Oh, My Pop Culture Gnosticism: What if God Isn’t God?

Nothing says pop culture like 2000-year-old theological debates, right? You’d be surprisedand we’ve discussed it before.

Gnosticism—a heretical branch of early Christianity—faded almost entirely from view after its founders were edged out of the Church by what would become orthodoxy. With most of their works lost or destroyed, their ideas survived only in the denunciations from the likes of Tertullian and Irenaeus. The Gnostic focus on secrecy didn’t ensure a broad legacy, either—early leaders such as Valentinius and Marcion privileged access to the deeper nature of the universe for initiates and other worthies. Modern Gnostics avoid the secrecy, and as with many aspects of Gnosticism which may seem troubling, the marginalization of Gnosticism limited our understanding to unfriendly characterizations by their orthodox contemporaries.

But in the 20th century, a treasure trove of Gnostic texts was discovered by a couple of Egyptian farmers at Nag Hammadi in a sealed jar. Ever since, their ideas—which seem stunningly modern in some ways—have started to permeate back into the world, gaining influence well beyond what would be expected from their obscurity, particularly since the texts themselves are rarely read by anyone besides scholars.

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Still, the ideas in these texts are starting to make their way into pop culture, directly or indirectly, and Gnostic ideas are fascinating enough to be talked about far away from their original sources. They feature prominently in the His Dark Materials series, and some concepts pop up in such unexpected places as Young Avengers, Final Fantasy, and even Futurama.

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Dom Reads: Hyper Force Neo

Dear readers, I cannot stress the importance of conventions enough, as I still have comics from New York Comic Con to talk about! The reason these experiences mean so much to me is that you can simply walk around with the hope that something catches your eye, and Hyper Force Neo definitely fits that bill. The title features a Black main character, a Black author, Jarrett Williams, and an aesthetic that was totally my style (think Steven Universe meets Scott Pilgrim), so I had to give it a shot.

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Black Panther: World of Wakanda Rocks My World

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via Marvel

Way back at SDCC when Marvel announced Black Panther: World of Wakanda, a comic spinning off of the popular and critically acclaimed new Black Panther ongoing comic, I was immediately pretty hyped. Then it was revealed that the major focus of the comic would be the history of Ayo and Aneka, the badass former Dora Milaje duo who fell in love and rebelled against what they saw as T’Challa’s misguided rule. Then it was announced that the series would be penned by queer Black feminist Roxane Gay, and my hype levels skyrocketed to unchartable levels. Add in an additional story co-written by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Pittsburgh poet Yona Harvey, and you have a recipe for my money.

The first issue in the new ongoing series was finally released last week, and it was everything I hoped it would be.

Spoilers for the first issue below!

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Dom Reads: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe

I’ve been a fan of the Marvel movies for some time now; they’re usually, at worst, a great visual spectacle. But for me, this never really translated into reading the comics. Superhero comics don’t exactly jump out at me visually, and even when socially inclusive, they typically have borderline impenetrable lore. So when I heard there was a standalone graphic novel for Squirrel Girl, I knew I had to pick it up: even though my knowledge of the character is very limited, I did know she is one of the funnier heroes and has a far above average success rate at defeating the universe’s villains. I had been interested in Squirrel Girl for a while, but wasn’t sure where a good jumping on point would be. Additionally, who wouldn’t want to see one character (other than Thanos) beat up the whole Marvel Universe? I was not let down.

Minor/early story spoilers for The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe ahead.

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Princess Princess Ever After Is Precious and Perfect

I’m so tired, y’all. This election season has been hell and I’m so glad it ends tonight because I don’t know how much longer I can stand it. I am full of easy-to-write-about rants regarding everything from Frank Cho to Johnny Depp but I’m so tired of negativity that I want to talk about something pure instead.

Spoilers for Princess Princess Ever After below.

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Dom Reads: Space Battle Lunchtime

My spoils from New York Comic Con didn’t stop at Welcome to Showside. I continued to purchase from the vendors and picked up Natalie Reiss’s Space Battle Lunchtime Volume One: Lights, Camera, Snacktion!, which can be quickly described as Iron Chef in space with shonen/shoujo elements, from the Oni Press booth. With this premise and adorable artwork, I knew I had to give it a shot, and I was not disappointed.

space_battle_lunchtime_vol1Mild spoilers ahead.

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Season of the Witch: Sabrina the Teenage Witch Doesn’t Exactly “Harm None”

I’ve mentioned several times on this blog that I’ve never been into Western comics the way I got into manga. However, that’s not exactly the truth. When I was younger I was obsessed with Archie Comics—my family had boxes and boxes of the series running from the publications from the 90s to the re-prints of the older comics from the 50s. Riverdale may have been home to one of the worst cases of boring love triangles in the existence of everything, but for some reason I was enthralled. These days, I’ve fallen out of love with them—I barely even cared when the powers that be produced the “Archie finally got his shit together and married your choice of Betty or Veronica” specials—but I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the spin-offs they created, especially Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

sabrina-the-teenage-witch-filmIn the main canon of the Archie-verse, Sabrina showed up to cast a spell trying to help, only to have it go weird and the characters had to deal with the outcome. However, mostly it seemed to me like she played a sort of Addams Family role, which is to say that as a teenage witch she is living in extraordinarily weird circumstances, but her magic powers end up seeming normal compared to all the drama everyone else gets wrapped up in. She is, somehow, the normal one in Riverdale. More recently, Archie Comics published a new Sabrina series (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), but I’m much more interested in the 90s film simply called Sabrina the Teenage Witch. As the 90s was the era for the girl power boom, I thought it’d be interesting to see how being a witch played off of that, or even how the film could have given life to the 1996 television series of the same name (which, in full disclosure, I have never seen and have only read the spin-off books of). However, despite my initial excitement, I found that the movie, while having some good messages, ended up becoming a victim to its time, and that time’s sexism.

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