Monday, January 17, 2011

Monster Monday: The Golem!

Strange Tales is a unique title in Marvel Comics history.  It hosted many weird heroes, from Doctor Strange to Brother Voodoo.  When Brother Voodoo’s run only lasted 5 issues, there was another monster ready to take his place.

Strange Tales 177 The Golem cover by Frank Brunner 1974

The Golem first appeared in Strange Tales #174 in 1974.  He only lasted three issues!  Strange Tales #177, with a beautiful cover by Frank Brunner, was his last appearance.  This wasn’t exactly a memorable storyline on par with other Marvel Monsters at the time.  But it did do a good job of introducing readers to the myth of the Golem, a creature made out of clay to protect the Jewish people of Prague from persecution.  We were shown how the Golem could be controlled by writing on his forehead: emeth (meaning truth) activated the Golem, while meth (death) shut it down.

The biggest contribution this comic made was to prepare me for references to Golems in other stories.  Michael Chabon’s novel The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay has a scene where Joe Kavalier escapes persecution by hiding in the coffin of the inanimate Golem of Prague.  Ted Chiang’s wonderful story Seventy Two Letters features a professor named Robert Stratton, who goes on to create new ways of creating and controlling Golems.  When I read both of these stories, it was mind blowing—at last, someone else had read Strange Tales #174!  Perhaps they did not—but I felt like my 25 cent investment here had paid off decades later.

To my surprise, The Golem has appeared in other Marvel titles over the years!  See this Wikipedia article for more details.  Nuff Said!

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