Saturday, 2 March 2013

Slaine and the Celtic Dream

I've recently been reading my way through Slaine: Books of Invasions, three volumes of the most gorgeous artwork and gory battles, starring the 2000AD Celtic hero, Slaine mac Roth.
I started reading 2000AD among archaeologists, and Slaine came in for special praise because it was so well researched. Slaine was shown becoming High King in just the way that Gerald of Wales described, for instance, and some of the characters' faces were based on Celtic Iron Age stone heads.
It's also a very violent comic strip, of course. Slaine's catchphrase is "Kiss My Axe," after all. Pat Mills, one of the creators of Slaine, points out in an editorial at the back of the third volume of Books of Invasions that Slaine is not just a "hack and slay barbarian hero". He recalls criticism for having Slaine talking instead of just killing things every week, and the editorial team at 2000AD told him not to write any more "emotional stories" after he did a Slaine version of The Swan Children of Lir. They, too, wanted more hack and slash, and less talking.
In Hollywood, they don't like the Celtic names - too difficult - though there has been talk of a Slaine film for years. There's a group of Spanish fans (Slaine is very big in Europe, apparently) who made a short film sequence - and it looks just like the comics. It's absolutely beautiful work, by Miguel Mesas, and it can be found on YouTube as Slaine: The Horned God.

Other people, as Pat Mills says, 'get it'. The Celtic Dream. The Irish legends that are not as clear cut as Roman or Greek or Anglo-Saxon, "imbued with an anarchic sense of the fantastic, mixed with a deep and unique mysticism".

So the comic strip went through a rather rocky few years, with the Books of Invasions showing a triumphant return to form with the artists Clint Langley and Luke Preece, and the editors of 2000AD and the Graphic Novel, Matt Smith and Jonathan Oliver.

And Pat Mills mentions another group of people who 'get' Slaine - the road protesters trying to save the prehistoric landscape of Tara from a motorway a few years ago. They even used the slogan: "This beast you are calling a motorway can kiss my axe."
Sadly, the motorway was finally built - the government of Ireland has been rightly criticised for failing to protect the amazingly rich archaeological remains of the country in favour of short term profit.

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