Sunday, June 26, 2011

Infinity - Who's Who?

I would suggest you pop the kettle on, this is a monster post!

This post is the last in a series of four entries dealing with some of the inhabitants of the Ominous Universe. It is perhaps the one I, personally, have most been looking forward to. That is mainly because the characters that I am going to introduce to you today are some of the most interesting and clearly defined in all of the Ominous Universe.
Brute & Babe Infinity came out in October of 1994, with the Ashcan a month previously in Wizard #37. But it might interest you Searsians to know that Infinity was actually the first book to be drawn! Infinity stands as a story outside of the regular continuity of It Begins and Mael’s Rage, it can be placed at any time during the plotline and is more of a dreamscape interlude than a core story. But that is not to say that it does not have as much importance as the other two comics... far from it.
In fact, Infinity can be argued to be the most important of the three comics, as it introduces a larger view of the Ominous Universe and some of its bigger players. It leaves open ever so slightly a door into the greater OU worlds, and gives the impression that while the story of Mael and Auoro’s destiny as the chosen to fulfil the Prophecy (as told in It Begins, Mael’s Rage and what would have been Death of Pheros and Omen), there is far more to the story than just this arc.
So let’s have a look at it shall we?
First off, let me list the names that are included in the copyright indicia on the credits page. We have-
Brute, Babe, Intrepid, Devos and MegaMen copyright of Bart Sears.
Wotan, Hathos, Ytraal Ytraal, Furros, Gortros, Quudraimm, Sraiiven Hoord and Saint Pyrs copyright of Bart Sears and Michael J. Morrissey.
Tekron and Ri are copyright of Bart Sears, Michael J. Morrissey and John Pedercini.

I remember reading this indicia way back in 1994 and having a multitude of questions simultaneously pop up in my mind.
Who on earth are all of those characters? Which one is which? And who are these Michael J. Morrissey and John Pedercini chaps and how do they relate back to Bart?
Well, I plan on answering the first two questions in this very post, the last question will be answered in great detail in a future post, I assure you.

But let’s get back to the characters in Infinity. We have Brute, Babe, Intrepid, MegaMen and Saint Pyrs who should be known to everybody by now, but if not, read the previous Who’s Who posts to find out more about them.
That leaves Devos, Wotan, Hathos, Ytraal Ytraal, Furros, Gortros, Quudraimm, Sraiiven Hoord, Tekron and Ri to find in the comic. In reading the comic, you find that Mael is pitted against a total of seven heavily armed and slightly medieval looking evil warriors. And on the last page, we have six panels of characters, some recognisable (Intrepid, Saint Pyrs and Zeus the MegaMan), with three new faces.
So that’s 10 new characters and 10 names to place them to. On pages 6 & 7, there is a nice reveal of all of the 7 bad guys, and two of them reveal their own names, Ytraal Ytraal and Tekron. That leaves 8... and that’s unfortunately where I stood for many years, unable to discern any further which name went with who.

Then I managed to get my hands on 3 very important items that not only revealed who is who, but also gave an inkling of what these characters were. The first item was a pencil rough of Infinity page 15, with the same characters as the final image (which I also own), but in different poses and with each one’s name rather conveniently placed below them. Here is a detail from that page-
The next item was a handful of character design roughs produced by Michael J. Morrissey (MJM from here) during the Ominous Press days. Some of them just feature visual designs of the characters and their weapons, but one lists all of the 7 bad guys’ names and their title/description. For instance, Tekron is listed as ‘Tekron: Paladins.’ Referring back to page 7, we can see that Tekron announces himself as “Tekron, Curlord of the Seven and Dead High-Lord of the Paladins.” This would suggest that not only is Tekron leader of the Paladins, but also leader of the Seven characters currently in question. This is further proven by the front cover of the comic, with Tekron leading the charge, so to speak. In truth, Tekron is indeed the leader of this group of 7 evil warriors.
The last item I got my hands on, was the Character Notes document from the Ominous Press days, which lists several dozen characters, both good and evil, from the Ominous Universe in statistical detail, giving criteria such as appearance, strength, weapons and a few other important facts. And wouldn’t you know, it includes the 7 evil warriors as well!

But before I introduce each of these 7 characters to you individually, there are a few important points to go over beforehand. Firstly, Tekron refers to himself as “Dead High-Lord of the Paladins.” This is a crucial title for two reasons. 1) It would suggest that Tekron is dead. 2) He leads a group called the Paladins.
Regarding the first one, Tekron, as well as the other 6 members of this gathering, is actually dead in the respect that he is no longer a normal living human person. Yet ‘live’ he still does. But in another form.
Secondly, the term Paladin has a medieval historical origin, but it is also prevalent as a character type in fantasy role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons. In D&D, a Paladin is somebody in the service of a god, who has granted them special powers as payment for their servitude. They are generally warriors and emissaries of their god’s will.
This description is also given to Paladins in the Ominous Universe. They are one and the same...ish (Bart always puts his own slant on things).
So Tekron, who often speaks of his ‘Dread Lord’ is leader of the Paladins. Whether the other 6 warriors are Paladins too, is unclear. On page 9, panel 2, a warrior in the background tells Tekron to “Stand fast, Paladin. I claim blood right to this heretic dog...” This would suggest that this particular warrior is NOT a Paladin, but then he does use the word ‘Heretic,’ which would certainly be the type of word a Paladin would use.
Bart himself cannot recall if any of the other warriors in this group are Paladins, but he believes they are not.

The next important thing to mention is the title of this particular story in Infinity. While the comic is called ‘Brute & Babe: Infinity,’ the indicia title and actual story title is ‘The Infinity of Warriors.’ Don’t ask me what that means, because I don’t know, and it’s not the important bit. The important bit is the story sub-title, which is ‘Revelation of the Molochs.’ Without the knowledge I have gleaned, that sub-title is fairly nondescript and meaningless. But in fact, it holds one very important word... Molochs. This word appears previously in the Meal’s Rage’s ‘Portents’ page (a summary of future Ominous Press comic releases) where it states that Mael encounters the dreadful Molochs.

These Molochs are the 7 evil warriors.

What the heck is a Moloch? Well, in our world it is one of two things. 1) It’s an Australian desert-living lizard, and 2) a Semitic god that required sacrifices from its followers. That second definition can be extended to simply mean a malevolent force or being that either sacrifices, or requires sacrifices in its name.
This a pretty close description of the Molochs in the Ominous Universe. They are definitely malevolent beings, and do their god’s bidding without question. They are closer to their god than Paladins and their god uses them for very important missions. To give a parallel, Molochs are to their god what the 7 highest angels would be to the Christian god. That make sense?

And the last point to make before we come to the individual characters, is the question of who their god actually is. In the comic, the god is referred to as ‘Dread Lord’ on several occasions, but no name is given. That is because of all of the Ominous Press secrets, this is the big one. The BIG, BIG one. Obviously, I’m not about to reveal a secret that big (it took me long enough to get the secret out of Bart!), but I can say that this ‘Dread Lord’ is awesomely powerful, evil as evil can be, and is a big player in the OU. And that’s all you’re getting from me on that particular character. I may well have already said more than I should have!

And now, finally, we get to the actual individual Molochs. Here’s a detail of the Infinity cover for you, with the characters numbered from 1 to 7-
And here is the spread from pages 6 and 7, in pencilled form, with the characters having the same corresponding numbers-
And here are the character descriptions-

1. Hathos (name means Frostfire)
Undead Enslaver
Hathos is the most powerful Moloch, probably having something to do with the fact he’s 10 feet tall. He’s a Northern Warrior, which means he was born into a cold and harsh environment. His large broadsword is magical, and bites like ice.
In-comic: Page 8 has a great shot of him on panel 2, and he’s the one that stabs Mael on page 12, panel 6.

2. Ytraal Ytraal
Rules a horde of human marauders – ‘The Blood Mad Horde’
Ytraal Ytraal loves nothing more than killing. But he’s a coward at heart, preferring an unfair fight or attacking from behind. He’s prone to fleeing at the slightest hint of the tide turning against his favour in a battle. He’s originally from a desert wasteland.
In-comic: On page 12, panel 7, that’s him with the chain around Mael’s neck. On page 13, he’s the one saying “Time to flee...”

3. Sraiiven Hoord
Controls the Beasts and Monstrosities
Sraiiven Hoord is perhaps the most recognisable of all of the Molochs (next to Tekron, that is), due to several things. First he’s one of only two Molochs to have the Omega Symbol on his forehead (the other being Tekron), he has darker skin and has big braided dreadlocks. He’s the only Moloch not to wear a helmet too. He is the least decomposed of all of the Molochs, and he has tattoo scars all over his body in various patterns. His weapon of choice is the spear.
In-comic: Mael blasts him on page 12, panel 5.

4. Quudraimm
Lord of the Assassins
As opposed to Sraiiven Hoord, Quudraimm is the most decayed looking Moloch. He’s massively tall, and like any good assassin, uses daggers almost exclusively. Quudraimm has a deep lisp, he’s the one that says stuff like “HISSS SSSPLEEN.”
In-comic: Look for the green-glowing dagger on page 13! Not to mention page 11, panel 3 – that’s him getting a hole blown through him by Mael.

5. Gortros ‘Fierce Blood’
Controls Orcs, Trolls, Ogres and Giants
As big as Hathos is, Gortros is bigger. He’s a whopping 12 feet tall! I guess that’s why he controls the big creatures. He wields a massive two-handed, two-headed battle axe. He’s normally a quiet one, but when he does speak, his words drip with his arrogance. To him, everybody is beneath him, and not just in size.
In-comic: Standing behind Tekron on page 13, panel 2. Page 8, panel 1 has a small full figure shot of him holding his axe too.

6. Furros ‘Doomshorn’
Lord of the Hunters and Witch Hunters
Furros controls the werebeasts, hell hounds and other dogs. Furros is recognisable by that horizontal moustache of his, and he’s the only archer in all of the Molochs. He’s bloody tall too, coming in at about 9’5”. He wears banded mail, leather and fur. His mode of combat is to let off several arrows, then close in for the kill.
In-comic: Great shot of him on page 9, panel 8.

7. Tekron
Curlord of the Seven and Dead High-Lord of the Paladins
Tekron is just mean looking. He would appear to be the most intelligent of the Molochs, but he’s not the most powerful, though he was the most powerful Paladin when he was alive. He is now second only to his Dread Lord.
In-comic: All over the place, he spits a liquid that Bart has lovingly called “Dead Fluid Stuff” on page 9, panel 1, and traces an Omega symbol in the air in panel 6 of the same page.

Obviously, there is much more to these characters than what I have written, but I want to leave some stuff to the imagination. And I’m sure you have further questions regarding them, namely... What is the relevance of the Omega Symbol? How do they know of the Prophecy? Where do they come from? And oodles more, no doubt. But I’m afraid those questions are to remain unanswered for the time being. There are answers to those questions, you have my word, but they are not for me to give.

One last thing I want to cover with the Molochs is their unusual names. Bloody unusual names. They’re just not names you can pinpoint an origin of, they have no cultural identity that is recognisable, which would pretty clearly suggest that they are not of this world. And that suggestion would actually be correct, they’re not from here!
But how would one go about pronouncing their names? That was another question I held onto for many a year. You can sort of guess at most of them, but the nuances of inflection and syllable emphasis are an unwieldy beast at the best of times, so any guess would always only be that, a guess. But why guess when I can just list the names and their correct pronunciation right here and now!

Hathos - hath-OSE (HATH rhyming with math, OSE rhyming with most, minus the T at the end, of course)
Ytraal Ytraal - E-tral E-tral (hard E like Each, TRAL rhyming with Hal, as in Hal Jordan)
Sraiiven HoordSRAY-ven Hoard (SRAY rhyming with stray, low emphasis VEN. HOARD as in hoard of supplies definition)
Quudraimmqu-UD-raiMM (QU-UD rhyming with mud but with low emphasis on QU, RAIMM rhyming with rain, with extended M sound)
Gortrosgore-TROSE (GORE as in blood and guts definition, TROSE same rule as Hathos, but with strong TR before)
Furrosfe-UR-OSE (FE as in sea, UR rhyming with her, OSE same as Hathos usage)
TekronTECH-ron (TECH as in technology, RON as in the name)

I hope that makes it easier for you all. Those pronunciations themselves give rise to a few questions of their own, I’ve found. The most interesting being the relationship of the name structure and subsequent pronunciation of Hathos, Gortros, Furros to our old pal Pheros, as the OS at the end of their names is pronounced the same. But I’ve found no immediate relationship between the characters at all; they’re from different worlds and have never met in any of the literature I have come across. But knowing the way Bart likes to interweave these stories, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a tangible link does exist.

Let’s move onto the other characters in the book, shall we?

Okay, so we’ve been introduced to the Molochs and they’re names from the list have been attributed to the correct corresponding face. So of the 10 initial names we had to begin with, we are now down to just 3 left – Devos, Wotan and Ri.
To find the characters in the book that these names would fit to, we turn to the final page of the story, page 15. I like to call it the ‘The Same’ page, for obvious reasons if you’ve read the comic.
In this page we have Mael come out of his dreamstate battle with the Molochs, to ponder its meaning and to ask why the dream is always ‘the same.’ Mael’s pose and statement is then mirrored by six other characters who are vastly different in appearance, and it would appear their surroundings are as varied as they are as well.

As can be seen in this previous image, the names of the 6 characters in order from left to right, top to bottom are – Wotan, Ri, Saint Pyrs, Intrepid, Devos and Zeus. Kinda hard to read, I know. But Bart has since verified these spellings and we’re good to continue.
As mentioned near the start of this post (seems a long time ago), we have been introduced to Saint Pyrs, Intrepid and Zeus previously. Which leaves us with Wotan, Ri and Devos. So, ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce to you...

Wotan (WO-tan – WO rhymes with no)
A great deal can be gleaned about Wotan and his environment by this image. For starters, this world would appear to be in very close orbit with several other planets, moons or stars. Going by the clasping used to secure the giant animal skull to his head, the world appears to be primitive to some degree, as there are no leather straps or metallic clasps to be seen. The skull itself suggests an animal of a very large size and carnivorous nature, suggesting further something akin to our own pre-historic past, where mega-fauna ruled the land. The terrain furthers this theory, as there is no real grass to be seen, and the conifers in the background are exemplary of our own planet’s early history. Could it be that Wotan was alive during the Cretaceous Period of our world? Well... no. He wasn’t, this image depicts another world. But it is in fact a far flung and barbaric world that Wotan lives in. Wotan himself is a mighty chosen warrior, working hand in hand with another to subvert his own world’s dark forces.

Ri (rhymes with we, he and she)
This appears to be another world with three orbiting spheres, but it is unclear if this is the same world but a different location, or another time on this planet, or a completely different world altogether. Wherever and whenever it is, it is clearly more advanced than the world Wotan inhabits. To me, it almost looks Persian in its architectural sensibilities, but this sort of teardrop domed structure is common enough in fantasy art. It is clear that this city and perhaps its inhabitants have a high degree of aesthetically pleasing design. Ri’s brow ring and armour are minimalistic and elegant, which really only happens after a degree of time and refinement.
As for the character, Ri, there isn’t a huge amount to tell, he’s clearly a swordsman, but his moral alignment and affiliations are unknown.
Devos (dev-OSE – I’m sure you can work out how to pronounce that by now)
This is perhaps the most intriguing of the three images, as it is intentionally suggestive of many things. Firstly, this world only has two orbiting spheres, which raises many questions as to where and when it takes place. Looking at the architecture and Devos’ raiment, one could draw the conclusion that this is a futuristic setting. The main building in the background is almost reminiscent of the Tyrell Corporation building in Ridley Scott’s futuristic noir classic, Blade Runner. The pile of burning junk in the close background would seem to relate that this futuristic world is a dangerous place to be, possibly anarchic or oven post-apocalyptic.
Devos seems to be a hit with the ladies.

And that’s how you take a look at a single comic and its characters. I didn’t really expect this post to be quite so long (about 3,500 words), but what the heck. And to be fair, I could have gone a lot longer on it, as there are still several elements of the comic to be looked at, including-
1. Who is ‘The Outrider’?
2. What’s that symbol thing Mael is standing on in page 5?
3. Most importantly, what is the deal with that entity that Mael and Auoro merge into? Does it have a name? Powers? Hmmm....
But I’m sure to get around to those questions some day. But it has been a lot of fun looking at these old characters in detail, and I hope that the information I’ve passed on to you has been both informative and enjoyable. If you’re anything of an OP fan like me, I get the feeling it will have been.

I’ve got a few ideas for the next couple of posts lined up, including a long overdue round up of recent Bart Sears sightings and news. But there is also going to be another series of in-detail articles dealing with a very interesting element of Bart’s work in the near future too. So as always, come back soon fellow Searsians!


Darrin said...

Excellent article as always Jay!

PsychosisPC said...

I remember when I first got this book thinking to heck with Mael, I want more of these warriors. That's that Conan/Death Dealer, Frazetta fan in me coming out.

Jay Penn said...

Thanks Darring, best one yet, I think.
As for our new friends the Molochs, Bart told me a long time ago that Sword & Sorcery is one of his greater interests. It really shows in the design of these guys, what with all of the armour and trappings. And the best thing about it all is how the stuff looks real and workable, no flashy armour that would be more of an impedement than anything else. There is a reason behind every belt, buckle and plate. Methinks a post on Bart's S&S stuff needs to be done...