With the constant rush of superhero movies coming out regularly, filmakers are trying hard to bring the heavy-hitters to the big screen. The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice are just the beginning of the now steady diet of comic book-based films and TV shows. Magic and medieval fantasy in these genres are often forgotten and mostly ignored.
NBC tried to bring the supernatural side of the DC universe to life in Constantine, fans loved it but it fell flat in ratings. Marvel is planning a Doctor Strange movie with Benedict Cumberbatch and DC has Guillermo del Toro helming Justice League Dark to add to his long line of magical fantasy-based movies.
Sorry, I digress … I don’t want to talk about the could have/should have but rather what comics have done with medieval fantasy over the years, specifically those characters from Arthurian legend. I think Marvel, DC and other independent comics have put their own unique spin on these classic characters and even integrated them routinely into their world. There are so many to pick from so I’m just gonna hit the highlights.
Morgan le Fay was introduced in Marvel Comics in Spider-Woman #2. She has been associated with Doctor Doom on more than one occassion but I think the best use of her character was in the Avengers where she used the Scarlet Witch’s reality-warping powers to turn the world into one of magic where she ruled with the Queen’s Vengance, a twisted version of the team. Seeing medieval versions of the Avengers (Captain America as Yeoman America for example) was great.
My favorite has to to be Iron Man “Doomquest,” a two-story arc where Iron Man and Doctor Doom are flung back to Camelot where Iron Man teams up with King Arthur to fight Doom and Morgan le Fay. In the end, the two have to work together to get back to their own time. It was made even better with a “What if” issue where Doom left Iron Man in Camelot and Tony Stark eventually became King Anthony of Camelot.
I would also like to mention Merlyn (as they spelled it) and his association with Captain Britain, Dane Whitman aka The Black Knight (an Avenger) and the Pendragon (a source of the magical power of England) just to name a few honorable mentions. Marvel has truly embraced the Arthurian legend within its pages.
DC has had a bonanza of magic and fantasy, but mostly around the Greek gods (i.e. Wonder Woman) but Morgaine le Fay (as she is called in DC) and her son Mordred have both played a part in the DC universe. I always thought it was interesting that, besides kryptonite, Superman is also vulnerable to magic. That has played out in the many dealings with the immortal sorceress.
Morgaine was introduced in DC in Madame Xanadu #1 where she is revealed to be the sister of Madame Xanadu and the Lady of the Lake, three survivors of ancient Atlantis. Morgaine is also tied to one of most unique characters in the DC universe … Etrigan the Demon. The pet demon of Merlin was bound to a human Jason Blood, an ally of Morgaine, as penance for his betrayal. This puts Etrigan at odds with the sorceress for centuries to come.
One of the best stories from DC with Morgaine has to be “Kid Stuff” from the animated Justice League Unlimited series. Mordred betrays his mother by stealing the Amulet of First Magic and banishing all adults from the world. Morgaine turns to the Justice League for help but has to turn them all into kids to return them to the real world and stop Mordred. The rest is just a roller coaster of fun watching Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern (along with baby Etrigan) fight Mordred.
There are many others I could mention here … Lady Pendragon from Image Comics, Camelot 3000 from DC, even Excalibur from Marvel, just to name a few. They all have ties to Arthurian legend and magical fantasy. You may not see them translate to the big screen like the Avengers and Superman, but they have their place in comic books.