Those of you who make it a point searching the internet for any fascinating nugget of anything like I do may have seen a comic making the rounds lately.
Not long ago, io9 did an article on a (somewhat NSFW) comic dubbed The Gaeneviad, written and drawn by a French artist known simply as Boulet who produces a special comic once a year in a mere 24 hours; an impressive feat to be sure.
While I’m happy for having the comic brought to my attention, I was disappointed as I felt the original article might have missed some critical points of interest. I believe there is a lot to be gleamed from this story and I want to through and share the details I noticed in this heartfelt comedy.
My first act of research involved finding the significance of the title. However, every attempt to find a translation or the meaning of ‘Gaeneviad’ redirected me to the name Genevieve – the name of our elderly protagonist.
As it turns out, the name of the little old lady has significance. Given the nature of her character as loving, gentle, and protective of others, as well as the country of origin of the writer, it’s likely that Boulet is attempting to draw a comparison between his Genevieve Menard and Genevieve; the Saint of Paris. Even her last name Menard has heroic connotations as it’s meaning in German can be read as “brave or hard strength.”
The theme of heroism is also what dictates the modernized Olympian setting. Although the ancient Greeks were far from the first to use the heroic myth narrative, they tend to be the first we, as the common person, think of. Most western fantasy epics use the model of Greek mythology. Many of us refer to comic book superheros as the modern Greek heroes.
But in a sly twist, this isn’t your standard Hero’s Journey yarn. Rather, it’s a critique of so-called “heroes”. In The Gaeneviad, Zeus sends the world into chaos to protect Genevieve from harm, even when Hades comes to collect her soul (Aside: I like how Hades is portrayed in his traditional keeper of the dead role rather then his more modern Satan-Stand-In model).
When asked by Hades at the end of the comic why he went so far out of his way to protect and serve her, Zeus responds saying, “Because heroes are assholes.” He then laments how rare true altruism is and how what we consider acts of heroism are often motivated my some self-serving goal.
If it had ended here, this would have been a very sad conclusion. But Zeus, monologue ends with him intoning that, when those moments when even the smallest act of true selflessness present themselves, they serve as a refreshing reminder of how beautiful life can be. He concludes by saying, “In our celestial pantheon made of blood, fire and steel, we could really use an old lady who helps wounded birds.”
This was a beautiful and yet hilarious piece of sequential art that I was happy to find and even happier to share. Sometimes, we don’t need heroes; we just need one decent person.