A Future Unlike Any Other: Image’s New Prophet
There’s something special about us, isn’t there?
No, I don’t mean comic nerds – sorry to offend guys, but in the grand scheme, we’re no more exceptional than Trekkies, furries, or people who dress like Neo and Trinity. Don’t misunderstand, I love my people; but we’re all just different facets of the same twenty-sided die.
The fact that you all know what a twenty-sided die is simply reinforces my point, doesn’t it?
So no, I’m not talking about the little factions we attach ourselves to. I’m talking about the big, collective Us: the human race. We are, as far as we can tell, the most exceptional creature ever.
But then, dogs are pretty exceptional, what with the super-noses and crazy hearing. Cats, too – they can see in the freakin’ dark! And ants can lift fifty times their own weight (putting into account, of course, that they weigh the same as a grain of sand, give or take a few micrograms). Flies can fly, spiders can weave, monkeys have tails stronger than our biceps and feet with opposable thumbs, for shit’s sake.
And yet, despite all that remarkable diversity, we’re at the top of the food chain.
Beyond that, we’re one of the youngest species around. While fish have had billions of years to evolve, and lizards a few hundred million, we’ve been able to conquer every habitat on the planet, from the Matterhorn to the Sahara to the Amazon. Not only have we conquered them, but we’ve set up shop; every single piece of dirt on Earth has some tribe or village or garbage dump of ours sitting on it, something to mark the proof that we’ve been there – and all of this in seven short millennia.
If you ask me, that’s pretty damn impressive.
But for me, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Seven thousand years have brought us from cave to skyscraper, stone spear and cuneiform to rocketship and World Wide Web … and we’re only picking up steam from the looks of things – that is, if we don’t completely destroy our habitat in the process.
But that’s a conversation for another time (like next week, perhaps…).
The point I’m getting at is this: if you look at how far we’ve come in a proverbial eyeblink of Earth’s history, imagine what another eyeblink will bring us. If this is seven thousand years of effort and – assuming Kurzweil got a few things right – progress is exponentially increasing, think about seven thousand years from now.
Just close your eyes for a second – wait! Not yet! Geez, you’re impatient – and think about humanity in the year 9014.
Would we be in the Solar System? Would we even be on Earth anymore?
Would we remember where we came from?
Now, for the sake of making it simple, let’s bring it to around the year 10,000, since I like nice, round numbers. What could we have achieved? Would we be explorers, like Roddenberry first envisioned? Would we be in the midst of civil war, as Lucas foretold? Would we be caught in the eternal battle against the dread Xenu, freed from our weak mortal shells and finally able to realize our true thetan potential in –
Nope. Lick my balls, Hubbard.
The fact is, our imagination is nothing compared to the possibilities of reality. The options that will be presented to our civilization tomorrow are nearly endless; if you multiply those options by … ummm, however many days there are between now and the year 10,000…
Anyway, you get my drift.
I know what you’re thinking: “Dude, you were talking about high school a week ago. This is not a segue.”
That is true. It’s also true that I have some pretty serious ADD going on. But there is, surprisingly, a point to my verbal diarrhea.
Last week, I talked a little about the Socratic mind; the mind free of preconceptions, accepting of all possibilities, fully prepared to accept that it has no clue what’s going on (kind of like you are right now, I assume). That, my friends, is where the imagination resides. That is the place where our minds can explore the future without limitations, where we can boldly go, or use the Force, or shoot down John Travolta‘s intergalactic warship.
It’s the place ol’ Stan and Jack were visiting when they imagined four men, one girl and a bald guy who continue to protect a world that fears and hates them, where a radioactive spider bit an unsuspecting dork during a high school field trip. It’s where Bob Kane pulled the iconic batsuit into being, and Bill Finger molded him into the world’s greatest (and silliest-looking) detective.
It’s also the place where our fears hide, lying in wait for us to open the wrong door; it’s the home of Macfarlane’s Venom and Spawn, the realm of Silvestri’s Darkness and Moore’s Swamp Thing.
It’s the only place where we can turn the mirror on ourselves and, for good or ill, ask: what could we become?
In our imagination, we decide our future; we become the prophets of our destiny.
This, my friends, is Brandon Graham and Simon Roy’s home, and in their hyper-vivid imagination, they’ve birthed their own Prophet.
well-intentioned, hard-working writers and artists who were tired of having their creative genius exploited by big business. See, in those days, the creations of a writer or artist were not their property – in fact, this is still the case with Marvel and DC today. The people who make all of it happen get paid per page or per issue, but they get no piece of merchandise or film sales, even if they created the character.
It’s no wonder they only introduce a new character every year or two…
Anyway, these rightfully frustrated creative minds had enough of being pushed to the backburner and formed their own comic collective, a place where all creations were the sole property of the creator.
This is where Spawn, Witchblade, Kick-Ass, and various other iconic characters have found their home over the years – but that would be at a later time. The flagship comic of Image’s infancy was a new superhero team created by writer Rob Liefeld (New Mutants, X-Force). It was called Youngblood, and it featured a little-known, largely unimportant character called John Prophet.
The early Prophet was, in my opinion, a dud, as was the entire Youngblood team. It definitely had potential, but it was too much of the same old shit at the time, and with powerhouses like the X-Men and Justice League cramming the shelves, there was simply no place for a slight deviation from the same formula. The audience was still too young, the industry pros too prolific, the publishing too expensive to continue something like Youngblood, and the storyline was scrapped.
Not to be outdone, Liefeld refused to lay John Prophet to rest and in 1993 he created a monthly featuring the character in his own self-titled series. Sadly, it didn’t even make it a year before it fizzled. A second attempt was made in ’95, written by Chuck Dixon of Punisher and Batman fame, but it lasted even less time – after eight issues, the character was scrapped, seemingly for good.
Then, in 2012, along came Brandon Graham and Simon Roy. And I must say, thank God they did, because what they’ve done with Prophet re-invents the re-invention.
The story begins ten thousand years after the end of Prophet #20, and the universe is a vastly different place. The story carries on with connections to its past, but
reading back-issues is completely unnecessary in my mind. I read the entire thing without knowing anything about the old Prophet, and it was after I’d finished the first ten issues that I realized I’d started with issue #21. The same old characters have returned, the same enemies are unearthed, old histories come back to haunt Old Man Prophet, but without prior knowledge, it’s as if you’re discovering the world, as Prophet is, for the first time.
To be honest, it’s not Prophet that makes the story – it’s Graham and Roy’s vision of the future and the various artists who populate it that got my attention. Alien species abound: sentient plants walk alongside lizard-men and royal slug creatures. Several issues are spent following a caravan of creatures that are biologically grafted to each other a la Human Centipede, where certain minerals are broken down in their bodies over time into a precious substance that the caravan sells for profit. Crystalline beings commune with living ships to create entirely new forms of life, things I’ve never before considered possible.
It’s the human imagination at its finest.
But beyond that, there is a vision of humanity’s future that sends shivers down my spine. You see, over ten thousand years, human genetics have reached a point where the entire human race is derived from one pool: John Prophet himself. Through genetic manipulation and inter-species splicing, a multiplicity of different Prophets, each with their own unique skill set, have been created, and the Human Empire, a dark, twisted managerie of our basest flaws – namely conquest, subjugation and genocide – have seeded worlds upon worlds with pre-programmed Prophets. These sleeper cells have been waiting for their moment to awaken from their eons-long slumber, tasked with returning the now-ancient Empire to its former glory.
And that time has finally come…
The only thing standing in their way is Old Man Prophet – the first Prophet, the only one who remembers how it all began – and his band of heroes, a group comprised of new friends and old Youngbloods who have been re-invented to face their new enemy.
Now, normally I’m not too keen on remakes; frankly, that’s why I generally stick to Image for my comics, since it’s fresh and new every time. But Graham and Roy haven’t remade anything here. They’ve taken an old, stale idea and turned it on its head, made it into something that is both greater and more frightening than Liefeld’s original concept had been.
Perhaps the original Youngbloods was ahead of its time. Perhaps Prophet was waiting for the right moment, waiting for its own future to come to pass, so to speak. No matter the case, it goes without saying that the new Prophet has seen a very different future, a future that only the human imagination could conceive, where this exceptional creature that we call the human has achieved the heights of greatness – and lost its own humanity in the process. It’s a future that, while almost inconceivable, is so close to the possible truth that it draws you undeniably into it, carrying you along through Graham and Roy’s imaginary universe as if it could truly exist.
If this is the future, I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Until next week,
Posted on January 12, 2014, in Image Comics, Prophet and tagged Bill Finger, Bob Kane, Brandon Graham, Darkness, Earth, History, Image Comics, John Travolta, New Mutants, Rob Liefeld, Sahara, Stan, Swamp Thing, World Wide Web, Youngblood. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.