Saturday, November 5, 2016
NULL-MYTHS: TIMESPIRITS 1-8 (1984)
I don't imagine a feature as quirky as this one ever could have been a resounding commercial success in any era. In any case, it register with me as a null-myth because writer Steve Perry played his idea a little too quirkily.
The basic concept smacks not a little of the "Doctor Who" teleseries, but with two Native Americans filling in the role of the know-it-all savant and his befuddled assistant, In addition, though the art by Tom Yeates is excellent in its painterly Harold Foster style-- perhaps looking forward to the day when Yeates would be drawing Foster's famed creation PRINCE VALIANT-- it's also rather static at times, and doesn't contribute to audience investment in the characters.
The first issue establishes the basic setup. In pre-Revolutionary America, the native tribes of the eastern coast are just beginning to have serious run-ins with the white settlers. Doot, a young man of the Wawenoc tribe, tries to befriend one of the whites, but his brother is devoted to war. The two of them meet a strange fellow from another tribe, "Cusick of the Tuscarora," who claims that he travels through time, peddling arcane knowledge to those who can pay for it. He sells such knowledge to Doot's brother, and the brother becomes a warlike spirit. Doot doesn't buy anything, but when Cusick discovers that the young man has great spiritual potency, he gives him a freebie, making it possible for Doot to exorcise his brother. After that inauspicious beginning, Cusick invites Doot to join him in traipsing through time, and off they go, having various peripatetic adventures with dinosaurs, floods, and Jimi Hendrix.
Perry's scripts are admirable in that they don't follow the then-reigning Marvel tendency to over-explain everything, but he plays things a little too close to the vest regarding Cusick's origins and his goals. The result is that some readers probably didn't get too invested in the characters, despite the sumptuous art.
Additionally, the stories are a little too ironic for their own good. In one story the two Timespirits journey to an ancient Celtic civilization. There the Timespirits encounter a demonic flood-beast called the "Spurtyn Duyvil" (a pun on the Bronx neighborhood Spuyten Duyvil) and an inept magician named "Tubal Carrin" (a pun on the Old Testament figure Tubal Cain).
As someone heavily invested in myth-symbolism, I don't mind a little goofiness, like the first reference. But damn it, if an author invokes a famous myth-name like Tubal Cain, he ought to be willing to do something with it-- and Perry doesn't. I suspect that he just thought the name sounded neat. Most of the Timespirits' adventures have this offhand quality to them: they lack the conviction to make good adventure (though technically that's the *mythos* the series best fits) and they're not funny enough to provide good comedy.
At best TIMESPIRITS was an interesting misfire, in addition to being one of the few serials from Marvel's EPIC imprint that didn't sound just like the regular Marvel titles.