Notes on Smax #2

by Jess Nevins and divers hands.

Corrections, additions, and suggestions are of course welcome. Please e-mail them to me. Please do, as this time around in particular I identified very few references. 

Updated on 3 October. Updates in blue.

(The text here, except where otherwise credited, is © copyright 2003 Jess Nevins, and may not be duplicated, in part or in whole, without my permission.)

Cover. I think the "By this I rule" on the axe is more of a comment by Moore on fantasy cliches and politics than a specific reference. Elio M. García, Jr. (and Matthew and 37 other people) noted that "By This Axe I Rule" is the title of one of Robert E. Howard's Kull stories.

A Frazetta Conan, oozing sexism and bad morals. The panel itself is a general parody of the fantasy fiction cliche of the muscular, semi-naked hero posing atop a pile of the corpses of his enemies while a semi-naked woman hugs his leg. Frank Frazetta has produced several bad examples of this, as in the Conan image to the right. 

MHS (and Tim Harrod and Taylor Bever and 48 other people) note that the "odric G" on the broken swordblade is a reference to Godric Gryffindor from J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" novels. "Eroom Nala" adds, "See the extra broken bit lying on the ground beside ODRI G you can just make out RYF."

"Jack Hawksmoor" notes (echoed by Neal Peters and Jason Adams) that "to the right of Robyn, in silhouette, is the Glaive from the movie Krull."

"Jack" also says (echoed by Jason Adams and Adam Lane), "The dragon's back spines are reminiscent of the classic Godzilla. A triceratops skull is shown here.  Weren't dinosaur fossils thought to be proof of dragons at one time?"

Mark Cummins notes that Robyn's armbands have "I want my MTV" on them.

Page 1. The runes the knight is speaking here are similar but not exact duplicates of the Northern European Runic alphabet (as for example at the Runic Journey site). Moore, that mad bastard (and I say that as a term of admiration, not derision), is (I'm certain) using the Angerthas, the Dwarfish alphabet used in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. A guide to the Angerthas can be found in Appendix B in The Return of the King. (Those of you lacking easy access to the Angerthas value table are not going to find the following very understandable).

Panel 2. My translation skillz are not mad. I am unable to properly translate this panel. I read the runes as 26 ("ghw,w"), 46 ("e"), 29 ("r-j"), which doesn't translate into anything I can make sense of.  Joseph Henry (and Jonathan Carter) says, "The first letter is, I think, 11 ("dh"), which would leave the knight saying DHER, DHER ("There, there"). Incidentally, I haven't a clue if this tiny knight is supposed to be a reference to something specific or if Moore's simply playing with the idea of a knight riding a gnat." Simon Bucher-Jones says, "I think, "r-j" is "roger" as in roger, over and out, the Knight on the fly is communicating like a pilot.  Incidently if he was Gawain then "ghw,w e" might be a distorted name."

Panel 3. My translation skillz are phat. I read the runes as 8 ("t"), 39 ("i(y)"), 6 ("m"), 8 ("t"), 52 ("ö"), 19 ("g"), 51 ("ō"), which reads "timto go" or, in English, "time to go." 

Panel 4. I am the George Clinton of translators. I read the runes as 42 ("u"), 1 ("p"), or "up!"

Page 2. "...and isn't it bad, so quiet there, in the wood?" is a quote from Syd Barrett's song "Octopus," and is the line after "Isn't it good to be lost in the wood," which was the title of Smax #1.

Page 3. Panel 1. Peter Slack (and Richard Powell and Molly Galatis) notes Charlie Brown in the crowd.

Page 4. Panel 3. I don't know who the trio behind Smax are. Kristen Northrup says that the fox seems to be a Disney version of Robin Hood. Joseph Henry agrees and sends this link.  Matthew says, "The fox with the bag is Beatrix Potter's Mr. Tod." Gabriel Roth (and Adam Lane) says that it's Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox. "AD Nomad" says, "The fox is DEFINITELY the Disney version of Robin Hood. The badger and the other child like rodent are from the children's series of book written by Richard (I believe his last name is this) Scary."

Panel 4. I don't know who or what the figure is to the left of Smax. Peter Slack thinks that it's Max, from Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are.  Eric Reehl (and Allyn Polk and Joseph Henry) thinks it's Cerebus the Aardvark, from Dave Sim's comic of the same name.

Page 5. Panel 1. Matthew says, "the sun looks like it could be from am medieval manuscript (there's a similar one in Monty python and the holy grail)."

Francis Herman says, "The castle in the background resembles the one that appears in the logo of John Kovalic's Dork Tower comics."

Page 6. Panel 3. I don't know what the grimacing, swearing tree is a reference to. Kelly Doran (echoed by Philip Flores) asks, "Is that one of the talking trees from HR Pufnstuf?"

Panel 4. "Jack Hawksmoor" says (echoed by Patryk Prus and Jason Adams),  "One of the characters on Robyn's jacket suddenly changes to Homestar for a couple of panels."

Panel 5. John Allison says, "Radiskull seems to be morphing into Homestar's friend/archenemy, Strong Bad."

Page 7. Panels 2 & 4. Dave Joll sees a similarity between Smax's mother and Xena. Edward Sullivan expands on this:
There is a great deal of possible 'Xena' resonance on Page 7. Xena was tall, dark-haired, wore a Roman-style leather skirt, breast- plates, calf-high boots and armbands. 

In the last season of the show, there was a reworking of Beowolf with Xena taking the role of a Valkyrie, winged helmet and all:

Xena fought and was defeated by Grendel in the episode "The Rheingold"  and the similarities to Page 7 Panels 2,4, and 6 are striking - - "When Gabrielle and Brunnhilda arrive in the morning, Beowulf is gravely wounded and Xena is missing, dragged off by Grendel. Only her broken armor remains among the wreckage. "

Panel 3. Jérôme Wicky says,
Smax's mom wears a winged helmet. Not much to say about, there's about a zillion heroic fantasy characters wearing that sort of thing, including Marvel's Thor...

... except that on Panel 3, Smax mentions that she was a magic strength potion user. Call me an evil French, but I can't help seeing a connection with French comic Astérix the Gaul by Goscinny and Uderzo, already refered to in an issue of Top 10... In Asterix, the Gauls in the village would use a magic strength potion cooked by their druid Panoramix to stay free from the Roman invasion. The official website (with a portal to an English version is here : )

Panel 5. "Firefleet" may be a reference to the 1983 Atari game or fantasy artist Allison "Firefleet" Jones. Or, possibly, the high scorer for Enchanted Forest II. Isn't it great what Google turns up?

I'm not sure what, if anything, "Elfang" is a reference to. 

Panel 8. Edward Sullivan says
A question Smax's tale begs is why his heroine mother didn't escape or attack his Ogre father again after her rape -- after all, she survived long enough to come to term.  The panel suggests the Ogre may have torn off her right arm (if so, there is an error in the panel - the arm hanging at the upper left corner of the panel is a leftie).  Again, there is a parallel with a Xena episode - in 'The Way' she is dismembered by her foe Indrajit before becoming an avatar of Kali.  Take a look at the hooked blade hanging at the upper right corner, and then take a look at this:

Page 8. Panel 1. The giant nutcracker is, obviously, used by the troll to crack open knights' armor.

Page 9. Panel 3. Nathan Alderman points out that the moon resembles the logo of Proctor & Gamble.

Nathan (and Dave Joll) also pointed out the skull of Smax's mother in the foreground.

Panels 6-9. Peter DeGlopper says, "impaling the ogre with a sharpened tree trunk reminds me of the way Odysseus blinds Polyphemus in the Odyssey."

Page 10. Panel 2. Neal Peters was the first of approximately 114 people (including Peter Slack and Steven Stones) to note that the human-faced fish is "Billy the Fish" from Viz Comics. Patrick Brown adds,

Viz is an adult humour comic in the UK, and Billy the Fish is an affectionate and thoroughly surreal satire of British football (i.e. soccer) comics who appears every once in a while.  Despite being born half man, half fish, young Billy Thompson managed to become the goalkeeper for Fulchester United Football Club..."

Page 11. Panel 1. Kristen Northrup points out the presence of Darwin Fish in the river. Several folks, including Jason Adams and Patryk Prus, noted the presence of goldfish crackers in the river.

"Jack Hawksmoor" (echoed by J. Kevin Carrier) says, "Now that the clothesline is untied, the tree here has a red "pain" star floating next to his nose."

Panel 4. "Jack Hawksmoor" says (echoed by Patryk Prus and Nathan Alderman), "Spider-Man's fingers can be seen at the top of the panel, apparently coming for the fairy caught in the web."

Pages 14. Panel 1. The figure crossing the ford to the left is, I think, Frazetta's "Death Dealer." Matthew says that it's a Nazgul as animated by Ralph Bakshi.

Neal Peters (and Jason Adams and Brad Walker) notes that the skunk is Flower from Disney's Bambi. Jen Zajac (and "Jack Hawksmoor" and Brad Walker) points out that the flower is Bob the Angry Flower.

I can't read the headline on the newspaper. Peter DeGlopper (and J. Kevin Carrier) thinks that the last word in the headline is "Most."

"Orthanc" is a reference to the tower of Saruman, from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

"Zamora" is a reference to ace Tottenham Hotspur player (and total dreamboat!) Bobby Zamora. A number of folks, including Elio M. García, Jr., quite unreasonably quibble with this annotation and insist, totally illogically, that "Zamora" is a reference to a locale in one of Robert E. Howard's "Conan" stories. Honestly, I don't know what you people are thinking of.

Nathan Alderman says, "The Orthanc-Zamora sign may be a pun on the origins of L. Frank Baum's  OZ, which was reportedly inspired by a filing cabinet drawer labeled O-Z."

I don't know what the tree on the right of the panel with the paper attached to it is a reference to.

I don't know what the blue figure hiding behind the tree is a reference to. Matthew (and J. Kevin Carrier and Edward Sullivan) thinks it's Paul Chadwick's Concrete.

Molly Galatis says

The tree in panel 2 is a talking tree from the Haunted Forest in The Wizard of Oz, and the "blue figure" in panel 1 is a reference to the famous flub/blooper/mistake in the Haunted Forest scene where you can clearly see a propman operating one of the trees for the scene.
Panel 2. I don't know what the tree-with-a-face is a reference to. Joseph Henry says, "I think that tree might be from Disney's Babes in Toyland (1961)." Ryn Nasser (and Nathan Alderman) notes that the sign on the tree reads "Ents." Which means, as Jason Adams points out, that perhaps the blue figure in Panel 1 is holding a staple gun.

Page 16. Panel 1. The statue of the figure holding up its right hand might be a reference to the Argonath, the "Pillars of the Kings" from Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring. I don't know who the figure here is, however. MHS says,

I haven't played the Legend of Zelda game for a while, but the statue reminds me of Link, the protagonist; at any rate, the spiky-haired statue recalls the anime-style heros of some sword-and-sorcery video games. Which may reflect Smax's unpreparedness to be a true dragonslayer; succeeding as a Gameboy hero in no way means he's ready to take on an Old-World dragon like Morningbright, who is, like Fafnir, a master of human psychology. This panel may be an ominous forshadowing of Morningstar's correct assessment in page 21 panel 1, 'I fear that you are not taking me seriously.'
John Tacujan says,
the "Argonath" looks like a Super Saiyan, (based on the cutoff shirt and cord tied around the waist and the style of hair) from the popular Anime Dragon Ball Z.  Most of the battles in that particular Anime are staged in desert wastelands where there are large buttes for the characters to demolish or incinerate to show off their powers.
Nathan Alderman thinks the statue is of Goku from Dragon Ball Z.

Panel 3. Yes, they do indeed breed like rabbits. (see Page 15, Panel 9). 

Page 17. Panel 1. I think the guard is the lead character from a fantasy arcade game which came out in the mid-1980s (whose name, obviously, I can't remember) in which the player's character was a knight overcoming various traps and perils before fighting a dragon. I want to say the name of the game was "Dragon's Hoard" but I can't say for sure. Many folks (including "Jack Hawksmoor," Taylor Bever and John Allison) wrote in to say that the name of the game was "Dragon's Lair" and that they disagreed that the character here was Dirk the Daring, the lead character from Dragon's Lair.

Panel 2. I can't figure out what the Queen's necklace is spelling out. 

Patryk Prus says, "The dots on the Queen's cheeks remind me of Queen Amidala from Star Wars: Episode One." Edward Sullivan provides this link as support.

Panel 4. Patryk Prus (and Richard Powell and Nathan Alderman) says, "The triangle shapes on the Queen's cuff and handkerchief might be a crudely drawn triforce from Nintendo's Zelda games."

Panel 5. A cockatrice is a monster hatched by a reptile from a rooster's egg; it has the head, wings, and legs of a bird but the tail of a serpent, and its breath and gaze are fatal.

A termagant is, per the Oxford English Dictionary:

  1. Name of an imaginary deity held in mediæval Christendom to be worshipped by Muslims: in the mystery plays represented as a violent overbearing personage.
  2. A savage, violent, boisterous, overbearing, or quarrelsome person (or thing personified); a blusterer, bully.
  3. A violent, overbearing, turbulent, brawling, quarrelsome woman; a virago, shrew, vixen. (Now the ordinary sense.)

Page 18. Panel 6. The object embedded in the wall is the ring of the Green Lantern.

Peter Slack says that the lair "is very reminiscent of the lair of 'the lure' in 'Greyshirt - Indigo Sunset' by Rick Veitch." Mark Elstob says,

This might be a bit of a stretch.  Is Moore referring to the Blue crystals of Metebelis Three?  This was a recurring element in "Dr Who" during the early seventies, culminating in a 1975 story called "Planet of the Spiders".  In this story, the monstrous queen spider is found living in a cave suffused with blue crystals.  It wouldn't be the first time Moore has tipped his hat to the third Doctor...
Edward Sullivan says,
The luminous blue crystals in Morningbright's Lair may be a reference to Leni Riefenstahl's first movie as director, a 1932 'fairytale bergfilm' titled 'The Blue Light' (Das Blaue Licht), which featured an alpine cave with glowing blue crystals that lured men to their deaths.

Take a look at a synopsis of the film here:

Then look at a frame from the film here (!):

and another frame here (!!!):

The film's heroine, Junta, dies after her cave is stripped of its crystals.   After Naruli is killed in Smax #2 , we don't see a single crystal in any of the panels showing Smax's flight from the lair...

Page 19. Panel 5. Joseph Henry says, "There's a baby rat creature (from Bone) at Smax's feet." jediryc thinks it's the Vorpal Bunny Rabbit from Monty Python's Holy Grail. Sarah Meador says, "that little fuzzy beast looks a lot like the Bou Nezumi from Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away."

Panel 6. Matthew (and Nathan Alderman) says, "Naruli looks (facially ) alot like Robyn, doesn't she?"

Page 20. Panel 1. Elio M. Garcia, Jr., says, "Is it me or do his whiskers look rather a lot like certain kinds of fractals?" Francis Herman says, "The "fluff" on the lower half of Morningbright's face resembles a fractal known as the "dragon curve". See  for an example."

Page 23. Panel 2. The poster is a Wanted poster for Morningbright the dragon. 

Panel 5. "Jack Hawksmoor" (echoed by John Allison and Adam Lane) says, "the sun in this panel is a reference to a Raisin Bran ad, in which a sun put "two scoops of raisins" in a box of the cereal."

Panel 6. Adam Lane says, "the witch on the right isn't merely from the roald dahl book The Witches, she is in fact the grand high witch herself."

Panel 7. I don't know who or what this is to the left of Smax. "Jack Hawksmoor" says, "Though the head doesn't match, the cape on the figure at Smax's left looks like those of the Gatchaman characters.  We saw one or two of them in the first issue, on pages 6 and 7."

Page 24. Panel 1. That may be Kermit the Frog peeking at us from the pond.

I don't know what the hand is a reference to. Jason Adams (and Nathan Alderman and J. Kevin Carrier) wonders if it is Thing from The Addams Family.

Panel 6. I don't know what the rock is a reference to, if anything. Edward Sullivan says, "I think this may be one of L. Frank Baum's Nomes, the rock fairy creatures from 'Return to Oz' and other tales..." Paul Stanton says, "Is the rock with the face a reference to the wrestler/actor the Rock?  It looks a little like his face, and the raised eyebrow is reminiscent of his famous 'people's eyebrow.'"

Thanks to: Alicia Nevins, Kristen Northrup, Neal Peters, Peter Slack, Patrick Brown, Jen Zajac, MHS, "Eroom Nala," Eric Reehl, "Jack Hawksmoor," Tim Harrod, Taylor Bever, Jason Adams, Patryk Prus, Steven Stones, Elio M. García, Jr., Brad Walker, Peter DeGlopper, Mark Elstob, Allyn Polk, Joseph Henry, Jason Fliess, John Allison, Andrew Doyle, Ryn Nasser, "Alliterator," John McCoy, James A. Wolf, Richard Powell, Matthew, jediryc, Damian Steer, Brian Costello, John Tacujan, Jessica Idres, Molly Galatis, Nathan Alderman, Mark Cummins, Tony Brown, J. Kevin Carrier, Glyn Allanson, Francis Herman, Peltfamily, David Goldfarb, Gabriel Roth, J. Germinder, Paul Lloyd, Jonathan Carter, Dave Joll, Simon Bucher-Jones, Edward Sullivan, Adam Lane, "The Prankster," Paul Stanton, Lewis Brown, Richard Ross, Kelly Doran, Jason Meador, Sarah Meador, Robin Whitley, Chris Keels, Gavin Chiu, Dave Clark, Wender Wu, Philip Flores, "AD Nomad," "Science Dad," Scott Isaacson, Marcelo de Castro Bastos, Jérôme Wicky, and Richard East.

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