Slaine is one of the greatest comic book creations to come from the mind (and soul) of legendary storyteller Pat Mills. For those of you who are not familiar with this comic strip, it initially looks like a form of Conan knock off. Indeed 2000AD and a comic which is seen as it’s predecessor Action both paid homage to pop culture icons at the cinema at times – albeit with juicy twists.
Slaine however, not only predated the cinematic version of Robert E. Howards hulking hero. It was based on a completely different set of mythologies. Mythologies which were expounded upon and helped transcend Slaine into a series which brought a new kind of accessible, savage beauty to the fantasy landscape. Slaine is indeed, it’s own beast and in it’s own way, left all thoughts of Conan far behind.
The Mythical Land of Tir Nan Og
Slaine is based on Celtic history and set in the legendary golden age of the Celts. Central to these legends are the worlds of Tir Nan Og. The land of the forever young. This is a place which has appeared in many Celtic myths and generally disguised in a myriad of different names. These stories have captivated the imagination of countless Irish, Scottish and Welsh historians and story tellers through out the ages. Many set out to try and uncover the truth behind the often repeated stories of these lost lands. Lands which seemed lost beneath the seas and a place which was dogged with invasions and great, bloody catastrophes.
Pat Mills seems to have envisaged this mystical land as being somewhere very close. Simon Bisley’s interpretation of the land of Tir Na Nog pictured above shows the familiar coast lines of Great Britain and Ireland but in an era where the Islands were of one great land mass. A long forgotten era where Britain was connected together and also joined to the continent.
The Power of Gaelic Legends
The Celts which we deal with in the chronicles of Slaine are the stuff of moonbeam and legend. They aren’t fixed in national identity as Irish or Scottish, but have been written to represent the general flavour of Celtic mythology. Their presence is a powerful reminder of the the collective identity of the British and Irish legends. Indeed Pat also manages to weave the similarities of the European myths which may have been influenced by or have Celtic origins.
Religion and the Touch of the Earth Goddess
Gaelic legends are general grouped together in ‘cycles’ . This is a conventional division within the mythology. Each cycle contains a set of narratives which focus on a set of godlike individuals that arrive in five migratory invasions in the Celtic lands – specifically Ireland. These peoples were known as the Tuatha De Danaan – the tribes of the Earth Goddess. They were deeply connected with magic and it’s twin skill of science, wisdom and witchcraft. There are legends which see them having the ability to fly through the air. This legend was used to great effect in Slaine with the introduction of Science Fiction into the traditional fantasy mix. We see futuristic Sky Chariots being used to interpret this aspect of ancient mythology in an accessible modern context.
Slaine and Cuchulain – Warp Brothers
One obvious parallel between the equally captivating worlds of Slaine and Celtic mythology is the comparison between Slaine and legendary Celtic hero Cuchulain. Cuchulain was part of the legendary Ulster cycle and many of these tales show Cuchulain take part in fierce battles which brought a terrible frenzy onto him. Similar to the stories of the Viking berserkers. However during these moments of induced madness, his whole body would seem to shift and change. These changes were not just limited to Cuchulain, as other warriors in Celtic mythology also suffered this transmogrification. Murdach and Congal would warp and then attack all who were in their path, friend and foe alike.
So it was with Slaine. Filled with the power of the Earth Goddess, our heroes whole body would spasm and bring forward monstrous changes. Enabling him with superhuman strength in battle.