Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

Comic Archetypes: The Golden Age Hypnotic Heroine

History: Looking over the diverse cast of hypnotic characters in the Golden Age of Comics (which is the period from the start of comics publication through the end of WW II) one is eventually struck by the rampant sexism and male domination involved. There were a number of villains whose primary motif was some form of hypnosis in the Golden Age, but almost every one was male, from the shady sideshow hypnotists and crafty con artists to the mysterious mystics and malevolent magicians to the sinister scientists and demented doctors. Which should be no surprise, as there were very few female villains at all during that time. Also, the great majority of these characters were “one-shot” characters who only appeared in a single issue: for re-occurring characters like Lex Luthor, hypnotic control of the hero was a ploy they might use on rare occasions but never specialized in. Strangely enough, or, rather, more likely another sign of the times, is that such hypnotic control was rarely used against or by women. 

There were a few exceptions, of course, such as the reoccurring Justice Society villainess Harlequin, who used a pair of hypnotic glasses as part of her circus clown motif, but she was a much more sympathetic character and eventually reformed, and the one-shot villainess Lady Serpent, who used her hypnotic gaze to mesmerize a female jail guard into letting her escape, yet her foe, the Black Terror, forewarned about her powers, was able to resist her. (Curiously, Catwoman would use use the same trick to escape prison in a much later comic, hypnotizing a female guard with a cat’s‑eye-jeweled locket.) It almost seems as though the comics writers just didn’t want to or weren’t allowed to have a female character, hero or villain, who could control the male characters: it was acceptable for Luthor to put Superman under his hypnotic control, but no woman could. Given the sexism of the culture at the time, that seems a likely explanation. 

But there was one exception to all of this sexism, the most famous heroine of this era and possibly any era. And that was Wonder Woman. 

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The “Deryni” stories by Katherine Kurtz

They have mental and physical powers beyond the human norm: they can entrance with a glance, create light, heal wounds, and even teleport long distances. 

They are mutants. They live among normal humans, distinguished only by their powers, otherwise undistinguishable from any one else, distrusted and even hated by both the general populace and people in authority because of their gifts. Some try to use their gifts for good, others for evil: some just try to exist. 

But they’re not the X‑Men and they’re not superheroes: they’re the Deryni, a fantasy race and the subject of several books and short stories by author Katherine Kurtz.

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Favorite Stories of Hypnotism” by Don Ward, editor

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Background: When I graduated from junior high school to high school, I continued to be a student volunteer in the library. Again, I would be disappointed (but not surprised) that the school library did not have any books on hypnosis. (As opposed to the county library, where even sometimes the mobile library van that would come around the neighborhood every Friday during the summer would have one or two.) However, I was surprised to discover, at the very end of the story collection shelves, a hardcover copy of “Favorite Stories of Hypnotism” (1965) edited by Don Ward. The black cover with its shadowy female face, concentric circles radiating out from her left eye, is just so stereotypical but to my mind back then, so demonstrative of hypnosis that, of course, I had to check it out. I was not disappointed in what I found, and even today, many of the stories are still worthwhile, though dated.

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History: In 2005 I won a copy of the online game GuildWars without really wanting it. Therefore, I didn’t examine the game for a month or so, figuring I didn’t have time for an online game, but the box artwork and some of the things I saw about it online convinced me to take a further look. Little did I realize what I was going to get myself in to.

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Lammas Night” by Katherine Kurtz

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History: I’ve known about Katherine Kurtz as an author since my college days: not only was I attracted to her writing for her “Deryni” novels, but also to her own backstory. Before she turned to professional writing, she was a member of the early Society for Creative Anachronism, eventually becoming its first Seneschal (the equivalent of being the national chairman of the organization) as well as being awarded the title of Duchess (meaning that she had been Queen of the Kingdom of the West twice.) She also published a fanzine called “Deryni Archives: The Magazine” which contained a wealth of supplementary information and stories that helped affirm my fascination for the Deryni.

Since then, she has developed into a popular and prolific fantasy writer, known primarily for her “Deryni” novels and her contemporary fantasy “Adept” series in collaboration with Deborah Turner Harris. She edited a collection of Deryni stories and other short story collections, also wrote numerous short stories and stand-alone novels, one of which is “Lammas Night”.

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