Beowulf: The Canonization of Anglo-Saxon Literature into Modern Popular Culture

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The cover of the November, 1975 comic book "Beowulf: Dragon Slayer" features a red-haired, horn-helmeted Beowulf swinging a large broadsword at a purple-caped villain also bearing two razor-sharp swords. As Beowulf rears up on his steed, a bikini clad woman, cloth slightly aside to reveal the shadow of a buttock is drawn falling, face filled with terror. In the background, a rising full moon and silhouetted gothic castle keenly set an atmosphere of dread and foreboding. Above the emboldened title of the comic book reads in smaller letters, "Beowulf: First and Greatest Hero of Them All!" Text in the bottom-left corner gives the juicy hook for this edition: "Beowulf Meets Dracula." Despite over eight hundred years of literary separation …show more content…
Don't tell me D.C. is doing "Classics Illustrated?" No. NOT "Classic Illustrated," but REAL LIVE action and adventure stories! BEOWULF is the oldest surviving piece of English literature. It's an epic poem in the vein of "The Odyssey" and "The Illiad," author unknown. It has been hailed as one of the masterpieces of the English language. It's EXCITING!" (2).

Despite eighteen preceding pages featuring Beowulf fighting monsters and saving beautiful women, Uslan assumes that the target audience of the comic book considers Anglo-Saxon subject matter boring and worse, "educational." The excessive use of punctuation, "?!?," following "BEOWULF" may seem quaint and immature to modern readers but it is worth consideration that Uslan is aiming his book at contemporary adolescent boys. The over punctuation suggests shock and disappointment, a sense that D.C., the producers of such wiz-bang fare as Batman and Superman could stoop so low as to make comics that one would "read for junior high school English class." The dismay puts Uslan on the side of the reader - his emphatic punctuation endears him to the target audience as one of their own. Therefore he establishes a middle ground of authority in which to defend his use of Anglo-Saxon material in comic book form.

Uslan's defense of Beowulf within the space of the mainstream is that it features "REAL LIVE action and adventure stories." There's a suggestion that academic…