This week's theme is heavenly as we discuss our favourite angels. Our guests are Lou Morgan and Sara Westrop.
Lou's debut novel, Blood and Feathers, is released in just a few short days from Solaris. It has been described (accurately!) as "Wonderland with gun-toting angels". Lou also gave us a glimpse of another realm (although not a particularly cheering one) in "At the Sign of the Black Dove", in Pandemonium.
As always, please chime in with your angels - feathered, foul or otherwise - in the comments.
Bartleby and Loki (Dogma)
Kevin Smith and angels aren't necessarily the most obvious of companions, but in his film Dogma, that's precisely what he gives us. More specifically, he gives us the pairing of Bartleby and Loki. These two reprobates got themselves kicked out of Heaven after a slight drinking / sticking-it-to-the-man incident, and are now desperate to get back home - even if it means undoing all of Creation in the process.
(If you're at work, you might not want to watch them in action, by the way…)
The introduction of Castiel to the world of Supernatural was a turning point. Bringing angels into the show was a game-changer because it forced everyone (characters, fans, writers…) to consider exactly where the Winchesters stood. Before, it was demons: bad, Winchesters: good. So what now? (Angels: more good?) Either way, what better angel than Castiel to lead the angelic charge. He's a good example of traditional angelic lore (his real voice would deafen humans, and his true form would blind anyone who looked on it, so he takes an earthly vessel) pulled up to date by the showrunners. Even his name is traditionally angelic: he's one of the angels of Thursday. Aww.
Kronk's shoulder angel (The Emperor's New Groove)
The Emperor's New Groove is one of my favourite Disney films - and sadly, seems to be pretty massively underrated. And that's just wrong. How anyone can not love a film in which an arrogant emperor is turned into a llama (leading to the memorable "llama-face!" moment) is beyond me. But I'm supposed to be talking about angels - and so we must turn to Kronk, the slightly intelligence-challenged sidekick of evil Yzma. The problem is that Kronk might be a bit daft, but he's not actually a bad guy, so when he's asked to do something he doesn't quite agree with, he has to talk it through with his shoulder angel and devil. Not that they're all that much use…
Lucifer (The Prophecy)
Let's not forget that the biggest bad of all is, technically, an angel. And never has he been badder than his appearance in The Prophecy; armed with arguably the most arresting chat-up line ever.
Just don't give this guy flowers, yeah?
[A few mild spoilers below (Supernatural, His Dark Materials and Barbarella!)]
Starting with the best – Castiel from TV’s Supernatural, the most adorably clueless angel. He looks like he stepped out of a 1940’s PI movie. Cas raised Dean’s soul up from hell to stop Lucifer from coming back (failed: he came back) collected souls of every monster in purgatory to become the new God (failed: he exploded), and in the face of a possible apocalypse, what does he do? Goes with Dean to a strip club to get a lap dance (failed: stripper runs off in tears after Cas asked about her Daddy issues).
He can’t work a mobile phone, can't hold his liquor and can't emote in any way, but if you need a demon blowing up, an annoying angel bitch-slapped, or just want a simple joke misinterpreted, this is your guy.
Balthamos and Baruch are a pair of rebel angels from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. The two angels (and lovers) have rebelled against heaven and are trying to overthrow the tyrannous Authority, an old mad God. The angels find the hero, Will, and help him on his quest to rescue Lyra, but brave Baruch loses his life in a fight with his evil brother The Metatron, who now wants to take God’s place.
Baruch dies screaming Balthamos’ name, who then languishes on without him for a while until his body just dissipates as he can’t face living without his partner.*sniffle* They were a heartbreaking pair and the way Balthamos just gives up on everything after losing Baruch is painful to read.
Warren Worthington. What? He totally counts… he has wings! Warren Worthington aka "Angel" is a billionaire playboy mutant and founding member of the X-men. His mutation is a pair of giant feathery wings, which aren’t just for show. Having such an obvious sign of his origins makes him a really interesting character as he wrestles with being so different from everyone else.
His super-cool-yet-evil alter-ego Archangel has giant metal wings, blue skin and a slight urge to kill everything on the planet, due to his being the Horseman of Death and all.
Like most of the X-Men, Angel’s terrifically un-angelic, as he puts it about. His romantic relationship with British super-ninja Psylocke produced some of my favourite arcs in X-history, such as Crimson Dawn and the recent Dark Angel saga in Uncanny X-Force.
The title character from the kids’ book Skellig is a contentious addition, but I think he’s more angel than emancipated, arthritic, part-grumpy-old-bastard, part-owl who lives in schoolboy Michael’s garage and lives off greasy Chinese food and nasty booze.
The book is a pretty poignant look at loneliness and the power of hope, as Michael and Skellig seem to ignite something in each other. They spur one another on to face their demons and come out stronger for it. It’s all pretty heavy stuff for a kids book – and please, let’s not mention the bloody awful TV adaptation.
Lastly, the orange, chiselled, blind, nappy-wearing, sexually frustrated angel: Pygar from the camp classic Barbarella. Pygar lacks the will to fly until naughty nymph Barbarella gives him a good seeing too, clearing his pipes in the process – lo and behold HE FLIES AGAIN! (She’s like a slutty Mother Teresa, that one.)
The honourable Pygar even saves Barbarella and the baddie at the end because he’s such a good egg – and he give us the superb line: “An Angel does not make love. An Angel is love”. (Note his impressive "I’m blind" acting which consists of just never looking at anyone)
Now excuse me while I go vomit over everything, I’m allergic to sentiment.
I'm a fan of the chatty angels that hung out with John Dee and Edward Kelley in the 16th century. There's been a lot of fiction about these guys, but it is tough to outweird the history. Was Dee an unwilling dupe of Kelley's greatest con? Or were the two convinced that they made contact with heavenly beings? I like to imagine fan conventions in 1598, where the die-hard cosplayers only communicated in Enochian.
Speaking of die-hard fans, I'm sneaking in another reference to Heresy: Kingdom Come. Two mentions in two weeks? That's the most buzz it has generated in over a decade. All the cards had amazing art and fun, over-the-top Gothic cyberpunk angels. Golab (art by top Gothic cyberpunk artist, Brom) wasn't just a fetish model: he was, in game terms, an unstoppable killing machine.
Marvel never went quite as, um, overtly occult as DC (where Superman wrestled an angel, Sandman meandered about Hell, Constantine pissed off everyone and Lucifer got his own comic book). But buried within the pages of Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze got up to some seriously weird stuff - mostly because he was fused with an outcast demon (and fallen angel), Zarathos. He's a redneck stunt rider! It's a duke of Hell! Now they're roommates! Hijinks!
Tyrael from the Diablo series. Blizzard try really hard to make him impressive - even his armor has armor - but, really, Tyrael is just a bit crap at his job. He's always losing his sword, or getting bonked on the head, or falling to Earth or being held hostage or generally getting thumped about by the powers of evil. Still, given the many, many hours I've spent hearing his ponderous monologues, I feel he deserves a place on the list.