The Sin Eater: History’s Worst Profession

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In the Ghost Rider comic issue #74, Marvel Comics introduces us to Centurious, who in a Faust-esque manner, sold his soul to Mephisto to fight the demon Zarathos and save the woman he loved. Unknowing to him, the punishment for losing his soul was that he would roam the world and became a soulless immortal. While studying the mystic arts many centuries ago, he acquired the Crystal of Souls. In issues #80 and 81 of the same series, Centurious uses a sin obsessed pastor, Ethan Domblue, who longed for his congregation to be sinless. After being approached by the devilish Centurious, Domblue was given the power to ‘eat’ his congregation’s sins; which left them in a ‘sinless’ but passive state. The parishioners of the town of Holly were trapped inside the Crystal of Souls. The zombie-like slaves were then loyal to Centurious. The Ghost Rider showed up and defeated Centurious and freed the townspeople from the Crystal. As a last act to redeem his own soul, Pastor Domblue helped removed Zarathos from Johnny Blaze and placed the demon inside the Crystal of Souls, which therefore freed Johnny from the curse of the Ghost Rider. This may have been one of the first times that a sin eater had been introduced in comic book culture; but the real life occupation had been around for a long (and I do mean long) time.

The sin-eater is someone who eats a ritual meal in order to take on the sins of that person or persons. The food is believed to have been the vessel to carry the sins of the deceased person and therefore the sin-eater ‘eating’ the sins of this deceased person would absolve them of their sins. Allowing that person’s soul to be clean in the afterlife and based on the religious beliefs of the believer, would be allowed into Heaven/afterlife/wherever. In most mythologies, the sin-eater lives a slightly morbid life, isolated from the rest of the community because of his ‘unclean’ life. The sin-eater in the Ghost Rider comic, is not the only mention of the occupation in popular culture as it has appeared in movies, books, and other comic books. Despite its mention in certain venues; it is a relatively unknown thing.

I had never heard of the sin-eaters until my mom insisted that I watch this 2007 movie entitled The Last of the Sin Eater. The Last of the Sin Eater takes place in 1850s Appalachia and centers around a young girl who while grieves for the loss of her beloved grandmother, who is the only person in her family that loves her because the rest of her family thinks that she is responsible for the death of her sister. During her grandmother’s funeral, the young girl looks onto the face of the village’s sin-eater (because according to lore, the sin-eater became a worse and worse with every ceremony he attended). The girl, who is distraught by the litany of deaths and pain that she feels finds comforts in the teachings and Bible of the preacher that is camping on the outskirts of the village. Since I thought that this was just a Christian tale, my mother insisted that it was a real thing. So of course I had to investigate.

360px-British_Museum_Huaxtec_1-2The sin-eaters and the interactions of the sin-eater to the people of the villages has remained a relatively unstudied part of our human history and remains as folklore for the most part. In mythology, the Aztec goddess of earth, motherhood and fertility, Tlazolteotl, had a role in the Huastec religion of the pre-Columbian Meso-American civilization. In Aztec culture, the individual who was close to death, would confess his/her sins (specifically sexual misdeeds) to the deity, and she would cleanse his/her soul by ‘eating their filth’.

We find sin-eaters in not only the Aztec culture but the occupation has been found in many other regions of the world. A letter by renowned English antiquarian, writer, and collector John Bagford (circa 1650-1716) where he wrote about the sin-eating ritual:

Notice was given to an old sire before the door of the house, when some of the family came out and furnished him with a cricket (a low stool), on which he sat down facing the door; then they gave him a groat which he put in his pocket, a crust of bread which he ate, and a bowl of ale which he drank off at a draught. After this he got up from the cricket and pronounced the case and the rest of the soul departed, for which he would pawn his own soul.

The practice was prevalent in the Marches (which is the land around the England-Wales border) and in northern Wales but mostly died out by the early 19th century. The last known sin-eater in England was Richard Munslow, who died in Ratlinghope in 1906. The English tradition finds that most sin-eaters were generally poor people and earned a small wage (normally a half-shilling) from ‘eating the sins’. This practice was frowned upon by the Christian church despite having origins based in early Christian customs where the early Israelites’ transferred their sins to a ‘scapegoat’ (found in Leviticus 16). This custom was never widely practiced but starting dying out completely in the 19th century. The gravestone of Richard Munslow is found in the small Shropshire churchyard of the St Margarets’s Church in the Ratlinghope village (of only about 100 residents) in England. The inscription is minimal but while most sin-eaters were poor, Munslow was a prominent farmer in the area. His time as the village’s sin-eater would find him ceremoniously partaking in the meal and recanting the phrase:

“I give easement and rest now to thee, dear man. Come not down the lanes or in our meadows. And for thy peace I pawn my own soul. Amen.”

The now-defunct practice which supposedly died out with men like Richard Munslow did move to America with the influx of Irish, Welch, and British immigrants to the Appalachian mountains during the 18th and 19th centuries. The author of “The Last Sin Eater” book and subsequently the movie; was intrigued by the idea of sin-eaters because of the movie The Incredible Journey of Dr. Meg Laurel starring Lindsay Wagner and James Woods which also centered around a sin-eater. Her message for all of her novels is that, “God is there waiting when you ask forgiveness;” much like the way the Aztecs worshipped the Goddess Tlazolteotl. Am I thankful that I can just go to God and ask forgiveness instead of finding someone to eat crusty bread from the chest of a dead person before drinking cheap wine just to absolve someone who they hardly know of their sins? Most definitely because I think that I’d rather starve to death than to do that job. I’d go back to digging ditches….which I actually only did for a day and a half.

 


Images:

Cover Image:  Scanned Cover of the pulp magazine Weird Tales (December 1938, vol. 32, no. 6) featuring The Sin-Eater by G.G. Pendarves. Cover art by Ray Quigley. Accredited to Weird Tales, Inc. – Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8376605

Ghost Rider (1st Series) cover photo, Issue #80, May 1983 accredited to Marvel Comics.

British Museum Huaxtec 1 accredited to Gryffindorderivative: Ophelia.summers (talk) – British_Museum_Huaxtec_1.jpg, fair use, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15254577

Richard Munslow Gravestone images courtesy of https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/58880934/richard-munslow

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Top Cat’s Tuesday Top Ten: Most Tragic Superhero Origins

As a kid, most of us pretend to fly like Superman or pretend that we have cool gadgets like Batman; but the one thing that we don’t like to think about is the origin stories of some of our favorite characters. We don’t want to disrupt that happy image of that epic larger-than-life hero and imagine the tragedy that they have seen or that most of their path is riddled with traumatizing events, murdered family members, death, mutilation, or an immense amount of pain. So since I love to make a list I had to list out the Top Cat’s Tuesday Top Ten: Most Tragic Superhero Origins. 


 

Honorable Mention: Black Widow, The Fantastic Four and Doctor Strange 

10. Rorschach – I didn’t read the limited run DC Comics series Watchmen by Alan Moore until the release of the 2009 movie was released. The Watchmen is set in an alternative reality that closely resembles the world of our 1980s. The existence of superheroes in this world drastically changed their real-world events like the Vietnam War (which ended with a US victory in 1971 and the presidency of Richard Nixon does end because the Watergate scandal does not happen. The costumed crime fighters in the series are called “superheroes” though only one of the characters actually possesses any real superhuman powers. The character of Rorschach is especially sad. Rorschach was raised by a prostitute mother and an abusive monster of a father who brutally beat him as a child. The violence that he witnessed as a child turned him into a tightly wound vigilante who wears a white mask with alternating rorschach-esque designs (hence his name). He sees the world in black and white. His character is literally born into ugliness and his hatred of the corrupt is sadly understandable.

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9. Superman – Before being rocketed to Earth as an infant, Superman was born Kal-El on the planet Krypton. Jor-El, his Kryptonian father sent him to Earth moments before Krypton was destroyed. The infant Superman was found and raised by Kansas farmers who imbued him with a strong moral compass. As he grew up, the superhuman abilities started to show and as an adult he decides to use his powers to benefit humanity.

8. Spiderman – There can not be a sadder background story than that of Peter Parker. To not only be living with his aunt and uncle because his parents had been killed in a plane crash.  Peter was bit by a radioactive spider while on a field trip with his school. He went through some physical changes causing him to have immense physical powers thusly allowing him to gain notoriety and money from that notoriety. One night he allowed a fleeing criminal to pass on by and didn’t use his powers to try and stop him. Turns out that that fleeing thief was the man that had just robbed and murdered his Uncle Ben. He vowed from then on to use his powers for good due to the famous words of his Uncle: “With great power there must also come–great responsibility.”

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7. Batman – Bruce Wayne witnessed the murder of his parents, Dr. Thomas and Martha Wayne which led him to ultimately craft the Batman persona and seek justice against criminals. Wayne keeps suspicion of his nighttime crime fighting persona by portraying the image of the extravagant, playboy billionaire Bruce Wayne. Psychologically, Bruce grew up obsessing over and training to rid the world of the crime underworld that took his parents away. Since Batman/Bruce Wayne does not have any ‘superpowers’ he uses his genius intellect, physical prowess, martial arts abilities, detective skills, intimidation, and indomitable will. His vast wealth allows him to have the funds to use the science and technology around him to create increasingly sophisticated Bat-themed weapons to aid in his continuing journey in crushing the criminals of Gotham City or whatever villain that he may encounter.

6. Doctor Manhattan – I spoke earlier about the only character in the Watchman to actually have powers; well that character was Dr Jonathan Osterman or as he became known: Doctor Manhattan. He was transformed into one of the most powerful beings in the DC Universe after he was painfully disintegrated in an Intrinsic Field Subtractor. He is literally vaporized and over the course of a few months painfully reconstructs himself. So almost immediately after realizing his powers, he is immediately pressed into becoming a pawn for and is used them for the US Government to turn the tides in the West’s favor. The already brilliant scientist gained amazing powers through his transformation, but the experience was excruciating both mentally and physically. His humanity declines as time goes on and he quite literally sheds the uniform of humanity.

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5. Swamp Thing – In a turn of events similar to that of Doctor Manhattan, the original Swamp Thing character was originally named Alex Olsen. Olsen was a scientist who was caught up in a lap explosion that was caused by his co-worker and fellow scientist, Damian Ridge. Ridge intended to kill him and gain the hand of Olsen’s wife Linda so he could kill her. The explosion did not kill him, but the chemicals and forces within the swamp altered him into a monstrous creature. The creature kills Ridge before he kills his wife but in the monstrous form, he is unable to speak so he cannot reveal his true identity. So he sadly returns to the swamp.

4. Rocket Raccoon – Now before you laugh at me for putting Rocket Raccoon’s origin above that of Superman, hear me out. Rocket Raccoon aka Rocky aka Rocket comes from the Halfworld planet in the Keystone Quadrant; where animals are genetically manipulated to grant them human level intelligence and bipedal body construction so that they can become the caretakers of the inmates on the planet which houses the mentally ill. Rocket was the colony’s chief law officer. After villains tried to kill him, he and his cohorts fought and destroyed them. They left the planet to go on their own adventures but a short time later he was a laboratory subject on the Stranger’s planet. Thankfully he escaped and was able to go wonderful adventures and become a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy but the training and powers that he has are all thanks to a pretty miserable origin. To gain the cybernetics that cause him to be more powerful, he was quite literally torn apart.

3. Spawn – The antihero Spawn was originally USMC Retired Lt Colonel Albert Francis “Al” Simmons. Simmons was a highly trained Force Recon Marine who at one point saved the President from an attempted assassination. He was promoted to a high level and was recruited to work with the CIA and worked on a black ops team. Once there he began to question the morality of what he was doing because some of the missions seemed wrong. Simmons’ friend and partner, killed him after he was hired by Jason Wynn to do so. In a blazing inferno, Simmons was killed and due to his sins on Earth (specifically the killing of innocents while working with the CIA), was damned to Hell. While in Hell, Simmons made a deal with the evil being known as Malebolgia and in exchange for his soul, would once again be allowed to see his wife. However, when returned to the human realm, five years had gone by and he was transformed into a demonic creature with only faded memories of his former life. After he gains his memories back, he seeks out his wife, only to find out that she had moved on and married his best friend whom with she had had a daughter. After this the Violator, forces Spawn to use his powers for the benefit of Hell.

2. The Crow – James O’Barr created The Crow series as a way to cope with the death of his girlfriend, who had been killed by a drunk driver. Eric Draven’s story in the Crow is extremely dark. The happiness of Eric and his girlfriend Shelley is thwarted while returning from a romantic getaway when their car breaks down on a deserted road and a car full of gang members stop to take advantage of their misfortune. They shoot Eric in the head which only paralyses him, and he is forced to watch the gang rape and then murder Shelley in the car. Eric dies hours later in the hospital. A year later, Eric is resurrected by a supernatural Crow (who is the link between the living and the beyond, so that the dead that he resurrect can seek justice on the person/people that harmed them) who helps him exact vengeance on the men responsible for their deaths.

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1. Wolverine – The life of James Howlett is anything but picturesque. The guy literally had a crappy life from the beginning. James was born in northern Canada during the late 1880s to rich farm owners though he is actually the illegitimate son of the Howllett’s groundskeeper, Thomas Logan. Thomas is kicked off of the family farm after his other son, Dog, tries to rape James’s childhood companion, Rose. Rose was brought in to the help take care of James because he was an extremely sick child. His illegitimate father comes back to the farm out of anger and kills John Howlett. In a fit of rage, young James’s mutation manifests and he kills Thomas with bone claws that emerge from his hands.

He flees with Rose and he works on a mining colony in the Yukon territory where he adopts the name “Logan”. Logan accidently kills Rose with his claws and lives in the wilderness among the wolves. He is captured and is placed in Hugo Haversham’s circus. While at this circus he meets Saul Creed and his sister Clara. Clara is the animal handler at the circus and saw the human quality inside of the wild beast that Logan had become. She tries to civilize him but her brother is not happy about their relationship. Saul sells Logan’s location out to the leader of the Marauders: Mister Sinister. The Marauders, who act as a commando strike-force, assassinate other mutants and carry out acts of mass murder. Nathaniel Essex aka Minister Sinister tries to kill Logan and Clara but Logan accidently stabs Clara in the malay. He thinks Clara is dead so he goes and drowns Creed in Sinister’s potion. Turns out that Clara is not dead but is so hurt by Logan killing her brother that she tells him that she doesn’t want to ever see him again.

Logan is again broken hearted but returns to civilization and lives with the Blackfoot Native American people. After a while there, Logan is again faced with the death of a friend or lover when Victor Creed (brother of Clara and Saul), now known as the infamous Sabretooth kills his Blackfoot lover, Silver Fox. Logan is then ushered into the Canadian military during World War I before spending time in Madripoor (a a fictional island in Southern Asia known as a haven for pirates, essentially lawless and does not extradite criminals). After Madripoor, he moves on to Japan where he trains with ninja and martial arts master Ogun. While in Japan he falls in love with and marries a local woman named Itsu. Logan returns home from a failed ceremony for their soon to be born child and finds Itsu dead from gunshots to the head and stomach.

He again leaves emotionally broken and during World War II, he continues his career as a mercenary and even teams up with Captain America. He serves with the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion during D-Day, and later works with the CIA before being recruited by “Team X”, a black ops unit. During his time with Team X, Logan is given false memory implants and is under mental control. He breaks free of the mental control and joins the Canadian Defense Ministry before being kidnapped by the Weapon X program. While there he is held captive, experimented on, and has his entire bone structure forcibly/painfully fused with adamantium. He escapes and begins to work with an intelligence operative for the Canadian Government. He becomes Wolverine and in his first mission, he is dispatched to stop the destruction caused by a brawl between the Hulk and the Wendigo. Later Professor Xavier recruits Wolverine to be a member of the new iteration of the X-Men where it is revealed that he was ctually sent there to assassinate Professor X but Professor X wiped his memories and forced him to join the X-Men. After many years of being in the X-Men, Wolverine has the adamantium forcibly torn from his body which causes his healing factor to burn out and it almost kills him.

And that is just a brief summary of the hell that this man has gone through. Wolverine may be a celebrated and well loved character, but he has gone through a lifetime of massively traumatic events.


 

Images:

Cover of Black Widow #1 (April 2010) by Daniel Acuna. Fair use. All Marvel characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are Trademarks & Copyright © 2010 Marvel Characters, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33270654

Superman in “The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes” (August 2005). Art by Alex Ross. Fair use. Trademarks & Copyright © DC Comics, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Cover of Detective Comics #27 (May 1939 DC Comics). Art by Bob Kane. “Detective Comics #27 from The Grand Comics Database. Retrieved December 19, 2004. Full front cover as published. Fair use. Trademarks & Copyright © 1939 DC Comics, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Swamp Thing and Poison Ivy NYCC 2014 by Docking Bay 93 – CC BY 2.0, Fair use. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41693096

Textless variant cover art of Infinity Countdown Prime #1 (April, 2018). Art by Adi Granov. Fair use. All Marvel characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are Trademarks & Copyright © 2018 Marvel Characters, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15524006

 

 

 

Typical Fan: The Psychology of why we need Superheroes

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Video games, comic books and super heroes in general are seeping into every crevice of the Pop Culture landscape. An estimated 150,000+ attendees of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con which will have an estimated $140 million positive impact on the economy. Still not convinced? Maybe the $1.5 billion box office income of 2012’s Avengers movie or the well over $1 billion estimated income of this year’s Black Panther will help you see that its easy to see that super heroes are extremely popular. As previously said, the popularity goes well beyond the movies; and is seeping all over the Pop Culture landscape. So why do we need superheroes? What is the draw to invest so much of our time, money, and emotions into these superheroes? Why do these super heroes and even villains receive so much idolization thusly becoming role models to children and adults alike? Why do hardcore fans stick around after the increase in popularity and commercialism of the industry?

SamsonFoxFeatureComicsThe term ‘superhero’ was not used until 1917 and was very popular during the Golden Age of Comics (the 1930s). The current Modern Age of comics brought about more psychologically complex characters, as well as a larger audience base. Many have claimed that superheroes are an integral part of American society; and despite some otherworldly aspects, comics are a reflection of our world. During World War II, Marvel famously showed Captain America punching Hitler in the face. Then years later (after finding out that President Obama collected Spider-Man comics), Marvel put Obama on the cover of their The Amazing Spider-Man issue No 583 where ‘Spidey meets the President’. Continuing to address and be on the forefront of social issues, in 1992 Marvel revealed Northstar to be a homosexual. Comic books and super heroes writers seem to mirror our lives, which in turn makes them even more relatable.

So we have established that the evolution of comics and superheroes themselves sometimes reflect the events that are happening around us as well as address the societal problems that our world is facing; but what about our idolizing relationship to a superhero? As we readIron Man Repulsors comics, especially the young audience, we not only increase our ability to read and understand more complex works; but we develop emotions and morals. Take for example, Tony Stark. Despite Tony’s celebrity status and the ultra-powerful Iron Man suit…he is a broken character. Throughout the years of Iron Man comics, the Tony Stark/Iron Man character has had to deal with insecurities due to his broken relationship with his father, has suffered from alcoholism, suffered panic attacks and even bouts of paranoia. This flawed character, much like many other comic book superheroes, help us see the human qualities and make us look at ourselves. But like fairytales and children stories, superhero stories serve a didactic purpose. Most superheroes teach the reader how to succeed in life. Whether that success is to better the world around them and defeat evil villains or just by demonstrating exemplary behavior. On the basic level, they educate readers between right and wrong.

When we are little, most of us pretend to be law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, cowboys, or someone in the armed forces. The same principles that cause use to look up to those people, are the same reasons they pretend to be Iron Man, Batman, Spider-Man, or Superman. These superheroes are larger-than-life, epic characters that do anything to take away evil and make things right. We admire paramedics, Marines, firemen, etc. because they help save us in our times of need. The Stamp_Day_for_Supermanpsychological theory called terror management theory proposes that people’s fear of death strengthens their allegiance to certain cultural values. For example, during times that we witness evil and death a typical response would be for us to think more about the fragility of life and it leads us to value heroes even more. Heroes also fulfill our need for fairness and lawfulness, which is sometimes lost in our normal everyday lives. In the 1950s Superman TV show always spoke of Superman’s never-ending quest for “truth, justice, and the American way”. They bring us hope.

While video game characters, comic books and superheroes of all types are exaggerated WonderCon_2012_-_Captain_America_and_girl_Captain_America_(7019315865)examples of what traits we hope to exhibit, they fill a purpose. We admire the masked superhero. The prosocial behavior has a positive impact on the readers/players. We sometimes find ourselves escaping the setbacks and failings that we are experiencing in our own lives; and we are living vicariously through these characters. Sometimes these characters help us face real adversity in our lives. Giving us courage and inspiring us to overcome health problems, failures, or even just the everyday challenges that we find. Heroes lift us up on a personal level by allowing us to compare and contrast the traits that they portray; and allow us to personify the best parts of their personalities, ethical commitments, and moral traits.

My son, Daniel, may have said it best when he said that when he’s watching a good movie or playing video games that he can forget about stressors, homework or chores; and just be lost in that character’s world. The characters that we play, watch, read, cosplay, or enjoy are sometimes flawed souls with admirable intentions. Just like normal life, we can be flawed and be successful. We can have complex backstories and have different motivations. We will continue to love and idolize these characters because we see a little bit of ourselves in them…or maybe we see something that we want to add to our own story.


Images:

Featured Image – Spidey cosplayer hugging a girl by US Defense Dept. – http://www.defenselink.mil/home/images/photos/2005-04/photoessays/pi20050428d11.jpg, Public Domain, http://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=124594
Fox Comics featuring Samson‘s original uploader was Konczewski at English Wikipedia – Grand Comic Book Database (http://www.comics.org/details.lasso?id=574), Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Hyju., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17710516
Firefly, the Archie Comics Superhero in Top-Notch Comics #10. November 1940 by and accredited to Bob Wood, – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Hyju., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17798406
Iron Man Repulsers Cosplay By Chris Favero from USA – CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34364573
Captain America and girl Captain America at WonderCon 2012 by and accredited to The Conmunity – Pop Culture Geek from Los Angeles, CA, USA – CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33398682
Screen Capture of George Reeves as Superman in the US Government Film “Stamp Day for Superman” by and accredited to U.S. Treasury Department – United States Treasury Department film, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13616319
Spider-Man with Donald Rumsfeld by and accredited to US Defense Dept. – Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6265138

Eeny Meenie Miny Moe

Portrait_of_Terence_from_Vaticana,_Vat._latTerence the Roman playwright (born in 195 AD), in his work Phormio, coined a new phrase: “auribus teneo lupum”. The phrase is translated as “holding a wolf by the ears” and is much like the more commonly known phrase ‘holding a tiger by the tail’. The two phrases evoke the image of man or beast managing or coping with something that is normally too difficult to accomplish. Like…holding a wolf by the ears or holding a tiger by the tail. The image presented by this extended metaphor is so ridiculous of an idea that you can not imagine something like that in reality; but the phrase is so common that someone must have done it at one time or another.

The phrase is so common that a very similar wording is used in a child’s nursery rhyme. Remember the cute little counting rhyme that has existed since the 1800s where one kid goes around the room and other kids are ‘counted out’ or ‘chosen’ by a random process of elimination? That’s right I’m referring to “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe”. This children’s rhyme can be spelled in many different ways and has existed in various forms in many different languages. Though the origin is not exactly known and has even been quite controversial due to racist slurs found in the rhyme (I won’t be getting into that). The most common version that most Americans are familiar with is:

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe
Catch a tiger by the toe.
If he hollers, let him go,
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.

Though there have been many variations throughout the last 200 years such as replacing tiger with similar nouns like ‘piggy’ or ‘tigger’ (I’m hoping that you can see where the racial slur would have been inserted without me having to discuss it); while the action verb hollers has been replaced with variations like ‘wiggles’ or ‘screams’. Along with the many variations, the phrase or references to it has popped up in many places throughout Pop Culture. My favorite author Salman Rushdie named his leading character and his three sisters Ina, Minnie, Mynah, and Moor; while one of my favorite albums by one of my favorite bands Radiohead released their 1997 album OK Computer on vinyl, the band eeny meeny miny moechose to use ‘eeny meeny miny moe’ instead of letters and numbers (Side A, B, C, D or any numerical variation) to designate the sides of the 2 record LP.  There have even also been many instances in cartoons, comic books, video games, books and movies in which the ‘Eeny meeny’ song was sang by a character making a choice. Sometimes the song was sang for comic effect or sometimes added a creepy effect to someone making the decision of whom they should kill. I don’t think that anyone could forget Negan’s now infamous execution scene in the season six finale of The Walking Dead. Or even even how the rhyme was used in movies like Natural Born Killers and Pulp Fiction.

Whether found in a movie, sang by a child on a playground with her friends, or even used as the name of a building that houses mostly high end stores in Japan’s Fukuoka Hakata ward; there is no loophole to escape the influence that the children’s rhyme has had on Pop Culture anymore than we can deny the comparison between a phrase found in this classic children’s rhyme ‘catch a tiger by the toe’ and the similarly worded phrases of ‘holding a tiger by the tail’ and Terence’s ‘holding a wolf by the ears’. It makes you wonder if we as a human race yearn to control these violent animals; but realize the audaciousness of what would be a truly deathly desire.

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Images:

Alleged portrait of Terence, from Codex Vaticanus Latnus 3868 by Unknown – File: Vaticana, Vat. lat. 3868 (2r).jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18960421

The Walking Dead Series 7 premiere poster owned and accredited to AMC, Fair Use, http://www.amc.com/shows/the-walking-dead

Pulp Fiction Eenie Meenie gif accredited to Giphy, http:/giphy.com/gifs/chris-christie-w0y3J0QY3ZEU8

Featured Image – Department store Eeny Meeny Miny Mo in Fukuoka City, Japan image By Pontafon – Photo created by Pontafon, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7510118

Best Movies of 2017

I love being entertained. With that being said, I thoroughly enjoy a good movie. As you half sing the champagne laced lines of what portions that you actually know from Auld Lang Syne (you know the New Years Eve song) and lean to kiss your selected sweetie; I was poached on my couch watching movies while everyone was either asleep or playing in video games (you can figure out who was who in that scenario). After a conversation with a friend of mine on Facebook the next day while reading his favorite movies of 2017, I realized just how great this year was in regards to movies. So as I always do, my first thought was to write a blog and do my favorite thing: make my own top ten list. I know that I usually do my top 10 lists on Tuesday but here is a Wednesday Top 10 list. 🙂 So here is my “Best Movies of 2017” list. Not only are they my favorite of 2017; but I’m suggesting that you watch them if you have not.


Honorable Mention. Justice League – The super hero movie is here to stay. They are becoming more and more of a spectacle; and there are no larger names than Batman and Superman. So in the aftermath of the successful Wonder Woman and Batman/Supermanmovies, the most logical thing would be for them to push a Justice League movie. I’m sure that the extremely successful Avengers movies didn’t have a thing to do with the idea. Despite a lot of hate from critics, the Justice League movie allows you to see the powerful group on screen.

spider-man homecoming poster

10. Spider-man: Homecoming – Michael Keaton, my Batman, was starring as the villainous Vulture in this stand alone Spider-Man movie. We had seen Tom Holland and his version of Spider-Man a couple of times already and I was impressed. I liked him and I had hopes for this movie. Now don’t get me wrong but Disney, I mean Marvel likes the muddle with characters. I won’t go into detail but sometimes they just need to leave well enough alone.

ghost in the shell movie banner

9. Ghost in the Shell– My wife would say that I wanted to watch Scarlett Johansson’s Ghost in the Shell because of my affinity and celebrity crush status of well…Scarlett Johansson; and there is only slight truth in that. The truth is, 13 year old me who was completely obsessed with Anime and would wake up early to watch shows like Bleach and over-watched movies like Ghost in the Shell and Akira was going into full geek mode. The fact that the movie version of Ghost in the Shell just happened to star my celebrity crush…was just as they say ‘icing on the cake’.

lost city of z movie poster

8. The Lost City of Z – I admit that I initially wanted to watch this movie because Charlie Hunnam (who was on one of my favorite TV shows Sons of Anarchy). The movie ended up being a spectacular showcase of a true-life drama that centered around the British explorer Colonel Percival Fawcett. Col. Fawcett disappeared in the Amazon during the 1920s looking for the mysterious city of Z. I know I probably gave away the whole entire movie with that spoiler but the trials and tribulations that they go through are worth the watch.

thor ragnarok movie poster

7. Thor: Ragnarok– I felt…cheated. Like there could have been so much more to the storyline behind Thor’s Ragnarok. The blending of the Planet Hulk and Ragnorok story lines did produce a believable and definitely entertaining movie but…like many Marvel movies, their stirring away from the original comic book story lines hurts the feelings of some of us actual comic book fans. Despite me catching feels, the story was great and Chris Helmsworth would have made a spectacular He-Man. I mean he made a great Thor. 😉

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6. Wonder Woman – I have to admit that in the beginning I was not sold on Gal Gadot being cast as Wonder Woman but after watching her in the self titled Wonder Woman movie…I admit that I was wrong. She was spectacular as the Amazonian Goddess. Watching her discover her powers and unearth her destiny…all while palling around with Captain Kirk, I mean Chris Pine…was great for me.

star wars the last jedi movie poster

5. Star Wars: The Last Jedi – I won’t talk too much about this movie because it might include spoilers to the movie that my wife was not able to see with me and Daniel in the theater. So…I’ll just say that even though Disney upsets me with how they treat some characters in the Marvel brand; they absolutely do amazing things with the Star Wars brand. Not only have they made the CGI and production of these movies amazingly great, the story itself is spectacular. That is. It is worth the watch. Yes you are free to make some more Disney.

baby-driver movie poster

4.  Baby Driver – Baby Driver was one of those movies that my best friend and I decided to watch in his man cave. The movie surpassed all expectations and the overall flow of the movie makes you want to watch it multiple times to catch the nuances that you might have missed the first time or second time. The cast was amazing and the soundtrack….oh I don’t want to ruin it for you if you haven’t seen it but turn up the surround sound, sit back and wait for an amazing movie. By the way, prepare to hate Jamie Foxx while you watch this movie. Trust me, you’ll need to prepare yourself.

john wick 2 movie poster

3. John Wick: Chapter 2 – I’ve always been a fan of Keanu Reeves. Whether it was the Matrix trilogy or even Bill and Ted; Keanu was one of my favorite actors. His John Wick movies are what Steven Seagal wishes his movies were. The John Wick character is an ex-hitman who is literally drug out of retirement to seek revenge. And the second chapter in what I hope is a long, long line of movies continues right where the other one stopped. Keanu’s ability to become a character and bring his own personality into a role is definitely visible and I suggest watching this movie. If you don’t like blood and violence…you uh…might want to watch something else though.

guardians of the galaxy vol 2 movie poster

2. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 – Oh how I love the Guardians of the Galaxy movies and Vol 2 may have just risen above the original on my favorites list. But this specific Guardians of the Galaxy movie gives you exactly what you would want in a movie: great acting (yes even from Batista), comedy, suspense, action, great CGI, love, and a plot twist. The movie fits amazingly well in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and you can even see how it will tie into the current Infinity Wars storyline.

logan movie poster

  1. Logan – Oh the speculation that surrounded Logan when word got out that they were going to do a Logan movie. What comic book story line would they use? Was Clint Eastwood play Old Man Logan? Would it show him finally interacting with the other Marvel characters, like in the Old Man Logan comic series? I was excited to say the least, because ever since the 1990’s X-Men cartoon, Wolverine was my second favorite character of all time of any genre (second to He-Man of course). When I finally watched Logan I brought my dad and Daniel along with me because the Western-esque vibe to Logan would entertain my dad and well…its a comic/action movie, so Daniel would be entertained. Little did I know, that by the end of the movie all three of us would be blubbering and crying like babies who had had just steal our candy. The movie is amazing. The movie that shows the vulnerability of everyone’s favorite X-Men doing his best to take care of Professor X in a Mexican border town before their lives being shaken by the discovery of a new mutant. This mutant is the laboratory created daughter of Wolverine and allows Logan/Wolverine to find something that he had lost long ago: love. It is by far one of my favorite movies of all time, my favorite super hero movie of all time and definitely would earn the top slot in the best movie of 2017.

All movie poster images and likenesses used as Fair Use.

Visceral Corner

IMG_2999.JPGA couple of years ago, we found out that they were making a movie in my sleepy little home town of Rose Hill, NC. The movie that they were using part of our town for was the third Iron Man movie. Robert_Downey_Jr-2008.jpegRobert Downey Jr. and the Marvel cinematic universe moseyed into our little corner of North Carolina. The prop people turned the downtown area *which was very minimal* into a quaint little Tennessee town. Forgot to mention that they changed the state to Tennessee but kept the town name. Nevertheless, there are glimpses that we can notice in our every day lives in Rose Hill since the movie makers left town. One specific part that casts itself casually into my periphery every time that I pass it is a converted store front. The store never existed in our town but every time that I see it, I wish that it would have. I see that that the store would have sold comics and other things to fuel adolescent hobbies.  Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so alone in my comic collecting if the store had existed back then. Maybe I’d be the owner of it by now. All I know is the visceral longing for something that never was. The only thing that I do know is that the exterior facade of a store that never was still resides on Church St. in Rose Hill, NC.


Images:

Robert Downey Jr Iron Man promotional Image by and attributed to Edgar Meritano – Publicada en wikipedia, author sent original by email, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4008669

Toby’s Hobby Shop Photo credit to Chris Brown. 2017.

Christians in Pop Culture: Comic Books

2013_-_An_Old_Rugged_Cross,_San_Antonio_de_Padua_Catholic_Church,_Pecos,_NM_-_panoramio

Over the years, being a Christian has became less and less of an okay thing. This is a total truth in Pop Culture. Whether this is due to society only seeing the negative aspects of hypocritical Christians or whether the world at large would rather not involve a benevolent God into their lives; having to traverse this life, when in certain walks of life you are laughed at for your beliefs, makes it extremely cumbersome. As a Christian, I try to bite my tongue when my friends do not share my personal religious beliefs but I have had some ask me how I can watch Doctor Who which in no way supportive of organized religion or even The Big Bang Theory TV show whose lead character, Sheldon, pokes fun at his religious mother. So am I a hypocrite for watching Doctor Who on Saturday night and getting up on Sunday morning to attend church? What about my love for astrology and interest in science? What about my favorite novel; or better yet what do my comic books say about religion? Can my Christian faith exist in a comic book world? 

In the 2012 movie The Avengers, Captain America is advised to ‘sit the fight out’ because, since Black Widow considers Thor and Loki to ‘practically be Gods’. Captain America’s response of “There’s only one God, ma’am, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that,” caused a smile to creep upon my face. Now the atheist movie viewer may have heard this and blew it off as Cap’ averting the confidence in his own abilities but the Christian in me heard something completely different. Cap stood in the face of the Asgardian ‘Gods’ and realized that they were fallible and not anything like the God in which he believed. He knows what Thor himself admitted that the Asgardians aren’t gods. In a pre-Korvac storyline, the Avengers venture into a church and Thor himself feels uneasy because he admits that Christians don’t think much of Thor. It is pointed out by his conversation with Wanda (aka The Scarlet Witch) that even Odin does not consider himself to be a the ‘Supreme Divinity’. Thor again admits to his not being a supreme being in a current issue of the Thor comic, where he is confronted by a small child who calls him a liar. The little child calls him a liar because he is claiming to be a God and that he was taught that there was only one God. Thor tells the child that he is a higher being, but there is a higher being than he and his kind. Thor and the Asgardians are an extremely advanced alien race whose technology made them appear to be all powerful creatures to the humans that they visited long ago. They whether fact or fiction, did have a hand in shaping our culture. So, I think that when Marvel or the Marvel Cinematic Universe refers to these Asgardians or any other celestial creatures as ‘god’ they are simply referring to the fact that they are ‘the thing of legend’ like the beautiful Black Widow says in the 2012 Avengers movie. In contrast with the ecclesiastical Judeo-Christian God whom we refer to as “God”, these other ‘gods’ do not hold absolute power nor are they all knowing. Am I saying that Thor worships Jesus…not by any means. What I am saying is that Thor, much like Captain America acknowledges that THE God exists. 

I started to talk about Captain America but switched to a ‘god’. So am I trying to insinuate that Captain America is a Christian? Maybe he is…maybe he is Chris_Evans_-_Captain_America_2_press_conference.jpgnot. I think that we need to remember that while Cap’ was frozen in time, using bad language sadly became a norm. But I don’t know is what is inside the once frozen heart of America’s greatest Soldier. I do however know what lies within the heart of the mutant whose blue appearance, cloven feet, prehensile tail, pointed ears and an overall demonic appearance: Kurt Wagner. Kurt Wagner, commonly known as the Nightcrawler, came to us in all his blue glory in the 1975 Giant-Size X-Men #1 and hasn’t stopped transporting himself into the Marvel Universe’s story lines since. In my early years as a comic reader and cartoon watcher, I was enthralled by the X-Men. In the early 1990s, the X-Men: The Animated Series was quite simply amazing but an episode in 1995 (Episode 44 titled “Nightcrawler” to be exact) brought the little Christian in me to tears. I, being raised in the church, was not used to seeing any Christians on main stream television. (Other than one of my other favorite shows that I grew up watching: ‘Walker Texas Ranger’. Gotta love Chuck Norris.) On this specific episode of X-Men; Rogue, Wolverine and Gambit go on a vacation and as always, find something eery going on when they get there. They hear tell of a demon haunting the local church, whom we find out to be the friendly yet demonic looking Nightcrawler. Wolverine wants to rip the townspeople apart for their wanting to hurt Nightcrawler based on his appearance but Nightcrawler demonstrates his strong faith in God by forgiving the people that judged him and even helped Wolverine deal with some of his internal demons. Nightcrawler’s confession of faith in this episode as well as episode 68 where Nightcrawler is revealed to be Mystique’s abandoned son. In the event that people want to scrutinize Nightcrawler and say that after becoming a Catholic priest he had many human like struggles with his faith, we cannot deny that just this inclusion of God is impressive to a Christian and a powerful testimony to God. 

In Pop Culture and in the comic universe, there are countless instances where Christians are viewed as back-woodsy and less intelligent humans who distort the word of God for their own motives. So the few times in which a Christian or just a person having faith is shown in a positive light will always be a good thing in my eyes despite many comic characters (such as Ghost Rider, Spawn, The Redeemer, the Anti-Spawn, etc) showing Christianity and the battle between Good and Evil in other lights. Whether the characters who were given power by God, the Devil or have had interaction with God; the mention of religion in comic book universes is not foreign. The historical figure out Jesus actually appeared in comic books many times and Marvel even produced many Biblical stories.

So can a Christian be a fan of the different aspects of Pop Culture and even find a paragon within the comic book universe? The answer is unequivocally yes. While Philippians 4:13 is synonymously linked with finding strength, Superman also is quoted as saying that “(y)ou’re much stronger than you think you are. Trust me.” So some of the most powerful writing on the planet can be found in your Holy Bible but could be also be found within has been found within the 20+ folded pages of drawings and words. 

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Jesus of Nazareth Comic cover accredited to Marvel Comics, marvel.wikia.com/wiki/jesus_of_Nazaerth_(Earth-616)

An Old Rugged Cross by and accredited to Chris English, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56580686

Chris Evans – Captain America 2 Press Conference photo by and accredited to Elen Nivrae – http://www.flickr.com/photos/nivrae/13222040093/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31731283