COMICS AND THE OCCULT
COMICS AND THE OCCULT
Submitted by David Livingstone on Tue, 01/26/2016 – 19:24
Occultists have infiltrated and greatly influenced many aspects of popular culture, from Hollywood to popular music, but the clearest articulation of their influence is to be found in the world of comic books, where it has contributed to a nihilism which results in homoerotic interpretations of masculinity and the gross objectification of women.
Along with its enduring association with science fiction, no idea better embodies the absurd aspirations of transhumanism than the superhero. The superhero of popular culture was knowingly derived from the Greek word for demi-god, representing the occult ideal of transcending human existence to become god-like, while performing superhuman feats, likened to magic.
Modern superhero comic books are descendants of “hero pulps” of pulp magazines, which featured illustrated novel-length stories of heroic characters, such as The Shadow, Doc Savage, and The Phantom Detective. It was the introduction of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman in 1938 that turned comic books into a major industry, and ushered the Golden Age of Comics, which originated the archetype of the superhero.
As shown by Rabbi Weinstein in Up, Up, and Oy Vey: How Jewish History, Culture and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero, most of the early creators of superheroes were Jews. In addition to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman in 1938, there was Batman in 1939, by Bob Kane (Robert Kahn) and Captain America in 1940 by Jack Kirby (Jacob Kurtzberg). For the late comic-book artist Will Eisner, the Jewish people, faced with the rise of fascism, “needed a hero who could protect us against an almost invincible force.”
But these were of course not orthodox, but occult-oriented Jews. As indicated by Jeffrey T. Iverson in “In Search of Superman’s Inner Jew” for Time Magazine, “their superheroes reflected some of the identity they were masking, evoking Jewish concepts such as tikkun olam… and legends such as the Golem of Prague, the medieval superhero of Jewish folklore who was conjured from clay by a rabbi to defend his community when it was under threat.”
Siegel and Shuster initially created a bald telepathic villain referred to as “the Superman,” bent on dominating the entire world. He appeared in the short story “The Reign of the Superman” from Science Fiction No. 3, a science fiction fanzine that Siegel published in 1933. While the term Übermensch was initially coined by Friedrich Nietzsche and translated by George Bernard Shaw as Superman, it is unclear how influential Nietzsche and his ideals were to Siegel and Shuster.
Les Daniels has speculated that, “Siegel picked up the term from other science fiction writers who had casually employed it,” further noting that “his concept is remembered by hundreds of millions who may barely know who Nietzsche is.” Others argue that Siegel and Shuster “could not have been unaware of an idea that would dominate Hitler’s National Socialism. The concept was certainly well discussed.”
Siegel and Shuster developed Superman from an earlier character they created, named Doctor Occult, the earliest character created by DC Comics still currently in use in its shared universe fiction. Doctor Occult is one of the Sentinels of Magic, a group created to prevent artifacts such as the Spear of Destiny (with which Hitler was supposedly obsessed) falling into the wrong hands. He/She plays a vital role in the Day of Judgment incident, helping to protect Earth from a full demonic invasion. Hell itself has emptied of demons and Earth was in danger from Asmodel, a fallen angel who had stolen the power of the ghostly avenger The Spectre. Doctor Occult appears in issue #9 of the Batman: The Brave and the Bold comic series. Batman teams up with him, Doctor Fate, Sargon the Sorcerer, and Zatanna in order to defeat the Void.
Doctor Occult is the main character in the backup story in the Reign in Hell mini-series where he enters Hell in order to find Rose Psychic. Rose had been lost in a mysterious demon attack. Doctor Occult conjures up Yellow Peri, as an expendable spirit guide for the realms of Hell. Despite this, he rescues her from a demonic attack that causes her to lose both legs from the knees down. Occult and Peri find Rose serving the Purgatory-based forces that are attempting to conquer hell.
Doctor Occult started out as a traditional ghost detective, but underwent a fundamental transformation in 1936. According to historian Les Daniels, the Doctor “developed immense strength and began flying around in a red and blue outfit. He thus served as a prototype for the unpublished Superman.” For that reason, Siegal and Shuster later changed his name to the less controversial Doctor Mystic.
Thus, according to Knowles, “Here, then, is our missing link in the evolution from Theory and the Golden Dawn to Spider-Man and the Flash.” As explained in The Comic Book Book, by Dick O’Donnell, “students of the history of comics must regard the Occult-Mystic figure as a definite prototype of Superman, performing man of the feats Superman later performed, but doing so by supernatural rather than super scientific means.”
As pointed out by Knowles, the name of Superman’s planet “Krypton” is derived from the Greek word krypton, meaning “hidden” or “secret” and which is translated in Latin as “occult.” Knowles further suggests that there is a strong similarity between the depiction of Lex Luthor and Aleister Crowley, who was referred to by Siegel in Adventure #27 as a “magician” who creates a Homonculus in an attempt to find the “very secret of life itself.”
In Seduction of the Innocent, German-American psychiatrist Fredric Wertham also claimed that Superman was both un-American and a fascist. Published in 1954, Wertham’s book, which warned that comic books were a negative form of popular literature, was a minor bestseller. Wertham cited overt or covert depictions of violence, drug use, and hidden sexual themes of sexual perversion in Wonder Woman, and Batman and Robin as homosexual partners. Wonder Woman is a warrior princess of the Amazons of Greek mythology and is known in her homeland as Princess Diana of Themyscira, with powers of mental telepathy and astral projection. Her favorite exclamation is “Suffering Sappho,” a reference to the ancient poet of Lesbos.
Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston (1893–1947), a psychiatrist already famous for inventing the polygraph machine, forerunner of his heroine’s “Truth Lasso.” Marston wrote unabashedly about the benefits of bondage and went so far as to claim that women enjoy it. The Wonder Woman character was inspired by his wife Elizabeth, whom Marston believed to be a model of that era’s unconventional, liberated woman, as well as Olive Byrne, with whom the couple lived in an open relationship. “Wonder Woman” Marston wrote, “is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world.”
A key source of occult influence on comic book culture was H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), an American author of horror, fantasy and science fiction, especially the subgenre known as weird fiction. Lovecraft is best known for his Cthulhu Mythos story cycle and the Necronomicon, a fictional grimoire of magical rites and forbidden lore. Stephen King called Lovecraft “the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.” Lovecraft was relatively unknown during his own time.
While his stories appeared in the pages of prominent pulp magazines such as Weird Tales, an American fantasy and horror fiction pulp magazine first published in March 1923, not many people knew his name. Lovecraft did, however, correspond regularly with other contemporary writers, forming a group that became known as the “Lovecraft Circle.” It included obscure pulp fiction author, Robert E. Howard (1906 – 1936), who is regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre and is probably best known for his character Conan the Barbarian.
Lovecraft constantly refers to the “Great Old Ones,” a pantheon of ancient, powerful deities from outer space who once ruled the Earth, who founded ancient civilizations and were worshipped as gods. Lovecraft summed up the significance in “The Call of Cthulhu,” wherein a young man discovers the shocking secret of a race of aliens that served as gods to a strange cult:
There had been aeons when other Things ruled on the earth, and They had had great cities. Remains of Them… were still be found as Cyclopean stones on islands in the Pacific. They all died vast epochs of time before men came, but there were arts which could revive Them when the stars had come round again to the right positions in the cycle of eternity. They had, indeed, come themselves from the stars, and brought Their images with Them.
Lovecraft derived his notion of extra-terrestrial visitors from his reading of both George Fort’s The Book of the Damned and Scott-Elliott’s compilation volume The Story of Atlantis and Lost Lemuria (1925). Although Lovecraft referred to Theosophical material as “crap,” he drew inspiration from the Book of Dzyan, which formed the basis of Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine, in developing the Cthulhu Mythos’ own account of pre-human or occult texts. Blavatsky claimed to have discovered the Book of Dzyan, written in the language of Senzar in Tibet, where it was guarded by an Occult Brotherhood.
Lovecraft’s The Great Old Ones equate with The Great Old Ones of the Night Time, a phrase which occurs in rituals of the Golden Dawn. Colin Low has suggested that Lovecraft’s wife, Sonia Greene, had had an affair with Aleister Crowley months before she met Lovecraft, to whom she confided the idea of the Necronomicon, which she would have learned from Crowley. The Necronomicon is a fictional 1,200 year old grimoire mentioned in Lovecraft’s stories. It was supposedly written by the “Mad Arab” called Abdul Alhazrad, who worshipped the Lovecraftian entities Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu.
Crowley’s disciple Kenneth Grant, head of the Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis, suggested in his book The Magical Revival (1972) that there was an unconscious connection between Crowley and Lovecraft. He thought they both drew on the same occult forces—Crowley through magic and Lovecraft through the dreams which inspired his stories and the Necronomicon. Grant claimed that the Necronomicon existed as an astral book as part of the Akashic records and could be accessed through ritual magic or in dreams.
H.P. Lovecraft in particular has had a pervasive influence in the comic book culture. Many later figures were influenced by Lovecraft’s works, including author and artist Clive Barker, prolific horror writer Stephen King, film directors John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon, Guillermo Del Toro, artist H.R. Giger and comics writers Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Mike Mignola. The creator of Hellboy, Mike Mignola, has described the books as being influenced primarily by the works of Lovecraft, in addition to those of Robert E. Howard and the legend of Dracula. His work was adapted into the 2004 film Hellboy. His Elseworlds mini-series The Doom That Came to Gotham reimagines Batman in a confrontation with Lovecraftian monsters.
Entities also called “Many-Angled Ones” appear in the Marvel Universe in the storyline “Realm of Kings” where they rule an alternate reality. The Marvel Universe is the shared fictional universe where stories in most comic book titles and other media published by Marvel Entertainment take place, including those featuring Marvel’s most familiar characters, such as Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and the Avengers. The Marvel Universe also contains a range of Cthulhu Mythos comics, including the Elder Gods.
Alan Moore, an English writer primarily known for his work in comic books, is an occultist and anarchist. Frequently described as the best graphic novel writer in history, he has been called “one of the most important British writers of the last fifty years.” Despite his own personal objections, his books have provided the basis for a number of Hollywood films, including From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, V for Vendetta, and Watchmen.
In 1993, on his fortieth birthday, Moore openly declared his dedication to being a ceremonial magician, something he saw as “a logical end step to my career as a writer.” According to a 2001 interview, his inspiration for doing so came when he was writing From Hell in the early 1990s, a book containing much Freemasonic and occult symbolism. Taking up the study of the Kabbalah and the writings of Aleister Crowley, Moore accepted ideas from Thelema about True Will. Moore took as his primary deity the ancient Roman snake god Glycon, who was the center of a cult founded by a prophet known as Alexander of Abonoteichus, mid-second century AD.
Moore has featured occult themes in works including Promethea, From Hell, and V for Vendetta, as well as performing avant-garde spoken word occult “workings” with a group of occultists and performers named The Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels, which included David J. a member of Bauhaus. Moore has occasionally used such pseudonyms as Curt Vile (based on Kurt Weil, original composer of “Mack The Knife”), Jill de Ray (after Gilles de Rais, a companion-in-arms of Joan of Arc, who is best known for his reputation and later conviction as a serial killer of children) and Translucia Baboon.
Moore’s series Promethea, which told the story of a teenage girl, Sophie Bangs, who is possessed by an ancient pagan goddess, explored many occult themes, particularly the Kabbalah and the concept of magic, with Moore stating, “I wanted to be able to do an occult comic that didn’t portray the occult as a dark, scary place, because that’s not my experience of it… [Promethea was] more psychedelic… more sophisticated, more experimental, more ecstatic and exuberant.” A Cobweb story Moore wrote for Tomorrow Stories No. 8 featuring references to L. Ron Hubbard, Jack Parsons, and the “Babalon Working,” was blocked by DC Comics due to the subject matter. DC had already published a version of the same event in their Paradox Press volume The Big Book of Conspiracies.
The “Mask of King Mob,” a reference to the UK situationist group, can be seen in the background of the comic book Watchmen, written by Moore. A commercial success, Watchmen has received critical acclaim both in the comics and mainstream press, and is frequently considered by several critics and reviewers as comics’ greatest series and graphic novel. Watchmen was recognized in Time’s List of the 100 Best Novels as one of the best English language novels published since 1923.
Alan Moore’s interest in the occult was revealed when he wrote From Hell about the Jack the Ripper murders, which was made into a film in 2001 by the Hughes brothers, starring Johnny Depp, Heather Graham and Ian Holm. The graphic novel is based on the premise of Stephen Knight’s theory that the murders were part of a Masonic conspiracy headed by the Prince of Wales to suppress knowledge of his illegitimate grandchild. The murders are carried out by Queen Victoria’s royal physician Sir William Gull. While Gull justifies the murders by claiming they are a Masonic warning to an apparent Illuminati threat to the throne, the killings are, according to Gull, part of an elaborate ritual sacrifice designed to usher in the twentieth century.
As Moore himself explained, “the Ripper murders — happening when they did and where they did — were almost like an apocalyptic summary of… that entire Victorian age. Also, they prefigure a lot of the horrors of the 20th century.” He notes that the period of the murders saw the first examples of Islamic fundamentalism, the beginnings of the atomic bomb, the growth of both Zionism and anti-Semitism, the conception of Adolf Hitler, and the final scene alludes to the outbreak of World War II. After the final murder, during which Gull has an extended vision of 1990s England, Gull says, “It is beginning… Only just beginning. For better or worse, the twentieth century. I have delivered it.”
Around the world, Occupy protesters have adopted the Guy Fawkes mask from Moore’s V for Vendetta. The mask has also been adopted by Anonymous, WikiLeaks, Egyptian revolutionaries, and anti-globalization demonstrators. Moore described Occupy as “ordinary people reclaiming rights which should always have been theirs” and added:
I can’t think of any reason why as a population we should be expected to stand by and see a gross reduction in the living standards of ourselves and our kids, possibly for generations, when the people who have got us into this have been rewarded for it – they’ve certainly not been punished in any way because they’re too big to fail. I think that the Occupy movement is, in one sense, the public saying that they should be the ones to decide who’s too big to fail. As an anarchist, I believe that power should be given to the people whose lives this is actually affecting.
However, Moore had the following comments to make on the possible existence of a global conspiracy, evidently trying to dismiss his own influence and that of others like him:
Yes, there is a conspiracy, indeed there are a great number of conspiracies, all tripping each other up … the main thing that I learned about conspiracy theories is that conspiracy theorists actually believe in the conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is chaotic. The truth is, that it is not the Jewish banking conspiracy, or the grey aliens, or the twelve-foot reptiloids from another dimension that are in control, the truth is far more frightening; no-one is in control, the world is rudderless.
Grant Morrison is a Scottish comic book writer, playwright and occultist. He is known for his nonlinear narratives and countercultural leanings in his runs on titles including DC Comics’ Animal Man, Batman, JLA, The Invisibles, Action Comics, All-Star Superman, and Doom Patrol, and Marvel Comics’ New X-Men and Fantastic Four. The Invisibles combined political, pop and sub-cultural references. A protagonist in The Invisibles is codenamed “King Mob,” after the UK situationist group. Tapping into pre-millennial tension, the work was influenced by the writings of Robert Anton Wilson, Aleister Crowley and William Burroughs, and Morrison’s practice of chaos magic. Morrison wrote the foreword to Phil Hine’s Prime Choas in 1993 and the introduction to Richard Metzger’s 2003 The Book of Lies.
At DisinfoCon in 1999, Morrison explained how the contents of The Invisibles were aimed to “demolish the counter-culture and replace it with something useful.” He recounts how he became interested in magic when he started reading Robert Anton Wilson, who said Aleister Crowley had methods for contacting alien intelligence and for changing the world. Morrison said that much of the content in The Invisibles was information gained after following those practices, which resulting in aliens abducting him in Kathmandu, who told him to spread this information to the world via a comic book. And he relates that they looked exactly like what Terence McKenna described.
The plot of The Invisibles follows (more or less) a single cell of The Invisible College, named after the Rosicrucian order of the same name, a secret organization battling against physical and psychic oppression, using time travel, magic, meditation and physical violence. However, when sales tanked, Morrison suggested a “wankathon” (group masturbation) in the hope of bringing about a magical increase in sales by a mass of fans simultaneously masturbating at a set time.
The third and final series was meant to be a countdown to the new millennium, but shipping delays meant the final issue did not appear until April 2000. Morrison saw the series censored due to the publisher’s concern over the possibility of pedophilic and child abuse content. The first such case was in volume one, issue 7 (“Arcadia part 3 : 120 Days Of Sod All”); dialogue was altered in one scene where a group rapes and degrades several nameless characters.
The term “lost souls” was used to ensure the characters could not be identified as children, as in the Marquis de Sade’s original 120 Days of Sodom, the book the characters find themselves trapped in. Later in the series, the names of people and organizations were simply blacked out, much to Morrison’s dismay. DC had one line that originally read “Walt Disney was a shit” blacked out at the suggestions of their lawyers. Many of these examples of censorship were restored when reprinted in trade paperback.
 Jeffrey T. Iverson. “In Search of Superman’s Inner Jew.” Time (November 2, 2007).
 The Mythology of Superman (DVD). (Warner Bros. 2006)
 Les Daniels. Superman: The Complete History, 1st ed. (Titan Books, 1998) p. 18
 McCue, Greg S., Bloom, Clive . Dark Knights, LPC Group. (February 1, 1993)
 Les Daniels, DC Comics: A Celebration of the World’s Favourite Comic Book Heroes (New York: Billboard Books, 2003), p. 44.
 Christopher Knowles, Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes (San Francisco: Red Wheel/Weiser, 2007), p. 222.
 Dick O’Donnell, “It’s Magic,” The Comic Book Book (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1973) p. 157.
 Christopher Knowles, Our Gods Wear Spandex, p. 222.
 Les Daniels. Wonder Woman: The Complete History. (Chronicle Books, 2004). pp. 28–30.
 Grady Hendrix. “Out for Justice.” The New York Sun (December 11, 2007).
 Curt Wohleber, “The Man Who Can Scare Stephen King,” American Heritage Magazine. (December 1995)
 Lovecraft, The Best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of orror and the Macabre, (Del Rey Books. New York, 1982), p. 88.
 The Necronomicon Anti-FAQ [http://www.digital-brilliance.com/necron/necron.htm]
 Doyle-White, Ethan. “Occultic World of Alan Moore.” Pentacle (29) Summer 2009.
 DeZ Vylenz (Director). The Mindscape of Alan Moore (Documentary). Shadowsnake Films (30 September 2008).
 DeZ Vylenz (Director). “The Mindscape of Alan Moore” (Documentary). Shadowsnake Films. (30 September 2008)
 Ethan Doyle-White. “Occultic World of Alan Moore.” Pentacle, 29. (Summer 2009)
 Khoury, George. The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore. (Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing, 2003). p10.
 Brian Cronin. Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed. (Plume, 2009)
 Gary Groth. “Last Big Words — Alan Moore on ‘Marvelman,’ ‘From Hell,’ ‘A Small Killing,’ and being published.” The Comics Journal 140, (February 1991).
 Moore & Campbell, From Hell. Chapter 10, p. 33, panel 2.
 Alison Flood. “Alan Moore attacks Frank Miller in comic book war of words.” The Guardian (7 December 2011).
 DeZ Vylenz (Director). The Mindscape of Alan Moore (Documentary). Shadowsnake Films (30 September 2008).
 “Grant Morrison Disinformation lecture on magick and the Universe.” [http://youtu.be/6rVfqErvqoU]
 “Barbelith Interviews: An Interview with Grant Morrison.” Barbelith.com. Archived from the original on (July 19 2012).
 Grant Morrison. “The Crack Issue 1.” Crack Comicks. (June 13, 2002)