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The Jackal King

Spawn Series 33: The Age of Pharaohs
by yo go re

For the Spawn mythos to be transposed to another time and place, you need a minimum of two things: a dead man with a strong reason to come back, and someone to make that happen. In most iterations, that someone is the devil, whether it's Mammon, Abaddon, Malebolgia or whatever other denizen of Hell they were using at the time. But for the Egyptian-themed Series 33, Spawn's patron is Anubis.

The jackal-headed ruler of the underworld, Anubis oversees the delicate balance between life and death.

For some reason, Anubis is called "The Jackal King" in this series. Why? It's not like the concept of Anubis as the Egyptian god of the afterlife is one someone could trademark. The distinctive likeness of the figure belongs to McToys, but the idea behind it? No matter what they called him, they were never going to own that. So why hide who he is? It just puts an extra needless layer between the audience and the art, which is silly. Maybe it's just because no one would mistake this figure for Anubis at first glance.

Compared to Spawn the Immortal, the Jackal King is nicely restrained. His skin is mostly exposed, with bandage wraps around his hips (for modesty) and his feet (for protection). Since ancient Egyptians weren't as embarrassed by their bodies as later cultures, there was no taboo about nudity - they often wore only what clothing was required by the work they were doing, which makes sense considering how hot it is there. Take it off! Jackal King is also wearing a trailing blue skirt with a flowing sash. There are hieroglyphics on the gold trim, but they don't spell anything; it's just a repeating pattern. There are hooked spikes on his feet acting as claws, and what seem to be kunai knives strapped to his right thigh. There are cobra heads sticking out of his waistband, and he has different symbols on each knee: an ankh on the right and a hawk on the left.

Anubis was generally portrayed with black skin. Not because jackals are black, necessarily, but because that's both the color of rotting flesh and the rich soil of the Nile valley - so we get death and rebirth in one symbol, perfect for the god of mummification. Of course, since Spawn the Immortal already had black skin, the Jackal King's is merely brown. He has an odd patch of rough skin creeping up his chest. Is it fur? A rash? Something else? No clue. He's very muscular, and is wearing metal bands on his wrists and upper arms. He's got big blue wings sticking straight back from his shoulders.

If you remove the inexplicable bird helmet, you'll find a head that's much more in keeping with what Anubis is supposed to look like - that is, a jackal head. Well, we think of Anubis as a jackal, but the art typically portrayed him as a mix of that and a wild dog; and so, being vaguely canid is enough. He's missing the big ears, sadly. Guess there was no way to get them under the helmet. The head has the same kind of fur that is on his chest, and his beak muzzle is open wide to show off his teeth.

The Jackal King has one pose, and that's it. McFarlane Toys just never seemed to grasp what it was that made certain toys more popular than others, which is of course why they finally had to admit defeat. Jack looks better in his single pose than Spawn looks in his, but it's still a big disappointment. Like Spawn, he's got one foot up on a block - in this case, the crumbled remains of a pillar in the sand. Of course, both Spawn and Jack have one thing in common: whoever sculpted and posed them doesn't understand how people stand up. Both figures have their foot up on a sloped block, right? That's fine, except that both of them have their weight resting with the slope pointing away from them. That's an incredibly awkward way to stand, and the simple, logical thing would have been to have them facing the other direction.

Besides the helmet and wings, the Jackal King's only accessories are a pair of hooked swords. Though superficially similar, the two blades are still unique. The curved ends of the hilts are removable, since his hands are otherwise permanently closed. Of course, you can decide whether you want him to hold them blade up or blade down. The hieroglyphics on Jackal King's packaging are the traditional name of Anubis, just in case there was any lingering doubt.

There is possibly a logical reason for the Jackal King to have all those seemingly incorrect avian elements to his design. Anubis is the son of Nephthys, the goddess of mourning. Nephthys was the wife of the chaos god Set, who was also the personification of the desert - it's because of that connection that Set was viewed as infertile. Nephthys, sexually frustrated, disguised herself as her sister Isis in order to attract Set, but he didn't care; so instead, she dropped her panties for Osiris, and Anubis was conceived. In fact, it was that act of adultery that got Set mad enough to kill his brother in the first place. When Isis brought Osiris briefly back to life, she conceived Horus, the lord of light. Horus, the sky god, had the head of a hawk, so this figure manages to combine features of both Osiris' sons: maybe dad had some really dominant bird-genes that got passed on to all the kids? Or perhaps Anubis is just trying to disguise himself as his half-brother for some reason.

-- 04/15/09

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