Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Expanded Marvel Universe

As I've mentioned before, when The Collapse happened, culturally, people tended to retreat into different spheres--the Middle American culture that favored faith-based content, westerns, and odes to the U.S. Military. Then there was the High Culture that is favored by whatever passed for the aristocracy--stuff like Masterpiece Theater, Opera, and the occasional modern artistic endeavors. Stuff that thrived in late stage capitalism, particularly "geek culture" definitely took a big hit.

That said, a corporate and cultural behemoth like Marvel didn't completely disappear. Spider-Man is not unfamiliar to most people, and Marvel's depiction of Thor and other characters from Norse mythology have ended up creating a sort of symbiosis, with Thor sticking around as both a piece of historical and modern popular culture.

Marvel comics have also created a group of characters that, while not public domain, have namesakes and connections that have been absorbed into Marvel's mythology. Basically, I looked for iconic Marvel characters who are usually not the first that come up in the google image searches, have connections in fantasy fiction.

White Queen/Hellfire Club: besides the White Queen featured in "Alice in Wonderland" (who in turn featured in the recent Disney movies), there's the novels and television mini-series about Elizabeth Woodville--curiously written by Emma Frost, the name of the Marvel character.

The Hellfire Club is a real organization, once including Benjamin Franklin in their ranks, and has been the subject of many conspiracy theories.

Black Knight: The Black Knight is a mantle held by numerous Marvel characters, the most prominent being a member of the Avengers during some of the team's largest battles. "Black Knight" as a concept has featured numerously throughout fiction, most notably "Ivanhoe". It's also quite possible in some regions, the character/archetype has been conflated with Batman.

Beast: A longstanding member of the X-Men, who's appeared frequently throughout its media (funny enough as a usual latecomer that becomes a staple due to the character's "mascotability" and scientific acumen). "Beast" would also be known from the "Beauty and the Beast" story, which Disney has depicted twice to great success.

Fly: Occasionally Spider-Man has tangled with this character. But Most people know "The Fly" as the 1958 sci-fi chiller, as well as its 1986 remake. The Fly is a more explicitly science-fiction monster, but it's still included in many collections of monsters. Spider-Man doesn't hurt for archenemies that would fit in a medieval setting (To wit: The Green Goblin), but the natural animosity of predator and prey makes for good stories.

Destroyer: A very generic name--several Marvel characters have had that name, as well as a series of 1970's paperback novels. "Destroyer" is also sometimes used to reference the villain in "Ghostbusters". There's also the name of battleships. Also this combined funnels into the "character" from Thor's comics and movies--an animate suit of armor.

Enchantress: Another Thor adversary with a somewhat generic name, Marvel's Enchantress has been recently overshadowed by the one from "Suicide Squad" due to the movie--there's also a possibly less malevolent Enchantress from "Beauty and the Beast". Copyright laws generally lapsing over the centuries, however, stories conflated all three figures.

Firelord: One of Marvel's more obscure characters, though trading blows with the likes of Spider-Man and Thor, the concept of a "Fire Lord" exists throughout various iterations of fantasy fiction and gaming. Because "Fire character" is pretty common throughout comics, this catch-all name made him the most prominent.

Ghost Rider: A Marvel character with a pair of movies, and the subject of an old-timey Western song, "Ghost Rider" has become a generic enough concept that various sports teams have used the name. In fact, there's a Hockey team that evokes the Marvel image as much as possible without infringing on the trademark.

Hawkeye: The name of the Avengers character (and sometimes butt of jokes--though an Archer would certainly have a warm place in Neo-medieval stories), "Hawkeye" is also the smart-alecky lead of M*A*S*H*, and the nickname of "Last of the Mohican"'s Natty Bumpo.  To say nothing of Iowa being named "The Hawkeye" state. It's easy to see how all these elements conflated into one character--a character who fought alongside Thor, among others.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Ninja

The strange anachronism of the new Middle Ages in America means cowboys, pirates, and knights all coexist, sometimes interacting. Often mentioned in these schoolyard debates, but somewhat way off in the distance, is the ninja. In feudal Japan, they were assassins--not the mystical, black shroud beings of video games, but spies, who's fabled "invisibility" comes from their tendency to blend in with the lower classes in hierarchical societies.

In America, "Ninjas" is largely a catch-all term for fighters trained in Eastern-style martial arts, with modicum of armor or weapons. Ninja is used to refer to anyone who is expertly trained in hand-to-hand combat, which is usually a mishmash of kung-fu, karate, jujistsu, even non-Asian arts like Capoeira. Anyone who trained at a dojo is called a ninja, and anywhere a ninja trains is called a dojo. Dojos aren't particularly common in the Heartland--they're mostly found in the coasts, particularly the Pacific Coast, where they have much of of a connection to East Asia, and where the upper classes who don't engage in the feudal order might want to prove their fighting bona fides.

For the most part, "Ninja" is an honorary, and in America, much more style than substance. However, they are orders of undetectable assassins who sometimes pretend to be the more conspicuous ninjas. it's much easier to surprise people who think you're actually playing by the rules.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Ten/Fifteen Years Later

This week, fifteen years ago, Matthew White first created his Medieval America page. While the ten year mark is a little further for this blog, I thought it'd be interesting to reflect on the way the U.S. has changed, or historic events that have occurred, since the very idea was conjured up. Fifteen years is nothing compared to the near millennia of the future history, but speculative fiction is often about where we live now.

In 2003, White proposed New Orleans would be one of, perhaps the largest city in North America. A couple of year later, Hurricane Katrina would do major damage to the city, seeing it depopulated. Granted, cities are much smaller under medieval limits, and perhaps its place as the geographic center of trade might mean it wouldn't matter, but it's interesting to think about what effect Katrina would have in White's overall plan, if any.

Perhaps the biggest, where the U.S. is concerned, is the election of two historic presidents. At the time of the blog, the president was George W. Bush, who's administration and policy was along the typical neoconservative lines, and as a born-again, second generation president, which certainly evoked dynastic rule, and a revival of the Crusades at that.

About five years after AoMA was created, and a couple of months before this blog, Barack Obama was elected as the 44th president. A charismatic but collected figure, Obama was the first president of African descent. Very historic, and likely to be remembered even a thousand years later, although in the 30th century, with the pool found around the Chesapeake, it probably wouldn't be unusual for Presidents to look like Obama. He might be a popular figure in the Non-Denominational world, lessso in the lands west of the Mississippi. Interestingly, a Conan-style comic was published depicting Barack Obama as a Barbarian hero--rather interesting because the archetype of Obama comes across as a less martial, more brainy, statesmen. Although, he did come from Hawaii, which in in Medieval America probably comes across as more foreign than ever.

Obama was momentous for People of Color, (which would which now constitute roughly half of what was the eastern U.S.), but his election also galvanized the white supremacist aspect of the U.S., particularly the white, rural, low-government right wing types who would be largely influential on the Feudal Core. In 2016, they threw in their lot with Donald Trump, who in many ways is both a throwback, and in others unprecedented. He gives off the image of a latter-day Nero, and is both obessed with heraldry and installing a "court" composed of offspring and retainers. But his demeanor and aesthetic are so undeniably post-Industrial. For the record, there is a twitter account depicting a medieval version of him. In any case, we have recently seen a manifestation of openly white supremacist groups, and believe me, I have thought about "Ku Klux Klan" knights, and while the Atlas is not necessarily about depicting a utopia, this blog is supposed to be fun, so I have no plans to dwell on that too much.

Maybe the biggest story in popular culture has been the huge explosion of the superhero genre, and Marvel in particular. At the time of the writing, Spider-Man, and to a lesser extent, the X-Men, were rather popular in the large cultural consciousness, but the buzz went largely to fantasy franchises like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings (Which might have been what inspired White). When I started the blog, Iron Man was a big breakout, but Avengers/Infinity Stone movies have become particularly dominant. Admittedly, it's not bad fit to medievalize the Avengers, with knights, wizards, and even the thunder god, Thor.

Another pop culture phenomenon has been Game of Thrones, based George R.R. Martin's novels. Thrones has become the byword for "medieval" in the current culture, and as Martin is an American author, weaned on comic books himself, it's certainly easy to imagine the occasional de-fictionalization of tropes from the series come into wider society--just little things here and there; A Kingsguard, "Khaleesi" as a description for any warrior woman, and the tendency for royal families to adopt sigils (Flags already being a big part of White's project).

Most recently has been a trend in the popularity of horror--particularly PG-rated, broad-appealing horror. A lot of like The Conjuring and Slender Man have been about real-life or urban legend type horrors (elaborated as it all may be), or social commentary like Get Out or The Purge.  Generally, the kind of stuff that makes for great campfire stories. (I'm largely of the stance that of all movie monsters--your Freddys, your Jasons, even your Predators, would probably endure the most in the slide to Medievalism)

Around the time White's page was created, Scientology was certainly not looked at fondly, but it was much more mysterious. Since then, documentaries and tell-all books have broken through the mystery, and many of the big-time Hollywood stars who served as spokesmen have since waned in their careers. White it's conceivable some kind of loopy cult would emerge and take over California, Scientology has probably lost its window.

Perhaps the biggest change since the the Atlas was created, is the proliferation of social media--which has changed how we talk, interact, and pick up news. This would clearly dissipate in a world with no internet--it's interesting to speculate what might remain. OKCupid and Twitter in particular, evoke Roman Gods and messenger birds, respectively, so they might remain in the lexicon. Also funny that the 2001 fairy tale parody Shrek features banners that look like medieval versions of the Facebook logo. Funny enough, de facto social network nations exist much along the same lines as the urbans clusters found in the city maps.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter

Easter traditions in the Non-Denominational world can vary somewhat, due to the gaps between wealth, and the harvest season gradients. Like most holidays, Easter dinner is  a communal effort shared by the entire village or estate. Master and servant don't quite switch places, as this is a reverent holiday and competence is demanded, but the lord of the manor is definitely expected to "help out" with the grunt work. Feasting is where the divide between Northern and Southern cuisine is starkest--with the mutton and grains of the north vs the ham and greens of the south. In fact, Northerners try and shoot for something more resembling a Brunch--a lot of breakfast foods and pastries, because they'e composed of edibles that have been preserved over the winter. (raisins, jams, eggs, and fats)

The lack of feasts for Northerners is somewhat made up for in the Northern, coastal cities having more access to chocolate, which is a rarity for Easter sweets. Candy bunnies are usual made up of marzipan, or something else more flour-based. Eggs are still boiled and dyed, of course, but green eggs are not common because it's hard to make a non-toxic green dye. Easter egg hunts can be done with dyed eggs, or for more well to do families, small gifts may be hid in painted wooden eggs.

This is most likely the day people will be awarded new clothes, as much for practical purposes as vanity, since this is the time of the year people will start wearing thinner linens, and not huddle in front of the fireplace for weeks on end. Not necessarily bonnets, but something important and nice-looking.

In some remote locations, villagers may try and capture a rabbit, name it that year's "Easter Bunny", and care for it in the hopes of a good farming year. The fate of the rabbit may depend on how well the harvest turns out, or the temper of the villagers.

Passion plays are also extremely popular, and a large enough of a cultural hub may even do a week of shows depicting various stories from the Bible. (The story of Moses generally being the second-most popular), and a well coordinated collection of acting troupes will specialize in their own productions. In fact, despite their general aversion to drama, even New Israelites, especially in settled communities like Iowa and Texas, will hold passion plays, although they will try their best to avoid depicting jesus Christ himself.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Rainbow Girls

Pueveyors of Medieval American girly art have some pretty strange tastes.

One of the things men missed most with the collapse was pornography--the driving force of most technology. Sure, some magazines here and there stuck around, although weathered, they would in turn transform into unusual purple, green, or yellow hues. But coming up with new erotic images meant having to draw or paint them. This would be the reliable source of income for artists, in a world that didn't have much of an economy for the arts. The women would sometimes be drawn with skin tones not found in nature, for several reasons. One, because painters would use whatever they had on hand. Two, because by drawing them as mermaids or cat ladies allowed them to make the image more distinct, without having to draw new faces. Third, it offset the uncanny valley. And fourth, because it allowed models a degree of anonymity.