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Friday, 13 October 2017

13 Facts about the Friday the 13th series

Jason, star of the show
Finally a Month of Horror coincides with a Friday the Thirteenth. What better way to continue 2017's Month of Horror but by looking at one of the most famous horror movie franchises of all time. Jason Voorhees is easily one of the icons of not only the horror genre but also 1980s popular culture. Only perhaps Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street manages to have the same standing. Several years ago I did a piece of trivia for each entry in the film series, (here it is if you're interested), so today we're going to look at general trivia for the entire Friday the 13th franchise, 13 in fact. So let's look at the man behind the mask...

Warning- May contain spoilers

1- Alice Cooper made a song for the series
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives is by far my favorite entry in the series and had a song made for it by one of my favorite artists. Alice Cooper is quintessential 1980s campy rock which made him perfect for Part VI. This entry was the first to stop taking itself seriously and just embraced the absurdity of a man giant zombie in a hockey mask hacking people to death. It made sense that the two should come together. Cooper recorded The Man Behind the Mask which featured in the movie. It was not even the only Alice Cooper song to be featured in the film. A further two songs were featured! One was Teenage Frankenstein which is a nod to how the Universal Frankenstein movies helped influence Part VI. The Man Behind the Mask also made a second appearance in the series. In a novel tie-in to the series released in 2005 characters are listening to the song.

2-There were going to be 13 entries into the series
As of writing there are twelve Friday the 13th movies. There are the ten original movies, the 2003 crossover where he fights Freddy Krueger and finally the 2009 remake. There were plans to make a sequel to the remake but poor reception, lackluster box office returns, and producer Michael Bay's anger over the remake caused plans for a sequel to be dropped. However, Paramount Pictures announced that they planned to make a new remake which would have been released on this exact day that I am writing this, (13 October 2017). It was going to be written by Aaron Guzikowski and it was going to be a quasi-origin story with it filling in the blanks of Jason's origins. Recently video game series have been having guest characters for cross promotion and Netherrealm studios had been very big on this. In Mortal Kombat X Jason, the Alien, the Predator and Leatherface (from Texas Chainsaw Massacre) all appeared and all have new movies, (Alien Covenant, Leatherface and a new Predator to be released in 2018). After the both financial and critical failure of Rings earlier this year it is likely that this is why the remake was cancelled before shooting began. The thirteenth Friday the 13th movie won't be happening for the foreseeable future. 

3- Friday the 13th TV series
The opening
Although we don't have a thirteenth movie we have a TV series. Despite having several people who worked or appeared in the movies working on the series, sharing the name, and the same font of the title it has nothing to do with the movies. Allegedly when it was released in the UK it went under the name Friday's Curse. Instead it revolved around some owners of an antique store hunting down cursed objects. There was a decision to have Jason's hockey mask to appear in the series but it was scrapped so the series could be independent. Also, there is a rumor that the final episode before the series was cut short was to focus around Jason's mask and possibly even confronting Jason. Despite being cut short people have spotted how it may have inspired Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, The X-Files and the show Warehouse 13 has even been accused of plagiarizing this series!

4- Jason isn't the killer in every movie
Despite being one of the most famous horror movie character from the 1980s Jason is not the killer in two entries of the series. In the first movie it is actually his mother, Pamela Voorhees played by Betsy Palmer, who is the killer. Sent mad by her son drowning at Camp Crystal Lake when two camp counselors were busy having sex she decided to go on a killing spree when the camp reopened. Jason only appears at the end as a corpse, (in a possible dream sequence), dragging the last survivor underwater. The other entry is Part V. After being killed by Tommy Jarvis, (Corey Feldman), at the end of Part IV it is a copycat killer pretending to be Jason in perhaps the weakest entry in the series. Something which brings us to fact five...

5- Tommy Jarvis was supposed to be the new Jason
Tommy at the end
The fifth entry was entitled Friday the 13th: A New Beginning as that was the intention of it. Throughout the movie it had been hinting that after the events of Part IV that Tommy Jarvis had been driven to madness by Jason's murders and was now the copycat killer. However, we find out that instead a character who had about five minutes of screentime with no dialogue was actually the killer. At the end Tommy dons the infamous hockey mask and armed with a knife goes to attack one of the other survivors, (pictured above). Thanks to Jason coming back to life in Part VI this scene has been assumed to be a dream sequence but originally this was meant to make Tommy the new Jason. Tommy was meant to be the new murderer and the original opening was supposed to reaffirm this. Originally it was going to open with Tommy attacking hospital staff immediately after the events of the previous movie, fighting his way to the morgue where Jason wakes up, and then Tommy wakes up from a dream. Through poor reception from both fans and critics it is likely that Tommy becoming the new murderer was dropped in favor of resurrecting Jason.

6- Tom Savini made the first iconic effects
Savini working on Jason in the first movie
Tom Savini is well known among fans of horror movies as he is a special effects artist and actor. He became well renowned for his effects, as well as acting, in Dawn of the Dead which led him to being nominated for a Saturn Award for make-up. Although Dawn is by far his best work he has managed to create groundbreaking effects in everything that he has worked on. He has worked on two movies in the franchise: the first and the fourth. It is no coincidence that these two have some of the most graphic kills in the series. Savini is extremely good in creating realistic gore and he went full out on Friday the 13th. Not only making the gory kills he also made Jason himself. Above you can see the first steps in creating the rotting corpse of Jason which jumps from the lake at the end of the movie. 

7- The series was meant to end several times
Friday the 13th was never intended to have so many sequels. Initially it was meant to be a trilogy with Part III ending with Jason dying and staying dead at the end of the movie. However, Paramount was not content in having Part III being Jason's last killing spree, mostly because it made a profit of over $34 million. It was decided that the series should end with the fourth movie. It was even entitled The Final Chapter to signify that this was to be the last entry of the series. Due to Tommy looking disturbed staring into the distance it was left up to the audience to decide what this meant. With it making over $19 million it was decided that the audience needed a new entry. In 1993 it was decided to end the series with the ninth entry: Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. This movie literally ends with Jason going to Hell, (and another character dragging the last image of Jason with him), and that actually ended the series for six years until Jason X literally took Jason to space. 

8- Horror Crossovers
Freddy vs. Jason
We already know that Jason has met other horror icons with 2003's Freddy vs. Jason where he battles Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street. This was not the first time that Freddy met Jason though. As mentioned in the previous point another character dragged Jason's last image to Hell at the end of the ninth entry. The movie ends with Jason's mask in the desert where Freddy Krueger's hand burst from the sand and drags it to Hell. Part VI was even intended to be a battle between the two but it was cancelled when Paramount could not obtain Freddy's rights. The ninth entry also contains a reference to another film series. Almost an hour into the movie you can very visibly see the Necronomicon prop from the Evil Dead franchise. Based off of the Necronomicon from H.P. Lovecraft's famous mythos the Necronomicon brings the zombie like Deadites to life. Due to this cameo we got the comic book Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash where Freddy tries to get back at Jason from Freddy vs. Jason by using the Necronomicon in Jason's hut. Then Ash from The Evil Dead finds out and tries to stop them. One last thing is that another horror icon was meant to appear in Freddy vs. Jason but it was cancelled due to how expensive the rights were. Freddy and Jason were meant to be dragged to Hell where they become shackled by chains. Then Pinhead from Hellraiser would come out and say 'Gentlemen, what seems to be the problem?'

9- Video Game Easter Eggs
The game
Earlier this year a video game was released where you either play as a camp counselor trying to survive or play as Jason trying to massacre them. This game contains so many references to the movies. Many of the counselors are inspired by the characters from the movies, many of Jason's kills are directly from the movies, Jason's costumes are exactly like his film variants, and Jason even smashes through doors in a similar way to how he does it in Part VI. These are not the only references. The Higgins Haven map has a damaged bridge which is damaged in the exact same way in how the bridge was damaged in Part III. To kill Jason you have to combine several ways how Jason is killed in the movies. One of the female characters have to wear Pamela Voorhees' jumper and the Tommy Jarvis player has to deal the killing blow.

10- Many Actors
Kane Hodder
Ten people have played throughout the history of the movies. The first was Ari Lehman who portrayed Jason as a child in the first movie. Kane Hodder is the person to have played the character the most and is well regarded by fans. Hodder has played Jason in every entry of the series between Part VII and Jason X. There was a controversy with fans when Hodder wasn't cast as Jason in Freddy vs. Jason as director Ronny Yu wanted someone to tower over 5'10'' Robert Englund who was portraying Freddy Krueger. Yu wanted it to be a 'David v. Goliath' type match so Ken Kirzinger was cast instead. Recently Hodder has been recast as Jason with serving as the killer via motion capture with the new Friday the 13th Game.

11- Mortal Kombat Appearance
As earlier mentioned Jason has appeared in the hit fighting video game Mortal Kombat X, possibly as a way to advertise the now cancelled thirteenth movie. Jason was a DLC, (downloadable content), which the player would have to buy in order to play. There Jason would be able to fight Mortal Kombat's ninjas, gods and monsters. Or alternatively you could have Jason fight Jason. Jason was released at the same time as the Predator and later was joined by the Alien and Leatherface. Jason and Leatherface weren't the first horror characters to appear in Mortal Kombat. In the previous game, entitled Mortal Kombat but referred to as MK 9 by fans, Freddy Krueger was a possible playable character. Like with Jason his inclusion may have been a way to cross promote the then recent Nightmare on Elm Street remake.

12- The famous stalking noise
Those who have watched the movies will recognize the above noise. When Jason is stalking or about to murder someone this sound is played. There is actually some meaning behind it according to the original score composer Harry Manfredini. Normally people say that the sound is 'chi, chi. chi, ha, ha, ha' but instead it really is 'ki, ki, ki, ma, ma, ma'. Manfredini has said that in the first movie it is really representing Jason saying 'kill, kill, kill, mom, mom, mom' as Pamela believes that Jason is telling her to kill people. In the later films it is shown that Jason is killing seemingly on Pamela's orders. In Part V it is changed to 'ki, ki, ki, ta, ta, ta' if you listen carefully. This is a subtle nod to how it is now Jason telling Tommy to kill.

13- Possible fan theory
The original Friday the 13th is effectively a poor attempt to replicate the horror classic Halloween with a regular human committing the murders, and initially it was assumed that Jason dragging the last survivor into the lake was a dream. That is until Jason actually returns and kills the only two characters to survive the previous movie. Fans wondered how did Jason age up if he was a corpse child at the end of the first movie. Was he actually alive the entire time? A fan theory has cropped up based on the Necronomicon's cameo in Jason goes to Hell. There is a theory that Pamela Voorhees discovers the Necronomicon and decides to bring Jason back. The murders that she committed throughout the movie were then actually part of a blood ritual to bring Jason back which became complete when Pamela was beheaded. After his first appearance he rapidly ages to the age he would have been if he had not drowned. 

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Friday, 6 October 2017

Jack the Ripper

A Victorian Cartoon depicting Jack
Long time readers of this blog know that every October we do a 'Month of Horror' dedicating this blog to all things dark and terrifying, (on a side note on our Facebook page we're celebrating Black History Month where each day of October we look at an influential figure in black history). To start the 2017 Month of Horror off we'll be looking at a real life figure of horror. Starting in 1888 a serial killer started mutilating prostitutes in Whitechapel, London. Thanks to a letter sent to the media this serial earned the nickname 'Jack the Ripper'. Jack was never caught and since then he has become a key figure in popular culture. Ranging from Alan Moore's masterpiece From Hell, (and the poor film adaptation of the same name), to inspiring Marie Belloc Lowndes' novel The Lodger, to even the manga/anime Black Butler. Nicholas Rance has argued that Bram Stoker's Dracula was inspired by Jack the Ripper. Today we'll be looking at the mystery of Jack the Ripper.

Jack's London
An Alley in 1880s London
As mentioned earlier Jack the Ripper murdered his victims in Whitechapel in the East End of London. For centuries London's East End has been viewed differently than the rest of London. Whitechapel, and many other districts of the East End, started as hamlets which grew over the centuries as industries like slaughterhouses, tanneries and breweries moved there. Naturally this created job prospects and the population started to increase. By the 1700s former hamlets like Whitechapel, Limehouse, and Ratcliff became self-contained urban communities which were densely packed with intricate networks of courts and alleys. The structures weren't well built so many houses were derelict and tightly packed together. Until the passage of legislation in the second half of the 1800s diseases such as cholera and typhus spread quickly through these districts. Big cities always attract immigration and London at the center of a global empire was no exception. Xenophobic feeling grew from this. Thanks to the British empire in India a type of cloth called calico managed to be imported cheaply to the metropole, (at the expense of Indians). Local weavers blamed calicoes from India for their bad fortunes and riots broke out in June 1719 in Whitechapel and Spitalfields. These riots spread across London so Parliament in 1720 banned wearing of calicoes. Britain's colony in Ireland led to Catholic Irish to go to London. Although widely discriminated against Catholics were marginally less discriminated against in England. However, anti-Catholicism and xenophobia led people to blame the Irish for their issues, (poor housing, low wages etc.) which led to riots. In 1736 around 4,000 weavers and laborers protested against the employment of cheap Irish laborers in Whitechapel and Spitalfields which again spread across London.

During the 1800s London became the place for political exiles. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the authors of The Communist Manifesto, had fled to London where they lived in the East End, (although Engels lived in Manchester for several years). If someone could not flee to the United States they fled to London which developed a particularly thriving Jewish intellectual culture. Particularly German Jews had fled the Continent thanks to either horrific anti-Semitism or persecution through their socialist or anarchist views. However, through British anti-socialism and anti-Semitism they too faced discrimination. London's Jewish population boomed after 1881. With the assassination of Tsar Alexander II Russian anti-Semitism blamed leading to intense pogroms. Through fear many fled abroad; those who could afford it went to the USA while the rest fled to less anti-Semitic regions of Europe including London. As we'll see later anti-Semitism would play into the case of Jack the Ripper. Thanks to the British Empire colonized peoples also came to London, (also facing xenophobic abuse). Indian and Chinese communities grew in particular. A famous depiction of the East End are Victorians getting high in Chinese ran opium dens. The Irish, Jewish, Chinese and Indian communities all faced discrimination from the Protestant, white population and elite.

East End Murders and Mysteries before Jack
The London Monster
Long before Jack the Ripper the media had focused on murderers from the East End. We'll look at two today. The first that we'll look at the London Monster. He, however, wasn't a murderer but instead a sexual abuser and attacker of women. Beginning in 1788 mainly wealthy women complained that a large man would shout obscenities at them, sometimes rip their clothes, and then stab them in the buttocks. Other accounts say that he would invite victims to smell a posy only for them to be stabbed in the face with a hidden spike among the flowers. Over a period of around two years it has been estimated that 50 women were attacked. Recently historians have debated the extent of the London Monster's reign of terror, or even if it actually happen. The Georgian media seized on the story of the London Monster and created a frenzy. In 1790 Rhynwick Williams was accused and incarcerated for being the London Monster although historians have doubted if he actually was the London Monster, or if he was tried to quieten down a frenzied public.
The Ratcliff Highway Murderer
Those who have recently watched the movie The Limehouse Golem, or read the novel it is based on Dan Lino and the Limehouse Golem, will recognize the Ratcliff Highway Murders. In Ratcliff and Wapping seven people were slaughtered. On December 7 1811 the Marr family and their apprentice were horrifically mutilated and were discovered by their servant. This created a media sensation which dwarfed that of the London Monster. Twelve days later a second set of murders took place. At The King's Arms Tavern the tavern owners John and Elizabeth Williamson and their servant Bridget Anna Harrington were brutally murdered. Eventually a sailor named John Williams was arrested for the murders and he later was found hanged, apparently he commit suicide, in Coldbath Field Prison. In both these cases the 'penny press' became enraptured by the stories and spread them across the country. However, in 1888 a series of murders would become more well renowned.

The Ripper Murders
The Location of the Murders
A prostitute named Mary Ann Nichols had been living in a doss-house. On Friday August 31 1888 she was found in Buck's Row, Whitechapel with her throat cut. She was last seen alive by her roommate at 2.30 and had been discovered by a cart driver at 3.40. The police determined that she had been murdered at the scene due to the amount of blood. Throughout the year two other women, Emma Elizabeth Smith and Martha Tabram, had been murdered in the area leading to The Star to link the three murders together. Emma Smith had been assaulted in Osborne Street, Whitechappel where her right ear was torn and she had been stabbed in the stomach. She later died in the hospital. The prospect of a serial killer led Scotland Yard to send Detective Inspectors to the area, one of whom being Frederick Abberline. To this day criminologists debate whether Smith and Tabram were the first Ripper victims. Eight days after Mary Nichols had been found at Hanbury Street another prostitute named Annie May Chapman was found dead. The coroner found that she had been 'terribly mutilated' and that her throat had been cut with a thin narrow blade of a knife which a surgeon would use. A witness, Elizabeth Long, said that Annie Chapman had been talking to a man at 5.30 in an overcoat and deer-stalker hat who spoke in a 'foreign' accent. At 6.00 she was found dead. She had been disemboweled and most disturbingly a part of her uterus was missing. Like Mary Nichols she too had been murdered at the scene.

On September 30 two more victims were found. At 12.35 a.m. a police officer witnessed Elizabeth Stride outside the International Working Men's Educational Club, a socialist and primarily Jewish club, with a man in a felt hat. She was found with her throat slashed at St-George's-in-the-East at 1.00. Catherine Eddows unfortunately met a more disturbing fate. I must warn readers that the coroner's report of Eddows will be disturbing:
the intestines were drawn out to a large extent and placed over the right shoulder-they were smeared over with some feculent matter. A piece of about two feet was quite detached from the body and placed between the body and the left arm, apparently by design. The lobe and auricle of the right ear were cut obliquely through.
The last confirmed Ripper murder was found on November 9. Mary Jane Kelly had been spotted by a friend entering her accommodation at 2.45 and at 3.00 another resident Mary Ann Cox shouted 'Murder!'. Mary Kelly had been brutally murdered being disemboweled with her face slashed beyond recognition. Those were the five confirmed Ripper killings although more murders took place which today still have not been conclusively linked to Jack the Ripper. Sometime after Mary Kelly's murder a prostitute was found strangled in Poplar which a police surgeon described as the handiwork of the 'Whitechapel Fiend'. Again in St-George's-in-the-East and Whitechapel two more women were mutilated. The last possible murder happened on 13 February 1891 in Whitechapel. Found in an alley her throat had been slashed so violently that she had almost been decapitated. After no further killings happened and today we are no closer to finding Jack the Ripper at the cost of the lives of possibly eleven people.

The Letters
The From Hell letter
Disturbingly the murderer, possibly, sent letters to taunt the police and media. These letters went into the hundreds but three have stood out to criminal historians. The first of these is the 'Dear Boss' letter sent to Central News Agency in September who then forwarded it to Scotland Yard. It was first thought to be a hoax until Catherine Eddows was found mutilated. It reads:
Dear Boss,
I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they wont fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal. How can they catch me now. I love my work and want to start again. You will soon hear of me with my funny little games. I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope ha. ha. The next job I do I shall clip the ladys ears off and send to the police officers just for jolly wouldn't you. Keep this letter back till I do a bit more work, then give it out straight. My knife's so nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get a chance. Good Luck. Yours truly
Jack the Ripper
Dont mind me giving the trade name
PS Wasnt good enough to post this before I got all the red ink off my hands curse it. No luck yet. They say I'm a doctor now. ha ha
Written in red ink it gave the world the name 'Jack the Ripper'. Jack had been used to describe a devil-like figure scaring Londoners and others throughout England called 'Spring-heeled Jack' so the name was widely known. The second prominent letter is actually a postcard called the 'Saucy Jack' postcard. It was sent in October and reads:
I was not codding dear old Boss when I gave you the tip, you'll hear about Saucy Jacky's work tomorrow double event this time number one squealed a bit couldn't finish straight off. Had not got time to get ears off for police thanks for keeping last letter back till I got to work again.
Jack the Ripper
The final letter is the most famous entitled 'From Hell'. The handwriting on this letter is very unlike that of 'Dear Boss' and 'Saucy Jack' but there is a reason why it isn't seen as a hoax. It was sent to the head of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, George Lusk, with a box containing half a kidney, (likely that of Catherine Eddows). It reads:
From hell.
Mr Lusk,
I send you half the Kidne I took from one woman prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise. I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer
Catch me when you can Mishter Lusk
Media and the Suspects
Prince Albert Victor
The popular press became enraptured by the Ripper killings. In the 1850s a change in tax laws allowed people to publish cheap papers available for wide circulation. The Star mentioned earlier is one such paper which emerged thanks to this. Today's British tabloids like The Daily Mirror, The Sun and the The Daily Star were only possible thanks to this law. This is how Jack the Ripper became such a cultural icon. While the London Monster and Ratcliff Highway Murders were not widely known outside London the new press allowed Jack to become widely known outside Britain itself. Jack the Ripper wasn't the first tabloid frenzy in Britain but it would be the first serial killer to grab headlines nationwide. The Manchester Guardian, (ancestor to today's Guardian), even widely reported the first murder. When CID refused to release information the press started speculating. One early nickname for Jack was the 'Leather Apron' which lead to the brief arrest of a Jewish cobbler who worked with leather called John Pizer to be briefly arrested. This description of the killer was widely circulated:
Age 37; height, 5ft. 7in.; rather dark beard and moustache. Dress-shirt, dark vest and trousers, black scarf, and black felt hat. Spoke with foreign accent.
The media frenzy was so manic that writer and journalist, George R. Sims, while reporting the story was identified as the killer. Sims believed that the murderer was 'undoubtedly a doctor who had been in a lunatic asylum and had developed homicidal mania of a special kind'. At the time a 'quack' doctor Francis Tumblety was suspected although he would later be arrested for homosexuality, (which was sadly illegal then). Other suspects have included a barrister and schoolmaster Montague Druitt, who commit suicide after Mary Kelly's murder, a Jewish barber who had 'a great hatred of women' called Aaron Kosminski (the Daily Mail a few years ago accused Kosminski of being the killer although criminologists disagree), and another barber, hanged 1905, called George Chapman, (also called Klosowski). Since World War Two others have been put forward ranging from Lewis Carroll (author of Alice in Wonderland) to Melville McNaghten, the Assistant Chief Constable appointed after the murders. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed Jack to really be Jill who did the murders disguised as a midwife. One popular theory is the 'Royal Conspiracy'. One part is that Queen Victoria's grandson Prince Albert Victor insane with syphilis did the murders. An alternate version was that the Prince secretly slept with the prostitutes so to cover this up the royal physician Sir William Gull murdered them. The theory goes on to say that as he was a Mason and the murders were part of an elaborate ritual, (this was the plot to From Hell). Today we are no closer to knowing who Jack really was as we were in 1888.

Sexism and Xenophobia
Contemporary depiction of the Ripper. Note how he is portrayed using Jewish stereotypes.
Throughout this post you would have noted how people described Jack as sounding 'foreign' or how contemporary suspects were mainly Jewish. Robert F. Haggard and Sander L. Gilman have both discussed how xenophobia became deeply entwined with the Ripper case. The night when Catherine Eddows was murdered a piece of her apron was found near a wall where written in chalk were the words: The Juwes are the men That Will not be Blamed for nothing. Locally a Jew named known as 'the Leather Apron' was supposedly behind the killings. As mentioned earlier xenophobia and anti-Semitism was rampant in British society. Blaming a social outcast was the perfect for the police and press. Social Darwinism itself originated in Britain and Jews faced intense intense discrimination. Associated with radical left-wing politics and not from Britain, (most Jewish migrants came from Poland), many people were eager to see Jews blamed for the murders. Even today there is some legacy of this. Aaron Kosminski possibly being the killer after a new bit of evidence was discarded by criminologists as the method linking him to the killing is seen as not being accurate. This did nothing to stop noted anti-immigrant paper The Daily Mail from running the story. 

Sexism played heavily in the media and police reports on the murders. As the victims were prostitutes the media played up how Jack must be sexually deviant and was taking his frustrations out on women. Judith Walkowitz has identified ideas of sexual danger in the Ripper case. We can see a 'Madonna-Whore' complex emerge. People were eager to claim kinship with some of the victims and witnesses tried to play down that the victims drank or were streetwalkers. However, at the same time fears of female sexuality played heavily into the contemporary narrative. The late-nineteenth century was a time of increasing emancipation for women with the emergence of what has now been called First-wave Feminism. Fears of women's autonomy emerged which Walkowitz argues could explain the idea that Jack could really be Jill. Men sometimes even claimed to be the Ripper to extort women, regardless if they were a prostitute or not. A tailor named James Henderson while drunk threatened Rose Goldstein with a 'ripping' if she did not go with him and was soon arrested, (although this could do with the fact that he hit her with his cane). Henderson was fined just forty shillings as he was drunk despite Goldstein appearing in court in bandages. This one case just shows the attitude that Victorian London had towards women.

Jack the Ripper is a unique case in history. A case featuring brutal murders where the murderer went uncaught surrounded by media mania, misogyny and xenophobia. It is understandable to see why  after almost a hundred and thirty years Jack the Ripper remains a key cultural figure. Through these factors we remember Jack the Ripper and not the London Monster or the Ratcliff Highway Murders. 

The sources I have used are as follows:
-Jack the Ripper and the East End edited by Alex Werner, (particularly the Introduction by Peter Ackroyd)
-Jack the Ripper: Media, Culture, History edited by Alexandra Warwick and Martin Willis

Thank you for reading. For future blog posts please see our Facebook or you can personally get me on Twitter @LewisTwiby.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Marvel's First Comic

Several weeks ago we looked at the origin of DC comics so it is only fitting that we look at the other great comic book company: Marvel. From early beginnings in 1939 Marvel has brought to the world countless of characters and stories which have inspired generations. Spider-Man, Wolverine, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four and the Avengers are just some of the characters and teams to come out of Marvel. Today we'll look at the early origins of Marvel but first we'll look at the world which Marvel came into.

The World in 1939
Marvel first appeared in May 1939. Like with the origins of DC Marvel came into the world in a time of darkness. Despite Roosevelt's New Deal the USA still faced mass unemployment and poverty thanks to the Great Depression. Similarly, most of the world, bar perhaps the USSR which had remained politically isolated, had seen their economies plummet and very few had recovered. The ones that did, (Nazi Germany), were soon plunged back into economic depredation. Europe and Asia faced threats from the far-right and ultra-nationalists. By 1939 Hitler had stripped German Jews of their rights; annexed Austria and what is now Czechia; and started to set his sights on Poland starting the Second World War. In 1939 a non-aggression pact was signed between the USSR and Germany named the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact which later allowed the division of Poland in September. In Spain right-wing authoritarian forces under General Francisco Franco won a ferocious civil war spelling the end of Spanish democracy until the late-1970s. Japan, meanwhile, was tearing apart China to create its own empire in Asia. In fear that Hitler was developing nuclear weapons Albert Einstein wrote a letter to Franklin Roosevelt about developing a nuclear weapon, (something that Einstein would later campaign against). Culturally 1939 saw several movies and comics which would be highly influential. Two book adaptations were released in 1939. One was Gone with the Wind, a three and a half hour long epic about a family in the South during the US Civil War which remains one of the most successful movies of all time. The other was The Wizard of Oz the famous technicolor musical which strangely was almost a financial loss for MGM. In regards to comics in 1938 Superman made his debut in Action Comics #1 and in 1939 in Detective Comics #27 Batman made his debut.

Marvel's Founder
Marvel's Founder
Marvel was founded by Martin Goodman in 1939. Unlike the founder of DC, Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, Goodman came from a more humble background. Martin's parents were Jewish immigrants from Vilnius who had met in the United States he was the first of thirteen children to be raised by the pair in New York. When the Depression hit he would travel across the USA occasionally living in hobo camps, called 'Hoovervilles' in a sarcastic homage to then president Herbert Hoover. In late 1929 he would start working for the future co-founder of Archie Comics, Louis Silberkleit, and would take over his role as circulation manager of pulp magazines. Silberkleit would later get Martin to be the editor of his new company called Newsstand Publication Inc. With Newsstand Publication Inc. he would publish principally Western stories. In 1936 he released a new pulp magazine called Ka-Zar. Marvel fans will recognize the name but this one is different to the current Ka-Zar. Replicating Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan it features a white family crash-landing in the Congo. The mother soon dies of disease and the father raises his son with a lion, Zar, and the boy grows up to be basically Tarzan. The boy then calls himself Ka, brother of Zar.
The Ka-Zar Comic
Two years before the arrival of Ka-Zar a title named Famous Funnies pioneered the comic book. Then in 1938 the Man of Steel Superman made his debut from the minds of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. This caused a craze for superheroes which Martin recognized. In 1939 he would begin a new publication to do this.

Marvel Comics #1
Marvel Comics #1
In 1938 Martin had been publishing science-fiction magazines called Marvel Science Stories. In the 1930s a comic book packaging company was founded called Funnies Inc. This company would package and help distribute comic books of different companies. The sales manager of Funnies Inc., Frank Torpey, struck up a friendship with Goodman. Torpey talked to Goodman and tried to convince him to form a publishing company. They struck up an agreement: Goodman would form a company to publish superhero stories and Torpey would package them. Thus Timely Publications was founded and their first publication was Marvel Comics #1.

Marvel Comics #1 featured several stories. One included a Ka-Zar story but it featured several others. Unlike with DC Marvel immediately had superhero stories and several would remain major Marvel characters until this very day. Two were most important: The Human Torch and The Sub-Mariner. Created by Carols Burgos, (The Human Torch), and Bill Everett (Sub-Mariner), these stories would foreshadow Marvel's trend for having heroes who were outsiders in a 'normal' society. They weren't conventional heroes either. The Human Torch wasn't human but instead an android made by Professor Phineas T. Horton which combusted when it came into contact with oxygen. The Sub-Mariner featured Captain Leonard McKenzie who fell in love with Princess Fen of Atlantis. Their son was named Namor and was half-human, half-Atlantean. Namor's grandfather later had Namor attack New York. It was a strange feat by Everett getting readers to understand the character of Namor who was not fully human, (bear in mind many US states prohibited mixed-race relationships), and viewed the USA as a threat. Both the Human Torch and Namor would become major characters in the Marvel Universe. Years later the title Human Torch would be recycled and the two have even met.
Torch vs. Torch
Becoming Marvel
In 1940 Goodman hired writer/artist Joe Simon from Funnies Inc. and with Simon came artist Jack Kirby. Simon and Kirby would revolutionize the Golden Age of Comic Books. With a dynamic style of visual telling they attracted many readers. Even before the USA went to war with Germany Kirby and Simon started their own war with the Nazis. In Marvel Mystery Comics #4 Namor fought Nazis on a U-Boat. At the end of the year Simon and Kirby got an assistant in the 17-year old cousin of Goodman's wife. This kid was called Stanley Lieber and was an avid writer, and in 1941 with Captain America Comics #3 even got to write a comic. He said, 'I felt someday I'd write The Great American Novel and I didn't want to use my real name on these silly little comics'. So he used a pseudonym which eventually became his actual name: Stan Lee. However, after the end of the war love for superheroes died down. With sales dropping Goodman turned Timely into Atlas in 1952. Goodman decided to sacrifice quality for quantity having 400 releases in 1952 alone. These reflected new trends like shock-horror with Journey Into Mystery, (which in my opinion were the better ones), Westerns like Two Gun Western and inspired by Archie Comics teen dramas/romance like Girl Confessions. With the popularity of the radio show Adventures of Superman introducing new people to superheroes there was an attempt to bring back superheroes, (mainly Human Torch, Captain America, and Namor). However, Atlas was going downhill and needed a change.

In the late-1950s superheroes were coming back. The Space Race between the USA and USSR had made science-fiction a very popular genre. DC was returning to power reinventing the Flash and Green Lantern to have sci-fi origins, (they left Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman alone). Throughout the 1950s Stan Lee had been working for Atlus after leaving the army he had been thinking of quitting. That is until Goodman asked him and Jack Kirby to make a superhero team. DC had struck gold with their superheroes and in 1960 had created the Justice League. Changing itself to Marvel with Lee as editor/writer and Kirby as artist they began creating a new team. At the request of Joan Boocock Lee, his wife, Stan made these new characters flawed. Instead of having secret identities everyone would know who they are, one would be a hotheaded teenager, and another would be an ugly, antisocial monster. Together Kirby and Lee in 1961 produced their title which would revolutionize comic books. This was Fantastic Four #1.
Fantastic Four #1
Over the next few years Marvel would release more and more characters inspired by the success of Fantastic Four. In 1962 they created a story of a feeble scientist who would turn into a monster powered by rage during a bomb test gone wrong. The same year Lee and Steve Ditko created a skinny, bullied teenager who gains powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider who then becomes a hero after his own greed let his uncle get shot. Lee and Kirby then created a story of a Norse God who becomes disgraced and banished to Earth. In 1963 Marvel released another story about a hero group hated because they exist in an allegory to the Civil Rights Movement with the X-Men. Thus comic, and cultural, history was made.

Thank you for reading. For future posts please see our Facebook or catch me on Twitter @LewisTwiby.

The sources I have used are as follows:
-The Age of Extremes: 1917-1991 by Eric Hobsbawm
-Marvel Year by Year: A Visual History edited by Cefn Ridout

Friday, 22 September 2017

World History: The Atlantic Slave Trade

The Slave Trade
The Atlantic Slave Trade is one of the darkest parts of human history. Last time on World History when we discussed colonialism we touched very briefly on the slave trade. However, the Atlantic Slave Trade is such a devastating part of world history that it deserves to be spoken about by itself. You may be wondering why we are looking specifically at the Atlantic slave trade instead of other slave trades, most notably the Arab Slave Trade which enslaved more people over a longer period of time compared to the Atlantic counterpart. The reason for this can be perfectly described by Paul E. Lovejoy 'the impact of the European market for slaves was more intense over a much shorter period'. Before we look at the Atlantic Slave Trade we need to look at slavery before the trade, and exactly what a slave is. I must stress that this post will not be pleasant at all and some readers may find it upsetting.

Defining and Origins
An Indentured Servant
Actually defining slavery is difficult as it has been used so much, and often incorrectly, over the years. When Revolutionaries in the Thirteen Colonies shouted that they were becoming slaves to Britain the author of the dictionary Samuel Johnson sarcastically replied 'How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes'. Lovejoy gives us a good definition which we shall use for the rest of this post. He characterizes slaves as being: outsiders denied their heritage through judicial or other sanctions; coercion could be used at will; could be bought or sold; slave status was inherited unless provision ameliorated their status; no right to their own sexuality; and their labor was at complete disposal of a master. Slavery often coincided with other forms of labor ranging from serfdom to wage labor.

In The Slave Trade: The History of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1440-1870 Hugh Thomas gives a good account on the history of slavery in Europe and the Islamic World centuries before the Atlantic Trade. Most societies which we have looked at so far on World History have used slavery in some form or another. The Greeks and Romans extensively used slavery. Aristotle himself argued that some people are naturally inclined to be slaves, and the Romans pioneered the slave plantation. Centuries later Muslim states would establish a slave trade where they would have sub-Saharan Africans traded across the Islamic world from the Empire of Mali to the Indian Ocean. In the early centuries the zanj were used. These were large gangs of slaves from Africa until 869 when there was a huge revolt in Iraq. Although the Koran made no reference to the color of someone's skin, and encouraged Muslims to free slaves, the most degrading form of labor became associated with black slaves, ('ahd). Eventually Arabic writers started showing contempt towards black Africans. When Europeans encountered the Muslim world during the Crusades they took many ideas with them, including racial prejudice. The origins of the European slave trade emerged during this time as well. During the ill-fated Fourth Crusade the Crusaders took Slavs, Georgians, Armenians and Circassians as slaves to Italy where they were forced to grow sugar. As the Atlantic Slave Trade emerged this combined Ancient, Arabic and European ideas of slavery together. Plantations and racial contempt emerged. Portuguese chronicler Gomes Eanes de Zurara used the Bible to justify the enslavement of black Africans. He argued that when Noah was naked, drunk and passed out his two sons, Shem and Japheth, looked away while the last son, Ham, looked at him. Noah then cursed Ham and his descendants saying 'a servant to servants shall he be unto his brethren'. Zurara argued that Ham was black so it was therefore 'right' to enslave sub-Saharan Africans.

The Atlantic Slave trade changed greatly over the centuries, in place and numbers. We'll be using W.E.B. Du Bois' data for numbers and looking at them from 1450-1600 409,000 people were shipped across the Atlantic, 3.6% of the people shipped over the centuries. Why then was this number so small? Many historians view colonialism as one of the starting points of modern capitalism and it is easy to see why. For every person seeking a new life there was another there to gain a profit. Slaves from Africa were expensive so Europeans enslaved Native Americans instead. As we saw last time colonialism wiped out 90% of the Native American population through disease, ethnic cleansing and slavery itself. Quickly the population of Native Americans meant enslaving them became difficult and, both Spain and Portugal made it illegal to enslave Native Americans, (unless at war so many abused this loophole), after agitation from figures like Bartolome de Casas. Africans were seen as being more resilient to European diseases and were seen as hardier than Native Americans based on racial ideas. Meanwhile, in the English colonies they had been enslaving poor English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish but calling it 'indentured servitude' (as well as enslaving Native Americans). Many in Britain were too poor to make the crossing to the Americas so richer colonists would pay for their voyage in return for their labor. For around five years an indentured servant would basically be owned with them not even being able to get married or have kids without permission from the planter. If they disobeyed they could be beaten and have years added to their contract. When their contract ended they would receive money and land but appalling conditions meant that many died before this ended. This was cheaper than importing slaves from Africa. However, by the end of the seventeenth-century things had changed. More servants were surviving and many formed a key role in the 1676 Bacon's Rebellion. Slaves from Africa were seen as being more desirable: no option of releasing them, no rights as they were not English, and as they were 'heathen' and 'barbarians' it was not sinful to enslave them. By 1700 African slaves made up 10% of Virginia's population and in 1750 it was nearly 50%.

Who were made slaves?
Portugal and the Slave Trade
Many people have an image taken from the book or TV series Roots where Europeans, or Africans overseen by Europeans, capture Africans and force them into slavery. This is inaccurate as it took until the late nineteenth-century for Europeans to be powerful enough to penetrate further into the African continent. Spain, Portugal, England (later Britain), France and the Netherlands were isolated to the coasts where they would trade with local African kingdoms. Although occasionally these European raids did happen. The Portuguese called these raids 'razzias' and had occurred throughout the Middle Ages by both Christians and Muslims. During the Reconquista Iberian forces had performed razzias against Muslim states in Iberia, and later during invasions of North Africa they had did it again, (sometimes seizing slaves owned by Muslims). On August 8 1444 235 slaves landed at Lagos, Portugal forming the first of many European slave markets from Africa. How then did Europeans obtain slaves then? West Africa had a range of states ranging from empires like Songhai, (which was connected to the Arab slave trade), to stateless clans. Like their European counterparts the African states often went to war and captured prisoners who were taken as slaves. States would also trade slaves in an internal slave trade if they could not obtain them via war, (although the slaves were most likely originally captured via war to start off with). In these states the slaves could have many roles ranging from sacrifices to farmers to bureaucrats. It is inaccurate to claim that Africans 'enslaved their brothers'. Occasionally criminals could be enslaved, or social outcasts, but the vast majority were enemies, (or civilians of a rival state), taken during war. Less than half of those from West Africa were sold their own society. Europe, however, were interested in certain types of people to buy.

African and Muslim states wanted different slaves primarily compared to Europeans. Women and children were more likely to be bought/traded by African and Muslim states as they were often not used for manual labor. Also, it was sometimes believed that women and children were easier to assimilate into society post-slavery, or even during slavery itself. In contrast European colonies were more interested in chattel slavery. This is the type of slavery which we think of. Chattel slavery is when slaves are the personal property of a master and in the Americas they were used on plantations, farms or mines. This is quite evident in where slaves were taken. 48% were taken to the Caribbean and 41% to Brazil where they were often forced to work on plantations growing things including sugar, (in the Caribbean mainly), and coffee, (in Brazil mainly). As a result men were overwhelmingly taken to the Americas. For every one woman two men were taken. 

What was Traded?
Ivory in Zanzibar in the 1800s
Unfortunately enslaved people were seen as property so were traded just like any product. It was once thought that Africa only received useless and cheap items such as liquor, beads, and bangles although starting from the 1960s archival research, (and archaeological evidence), has disproved this. Cowries were imported to the Gold Coast, the Bight of Benin, and the Niger Basin where states like Dahomey, Oyo and Akwamu used them as currency. By the end of eighteenth-century cowries constituted between 20 to 25% of imports. In what is now Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Côte d’Ivoire, where kola nuts were grown, iron bars were imported as it was used as currency in the region. Sometimes gold from one part of West Africa were imported to another region, strangely even to Asante in what is now Ghana which produced gold itself. The most important thing to be traded were firearms. From 1750 to 1800 between 283,000 and 394,000 guns a year were sent by Britain to West Africa. Another 50,000 a year were sent to the Loango Coast. As we'll see this will be very important. Luxury goods like Brazilian coffee were also traded. Slaves were not the only exports, (as they were seen), from Africa. Ivory in particular was popular and one reason why African societies were eager for firearms was that it made it easier to hunt for ivory. Gold was another eagerly sought good. Not only for trading with other African states but also to enrich either the colonies or Europe. We often hear of a triangular trade. Firearms, textiles and glass were created in Britain, Spain, France etc. taken to Africa in return for gold and slaves, then to the Americas where they would be swapped for goods like tobacco, coffee and sugar. The city of Liverpool became a major port in Britain thanks to the slave trade. I live in Edinburgh and much of the New Town was built through the profits of slavery in the Caribbean.

Slave Trade and Africa
Walter Rodney
In his landmark work How Europe Underdeveloped Africa Walter Rodney argues that European exploitation of Africa began with the slave trade. Although not perfect his thesis is accurate in many places and should be read. He argues that states, such as Asante, who traded in slaves experienced a one-sided trade. Even though firearms were useful to states it made their economies dependent on acquiring ivory and slaves but to do so they required more firearms. He even cites an example where an asantehene of Asante tried to get Britain to build a firearms factory for them, (which Britain refused to do). This can be seen along the Guinean coast where elephants became rarer through overhunting creating a trade deficit. Rodney argues that as states geared their economies toward slaves and ivory this prevented them from developing as European economies had done. 

The slave trade caused great social and political changes in primarily West Africa. Europeans started fighting over having a monopoly of African trade, even Scandinavia took part in this. This would pave the way for future European domination of Africa. The Portuguese region of the Kingdom of Kongo, Angola, became so linked to Brazil that three governors of Angola came from Brazil. Elsewhere the Atlantic trade created a crisis in some states and prosperity for others. Kings, such as in Asante, emerged who were able to secure tribute from other societies in the form of slaves developed an African feudalism. In some states a 'merchant class' emerged which challenged the traditional aristocracy. However we cannot understate the demographic loss in West Africa. Rodney highlights this in his landmark work but looking at the figures itself shows this as well. Between 1450 and 1900 over 11 million people were shipped across the Atlantic, (half between 1701 and 1800), and this does not include those taken in the Indian Ocean and Arab slave trade. This figure is derived from Du Bois' data but it is in fact inaccurate. The number is actually higher. Du Bois only counted those who arrived in the Americas; between 20-25% died on the voyage. Africa's population rose in spite of the slave trade but this was insignificant compared to European and Asian population increases.

Slave Ships
A Slave Ship
The slave ships are famous and for good reason. As mentioned above up to a quarter of slaves died on the voyage, called the 'middle passage'. The Portuguese accurately called them 'floating tombs'. On average one ship could carry 400 people but the largest could carry 600. In regards to the Portuguese empire the voyage could last up to 120 days from Luanda/Benguela to Brazil. With four square foot per person conditions were terrible with disease spreading rapidly. A big part of slavery was treating the enslaved as being non-human and slaves on the ships were treated less than human. In fact many did not see slaves as being human. Incidentally the game limbo is thought to have originated in these conditions and is shown in Edward Kamau Brathwaite's excellent poem Limbo. Many of the later abolitionists started their activism protesting the slave trade. However, this letter from Jose de Silva Lisboa to Dr. Domingos Vandelli in 1781 shows the attitude concerning the ships
If only a few die in the middle passage, one's profit is certain; if many perish, the investor is lost, as he is then required to pay for the exorbitant risk he took upon himself.
The concern was not conditions but instead profit.

The Slave State

A slave family on a Southern US cotton farm in the 1860s
Slavery differed across the Americas. They do have the same themes of intense repression, hard work and racism. In Brazil with humid weather, intense sun, and aggressive masters mortality for a slave was very high with the average age being 23. Hence, this is why slavery, and the slave trade, lasted until the 1880s/1890s in Brazil. Conditions were better in the British Caribbean but just barely. Sometimes unruly slaves in British North America were sent to the Caribbean. Slaves could hold many different jobs depending on their master ranging from nannies to sailors but generally they went onto plantations. In the Caribbean this was mainly sugar, Brazil coffee and tobacco, and the Southern US tobacco and cotton. If you notice all of these products are luxury goods. In the colonies the slave trade created a 'planter class' which would in many areas inherit leadership when the European powers left. All the Founding Fathers happened to be slave owners. Many in Europe got very wealthy through slavery. The Bertram family in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park famously were wealthy through their plantation in Antigua. Glasgow and Liverpool became wealthy centers, and later key industrial regions, through slavery. Slaves were bought at auction tearing up any families which had not already been torn apart and many would later be marked like they were cattle. 

Early racism started to creep in. The Spanish and Portuguese empires created distinctions, (as seen last time), for people who were white, African, Native American, Native American-African, and white-African. Laws were passed forbidding 'mixing' of races. Virginia in 1670 forbade Native Americans and Africans from owning Christian slaves and in 1691 made it illegal for Native American, African or mixed race men from marrying white women. In Brazil escaped slaves formed communities called quilombos and some ignored racial prejudice by later accepting religious dissenters and Native Americans. However, in Mexico Native Americans did encourage the enslavement of Africans over Native Americans based on racial stereotypes that Africans were stronger. It is important to note that enslavement of Native Americans and indentured servitude did continue in many areas even after African slavery was widespread. Bacon's Rebellion of many indentured servants in Virginia in 1676 happened as the number of slaves in the colony was sharply rising. Also sexual abuse was prevalent in slave society. Particularly young women were sexually abused by their masters and what is even more traumatic is how they had no chance to help themselves. Unlike many West African societies the slave society was patriarchal. Being an African woman made slavery even worse.

There was a demographic shift in the Americas thanks to slavery. It is important to note how the states with the highest African-American population prior to the Second World War were in former slave states. Brazil thanks to the quilombos today has a large black population and many Caribbean islands, such as Jamaica and Barbados, have a large Afro-Caribbean population thanks to slavery. Several religions were born through the African diaspora. Haitian vodou was born through the combination of Taino, French Catholic, Yoruba, Fon, Ewe and Kongo religious beliefs. Centuries later Rastafarianism emerged in the Caribbean creating a link between Africa and the Caribbean, (Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie was seen as a prophet).   

The Atlantic Slave Trade is one of the darkest parts of human history alongside the Holocaust and Wars of Religion. It destroyed families, devastated cultures, caused untold suffering and it was all done in the name of profit. The Atlantic trade saw the beginning of Europe's exploitation of Africa, racism which would plague millions for centuries and laid the seeds for the capitalist world order. Although chattel slavery may be long gone slavery is unfortunately with us. Forced labor in sweatshops, child soldiers in Joseph Kony's army, sex slaves from impoverished regions in wealthy countries, and the enslavement of black Africans in Libya reminds us that yesterday's horrors are still with us. Even more unfortunately the legacy of the Atlantic Slave Trade still affects societies across the world. Next time on World History we shall look at the weather instead of events or trends with the Little Ice Age.

The sources I have used are as follows:
-Philip D. Morgan, 'Origins of American Slavery', OAH Magazine of History, 19:4, 2005, pp.51-56
-Give me Liberty! An American History, Fourth Edition by Eric Foner
-Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa, Second Edition by Paul E. Lovejoy
-A History of Africa by J.D. Fage and William Tordoff
-The Slave Trade: The History of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1440-1870 by Hugh Thomas
-Way of Death: Merchant Capitalism and the Angolan Slave Trade, 1730-1830 by Joseph C. Miller
-The Penguin History of Latin America by Edwin Williamson
-How Europe Undeveloped Africa by Walter Rodney

Thank you for reading. For other World History posts please see here. For other posts and other tidbits please see our Facebook page or follow me on Twitter @LewisTwiby

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Comics Explained: Hellboy

Hellboy is perhaps one of the most underrated comic book characters of all time. A big part of this is because he is not from the two big comic books companies, (DC and Marvel), but instead from Dark Horse. From the mind of Mark Mignola Hellboy is a well-meaning, half-demon brought to Earth to destroy reality but is instead the world's greatest paranormal detective. Blending Lovecraftian ideas, pulp fiction, horror and folklore Hellboy is a thrilling read. He has made several appearances outside of print, most famously in Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy and Hellboy 2. Recently he has been announced as a downloadable character for the DC fighting game Injustice 2 and in 2019 there will be a reboot which just this week, (as of writing), the new actor playing Hellboy was revealed in costume.
The new Hellboy
There have been many Hellboy stories so we're mainly going over the main ones. First, let's look at his real world origins.

Real World Origins
The first appearance
Hellboy first appeared in a convention program book in 1991 as a huge hulking monster which Mike Mignola added the name 'Hellboy' last minute. The name made him laugh and became the name of the character. Two years later a version of Hellboy resembling the form which we know now appeared on the cover of Italian comic Dime Press #4. Later Mignola wanted to make Hellboy into a comic and he started to resemble his present incarnation more. He originally wanted Hellboy to be in a team and the concept art shows several members of this team resembling future Hellboy characters. Their team logo was the same as the logo for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) which Hellboy is a key agent for. This team idea was abandoned when Mignola couldn't think of a good name to fit them. Then in August 1993 Hellboy got his own comic story in San Diego Comics Con Comics #2
Hellboy's First Story
Mignola was less interested in the plot and it is wild, paranormal, and sets up the future of the Hellboy comics. Hellboy goes to a town where all the inhabitants have suddenly vanished. The only thing that is there is a 'mangy little mutt' which turns out to be the Egyptian god Anubis. In a few panels Hellboy defeats the dog/god by slamming a gas station sign into Anubis' shoulder who then falls onto a gas pump which then explodes. 

Birth of the Demon
Hellboy's father
Hellboy's early origins were explained in The Chained Coffin. We have to go all the way back to 1617. Hellboy's mother was a witch in East Bromwich, England called Sarah Hughes. Sarah was married to a Hell lord named Azzael, (pictured above), but on her deathbed wished to repent. To repent this required her children to chain her to a coffin in the church of East Bromwich and keep her protected from Azzael for three nights. Naturally Azzael being a Hell lord he easily slaughtered Sarah's children on the first night, dragged her to Hell and told her that she was carrying 'a son, my favorite son'. Sarah was burnt in the fires of Hell and thanks to this Hellboy was born. He was given the name Anung Un Rama and his father cut off his right hand to replace it with the Right Hand of Doom. The Right Hand of Doom was a relic of the Ogdru Jahad, (which we'll discuss soon). As Azzael had done this the other Hell lords punished him by stripping him of his powers and then freezing him in ice. Those who have read Dante's Divine Comedy will recognize that Lucifer had the same thing done to him.

Ogdru Jahad
The Ogdru Jahad
The Ogdru Jahad perfectly shows the creativity of the Hellboy universe with it blending Christian myths with Lovecraftian themes. At the start of creation God created several great spirits and one named Anum stole some of God's power to create the Ogdru Jahad. Darkness had helped waken the Ogdru Jahad so they set out to destroy reality by creating the 369 Ogdru Hem. A war broke out between the Ogdru Hem and the spirits with the spirits winning. The Ogdru Jahad were sealed away and the spirits destroyed Anum, except for his right hand. Anum's right hand, renamed the 'Right Hand of Doom', is the only thing that can now reawaken the Ogdru Jahad. In punishment for allowing the Ogdru Jahad to be created God cast the spirits to either the pit or Earth. Those on Earth were granted physical forms and became the first people to inhabit the planet, called Hyperboreans. The Ogdru Hem barely survived through the eons and cults emerged serving the Ogdru Jahad which caused the decline of the Hyperboreans. When the Hyperboreans collapsed during the Ice Age their legacy continued through humanity, and with it the cults of the Ogdru Jahad.

Hellboy on Earth
Hellboy first arriving on Earth
Hellboy's arrival on Earth was first shown in Seed of Destruction. When Russian mystic and monk Grigori Rasputin was assassinated in 1916 he was revived by the Ogdru Jahad to act as their agent on Earth. When Hitler came to power he was contacted by the Nazis and started working for them. It is common knowledge that Hitler was fascinated by the paranormal so he wanted Rasputin to use supernatural forces to defeat the Allies. Rasputin agreed but his intention was never to fight the Allies. Instead his goal was to use the resources of the Nazis to trigger the Apocalypse by summoning the Ogdru Jahad. On December 23, 1944 Rasputin and a group of Nazi commandos arrived on a Scottish island to summon Amun's Right Hand in Project Ragna Rok. However, Britain's leading psychic Lady Cynthia Eden-Jones detected Rasputin's actions someday's prior. With a group of American commandos, Professor Malcolm Frost, paranormal expert Trevor Bruttenholm, and the Hellboy universe's version of Captain America Torch of Liberty went instead to the church of East Bromwich. Rasputin summoning went wrong and instead of being summoned to Scotland Anung Un Rama was summoned to East Bromwich. The soldiers nicknamed the summoned demon 'Hellboy' and the name stuck. Trevor Bruttenholm adopted Hellboy and raised him. 

Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense
The BPRD logo
After adopting Hellboy Trevor Bruttenholm had the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) formed. Unlike the movies in the world of Hellboy people are fully aware of the paranormal. The BPRD as a result is funded by several countries, mainly the USA and UK, and keeps good contacts with most governments and institutions, (China and the CIA being exceptions). Thanks to his membership of the BPRD in 1952 the United Nations granted him the status of 'honorary human'. Hellboy isn't the only 'enhanced' being to be a member of the BPRD. Other members have included a firestarter called Liz Sherman (changed to Hellboy's love interest for the movies), Ben Daimio a 'werejaguar', Roger the Homunculus, and an ectoplasmic spirit called Johann Kraus. My personal favorite is Abe Sapien. The best way to describe Abe is that he is a Gill-Man from Creature from the Black Lagoon. Abe was discovered sealed in a tube of water in Washington D.C. in 1978 and, was named 'Abe' as the paper attached to the tube was the same date as Lincoln's assassination and 'Sapien' as the tube read 'Ichtyo sapien'

I would highly recommend reading the Hellboy comics. I've avoided talking about the storylines as they are best read first hand with no spoilers. I hope you have enjoyed this post. For future posts please see our Facebook or get me on Twitter @LewisTwiby.