In The Wicked + The Divine, gods become incarnate every ninety years. They live for two years and then they die. Set in modern day London, creators Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have their gods embodied as pop stars; after all, who receives more adoration in our culture?
Gillen and McKelvie explored similar themes in Phonogram, but with The Wicked + The Divine having been optioned for a TV series, the title heralds a renaissance of divinity in popular culture.
The Percy Jackson books have already established the Greek Gods in young adult fiction. Gal Gadot’s portrayal of Wonder Woman, daughter of Zeus, will bring that same mythology to the Warner Bros/DC films and the Marvel Cinematic Universe has, of course, long had the Norse gods as a central part of their mythos with Thor and Loki.
Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel American Gods is being adapted for television by Starz. Gaiman has the old gods of European cultures, gods who came to America along with the settler who believed in them, are being pushed out by the new gods of American society; gods of internet, credit card and television.
Another of Gaiman’s characters, his version of Lucifer from the epic Sandman comic, also has a TV show in production, this one at Fox. Over at AMC, another comic book being adapted is Preacher. Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s series for Vertigo followed small town preacher, Jessie Custer, who becomes merged with a force from heaven that empowers him with ‘the word of God’.
With The Walking Dead, Resident Evil, the remakes of George Romero and others, we saw zombies become a popular motif in pop culture. After 9/11, when Americans became hyper aware of the potential for terrorist threats, we became trained to see fear everywhere. Anyone around us, at any time, had the potential to become a deadly threat, and the zombie became an ideal metaphor for both that explosion of violence and the rate at which extremist ideology (whatever it’s agenda) can spread.
In contrast to this, the use of figures of divinity in modern storytelling is used to represent several things. It can touch on our desire for meaning in life, a structure to offset the random chaos we’re exposed to. They can be icons of self empowerment, guiding us to take control of our situation. They can be symbols of the good we wish to see in the world; of how we can champion a cause and defending those who believe in it.
Zombies are the creeping, decaying embodiment of our fears. With the rise of gods in pop culture, we could begin to see a more optimistic world. One where we stand our ground and are no longer afraid to face our fears.