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Egyptian hybrids in comics, by Arnaud Quertinmont

Egyptian hybrids in comics, by Arnaud Quertinmont

Sometimes, artists and authors are interested in the iconography of a hybrid being within an Egyptomaniac production. Let’s examine some comics.

The graphic nature of the hybrid characters allows for the breaking of aesthetic norms by allowing for the playing of visual games and the exposure of these compelling physical bodies, as we see in Enki Bilal’s Trilogie Nikopol. The different volumes in the series feature several hybrid Egyptian deities (Anubis, Bastet, Horus…), often depicted nude. The artist plays graphically with the morphology of human bodies and animal heads. Sometimes, the body itself can be monstrous, as with the god Bes, or  can appear monstrous and uncomfortable, as in the depiction of Khepri as a male body with a beetle for a head. The story of Enki Bilal’s Trilogie Nikopol in itself has nothing to do with Egyptian mythology. We follow the adventures of Horus of Hierakonpolis, a rebellious god who breaks free from the control of his divine companions, all of whom inhabit the interior of a pyramid in the sky above a dystopian Paris. Horus decides to intervene in the lives of humans, which the other hybrid Egyptian gods oppose.

Fig. 1: Ammit in All-New X-Factor Vol 1 #19 (Screenshot by author)

The possibility of graphically transgressing codes, especially moral codes, likely explains why the hybrid figure is often used in erotic or pornographic productions. It allows for the manipulation of bodies, the portrayal of nudity, and the exploration (and contravention) of societal boundaries. In a way, everything becomes permissible because the figures are not strictly human. The hybrid serves as a substitute figure that enables human consciousness to break free from certain societal norms and to exist in a unique world. This is exemplified in the Anubis comic book series Dark Desire published by Sin Factory in 2022. The book brings together several graphic novels by different authors, but all feature animals behaving like humans. Egyptian gods such as Anubis, Sekhmet and Bastet are often represented. It’s also important to note that this type of exploitation of the hybrid figure has many parallels in the furry fandom, characterised by an interest in animals with human characteristics, such as the ability to speak, wear clothes, and adopt a human lifestyle.

Fig. 2: Cover of Anubis. Dark Desire (Screenshot by author)

In some instances, divine creatures in the form of hybrids are depicted in imaginary contexts, and their iconography is the main point of interest. For example, in the comic All-New X-Factor Vol 1 #19 from March 2015, the X-Factor mutants encounter Ammit, the Soul Devourer. Ammit is portrayed as a creature with a muscular male body, paws with sharp claws instead of hands and feet, hairy legs and shoulders to emphasize its bestial nature, and the head of a crocodile with sharp teeth. It’s worth noting that one of the characters refers to Ammit as feminine, even though the drawing portrays animal features and bestiality through a male body. In the Sandman storytelling comics series, Dream, a young boy who takes on the role of the Sandman, Keeper of Dreams, navigates a dream world that incorporates elements from Japanese, Christian, Near Eastern, and Egyptian mythology. Throughout the story, Dream encounters various deities, including Anubis, Bastet, and Bes, all of whom are hybrids. These deities come to claim the keys to the Underworld to exert their dominance over it. The hybrid forms of Anubis, Bastet and Bes stand in for all of the Egyptian deities, serving as a synthesis and playing the role of ‘Egypt maker’ in the collective imagination.

Fig. 3: Cover of “La momie scandaleuse” (1999) (Screenshot by author)

At times, the story can appear slapstick, such as in the tale wherein Superman engages in a battle with Heqet, the frog goddess (Action Comics #768, August 2000). She plans to destroy the world in retaliation for the annual dissection of thousands of amphibians. The strange, disquieting, and ultimately amusing, even somewhat aberrant aspect of the hybrid also allows particular creative possibilities for humorists and satirists . For example, in the comic book series La Vache (De Moor / Desberg), Pi 3.1416 is a bovine who works as a detective. In “La momie scandaleuse” (1999), his adventures take him to Egypt on the trail of the mummy of a sacred bull. This provides a great opportunity for the cartoonist to play with hybrid forms from a humorous and satirical point of view.

The Egyptian hybrid and its ability to change form to suit the needs of the myth can provide interesting inspirational material for writers and editors. In a comic book about the Asgard god Thor, our hero and Amadeus Cho confront Sekhmet, the fearsome lion goddess (Heroic Age: Prince of Power #3, July 2010). The story refers to Ra’s trick to appease and calm the goddess, which is to spread ochre-tinted beer on the fields to deceive Sekhmet into thinking it was blood. However, as our heroes have no time to brew beer, they use chloral hydrate as a sedative. This substance is also known as Mickey Finn, after a bartender who used to drug his customers to rob them. In any case, the use of this substance leads to the transformation of Sekhmet into Hathor, the goddess of love. Presumably for graphic and humorous purposes, it is the feline form of Bastet that is chosen. The goddess is now purring – literally – with love for Thor, that proud and valiant divine warrior.

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