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Kevin R. Pennington

Professor Upchurch

ENGL 4431

3 May 2013

“Will you winter into wisdom?”

BEOWULF PROPOSAL KEVIN R. PENNINGTON

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The world of Anglo-Saxon literature is a violent place filled with bloody images of

severed heads, monsters, cannibalism, blood, and death. This adaptation of Beowulf will attempt

to stay close to the origional poem by discarding the use of an omniscient narrator, illustrating a

dual-religion society of Christianity and paganism, demonstrating the physical effects of

Grendel’s curse, and the use of digressions.

There are two major comic book adaptations of Beowulf. The first is the 1983 version

adapted and illustrated by Jerry Bingham and the second is by Gareth Hinds. Both versions cling

to a omniscient narrator, but the narrator is counter-intuitive to the comic book format. Comic

books are a combination of illustration and dramatic dialog. Allowing characters to act and speak

directly to the reader allows immediacy, which is integral to building a sense of dramatic tension.

Beowulf is set at an intersection between old and new religions. I assert that the tension

between the two religions is essential to the story and must be preserved for the modern reader.

The dual-religion trope supports the inherent question of Beowulf’s monstrosity. Maintaining

this paradox not only helps to keep the adaptation grounded in the poem, but also creates a

subliminal tension.

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Hrothgar’s physical appearance is also important to this adaptation. In the beginning,

Hrothgar is a frail drunkard who, though still wise, is no longer a strong Anglo-Saxon warrior.

With Grendel’s death the curse is broken, and Hrothgar undergoes a transformation back to his

origional masculine form. This transformation is fully realized during Hrothgar’s Sermon in

issue 2.

Finally, I want to address the use of digressions. This adaptation will rely heavily on the

digressions found in the poem. These digressions increase the depth of the story, and add a

necessary texture. The Sigemnd episode, for example, links Beowulf with Sigemnd early on,

making a smooth transition to the Dragon episode at the end. The following digressions will

appear in the adaptation:

1. The story of Heorot

2. The Unferth/Breca swimming episode

3. The Sigemnd episode

4. Deluge and giants’ destruction

5. Hrothgar’s Sermon

6. Lay of the Last Survivor

Ultimately, the absence of a narrator, the use of digressions, Hrothgar’s transformation, the

tension of a dual-religion culture, and extreme violence will keep the adaptation close to the

origional and make for a compelling read.

THE CHARACTERS

BEOWULF

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Beowulf is the central hero. He typically wears chain mail armor and carries a two-handed

bastard sword. Beowulf is very muscular, but we need to avoid a Conan look. Beowulf’s hair is

long and he has a short beard. At the beginning of the story, Beowulf is a pretty straightforward

guy, but as the plot progresses Beowulf becomes a conflicted character. Beowulf is unable to live

up to Hrothgar’s standard of “wintering into wisdom.”

GRENDEL

Previous comic book versions of Grendel make him look like the Grinch that stole Christmas,

and not very terrifying. In this version, Grendel is based on cynocephali, a type of dog-men

common in Anglo-Saxon texts. Cynocephali appears in monster catalogs and Saint’s Lives.

Grendel is a dog-headed beast. He has a long snout, sharp fangs and claws, and is

covered in fur. Being dog-like restricts Grendel’s facial expressions. He often folds his ears back

on his head and growls. Grendel is incapable of human speech and a cannibal, both attributes

associated with cynocephali. Grendel’s eyes are always blood red.

HROTHGAR

Hrothgar is the ruler of the Danes, and a wise king. At the beginning of the book Hrothgar is a

frail drunk, but after Grendel is killed, he regains a lot of muscle mass and becomes a strong

Anglo-Saxon warrior. The goal of Hrothgar’s rebirth is to show the curse of Grendel is not just a

blood bath of thanes, but also a physical curse that Hrothgar bears.

Once Hrothgar is transformed into his true self, he gives a sermon to Beowulf where he

explains that Beowulf can become a great and wise king or he can lead the Geats to ruin. In this

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scene, Hrothgar will have one red eye and one blue eye. This is in part to mirror Odin, who has

different colored eyes, but also to show that Beowulf has an equal chance to maintain his heroic

status or to decay into a monster.

WEATHEHEOW

Weatheheow is Hrothgar’s young wife. She has long hair that flows down her gown. She is very

pale, with no blemishes, and has a modest breast size. I want to avoid the stereotype of big

breasted Anglo-Saxon women. Weatheheow has a very muted part in this adaptation. She might

not even speak, but her touch gives Hrothgar strength. She wears a simple dress with wide

sleeves. Folds of cloth drape and trail across the floor. She wears a gem-encrusted crown.

UNFERTH

Unferth is a dark haired man with short cropped black hair. Unferth is outspoken with a desire to

protect the fragile Hrothgar. Unferth is an example of Christianity in the book. He is always seen

wearing a cross. Unferth carries his family’s ancestral blade, and once Beowulf gains Unferth’s

loyalty by killing Grendel, Unferth gives the sword to Beowulf to kill Grendel’s Mother.

GRENDEL’S MOTHER

Grendel’s Mother is a sea-demon, and looks like a troll. She has a fat, sagging belly, clawed

hands, sharp teeth, red eyes, and generally looks bloated. She has horns that protrude from her

temples and seaweed clings to her body. Grendel’s Mother also incapable of human speech. Her

blood is acidic, but still red. Grendel’s mother is nude with sagging breasts.

THE DRAGON

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The Dragon looks like a standard Viking dragon. It has four limbs, two wings, and a conical

head. The Dragon has sharp teeth (a theme for all the monsters), and red eyes. The Dragon has

red scales, a large underbelly, and breaths red fire.

The Dragon is a hoarder. It keeps large piles of gold and treasure. There are golden cups,

torques, shields, swords and other wonders in the Dragon’s piles. It is a jealous monster.

WIGLAF

Wiglaf is a young warrior, barely older than a boy, who accompanies Beowulf into the Dragon’s

barrow. Wiglaf looks like a young Beowulf. Wiglaf is the last hope for the Geats, but when he

fails the Geats disappear.

FORMAT/APPROACH

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The series is a three-issue miniseries that covers the major points of the poem. Each issue will

feature a digression at the beginning and the end, and a battle scene in the middle. The issues will

each revolve around one of the monsters. Issue 1 is Grendel, issue 2 is Grendel’s Mother, and

issue 3 is the Dragon.

The comic is primarily black and white, but blue and red are both used as spot colors. The

intention with the spot color is to mimic the white and black hats from westerns. Blue indicates

the hero and red indicates the monster.

PRODUCTION

Kevin R. Pennington is the writer. Kevin is currently studying creative writing at the University

of North Texas. Kevin works in multiple genres including academic prose, poetry, fiction, and

technical writing. Kevin also has a experience with visual art with an Associate’s degree from

Pratt Community College where he studied printmaking and sculpture. Kevin first fell in love

with comics 30 years ago when he picked up an issue of Transformers.

James Pipes is the lead artist. James received both his Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Master

of Arts in studio art from Northwestern State University. James’ current work consists two-

dimensional pieces combining abstract painting and printmaking techniques.

Gorden L. Bell III is the inker and colorist. Gorden received a Bachlor’s degree in

Geography from the University of Texas in Austin, TX. Gorden primarily works with mix-media

collage, and also shares an interest in printmaking techniques.

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KEVIN R. PENNINGTON 219 Fry Street Denton, TX 76201

512-289-1156

PAGE ONE (one panel)

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Panel 1. The camera looks down onto a wooden table with two pieces of parchment. The two pieces of parchment overlap one another, taking up most of the page’s real estate. On the dominate parchment is the Dane’s family tree written in blue ink, and the partially covered manuscript is a demonic family tree in red ink with runes. The demonic list has three registers. The top register is Cain, the second is Grendel’s Mother, and the last is Grendel. The idea here is that there is a secret history of demons that goes as far back as Cain and as far forward as Grendel. The secret history is covered up by the human history of the Danes.

PAGE TWO (four panels)

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Panel 1. Fourteen Anglo-Saxon men pull a viking longship onto the coast from the sea. The ship is symmetrical from front to back with a wide sail. The ship is decorated with round shields along the sides and a carved dragon’s head prow. The water is drawn in blue ink.

CAP:

The Danish coast, the year of our Lord 521

Panel 2.

A Danish rider wearing chain mail and a conical helm rides a large horse down the coast toward

a ship.

Panel 3. Beowulf steps forward to greet the rider. He wears a mail shirt and a two handed bastard sword is strapped to his back. Beowulf’s lifts his hand in greeting.

RIDER (OP):

Hold in the name of Hrothgar!

BEOWULF:

I am Beowulf, and we are Hygelac’s thanes from Geatland.

Panel 4. The rider, now standing, leans in slightly and grasps Beowulf’s forearm. His other hand holds the longspear at a 90 degree angle.

BEOWULF:

Take me to Hrothgar, Guardsman. I’ve come to slay the monster.

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PAGE THREE (three panels)

Panel 1. The camera takes a wide shot of Hrothgar’s throne room with Beowulf approaching Hrothgar. Hrothgar and his queen Wealhtheow sit on thrones on a raised platform with steps leading up to them. Hrothgar is an old man with a long beard and is very fragile. His arms and legs are thin, barely sticks of bone under his skin. Hrothgar wears a tunic, a fur-lined cloak, and a helm with antler horns on either side.

RIDER (OP):

Hail King Hrothgar! Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow, seeks an audience.

HROTHGAR:

Beowulf?

Panel 2. Hrothgar rises from his throne. We see this from the side view. Unferth helps Hrothgar stand up by grasping the king’s arm. Hrothgar holds a drinking horn, and mead drips from it. The reader needs to see Hrothgar as a drunk, broken man. This broken visage is the physical sign of Grendel’s curse on his people. Hrothgar always drank a lot, but for the past 12 years he was allowed no joy because of Grendel.

HROTHGAR:

Beowulf? I knew Beowulf as a child.

Panel 3. The camera zooms in on Beowulf’s face. His eyes are a faint blue, and his face is clear of blemishes. Beowulf is very good looking with long hair and a short beard.

BEOWULF:

King Hrothgar, I heard your tale of sorrow from across the sea. A demon plagues your mead-hall Heorot, and I’ve come to put an end to your curse.

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PAGE FOUR (four panels)

Panel 1. Hrothgar embraces Beowulf in as large a bear hug as possible with Hrothgar’s fragility.

HROTHGAR:

I thank the Lord for your arrival, Beowulf. My people and I suffer at the claws of Grendel. He is bad born, of Cain’s clan, and an eater of men. For twelve long winters my people were robbed of merriment or joy because of the demon’s hunger.

Panel 2. Hrothgar stands in the middle of the the room with a semi-circle of warriors surrounding both Beowulf and Hrothgar. Hrothgar’s hands are lifted up above his head as if in prayer.

HROTHGAR:

I built Heorot as a great feast-hall, and the mead flowed, skalds plucked harps, our women danced, and the men rejoiced for glory on the battlefield.

Panel 3. Hrothgar’s head is lowered and he is shacking it from side to side. Hrothgar’s shoulders droop, his hands hang at his side. Behind Hrothgar we see the Grendel stalking up to Heorot. The beast moves on all fours, its body close to the ground. Grendel’s nostrils flare and his lips are pulled back in a snarl.

HROTHGAR:

Our joy was our undoing. Grendel heard our laughter from his lair in the fens. The demon hunted us.

Panel 4. Hrothgar is the same position but with his head tuned to the right. In the background, Grendel is now in the hall. Standing erect he is twice the size of a man, and one bloody arm reaches out and claws a thane in the belly. Blood drips from Grendel’s claws and from the warrior’s wound to pools on the floor.

HROTHGAR:

Our victories turned bitter. Grendel attacked the hall and devoured my men. In one gulp he drank the blood, and he tore them limb from limb. He bore the corpses back to his cave as gory trophies.

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PAGE FIVE (five panels)

Panel 1. Hrothgar sags back into his throne. Wealhtheow leans over from her throne. Her hand touches Hrothgar’s arm. A large breasted serving girl holds out a drinking horn.

HROTHGAR:

Heorot the golden hall is lost. I offered treasure for Gendel’s death, but Heorot was lost to us.

Panel 2. This panel has three registers. The top register is Hrothgar and Wealhtheow, the middle register is Unferth on the stairs half-way up, and Beowulf on the floor in front of the stairs. Beowulf looks up at Hrothgar.

UNFERTH:

Many heroes sought Hrothgar’s bounty, but each fell to the beast’s fury. For twelve longs winters we have lived without laughter or joy.

Panel 3. We cut back to Hrothgar, who now holds the horn in one hand and wipes his mouth with the back of the other.

HROTHGAR:

I barred the doors to end the slaughter. The mead-hall stands empty.

Panel 4. The camera looks down from Hrothgar’s point of view onto Beowulf, who is in full glory. What I would like is a strange camera angle that distorts Beowulf just slightly making him seem very large without resorting to a Conan look.

BEOWULF:

Open your beer-hall, wise Hrothgar. I’ll kill Grendel and free Heorot. --

-- In my youth I slaughtered many monsters. I hunted trolls, wrestled sea brutes, and slew giants.

I can kill your Grendel with my bare hands. I need no sword or mail.

Panel 5. Unferth is still on the stairs. He wears a dark cloak and a wooden cross around his neck. One hand is on the sword at his waist, and the other hand has one finger pointing at Beowulf.

UNFERTH:

Are you the Beowulf that challenged Breca to a swimming race and lost?

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PAGE SIX (three panels)

Panel 1. Beowulf stands with his arms crossed. Behind him two men swim in a dark ocean with large blue waves.

BEOWULF:

Good Unferth, mead has your tongue. Breca is a brother to me. Since childhood we challenged each other, but I was the stronger swimmer.

Panel 2. The camera looks down on Beowulf’s naked back. Beowulf lifts a head over his head. A giant tentacle is wrapped around Beowulf’s back.

CAP: (Beowulf) For seven long days and nights we swam stride for stride, but I was attacked by sea monsters.

Panel 3.

Beowulf, sword drawn, slashes the tentacle off a sea monster. Red blood gushes from the beast’s wound. The monster looks like some kind of Cthulhu Elder God. Tentacles everywhere, red eyes,

a bulbous head, and a long tail like a shark.

CAP: (Beowulf)

I slew nine of the beasts before making it to shore, barely losing to Breca.

CAP: (Unferth) Beware, Beowulf, no man has survived a night with Grendel.

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PAGE SEVEN (three panels)

Panel 1. Men pull the large doors of Heorot open. Beowulf and Hrothgar watch them. Hrothgar now wears a crown instead of his antler helm and is instructing the men with a hand gesture. He looks significantly healthier in this shot. In the background there are men and women bowing before a tree, worshipping the old gods.

HROTHGAR:

I thank the Lord God for you.

BEOWULF:

When the deed is done, thank me with your treasure, Ring-Giver.

HROTHGAR:

Heorot is open. Let us feast to bring the demon for Beowulf!

Panel 2. The scene shifts to a view of the hall from a bird’s eye view. The hall has stone walls, a wooden roof, wooden doors, and is filled with long tables and benches. At the far end of the room, closest to the camera, Hrothgar and Wealhtheow sit on their thrones. The benches are filled with men. The men are smiling with joy. Women move through the room, filling drinking horns with mead and wine. At one table two men are arm wrestling. This panel has no dialog.

Panel 3. The hall is empty now except for Beowulf and his 14 thanes. The hall is a mess with upturned tables, spilt wine, and passed out soldiers. A naked Beowulf lays on a table, sleeping peacefully.

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PAGE EIGHT (five panels)

This page is a bit different, and highly conceptual. Instead of traditional panels there is a central, middle image, and four panels radiating out with a left-right, top-bottom configuration. configuration. The panels bleed together with no hard boxes.

Panel 1. (Middle) Grendel bursts through the door. His hands grasp the outside of his “panel” like he is pulling himself off the page. His teeth and claws are dripping red blood. Grendel’s snout and ears are pulled back in a snarl. His eyes glow red with demonic blood lust.

Panel 2. (Top) One of Beowulf’s thanes, armed in chain mail, is split open from his shoulder to his waist. Blood and gore spurts out of the wound. The thane’s mouth is open in amazement.

Panel 3. (Right) The thane in this pic is thrown, his arms and legs trailing behind him as he crashes into the stone wall.

Panel 4. (Bottom) The camera sees Beowulf straight on from the back. His arms, legs, and back are covered with old scars. What we want here is Beowulf standing his ground while Grendel throws and cuts the thanes.

Panel 5. (Left) This is a mirror of panel 3, but going in the opposite direction.

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I have neither given nor received help on this proposal/script beyond what was permitted.

Kevin R. Pennington