Recent Comic-Related Articles for CBR

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Hey guys!

As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been rather quite for a while, but don’t worry – I’m still here! Just been very busy writing for a variety of companies including CBR, a popular geeky news, commentary and community site.

If you’re into that sort of thing, why not check out some of my articles? I’ve listed a few below…

Men of Steel: 15 Superheroes That Are Metal AF

Who’s going to win gold in this battle of the metalheads?

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Weak Sauce: The 15 Lamest Superhero Weaknesses

These heroes may be super, but their weaknesses sure aren’t…

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Watchmen: 15 Most Shocking Moments

Which classic scenes blew you away?

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Rest in Pieces: The Superheroes We Lost in 2016

2016 was a year that took many of our icons away from us.

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Marvel Magic: The 15 Most Arcane Artefacts In The Universe

These Marvel-ous items are some of the most powerful in the 616.

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15 Things We Want To See In The Fantastic Beasts Sequels

Accio sequels! Here’s 15 things we want to see in the next “Fantastic Beasts” films…

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More Than Able: 15 Disabled Superheroes Who Inspire Us

These comic book heroes overcome more challenges than most.

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Rule 63: 15 of the Best (and Worst) Comic Book Genderbends

Was your favourite superhero ever a superheroine?

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15 Superheroes Who Make Us Uncomfortable

Superheroes? Sure. Super-skeazy? Definitely.

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Yoink! 20 Blatant Comic Book Rip-Offs

These comic book copycats will make you do a double take!

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As ever, let me know what you think in the comments! 🙂

5 Literary Villains That Would Make a Better President Than Donald Trump

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On November 8, 2016, the fate of America – and perhaps the world – will be decided in what is possibly the most important, and least appealing, Presidential vote in our lifetimes. Although Hilary Clinton is proving to be one of the least popular candidates ever (and with good reason), it’s fair to say that, when compared with Donald J. Trump, she is undoubtedly the lesser of two evils.

To make my point, I’ve selected 5 of the most despicable literary villains that I can think of and have argued that every single one of them would make a better President than Donald Trump.

1. Petyr Baelish, from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series and HBO’s Game of Thrones 

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Why He Would Make a Better President than Trump:

Petyr Baelish, better known as ‘Littlefinger’, is one of the craftiest and most calculating characters in Westeros. However, unlike Trump, he knows how to talk to people and get them to do what he wants. Plus, he managed to do wonders for Kings Landing’s economy while he was Master of Coin (even if most of the growth came from his brothels!). He might be a truly terrible human being with a fondness for throwing people out of the Moon Door, but you know he’s bound to come out on top in the political arena, even if he can’t wield a sword to save his life.

2. Count Dracula, from Dracula by Bram Stoker

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Why He Would Make a Better President than Trump:

Like Trump, he’s mocked for his strange appearance and probably shouldn’t spend any more time in the sun, but unlike Trump, Dracula’s actually not such a bad guy: he’s intelligent, well-cultured, and has managed not to lose his fortune despite being alive for centuries. Plus, he treats his foreign guests with respect and offers them hospitality. He just likes his meat on the rare side is all!

3. Dolores Umbridge, from J.K. Rowling’s (and Warner Bros.’) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

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Why She Would Make a Better President than Trump:

Even though she corrupted wizarding law to persecute innocent Muggle-borns, took clear pleasure in torturing children and spent an entire year not teaching her students Defence Against the Dark Arts, she at least had the good manners to cough before interrupting someone.

4. Coriolanus Snow, from Suzanne Collins’ (and Lionsgate’s) Hunger Games trilogy

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Why He Would Make a Better President than Trump:

Being prepared to drink poison to ensure the downfall of your enemies isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, but it does at least show commitment. Plus, it’s important to point out that Snow actually knows how to run a country, or at least Panem… plus he’s media-savvy (I mean, he managed to turn the ritual slaughter of his citizens into a popular TV franchise, and that takes skill) and has excellent taste in flowers.

5. Satan, from Paradise Lost by John Milton

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Why He Would Make a Better President than Trump:

…because he’s so smooth he made Jesus look bad. If you’re going to lure America into evil, you’d better have a more convincing argument than “we need to start winning again!”

Can you think of any literary villains you’d rather see in the Oval Office than the Orange Anomaly? Let me know in the comments below!

(Images: HBO, Politico, WB Studios, Lionsgate, Wikipedia)

Unlocking the Secrets of Doctor Strange: 6 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About the New Kid on the MCU Block

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Doctor Strange is set to hit the screens on November 5 after an excruciating wait, and I for one cannot wait to see Marvel’s latest addition to their ever-expanding cinematic universe.

If you want to brush up on your comic book history before seeing the movie, look no further. Here are 6 facts about everyone’s favourite scarlet-caped magic man:

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This Isn’t Doctor Strange’s First Movie

His first outing was in a made-for-TV movie that aired on CBS back in 1978. The network had high hopes for the DS franchise and were already planning to use the film as the jumping-off point for a weekly 1-hour TV series by the time it aired. However, despite its Incredible Hulk TV show being relatively successful, CBS soon found out that the Doctor Strange TV movie was a dud ratings-wise and scrapped their plans for a series soon afterwards. Doctor Strange also starred in his own animated feature film in 2007, called Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme.

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Benedict Cumberbatch Wasn’t the First Choice (or the Third!) to Play the Lead This Time Around

Given how comfortable he looks in recent trailers wearing that kick-ass red cape, you’d be forgiven for thinking everyone’s favourite British crumpet was the first and only choice to portray DS on the big screen… but you’d be wrong. The truth is that the producers were set on getting Joaquin Phoenix to play the iconic part, so much so that they spent 3 months negotiating with his agents to get him on board. After the deal fell through due to a money dispute, the producers then approached Johnny Depp and Jared Leto, both of whom turned it down. The uncertainty about Cumberbatch apparently stems from the producers’ worry that he’s not a big enough star to play the lead in a Marvel blockbuster. Try telling that to the Cumberb*tches!

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Doctor Strange Isn’t His Original Name

Stan Lee, the mastermind behind many of Marvel’s most successful comics, revealed in a fan letter back in 1963 that the Sorcerer Supreme was originally called Mr. Strange. Amid concerns that Mr. Strange might be confused with Mr. Fantastic from the Fantastic Four franchise, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko decided to change the character’s name at the last minute. However, that wasn’t the end of the problem, as The Amazing Spider-Man comics had an issue featuring a mad scientist called Dr. Strange. In order to distinguish Doctor Strange from his villainous namesake, Lee and Ditko decided to spell the word ‘Doctor’ in full instead of using the traditional abbreviation.

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His Character is Inspired by a 1930s Radio Magician

Stan Lee and Steve Ditko shared a childhood fondness for a 1930s radio program, Chandu the Magician, which featured a sorcerer with the powers of teleport, astral projection and general mind trickery that was hell-bent on conquering the evils that threatened humankind. Sound familiar? Yep, you guessed it, Doctor Strange’s abilities, motivation and black magic mystique are all inspired by that very same magician.

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He is Not a Fully-Fledged Avenger

While Doctor Strange joined the New Avengers back in 2008, and has fought alongside them on numerous occasions (including in the Avengers Vs. X-Men comic book story arc), he has never been a member of the core Avengers team. The closest he has come to being in the inner circle is his involvement with the Illuminati, a group of super-powered intellectual elites working behind the scenes to protect humanity from major threats – this group included Iron Man, Professor X and Mr. Fantastic, so it was basically a Mad Scientists’ Tea Party (only with more fighting and less patisserie). There’s still a good chance he might show up in 1 or 2 of the Avengers movies though.

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…But He’s a Founding Member of The Defenders

Doctor Strange might never have been an Avenger, but that doesn’t mean he always operates solo. In fact, Doctor Strange is 1 of 4 founding members of The Defenders (the other 3 being the Hulk, the Silver Surfer and Namor the Sub-Mariner), a group that now counts Nighthawk, Hellcat, Luke Cage and Beast amongst its ranks. The Defenders differ from the Avengers in that they are not a “team” per se – it’s more accurate to say they’re a bunch of super-people who come together as and when needed to protect the Earth from the latest deadly threat. With crossovers happening all over the MCU, there’s a chance some of these other characters might make it to the big screen as part of the ongoing franchise.  

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If you know any other weird and wonderful facts about Doctor Strange, why not share them in the comments below? 

(Images: CBS, Marvel, Wikipedia)

So Who’s It Gonna Be? The 11 Contenders to Meet Lucille Head-On in Tonight’s Walking Dead Episode

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After waiting almost half a year to find out who Negan’s victim is going to be after the Season 6 finale left us on the most frustrating cliff-hanger ever, fans of The Walking Dead will finally get some answers, as AMC air the Season 7 premiere on Sunday, October 23.

If you need a recap of all the people potentially about to meet a sticky and rather prickly end, look no further. Here are the 11 contenders for a one-on-one with Lucille:

Glenn

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Why He’s a Contender:

It’s supposed to be him in the comic books… which means everyone’s convinced it won’t actually be him because it’s just too damn obvious. Think about it – it’s the perfect double bluff. Plus, he was in the van, meaning those first-person POV shots might be from his perspective.

Why He Might Be Safe:

The show’s creators went to an awful lot of trouble in Season 6 to save Glenn from almost certain death, and it would be odd if they did all that just to finish him off half a season later.

Michonne

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Why She’s a Contender:

Michonne and Rick have just started doing the dirty and they’re all dopey-happy in love. She’s even making a pretty good mother-substitute for Carl. Most people in the TWD Universe don’t stay happy for long. Rick and Carl would both be devastated – it would be a clever move by Negan to crush Rick with grief and cloud his judgment. Plus, she was 1 of 3 people in the van in those intriguing first-person POV shots, suggesting she might be in the firing line.

Why She Might Be Safe:

In the comics, Michonne survives this encounter with Negan and goes on to play an important part in the Alexandria story arc. Killing her off at this early stage makes it a lot more difficult to stay in sync with the comics (although another strong female character could step up to take her place).

Daryl

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Why He’s a Contender:

Norman Reedus’ appearance on The Talking Dead immediately following the Season 6 finale got fans worried, as actors often do this once their on-screen counterpart has been offed. Also, the popularity of Ride with Norman Reedus (also on AMC) might lead to everyone’s favourite hick hanging up his crossbow for good in search of greener pastures. Finally, he was in the van with Glenn and Michonne, and those first-person POV shots suggest that puts him directly in harm’s way.

Why He Might Be Safe:

WE WILL RIOT.

Maggie

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Why She’s a Contender:

If the creators have gone ahead and substituted Glenn for someone else, there could be no more poignant choice than Maggie. Loved by everyone, she’s a survivor whose pregnancy makes her inherently vulnerable to Negan’s special brand of senseless, all-out psychotic attacks. The group would be too shocked to resist whatever else Negan’s got in store, or could lose it completely.

Why She Might Be Safe:

She’s sick… and PREGNANT. The show has given us some pretty gruesome deaths in the past, but I find it hard to believe that they’re going to stoop so low as to beat someone in Maggie’s condition to death. It would be the most shocking exit so far bar none.

Abraham

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Why He’s a Contender:

His refusal to cower at Negan’s feet like the others in the Season 6 finale was ballsy, but it might just be what gets him killed. I get the feeling Negan isn’t going to let someone like that stick around for long. Plus, he’s just gotten all zen about his place in the world and has even started a little something with Sasha (much to Rosita’s dismay). Quashing happiness is what TWD does best.

Why He Might Be Safe:

Anyone familiar with the comics will know that Abraham was due to get bumped off mid-way through Season 6, but in the end, it was Denise who ended up with an arrow through the eyeball. It’s possible that the show’s creators have something else in mind for ol’ Abe, in which case he might be safe from Negan (for now, at least).

Carl

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Why He’s a Contender:

The show’s creators are no stranger to violence against children – I mean, who could forget Carol’s now-iconic “look at the flowers” scene with Lizzie? – and Carl’s far from being a fan favourite. It would have a sizeable impact upon the group and no-one would have to listen to Rick scream “CAAARRRRL!!!” anymore. Everyone wins.

Why He Might Be Safe:

In the Season 6 finale, Negan can be heard saying directly before he starts smashing that “if anybody says anything, cut the boy’s other eye out and feed it to his father.” Rather an odd statement if Carl’s about to go under the bat.

Rick

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Why He’s a Contender:

He’s been the leader of the group pretty much since the start – Negan might choose him purely for that reason. Disorganised people are a hell of a lot easier to subjugate.

Why He Might Be Safe:

Seriously, as if they’re gonna kill off Rick!!!

Eugene

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Why He’s a Contender:

Eugene’s been a bit gung-ho lately, so there’s a chance that the show might decide to take him out, just as he’s adapting to the Hell that is Walker-World.

Why He Might Be Safe:

This change in the attitude could just as easily be the start of something wonderful: Eugene finally using his smarts to give the group a strategic advantage in future tussles. As of yet, he’s been hiding behind everyone else so it’d be nice to see his character become something more.

Rosita

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Why She’s a Contender:

Now that Abraham’s walked out on her for Sasha, she’s bound to do the whole gloomy ex thing – it might be the show creators have decided to avoid that completely in the most brutal way possible. Plus, it would make Abraham feel really bad.

Why She Might Be Safe:

Her death probably wouldn’t have as big of an impact on the whole group as some of the other choices in this list. She’s cool and everything, but she’s easily replaceable, and I think the sheer genericity of her character might save her from Negan’s bat.

Sasha

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Why She’s a Contender:

She’s just started getting cosy with Abraham, and as I keep saying, happiness is lethal in TWD. Plus, her getting killed now would push the ginger warrior right over the edge.

Why She Might Be Safe:

Sasha had that whole ‘finding the will to live again’ thing going on throughout Season 5, which would be little more than filler if they kill her off now. She could be the next female resident bad-ass, given half the chance.

Aaron

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Why He’s a Contender:

If AMC decide to take the easy way out, killing Aaron off could serve as a way to demonstrate what a psychotic lunatic Negan is without actually damaging the core dynamics of the group.

Why He Might Be Safe:

Let’s face it – no-one really gives a crap about Aaron yet, including the other characters. If he’s chosen as Negan’s victim, it’s going to be one almighty anti-climax.

So, who do you think it’s going to be? Vote below!

 

 

Now, I’m going to put forward a little theory of my own: not one, but two, of Rick’s gang are going to feel the brunt of Negan’s barbed-wire baseball bat, Lucille – and there’s a very good reason why I think so.

Much of the fanbase for the show are also familiar with the comic books, meaning pretty much everyone has been waiting for Negan to show up and beat one of our favourite characters to death (y’know, like you do). The script-writers have swapped deaths and character arcs around before – for instance, when Hershel ended up getting his head chopped off by the Governor in Tyreese’s place – so simply subbing Glenn with someone else doesn’t justify the cliff-hanger. They would have had much more impact with a close-up shot, gory as hell, and ended on that.

Unless there’s a hidden twist set to shock everyone tuning in for Season 7.

The audience automatically assumes that the first-person POV shot that closes the Season 6 finale, and every one that comes before it (the emergence from the van, for instance), is from the POV of the same person. However, there’s nothing to confirm that’s actually true… and that’s the beauty of the twist.

I think someone who wasn’t in the van (i.e. not Daryl, Michonne or Glenn) will get up close and personal with Lucille first, because that throws off all theories that the POV shots confirm that they’re in the firing line. My guess is Abraham – he’s the only one who doesn’t cower to Negan and I think his death would really drive home the fact that resistance is not an option.

Then in the immediate aftermath, when we think everyone else is safe, someone else will also get killed – if not beaten to death, then killed in some other gruesome way. Glenn is my guess.

We’ll just have to wait until later to see if I’m right.

(Images: AMC)

The Darker Side of Harry Potter: 7 Things You Might Have Missed as a Kid

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On the face of it, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is a charming, quintessentially British tale of magic and friendship meant for kids. However, the books have become highly popular amongst adult readers, and for very good reason. Underneath the owls and wands and talking letters, there lies a world which is not that different from our own… meaning it has its kinks and its darkness. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of 7 of the darker elements of Harry Potter you may not have picked up on as a kid. Enjoy!

(Note: this post is obviously full of ***spoilers***)

 

 

1. Dolores Umbridge was sexually assaulted by centaurs

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In The Order of the Phoenix, after she goes into the Forbidden Forest with Harry and Hermione to find Dumbledore’s make-believe “weapon,” Umbridge manages to aggravate the smartest and most deadly creatures in the forest – the centaurs – and ends up being carried off by the herd. The next time we see her, she is in the hospital wing, described as being traumatised (though physically unhurt) with a number of “twigs in her hair.” So what happened to Umbridge?

One need only look to Greek mythology to find the answer. According to legend, centaurs had a nasty habit of abducting women, dragging them into the forest, and raping them repeatedly. Given J.K. Rowling’s familiarity with the Greeks, it’s extremely likely that she knew this and was alluding to it in her own work. Sort of puts Ron torturing her with clip-clopping noises into a new light, doesn’t it?

 

2. Albus Dumbledore had a thing for bad boys

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Well, one bad boy in particular, actually – the notorious Gellert Grindelwald. Although Dumbledore confesses later in The Deathly Hallows that he knew Grindelwald’s intentions were not as well-meaning as his own, he failed to acknowledge this fact to himself until it was much too late… and it cost him the life of his sister. Now, we all know that Dumbledore is utterly brilliant even as a teenager, and so his wilful blindness really can’t be justified… unless there was a good reason for the young Albus to see Gellert as far more than he really was. Teenage hormones, maybe? An out-of-control crush?

Suddenly all those secret conversations and plans for the future as a team and sending notes in the middle of the night make a lot more sense, as does Dumbledore’s reluctance to face him later in life – he was the first boy he ever loved, and now he was going to have to kill him, or be killed by him. Who wouldn’t delay in those circumstances?

If you’re not convinced, I hate to be the one to tell you, but J.K. Rowling has explicitly stated on Pottermore that it’s 100% true – the announcement came shortly after she confirmed Dumbledore’s homosexuality.

 

3. Severus Snape really wished Neville was dead

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…but not because he was rubbish at Potions. Snape is one of the very few people that knows Neville could have been the Chosen One – it was Severus, after all, who overheard the beginning of the prophecy (the bit where it still could have been Harry or Neville, as both were born at the end of July to parents that had thrice defied Voldemort, etc. etc. etc.).

Snape would much rather that it had been Neville and his parents that were brutally murdered, as then Lily would still be alive (happily married to another man, yes, but alive nonetheless). Harry’s existence might be a painful reminder that his childhood love chose someone else, but Neville? Each breath he takes is one that Lily should be taking instead (in his mind at least), which makes him a personal affront to Snape. Plus, there was that whole dressing-Boggart-Snape-in-drag thing. That probably didn’t help.

Poor Neville – he never knows how close he became to being Voldy chow, or that his good fortune is the primary reason Snape hates him so much!

4. Merope Gaunt was guilty of rape

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Sorry to burst the bubble but a love potion is not romantic, not in the slightest. You’re removing consent from the equation and that can only mean one thing: any sex you have is not “making love,” it’s flat-out rape.

Everyone always hates on Tom Riddle for leaving Merope despite the fact that she was pregnant with his kid (including Voldemort, who killed him for it), but who wouldn’t want to get the hell outta Dodge after what he’d been through? If Merope was a man, readers everywhere would think he belonged in Azkaban. Yes, she might have had a horrible life and suffered at the hands of her brother and father, but that’s no excuse for drugging and stealing a boy-toy to keep her company as she starts a new life without them, is it? No wonder he legged it and never looked back.

 

5. Moaning Myrtle’s voyeurism was out of control

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Although most of us raised an eyebrow when, in The Goblet of Fire, Myrtle admitted to spying on Hogwarts Prefects whilst they bathed, not many people pick up on the references throughout the books to her tendencies to hang around in toilets, even when they’re being used. Although Myrtle claims that she often caught by surprise, the fact remains that she has chosen to live in an S-bend rather than choosing another location in the castle. The only logical conclusion, then, is that she likes catching students with their knickers quite literally around their ankles, and has thus positioned herself in the perfect spot to witness the most private and intimate acts a person can perform.

 6. Norbert wasn’t the only stolen goods Hagrid handled

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In the very first instalment of Harry, Ron and Hermione’s adventures, The Philosopher’s Stone (or Sorcerer’s Stone if you’re in the US), we learn that Hagrid is the owner of a terrifying 3-headed dog named Fluffy. Anyone familiar with Greek mythology will know that 3-headed dog by another name: Cerberus, the hound of hell who guards the gates to the underworld.

Cerberus originally belonged to Hades until he was captured by Heracles (more commonly known in the West as Hercules) in the last of his twelve labours to repent for his sins. However, King Eursytheus was terrified when he was presented with the beast and demanded Heracles got rid of it. So, that “Greek chappie” in the pub who was keen to find Fluffy a new home might actually have been everyone’s favourite demi-god, looking to pass off his stolen goods! As it is said that Heracles could only control the beast due to his immense strength, it makes sense that he would choose a half-giant with a love of monsters to look after the creature.

7. The Sorting Hat knows all your dirty secrets

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Well, the 11-year-old you, anyway. As we all know, all new arrivals at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry are designated their Houses (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin) by the Sorting Hat. The Hat figures out which traits define you and then place you into the House that suits you best.

Have you ever thought about how exactly the Sorting Hat decides whether you’re clever, or brave, or loyal? Why, it uses legilimency, of course; it quite literally reads your mind (or at least, your memories) to determine exactly what sort of person you will grow up to be. Now I know the Sorting Hat is a sentient object, not a person, and it’s hardly going to spill your secrets to anyone else, but the idea that any object possesses that much power is a little unnerving.

Sidenote: the Sorting Hat is also a bit of a b*stard – not only did it place Snape in Slytherin away from Lily despite knowing how much he loved her, he also kept his mouth shut about the darkness inside everyone’s favourite nightmare child, Tom Riddle. Yeah, nice one Hat. Way to go. *slow clap*

Is there anything I’ve missed? Please feel free to share in the comments below!

(Images: Warner Bros. Studios)

9 of the Strangest and Most Gruesome Author Deaths

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People often say that life is stranger than fiction, but what about death? Throughout history, many notable authors have themselves become the subjects of a noteworthy story because of the strange and sometimes gruesome ways in which they have died.

Listed below are 9 of the weirdest demises I have come across. If you are aware of any others, please feel free to add them in the comments section below!

 

  1. Christopher Marlowe

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Believe it or not, the 16th century playwright Christopher Marlowe was no stranger to a bar-room brawl. On May 30, 1593, Marlowe arrived at a lodging house with a few acquaintances to dine and have drinks. Everything was going well until it was time to pay the tab, at which point a heated argument broke out between Marlowe and his friend, Ingram Frizer.

Eyewitnesses claim that Marlowe seized Frizer’s dagger and in the resultant struggle, Frizer plunged the implement into Marlowe’s skull directly above his right eye, killing him instantly.

As if this wasn’t brutal enough, some conspiracy theorists claim that Marlowe’s murder was actually an assassination ordered by none other than Queen Elizabeth I – a theory made more credible by the fact that she pardoned Frizer four weeks later for undisclosed reasons. As an outspoken atheist, Marlowe was seen as a direct threat to the Church and given this was Elizabethan England (where you could be executed for far lesser crimes), it is plausible that ol’ Liz’s orders to prosecute Marlowe “to the full” may actually have been an order to end his life, carried out by his friend.

Weirder still, there are some who support the Marlovian Theory that the whole thing was an elaborate set-up designed to help Marlowe flee the country to avoid his impending inquisition and that Marlowe lived for many years afterwards, producing plays under a different name… and the name he apparently chose? William Shakespeare. The real Shakespeare, these theorists argue, was nothing more than a front-man to allow Marlowe to keep writing and having his plays performed in England long after 1593. Although there are many who doubt Shakespeare was the mastermind behind all of his plays, this is one of the strangest theories out there about who the great bard really was.

 

  1. Aeschylus

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Aeschylus, an Ancient Athenian author who specialised in tragedies, befell a tragedy of his own in 455 BC after having his head split open by a falling tortoise. Yes, you read that right. When outlining the specifics of Aeschylus’ demise, Valerius Maximus wrote that the tortoise had been dropped by an eagle that had mistaken his bald pate for a rock (a technique used by hunting birds to ‘break open’ their prey).

That’s not the only bizarre thing about his death. In his Naturalis Historiæ, Pliny claims that Aeschylus was only outdoors in the first place to avert the fulfillment of a prophecy that his death would occur as a result of a “falling object.” Spooky!

 

  1. Dan Andersson

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Sadly, the Swedish poet Dan Andersson is better known for the gruesome nature of his death than he is for his life’s works. He died on September 16, 1920, after the concierge at the appropriately-named Hotel Hellman failed to inform him the room was about to be fumigated for bedbugs.

I know what you’re thinking – unless they were some kind of massive, mutant bed-bugs needing to be mowed down with bullets or something, Andersson shouldn’t really have been at too much risk… right? However, in 1920s Stockholm it was commonplace to use lethal doses of hydrogen cyanide for pest control, meaning the fumigation basically transformed Andersson’s hotel room into a giant, chintzy gas chamber. His body wasn’t found until 3:00pm during the clean-up, at which time it was much too late. The hotel has since been demolished.

 

  1. Edgar Allan Poe

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To this day, the death of Edgar Allan Poe – considered by many to be the godfather of modern horror – is steeped in mystery and intrigue. Why? The fact is that no-one really knows how and why Poe died. No death certificate was ever filed and the only known obituary in existence claims that he died of “phrenitis” (congestion of the brain), which frankly raises more questions than it answers.

What little is known of the circumstances surrounding Poe’s demise sounds like they were plotted by the man himself in one of his more sinister tales.

On a wet and stormy night back in October 3, 1849, a compositor working for the Baltimore Sun by the name of Joseph W. Walker found a drenched and delirious man lying in the gutter close to Gunner’s Hall in Baltimore. The man, it transpired, was none other than Edgar Allan Poe.

Poe had left Richmond, Virginia bound for Philadelphia the week prior to being discovered by Walker, but since his departure no one had heard from him. As Poe was incoherent until his death 4 days later on October 7, 1849, he was unable to tell anyone where he had been for the last week, but Walker noted at the time that Poe was dressed in soiled, second-hand clothes (clearly not his own), a fact which struck him as suspicious.

Another interesting fact is that Poe called out the name “Reynolds” repeatedly the night before he died, but nobody has ever been able to piece together who or what this meant – was it a plea for help, or an accusation? Or, perhaps, simply the senseless outpourings of his maelstrom of a mind in those final days?

There are many theories surrounding how exactly Poe died, the most popular including that he was “cooped” (a practice in which corrupt electioneers would abduct voters, ply them with drink, dress them in gentlemanly get-up, and force them to vote for a specific candidate) and subsequently died of alcohol poisoning, or that his raging alcoholism exacerbated a more serious medical condition (such as syphilis, diabetes, TB, epilepsy, or rabies) which not only killed him, but may have driven him mad in the process.

 

  1. Tennessee Williams

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The Pulitzer prize-winning playwright behind A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Tennessee Williams, died aged 71 of asphyxiation after choking on a small plastic bottle cap.

His body was discovered a day later on February 25, 1982, by his secretary Joh Uecker.

New York’s Chief Medical Examiner later ruled that Williams was using the cap to ingest barbiturates.

Due to his copious drug use, Williams did not have a gag reflex and so was unable to expel the object from his throat after swallowing it. Moral of the story: be careful what you put in your mouth.

 

  1. Li Bai

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Li Bai (also known as Li Bo) was one of the great Chinese poets of the Tang Dynasty; he was also a serial womaniser and a drunk. Although the circumstances of his death in 762 AD are now the stuff of Chinese legend, meaning they may have been embellished or be entirely inaccurate, they’re bizarre enough to deserve a place in the list.

The story goes that following a long night of drinking, Li Bai drowned in the Yangtze River after trying to “embrace” the reflection of the moon, falling from his boat in the process. “Embrace,” of course, is a rather euphemistic way of saying Li Bai tried to *ahem* grab the moon by the crater in a show of lust of which Donald J. Trump would be proud… which, let’s face it, is a pretty weird way to go.

 

  1. Mark Twain

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Mark Twain, author of such classics-now-considered-racist as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, died of a heart attack in his home in Redding, Connecticut on April 21, 1910… a decidedly average demise. What’s so intriguing about Twain is not therefore how he died, but when: more specifically, the fact that he actually predicted the date of his death more than a year before it happened.

Twain is quoted as saying that he “came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835” (i.e. he was born on the same day that the comet came into closest proximity with the Earth) and so he “expect[ed] to go out with it.” This expectation was eerily fulfilled as on April 21, the comet could be seen once again streaking across the skies, the closest to Earth it had been on this particular fly-by.

Can a man die of expectation? Or was it fate that saw “these two unaccountable freaks… go out together,” as Twain himself once predicted they would?

 

  1. Albert Camus

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Like some of the other authors on this list, the death of writer and philosopher Albert Camus has drawn the attention of conspiracy theorists worldwide. Although officially Camus died an accidental death as a result of a fatal car crash on January 4, 1960, evidence has since been uncovered that suggests the crash was no accident. In fact, there is a possibility that Camus was killed by the KGB.

This theory hinges on the testimony of the celebrated Czech poet and translator Jan Zábrana, who claims in his diary that the crash that killed Albert Camus in 1960 was organised by Soviet spies.

This act was apparently in retaliation for an article published in Franc-tireur in 1957 in which Camus had criticised Moscow’s decision to send troops to crush the Hungarian uprising of 1956.

According to Zábrana, the KGB damaged a tyre on Camus’ car using a sophisticated piece of equipment that cut into the wheel at speed, but all evidence of the device was destroyed in the resultant crash.

 

  1. Sylvia Plath

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The acclaimed poet and feminist icon, Sylvia Plath, battled with depression for most of her life, undergoing experimental treatments such as electroshock therapy in her search for a ‘cure.’

After several failed suicide attempts (including ingesting large amounts of pills and intentionally driving herself off the road into a river), Plath succeeded in taking her own life on February 11, 1963, using her most extreme method yet: while her children slept in the next room of her London home, she plugged up the door leading into the kitchen with wet towels, knelt on the floor, and stuck her head in her gas oven as far as it would go. When they found her dead a few hours later, her head was still in the oven.


(Images: Wikipedia)

The 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature Goes To… Bob Dylan

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The literary community was left divided this week after singer-songwriter Bob Dylan was awarded the world’s most prestigious literary award, the Nobel Prize for Literature, on Thursday, October 13.

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Dylan has managed to beat a number of notable authors (including Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Don DeLillo, Haruki Murakami and Javier Marias) to the top spot, bagging a $900,000 prize in addition to being named this year’s Nobel laureate – a great honour in itself.

Speaking after the announcement, Swedish Academy Secretary Sara Danius said that it had “not been a difficult decision” but acknowledged that some may view the choice as controversial, stating that “we [the Academy] hoped the news would be received with joy, but you never know.”

Although many have questioned whether pop songs should be allowed into the category of poetry (especially given the number of musical accolades available), it is clear that the nature of Dylan’s works has not excluded him from being considered a poet on the greatest stage of all.

Indeed, Danius compares the American songwriter to Homer and Sapphio (on the justification that the works of both are intended to be performed, often which musical accompaniment) and argues that Dylan “is a great poet in the great English tradition, stretching from Milton and Blake onwards. He’s a very interesting traditionalist, in a highly original way. Not just the written tradition, but also the oral one; not just high literature, but also low literature.”

Many notable writers have come out publicly in favour of the choice: Salman Rushdie has stated that “the frontiers of literature keep widening, and it’s exciting the Nobel prize recognises that”, and Billy Bragg said “the first couple of stanzas of ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ opened my eyes and ears to the idea that music and poetry could exist together.”

However, not everyone is so keen. Margaret Atwood, upon being informed that Dylan had won the Nobel Prize, responded “for what?” with cool acidity; Natalie Kon-Yu noted with a weary resignation many of us can sympathise with that awarding the prize to “another white male writer” is hardly a break from the norm. Irvine Welsh called the decision a “half-arsed attempt” to honour Dylan and argued that acknowledgement of his works should be restricted to the musical.

Interestingly, Dylan has maintained radio silence since the announcement was made on Thursday evening, failing to comment on the award despite having a readymade audience (as he was playing gigs in Las Vegas and Coachella on Thursday and Friday nights, respectively). Perhaps, like Jean-Paul Sartre before him, he wishes to decline the award on political grounds, or maybe he just doesn’t like the pressure that comes with such praise.

Speaking to The New Yorker back in 1964, Dylan once said that “I fell into a trap once last December when I agreed to accept the Tom Paine Award from the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee… I looked down from the platform and saw a bunch of people who had nothing to do with my kind of politics… They had minks and jewels, and it was like they were giving the money out of guilt. I got up to leave, and they followed me and caught me. They told me I had to accept the award.”

So, it is still unclear whether or not Dylan will attend the ceremony. However, Danius has emphasised the fact that Dylan has won the Nobel Prize whether he acknowledges it or not, commenting that “if he doesn’t want to come [to the prize ceremony], he won’t come. It will be a big party in any case and the honour belongs to him.”

Whatever your thoughts are about how ‘literature’ should be classified, it’s difficult to argue with the fact that Dylan is an excellent wordsmith. His gravelly voice and poetic lyrics musing over war, heartbreak, betrayal, death and moral faithlessness have brought beauty to life’s greatest tragedies. I’ve posted one of my favourites below. Why not add your own in the comments?

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(Images: The Guardian, The New York Times)