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Comic History Mysteries Episode 2: PIRATES!


Y’aarrrr!! On this the second episode of Comic History Mysteries, we be talking about pirates!

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Show Notes:

The Ramblin Phoenix was struck by something said in an interview with Watchman creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.  In a world like Watchman where superheroes are real, the comics would have to turn somewhere else for “fantastical” storytelling. They came the conclusion that that very well could have been pirates. This is why there is a pirate comic featured in Watchmen. The Ramblin Phoenix then goes on to explain why he is someone who can speak on the topic of pirates:

  1. His father claimed he had been captured by pirates a boy.
  2. He worked at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World.
  3. In graduate school, he took a class on pirate history

The Voice also worked a Disney, he has many excellent, but non-pirate related stories. He will share those stories if there interest on our twitter @cxcpodcast    

Not only do pirates show up in Watchman, in The Tales of the Black Freighter, but in the urban fantasy series, Mercy Thompson, where the werewolf pack relieves tension by playing a pirate video game.    

The Ramblin Phoenix goes on to note that comics are often associated with superhero stories, but while connected they are not synonymous and comics very well may have focused on pirates or other topics had circumstance been different.

He goes on to briefly talk about the history of movie pirates, and how for many years they were not at all profitable.

…The Voice really likes Muppets…which leads to Ramblin Phoenix having an ADD moment.

The discussion moves onto the Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic “Treasure Island” and how it originated many of the classic pirate tropes.  

Also is how Robert Newton, who played Long John Silver in the Disney 1950’s version of Treasure Island, created what we think of as the pirate voice. The real pirate voice was an amalgamation of a large number of languages and dialects. But historians agree, there was a lot of swearing.  

Captain Charles Johnson 1724 book, A General History Of Pirates is considered an early collection of primary source stories about real pirates.  He then goes on define that when we think of “Pirates” we generally are thinking ‘The Golden age of Piracy,” 1650s-1730s. But that reminds the Phoenix of a story about Julius Caesar and how he dealt with pirates.

He then starts laying out the historical breakdown of the three eras of Piracy in the Golden Age. Each age is discussed in the context of a famous pirate. For the Privateer era: Sir Francis Drake. For the Buccaneer era: Captain Henry Morgan. And for the Black Flag Freebooter era: Black Beard and Black Bart.

In this discussion, we also highlight the Spanish pillaging of gold in the Americas, which is one reason those ships were attacked.

Also highlighted is the reason for the romantasiciton of pirates, in that they chose to change the rules by which they live by and create a new life, which required them to turn their backs on everything they knew before. The is followed by a discussion of the issue with the idea of buried pirate treasure.

The Princess Bride even gets a mention.

They then wrap all the way back to indie comics. Showing how indelible the idea of pirates moves from history to storytelling as compelling inspiration, highlighting some interesting pirates comic coming out France.

They then highlight pirates in modern comics, most of which are Marvel and DC tuning their characters into pirates for a story arc.

The discussion ends by highlighting the most popular comic in the world currently, which is a pirate comic- the Manga, One Piece.

If you are interested in more on pirates feel free to check out the Ramblin Phoenix’s history blog:  where he has recently uploaded a new post on Port Royal Jamaica, the Pirate town so evil it was smote by God!

Sources mentioned in the Podcast:

Marcus Rediker, Villains of all Nations

Captain Charles Johnson General History of Pirates

Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island

Disney’s Treasure Island

Muppet Treasure Island

Nigel Mitchell, AVAST! It’s The 15 Best Pirates in Comics

French Comics:

Christophe Blain, Isaac the Pirate

Clair de Lune Dread MacFarlane

The Famous French Comic Asterix

Eiichiro Oda,  One Piece