McKelvie and Gillen’s new ongoing series The Wicked + The Divine is a sensation. With strong worldbuilding revolving around different mythological sources, this comic already has fans speculating and theorizing, even with only two issues out. It may be THE comic for mythology nerds, and I couldn’t help but toss my two cents in. This series intends to briefly point towards the original material, compare it to the comic’s adaptation of it, and speculate meanings and foreshadows only available with a bit of background knowledge.
Says the legend that each ninety years, the gods descend to earth, taking the bodies of young people as their own to be adored…by becoming pop stars. After two years, though, their bodies die. This in itself is a myth, at least within the world of the comic. And all of it is laid upon our real world existing deities and the authors’ interpretations of them. Various religious traditions from different geographic and time locations are referred to.
The casual reader may not be familiar with all those gods. Some are quite famous (Lucifer, Sakhmet) but others are more obscure, maybe not even findable through a Google search (like Baal, whose name can refer to a lot of different gods).
Luckily for our analysis, the gods and their current status can be checked up on through this recurrent image in each issue, which I call the pantheon mandala:
Each god has its own McKelvie designed symbol, which can sometimes tell you a lot. Their positions may or may not be relevant (I’m saying yes). I will refer to it throughout this series.
The first goddess we hear about is Amaterasu. Laura, the protagonist and our eyes and ears in this mystical world, is preparing for her concert, with make-up deserving of the goddess of the Sun. Then, there is Amaterasu’s show and it is stunning. Literally. She is so amazing everyone faints.
Amaterasu or, in full, Amaterasu Ōmikami, meaning “Great Divinity Illuminating Heaven,” is the Shinto sun goddess and central figure in that pantheon. She rules the Takamagahara, or “High Celestial Plain,” and is sister to Tsukoyomi, the moon god, and Susanoo, the god of sea and storms. Together, they created Japan with their paintbrushes. The Japanese line of emperors claimed her for their ancestor.
It is told that once Susanoo was mean to Amaterasu, ravaging her lands with storms and giant waves. Unhappy, she retreated to a cave and closed its entrance with a huge rock. Since then, darkness and its devils ruled, and all life began to decay. The other gods were worried, and tried all their tricks to get her out of the cave — without results. Only when all hope was lost, did a goddess come up with a plan. They hung a mirror in a nearby tree and adorned it with jewels. The goddess danced sensually, and all the gods started talking and laughing and playing music. The sounds from outside the cave incited Amaterasu’s curiosity, and she decided to take a peek through a tiny opening in the cave. The luminosity she emanated is now what we call dawn. What she saw was a thing of such beauty she could not resist leaning closer and closer… The tricky gods used the opportunity to bring her out of the cave and lock the door behind. Amaterasu was tricked by her own reflection in the mirror.
WicDiv’s goddess makes an impression as great as the original one. At the climax of her concert, she shines as bright as…well, as bright as the sun. Her eyes are like the first sun rays of the day. Her color palette is white and bright warm colors. She is good-hearted, kind, benevolent, happy. Also, she looks a lot like Florence Welch.
In the pantheon mandala, her symbol is, of course, the sun. The position of her symbol, at the top, may indicate her alignment with the other gods somehow. She is directly opposed to The Morrigan, down below. She is, after all, the queen of heaven, and Laura’s (and a lot of other fan’s, I believe) favorite.
As a curiosity (or maybe a plot point further on?), the last time the gods came to earth, in 1924, her brother Susanoo was among them. The naughty one of the sea and the storms, remember? His symbol was also in the top position.
After finally fainting, Laura wakes up to meet another pop star, Lucifer – but you can call her Luci. She is impressed by Laura’s ability to resist, for a long time, fainting at Amaterasu’s concert.
In the mandala, her symbol is the pentagram pointing downwards, at one o’clock. After she is imprisoned, the pentagram is shown behind bars.
Lucifer is usually represented as male, but the authors ingeniously gender-bent the character. She is a female version of David Bowie in the “Thin White Duke” era, too. Badass white suit, blonde hairdo and a cocaine addiction. Actually, the #2 variant cover was a straight reference to Bowie’s mugshot.
Interestingly, she tells Laura all of the names she goes by: “Father of Lies, The Adversary, Lord of Flies, The Old Serpent, God of this World, Dragon, The Lightbringer, Apollyon, et cetera, et cetera.” A god with so many names must be a very old and very famous god.
The first records of Lucifer date back to 2,000 – 1,500 B.C., as a Caananite god. At first, he had a more modest backstory: he was a human, called Helel, who tried to steal his father’s throne but failed. Later records of the story tell that he was the god of light, named Lucifer, who unsuccessfully tried to steal Jeovah’s throne in Heaven, and for that was banned to the underworld.
He is related to the “star” (I know it’s a planet, okay? But the guys back then didn’t) Venus, for Venus is the last star to fade away in the morning, trying and failing to compete with the Sun.
Some cults didn’t see him as a necessarily bad figure. Luciferianism (not to be confused with Satanism) celebrates him for his enlightenment aspect. After all, in many polytheistic myths, gods are treasonous to one another but then make peace and live happily ever after.
Today though, some Christians believe he is Satan, responsible for all bad in the world. In the Holy Bible’s New Testament, he is The Evil personified, resentful of being exiled from Heaven.
Certainly, WicDiv’s Luci was influenced by this. She may not be The Worst Meanest Cruelest Thing Ever, but is certainly no good. You wouldn’t want your kids around her, nope.
It may be useful to remember another aspect of Satan: these days, it’s common to see representations of him making pacts with humans. Have you ever seen that turn out well for the mortal part? Laura should have remembered that. But apparently she didn’t. Is Luci so untrustworthy? Can we hope for a not so evil, maybe enlightened Luci?
And in that way, Gillen kept his readers hooked. A writer has to be aware of the impact his comic’s debut made (enormous), and wise to know it doesn’t last forever. So keep us guessing, and we’ll keep reading.
Next in this series of posts, I’ll discuss The Morrigan and Baphomet.