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February 28, 2003

Further gods
Posted by Teresa at 11:18 PM *

In the late 1970s, Jack Kirby was asked to design the film version of Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light. A theme park based on the book and movie was also in the works. He duly produced a series of finished drawings. Unfortunately, the project hit some kind of snag later on and was abandoned.

Art prints of Kirby’s drawings are now being offered for sale. They’re a strange version of the novel, with as much Kirby in them as there is Zelazny; but Kirby’s sympathy and enthusiasm for his material is clear. Try the Royal Chambers of Brahma; or the Hand of Shiva and the Raga Wheel Vortex, which combine to form what he called the Planetary Control Room. It’s all way, way Kirby.

Comments on Further gods:
#1 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2003, 03:31 AM:

I can't remember where I read it, but I've seen it suggested that the entire Lord of Light project was a money-laundering scheme.

I think that Kirby is just wrong for Lord of Light; he's too heavy and too, well, distinctively Kirby. My mental illustrations of Lord of Light are very airy, brightly lit, and very, very streamlined--clean lines and not a lot of them. The right comics artist for such a project is probably P. Craig Russell, who is graceful and complex.

But I've always assumed that the world of Lord of Light looks like Hindu myth, not Hindu myth + obvious technology, given how much of the story revolves around Mahasamatman introducing technology into the world to disrupt the Gods' rule.

God, I need to re-read that. It's been fifteen years, at least.

#2 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2003, 11:56 AM:

Kirby's vision of LoL has nothing to do with my own personal vision of the book; but how magnificently Kirby it is. If the movie had been made, I would have gobbled it up (complaining the whole way, of course).

#3 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2003, 02:10 PM:

This came up a year or two ago on a mailing list I'm on. This claim was made on an episode of a cable TV series in which someone named Errol Morris interviews people:

"One episode was called 'The Little Gray Man', about a retired CIA agent who was apparently an authentic master of disguise (although according to TLGM, 'The really good spies don't need disguises. They're just uninteresting.'). Anyway, one of the more improbable stories he told was about smuggling some Americans out of the Canadian embassy during the Iranian hostage crisis. To accomplish this, he had to quickly develop a cover story for getting a team into Iran. The method chosen was to pose as a film crew (presumably non-American) doing location scouting for a filmed version of Roger Zelazny's _Lord of Light_. Apparently this was a real Hollywood production that had stopped for some reason and TLGM was able to go use their materials for this worthy cause.

"Now, why a movie about Hindu gods would have played well with the mullahs I didn't understand, unless he managed to make it clear to them that they were fake Hindu gods. They showed some production drawings that looked like Hindu gods done in the style of Marvel comics. Too bad they never made the movie."

Someone else refuted this, with a link to a story on the CIA's web page, in which the movie is _Argo_, about Jacob and the Golden Fleece. Sigh.

#4 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2003, 04:24 PM:

"Jacob and the Golden Fleece"?

But the sheep is the sheep of Esau.

Errol Morris is a documentarian of considerable note -- "Gates of Heaven" and "The Thin Blue Line" among others.

#5 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2003, 10:19 PM:

Let my hijack this entirely. Since the title is Further gods. Anybody know a god or even saint who presides over junk or suff or obsolete electronics? Jordin's trying to get the garage packed for moving and could use and intercessory prayer about now. Maybe St. Jude....


#6 ::: Seth Johnson ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2003, 10:22 PM:

I have to agree that Kirby seems a bit strange for Lord of Light. But I wish the theme park had been built, if only so that I could go visit Kirby-designed buildings in the real world. I don't think I could decide until I was standing in front of them whether they were the most incredible things I'd ever see or gaudier than Las Vegas.

Of course, "both" is a distinct possibility as well.

#7 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2003, 12:53 AM:

Kirby was also an odd choice for "2001" and "The Prisoner" (an incomplete project, unrelated to the later series). I suspect that he was willing to try anything if asked, and could be relied on to produce usable work on time. That is not, I should make clear, meant as indirect criticism.

Given that the "World of Superman" theme park that DC hyped for years never got built (the later projects are a product of a completely different corporate system), there's certainly something strange about the idea of a Zelazny-based park in the same time frame (or now, for that matter).

Though I'd probably go to Michael Moorcock's World of Gloriana. Or Six Flags Over the Instrumentality.

#8 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2003, 01:53 AM:

A while back, there was talk of building a Laurie Anderson theme park in Spain.

Perhaps there'd be room there for an Oh, Superman ride. (Ah, ah, ah, ah . . .)

#9 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2003, 04:01 AM:

I imprinted hard on Kirby's adaptation of 2001, so it seems perfectly natural to me. (I think I read the comic adaptation before I saw the movie; I know I read the comic before I read the novel.)

I still croggle at the idea of a Kirby Prisoner, even though I've seen art samples. It doesn't look wrong the way the Celestials posing as Lord of Light characters do.

#10 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2003, 06:44 PM:

I'll agree that it's more Kirby than Zelazny. I've always imagined Lord of Light as looking just like Hindu religious art.

Kevin, I'm interested by the suggestion that the whole thing was a money-laundering scheme. Do you remember why they thought that?

I expect the Kirby Prisoner art was closer to the original because it started out as a TV series: the visuals were already established.

#11 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2003, 10:49 PM:

I may have been mis-remembering the bit about the film being a boondoggle to smuggle people out of revolutionary Iran.

#12 ::: Jonathan Lundell ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2003, 02:57 AM:

Kirby's images are not only not right, they're not the right images. That is, none of the illustrations are significant pieces of my vision of the book.

I reread LoL a few months ago. It holds up nicely. It was the first RZ I ever read, and I read all his stuff for years afterward in a futile attempt to find something half as good.

(One problem with Kirby's images, contra Teresa, is that they're *too* "Hindu religious art". The language of LoL is vernacular techno-western, and the imagery needs to carry at least a hint of that.

#13 ::: Sbhsh Grg ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2003, 12:40 PM:

Hld n scnd - bjct t th d tht Hnd gds nd gddsss r plythngs fr drngd Wstrn mnds t kck rnd lk ftbll. Why n hll dn't y mnk wth Jss Chrst nstd? Scrd f bcklsh? Myb Krb s snstv t Hnd sntmnts - dn't knw - bt sy lt Wstrnrs scrw wth thr wn knd nd lv Hnd gds ln.

#14 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2003, 02:40 PM:

Subhash, you should read Lord of Light. The people who go around pretending to be Hindu Gods are the bad guys (mostly). The hero is dubbed Mahasamatman by others, but he calls himself Sam. And it's set in the far future, not on Earth; it does not trash the real gods of Hinduism, but only depicts the hubris of some humans who decide to subjugate other humans by claiming to be those gods.

You're right that Western tradition has a pretty repulsive tendency in that direction. Media presentations are much worse than books in that regard: I was offended by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom for exactly that reason - until The Last Crusade came out and they made equal hash of Christian theology.

Other examples, though, include the recent Hercules series (Aphrodite may be light and playful, but she isn't a surfer chick), and the worst one, Stargate SG-1 which started out trashing the ancient Egyptian gods (some of whom I worship) by claiming they were all really evil parasitic aliens called the Goa'uld. Then they got worse by expanding to include basically all the gods in the world except those worshipped by Northern Europeans: the Asgard were nice aliens, and they seldom mention the Christian pantheon (don't get me started) at all. (Mercifully they've mostly steered clear of the Hindu pantheon except Nirrti.)

I watch the show anyway. I just pretend it's set in an alternate universe where the Ancient Gods really were evil parasitic aliens, instead of the tough-love benevolencies I have a spiritual relationship with. But I still wish they'd run into the most "petty and cruel" Goa'uld of them all: Yahweh. That, at least, would be fair and balanced (tm).

#15 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2003, 02:42 PM:

Oh, my. Subhash's post got disemvowelled. I guess it WAS kind of rude, but I thought there was a legitimate point in there too. I hope mine isn't taken as rude by anyone.

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