Why We Need Superheroes

 

Black Panther_Marvel comics
Black Panther: Source – Marvel Comics

The Superhero film genre is in overdrive at the moment, with at least one new movie every year. This year’s second superhero movie is ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ in a franchise that started in 2012 with ‘The Avengers’, bringing Marvel comic characters to life. This follows the quirky and successful ‘Black Panther’ (2018) that cleverly introduces a sub-genre element by showcasing mainly non-white actors, thus broadening the superhero genre appeal to different ethnic groups.

The recurring theme in this genre is not new – mankind is under threat from a terrifying external power and need heroes with superhuman powers to defend it. This storyline goes back to early human society when primitive man had an intuitive way of interpreting the awesome and incomprehensible power of nature. The animistic gods of the Ancients are often part-human/part-animal incarnations that represent the main elements – earth, water, air and fire, or aspects thereof. These were feared, revered and appeased with offerings and sacrifices in the hope of favourable outcomes or protection from the uncontrollable power of Nature.

thor-marvel-comics-fanpop.com
Thor – source: Marvel Comics

It is no surprise that some ancient gods, most notably Thor from Norse mythology, have been incorporated into Marvel’s superhero stories. Although Thor is a god, he has human form and is the defender of mankind against ‘foreign’ enemies. They evoke familiar tribalistic defence mechanisms in an audience primed to circle the wagons at the first signs of danger from an unknown or unfamiliar predatory enemy.

The earliest human societies, pre-dating and including the recorded tales from Ancient Greece, invented creation stories that often involved superhuman god-like creatures who created the world and ruled over it in an age before the coming of Mankind. These gods became invisible forces to be invoked and appeased in ritual ceremonies as humans inherited the earth. It filled a powerful need in early Man’s consciousness to make sense of his surroundings, and pre-dates our Age of Science and Reason approach to understanding our world and beyond.

The blurb for the new superheroes movie reads, “’Avengers: Infinity War’ brings to the screen the ultimate, deadliest showdown of all time. As the Avengers and their allies have continued to protect the world from threats too large for any one hero to handle, a new danger has emerged from the cosmic shadows: Thanos. A despot of intergalactic infamy, his goal is to collect all six Infinity Stones, artifacts of unimaginable power, and use them to inflict his twisted will on all of reality. Everything the Avengers have fought for has led up to this moment – the fate of Earth and existence itself has never been more uncertain.”

The plot of this film centres on the concept of infinity or timelessness, through the infinity stones, or gems (six immensely powerful gems that appear in Marvel Comic stories known as the Mind, Soul, Space, Power, Time and Reality). This representation of attributes in physical objects harks back to ancient societies – objects to be revered or deified in the belief that they can affect desired outcomes. The stones are ancient artefacts, thus connecting the story to early human history and invoking the theme of the continuum of time.

Teenagers/Young Adults are the core target audience for this repeated narrative of humans with superpowers battling unknown or alien forces whose intentions are always hostile to human society. A show of destructive power by an evil character usually sets up the story, whereby one or more superhero will do battle, like gladiators, on behalf of a frightened and powerless population. Often the stakes are the highest imaginable – the fate of Planet Earth.

Charly_and_the_super_heroes group pic
Charly & The Superheroes

It is no surprise, then, that my own teenage daughter, Cathy, is thoroughly transfixed by superhero movies. She becomes engrossed in the latest story of heroic figures fighting on her behalf against external forces of evil who would destroy her home and family. She has no problem identifying with the ‘goodies’ – often male and female characters who represent ‘the best’ of humankind. When I asked her what our character, Charly Holmes’ next adventure should be, she quickly replied, “let’s make up a superhero story!”

And so, we have now completed our story – ‘Charly & The Superheroes’, based on Cathy’s idea that Charly, whilst on a film studio tour, is invited to substitute for a child actor in a superhero movie. The rest of the story developed from there. Our superheroes represent the four elements – earth, air, fire and water – but when a real disaster strikes, the actors are challenged to use their own knowledge and skills to help the group through a series of dangerous situations.

Charly paperback coverOur own homage to the superhero genre, ‘Charly & The Superheroes’, is available from 19th September in e-book and paperback formats from Amazon and other online stores. Suitable for children aged 10+, juveniles, young adults, teachers and parents:

Paperback (UK):

Paperback (USA/World):

Kindle

i-books, Kobo, Nook, Playster, Tolino and other platforms…

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Abandoned Re-loaded

I’ve just re-published a new, longer second edition of Abandoned, book one in A Light in the Dark Ages series. It addresses the complaints at the brevity of the original novella that told the story of Marcus and the defence of Calleva. This is now incorporated into a longer story that charts Britannia’s troubled journey from abandonment by the Romans to choosing a king to organise their defence from determined raiders.

Abandoned second edition ebook coverThe narrative thrust is loosely guided by the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth in his 1136 work, The History of the Kings of Britain. The romantic in me likes to think there might be some credence in his account of events in fifth century Britannia leading up to the coming of King Arthur (now widely thought to be a composite of a number of leaders who organised opposition to the spread of Anglo-Saxon colonists).
I’m holding the e-book price at just 99p/99c – so please help me replace the lost reviews from the now unpublished first edition. Much work has gone into this upgrade from novella to novel – I hope you enjoy it!
http://amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FKT7W8J
http://amazon.com/dp/B07FKT7W8J

Happy Publication Day for ‘Curtain Call’

Fellow indie author, C.H. Clepitt, has launched her new book today – congratulations!

C H Clepitt has a knack for creating real, relatable characters, who face adversity with humour and humanity, and Curtain Call is no exception.

Covers (2)When an assistant to the director role turns into P.A. to her favourite film star, Jen can’t believe her luck. Eleanor Francis is charming, kind and funny, but she has a secret, and when tragedy strikes, things threaten to unravel at an uncontrollable pace. Despite being out of her depth Jen has to adapt to her new role quickly, to protect Eleanor, with whom she is rapidly falling in love.

This is a sweet, understated story that will have you laughing and crying in equal measure. If you’ve enjoyed C H Clepitt’s other books (including the witty, I Wore Heels to the Apocalypse) then this is not to be missed.

“The story is very well written and flows nicely… I would love to read more about the two main characters in future books.” – Simon Leonard – Black Books Blog

“Love blossoms in an unexpected place in this emotional short story. A change of direction for Clepitt but delicately written and heartfelt.” – Claire Buss – Author of ​The Rose Thief and other novels.

“The story’s optimism that makes it such a joy to read and leaves one feeling there must be hope after all.” A.M. Leibowitz – Author of ​Keeping the Faith and other novels

Curtain Call is available in e-book format at £1.99 from Amazon –

 

The History Behind ‘Britannia’

Having enjoyed watching the recent Sky Atlantic television series, Britannia, I decided to find out more about the history behind it. Although it could be said that the series came to the small screen marching on the cloak-tail of the success of Games of Thrones, I found that unlike its illustrious predecessor it is more firmly rooted in history.

School history books may tell us that Julius Caesar ‘Came, saw and conquered’ Britain in 54-55 BC, but the real Roman invasion did not happen for a further ninety years. It took place in 43 AD to be precise, when a force of four legions and auxiliary support (over 30,000 men), sent by Emperor Claudius and under General Aulus Plautius, landed on Britain’s south coast. This was the start of the Roman occupation of Britain – the creation of the Province of Britannia – that would last for three-hundred-and-seventy years. Surely the telling of the story of this pivotal event in British history (albeit in a fictionalised form) is long overdue? Well, here it is – and the series overcomes an unsatisfactory start to reward the viewer with a neatly-constructed and engaging drama.

KerraAt the time of the invasion, Britain was an island which was politically fragmented, with multiple tribes each led by a chief, king or queen who – if we believe Roman writers – were constantly at war with one another. Some of the names of the British tribes, such as the Cantii (of Kent), the Trinovantes (of Essex) and the Durotriges (of Dorset), were preserved by the Roman government when they built brand new towns to win the hearts and minds of the indigenous population. Unfortunately, we know very little about the customs, lifestyle, outlook, language or religion of these individual tribes. Some had leaders who actively traded with the Mediterranean world, exchanging locally-produced cattle, grain, metal and slaves for wine, olive oil and exotic forms of glassware and pottery. Others seem to have actively opposed any kind of Roman influence.

The Roman Empire, which in the early 1st century AD stretched from Spain to Syria, was a resource-hungry superstate and Britain, on its north-western frontier, was a hugely attractive target. This was a land rich in metals (especially iron, tin, lead and gold), cattle and grain. Unfortunately for Rome, Britain lay beyond the civilised world, on the other side of ‘the Ocean’. Just getting there seemed a risky endeavour – especially if, as many Romans believed, the place was full of monsters and barbarians.

Roman CampJulius Caesar had led two expeditions to southern Britain in 55 and 54 BC and, although these ultimately came to nothing, he had been celebrated in Rome as a hero simply for daring to cross the sea. Caesar’s heirs meddled constantly in British politics, trying to bring order to the frontier-land by helping to resolve disputed royal successions and organising lucrative trade deals. By the time Claudius came to power in AD 41, several British aristocrats had formed alliances with Rome, visiting the city in person to pay their respects and leave offerings to the Roman gods. When the political situation in southern Britain became unstable, with warring tribes threatening both trade and the wider peace, Claudius deployed boots on the ground. The fact that he needed to draw public attention away from difficult issues at home, whilst simultaneously hoping to outdo the military achievements of the great Julius Caesar, probably helped to spur this on.

Very little is known about the actual invasion, as no contemporary record survives. The popular view today is that four legions together with auxiliary support, totalling between 30-40,000 soldiers, landed on the Kent coast and fought their way inland. But there is no real archaeological or historical evidence to support this, and the landing point remains the subject of speculation.

What we do know is that the ‘invasion’ appears to have been undertaken in two distinct phases. The first, led by senator Aulus Plautius, was probably a peace-keeping mission, which saw Plautius operating with a small force in order to negotiate a truce between the various British factions whilst hoping to restore certain British refugee monarchs to power. Not all the tribes were opposed to Rome in AD 43 and many leaders would have seen the emperor and his advisors as friends. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, negotiations broke down leaving the emperor no choice to trigger a second phase of the invasion, some months later. This was a calculated display of force, designed to shock and awe enemy elements into submission. Claudius himself led the reinforcements, bringing with him a number of war elephants (he intended to arrive in style). Shortly after, Roman troops marched into Camulodunum (Colchester), the centre of native resistance, and took the formal surrender of 11 British leaders.

PlautiusSome tribes, like the Trinovantes – based around what is now Colchester – seem to have actively resisted the advance of the Roman legions whilst others, such as the Atrebates (of Berkshire), supported the newcomers and were subsequently very well rewarded. The native town of Camulodunum (Colchester) was subjugated by the Roman military and had a legionary fortress built directly over it.  Elsewhere, the Trinovantes were treated as a conquered people whilst the Catuvellauni tribe, who had helped the Romans, were awarded special status in the province and had a brand-new town, full of civic amenities, built for them at Verulamium (St Albans). Having lost the first stage of the war, the British resistance leader Caratacus fled west, stirring up tribes in what is now Wales against Rome. Eventually Caratacus was betrayed by the pro-Roman queen Cartimandua, and handed over to the emperor Claudius in chains.

Aulus Plautius was probably nothing like the battle-hardened veteran depicted in the TV series (by tough-talking Mancunian, David Morrissey), being more of a capable and reliable member of Rome’s ruling senatorial class. Although Plautius would have had some experience in the army, he was ultimately a career politician (a safe pair hands) and, for military advice, would have relied on the more experienced legionary officers under his command.

AntediaUnlike the male-dominated world of Rome, ancient British society was more egalitarian with both men and women wielding political and military power. We know very little about the command structure of British tribal armies opposing Rome during the invasion. Although the names of some leaders survive on Celtic coins and in the pages of Roman writers and historians, there is, unfortunately, no historical evidence (yet) for the female war leaders Antedia and Kerra (played by Zoë Wanamaker and Kelly Reilly in the TV series).

A king called Antedios certainly seems to have ruled in Norfolk just prior to the invasion whilst the leader of the British resistance was a king called Caratacus (who later became target number one for the Roman government). There were certainly strong and militarily capable women within the British tribal armies – this was a point often used by Roman generals in an attempt to ridicule their foe. Later, in the AD 60s, Queens Cartimandua of the Brigantes (in Yorkshire) and Boudicca of the Iceni (in Norfolk) emerge. Both, however, were, at least during the early stages of the invasion, firm supporters of Rome, seeing the obvious benefits of siding with a Mediterranean superpower.

VeranIn popular culture, the druids are usually seen as being integral to Celtic society: part mystical, religious teachers and part hard-line resistance leaders, constantly stirring up trouble for Rome. The problem is that we really have very little evidence for their existence in Britain. In Gaul (France), Julius Caesar had noted their presence in the mid-50s BC, but there is only one definite reference to them in the British Isles, on the island of Anglesey where, so the Roman writer Tacitus tells us, they were committing acts of human sacrifice in AD 60. Modern writers and historians tend to view druids as part of an all-encompassing religion (druidism) and, thanks to fictional accounts (most notably in the stories of Asterix the Gaul) suggest that every tribe would have had one: a prehistoric equivalent, perhaps, of a parish priest or holy man. The trouble is, as plausible as this theory may appear, there is absolutely no evidence for this.

 

Article Source: www.historyextra.com

Britannia Publicity photos by Sky UK Ltd.

 

Heartwarming Christmas Anthology

I’m thrilled and honoured to have my holiday story, El Dorado, featured in this soon-to-be bestseller!  Holiday Heartwarmers came together after a shout-out to authors from around the World in a FaceBook Author Group, and the fifteen ‘best’ stories, set at Christmas time, were selected by Editor, Sunanda Chatterjee.

holiday-heartwarmers-cover

Immerse yourself in this eclectic collection of short stories featuring authors from around the world. Travel to different places with them as they enjoy an unexpected journey back home to reunite with family and take a chartered flight to the North Pole. Shiver with the cold and anxiety as their loved ones get stranded in a snow storm in Alaska or share the amazement of gazing at the spectacular views during a hike to Machu Picchu. Explore the Indian subcontinent by train, share an unforgettable vacation in Cyprus or venture into Afghanistan in the midst of war.

Holidays are a time of sharing and can take many forms. These stories explore the issues of family dynamics, reflections on life, and finding the true meaning of love and acceptance. They also show that sometimes, it is just as important to let go of old feelings and old memories.

This collection of short stories is sure to warm your heart and light the spirit of Christmas

Halloween… the Day of the Dead

To celebrate Halloween I’ve discounted my spooky thriller, Devil Gate Dawn, to just 99p/99c.  if you download, please message me and I’ll send you a FREE pdf copy of my short story, ‘Halloween 50BC’.

http://hyperurl.co/ii7gpl

halloween-50bc-cover

Halloween History

Straddling the line between autumn and winter, plenty and paucity, life and death, Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition. It is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Sah-wen, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts.

In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1st and 2nd  as a time to honour all saints and martyrs; the twin holidays, All Saints’ Day, followed by All Souls Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Sah-wen. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween.

Over time, Halloween evolved into a secular, community-based event characterised by child-friendly activities such as trick-or-treating. In a number of countries around the world, as the days grow shorter and the nights get colder, people continue to usher in the winter season with gatherings, costumes and sweet treats.

Bert Kwok Remembered

Sad news this morning (25/05/2016).  British born actor, Bert Kwok, has died, aged 85. He was perhaps best known for his role of Cato, man-servant of bungling Inspector Clouseau, played by Peter Sellers, in half a dozen Pink Panther films.

Interviewing Bert Kwok at Granada TV0002Bert was the subject of my first celebrity interview way back in 1980 when I was a teenage trainee reporter for a Liverpool news magazine, the Woolton Mercury.  Yes, that’s me, aged 18, with a mass of bushy hair, towering over the diminutive Bert.  I had gone to spend a day at Granada TV’s studio in Liverpool to write a feature article for my series on Merseyside media, and was shocked to be invited by presented Shelly Rhodes to appear as a studio guest on that Friday afternoon’s arts and current affairs programme, Live from Two.  The main guest that day was Bert Kwok.

I have a copy of my piece in my scrapbook, and it tells me that that day’s show had a Chinese theme, with Bert, Chinese dancers, a martial arts display and the author of a book on China (no details recorded, due, no doubt to my young and undeveloped journalism skills, mixed with star-struck awe).  Imagine a fidgety 18-year-old  sitting next to the urbane and articulate Bert, regaling the ‘live’ Granada TV audience about his six Pink Panther and two James Bond movies… “and also on today’s programme we have a school-leaver in his first job as a trainee reporter…”

Bert shrugged-off my question about how he felt at being pigeon-holed as a Chinese/Japanese support actor in so many films and TV series (including the excellent Tenko).  He was happy to have had such a long career doing what he loved – acting.  He certainly leaves a tangible, accomplished and highly entertaining legacy behind.

Bert told me he had an affinity with the North West, having been born in Warrington.  He was taken to China by his parents to complete his schooling, then onto the USA to study politics and economics, before returning to the UK to start acting.  His big break came in 1964 when he passed an audition with director Blake Edwards for the part of Cato Fong in the first Pink Panther film.  Appearances in Dr. Who, the Avengers and Last of the Summer Wine, further served to embed him as one of our great British actors, and he received recognition for this with an OBE in 2011.  Incredibly, his first film part was in the classic 1958 film, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, opposite Ingrid Bergman and Kurt Jurgens.  What an impressive body of work.  Rest in Peace, actor Bert Kwok.