Northlanders and the Graphic Novel


I'm not a frequent reader of graphic novels, but I admire the artwork and have found that the writing is often better and the themes are more complex than many would expect. I came across the Northlanders series recently while browsing at the bookstore and I figured I'd pick one up for some light reading.

In Sven the Returned, Northlander Sven of Orkney returns to the settlement where he grew up, to claim his inheritance.  He is a mercenary wanderer who was cast out by his mother for questioning the Traditional ways of his people as a boy. Having lived a "modern" and wordly life, and having learned the ways of other peoples and sampled their vices and tactics a la carte, he no longer considers himself a Norseman. However, he ends up siding with his people against enemy invaders, and winds up with a more ambiguous, complicated sense of his own identity.

There is debate and discussion throughout concerning honor, the life of a warrior, a man's relationship to his people, and Norse mythology. Tradition is not always portrayed in a positive light. The artwork is dynamic and evocative, often with a gray palette that gives the story a cold, brooding feel. Excellent battle scenes.

About the Medium

Graphic novels hold a lot of potential, in terms of keeping Western Traditions and heroic stories in the minds of men. The systems of patronage that made possible the levels of creative virtuosity necessary to produce the magnificent triumphs of Western art found in the epic symphony or the master oil painting are no longer around. But there's something accessible about the storytelling in graphic novels that's well suited to bringing the heroic tale alive. And not everyone is an egghead or a philosopher; a lot of average guys just want to relax with a good story that can capture the imagination and deliver some sort of satisfying takeaway.

Frank Miller's 300 is a perfect example of how a tale as seemingly obscure as the battle of Thermopylae can be translated into the sort of compelling entertainment that turned "THIS... IS... SPARTA!" into a ubiquitous meme. When I spoke to a classroom of male students about masculinity recently -- they wanted to talk about the Spartans. That's a powerful influence and it's worth thinking about how to use it. Fantasies about perfect equality are for the Left. Realists on the Right  accept the fact that all men aren't born with the same talents, aptitudes or temperaments, and that any dramatic cultural shift is going to find some way to enlist the males with an IQ falling in the 105-115 range. You have to give them Something to Dream, too.  Promote the same values and ideas, but make them accessible and appealing to that key demographic. The good thing about ideas like honor and integrity and heroism and standing up for your tribe is that they translate -- they make sense to men and have their own natural appeal.

There are so many stories, so much history, so many Western legends and moving heroic myths to be told and retold. As a lighter end of Virtus, I'm going to explore and briefly review what's out there already in the world of graphic novels and comic books along these lines.

If any readers have recommendations, I welcome them.