Ancient Greek, anthony s. buoni, archetypes, Asterion, Cretan Minotaur, Death, distorted, fantasy, gods, horror, Labyrinth, maze, Minos, myth, mythology, Orpheus, Pasiphae, passion, Poseidon, slasher flick, Theseus, traditions, urban fantasy, vampires, vengence, werewolves
Horror and mythology are passionate lovers.
Angry and lustful gods, ferocious creatures, and evil entities have populated tales since the beginning of storytelling. The thematic elements coursing through classic oral and written traditions still thrive in modern genre works. Our television and multiplex screens flicker with vampires, werewolves, and zombies, while bestselling literature and magazines depict serial killers, ghosts, and vengeful deities.
More often than not, these chilling tales are rooted in myth. Brian Keene’s novel DARK HALLOW features a sleepy Pennsylvanian neighborhood’s men chasing after the satyr Hylinus after he’s lured their wives into the woods to engage in Dionysian orgies. In WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, adapted for the big screen from a Richard Matheson novel and starring Robin Williams, notes from Orpheus’ lyre can be heard as our hero descends into the underworld to rescue his better half in the name of love.
The myths at the core of these stories have survived through the ages because they contain the essence of what truly scares us: fear of the unknown, being powerless, facing intelligent adversaries different from the status quo, and death.
For me, however, antiquity’s most frightening monster, the one creature who embodies all of these traits, is the Cretan Minotaur.
According to legend, when Minos refused to sacrifice a beautiful white bull for Poseidon, the sea god punished the King by making his queen, Pasiphae, fall in love with the beast. Using a hollow wooden bull created by master craftsman Daedalus, Pasiphae mated with the bull and conceived a hideous child. Half-man, half-bull, the Minotaur’s proper name was Asterion, and he possessed an unquenchable hunger for human flesh and blood so savage, Daedalus constructed a complicated Labyrinth to contain him. Asterion remained trapped in the twisting corridors for years, feeding off unlucky souls cast in gauntlet as sacrificial punishment as well as the foolishly brave attempting to slay him. Eventually, Minos’ daughter Ariadne fell madly in love with Theseus, an intended sacrifice to the Minotaur. She gave him a ball of blue thread so he could navigate the paths, and Theseus was able to kill Asterion with his blade before finding his way out.
Pure terror oozes from the foundation of Asterion’s myth. So menacing is the Minotaur, he’s had the ability to change shape, adapting to modern sensibilities.
In Stanley Kubrick’s version of Stephen King’s THE SHINING, Jack Nicholson points his forehead at the camera as a bull would aim his horns before chasing his son into the frozen hedge maze outside the labyrinthine Overlook Hotel. AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN depicted Delphine LaLaurie attaching the severed head of a bull to a houseboy as punishment for having sex with one of her daughters before sending him to kill her enemies. Suzanne Collins drew inspiration from the Myth when penning the HUNGER GAMES; President Snow is a nod to the white bull that birthed Asterion.
For BULLMAN, my take on the Minotaur legend featured in DISTORTED vol. 1, 1980s-slasher films became the framework in which I set the myth. The basic elements are all there—the Minotaur, the maze, the king, his daughter, and a youth trying to win her eye—but I warped the story so it featured teenagers drinking, taking drugs, and obsessing over sex. Most slasher films are morality tales pitting the virtuous against pure evil, but I wanted to blur the lines, add a little spice to the worn out archetypes we’ve seen again and again. Within the story, there are references to myths and superstitions not only from ancient Greece but also other cultures as well as nods to my own mythology I’ve created in other works. All this comes together as the characters enter the labyrinth, each with their own selfish agendas and pretenses, each oblivious to the real dangers tucked deep within the maze’s corners.
When you grab your copy of DISTORTED vol. 1, dim the lights and wrap up in a blanket. Things aren’t what they seem, and the Bullman needs flesh.