Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Greek Myth Meets Manga

Classical Mythology has unquestionably impacted the West, but in our cosmopolitan world it is beginning to blend intriguingly with the East as well. Japanese manga artist Zelda C. Wang has repurposed and expanded mythological stories in a remarkable series of comics.

Wang’s online MYth comics (found here) focus on the Olympians. While her iconography is for the most part consistent with classical versions, Wang re-envisions the gods in traditional manga style, generally making them more youthful.

Zeus with traditional oak, lightning,
and cloud iconography, but also with
a fresh, "manga" physique 
As Wang states on her website, “Since it's MY version, the storyline differs from the classic mythology.” MYth: My Seasons and MYth: Eternal Gift deal with the rapes of Persephone and Amphitrite respectively. The two myths emerge from classical myth differently: The Homeric Hymn to Demeter is as canonical as can be, though Amphitrite's abduction by Poseidon is less broadly treated (cf. Hesiod Theogony 930). While Wang derives the plot from ancient sources, she feels no compunction at expanding drastically both backstories and characters' motivations in each graphic narrative. She also adds new critical elements to the story (such as earth goddesses dying if they have a child).

Perhaps the most innovative story is MYth: Sunny, in which the modern-day girl Sunny worships Apollo. When her childhood friend dies, Apollo removes the painful memories of the boy as an act of mercy. When Sunny learns what has happened and confronts the god, Apollo contacts Hades and restores her friend to life. The story’s themes of friendship and loyalty are certainly in keeping with the manga genre, but an original story about ancient gods raises some interesting questions.

Wang's youthful Demeter drawn in
typical manga style
 Classical reception normally deals with the repurposing of ancient stories to comment on modern ones. But what happens when an author writes an unprecedented story about the gods? Wang’s MYth: Sunny has no classical model, yet represents the gods in their traditional roles. It is not a re-telling, but rather an expansion of the classical tradition. Is this expansion of classical myths even in the same category as classical reception? Is the classical cannon closed? Or could an innovative writer like Wang create a sequel with the ancient stories as a starting point?  Perhaps mythologists in future centuries will include her story of Apollo’s charitable act alongside Ovid’s version of Apollo slaying of the Python. Probably not, but the idea is intriguing.

In any event, Wang’s art is enjoyable for those seeking mythical adaptation or manga. Those who appreciate her artwork can find more myth paintings here.

— DD

No comments:

Post a Comment