Variations on a Theme

I read Shadowpact #2 last night. So far the book does read better than Day of Vengeance, probably in large part because Bill Willingham can set his own schedule instead of the must-be-6-issues policy of the Infinite Crisis lead-ins.

One of the villains struck me as familiar, though: an albino swordsman with a magic sword, apparently allied to a sinister god-like being, who has picked up the nickname, “the White Rabbit.”

Elric: The Making of a Sorcerer #3Maybe it’s just the timing—just a few days ago I read a comic about Elric, an albino swordsman with a magic sword, allied to a sinister god-like being, with the nickname, “the White Wolf.”

Michael Moorcock's MultiverseActually, I was first reminded of Count Zodiac from Michael Moorcock’s Multiverse, largely because Zodiac is based in the 20th century, rather than an ancient sword-and-sorcery landscape. Count Zodiac is one of at least three versions of Count Ulric von Bek*—the others appear in The Dragon in the Sword and the trilogy that begins with The Dreamthief’s Daughter—and, like Elric, an incarnation of the Eternal Champion.

The Eternal Champion in all his forms fights for the balance between order and chaos, and often finds himself fighting for order while indebted to a lord of chaos. At least two versions** of von Bek are albinos who wield the Black Sword (Ravenbrand, rather than Stormbringer), and while I don’t recall Ulric himself being linked to a demon the way Elric is reluctantly linked to Arioch of Chaos, the von Bek family has ties to Lucifer going back to the Hundred Thirty Years War.

Nightmaster vs. the White Rabbit from Shadowpact #2
Nightmaster vs. the White Rabbit

Count Zodiac from Michael Moorcock's Multiverse
Count Zodiac

I figure it’s impossible that Willingham, as a fantasy writer, cannot be at least passingly familiar with Elric. So that leaves the question: is the White Rabbit simply an homage to a classic fantasy character, or is the reference more meaningful? The Pentacle certainly appear to be evil, both in means and ends, but I do seem to recall a suggestion in Day of Vengeance that the Shadowpact might not always be on the right side…

*Update (July 2007): I finally got around to reading The White Wolf’s Son, the conclusion of the Elric/Von Bek trilogy. In this book, Count Zodiac appears as a distinct person from Ulric von Bek. This version is actually Elric himself, in the later years of his 1,000-year dream quest in our world.

**I haven’t managed to get more than a few pages into The Dragon in the Sword. The first two von Bek novels were a slog, and I’m not that big on the John Daker novels, so the two of them together? Not so great.

1 thought on “Variations on a Theme

  1. M!ke

    That makes it the second villain with the name of “White Rabbit” in the DCU. The first was appeared in Superman: The Man of Steel #22 (or it might have been #23), and was the enemy of John Henry Irons (Steel).

    Reply

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