Friday, 15 February 2013

Amazonia: Hail to the Goddess

In the grim dark past that was Thatchers Britain, the default setting of a game called Warhammer was a place called Lustria. The mutant brainchild of then GW game design supremo Richard Halliwell, Lustria promised us a land of adventure, lush rich visuals, an exotic mesoamerican wilderness populated by the remnants of lost civilisations and strange, alien peoples. 

Sure, the quasi-medieval Empire well established today was there, but really, alien frogmen, zigguraut pyramids, dwarven treasure-hunters and feathered serpent magicians were where it was at - but none of these were as central to the conception of Lustria as Amazonia: The Empire of the Amazons. And none so central to the Amazons than the Goddess Rigg.
Riggs Shrine | 2nd Citadel Journal

It is quite commonly suggested in Warhammer fandom, that Richard Halliwell named his Amazon goddess "Rigg" after the screen actress Diana Rigg, possibly most famous for her role as Ms. Peel, the original leather cat-suited Avenger, long before Scarlett Johanson stole fanboys hearts doing the same thing. But, back to the plot, why Halliwell should choose this particular actress seemed somewhat of a non sequitur the 60's British modernism of the Avengers at odds with Lustrias blend of archaic exoticism and sci-fantasy weirdness.

And then I unearthed this:

The Goddess Rigg | Diana Rigg | Klytemnestra | via
The Serpent Son, BBCs 1979 adaption of Aeschylus' Oresteia combined both Minoan and Science-fiction influences (erudite and informative article here). Notable credits include set and costume design by Barbara Kidd, probably better known for her work on Doctor Who in the 1970s (and new Who as well). Puts me in mind of a more dusty and autumnal version of Jack Kirby's costumes for Julius Ceasar.

This was no dry, worthy adaptation of Greek myth, but rather an avant garde, post-Star Wars affair, no doubt designed to get the spotty oiks who were busy playing D&D to read some "proppa kultcha". Well done Auntie Beeb. Unfortunately there is no Youtube video or DVD release, so exactly how entertaining it is will have to be left to our imaginations.

Diana Rigg | Klytemnestra

Diana Rigg | Klytemnestra | Make a mighty fine Witch Elf / Drow Priestess or Priestess of Mongo to boot.

While it can't be said that the costumes (both John Blanche and Tony Ackland drew the Amazons for the 2nd Citadel Journal, some 6 years after  The Serpent Son broadcast) exactly follow the designs worn by Diana Rigg, some of the design ethos does seem to have translated. At its most basic it is the marriage of archaic and futuristic which is so beloved by sci-fantasy pulp writers. With Lustria and The Serpent Son there are more specific ques, in the words of erstwhile TV pundit Clive James "Diana Rigg had a wardrobe of Pocahontas numbers for day wear. They came with a complete range of Inca, Aztec and Zulu accessories." Emphasis mine. The serpent-dress is evidently not classed as day-wear by Clive

The Goddess Rigg

The Goddess Rigg |
from the collection of Bruno Galice | via

Putting aside authorial influence, Rigg perhaps servicable as inspiration for the deity of the Temple of Karra or the attire of the Royal Palace of Genaina, things only hinted at by the original text...

Blood for the Koka Goddess | Diana Rigg
Kalim & the Goddess
The Goddess and the Norscans
This is a particularly intriguing image, the dirty-faced woodwose looking like odinic refugees from the Sagas, perhaps mirroring one of the central theme of the Lustrian campaigns - invasion by Norse settlers.

I've updated Riggs stats to be compatible with 2nd/3rd edition (that's the 2E S+T kicker and numerical T), and points value calculated as per the Oldhammer Points Value calculator
8 8 7 5 4 10 10 1 4 10 10 10 156
Rigg has one knife and four throwing knives (18" short range only, S4 hits). Evidently with an LD of 4, she's a go-it-alone sort of gal, not given to leading others.

Unfortunately I cannot invoke Gu-Gle to provide a colour image of Helen Mirren as Cassandra, Clive James states "Helen Mirren played her as an amalgam of Régine, Kate Bush and Carmen Miranda. In a punk hairstyle the colour of raw carrots." Again  emphasis is mine, but I am slightly concerned  about Clive James  identifying what appears to be an acid perm as "punk". Punk, of course being one of the major design themes of the Amazons, with mohawks abound.

Helen Mirren | "Punk Hairstyle" | Cassandra | Koka-Kalim

I can't possibly have a post on Sci-Fi Greek Myths without another trip into the Broom Cupboard for some mid-80s cartoon nostalgia. No real connection to Lustria at all, but past the fantastic sing-long theme tune and dodgy dubbing, the soundscape effectively evokes the blank erieeness of floating through empty space in a deserted spacecraft, in a kind of ambient progfunk way,  while featuring blue skinned, white haired psionic Drow aliens (an influence on Daft Punk) and vast, alien architectures based on ancient earth cultures, this episode: an ancient egyptian space-station.

It is the 31st century, Ulysses killed the giant Cyclops when he rescued the children and his son Telemachus. But the ancient Gods of Olympus are angry and threaten a terrible revenge...
Mortals, you defy the Gods? I sentence you to travel among unknown stars. Until you find the Kingdom of Hades, your bodies will stay as lifeless as stone.


  1. Great find! Its not hard to imagine this would have been an influence on them all. Perhaps we need a consented campaign to get them to show it again on bbc4. Zero cost repeats must be high on their priorities at the moment.
    Had the Mohawk become, "mainstream", punk by '79? Brightly dyed slightly less coiffured hair would have been punk back then no?

    Ulysses always struck me as quite bleak and nihilistic back as a kid, though perhaps I wouldnt' have used those words. I think I liked it but not as much as cities of gold.

  2. There's more than a touch of glam rock to Helens look.. we'll just have to look elsewhere for the punk influence.

    Ulysees 3100: In the grim dark future of the 31st centry, there is only the will of the ancient gods...

  3. ahhh, I have search the internet for the last 1/2 hour looking for the Serpent Son, it's killing me I have got to watch but on the plus side I have the Ulysees 31 boxed set ;-)

  4. Ulysses 31 was quite bleak for a children's cartoon. His crew were more or less dead -- I always wondered if we got a softer translation and if they were in fact dead in the original Japanese and French versions -- and he was cursed to wander the stars. I recall the episode with the sirens being quite horrific.

  5. It's unlikely the crew in the original are dead, they are seen literally suspended animation, and occasionally wake up - one episode IIRC where Umi's bother Númenor (named after Tolkiens Atlantis?). The Ulysees 31 does have a unique tone, and its universe is certainly a cruel one, populated with petty and selfish beings of immense power, but the love and hope within family unit of Ulysses, Telemachus and Umi really shines. Maybe it's time for a sci-fi supplement to Mazes & Minotaurs.

    OK let's get this Serpents Son dug out of the BFI and into the nations living-rooms.

  6. Rather than just drop the punk thing like any reasonable human I'll raise you glam rock assertion with the original American queen of punk blondie...just a thought, any way I can see where Mr James was coming from. Ulysses certainly deserves a re-look.

  7. Well you get bonus points because of the Debbie Harry / sisters of battle thing, but she's filed under New Wave in this house, so we're working with slightly different definitions. But that's OK because we're discussing the musical genres of girls hair on a gaming blog. Meanwhile... was Ulysses the fourth Bee Gee?

    1. If you consider it from a subculture/scene perspective, Blondie was a band from the New York "punk" scene around CBGB's during the late seventies (along with Television, New York Dolls, Patti Smith Group and The Ramones).
      off course, when New Wave became a thing, Blondie was pigeon-holed into that genre ;)
      The difficulty with defining the "genre" some of those bands of the "punk era" (76-79) is that the genre is as much a (then loosely defined) musical style ("loud" and uncomplicated) as a fashion statement and has a strong locational aspect as well (NY and London).

    2. They were proto-New-wave, then New wave. Blondie had far more culturally in common with Bowie, The Velvet Underground, Andy Warhol and art rock scene than authentic punk. The might have been attached to the scene, but their art and their legacy isn't punk.

      A parallel could be made with Siouxie Sioux who as part of the Bromley Contingent was definitely part of the punk "scene", to pidgeonhole Siouxie and the Banshees as punk would be oversimplification.

      There's an amazon civil war scenario in there somewhere!

    3. very good, that civil war scenario idea... hmm... Kalim Devout superior De'blonda'ry vs. Shik'shoux the Black Priestess renegade?

      on the genre-thing, I've noticed over the years that the terms differ quite a bit between people and sources as genres branch out and mingle. I might put in opposition that New Wave is/was a new monicker for punk (i.e. the New Wave of Punk groups) or that your proto-new wave is actually proto-punk or that punk is an umbrella term for a whole host of sub-genres -including new wave- just like Jazz, Rock or Metal... though an umbrella term is just as you say: oversimplification short of calling any musical style just Music (which is a thing people actually do);).
      Popular music and its categorization is a very subjective thing and your view is nothing but credible, though I might add that the NY scene as a whole did take inspiration from "The Factory" and art rock, much more than their British counterparts (though Roxy Music might just be acceptable to them). I tend to view both locales as birthplaces of the style, though evidently they set up to go in very different directions and inspire different successor styles.

    4. Lol! The mutability of genre and shifting signifiers aside. Anyone who can put this* and this in the same category of style, music, social or political and economic intent has a arbitrary definition of the term, which renders it unable to signify anything of any use. Also, let's not loose sight, this isn't so much about music as it is about haircuts ;-)

      Returning to the shifting signifier, as Erny pointed out - Clive James using the term in 1979 could well have been correct in his use of the word 'punk' at that time. However, Riggs Shrine is 1984, and the scene identified as punk had mutated somewhat from it's middle-class art-school origins and NY druggie scenesters, and rejected much of the vacant posturing. My point (if indeed I had one) in the original post was to point that it's unlikely that Serpents Son being identified as "punk" has any bearing on the development of the Koka Kalim - the Mowhawk is not 1979 Debbie Harry style New Wave or even 1979 Helen Mirren style Glam.

      *bright orange mohawks, in Warhammer? surely not!

    5. True, Blondie and the Exploited have nothing in common, and I will agree, Blondie was more of a pop-group who hung around with punks for a while ;)
      But then again, Elvis Costello was considered punk too (by the media), until another genre-New Wave- was invented that fit him (and some other "punks") better. Goes to show how a thing can warp. Sometimes it's just as if all new music from a certain (set of) years is at the time labelled under the same ...erm...label even if the scope of the label is -at the time- to broad to be significant. and then later, more detailed definitions split it up. Who would win the "most sub-genres" match up? Punk or Metal? :P

      Seen in the light of the 1984 Dungeonpunk concept, punk is indeed the domain the spiked leather jacket wearing mohawks, bald-shaved straight edgers, and other such types who play their songs loud, fast and simple. by 1984 Punk had indeed become a very identifiable aesthetic when concerning hair and clothes, and indeed many of those artists that played in the eventual archetypical punk style(s)* had moved on into political activism in such a way that it became part of the style, even if some political opinions were already apparent in the first wave of 76-77 (especially The Clash).
      Also of note for regarding Clive James' review is that "punk" had long been a derogatory term for street-urchins and other such little unwashed rascals. So maybe he meant that kind of punk?

      *which off course, have their genesis in the late '70's.

    6. Hmm, I think dance music might have more genres. Currently listening to some nasty Glitchcorey-Witchouse.

      Politics, although not always very well thought out and sometimes paraded for shock value rather than ideological conviction, is quite punky and something that I'll definitely be writing about in later posts...

  8. Wow that is quite some underwiring Miss Rigg has there! I was looking for some inspiration for my Amazon priestesses and the Goddess herself and that get-up might be a start...

    Ulysses was another childhood favourite. I'd never noticed how strangely the actors deliver a lot of their lines - very quickly with a very strange intonation at times. The Sphinx and his daughter are good examples of what I'm trying to describe. Wonder whether it was a conscious artistic choice (Ancient Greek dramatic convention?!) or just trying to keep within the time allotted for each episode! Either way it must have been partly why I found the series strange and a little unsettling.

  9. The similarity to the He-Man characters Teela and Evil Lyn makes me wonder if there is a historical precedent for the snake-bra, perhaps Theda Bara as Cleopatra?

    The grey, gold and black colour scheme could work nicely as a theme for the High Caste.

  10. Well a quick trawl of the interwebz has sent me back coincidenntly to Ancient Greece and the Snake Goddess of Knossoss. One of the statues has snakes adorning it, although not providing much support! Nothing to do with Teela et al but interesting nonetheless.

    Oh and I reckon I'm sold on that colour scheme - cheers!

  11. Just come across this too - might be of some interest?

  12. Nice! That episode rocks on so many levels, from the Dave Andrews-esque ark complete with giant skull with a spiked mohawk (!), to the Nasca lines being alien air-strips, to Stitchins angelic beings. All it really needed was an ending shot of some anthropomorphic aztec frog "and now our terra-forming is complete, mwahahahah!"

    1. Uncannily close to what I was thinking too (the frogs).

      Now back to watching all the episodes of Ulyses I can find - in order.

      Curse you!!

  13. Part 1 of The Serpent Son (the bit with Helen Mirren as well as Diana Rigg) is being shown next February 26th at Nottingham Lakeside Arts Centre as part of a season of UK tv productions of Greek tragedy: if you're in the vicinity, consider making a trip! Some details, Twitter @tv_tragedy

    1. Hey Thanks for letting me know. I doubt I'll be in the Nottingham area in Feb, but I'll spread the word a bit.