimmerman and The Emerald Scorpion.
I'm not so deluded as to think these characters will have the same kind of impact as their American counterparts
I'm simply happy to be involved in creating an Irish alternative and hope that somewhere along the way, these stories
if not inspire, at least entertain.

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