The Beast From Air.

She looks understandably dubious of a vampiric dinosaur man.

She looks understandably dubious of a vampiric dinosaur man.

The pterodactyl guy is Marvel Comics’ Sauron, a character that has been around for a long, long time. Kind a of a creepy and weird X-Men hanger on, he’s a mutant that drains the powers of other mutants to survive as his empowered form. otherwise, he’s just a regular scientist with emotional problems, which is also a bit creepy.

The character was created by writer Roy Thomas and artist Neal Adams, though the two differ in their accounts of which of them were responsible for specific aspects of the character. He first fully appeared as Sauron in X-Men No. 60, way back in September of 1969. Thomas and Adams originally envisioned Sauron as a bat-like creature, but when they consulted with the Comics Code Authority, they were told that an energy vampire with a bat body might fall under the Code’s prohibition on the use of vampires.

In order to get around this problem, Thomas and Adams tweaked his appearance to that of the most bat-like animal they could think of. That was a pterodactyl—–which in turn led them to have Sauron inhabit the hidden prehistoric jungle of the Savage Land.

Which in turn brings us to his appearance here in our plotline, such as it is.

So…what can Sauron do, besides being a creepy dinosaur man? Good question. He has the ability to absorb the life forces of other living things into his body. When Dr. Lykos absorbs the energies of superhuman mutants, (presumably any superhuman, actually) he transforms into Sauron, and gains a portion of that mutant’s powers temporarily. Unlike actual pteranodons, Sauron has a toothed beak and orange eyes and a basically humanoid build, with legs as long as a human being’s. In Sauron form he has superhuman strength, speed, intelligence, stamina, and durability and is capable of flight.

Sauron has to absorb the life energies from living victims to sustain his life. He would revert to human form if he didn’t regularly absorb the life force from superhuman beings. The Toad’s technology 9when did he become super smart?) could transform Lykos into Sauron by draining life energy from Tayna Andersson, who is apparently not superhuman. She was just an unfortunate lady, and this in turn made both Toad and Sauron kind of creepy and predatory.

Lykos also has a powerful hypnotic ability that requires direct eye contact to complete. He frequently uses his hypnotic power to give his victims terrifying delusions that allies have become monsters. He can also mentally enslave people to do his bidding, although his control is not perfect, as Portal is resistant to his commands. That, of course, is not the video game called “Portal”…stay on topic, people.

So why do we have the big dinosaur man flying into the strip today? Because in terms of the plotline of the novel, “Lord of the Flies”, I’ll be covering Chapter Six today, called “The Beast From Air.” It’s a major change in the novel’s momentum, and I’ll need to do some serious discussion of it with my students.

The kids miss an aerial battle over the island, which is described through a relatively omniscient third person view. That’s a big change in viewpoint from the novel thus far. one of the pilots attempts to parachute to safety, and dies stuck up in a tree. The parachute and corpse make a flapping noise, which gets their attention.

The landing of the dead pilot on the mountain is a pivotal event in “Lord of the Flies.” The pilot represents an actual manifestation of the “beast” whose existence the boys had feared but never confirmed. None of the boys is immune to the implications of the dead pilot’s presence on the island. Even Piggy, faced with some evidence that a beast actually exists, begins considering measures the boys should take to protect themselves. In contrast to the “beast from water” of the previous chapter (alternately figured as a monster, squid, and ghost), the beast from air is a concrete object toward which the boys can direct their fear. Significantly, however, “the beast from air” proves no threat to the boys. The dead body is nothing more than a harmless object left to be interpreted in vastly different ways by the various boys.

That kind of matter of perspective is going to be tough to get across. My students are profoundly literal…the idea that there is something that is implied, that isn’t directly written on the page, is a tough sell. That means that I’ll be able to explain to them that the boys fear the dead pilot…but may have a hard time explaining why, in terms of the imagination being worse than reality.

The dead parachutist appears to the boys as a supernatural creature. Golding enforces the twins’ interpretation by describing the dead body with mystical imagery and language. The body appears to lift and drop its own head, and the flapping parachute opens and closes in the wind. Samneric describe it as a “beast,” but Golding’s opening description, which follows the parachutist as he drifts across the island, as well as the wing-like quality of his torn parachute, suggest a fallen angel. This kind of religious imagery is all over the book, and is something I’m not necessarily keen on touching. At the same time, it’s pretty vital to understanding the point of the book…the concept of corruption of innocence, and the expulsion from paradise.

Sauron’s power to use his eyes to give his enemies terrifying delusions of monsters seemed on point with this, as well as his very literal nature as a “beast from air.” Given his frequent association with the Savage Land, it seemed time for him to make an appearance in the “story”, such as it is.

That said…I’m getting bored of the Savage Land. Maybe that’s why the X-men and the Avengers are never stuck there for very long…there’s not much to it as a setting.

Until next issue, True Believers…make yours Adequate!

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