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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 35

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we look at the first major story arc in Alan Moore and J.H. Williams’ Promethea.

Enjoy!

One of the annoying aspects of Promethea is that the initial story arc is eight issues long. Why is that annoying? The first volume of the collected edition of Promethea collects the first…six issues. Isn’t that a pain in the neck?

Anyhow, the first eight issues of Promethea are a lot different from most of the issues that follow, as the initial storyline was more about literature while the rest of the series was more about Alan Moore’s fascination with mysticism (particularly the Kaballah).

While the later issues were surely interesting, I always have a soft spot for the initial arc, where Moore introduced the concept of Promethea as well as all of the various Prometheas.

Promethea is basically a living story – when someone writes about her with passion, she comes to life – either merging with the artist/writer his/herself or merging with the artist/writer’s inspiration/muse.

We first meet her as a child in the past, over a thousand years ago, where her father is being hounded for worshiping the wrong gods..

We see his daughter saved…

Fast forward to the present, and Sophie Bangs is researching this literary figure Promethea who keeps popping up in various media. She she meets the widow of the last person to write about Promethea, a man who did a comic book featuring Promethea. She does not want to speak to Sophie. Well, on the way back home, Sophie is attacked by some creepy demon-y bad guys. She is then rescued by Promethea! Well, a version of Promethea, at least – an older, out of shape version. This Promethea saves Sophie, but is gravely injured in the process. She takes Sophie to hiding, but they’re pretty much screwed when the demons come back, unless…..

And then, a brilliant callback to Promethea’s origin…

As you can see, Moore was joined by one of the most brilliant artists working in comics today, J.H. Williams, who packs so much detail and meaning into each page that it’s just a beautiful sight to see.

Over the next issues, Sophie learns about all the previous Prometheas as well as the extent of her powers.

One of the most amazing parts of the storyline is when Sophie travels to “Misty Magic Land,” the land of the imagination, where ideas exist without any sort of ironic detachment or the distance that comes from age – so when a big bad wolf shows up, it’s, well, a big bad wolf! And when ironic humor is used – the irony is not present, so you feel the statements as though they are true.

Throughout the first arc, Moore worked in a number of interesting literary ideas such as this. Heck, the other Prometheas themselves are products of various interesting looks at different media (one comes from faerie poetry, one comes from early 20th Century comic strips, one comes from the graphic paintings of pulp novels and two of them come from comic books).

While you “have” to pick up two volumes of Promethea to get the first story arc, it is well worth the purchase (especially as Volume 2 has plenty of cool follow-up stories, including an All-Sex Issue!).

I hope the sample pages alone should give you an idea that this is a comic that is well worth a read, if only to marvel at Williams’ beautiful artwork!

15 Comments

What was also great about the ABC line was how Alan Moore took things he had just been writing prior to this and created a whole line of comics. Tom Strong seemed to spring out of the Supreme stories he’d been doing, Greyshirt from the Spirit New Adventures he did, and here with Promethea (the origin, anyway) is something of a continuation of a story he did for Valentino’s Shadowhawk (the Shadowhawks of Legend special, I believe). Promethea is great, and Weeping Gorilla rocks. I need to get the rest of those trades.

Tom Fitzpatrick

February 5, 2010 at 4:58 am

This was such a cool book. Especially in the second year, where we get to see the full experience of Moore’s education into the world of magic and the occult.

Weeping Gorilla

February 5, 2010 at 5:10 am

8 issues per arc, 6 issues per trade. It’s like hotdogs and buns.

Also: Sometimes I think I don’t deserve to be loved.

My favorite Weeping Gorilla: We probably expect too much from George Lucas.

I was lucky enough to pick up about 30 of the singles at a steeply discounted price, so I avoided the whole tpb problem. The books are so dense with detail I feel like I’m holding twice the book when I read them. Sooo good.

I always get Sophie Bangs confused with Sadie Dawkins. I hope to see Young Liars on your list sometime!

One of the best comics ever. JH just posted the new wrap for the 2nd omnibus. I just made it my desktop.

“One of the annoying aspects of Promethea is that the initial story arc is eight issues long. Why is that annoying? The first volume of the collected edition of Promethea collects the first…six issues. Isn’t that a pain in the neck?”

Ack, isn’t that like the first unwritten rule of trades to have either a full story in one book or at least split it up somewhat evenly across two (or more, in some cases) volumes?

I actually almost bought the first volume the other day, and would’ve been pretty ticked if I hadn’t gotten an arc out of it. But I imagine I’ll eventually get the whole thing at some point, so it’s not that big a deal.

I agree that Promethea was a more compelling read for the first arc than it was during the rest of the run. That’s not to say that the later stuff wasn’t well done and interesting to read, but to me, it lost the story in favor of exploring ideas. While some people might prefer this, I would rather my comics have a strong narrative thread–call me old fashioned, but that’s what I like. Maybe more simply put–the first arc are the only issues of Promethea I ever go back and reread.

Huh. I never really noticed that the first collection stops mid-arc, as the whole thing reads well to me no matter how I’m reading it.

I actually prefer it when a series will focus on exploring the concepts and ideas rather than follow some lame notions of “plot advancement,” i.e. The X-Files or 100 Bullets. Some ideas are far more compelling than conspiracy theory plots or following a formulaic approach to storytelling. One of my favourite issues of Promethea is the Metaphore issue, which has no semblance of plot whatsoever, really. I think I spent nearly an hour on that chapter the first time I read it. And the art of Williams III is too phenomenal to worry about whether or not we’re dealing with the main arc of the plot or not. There are far too many awesome cosmic moments in the series to deride it for going off on tangents.

I guess that explains why the first volume ended on such a cliffhanger. I really enjoyed the first six issues and i’d like to buy the following trades but i’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a while. There are just so many one or two trade comics that I want to get. Promethea will have to wait.

Weeping Gorilla is fantastic!!

I would rather my comics have a strong narrative thread

I actually prefer it when a series will focus on exploring the concepts and ideas rather than follow some lame notions of “plot advancement,”

To me, the entire run of Promethea had a fairly “strong narrative thread”, and much of it had “a formulaic approach to storytelling”. The Sephiroth arc in particular had a very basic plot, i.e. ‘Sophie’s journeys through the Sephiroth to find Barbara (and then Steve), encountering various obstacles on the way’. The story soon boiled down to ‘Sophie and Barbara arrive at a sephirah, various religious and cultural elusions are made, the challenge that that sephirah provides is overcome, Sophie and Barbara head to the next sephirah’. However experimental Promethea might have been, its plot was pretty conventional.

the Metaphore issue, which has no semblance of plot whatsoever

I’ll agree that Metaphore was brilliant, but I’d hardly say it had no plot. Its plot was the story of the universe. You could even call it a narrative, as the universe is presented as something that needs to be (and then is) redeemed: dilemma then resolution. The problem that I have with Promethea is that while Metaphore provides a potent metaphor, the arcana of the tarot represent stages in the history of the universe, the Sephiroth arc does not provide such a metaphor. For those that don’t believe in Kabbalah, such as myself, the Sephiroth are interesting only as a metaphor for something else. As far as I can tell, the Sephiroth are supposed to represent the entirety of the universe and the entirety of the human mind (“as above, as below”). However, Moore never really turn a list of religious and cultural references into a complete metaphysical theory, or theory of the mind. He seems to just throw out a whole lot of co-incidences and then says “There, that many co-incidences must mean something”. In the end, the whole thing comes off as an extended exercise in apophenia.

I guess this is the time, then, to admit that I found Promethea really boring. I felt like Sophie wasn’t ever really given a character beyond “college girl who becomes the new host”. A lot of the language and ideas were new-agey nonsense, and the first arc took forever to get moving. It has moments, for sure, like the Weeping Gorilla, but I couldn’t even muster up the interest to go past the 4th issue. I skipped ahead and checked out the end, since everybody had raved about it back when it was released, but it seemed like more new-agey baloney. Maybe I just need the build-up for it to pay off.

Oh well. Not the book for me, I guess. I wanted to like it, after reading about it in one of your posts, Brian, but it just didn’t hit for me.

I wish there were two Alan Moores – The familiar one who wrote the rest of Promethea in that trippy-but-dry mystical style and another who wrote it continuing the more straight-forward style from the first storyline. (I sometimes wish there were three or four Hayao Miyazakis.)

I have mixed feelings about Promethea.

When it was telling a story it was great – I particularly loved King Solomon.

When it was giving me a lecture about the workings of magic according to Alan Moore it bored me silly. Maybe if I actually had any interest or belief in magic that would have been different. I also thought the final issue was a disgrace. It promised so much and completely failed to deliver.

But at least the art was pretty throughout (except the final issue)

I think the reason I like ‘Promethea’ so much is that it’s nice to see Alan Moore overreach himself for once. He’s so personally connected to the ideas that he doesn’t have the objectivity to tell whether it’s working or not. But that’s cool, in a way — it’s interesting to see artists who stretch and can’t quite succeed, but make more interesting results than if they’d stayed within their normal box.

But, that said, it’s not one I re-read all that often, and I’ll never do more than skim the tarot issue again.

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