We kick things off with the standard bio / background on Christopher Knowles, finding out how he got interested in esoterica and how that ended up merging with his interest in comic books. We then delve into the premise behind Our Gods Wear Spandex and Christopher talks about how the Industrial Revolution caused a move towards mysticism which eventually led into pop culture, notably comics. We examine how this crossover can be seen in Vril: The Power of the Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, which used elements of Hollow Earth theory to introduce the concept of a superhuman, a theme which would evolve into the superheroes of comic book lore. Knowles explains how Vril ended up influencing the esoteric scene as much as it did the world of pop culture, a cyclical effect which can be seen ongoing to this day.

Jumping into the realm of comics, we find out about how the Depression era was a key element in the evolution of comics and sci fi as it spawned the novel Gladiator, which endowed heroes with superpowers, constrasting the past where they had previously been merely normal people. This leads to Christopher detailing how this paved the way for Superman, which represented a sea change from mysticism to science-based mythology in comics. Taking things to a somewhat meta level, we talk about how some critics contend that Superheroes are actually facist because they sit "above" average people. Christopher details this criticism and explains how the "uberman" split into two divergent paths which can actually be seen in various elements of World War II, such as the character of Captain America who was powered by a super soldier serum, a concept that was literally being developed by Nazi scientists.

This segues into Christopher talking about how Our Gods Wear Spandex raised the ire of some comic book fans because of his thesis tying the esoteric to comic books. This, in turn, leads to some discussion about how the sci fi community, despite being hugely esoterically influenced, is paradoxically strongly anti-esoteric.

Taking things back to that nexus of esoterica, fiction, and politics, Christopher shares the story of the "Magical Battle of Britain," where real occult enthusiasts in WWII Britain joined together to cast magical spells protecting the country from the Nazis. Looking back at the comic industry, we talk about how the emergence of television was a huge blow to the popularity of comics and that segues into some discussion on the public perception of comics as "kid's entertainment" or trashy and how long that perception has been in existence. Continuing to trace the evolution of the comic industry, we find out about the "Comics Code," a self-imposed censorship by the comic book industry after receiving a lot of criticism by the media and the government in the 1950's.

Next we discuss the concept of golems and how they constitute a key archetype of superheroes such as Batman and, later, Wolverine and Punisher. Following that, we talk about William Moulton Marston, a truly bizarre and eccentric man who created Wonder Woman. This segues into some discussion on why Wonder Woman hasn't made the transition to film in recent years with the explosion of Superhero films. We also cover Spiderman and find out where he fits into whole milieu of esoterica and comic characters.

This leads us to talking about Jack Kirby, a titan in comic book history, who is often overshadowed by his more charismatic partner Stan Lee. Christopher starts by providing a detailed look at Jack Kirby's past prior to his entrance into the comic book field. Christopher details how Kirby brought a lot of focus on esoteric elements such as aliens and, especially, ancient astronauts, as he developed his stories. He also reflects on how Kirby seemed to be in tune with something in the ether where many of his works pre-told events which would later unfold in real life, such as the "Face on Mars," the Gulf War, and the theory that Iraq had lost artifacts from ancient astronauts.

Christopher also shares his story of meeting Stan Lee and this leads to some discussion of Lee's TV show Who Wants to be a Superhero? and how that embodies the change in comic fans where just reading the comics is not enough and they, themselves, aspire to be the superheroes. Christopher speculates that this trend will continue onward into virtual reality and other cutting edge means of storytelling where the viewer becomes enveloped in the story.

Wrapping up our discussion on Our Gods Wear Spandex, we talk about Alan Moore's emergence as one of the premiere writers in the comics field and how that shifted the power structure in the industry from artists to writers. This leads to some discussion on how comics evolved into the 1990's. Christopher talks about why he hates the early 1990's era of comics and how the industry seemed to hinge on taking advantage of the collectors market. He also reveals how all of this changed with a comic called Kingdom Come.

Christopher Knowles is the author of the Eagle Award-winning Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes and the critically-acclaimed Clash City Showdown: The Music, Meaning and Legacy of the Clash, as well as co-author of The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies. He was an associate editor and columnist for the five-time Eisner Award-winning Comic Book Artist magazine, as well as a writer and reviewer for the UK magazine, Classic Rock. Knowles wrote the definitive history of the cult classic film Lucifer Rising for Classic Rock, which featured exclusive interviews with Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, director Kenneth Anger and Manson Family member Bobby Beausoleil. The Lucifer Rising cover story earned Classic Rock its best-selling issue to date.

Knowles has explained the ongoing collision between myth, ancient symbolism and modern culture on several radio shows and podcasts, and has appeared in the documentaries Wonder Woman: Daughter of Myth, The Man, The Myth: Superman and Wendy O Williams and the Plasmatics. He was invited to lecture on science fiction, mysticism and mythology at the legendary Esalen Institute at Big Sur, California in 2008 and 2009. He blogs daily on The Secret Sun.

His website is secretsun.blogspot.com

Topics Discussed
Christopher Knowles

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