The Gods of The Wicked and the Divine - part 2

By now, all 13 of the gods of the latest recurrence have been revealed (yes, we'll get to that), as well as a few extras from past cycles. So we're overdue for an update.

Spoilers? Damn straight, spoilers.

We covered previously revealed gods: Lucifer, Baal, Woden, Amaterasu, Sakhmet, Morrigan, Baphomet, Minerva, Innana, Tara, Ananke, and Susanoo (1923) in an earlier post

This is loosely based on WicDiv #1-28 and the 1831 stand-alone story Modern Romance (eighteen-thirty-oneshot?).

So, who's who who's new?


The dancefloor that walks like a man. Bacchus to the Romans, he's easy to think of as a jolly, tubby party god. Dionysus is god of wine and grape harvest, drama, ritual madness, and springtime fertility. But WicDiv didn't pick comedy Bacchus. This is a younger, leaner Dionysus, something more like the ephebic trickster of Greek drama.

His emblem is a grape bunch of little pills, and he looks like an archetypal raver kiddie. Gillen, naturally, points us to Spaced.

Cults of Dionysus have appeared on and off at least as far back as the pre-Greek Minoan period (about 2000 bc), and his worship has a consistent element of mystery and the ecstatic.

Dionysiac mysteries (the practice of his cults) blended dance, frenzy, drugs, booze and trance states in their worship. There was an outsider element, too - sexual and social transgression, and a hint of danger.

In Euripides' The Bacchae, Dionysus (a young god, with human relatives) is decried by Pentheus, ruler of Thebes - and his cousin - as both a fraud and a public menace.  His response doesn't do much to address the latter: he initiates the women of the town into the ranks of his most hardcore followers, the Maenads, and in their frenzy they tear Pentheus apart with their bare hands. Imagine cleaning up after that party.

In WicDiv, Dionysus is a good guy(ish) with something moving under the surface. Laura calls him "the best of them" and he does not leap to agree. Self-proclaimed as a lover not a fighter, he tries to keep his hivemind safe in #21's face-off at Valhalla. But he mucks in with Amaterasu's cult and Woden's experiments, and it's worth remembering he's a god with strong underworld associations. Mythically, one who visits the underworld, and one of few that have brought souls back.  

So far, The Wicked and the Divine has shown us a Dionysus with an undercurrent of danger, rather than full-blown bloody bacchanal. He pops his signature Thyrsus staff as neon nunchaku at Valhalla, but we don't see it elsewhere.

In Greek tragedy, the Dionysiac is often set in opposition to the Apolline. That is to say - kind of - chaos vs order. They're different takes on the ideal of kouros - smokin' hot muscle twinks, basically; one side all Preppy College Boy, the other all Scuzzy Sk8r Boi. Apollo is prophecy, fate, and structure. Dionysus is more free-for-all: emotive and chaotic. The impulses frequently clash in Greek literature, and it's picked up in Hegel and Nietzsche's respective takes on tragic theory.

Interesting then, that Gillen and McKelvie's Dionysus, while emotive and ecstatic, feels far less chaotic, even explicitly choosing study over anarchy in #26

Also conspicuously absent: relentless penises. 

Dionysus is a dick god. Not like Woden. Like, he's just all about the dicks. They're his symbol, and they're everywhere in his representations. Some of his followers would wear giant strap-ons in religious ceremonies and processions. Bring that one back, I say - really spice up the church fete. 

Urdr & The Norns


Like Baphomet and Lucifer, The Norns are in the not-quite-gods camp. Imagine the Greco-Roman fates, but Norse. They're three (usually) powerful giants who sit at the foot of the world-tree Yggdrasil, keeping it watered from the well of Uror.

Seen as law makers and arbiters of fate, one reading which might be particularly interesting for WicDiv is that they set the length (as well as course) of mortal lives. 

In this recurrence, their symbol is Yggdrasil, and it's deliciously fitting  that Urdr should be Cassandra. Prophetic gods are a nice echo for her name, as is their journalistic investigation of the pantheon. 

Unlike Amaterasu, Lucifer, and especially Woden, Cass attempts to keep her name, rather than leaning on "Urdr". She's cast by the others as the token grown-up, and is, frankly, done with their nonsense. She gest some of the very finest "what is this fresh crap" reaction beats:

There's a lot of really interesting identity stuff cohered around Cassandra/Urdr. It's dissected brief in her fight with Woden over his cheap crack about their apotheosis and previous identities, versus her transition. Her discomfort at having to perform the role of Urdr is palpable, as is her discomfort at the crowds just not getting it.

A skeptic become a god, with the name of a disbelieved prophet, disbelieved in turn when she tries to tell the world there are no gods and there is no prophecy. Tough gig.

In the Snorri Sturluson version of Norse myth (a 13th century monastic compilation of the old tales) there are many Norns, drawn from many races. In particular, from men, dwarves, and elves. This may give us the visual touchstone for Verdani and Skuld - one willowy, one shorter and broader.  

She was the last good to be "found" by Ananke, or at least so we thought until we met...


Issue 11: exploded head on the cover, 12 gods revealed, "It's going to be ok" on the flyleaf. Boom. Laura is Persephone. Persephone is dead. Grab a pomegranate and strap in.

Persephone's pretty well known as a concept: a stolen celestial daughter, spending half (sometimes a third of) her year in the underworld, her absence/return signifying the transition of winter into spring. 

She's also deeply entangled with one of classical Greek religion's oldest mystery cults, and has back-story continuity arguments that make Madelyne Pryor look like some weaksauce Spot's First Walk intelligibility. 

Persephone was a daughter of Demeter, goddess of harvest and agriculture. She was abducted by Hades, ruler of the underworld. In searching for her, Demeter created a great drought and famine, pressuring Zeus to intercede, and leading to hades granting Persephone's return. As ever with these wily deific bastards, there was a catch. 

Persephone didn't read the fine print before snacking down on a juicy pomegranate, and having eaten the food of the underworld, she was bound to remain there. In this case, for one month for each seed eaten (4 or 6, depending on who you believe). 

So far, so harvest myth. But it does get wibbly. 

Four months of Persephone in Hell just about gets you the drought of a Greek summer. But her return rites are celebrated at the beginning of spring, as part of a rebirth/fertility cycle. The Eleusinian cult probably grafted together Persephone with earlier Minoan harvest goddesses, Demeter with ur mother figures. Other mystic takes on Persephone mix in the nature goddess Kore, so it gets kinda mangled.

Above ground, Persephone is all vegetation and plenty, and a bit better know. But her role in the underworld shouldn't be downplayed. She ain't sitting around down there.

As queen of the underworld, Persephone is probably fused with the older, weirder figure of Despoina. Think: birth, death, and a whole load of must-be-appeased nature worship. In her cult it was forbidden for the uninitiated to speak her name, a tradition that clung to the chthonic Persephone. She presides over the dead, and in the tradition of Orpheus, metes out judgement. 

WicDiv picks this up heavily, in particular associating her with the idea of "the destroyer", which is one possible etymology of her name. Her nascent cult, too, won't name her. She likes it. She has root and vine powers, is potentially stronger than the other gods, can drag people down to the underworld, and shows this dual aspect with her flashes of skulls-for-pupils.

In #11 she apparently dies. In #18, she's back. In a basement dive bar, of course. We later find out that she spend months hanging out in the underworld with Baphomet. Moping, fucking, planning. 

A lot gets hinted at. Ananke expected her back, but no so soon, and her status is debated by the remains of the pantheon. In a millennia-spanning set of ninety year cycles of renewal, it seems unlikely that a Persephone figure - heretofore hidden - has no significant role to play. 

Nergal (Baphomet)

We spilled some ink last time on godhood as identity performance in WicDiv, and shit just got recursive. Baphomet comes from recent-ish demonology, and only get the goaty horn business in the 1800s. There's something fishy about him as one of the WicDiv gods (we covered this in part 1) and he certainly seems twitchy.

In the underground with Persephone, Baphomet tells us his origin story as... Nergal? 

No, me either, a bad rendition in the Hellboy movie notwithstanding. 

He's... Baphomet with lion bits? Certainly explains the teeth. Except emblematically it should probably be a fighting cock, and - look the whole thing's a joke about nobody knowing who Nergal is, and Baphomet still having to LARP as a god, even post ascension to actual godhood.

But that doesn't mean it isn't interesting. 

Nergal is a Sumerian/Mesopotamian figure, and so could go back a couple thousand years BC. There's a nice irony there with Baphomet being a relatively modern invention. There are plague associations, and he's depicted variously as a lion or a chicken. In this case, a string of "raging cock" jokes seem appropriate.

Nergal's a sun god (with war aspects) who became an underworld god, perhaps via a sunset association. This makes him a fire god of the underworld, and you can picture the character as written scrabbling around for a fit before coming up with Baphomet, probably via early Christian mystics and demonology.

The figure was co-opted there as a demon, perhaps by 18th century occultist. 


Hades (1831)

On the one hand (ahem) it's a two-page appearance in a one-shot side story. On the other, it is a new god, so here's the quick version.

Hades is king of the underworld in Greek mythology, and here represented as John Keats, the original teen emo poet.

In his writers notes, Kieron Gillen hangs this off Keats' poem This Living Hand:

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calmed — see here it is—
I hold it towards you.

That's pretty on-brand for Keats. Check out Ode to a Nightingale one of his better-known bits of gothing about.

It's easy to mock Keats for what feels like melodrama, and if I had another couple hundred words to spare, I would. But his work is also gorgeously sensual, with a real ear for rhythm and cadence. The morbidity is fascinated, dream-like. Through all of its florid verbal garishness, there's something to Keats that I resent myself for responding to.

We don't get much of him in the 1831 special. As with his factual counterpart, Hades here dies in Rome. Keats of tuberculosis, Hades, of Ananke sticking a knife in his heart.

Mythically, Hades was both the god and the realm. The land of the dead and its ruler. Not a satanic figure, and not presiding over a hell, per-se. Hades officiated more than he tormented, and was never quite a tempter or a figure of evil. As a Death figure he is implacable, and like Persephone it could be taboo to name him. 

In The Wicked and the Divine Hades' main role is to get his hand cut off, which is then used by Lucifer to create a necromantic golem on the shores of Lake Geneva. We have very little sense of him, but it may be salient that at least some of Hades is potentially still out there, and in a universe that contains an unexpected return of Persephone.

...and bonus Pink Woden?

Totes the monster from the 1831 story, right? (The eighteen-thirty-onester). Well, maybe. What could you make from the hand of Hades, a squeeze of Morrigan and Lucifer, and a heaping tablespoon of Woden?

"Pink Woden" is briefly glimpsed in #14, as part of the remix issue's original art parenthesis. Woden is talking to someone, and with what could even be earnestness or affection. A Valkyrie he actually likes? Someone to monologue to? Or something more complex entirely?

Now, a couple of the other gods have multiple aspects, some maybe everyone's favourite neon MRA dickhead is only part - or rather half - of the story. If Nergal can call himself Baphomet, and given Ananke explicitly calls Green Wooden "the pet of a god" in #14, well, might we not wonder about Huginn and Muninn (Knowlwedge and Memory, Odin's raven spies/pets)? Or Geri and Freki (similar, more bitey, wolves), if thought and memory have a bit too much finesse for the character as seen?

Some fan theories say Pink Woden is Laura's sister. I could buy that for the emotional punch, but it would lack the mythic heft. I absolutely cannot buy that the 1831 monster is a thread that won't be picked up again, either. Throw in the colours, and my money's on the monster.

But I wouldn't bet against wolves or ravens. If we fancy getting proper twitchy, well, there's Baphomet's "idea golems", introduced just before we find out about Woden's dead mother, and as he talk about reverse-engineering the other gods' powers. Pink Woden, in the tiny glimpse we have, is not unlike one of the Valkyries, and dead-mum simulacrum would be weirdly on-brand for both Woden as presented, and a comic that's so knowingly post-Buffy.

If it is the eighteen-thirty-onester (not sorry), there's a lot of quite exciting fanwank on the table. The best way to ensure Lucifer would do a thing was pretty much to warn him not to, and then give him the bits, so we can be pretty sure than Ananke was at least basically cool with the monster's creation. We know she's lonely, we know she talked to Robert Graves, and we know she's writing to someone at the end of #28. Someone colour coded with pink sparkles, perhaps?

Enough speculation. Whaddya reckon - mummy, monster, magic raven?

The Gods of The Wicked and the Divine and Performative Identity

One of the big themes of The Wicked and the Divine at this point is performative identity. The gods are a big part of this - they are the person they were before they joined the pantheon, a pop star, and an existing god. What that means though is not clear - and many of the gods take on more than one form.



Our most recent podcast talks about WicDiv, and in what's a bit of a mammoth post, we've looked at the gods' background, who they are, who they were, what they do, and some of what it might mean.

Dave gets his myth on, and Roger talks performance...

(This post covers roughly issues #1-7. The rest of the gods are covered in part 2 here.)

It’s worth noting that there are no fixed versions of any of these gods - it is the nature of mythology to be mercurial (ho-ho!). In reading about mythology, it is useful to think of gods not as a fixed point or a character. Gods and stories move from one region to another, take on new character as stories are retold, embellished or deliberately changed. For example, Woden is a later form of the Teutonic war god Wotan, eventually becoming the familiar Odin of Norse mythology. One version does not replace another though - geography and means of communication in early cultures mean that there’s not much by way of canon. Woden and Odin are not exactly distinct, they are points on a scale.

The myths that we understand today have come from oral sources, and only certain versions have been written down. Different mythologies are better-known than others. Roman and Greek mythologies are comparatively well-recorded, for example, whereas Norse and Irish myths come from only a few written sources. Conquering cultures add their own spin - much of Norse myth comes from a book called the Prose Edda, written by Snorri Sturluson was written from a Christian perspective, and deliberately mocks the beliefs of earlier generations - almost certainly showing off the author’s devotion to the new religion of his land.

What this is then, is a brief series of notes on each of the gods revealed so far, an explanation of the texts and traditions they’re derived from where appropriate, and an attempt to reconcile that with The Wicked and the Divine. Bear in mind as well that the nature of the comic allows for swathes of this to be altered or ignored - it is hardly a straight-up take on the classic myths. This guide goes as far as Issue 6, so potential spoilers up to that point. It doesn’t cover anything beyond that, so there’s nothing for the final god, even though he’s out in the wild now. This guide also focuses on the comic alone - no interviews or text notes have been taken into account. Old school. Shall we?

The Gods


The Wicked and the Divine - Ananke

Ananke comes from Greek mythology and pre-dates the gods in the same way as the titans do - she is a force outside of gods and mortals, and her name means “force, constraint or necessity. She is sometimes depicted as the mother of the fates, and she is often depicted as holding a spindle, with which she weaves the fate of all beings. In The Wicked and the Divine, she is the only member of the pantheon that doesn’t have a pop star aspect, and she is always (so far) depicted as being both old and the same person. Given the focus on identity and performance for all other characters, this seems worth considering. She is almost certainly playing at least one role that is not currently obvious.


The Wicked and the Divine - Lucifer

Lucifer isn’t usually thought of as a god in the strictest sense - those pesky monotheistic religions really do like to stick with just the one - but he definitely has the characteristics of one. The usual symbols associated with Lucifer are fire, snakes, goats, horns in general - the usual horrow show. The Wicked and the Divine emphasises Lucifer’s angelic origins, with the white suit, and the occasional feather motifs. Dark stripes and eyes that flare red when she uses her powers are the only outwardly “satanic” traits - this Lucifer seems to be primarily in it for the spirit of rebellion and the opportunities for temptation. Baphomet seems to fill the role of the Halloween horror satan in The Wicked and the Divine’s pantheon.

If this is what Lucifer is in The Wicked and the Divine, then she represents rejection of authority (though curiously not Ananke’s - she seems to be faintly awed by her), open rebellion and temptation. She flaunts authority at every turn, often in an aggressively sexual way. That seems to cover that.

The name on her gravestone is Eleanor Rigby, but this is likely just to hide the grave site from fans, although going by the shortened “Luci” could be a Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds reference. These aren’t her parents’ bands - they seem to prefer “some awful Britpop covers band”, so it seems to be another small act of rebellion. The main touchstone for her appearance is “Thin White Duke”-era David Bowie.


The Wicked and the Divine - Baal

Baal can refer to a number of gods from the Middle East that are roughly contemporary to the Old Testament - Baal (meaning “Lord”) in most cases refers to the god of the Canaanite tribes around Carthange (known as Baal-Hamon), and the Baal-Hadad version that appears in The Wicked and the Divine is the god of the Phoenicians - a people who are believed to have originated from the Canaanites. This is the first hint of how The Wicked and the Divine is handling how different interpretations of the same god are represented in the pantheon - Baal is aware of his nature, and each time he incarnates he may be a different aspect of the same god.

Baal-Hadad is a lightning and rain god, representing fertility. His Wicked and the Divine incarnation is broadly modeled on Kanye West, is furiously egotistical, and is playing up to his designation as “lord of all”.

It is believed that the term Beelzebub is derived from Baal-Zabab, or “Lord of the Flies” and that the Israelites justified the destruction of the Canaanites by labeling them as satan-worshippers. They are referred to as having been wiped out in the Old Testament. Baal represents some of the more interesting possibilities for the Wicked and the Divine to play with how the gods manifest - what defines the versions that appear as a unique aspect in different Recurrences, how they are defined as separate, what humans factors play a part in that. Unless it was a throwaway line, in which case I’ve gone off on one for no good reason. Carry on.


The Wicked and the Divine - Woden

Woden is a Teutonic / Norse god that is a derivation somewhere along the line between Wotan, the Teutonic god of War and the more familiar Odin of Norse mythology. His name means “Fury”, and he is still a god of war, but also one of divine inspiration, particularly associated with poetry. Later versions of the god were associated with knowledge and self-sacrifice, and with number symbolism focused on repeating threes and nines.

It’s unclear if he is distinct from those other gods, but a picture of Mary Shelley looking like a more traditional Odin, with an eyepatch and ravens, which are more associated with the later, specifically Norse version of the god. Mary Shelley definitely inspired some poets, so I would guess they’re the same god, and Woden supplies items to the other gods to enhance their abilities. Woden was a name also used by the Norse, so there's probably no Baal-style split here.

The closest musical reference for Woden visually is Daft Punk. Currently we know nothing of who he was before he became a god.


The Wicked and the Divine - Amaterasu

Shinto is a Japanese religion that predates Buddhism, and was incorporated into Shinto Buddhism when the practice of the newer religion became more common in Japan. Amaterasu is one of the main family of gods, representing the sun - she literally brings light to the world by shining from heaven.

In The Wicked and the Divine, this is reflected in a very optimistic nature. Pre-godly incarnation she was Hazel Greenaway, a teen from Exeter, and she specifically states that she no longer feels that she is this person. This is not necessarily reflected in her actions though - she has a naivety that the other gods don’t that isn’t really in character with the goddess Amaterasu, who is generally wise. In terms of her appearance, Kate Bush is probably the closest touchstone, but she incorporates elements of other musicians too.


The Wicked and the Divine - Susanoo

Susanoo is Amaterasu’s brother, and the Shinto god of storms. In myth, he frequently antagonises his sister (if throwing a flayed horse at her stuff falls into that category) usually when he is bored. In a core Shinto myth this drives Amaterasu into a cave, thus blocking out the sun. Despite being impetuous and often antagonistic, he is not usually thought of as evil.

He is yet to appear in the modern recurrence, but is briefly shown at the start of the story in the 1920s.


The Wicked and the Divine - Sakhmet

Again, Sakhmet is a pantheon member that could easily be another god - Bast. The two gods were equivalent in different parts of ancient Egypt, but when the upper and lower Egyptian cultures unified, Sakhmet was the version that was preeminent in the resulting culture, with a cult based in Memphis (the Egyptian one, not the American one, but let’s expect a joke about this at some point).

She is a warrior goddess, who has the aspect of a lioness. She is also the god of menstruation. Her cult was all-female, with daily attendance by her priestesses required to keep her wrath at bay.

The modern-day recurrence version of Sakhmet is heavily influenced by Rihanna in appearance, and is far more animalistic than any of the other gods.

The Morrigan

The Wicked and the Divine - The Morrigan

Well, this one’s fun. The Morrigan is 3 goddesses in one, and with Irish mythology being quite fractured and unreliably-sourced, it’s tricky to dig into the details. They all share the same body, and while this can be true in the source myth, it’s not always the case. She is a shapeshifter, most commonly taking the form of crows, but also an eel and a cow. Her name means “Great Queen” or “Phantom Queen” depending on how you stress the “O”. I told you studying mythology was fun, didn’t I? The Morrigan is not generally portrayed as a chthonic deity (crows being notoriously poor at flying in soil), but she is in The Wicked and the Divine. It might mean something, it might be a good excuse to do a really cool 2-page design that’s mostly black.

The black-haired form is referred to here as Morrigan, but in terms of the myths she more closely resembles Badb (meaning “crow”), who is sometimes considered the primary (and sometimes sole) form of The Morrigan. The Morrigan is always associated with crows, as they were the primary battlefield scavengers. It is this form (more or less - it’s always fun working from fractured sources) that features in the main surviving Irish myth, the Táin Bó Cuailnge. Here she antagonises the hero Cú Chulainn, contributing to his death in battle. This form represents war and death, and while she is primarily a war goddess, she is also associated with death premonitions and death itself (as distinct from people lining up to murder each other).

The red-haired form is called Badb, but more closely resembles Macha, probably Macha red-mane (there are a lot of Macha’s in Irish myth, it gets confusing). This form is probably based on a warlike queen of Ireland who gradually became part of mythology. This form is broadly associated with war, and is the most hot-headed of the three forms.

The third, shaven-headed form is Anu or Anand, who goes by her English name of Gentle Annie (assuming this isn’t Victorian folklorists trying to tie everything into some sort of ur-myth, which they were all over). Anu is not often part of The Morrigan, but it is not unheard of. Anu is not well-represented in surviving Irish texts, but she is generally thought of as a benign mother presence, often symbolising land and sovereignty, which are also symbolised by cattle. This is why the Ulster Cycle of myths is a series of fights over increasingly impressive cows.

Fun fact - there are hills in Munster named after her breasts. In fact the naming of places in ancient Ireland is pretty vulgar for the most part - look it up, it’s a fun afternoon. Start with Fual Meadbha.

I’ll be honest, I struggle to compare these three to existing pop stars, mostly because those people rarely threaten to murder you while screaming about the capacity of their genitals. Maybe Barry Manilow. Gentle Annie definitely has more than a smack of UK comics history about her, with hints of Tank Girl and something Grant Morrison-y in her dialogue. She’s bald, so… Sinead O’Connor? This is what happens when you spend your youth reading about Irish myths, your cultural touchstones drift. I’m sticking with my Tank Girl / Crazy Jane theory.

The Morrigan and Baphomet seem to stay away from the rest of the gods, living in an Underground station while the rest live in Woden’s Valhalla.


The Wicked and the Divine - Baphomet

Baphomet, like Lucifer, doesn’t quite fit the mould of what we think of as a god - he doesn’t really belong to any religion (unless you’re Aleister Crowley), and he’s never really had worshippers as far as anyone can tell. There is some reference to him as being the god of the Templars, but this is not well supported, and could just as easily be a useful lie from the church of the time to disown the crazy blood-covered people who came stumbling out of the desert years after being sent over. If this is the case then it’s possible that his name was originally a corruption of Mohammed.

References to Baphomet come and go throughout history - in the 19th century he acquired the goat-headed symbolism, equating him with satan worship, and the cult of Thelema (Crowley and chums) adopted him as their own - he was also adopted by the Church of Satan, which is where most contemporary symbolism around Baphomet arises from. 

The primary pop reference for Baphomet seems to be Ian Astbury of The Cult, but I don’t remember him having the ol’ washboard abs. Baphomet seems shallower than most of the gods, and this may be related to the fact that he is poorly-understood and has had his symbolism changed quite substantially (broadly invented, really) in the last century. If the gods are affected by human understanding and perception, this would make a certain amount of sense. Of course, he may just have manifested in a daft bastard and stayed that way, although the grinning child star in the opening scenes of the first issue also seems to be Baphomet, and shows the same wilfully destructive nature. This version would predate the Church of Satan, and so I would expect there to be differences between the two versions were this the case.

Baphomet also seems to act as Kieron Gillen’s mouthpiece to an extent - some of jokes seem to be reflexively mocking some of the recurring tropes in Gillen’s work. And then there’s the puns. And “none more goth”.


The Wicked and the Divine - Minerva

Minerva is the Roman goddess of wisdom and the arts, as well as sometimes being a goddess of war (she is the equivalent of Athena in the Greek pantheon). Roman gods frequently had hyperlocalised aspects too, with different towns having their own version of the god. Whether this plays into Minerva’s aspect in The Wicked and the Divine is yet to be seen. She’s not played much of a role so far though, so it’s very hard to tell what her personality is or how her behaviour reflects the god she is. She’s only 12 years old, which seems deeply unfair, but we already saw that the pantheon can be incredibly young in the opening scenes in the 20s.

The militaristic jacket could refer to a whole raft of pop stars, with The Beatles and My Chemical Romance being two obvious ones. Neither of those is a 12-year-old though.


The Wicked and the Divine - InnanaInnana is the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility and war, and the chief goddess of the Sumerian pantheon. She started as a heavenly spirit, but via a descent into the underworld and experiences symbolic death and rebirth. In some versions of the story, she is forced to exchange places with her lover or husband in order to return, in some she becomes ruler of the underworld, and casts him into it when he takes on other lovers. In most versions she is vengeful on lovers that wrong her.

Innana in The Wicked and the Divine is just Prince. I mean, look at him. Prince. Princey Prince Prince. Which is pretty perfect as a god(dess) of love and fertility. As is the actual Purple Rain that goes with the first appearance of Innana. Of the gods we’ve seen so far, Innana seems to cling to his past more than the rest, and is far more kind than most, and interested in people (or at least Laura, who he was at least familiar with before manifesting as a god.


The Wicked and the Divine - Tara

We have yet to see Tara in The Wicked and the Divine, but her posters appear everywhere, and the other characters refer to her as being annoying. She is a Tibetan Buddhist deity - “She who delivers”, “star”, and the essence of feminine compassion. She takes 21 different forms, each associated with a different colour, posture, and temperament - this seems to equate to Lady Gaga-esque costume changes in The Wicked and the Divine, but it’s yet to be seen. Certainly the only image of her that we’ve seen so far is very colourful - blue, which is one of Tara’s furious forms. Green and white forms are loving.

(This post covers roughly issues #1-7. The rest of the gods are covered in part 2 here.)

Performed Identity in The Wicked and the Divine

Or: Roger wanks on a bit about gods.


The gods in WicDiv are pop stars, but the nature of the medium makes it impossible for us to hear them sing. What, then, do they do, and what are they? When they perform miracles - or their heads explode - the pages fill with halftones, and the medium rushes in. They are gods in a story, performers, and neither we nor they get to forget that. The book is so coyly, posedly, not “about the music” that this sharply underscores the gods’ function as a different kind of performer. They’re the pure froth of pop, performing the identity of the star.

Each of these gods have multi-part identities. There’s the mythological god they represent, the human they were, and the pop star they act as. So far, most of the other characters with speaking parts have something similar going on, too. We meet Laura as she’s dressing up, and the fandom she enacts involves shifting her appearance for each of the gods. She explicitly dresses as Amaterasu, she nods to Lucifer’s outfit for her prison visit, goes all goth gothy goth goth for the Morrigan, and well, I've got nothing on the dungarees; art student for the gallery, maybe. She glosses over her family life, the ordinary teenager she was, by showing it to us through the ironic detachment of the narrator/protagonist she’s busy being.

Teenage scream

Her narrator voice itself is not uncomplicated. It has distance and perspective, sometimes in the moment, sometimes relating a story from the past. It has flashes of self-awareness, (“fail girl”, “desperation”, the family argument she breezily voices over) but they serve the pose. There are at least three bits of identity here, too. Laura plays a lot of roles, then. But they’re more tentative and experimental than the performances of the gods.

She occupies a mid point along WicDiv's sliding scale of identity performance. The gods sit at the high-end, an iconic expression of teenage theatrical self-creation. At the other and we have every other teenager, and the teenagers the gods were before. In between: Laura. She wants what they have, to an extent, and in a slightly try-hard way. Heck, she’s trying amazingly hard to be an iconic teenager. Failing her A-levels is “a statement of intent”. The posed cool at Valhalla is achingly fragile, and of course she knows that, it’s the joke. Dressing as Amaterasu, she literally (cos)plays in a toilet while the gods gig in stadiums.



Laura’s not quite our everyman, her status as probably-narrator complicates that. She’s finding her feet playing a role, performing bits of what the gods do, bits of something else. Interestingly (and I’ll love seeing where this goes) she’s got a lot more agency than the gods do. Narrating alone gives her some of that, setting the terms on which we can engage with the story. But she’s got a bit more freedom in it too. There are plenty of performers, but not that many actors - the gods largely react, or inspire, or follow their stories.

Cassandra looks initially to have a simpler identity. Superficially more of an adult, she’s cast as the sceptic. But the background in comparative mythology and her disappointment at what she feels the gods are not suggests a kind of fandom and infatuation. She plays, too, with being the mythic Cassandra. It’s not overdone, but the gods are dismissive of her, and she’s clearly had to fight for her voice.

Then of course, there’s the pointed, casual, almost unforeshadowed trans reveal. It’s an odd beat. It feels initially on the nose, but then conspicuous for being throwaway. It would have been easy to use a trans character as a cipher for the identity concepts, to dwell on an early life spent obliged to perform a wrong identity, perhaps. This would play to the book’s analysis of teen experience, and maybe it does suggest that a little. From what we see of Luci's past as “Ms Rigby”, from Cassandra’s faint dismissal of Amaterasu as a provincial girl, from the snatches of Laura’s life, and her wishing for godhood, cosplaying in front of a toilet, we get a strong waft of that feeling of (musical?) subculture as teenage escape.

But it still feels like more of a character moment for Lucifer. It’s a moment of casual cruelty, tossed out as a barb. The apology for outing is itself an outing, and a much more conspicuous one than anything before. The “lord of the pit”, bloodied, the hurt child showing through, is maybe trying to prove she’s still got it? It’s a moment between her and Cassandra, and the narrative broadly shrugs it off. The nonchalance feels progressive, but there’s also a playfulness. A nod and a wink that says, here, have this one, we've got identity tropes to burn. The book is more interested in the performed, multi-part identity of every teenager, and the caricature expressed by the gods, than in cruelly fetishizing one transition.

The gods, then, are a bit of an expression of the teenage experience, of wanting to be special and lifted out of your life. In A Game of You, Neil Gaiman has The Cuckoo talk, almost direct to the reader, about childhood fantasy:


She breaks it out along questionably gender-essentialist lines as agency fantasy for boys, identity for girls: “Their parents are not their parents. Their lives are not their lives.” Let’s ditch the genitals and generalise – the gods of WicDiv are a kind of synthesis. Being plucked from (miserable) childhood obscurity and told by a terrifying caricature grandma that you’re a god? It’s the height of identity and agency fantasy; it’s what(ever) happened to the teenage dream.

But it’s not the end-point, and the teaser for the book clearly set out the premise “just because you’re immortal doesn't mean you're going to live forever”.  Amaterasu clarifies “You spend your entire life wishing you were special and then find out you are. Nothing is without a price.”

Clearly, the book is at least in part about haggling over that price. Faustus and the Vengaboys tell us that on the flyleaf. But there’s a degree of haggling over “special”, too.

Prison rulesThere’s a great blog post called How an Algorithm Feels From The Inside (and this related piece) that has a lot to say about the cognitive fluency of categories, and by implication the persistence of pathological essentialism. Which is to say “are they really gods?” may just be another “but is it art?”, and broadly not helpful in the face of duck typing. But in a piece that tosses around specific niche versions of Baal - versions in which Baal himself is invested - I’m not so sure. Mythopoetically, Lucifer and Baphomet are younger than the others as gods/whatever, and have a touch more naïve brattishness. If these are Gaimanesque gods as empowered by human belief, then their role as inspiration becomes kind of oddly recursive, and whether they are “really” gods is relatively important. The presence of Lucifer amidst a pantheon drawn extensively from polytheistic faiths would invite us to ask questions about the presence or absence of monotheism’s beardy sky-ghost, whichever way you slice it. The extent to which they’re “gods”, what that even means, and their relationship to their own and each other’s mythology is very much front and centre, so maybe we’re interrogating the category.

They’re tightly bound by rules, “don’t really do anything useful”, and quite apart from the fact that they've only got two years to live, seem at least partly shackled to a narrative imperative they can make jokes about but not fight.

Great headLucifer chuckles about what a story it would be if Innana were the killer, that “genre tropes dictate” it was likely Amaterasu, or the “twist” if it were her herself. But for all this, she still ends up enacting a little bit of the Lucifer story – favoured, rebelling, punished. She spends a chunk of the story in a prison cell for transgression, and yet still sees Ananke as caring for her, giving “the best advice”. Sakhmet plays at cat, and the laser pointer is a delight. Laura points at the theatricality of the “play” between Baphomet and the Morrigan. It’s part the self-destructive myth of the pop star, and part the story of the god, rolling out regardless. No wonder Luci is quite so pissed off.

WicDiv is a long way from being finished, but it’s already got a lot to say about how we create and perform identities, and about what that performance enforces. It’s full of little jokes and tragic ironies, and it’s a delight for inviting us to play guessing games. I’ve not even touched on the micro narratives it packs into the gods’ icons, and what roles the gods might play in determining the iconic character of their eras. There are shivers of this in issue six, and teasers about “missing pantheons”. There’s a rich seam of glib comparisons to Phonogram to mine, too, and some less fatuous notes about perspectives on youth experience, growing up, and constraints of agency, especially relative to Young Avengers. We might return to that as WicDiv unfolds.

(If you like a bit of people close-reading themselves as they go, Kieron Gillen often posts writer’s notes on his blog They’ll tell you more than I could about what’s going on, and with a good deal less hand waving.)

Thought Bubble 2014 - Roger's comics haul

This weekend, as has probably be annoyingly obvious from our Twitter account, we went to Thought Bubble. It was aces. If you spent the weekend hiding under a rock, or just muted the hashtag because you didn't want to hear about my hangover, Thought Bubble is a fantastic comics con in Leeds. It's been growing like crazy, and is now a brain-buggeringly vast opportunity to discover new comics, talk to comics creators, and make a right old tit of yourself on a dancefloor.

Roger's Thought Bubble swag

Here's a quick run-down on what we bought, what we liked, what we missed, and possibly some other things as well.

I bought a lot less this time than last year, and looking at my bank balance I wasn't sure how; until I clocked that I'd likely drunk the difference. Taking that indictment as a segue: the on-site bar this year was a splendid addition. Having some sit-down breakout space with beer and great coffee made it much easier to crash for a bit. And let's face it, that's pretty essential at a hectic con, even without the Thought Bubble Sunday Hangover.

Ilkley Brewery supplied the beer at the con and party bars, and this was a damn fine call. If you see their stuff, check out the Mary Jane (big hoppy zing), and the Westwood Stout (white chocolate funtime).

There were also some comics. Probably.


Specifically, there were far too many cool looking things for me to get around, but here's what I picked up:

  • Atomic Sheep - Sally Jane Thompson Canadian high school coming of age tales - art clubs, homesickness, discomfort, and great line work.
  • Horizon: The Falling - Andrew Wildman Robots! Anxiety! Escape fantasies! Great pencils! A young girl falls into what might be a dream world, maybe, if her dreams were funky robotic.
  • Orbital, vols 1-3 - Sylvain Runberg & Serge Pellé More great Sci fi from Cinebook. Diplomacy, drama, and a hugely realised universe.
  • Mulp - Matt Gibbs & Sara Dunkerton Indiana Jones with mice, and a gorgeous colour palette. But after all the humans are dead. Yeah - just buy it.
  • Aama, vol 2 - Frederik Peeters Volume two. I loved volume one, and this is the next one.
  • Porcelain: Bone China (sampler) - Benjamin Read (writer) & Chris Wildgoose (artist) The teaser for the follow up to Porcelain, a kind of twisted fairytale fantasy of bone china automata and bleak secrets. Look out for our interview with the creators on the next podcast.
  • The Wicked and the Divine, vol 1 - Kieron Gillen (writer) & Jamie McKelvie (artist) Every ninety years, Tumblr is incarnated as... #WicDiv #Inevitable

Then there's a bunch of stuff I didn't quite get around to buying, but wish I had. So this is basically the big old list of apologies for not doing a capitalism at funky creators:

Thought Bubble "Best thing I've read all year" panel


Part of the reason I didn't pick so much stuff up this year was not - in fact - the bar. I didn't make it there until the Sunday. No, Saturday was in the main swallowed by a really good panels line-up. The regular "Best thing I've read all year" session was what it always is - a neat piece of quick-fire curation to kick off the show.

The two Images panels (writers and artists) had interesting stuff on process. In particular, a blend of artists who've worked primarily with one, or with multiple authors. This let them talk about collaboration styles, and different approaches to interpreting scripts. It was a lot less of an Image leg-frotting love-in than last year, and so bubbled along with more sincerity and fluency.

Thought Bubble diversity panelThe session on diversity at the end of the day will have made for a pretty decent introduction to the topic. Amusingly (if sadly) they kicked off by apologising for a relative lack of diversity - they were a couple of folks down  due to travel and/or personal issues. It's hard to criticise that, and actually I've not that often seen a diversity discussion that is at once so superficially culturally homogenous and so aware of the privileges and issues that brings.

I say "introduction" because it did feel like we started quite basic, and the discussion took a while to warm up. For a minute there I was worried we were in for an hour of bourgeois hand-wringing. But it perked up hard towards the end. In particular, there was some strong stuff on physical access, and what events like this and other comics cons can do to be more inclusive. Discussion touched on representation and conservatism vs risk taking in the retail chain, too, and that could easily have occupied a full session.

I wanted to cheer a bit when Howard Hardiman emphasised the point that it falls on all of us to educate ourselves about diversity, and not just shrug, muttering that we've done our bit, and offload the work onto marginalized groups themselves.


The mid-con party is one of the TB highlights. I've heard it referred to quite often as Nerd Prom. Fair. But Clarrie nails it:

It's a big, fun, inclusive thing, and this year it was a big, fun inclusive thing with actual drinkable beer. (And no cloakroom, and toilets that would make the architects of the Guantanamo interrogation regime raise an eyebrow, muttering "Hang on a minute, mate". But that one's on Leeds town hall)

It turns out that if you have Paprika playing as the visual background to a dance set, no music on earth is so compelling that everyone won't just stop and gape in horror at the rapey butterfly scene.

Good times. Weird Times.

At this point, the Safe Space Disco is basically my favourite club night. Good work, Thought Bubble. Good fucking work.

If you want to hear a bit more, check out our hasty mid-con podcast.

There's a neat short write up here, from Liz, who we were mooching around with.

We also did a few interviews with creators and publishers, so look out for that on the site soon.

Dave, there, having a lovely time.