Supermuse soars over the streets of New Orleans (Superdome clearly visible). Artist: Damon Bowie.


Medium: Comic book
Published by: Krewe of Muses
First Appeared: 2007
Creators: Krewe of Muses (writers) and Damon Bowie (artist)
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Even discounting the purely commercial considerations in publishing comic books — i.e., consuming tons of paper to pump them out by the boatload, striving for the greatest possible newsstand penetration, and attempting to entice droves of readers to pay good money for them — there are many reasons one might engage in the activity. Indirect commercial possibilities, such as using them as give-aways to lure potential buyers into a store, are also prominent — just as an example, for decades, Western Printing, first through Dell Comics and later using the Gold Key imprint, published March of Comics, where characters like Tarzan, Bugs Bunny and Little Lulu were used to promote children's shoes. Personal expression, a large factor in R. Crumb's use of Fritz the Cat, is another reason a lot of comics get published. And then there are …

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… the ones that serve a variety of purposes, but whose publishers seem to have been motivated mainly by just plain fun. The Adventures of Supermuse, published by the Krewe of Muses, is an example of that kind.

The theme of this comic, which was first distributed by being thrown from floats in the 2007 Muses Carnival parade in New Orleans, is the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. To appreciate it, some New Orleans local lore is helpful, starting with the fact that "krewe" began an idiosyncratic spelling of "crew", but has been a separate word, meaning a Mardi Gras organization, since the middle of the 19th century. Most krewes hold annual balls for their members and guests, and many also sponsor public parades, where small trinkets are thrown in great quantity from the floats. The Krewe of Muses was founded in 2000, and is the only women's krewe to parade at night.

It's also useful to know that people returning to their homes after Katrina were warned not to open the refrigerator, but rather duct-tape it shut and put it out on the curb, where someone would eventually come along and haul it off. The reason was, after weeks in the heat, with no electricity, the contents were too toxic to be dealt with safely. Another useful fact is, the common abbreviation for New Orleans, Louisiana — N.O.La. — is often rendered as "Nola", and used as a word denoting the city and its institutions. This gives meaning to Supermuse's secret identity, Muses krewe member Nola Rizing.

Supermuse had a typical superhero origin, i.e., one of those mishaps that would kill a real person but merely gives super powers to a comic book character. Nola came home and, with the words "How bad can it be?", opened the fridge. Exposed to air, the contents instantly exploded, engulfing her and rendering her unconscious. In that state, she was visited by the nine Muses of Greek mythology, who endowed her with super strength, telepathy, and the ability to fly. When she woke up (unharmed, of course), she was already dressed as Supermuse, and ready to tackle politicians, bureaucrats, pushy journalists, and anyone else who might stand in the way of the disaster-struck and neglected people of New Orleans.

Since her quest took place in a comic book, practically everyone she dealt with was a superhero. Many were recognizable to comics readers — for example, in Washington she met The Fanatical Four (The Decider, The Sting, The Inquizzical Woman and The Human Torturer, whose names were George, Dick, Condi and Rummy, no relation, respectively), decked out like Marvel's Fantastic Four. And not to neglect the other major superhero producer, Louisiana's Governor Blanco was the clueless Wondering Woman, dressed like Wonder Woman but with question marks instead of stars. Dozens of real-life people were represented, under names ranging from El Capitan America to Judge Dredded, and points beyond.

Collectable Mardi Gras parade throws are nothing new, going back at least as far as the Krewe of Zulu's decorated coconuts, traditionally thrown (or rather, for safety's sake, gently handed down) from floats in the Zulu parade. (Zulu was founded in 1909 as a parody of typical krewes, which were pretty whitebread back then.) The most prominent of the krewes, Rex, started the tradition of throwing "doubloons", i.e., aluminum coins illustrating the parade's theme, in 1960; and doubloons have since been adopted by most others. But The Adventures of Supermuse is the first Mardi Gras collectible that is also a collectable comic book.

Supermuse has made only one appearance to date. Perhaps someday, her job will be done, and there will be no need for a second.


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Text ©2007 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Godesses Inc. DBA Krewe of Muses.