The Wicked + The Divine premiered on June 18 and has already gone into a second printing (which should hit comic shops on Wednesday, July 16th). The amount of buzz on various social media sites was nearly overwhelming, I don’t know a single person who hasn’t liked it, and critical reviews seem to concur. It’s funny, it’s smart, and it references an indefinite number of ancient and modern mythologies, which leads me to this guide to the Gods of Wicked +Divine)
So far in the story, there have been two incarnations of the gods that are known to the reader. Of these, there are four faces, four symbols and one name that are known about the first group. At the risk of “posturing with a Wikipedia summary’s understanding of myth,” and with the full disclaimer that these are hypotheses and in no way confirmed or authoritative, here’s what we know about them.
If you skipped the first page of the comic because there weren’t pretty attractive colors, stop fucking doing that. These are some VERY serious hints. The twelve icons in a circle correspond to the twelve seats at the table, skull-for-skull. The only name that the creators have given us is Susanoo, the Shinto god of sea and storms, which is referenced both in his lightning bolt tie pin and in the lightning symbol in the circle. If the creators aren’t fucking with us and putting people in the wrong positions at the table, then we can hypothesize the following:
Susanoo is the Shinto god of sea and summer storms. Shinto is a set of religious beliefs held by the indigenous people of Japan starting around 660 BCE, and is still practiced to varying degrees today. Susanoo is Amaterasu’s brother in Shinto mythology, and they have another brother as well, Tsukuyomi, who is the god of the Moon. Susanoo and Amaterasu have a long standing rivalry in Shinto mythology.
The most obvious owl icon is Athena/Minerva. Ancient Greek mythology likely developed out of Mycenaean religious beliefs and lasted from 3200 BCE to 146 BCE, at which point much of it was borrowed by Roman mythology, leading Athena to become Minerva. Recently, Greek culture has seen a return to Hellenism, leading to this mythology and religion still being practiced today.
Baal, a name which could refer to a number of demons but is most commonly attributed to Hadad, the Northwest Semitic storm and rain god, wears a bull-horned headdress. This guess is based only on the mention of Baal later in the narrative, but this character could just as likely be Khnum or Baphomet. Baal’s origins are likely from Mesopotamian religion, from the fourth millennium BCE throughout Mesopotamia to approximately the 10th century CE. There are also highly unreliable sources (illuminati theorists on the internet) indicating that an owl may have represented Moloch, and that Moloch as a Baalim god may himself have been called Baal. The most common associative fact with Moloch is his demand for child sacrifices.
Inanna is a Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare, and her symbol is an eight-pointed star or a rosette. Alternately, this could be Amaterasu, goddess of the sun, Susanoo’s sister—and she is the one who calls Susanoo by name. Writer Kieron Gillen says on his tumblr, “The girl with the bob is one you abstractly could get now,” which honestly is more cryptic and confounding than the previous shots in the dark.
These, again, are mostly guesses, and based on a very limited number of pages. The next incarnation, however, has quite a bit more information. There are three gods, in fact, who have faces, names, and symbols—and their presence in this first issue along with the order of the symbols assigned to the second incarnation leads to a logical presumption that the order of symbols is at least somewhat chronological in correspondence to the narrative arc. (see below, highlighting mine on a photocopy of my issue –not the real issue, chill out guys)
It’s also worth noting here that Laura mentions the following names, even though their characters are not yet introduced in this story: Baal, a name which could refer to a number of demons but is most commonly attributed to the Northwest Semitic storm and rain god, who wears a bull-horned headdress; Inanna, a Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare, and whose symbol is an eight-pointed star or a rosette; and Tara, an icon of either Hindu or Buddhist origin, who is frequently depicted as having a mothering personality, and who loves blood. It’s also worth examining that a ram’s head and an owl occur in both circles, but depicted slightly differently, which could either mean that they are different gods or simply different versions of the same gods.
So here’s who we know:
Amaterasu is a Shinto goddess, sister of Susanoo, and is associated with summer and sun. Again, Shinto is an ancient Japanese religion, which gives us our first hint that these gods may not follow any race/gender correlations with their mythological counterparts (which Cassandra calls “problematic at best and offensive at worst”.
Luci(fer) calls herself “father of lies, the adversary, lord of flies, the old serpent, god of this world, dragon, the lightbringer, appolyon, et cetera, et cetera.” Lucifer belongs to both ancient and modern Christian mythology, and in classic works such as Paradise Lost laments his(her) absence from God’s presence. Lucifer is the fallen angel.
Sakhmet is the Egyptian sun goddess of fire, war and vengeance, and is traditionally represented by a lioness. She had a huge and powerful cult following in Ancient Egypt. She also ruled over menstruation, which in light of Luci’s comment about being “in heat,” may be worth noting. Egyptian mythology started before 3000 BCE, and its longevity continues with modern incarnations even today.
And here’s what we can reasonably guess:
IF these are the same, and it’s reasonable to assume they are, then this is Athena again. However, we can’t expect her to follow any particular race or gender/gender expression, based on precedence from other characters.
This would be Baal again, or any number of the previously stated hypotheses from the 1920s scene.
This is probably Inanna, but the number of gods that have a sun or star as their symbol is seemingly unlimited. This is a guess at best.
This leads us to our last guess. If we accept that the same twelve gods are reincarnated each time, there is no symbol on the second circle that could represent sea or storm (Susanoo). Additionally, with the chronology alluded to previously, the three named gods are followed by a blank circle—which, coupled with the cliffhanger at the end of issue 1, indicates an additional unknown god. This god could be Susanoo, but there are three total blank spaces on the circle. One of them is likely occupied by Susanoo, but as with the rest of this article, that’s still uncertain. One argument for the possibility that this is Susanoo, however, lies in the idea that whoever caused the “miracle” is an antagonist either to Luci or to one of the gods in that group, and Susanoo’s rivalry with Amaterasu could be a possible motivation.
And here’s what we could not possibly solve, no matter how hard we try:
OK, yes, maybe one of these is Susanoo. But the other two could be nearly anything. It’s possible that one of them is Tara, since none of the other symbols is an obvious correlation.
The two-faced god is Janus, so going on literally no other information at all, this might be him. The theater masks have traditionally represented Janus, who is the Greek god of beginnings and transitions. See my previous notes on Athena for a brief summary of Greek mythology’s relevance today.
So this is probably death. Which death, one couldn’t possibly guess. There’s a death god in innumerable mythologies, so narrowing this down further is, at this point, completely impossible.
The helmet indicates Norse mythology, which means it’s probably Thor (thunder) or Odin (the all-father). Or the winged helmet could indicate Mercury/ Roma from Greek/Roman mythology.
Again, these are all guesses. Have fun with this, and if you have your own hypotheses, please feel free to contact me to continue the conversation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Issue #2 comes out Wednesday, July 16. Check your local comic shop!
Katy Rex is the founder and chief contributor at endoftheuniversecomics.com.