Divine Intervention page 4 Picture

In which Loki talks too much.

Yes, it’s everyone’s favourite morally ambiguous ginger gender-bender and he’s going to be gabbing on for a few more pages because, honestly, I couldn’t script a way for him to shut up. As you may have noticed, there’s only one thing I love more than chthonic deities and that’s trickster deities, so of course I had to devote some space to the most complex and argued-about figures in European mythology. Since he’s going to be taking up a lot of space in this comic, I’ll talk about some of the issue surrounding him (and my interpretation of him) as I get to them. Actually, as fun as scripting his bits were, he was definitely the most difficult deity to pin down for the comic. There are so many different interpretations of him. The trouble is that the Vikings and the other Northern European peoples of the Dark Ages didn’t write things down, which is why they’re called the Dark Ages. The Norse myths that survive do so through a series of stories written down by Christian historians and folklorists many centuries later. So the myths as we know them are filtered through a very Christian mindset and warped over time. A lot of the time, we just don’t know what the Norse and their contemporaries thought of their gods. And when we have a figure like Loki, one who changes from myth to myth, things get very complicated. We honestly don’t know how the Norse saw him, which means scholars debate about him A LOT. We don’t even know whether he was considered a god or not. I’m working on the assumption that he WAS, since although the myths say he was a jotunn by birth he’s also Odin’s blood brother, making him a member of Odin’s clan, the Aesir (otherwise known as the gods).

I’ve never subscribed to the interpretation of him as evil, I think that’s probably a Christian addition, “evil” as a concept is a peculiarly Christian belief. That’s not to say he doesn’t do bad things, he certainly does that, but reading the myths, I see him as more of a chaotic, impulsive character with a bit of cruel sense of humour. So my version of Loki is an irreverent, dirty-minded rogue with a short attention span.

Now, Norse mythology hasn’t permeated pop culture in the same way as Classical or Egyptian myths, partly because scholars only really rediscovered quite how interesting and talented the peoples of the Dark Ages were fairly recently, so we don’t have the same tradition of studying their stories or romanticising their culture. Instead, Norse myths reach us through a weird mixture of Germanic nationalism (in the form of Wagner’s operas) and folklore (through stories of trolls, elves and dwarves… what, you thought Tolkein and Disney invented stories about industrious dwarves?) There’s a lot of Norse influence in high fantasy (Tolkein, the granddaddy of modern fantasy, was a scholar of Dark Age literature. He wrote a fantastic article about the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf and based a lot of his works on Anglo-Saxon and Norse stories). But as for actual adaptations of Norse myths, well, they’re few and far between and frequently frankly bizarre. We’ve had videogames that turn the Aesir into cyborgs, we’ve had manga that turn them into schoolboy detectives, and American comics turning them into superheroes (and discussions of the nature of stories, thank you Mr Gaiman). Naturally the most accurate depictions turn up in Scandinavian pop culture but unfortunately very few of these get translated into English.

Back to the comic… Art-wise, there are very few depictions of Loki in surviving Norse art, so I based my version of him on a mixture of what I know about Dark Age costumes and on his character. Loki is associated with fire, so I gave him a slightly anachronistic bright-red costume. He’s frequently linked to the Norse concept of ergi, or “unmanliness” (which includes, but isn’t restricted to, passive homosexuality) so I figured he’d be a little effeminate, hence the long hair, fillet, girly eyes and rather languid poses. In the comic, he’s sneaked out of his punishment (being bound under the earth with the entrails of one of his sons, beneath a monstrous serpent that drips venom into his eyes) so he’s a bit of a mess, with tears in his clothes, ragged hair and lots and lots of scars (the scars around his eyes are from the snake’s venom, those around his mouth are from having his lips sewn together in another story… and they’re a pain to draw!) The Vikings were very fond of jewellery: as a travelling warrior culture they used portable but ornate pieces to show off their wealth and, since they frequently took items from their fallen foes, their prowess in battle. So I gave Loki a gold belt buckle and a brooch depicting one of the few symbols associated with him, the bjarkan rune. He’s also wearing a bead necklace, since the Vikings were apparently potty about glass beads. The earring… as far as I know, piercings weren’t common in Dark Age Europe, but I see Loki as a representation of the Other (and a bit of a magpie) so I gave him one anyway.

I’ll shut up now. The comedy font is from [link]

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