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Monday Mashup #28: The Waste Land

Today, being a holiday, did not feel much like a Monday. Ooops.

Anyhow, I’m going to steal a mashup from Jere today. He says he’s seen a lot of campaigns that draw from T.S. Eliot’s "The Waste Land." I’ve never been lucky enough for that, although I did once play a paladin who drew religious inspiration from an old battered copy of Selected Poems. (Eric Hargan’s Catholicworld campaign. Eric is now writing policy studies for the Federalist Society, among other lawyerly pursuits.)

But I risk digressing into the treacherous political waters so evident in my previous post. Ladies and gentlemen, it is not yet April; it is not yet the cruellest month. Still, we may still breed lilacs before their time is come.

I’ll be direct with this one, using our subject not as inspiration but rather as plot element. The world is superheroic — but it’s a world with a place for the superheros of Xombi and Peter David’s new Fallen Angel. It’s a world in which the Doom Patrol is as important as Superman, even if nobody knows it. There are the bright men and women in capes, and there are the dark greys who admit to the truth. There are the dark greys, who know that power has costs and consequences.

“The Waste Land” is a powerful poem, written as an incantation and a roadmap to the 20th century. It predicts an infertile time, which is epitomized by the sterile crimefighting of those who wear spandex. They engage in an eternal cycle which changes nothing, and could continue forever. Section I establishes the cycle.

Section II is sterile lust. A cognate could be used, but better to seize upon the iconics and use them mercilessly: Superman and Wonder Woman, potent in their powers, unable to generate new life.

Perhaps Plastic Man is Tiresias? And what is more natural, in “Death by Water,” than to adopt and draw upon the classic comic book cliche of resurrection? Heros are always reborn.

The Fisher King could be the sun-hero Superman, or he could be the wounded ruler Batman. The latter is better, I think. “Give, Sympathize, Control.”


  1. Have you seen Martin Rowson’s Wasteland? A very convincing interpretation of Eliot’s work as a hardboiled/noir novel.

  2. Nope, but I will now.

    Liking both the GURPS pastiche approach and the Unknown Armies take on it. Now I want to play Unknown Armies: The Infinite City.

  3. I keep wanting to write one to this, but I can never get past the actual Arthuriana to write to the poem. Maybe I’ll come back to it later.

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