Saturday, October 27, 2018

Hurlbut on Medieval Comics

From a recent number of the International Journal of Comic Art:

Hurlbut, Jesse D. “Comics Theory for the Ages: Text and Image Relations in Medieval Manuscripts.” International Journal of Comic Art Vol. 19, No. 1, Spring/Summer 2017, pp. 353-83. 

Ordering information available at

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Morrison on Beowulf. Leggenda cristiana dell’antica Danimarca

New well-illustrated article on Beowulf in the comics:

Morrison, Susan Signe. “Grendel’s Mother in Fascist Italy: Beowulf in a Catholic Youth Publication.” International Journal of Comics Art, Vol. 20, no. 1, Spring/Summer 2018, pp. 331-48.

Morrison includes the following information about the essay on her blog (

I’m delighted that my article “Grendel’s Mother in Fascist Italy: Beowulf in a Catholic Youth Publication,” has just been published in the International Journal of Comic Art. This essay focuses on a 1940-41 Italian comic book version by Enrico Basari (author) and Kurt Caesar (illustrator). An anti-semitic portrayal of Grendel’s Mother grows out of German views of Beowulf in the 1930s. The anti-semitic overtones present in German Beowulf youth translations and adaptations sympathetic to Nazi German propaganda, produced in the decade before and simultaneously with the publication of the comic under scrutiny here, likewise crop up under the Italian fascist reign. The fraught nature of Grendel’s Mother takes on insidious dimensions in Enrico Basari’s Beowulf. Leggenda cristiana dell’antica Danimarca, appearing in serial form from Oct. 5, 1940-Jan. 25, 1941. It was featured in Il Vittorioso, a Catholic youth publication, “a nationalist publication often distributed through Catholic parishes” (Calderón, 2007:112), that attempted to go beyond mere Fascist propaganda for young people. Just how could an anti-semitic inflected Beowulf comic have affected youth readers?

Sell on Aquaman at MAPACA 2018

Advisory board member Carl Sell is presenting a paper at the upcoming MAPACA conference on Aquaman and the Arthurian tradition. Here are the details from the online program at (He presents in the session just before our comics roundtable.)

Sell, Carl. “The Once and Future King of Atlantis: The Arthurian Figure in Geoff Johns’s Aquaman: Death of a King.” Presented as part of “Dark Arts,” a session of the Medieval & Renaissance Area. 29th Annual Conference of the Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association, Lord Baltimore Hotel, Baltimore, Maryland. 10 November 2018.

“Writer Geoff Johns had arguably one of the most famous runs of DC’s Aquaman title in 2013. Arthur Curry, the titular hero and King of Atlantis, had previously been derided as a second-rate, low-powered hero without a compelling backstory or link to any serious subject matter. Geoff Johns changed all of that with an Arthur Curry who draws from the most obvious source material presented to the half-human, half-Atlantian king, that of the other—and perhaps more famously celebrated—King Arthur. While Johns drew from the Arthurian mythos as a whole rather than any one specific textual rendering of the legendary King of the Britons—save, perhaps, Sir Thomas Malory’s text via Johns’s title—the Atlantian King Arthur is confronted with an Arthurian return, a Mordred-like figure, a courtly betrayal, and a “final battle” for the kingship just as his namesake is in the many accounts of the famous British king. Johns complicates the established Arthurian cycle in Death of a King, however, in this collected edition of Aquaman #17-19 and #21-25, Johns introduces a rival Arthurian figure which I have termed the “Dark Arthur.” The Dark Arthur figure is a returned Atlantian king of old who sees his realm in peril, but instead of leading his people to salvation, his murderous rage sparks a war between those who follow him and those who seek to embrace the peaceful future of King Arthur Curry. The dual Arthurian figures of Johns’s writing are pulled straight from his larger concept of his mythic sourcetexts, and I argue that, to fully understand the Aquaman presented in these pages, the reader must be fully aware of the Arthurian figure and its literary history from which Johns draws.”

Comics Get Medieval at MAPACA 2018

The Comics Get Medieval is back! 

Here are the details on our sponsored session for MAPACA's conference this coming November. Registration information is available at information on our other session, visit

29th Annual Conference of the Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association, Lord Baltimore Hotel, Baltimore, Maryland

The Comics Get Medieval 2018: A Continuing Celebration of Medieval-themed Comics (a Round Table) (Medieval & Renaissance Area / Round table)

Sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Scholarship and Teaching of the Medieval in Popular Culture for the Medieval & Renaissance Area of the Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association, organized by Michael A. Torregrossa (Independent Scholar)

Saturday, November 10, 2:45 pm to 4:00 pm (Salon E Calvert Ballroom )

This special round-table session is sponsored by The Association for the Advancement of Scholarship and Teaching of the Medieval in Popular Culture. The session revives the successful Comics Get Medieval series after a multi-year absence and seeks to foster communication between comics scholars, medievalists, medievalismists, and specialists in other aspects of popular culture studies through the study of “medieval comics”: any example of the comics medium (e.g. panel cartoons, comic strips, comics books, comics albums, band dessinée, graphic novels, manga, webcomics, comics to screen/screen to comics, and other related media) that feature medieval themes either in stories set during the Middle Ages or in stories presenting some element of the medieval in anachronistic settings (pre-medieval or post-medieval eras or medieval-inspired secondary worlds).

Round Table Discussions will include:

Session Chair: Scott Manning (American Military University)

1. “Co-Starring Beowulf?: An Alternative Version of Beowulf in Jumbo Comics No. 50 (April 1943)”

Michael A. Torregrossa (Independent Scholar)

The story of Beowulf is one of the greatest legends of English culture and has inspired a wealth of texts that attempt to retell a traditional version of his deeds. However, there are also a number of works—most largely unnoticed by admirers of the hero—that introduce new characters into events from Beowulf’s life and attempt to make the Geat into a secondary figure in his own story. One of the earliest version of this motif appeared in Jumbo Comics No. 50 (April 1943), an American comic published during the Golden Age of the medium. Like other comics produced at the time, the story appears intended to educate readers about Beowulf, but the creators do not follow a Classics Illustrated approach and give readers a straight retelling. Instead, they adapt elements from Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and bring modern-day figures into the Anglo-Saxon past, where these intruders to the story in effect alter history to create a divergent account of the epic that attempts to place a new hero in the dominant role once held by Beowulf. This presentation offers the first extended discussion of the Beowulfiana of Jumbo Comics No. 50 to offer suggestions on how this forgotten work can be of value in our research and teaching about Beowulf and its afterlife.

Michael A. Torregrossa is a medievalist whose research interests include adaptation, Arthuriana, comics and comic art, medievalism, monsters, and wizards. He is founder of both The Alliance for the Promotion of Research on the Matter of Britain and The Association for the Advancement of Scholarship and Teaching of the Medieval in Popular Culture and outgoing Fantastic Area Chair for the Northeast Popular Culture/American Culture Association.

2. “ ‘Ka is a Wheel’: The Arthurian Cycle and its Context in Marvel’s Stephen King’s Dark Tower”

Carl Sell (Indiana University of Pennsylvania)

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series has distinguished itself as a series without an end and without a clear beginning; however, Marvel’s series Stephen King’s Dark Tower, which ran from 2007 to 2017 under the supervision of King himself, serves as a starting point to the adventures of Roland of Gilead, last in the line of Arthur Eld, the great king of All-World. Beginning with The Gunslinger Born, the Arthurian cycle repeats itself anew with Steven Deschain and the Affiliation, In-World’s incarnation of the Round Table and his treacherous advisor Marten Broadcloak, the man who steals Steven’s wife. As Roland’s story unfolds, he is caught up in the ka, the fate, of his long line, the fate of King Arthur Eld himself: death, renewal, betrayal, and the endless quest for the Dark Tower, the Grail-like salvation of All-World. Roland and his ka-tet, Cuthbert Allgood and Alain Johns, the stand-ins for Sir Kay and Sir Bedivere to Roland’s Arthur, are caught up in the Arthurian mythos and its endless cycle—ka, after all, is a wheel—and their journey together complicates the standard Arthurian narrative and blends character roles, motivations, and tropes found within more standard Arthurian adaptations. The story of King Arthur—as Arthur Eld—is ever-present in the world of Stephen King’s Dark Tower and in the gunslingers themselves as the new model of Arthurian chivalry.

Carl Sell is a PhD student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He studies the Arthurian Legend and modern adaptations of the legend as well as adaptations of Robin Hood. He is interested in all things medieval and Early Modern.

3. “I’m Holding Out For A Hero: The Disparity Between Male Warriors and Valkyries in Norse Mythology and the Depiction of Valkyrie in the 21st Century”

Lindsey Poe (Georgia College and State University)

Norse mythology has many depictions of warriors. The stories we have today are presumably long held Icelandic oral tales that had previously been passed on generation by generation. The eddas, for instance, are old Norse oral myths that were written down in the 13th century by Snori Sturluson. The myths are traditionally pagan, however Snori Sturluson was compiling them while priests were attempting to convert the people of Iceland to Christianity. As such, the works became a blend of both Christian and pagan beliefs. While Icelandic peoples were still worshipping the Norse gods, Snori wove in a watered down version of the Christian message in his written Edda. Throughout these texts, we see descriptions of god-like men such as Thor and Loki as well as characters like Sigurd, who simply represent a traditional warrior male. Interestingly enough, some women like Brunhild are elevated and are portrayed as strong, battle ready individuals. They exist as supernatural beings who wield power over life and death. These warrior women are known as Valkyries. They are not merely women, rather, Valkyries hold a third classification of gender and exist outside of the binary. Through “The Elder Edda,” “The Prose Edda,” and “The Saga of the Volsungs” the characterizations of these two classes of warriors will be broken down and their differences analyzed. In addition, the Valkyries of literature will be compared to the depictions of these women in films and comics, particularly in the Marvel universe.

Lindsey Poe graduated with her bachelor’s degree in English Literature with a minor in Spanish from Georgia College and State University in the Spring of 2017. Following graduation, she applied to and got accepted at her alma mater, where she is currently in her second year of graduate school, working towards a master’s in English.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

New Book: Beowulf's Popular Afterlife in Literature, Comic Books, and Film

I'm excited about this new book but also frustrated that it is so expensive; publishers (like Routledge and Palgrave) need to produce all works of scholarship in both hardcovers for libraries and affordable softcovers for individuals and students.

Beowulf's Popular Afterlife in Literature, Comic Books, and Film
By Kathleen Forni

208 pages

Hardback: 9781138609839
pub: 2018-06-04
USD $140.00

eBook (VitalSource) : 9780429466014
pub: 2018-08-06
Purchase eBook $54.95


Beowulf's presence on the popular cultural radar has increased in the past two decades, coincident with cultural crisis and change. Why? By way of a fusion of cultural studies, adaptation theory, and monster theory, Beowulf's Popular Afterlife examines a wide range of Anglo-American retellings and appropriations found in literary texts, comic books, and film. The most remarkable feature of popular adaptations of the poem is that its monsters, frequently victims of organized militarism, male aggression, or social injustice, are provided with strong motives for their retaliatory brutality. Popular adaptations invert the heroic ideology of the poem, and monsters are not only created by powerful men but are projections of their own pathological behavior. At the same time there is no question that the monsters created by human malfeasance must be eradicated.

Table of Contents

Chapter One Introduction: Why Beowulf?

Chapter Two Beowulf's Monsters


Chapter Three Adult Fiction

Chapter Four Beowulf for Kids

Chapter Five Comic Books

Chapter Six Film and T.V.

Chapter Seven Appropriations Across Genres and Media

Chapter Eight Conclusion, or, The Monsters are the Critics



About the Author

Kathleen Forni is a Professor in the English Department at Loyola University Maryland. Her previous publications include, in addition to a number of journal articles, three books examining the formation of Chaucer's canon and Chaucer's twentieth-century reception.

Monday, June 25, 2018

CFP More than Marvel: Representations of Norse Mythology in Contemporary Popular Culture (9/15/2018; ICoMS Kalamazoo 5/9-12/2019)

Please excuse the cross-posting:

I'm pleased to announce the call for our sponsored session for next year's International Congress on Medieval Studies. Do follow our Medieval Comics Project site ( for updates during the year.

More than Marvel: Representations of Norse Mythology in Contemporary Popular Culture
Sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Scholarship and Teaching of the Medieval in Popular Culture
54th International Congress on Medieval Studies
Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan
9-12 May 2019
Proposals due by 15 September 2018

Myths and legends from the Middle Ages remain important links to the past, and there has been much interest in recasting this material into post-medieval contexts, forging a bridge between our forebears and our modern selves. Creators of our own time have been especially prolific in reviving these stories for new audiences. The tales told of the gods of the Norsemen are one such medieval legacy to find currency today, and they have appeared in a variety of media, including comics. For example, Marvel Comics’ representation of the Norse god Thor has been an important element of its shared world since his debut in 1962, and, in its incorporation of the character into the Marvel Universe, the publisher has done much in the service of Medieval Studies through its widespread dissemination across the globe of a relatable depiction of the Norse Gods and the intricate mythology associated with them. Marvel’s account of Thor and his compatriots has also featured in an array of media beyond the pages of its long-running comic book series, and the recent release of three feature films centered around the Asgardian as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one of the world’s most popular and prosperous movie and television franchises, has provided additional texts to further knowledge of the Nine Worlds and its inhabitants. Nonetheless, while Marvel remains the most prominent creator of modern tales of the Norse gods, the company does not hold the exclusive rights to this material. Other writers, comics creators, filmmakers, television producers, and game designers have also appropriated the stories and legends of the gods of Asgard and further individuals within the cosmology of the Nine Worlds for their own purposes, yet their work remain relatively unknown when compared to the phenomenal success and reach of Marvel Comics and Marvel Studios.

It is the intent of this session to shed the spotlight on these other examples of Nordic-inspired medievalisms and to bring them into ongoing conversations and debates about the reception of the medieval in the post-medieval world. We are especially interested in the reach of Marvel’s versions beyond the United States and how other approaches to the material engage with, react to, or ignore Marvel’s work. In addition, we hope to include coverage of texts from non-Western media (like anime and manga) that have embraced the traditions of the Norse gods in innovative ways.

Potential Topics: (a good starting point is the “Norse mythology in popular culture” page on Wikipedia at

  • The Almighty Johnsons
  • American Gods
  • Day of the Giants (Lester del Rey)
  • Fafner in the Azure
  • Doctor Who
  • Everworld (K. A. Applegate)
  • Gods of Asgard (Erik A. Evensen)
  • Graphic Myths and Legends series
  • Hammer of the Gods (Michael Avon Oeming and Mark Wheatley)
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys / Xena: Warrior Princess
  • The Incredible Hulk Returns
  • Last Days of the Justice Society of America
  • The Life Eaters (David Brin and Scott Hampton)
  • Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard (Rick Riordan)
  • The Mask
  • The Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok
  • Mythquest
  • Norse Myths: A Viking Graphic Novel series
  • Odyssey of the Amazons (DC Comics)
  • Oh! My Goddess!
  • Ragnarok (Myung Jin Lee) / Ragnarok Online
  • Stargate
  • Supernatural
  • Valhalla (Peter Madsens)
  • Witches of East End

Presentations will be limited to 15 or 20 minutes depending on final panel size.

Interested individuals should submit, no later than 15 September 2018, (1) paper proposal or abstract of approximately 500 words, (2) a 250 to 500-word academic biographical narrative, and (3) a completed Participant Information Form (accessible at to the organizers at using “More than Marvel” as their subject heading.

In planning your proposal, please be aware of the policies of the Congress (available at 

Further information about the Association for the Advancement of Scholarship and Teaching of the Medieval in Popular Culture and its outreach efforts can be accessed at The Medieval in Popular Culture (
Of especial interest, the Association hosts sites devoted to both medieval-themed films and comics. These can be accessed at Medieval Studies on Screen ( and The Medieval Comics Project (, respectively.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Rejected (Again) by Kalamazoo

It is with much sadness that I report that the organizers of the International Congress on Medieval Studies have rejected another of our proposals to educate and inform the Medieval Studies community of the value, variety, and availability of comics for medievalist teaching and research.

Details of the now deceased session can be found at

If you have any suggestions for other venues, please contact me at

Michael Torregrossa,
Association for the Advancement of Scholarship and Teaching of the Medieval in Popular Culture

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Coming Soon: Shakespeare and Superheroes

I applaud the effort, but wish the price was more reasonable. We need more affordable scholarship on comics with medieval and Renaissance themes.

Shakespeare and Superheroes
Jeffrey Kahan

Price In US $ $79.00
Price In Sterling £55.00
Imprint Arc Humanities Press
Series Recreational Shakespeare
ISBN 9781942401773
Publication Date July 2018
Format Hardback
Dimensions (HxW) 234 x 156 mm
Page Count 110
Illustrations Illustrations, colour 6

This short book offers a series of thought experiments and invites Shakespeareans to rediscover the wonders and pleasures of fandom. Shakespeare Studies conferences and Comic-Cons are celebrations, unless, of course, the participants involved forget the nature of play. And that, in the instance of formal literary study, is arguably what has happened.

Shakespeare and Superheroes does not argue that comic books can or should replace Shakespeare. The goal is to explore both, to think of comics as allusively Shakespearean, telling similar stories, expressing similar concerns, exploring similar values.

Readers of Shakespeare and Superman alike may need to re-evaluate their assumptions and hierarchies; Shakespeare and Superheroes encourages all readers to engage in and to respond to literary arguments using their own personal tastes, interests, and experiences. The author argues that the more readers trust themselves, the more they bring of themselves to the text or texts, the greater the rewards.




“I have shot mine arrow o’er the house, / And hurt my brother”: Death and Redemption in Hamlet and Arrow

Of Guise and Gals: Wonder Woman and Shakespearean Cross-Dressing

Tonight at the Improv: Comedians Slay!—Two Drink Minimum


Author Bio(s)

Jeffrey Kahan is the author of several books on Shakespeare and has been a featured speaker on BBC TV and NPR. He is a Professor of English at the University of La Verne and comic book nerd.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Notice of Comics Get Medieval at Kalamazoo 2019

Here are the details of a set of sessions we are proposing for the 2019 International Congress on Medieval Studies. Wish us luck.

The Comics Get Medieval at Kalamazoo I: Medieval-themed Comics and Medieval Studies (Roundtable)

The Comics Get Medieval at Kalamazoo II: Accessing Medieval-themed Comics in the Twentieth-First Century (Workshop)

Most medievalists have come to accept popular manifestations of the Middle Ages and are willing to talk about fiction, film, and television programs in their classrooms, and some are even writing about these items in their scholarship; however, few have as readily embraced the material produced in the comics medium. This fault is not due to a lack of interest. As our sessions over the past two decades attest, many medievalists are curious about how the comics have adapted medieval figures, events, and stories, but a much smaller group knows how to access this corpus and use it profitably for research and teaching. Thus, the goal of these sessions, sponsored by The Medieval Comics Project, is twofold. First, we intend, through a roundtable, to present some overviews, by an assortment of medieval-comics scholars, of how the comics have appropriated some of the most well-known material from the Middle Ages (such as Beowulf, the Crusades, Dante’s Commedia, the Matter of Britain, Norse mythology, and the Robin Hood legend) to provide insight into what has been done so far in terms of comics and comics scholarship with regards to these topics and what kind of work might be done in the future. Equally importantly, we also seek, through a workshop session, to instruct participants in how to use various online tools (such as comics companies’ websites, comics sellers’ store sites, databases of comics, fan wikias, and repositories) to successfully find and access comics of use to them. This last objective is especially vital, as resources like the Grand Comics Database and its various search options, can be invaluable when looking for resources (especially when paired with repositories of comics, like Comic Book + and comiXology). Furthermore, instruction on the various forms of the comiXology platform (both website and app) is of great importance as it stands to revolutionize access to and distribution of comics in the twenty-first century by providing affordable digital editions of books from all eras of the medium’s history. Finally, fans of the comics have produced important resources essential in any quest to track and understand the larger contexts involved in how comics have used medieval motifs; these include various wikis devoted to specific publishers (like the DC Database and the Marvel Database) and sites like The Appendix to the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Unfortunately, all of these new resources appear foreign to most medieval. We hope that this session will change that.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Beowulf in Comics

I've begun a project collecting representations of Beowulf in comic format as a resource for teaching the text. If you have any suggestions please contact me at (I'm in that account more often than the Medieval Comics Project one). I'm also looking for works of scholarship (or reviews and/or interviews) on these adaptations and will eventually add my findings to the blog.

One interesting text, I have discovered so far is a story in Jumbo Comics No. 50 (Apr. 1943). It looks to be the first adaptation of the work into American comics. The story is sort of a version of the Connecticut Yankee narrative with a hot-headed, twentieth-century young man trying to one-up Beowulf with varied results. I am hoping to present on the comic this fall at our MAPACA roundtable, and I include here the second page of the story where the youth faces Grendel for the first time. I've also added an image of Beowulf's arrival at Heorot to the main page of the blog.

Michael Torregrosa
Founder and Blog Editor

Friday, March 9, 2018

CFP Comics Get Medieval 2018 (A Round Table) (6/30/2018; MAPACA Baltimore 11/8-10/2018)

I am pleased to announce the return of "The Comics Get Medieval" sessions this fall at the 29th Annual Conference of the Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association. My thanks to the Medieval & Renaissance Area chairs for their support.

The Comics Get Medieval 2018 (A Round Table)

A Continuing Celebration of Medieval-themed Comics

Sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Scholarship and Teaching of the Medieval in Popular Culture for the Medieval & Renaissance Area of the Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association

29th Annual Conference of the Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association

Lord Baltimore Hotel, Baltimore, Maryland

8-10 November 2018

Proposals due by 30 June 2018

Hoping to revive the successful Comics Get Medieval series after a multi-year absence, the Association for the Advancement of Scholarship and Teaching of the Medieval in Popular Culture seeks proposals for inclusion at “The Comics Get Medieval 2018 (A Roundtable).” The goal of this session is to foster communication between comics scholars, medievalists, medievalismists, and specialists in other aspects of popular culture studies.

The organizers define “medieval comics” as any example of the comics medium (e.g. panel cartoons, comic strips, comics books, comics albums, band dessinée, graphic novels, manga, webcomics, comics to screen/screen to comics, and other related media) that feature medieval themes either in stories set during the Middle Ages or in stories presenting some element of the medieval in anachronistic settings (pre-medieval or post-medieval eras or medieval-inspired secondary worlds). We are also interested in papers looking at medieval-themed comics from a pedagogical perspective.

Select lists of potential topics and an expanding bibliographic guide to medieval comics can be found at The Medieval Comics Project site ( and The Arthur of the Comics Project site (, outreach efforts of the Association for the Advancement of Scholarship and Teaching of the Medieval in Popular Culture and its sibling organization the Alliance for the Promotion of Research on the Matter of Britain,.

Presentations will be limited to 10-15 minutes depending on final panel size. All proposals will also be considered for inclusion in a potential essay collection to be edited by the panel organizers.

Interested individuals should, no later than 30 June 2018, notify the organizers of their topic via email directed to using “Comics Get Medieval 2018” as their subject heading. They will also need create an account with the Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association at AND submit into the system both an abstract of no more than 300 words and an academic biographical narrative of no more than 75 words.

Again, please send inquiries and copies of your submissions to the organizers at using “Comics Get Medieval 2018” as the subject heading.

In planning your proposal, please be aware of the policies of the Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association (available at

Further details on the Association for the Advancement of Scholarship and Teaching of the Medieval in Popular Culture can be found at its website:

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Of Interest: Echoes of Valhalla

Echoes of Valhalla: The Afterlife of the Eddas and Sagas

Jón Karl Helgason; Translated by Jane Appleton
Distributed for Reaktion Books

256 pages | 50 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2

Cloth $24.95
ISBN: 9781780237152
Published June 2017
For sale in North and South America only

Tolkien’s wizard Gandalf, Wagner’s Valkyrie Brünnhilde, Marvel’s superhero the Mighty Thor, the warrior heading for Valhalla in Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” and Donald Crisp’s portrayal of Leif Eriksson in the classic film The Viking—these are just a few examples of how Icelandic medieval literature has shaped human imagination during the past 150 years. Echoes of Valhalla is a unique look at modern adaptations of the Icelandic eddas (poems of Norse mythology) and sagas (ancient prose accounts of Viking history, voyages, and battles) across an astonishing breadth of art forms.

Jón Karl Helgason looks at comic books, plays, travel books, music, and films in order to explore the reincarnations of a range of legendary characters, from the Nordic gods Thor and Odin to the saga characters Hallgerd Long-legs, Gunnar of Hlidarendi, and Leif the Lucky. Roaming the globe, Helgason unearths echoes of Nordic lore in Scandinavia, Britain, America, Germany, Italy, and Japan. He examines the comic work of Jack Kirby and cartoon work of Peter Madsen; reads the plays of Henrik Ibsen and Gordon Bottomley; engages thought travelogues by Frederick Metcalfe and Poul Vad; listens to the music of Richard Wagner, Edward Elgar, and the metal band Manowar; and watches films by directors such as Roy William Neill and Richard Fleischer, outlining the presence of the eddas and sagas in these nineteenth- and twentieth-century works.

Altogether, Echoes of Valhalla tells the remarkable story of how disparate, age-old poetry and prose originally recorded in remote areas of medieval Iceland have come to be a part of our shared cultural experience today—how Nordic gods and saga heroes have survived and how their colorful cast of characters and adventures they went on are as vibrant as ever.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Bishop's Medievalist Comics and the American Century

With apologies to the author for the long delay:

Medievalist Comics and the American Century
By Chris Bishop 

University Press of Mississippi
224 pages (approx.), 6 x 9 inches, bibliography, index

9781496808509 Printed casebinding $65.00S


The comic book has become an essential icon of the American Century, an era defined by optimism in the face of change and by recognition of the intrinsic value of democracy and modernization. For many, the Middle Ages stand as an antithesis to these ideals, and yet medievalist comics have emerged and endured, even thrived alongside their superhero counterparts. Chris Bishop presents a reception history of medievalist comics, setting them against a greater backdrop of modern American history.

From its genesis in the 1930s to the present, Bishop surveys the medievalist comic, its stories, characters, settings, and themes drawn from the European Middle Ages. Hal Foster's Prince Valiant emerged from an America at odds with monarchy, but still in love with King Arthur. Green Arrow remains the continuation of a long fascination with Robin Hood that has become as central to the American identity as it was to the British. The Mighty Thor re ects the legacy of Germanic migration into the United States. The rugged individualism of Conan the Barbarian owes more to the western cowboy than it does to the continental knight-errant. In the narrative of Red Sonja, we can trace a parallel history of feminism. Bishop regards these comics as not merely happenchance, but each success (Prince Valiant and The Mighty Thor) or failure (Beowulf: Dragon Slayer) as a result and an indicator of certain American preoccupations amid a larger cultural context.

Intrinsically modernist paragons of pop-culture ephemera, American comics have ironically continued to engage with the European Middle Ages. Bishop illuminates some of the ways in which we use an imagined past to navigate the present and plots some possible futures as we valiantly shape a new century.

CHRIS BISHOP, Canberra, Australia, teaches classics at the Australian National University. He has published widely on the history of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, as well as comic book studies. In 2012 Bishop was awarded a Kluge Fellowship at the Library of Congress for his research.


Utz Reviews Bishop

The latest number (Vol. 27, No. 2) of Arthuriana has a review by Richard Utz on Chris Bishop's book Medievialist Comics and the American Century (more on this to follow).

You can read the review on Project MUSE (or preview you it if,like myself,you have no access to the site) at

Update 6/24/17

Sorry to not have kept things up to date this past year.

Our session in honor of the eightieth anniversary of Prince Valiant on American medievalisms was not accepted for the 2017 ALA conference.

Michael Torregrossa
Founder and Blog Editor