Posted by Nancy Northcott Mar 19 2009, 4:30 am in esprit de corps, groups, might for right
You may have noticed I’m a sucker for groups. I love ensemble casts that appear from one book to another. The same applies to TV shows and even movies. It’s not enough, though, that they be a group who move through each other’s books or films or take turns starring in the ensemble’s episode, as in every successful series. They also have to have a larger goal. “Might for right,” wouldn’t be a bad way to describe it (borrowing a line from the musical Camelot). I love characters coming together, risking life and love for the greaetr good. So today I’m going to discuss some of my favorite such groups in multiple media. I hope you’ll share yours.
The first group I remember loving was the Legion of Super-Heroes in Adventure Comics. The Legion, a group of super-powered teenagers who chose their own members, fought as a team and protected each other’s backs captured my imagination totally. What kid didn’t want, at some time, to belong to an exclusive club?
They even had their own clubhouse, which was shaped like the thruster end of a rocket and had many cool subterranean levels. Superboy, whose adventures I adored, actually failed the membership test. Except that the real test was of his behavior when he learned he’d failed, a test the gracious Boy of Steel passed easily. Superboy went on to cosmic adventure with the Legion for decades, with a brief break of interest only to serious Legion geeks.
Through good times and bad, victories, defeats, and deaths, the Legionnaires stood by each other. And placed themselves between the galaxy and great peril.
From the Legion, it was a short step to the Doom Patrol, Justice League of America and, eventually, the Fantastic Four and the Avengers. And, of course, the Amazing X-Men. But the Marvel universe was too dark for me in my childhood and teens. I needed to reach adulthood to find it a tolerable place. The scene at the end of X-3 when Wolverine kills Jean, while very different and thus irritating on some level to a comic book geek who read the Dark Phoenix saga in the original, was nevertheless heart-wrenching, dramatic, and a moral imperative that both Logan and Jean recognized.
A lot of the movies I remember from my childhood were westerns, mostly featuring lone heroes or heroes with a sidekick and maybe a love interest and no web of close-knit friends. However, that changed for me with the 1973 release of The Three Musketeers, starring Richard Chamberlain as Aramis and Michael York as the dashing and somewhat naive D’Artagnan. I didn’t care that the movie played the Dumas book for laughs. I’d never read the book, though I later did. What I liked was the way the Musketeers tried to cover for and help each other, all while trying to protect France from the machinations of Richelieu. True musketeers fans will recognize the title of this blog as coming from “One for all and all for one.”
Original Star Trek had the same appeal for me. The Enterprise command crew stuck together, always. They never left anyone behind, and they would take any risk to protect the innocent (sometimes, in violation of the Prime Directive). Then I read The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The fellowship stuck together, first the hobbits and then Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli. I thought the way those three struck out after Merry and Pippin, who’d been kidnapped by Orcs, was terrific. And they were all willing to risk their lives to save Middle Earth from Sauron by destroying the One Ring. Even Highlander seemed to get much better for me after the show gave Duncan a circle of close Immortal friends who joined him in various battles to protect mortals.
And then there are the Dark-Hunters and the Nightkeepers. The Dark-Hunters can’t be together for very long without weakening each other, but they do stick up for each other and help each other out when they can. And Ash stands ready to help any of them while they all risk their lives to protect humanity from demons.
The Nightkeepers are still learning to be a unit and developing their mutual trust, but they don’t let each other down. The fact that they have powers is just icing on the cake, another resource that lets them work together. I admit that, for me, the powers are what a fellow Legion fan calls the “built-in nifty appeal.” How could would it be to have telekinesis? To be able to fly? To work magic?
Now that I think of it, those are probably factors in my affection for King Arthur and his knights–a sense of unity and mutual support. And then, of course, we have Morgan Le Fay and Merlin with their magical powers. Not to mention various enchanted characters or various sorts. All way cool!
While super-powers do tend to draw me, I also like non-powered groups with solidarity, like Sabrina Jeffries’ Royal Brotherhood. I loved One Night with The Prince, which is probably my favorite of the three, but one of the big draws for me is the solidarity the three royal bastard brothers feel for each other. And the first book, In the Prince’s Bed, has terrific bits about the working of Astley’s. Sabrina found a way for her hero to engage in derring-do in the heart of London and gave him two brothers to support his ambition. Either of these heroes could’ve come across as unsympathetic, but they didn’t. Part of what made them likeable, for me, was their support for each other and their willingness to stand up to their father, Prinny.
In the fall, Gerri Russell has a terrific series about Scottish Knights Templar starting with Dorchester. Her knights will fight to protect Scotland from tyranny, to save mystical Templar artifacts and, of course, to win the women they love.
Then, of course, there’s my fondness for Battlestar Galactica and Stargate SG-1, but since I just went on at length about them recently, I’ll spare everyone today.
In the contemporary arena, there are terrific groups like Dee Davis’s Last Chance, Inc. Dee writes terrific action sequences, and her characters are all out to solve crimes and correct injustices ranging from murder to bombings to international terrorism. The characters overlap but step to the fore at different times. Aside from the “boom” so many of us love, her characters have deep, difficult romantic conflicts.
She has a series about CIA operatives launching in 2010. I can’t wait!
Patricia Rice wrote a terrific series about the Malcolm women, who happen to be witches, and the Ives men, who happen to be their perfect mates. The kinship and support in these families drew me right into this series, and I love the strong women she creates. Her newest books, the Mystic Isle series have a stronger fantasy component and a sort of island Shangri-La, with the French Revolution as a backdrop. Magic and destiny and conflict and war create a tangle the characters must unravel to find true love.
The third book, Mystic Warrior, will be out in July
I’m not usually into things French, being such an ardent Anglophile, but I do enjoy these books. The first one, Mystic Guardian, is pictured at left.
So is there a particular group you enjoy? What do they fight for? What do you love about them? What’s your favorite book in the series, and why?
When trying to bring order out of chaos on my bookshelf, I found that I had a duplicate, never-read copy of one of Patricia Rice’s Malcolm/Ives books, Much Ado About Magic. I’m giving that to one commenter today.