- Books, Literature, and Writing
Skaggy The Lost: Vikings vs. Toltecs!
The historical mash-up is a genre of story rarely done well. Taking two historical cultures that never met and throwing them together to see what would happen is oddly fascinating (why do you think there's such an interest in who would win in a fight between pirates and ninjas), but more often than not the cultures featured are nothing more than cliches or stereotypes, and more often than not incredibly inaccurate depictions. Part of what makes the comic "Skaggy the Lost" so interesting is its fairly accurate depiction of two cultures often stereotyped and depicted inaccurately (Vikings and Meso-Americans) in an interesting story that gives them a semi-plausible reason to meet up.
Skaggy is an Icelandic berserker living in the Norse Vinland colony in North America, who hears from the local Hurons a story about how one of their ancestors walked south for three years, discovering a city made all of gold in his travels. Figuring that a three year trek on foot could be made in 6 months by boat, and more than a little intrigued by the possibility of "Golden Skraelings," he convinces some other vikings, including his more practical elder brother Hrafn, to come along with him.
What the crew of Vikings discover is a hot, heavily jungled land peopled by strange and hostile people. An encounter between three women who came along with the vikings and three mysterious native priests causes the women to start acting strangely, spouting prophecies even they don't understand about the coming of the one-legged god Tezcatlipoca. Entrusted to free the women (including his brother's wife) from their strange possession, and still on the lookout for gold to make himself rich,Skaggy sets out to fight these strange and hostile people, all the way helped (or possibly manipulated) by mysterious entities who may be the gods of the vanishing Mayan people. Will Skaggy and his crew prevail against the technologically superior forces before them? Will he be able to save the possessed women? And what's with the story of Quetzalcoatl, a messianic figure whose description sounds suspiciously similar to Skaggy?
The story here is definitely strange, and at the end of it I'm not completely sure I understood everything I read, in particular when Skaggy starts tripping on wood mushrooms and meets creatures who might be Mayan, Toltec, and Aztec gods. However, it maintains a fun and funny tone as the Vikings attempt to interpret the Meso-American societies they encounter within their own cultural context, all while fighting amongst themselves.
Skaggy himself is an interesting choice for a main character, being more than a little crazy and significantly more eager than he is competent. Even though he's more than a little nuts, he's oddly charismatic in his determination to find riches and glory by ransacking the "Golden Skraelings". Skaggy's brother Hrafn is an interesting counterbalance to him, a rational man in a family of berserks who has to try real hard to be a sane and logical man amongst a people whose main battle strategy seems to be to charge headlong at whoever they see. Even though he's a stick in the mud, he is perhaps the character easiest to relate to, as he doesn't have the lust for blood and glory the others have, at least not until his family is directly threatened.
One thing to mention about this comic: the art is (intentionally) ugly. Everyone looks like some sort of demented troll, from Skaggy to the Vikings who follow him to the women who come along with them. The Toltec and Mayan people they encounter often look even more inhuman, with huge eyes and noses and strange twisted bodies. You get used to the art fairly quickly and after a while it becomes somewhat charming and interesting (especially when Skaggy gets involved in the supernatural), but definitely don't come to this looking for beautiful art.
All in all, while no great masterpiece "Skaggy" is an interesting and fun little historical mashup, bringing together two historical cultures that never met and seeing what would happen had they. It has enough interesting characters and weird twists that it should keep you entertained as you read it.