Dr Dave Hitchock on Neil Gaimans 1602 and the early modern period

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Dr Dave Hitchcock (Canterbury Chirstchurch University)

Neil Gaiman’s 1602

All things change, and we change with them’. Thus reads the battered wooden sign outside of Master Carolus Javier’s ‘Select College for the sons of Gentlefolk’ in a shimmering fiction of early seventeenth century England from the mind of Neil Gaiman and the pen of Andy Kubert. Marvel 1602 was first released in 2003 to a mixed reception from comics fans, and it remains the only standalone alternative history series in the marvel universe which actively embedded all of its characters into the political, theological, and emotional context of ‘early modernity’, a period of history conventionally described as beginning with the invention of the printing press and ending with the French and American Revolutions. In this talk David Hitchcock will focus on three important ways that 1602 re-presents the early modern world to its readers, through: strange wonders, the very marvels of early modernity themselves, each one an invitation to see both the hand of God and the order of nature at work in human affairs; roguery, or social deviance, best typified by Matthew Murdoch and Natasha Romanov; and devilry and magic, exemplified by the conflict between the X-men ‘witchbreed’ and the Inquisition. 1602 allowed Gaiman and the comic's readers to imagine a mutant modernity that might have been, and it allows us as historians and comics scholars to examine the cultural place of 'early modernity' in the fictions we write about ourselves.