Friday, September 21, 2012

Beowulf Will Blow Your Mind

“In a distant past shrouded in the mists of time;
When man lived savagely in the the shadow of all-mighty Wyrd, the God of Fate, and in terror of Satan, Dragon-Lord of the Underworld.”

Thus begins DC Comics’ Beowulf: Dragon-Slayer.  Not content with merely adapting the story of the Anglo-Saxon hero to a comic context, scribe Michael Uslan and artist Ricardo Villamonte drive the seventies comic book Sword & Sorcery muscle car straight over a cliff into Gonzo Gulch.

Everybody remembers the basic story from English class, right?  Prince of the Geats, Beowulf, does a solid for Hrothgar, King of the Danes, whose got a problem with a monster named Grendel.  In this version, Grendel is being explicitly egged on by his dead-beat dad, Satan.  Beowulf, for symmetry, is a tool in the hands of the Wyrd (who sometimes seems to be a stand-in for Yahweh, but other times more ambiguous in goodness).

Anyway, Beowulf also has a companion/love interest in the form of Swedish amazon Nan-Zee. He’s on his way to Daneland; She’s a siren-esque “slave-maid of Satan.” Once they do their “meet cute” it’s off to battle Grendel...only first they’ve got to contend with swamp-dwelling reptile men, dwarfish trolls, and a door to the underworld.  There Beowulf kills Satan’s three-headed sabertooth tiger watchdog and then busts right to Satan’s throne room.

That’s just the second issue.

What follows is a quest to gain magical “zumak fruit” to best Grendel.  Along the way, they’ll encounter pygmies, druids working for Sumerian space gods in flying saucers, Dracula menacing a lost tribe of Israel, and finally the Minotaur.

A pivotal point of the drama arrives with this scene:

That’s right: Grendel stabs Satan with a stalactite and seizes the throne of Hell because he’s mad his infernal majesty chose Dracula (literally Satan’s son) as heir instead of Grendel.

Tragically, the whole high-concept saga that would have made history and literature professors loose sanity points like a character in Call of Cthulhu (if they'd read it) only lasted six issues. Why, oh why, hasn’t DC collected this?


perdustin said...

I'm going to have to track these down.

Tim Knight said...

Ditto! I love a good quest!

Jon McNally said...

I picked these up on the cheap at last year's Emerald City Comicon and I can verify that they are mind-bendingly good. A few years back, Gail Simone brought back Beowulf, Claw, and Stalker in the pages of Wonder Woman. And I think I heard the Great Geat is due to resurface in DC's Sword of Sorcery title soon to hit the racks.

Trey said...

@jon - You are right. Beowulf was in S&S #0. No indication it's the same version of Beowulf, though--at least not yet.