Saturday, January 10, 2009

More Evidence for Jack Straw

The Wizard of Id is really quite a misunderstood comic. We complain about its cardboard characters and irrelevant content without understanding that it is actually commenting, with profoundly up-to-the-moment cleverness, on the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. My uncertainty as to whether the King in the comic represents Richard II or Richard III has now definitively been resolved in favour of the former. Today, The Wizard of Id comes right out and tells us that the advent of Jack Straw et al is right around the corner.

This strip succinctly summarises the situation in 1381, albeit with some of the main players disguised. The mention of taxes is a very slightly veiled reference to the unfair poll tax that angered commoners after its institution in 1377. The King's insistence on keeping all taxes, even in the face of revolution,* echoes the real-life situation in the early 1380s, though as Richard II was only fourteen at the time and most of the governing of his kingdom was done by his powerful advisers, it is possible that the "King" in the comic is really only a puppet, a mouthpiece through which the words of John of Gaunt and all his little friends can issue. Rodney, here representative of the more far-seeing (and less powerful) nobles, warns the King of what is coming and proposes a cowardly but workable solution that the King (read: Gaunt) utterly rejects. Once again, the creators of The Wizard of Id are lampooning the government of the day and urging readers to join in their crusade.**

It is truly tragic that these comics are appearing so many centuries too late.

*Sort of like Rorschach, who vows to pursue his self-destructive course "even in the face of Armageddon." Yes, I like Watchmen. Yes, I have read it many times. Yes, I just quoted it from memory. So sue me.
**Who will be strong and stand with...them?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

The above combination of medieval social history, Alan Moores tribute, and rousing pseudo-French revolt anthems has given me a minor geekgasm.