“Come One and All to the Ugly Bug-Eyed Monster Ball”
Writer and pencils: Alan Davis
Colours: Glynis Oliver
Inks: Michael Heisler
Editor: Terry Kavanagh
Original publication date: November 1991
It’s about time we talked about the guy who introduces every episode: the one and only Merlin, who may not be so one and only. Our journey is guided by Bevan Thomas, a comics creator, teacher, and scholar with a keen interest in British and Welsh folklore. The joy of newborn lizard-dragon hybrids can’t keep us from having a few nuanced gripes about an issue in which too many pages are spent retconning stories we barely remember and not enough time is spent getting to know Cerise, Warrior of the Ghrand Jhar, Genestock of Subruki, Zarstok, and Kuli Ka. But we also explore the folkloric referents of Otherworld and why Brian is Excalibur’s true fairy.
“Pointing out every single thing he hates about ‘The Possession’ to prove it should be a dream—that was petty and weird.” -Bevan
On science-magic in Excalibur:
“The mythological elements of the early Captain Britain and Black Knight stories are still there in Excalibur, but in a more science-fantasy way. Sort of a Welsh Arthurian version of Jack Kirby’s Thor.” -Bevan
On folkloric Otherworlds:
“In Celtic folklore, Otherworld is often the land of the dead or the land of the fairies. And it’s at odds with Christian beliefs. Otherworld is often beside our world rather than above or below it.” -Bevan
“In the Thomas Malory version, somewhat similar to the Excalibur version—Merlyn is on the right side but this doesn’t necessarily make him a good person. He’s still a puppet master, with his own desires and schemes.” -Bevan
On Merlin as father:
“Brian is a good English boy. He read Malory growing up. He probably dreamed of being a knight as a kid. There’s this idea that Merlyn is building upon this cultural expectation—of little Brian wanting to be a knight, of wanting a father to take care of him, reading The Sword in the Stone, where Merlin is, effectively, the father figure to young King Arthur. There’s a sense that maybe Merlyn exploits that, with Brian and with the entire Captain Britain Corps.” -Bevan
On Brian's jinx:
“I hate the jinx reveal because it absolves Brian. So much of what we’ve been talking about—his conflicts with his masculinity and his relationship to heroism as he understands it—all of that gets wiped away in this retcon that says, it was just magic. He was awesome all along.” -Anna
On slapstick Saturnyne:
“The slapstick of bending the gun is funny, but it also makes Saturnyne a cartoon. It makes her Elmer Fudd. I like Elmer Fudd. But Elmer Fudd doesn’t frighten me.” -Mav
On Kurt and difference:
“Even among the X-Men, Kurt is usually the only one who looks different—who looks not-human. Here he’s surrounded by people who look even-less human than he does, and has a moment where he recognizes it. That’s interesting. And insightful.” -Mav
On symbolic embraces:
“The body language is really important here. The nature of the bonds between these characters is expressed through the way they’re entangled in this hug—the specific ways certain hands are placed on bodies and overlap with other hands.” -Anna
On sexy Saturnyne:
“I don’t think this man is a sex slave. I think he’s a hero and Saturnyne doesn’t care. She’s just like—we were having sex, but it’s work time now, get out. Brilliant.” -Mav
Want more Bevan Thomas?
You can find him on Twitter @bthomasa
And! Find his comics and other work at his website! Including the recent comics anthology Through the Labyrinths of the Mind published by Cloudscape Comics (@CloudscapeComic)!
And as usual:
You can find Anna on Twitter (@peppard_anna) and on her podcast with Andrew and Michael Hancock, Three Panel Contrast (@3PanelContrast).
You can find Andrew on Twitter (@ClaremontRun).
You can find Mav on Twitter (@chrismaverick) and on his podcast, VoxPopcast (@VoxPopcast).
Another excellent episode with another awesome guest. Weirdly I never thought much about the Arthurian parallels when I read these originally, figuring that the ‘Excalibur’ title was just Americans stumped for something that sounded British but also X-based. But Brian as Arthur, Megan as Guinevere, Kurt as Lancelot, works so well that I started trying to figure out characters for Rachel and Kitty…
Andrew, Moore wasn’t a humorous writer? The guy who did DR & Quinch, The Bojeffries Saga, Abelard Snazz? A lot of Moore’s early output was humour comics, and they were really funny. If you’re not familiar, they’re worth reading. He still has a sense of humour in a lot of his work, but it can be easy to miss – it’s often deadpan and incidental to the story.