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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Promethea
created and chronicled by Alan Moore


The character known as "Promethea" in Alan Moore's comic book series of the same title was first Sophie Bangs, and later Stacia Vanderveer.

From: Rebecca Salek, "Spirituality In Comics", on "Sequential Tart" website (http://www.sequentialtart.com/archive/dec03/tth_1203.shtml; viewed 5 January 2006):

For many people. December is a month which contains celebrations of religious, spiritual or cultural significance. For many people. December is a month which contains celebrations of religious, spiritual or cultural significance. In recognition of that, this month the Tarts pick out what they consider to be the best representations of spirituality in comic books...

Jiffy: The strongest theme in Promethea, produced by America's Best Comics and created by Alan Moore, deals with spirituality and the spirit world, particularly about the human connection between imagination (the Immateria) and all of the worlds beyond this one. Regardless of what belief system you hold dear, our ability to imagine a world beyond this one is the primary thing that sets humans apart from all other creatures we have thus far encountered. In the first three trade paperback editions of Promethea, the reader is treated to a ride through Promethea's own past and imaginative mythology, the symbolism of the Tarot and the Hebrew numbered spheres and alphabetical pathways of the Kaballah.

In creating Promethea, Moore seems to be dancing around the idea that if God created man in his own image, couldn't man create (and re-create) God in his own human image? Of course, Moore has pointed out repeatedly in Promethea that attempting to frame the entirety of the beyond in human terms is sheer folly. Human understanding is mortal and therefore limited in scope, and to define consciousness beyond our own humanity as male or female is a very base-level hubris. Promethea's mantra seems to be, "unlearn what you have learned." Moore pulls from a variety of texts, both holy and profane, to structure the arguments he puts forth.

Promethea is both a creature of the spirit world, and a childlike explorer within it. As she explores, Promethea draws on the knowledge and research of the spirit world by her current mortal vessel, Sophie. However, Promethea and Sophie both continuously discover that knowledge provides only the bare clues needed to survive, not the wherewithal to thrive or conquer a particular challenge. For the viewer, Promethea is not quite a spiritual carnival ride or an existential video game - it is, in it's own way, a textbook or a map. You'll find that you get out of it just what you put into it. Some things have to be believed to be seen clearly.

From: "Promethea" article on SourceryForge website, utilizing material from Wikipedia website (http://sourceryforge.org/w/Promethea; viewed 5 January 2006):
Promethea is a fictional character and series under the same name created by Alan Moore and J.H. Williams III published by Wildstorm and Americas Best Comics imprint. It can be considered a work of Magick Fiction.

Promethea is a young girl whose father is killed by a Christian mob in Alexandria in 411. She is taken in hand by the twin gods Thoth and Hermes who tell her that if she goes with them into the Immateria - a plane of existence home to the imagination - she will now longer be just a little girl but a story living eternally. "Promethea" then is manifested in a series of avatars over the 19th and 20th centuries, culminating in the involvement of the lead character, Sophie Bangs.

Issues dealt with in this series include Tarot and Kabbalah, and the comic is laden with and studies mythological and archetypal symbolism. Real people who appear in Promethea include Aleister Crowley, John Dee and Austin Osman Spare. The comic as at July 2003 has been collected into four books, and is published by the Wildstorm imprint of DC Comics. Books 1 and 2 mainly deal with Sophie Bangs becoming Promethea and Books 3 and 4 show Promethea/Sophie working her way through all the Sephiroth of the Kabbalah beyond death and the Immateria before returning to earth for a confrontation with her friend Stacia Vanderveer who took over her role of Promethea on earth while she was away.

The series has been both criticized for acting as a mouthpiece for Moore's religious beliefs and praised for the beauty of its artwork and innovation regarding the medium itself. Regarding the first claim, the series is, by Moore's own admission, pedantic; saying "there are 1000 comic books on the shelves that don't contain a philosophy lecture and one that doesn't. Isn't there room for that one?" While the Kabbalah story arc, and the positive explanations of Moore's philosophy, very explicitly explain, talking-head style, the symbolism behind the details of every plane of existence, Moore also contains critiques of materialism which are much more subtle. The material world is, generally, portrayed as having become immersed in commercialism, materialism, fetishism of science, and trendy postmodernist-chic. Moore uses a recurring series of billboards, fictional celebrity references, and other advertisements and/or news similar to Watchmen. Probably the single image most examplary of this device is "Weeping Gorilla Comix", a neverending series of one-panel comics featuring, yes, a weeping gorilla, with a thought bubble pronouncing some self-pitying phrase: "Why do bad things happen to good people?", "She gets the kids and the house. I get the car.", etc. (It is also a snide reference to the anomalous tendency for comics to get increased sales from a picture of a gorilla on the cover.)

Moore's characteristic exploration of the medium itself, as well as J.H. William III's have given the book a visual style that is unique in the genre and have won it several awards. In addition to a highly decorated layout designed to accentuate either the emotional experiences of the characters or the symbolism relevant to the topic or plane at hand, the idea of the panel, while still the primary method of displaying the story, is put under the knife. Sideways issues, mobius strip layouts, completely panelless issues, backwards or circular flow, and other innovations, or at least novelties, occur on a regular basis.

Book 5 (Issue 26-32) promises to show how Promethea will bring about the end of the entire ABC universe. The series will conclude with Issue 32.

From: Alan Donald, "The Tenth Draft" column, published in 2003 on Silver Bullet Comics website and also published as a magazine insert (http://www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com/final/105584240589479.htm; viewed 12 May 2006):
The Panel
Very different people from different parts of the comicbook industry, with different experiences and ideas on the industry come together to answer your questions... Craig Lemon, the Hack, SBC's second-in-command, he edits loads of columns and runs one of the most respected review sections in the industry...

This week's question is:
"What is your opinion on the portrayal of religion in comicbooks?"

The Hack [Craig Lemon]: "Aside from a few select independent titles, Thor taking a look at it for Marvel but being completely ignored in all their other books, Promethea taking it all a bit seriously, and the reprints of Grendel: God & The Devil from Dark Horse, there's bugger all portrayal of religion in comics. And after Church & State in Cerebus took it to the cleaners, who cares?"

Is Promethia really a Mormon girl from Idaho?

From: Alan Moore, America's Best Comics Volume 2 trade paperback:
Promethea has an Idaho accent

Discussion

From: reader comments accompanying "Holy Superheroes" article, written by Steven Waldman and Michael Kress, posted 12 June 2006 on BeliefNet.com website; reprint of "Beliefwatch: Good Fight" article published in Newsweek, 19 June 2006 issue (http://www.beliefnet.com/story/193/story_19306_1.html; viewed 14 June 2006):
dplatt
6/15/2006 11:25:06 AM

I agree, this is a great topic. Jestrfyl, thank you for mentioning Testament, which is a wonderful comic. I would also mention Promethea (paganism), Sandman (its own particular mythology, but it has lots of parallels to other religions), Kirby's New Gods (ditto) and even Hellblazer...

I'm impressed that comics have been so daring in this subject...

From: "Religion in Comics" forum discussion, started 17 May 2007 on official DC Comics message board website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?messageID=2003785241; viewed 7 June 2007):

kingaliencracker
Posted: May 17, 2007 8:37 AM

Yesterday, I read Action Comics #849, and the issue had several religious references and implications. Because of this, I decided to discuss it with everyone else here. Does religion have a place in comic books?


shyguy
Posted: May 17, 2007 1:36 PM

I'm fine with it if it's used interestingly, like in Sandman or Promethea or something.

I have no use for it when it's stupid, like that really dumb sequence in Infinite Crisis with the church service and Mr. Terrific the atheist.


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