Shady characters

Character study - The Shaman
DAJB at 1:46AM, Jan. 12, 2008
posts: 1,462
joined: 2-23-2007
The Shaman


Stan tells us that the Shaman claims we “wouldn't be able to pronounce” his real name. It's an old line but I like to think that, given the Shaman's age, it was probably original the first time he used it! Despite not being given a real name in the comic, however, the other characters do use other names for him.

Stan tends to address him as “Jim”. This was a practical move on my part … it's just so difficult to address someone by a name that begins with “The”! I chose “Jim” because that's what my father used to call people he didn't know - strangers in the street (“Have you got the right time, Jim?” ), taxi drivers (“Just take a left here, Jim” ), anyone!

Boo sometimes calls him “Blaenor”, but this is more a title than a name. “Blaenor” is Celtic for something which approximates to “guide” or “leader” or even “father”.


The Shaman is usually seen naked (or at least half-naked!) and is covered in ritualistic tattoos. This is principally because I didn't want him to be yet another “mystic in robes” type of character. But it's also a statement on super hero costumes in general.

We all know super hero costumes are not realistic but they are part of a long-standing convention, and no more incredible than the conventions which define other well-established types of genre fiction. I find it mildly amusing that the current wave of self-styled feminist bloggers get worked up about female super heroes being so scantily clad. The reality is that almost all super heroes (male and female) are drawn entirely naked. A few simple lines at the wrists and neck and the addition of bright primary colours do little to hide that. To show my support for this convention, I decided when designing the characters for Shades, that at least one of the characters would be actually naked. To begin with, I wasn't sure whether it should be a male or a female character but, by the time the cast list was complete, the Shaman seemed an obvious choice. So, if you're a red-blooded heterosexual male reader (or, I suppose, a red-blooded not-so-heterosexual female reader) … sorry. You lost the toss!

Role within the story

Historically, the Shaman is the connection between today's Britain and the ancient “native Britons”, the people who inhabited these islands before the coming of the Normans, the Vikings, the Saxons, the Romans and even the Celts. He is approximately five thousand years old which, according to the latest theories, would make him about the same age as Stonehenge.

In narrative terms he is also the heroes' connection to the spirit world. The spirits are important to the story of Shades, both in terms of its underlying “big idea” (during scripting the comic laboured under the rather unwieldy working title Spirit of Britain) and as a device to tackle another aspect of super hero stories … Why do super heroes never age?! To ensure their heroes can be active in the modern world and yet never look a day over 25 (30 tops!), DC and Marvel have both tied themselves in knots trying to retcon, reboot and otherwise reimagine their heroes every couple of decades, to the extent that neither long-standing nor new readers have any idea of what is and isn't canon any more.

For Shades, I decided to take the bull by the horns and incorporate directly into the story an explanation as to why my heroes would always look young … their spirits have “fused” with those from the Shaman's spirit world. (It's so obvious when you know, isn't it?!)

Weapon of choice

The Shaman's powers are almost entirely vested in his staff. The staff is made up of three parts: the oak shaft, a serpents' egg and the mistletoe which binds the egg to the shaft. I chose all three of these components because of their associations in actual Druid/ancient Celtic lore.

For the Druids, oak was associated with lightning and the staff therefore gives the Shaman the ability to call down a lightning strike when in combat. Mistletoe was associated with healing and, in Shades, the Shaman's staff is used as much for it's restorative powers as for its destructive capability.

The serpents' egg is the means by which the Shaman can communicate with, travel to and otherwise deal with the spirit world. According to the Roman historian Pliny, a “Druid's egg” was the “badge” of the Druids. Each egg was supposedly hatched by several serpents acting together. Their hissing would keep it buoyed in the air and, anyone who could snatch it from them and escape without being stung to death, would be courted by those in power and sure to prevail in any contest. In Shades, the Shaman belongs to a (fictitious) order which pre-dates the Druids and I have amended this legend so as to incorporate it into his backstory (see Chapter 8).
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:23AM

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