In this episode of Ancient Aliens, S07E05 “Aliens and Superheroes,” the show decides to plumb the depths of fiction to find evidence of aliens among superheroes. It is all very meta. Why not Star Wars or other space operas? Just as profitably might they have mined science fiction or, dare I say it, the works of H. P. Lovecraft to find aliens amidst fiction. The inspiration for this episode is undoubtedly desperation (they recycle footage from the 2009 History series Clash of the Gods), but there is more than a whiff of H. P. Blavatsky in the conceit that superheroes can tell us anything about actual space aliens. In a footnote to her Secret Doctrine Blavatsky claimed that writers of fantastic fiction received “occult dreams” from nonhuman intelligences on other planets or other dimensions, and thus unconsciously embodied extraterrestrial truths. Ancient Aliens pretty much decides to adopt this as the governing concept for this episode. It is not a pretty sight.
We open with animated images of comic book heroes from the Marvel and DC vaults (I wonder how much the frequent use of classic comic art cost…), which the show immediately compares to the Greek gods. The show fails to disclose that H2 is partially owned by Disney, the parent of Marvel Comics. Gerard Jones of the book Comic Book Heroes (1996) and Dan DiDio of DC Comics explain that superhero stories are explicitly modeled on ancient gods and heroes as sources of quick and free plots. The show then pivots to a recycling of old claims about ancient myths, which Giorgio Tsoukalos tiresomely repeats must actually describe “advanced technology.” He and Jonathan Young both talk around Arthur C. Clarke’s famous third law, that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Tsoukalos concludes that the similarity in hero stories around the world suggests an origin in space aliens all over the world. Jones is edited in such a way that he seems to deny that Indo-European pantheons share a singular origin, even though what’s left makes plain that the show cut out an explicit statement that Indo-European myths are all related, all the better to make it look like aliens were omnipresent.
David Childress cites Superman’s extraterrestrial origin as similar to those of the “Sumerian” gods, who he falsely says came from other planets. The show claims that Superman’s chest “S” and the pectoral symbols of other heroes are similar to swastikas, crosses, and hearts worn on religious figures’ chests—all of which may have been “technology” worn on aliens. Uh-huh. Where else might one wear a symbol for it to be seen? There are only two logical choices: the forehead and the chest, and both are in evidence in myth and comics. David Wilcock and William Henry, though, tell us that we are genetically programmed to remember aliens, who manifest in our collective consciousness as superheroes.
After the break there is much talk about “archetypes” and how various hero stories involve battles to control the universe. The show note that the Marvel comic Thor is based on—gasp!—Norse Mythology. They then talk about the Titanomachy, the battle of the gods and Titans in Greek myth, with heavy emphasis on Joseph Campbell and the Monomyth, which David Childress again states originates in alien visitation.
Only one quarter of the way through the show, we’re already getting pretty repetitive. It doesn’t help that they recycle claims about the cosmic battles of the Mahabharata that we’ve encountered many times before, not to mention Babylonian myths, which are given Sitchin’s false version. Childress claims that the Babylonian Enuma Elish is Sumerian, and he argues that Tiamat and Marduk are planets, and that one of these planets blew up, inspiring Krypton. Krypton, oddly enough, actually predates Sitchin’s exploding planet claims by several decades.
The show, though, keeps dancing around the issue that of course comic books made use of ancient myths, including ancient astronaut theories. This was done on purpose to provide a resonant background for the stories. There is nothing mystical or cosmic about the selection of plot, any more than it’s shocking to discover that West Side Story somehow channels Romeo and Juliet from the Akashic Record because Arthur Laurents was possessed by the alien that inspired Shakespeare.
After the break, we travel to Lemnos, the home of Hephaestus, described here as the god of “technology.” He is credited with inventing several magnificent contraptions, but the show chooses to identify Talos as a robot, even though… Oh, we’ve been over this. In fact, Arthur B. Cook went over this in 1913, so I’ll leave it to him to explain the details.
Now we’re on to Batman, whom the show declares a “hero of modern technology” and a “pop culture god.” Then they mention Iron Man as a scientific representative of the human-machine interface. Jason Martell then tells us that both are close approximations of what alien gods originally were. It never crosses his mind that he is reading modern superheroes backward into the myths that they rationalize. It’s hardly different than Euhemerus developing elaborate explanations in the fourth century BCE for how the gods themselves were actually humans whose exploits had been misinterpreted from all manner of unlikely happenings: “This he did by describing all the received Gods under the style of generals, sea-captains, and kings…” (Plutarch, Moralia 5.26.23, trans. William Baxter). “They were formerly kings, who on account of their royal memory subsequently began to be adored by their people even in death…” (Cyprian, Treatise 6.1, On the Vanity of Idols, trans. Robert Ernest Wallis).
So we cross the halfway point, and the show talks about the Transformers as technological ancient astronauts. Don LoCicero, author of Superheroes and Gods (2007), mumbles about transformations and archetypes, and then we’re off to the story of Kukulkan (or Quetzalcoatl), who is supposedly an alien who rode in a snake-shaped spacecraft. We’ve heard Tsoukalos give this claim before (S04E02), so this entire episode is pretty much an excuse to rehearse the show’s greatest hits in a different format.
Now secret identities are introduced as alien evidence. Why? “We have a deep inner longing” from “genetic memory written right into our DNA,” Wilcock says. The show fails to note that Wilcock thinks that shape-shifting aliens use these secret identities to plot global genocide. Oh well… The narrator and Wilcock do a full-on Blavatsky and decide, in interrogative form, that fiction writers are receiving extraterrestrial stories encoded in our DNA. This is rather depressing. Aliens planned the craptacular Comics Code-era kiddie comics? So when Batman teamed up with Bat-Dog and Bat-Ape, this was written in our DNA? Aliens suck at writing.
After the break, Stan Lee shows up to explain how he decided to use radioactivity as the way to give Peter Parker spider powers, and the rules he used for giving Spider-Man spider strength, etc. David Childress calls Spider-Man a god, and the narrator tells us that ancient myth set the precedent for comic book radiation’s effect on DNA in stories of “mixing of mortal and immortal blood.” Seriously? Of all the comic book stories that could have some relationship to “mixed blood lines” as the show calls it, they choose Spider-Man’s radiation? I don’t suppose it occurs to them that mixed blood lines yield children born with new mixed DNA, not changes to the impregnated woman’s DNA. The show gives us animal-human hybrid mythic creatures, which it likens (as it has for years now) to genetic experiments. David Wilcock denies human evolution, scoffing at the absent “missing link” and asserting (falsely) that modern humans (presumably he means white Europeans) were created from Neanderthals.
The narrator tells us that we are attracted to superheroes because, as Wilcock claims, we have a race memory of alien genetic hybridization, and this DNA-encoded memory constantly compels us to write and rewrite the same history of our alien heritage. That’s fine and dandy except for the obvious rejoinder: Why did these superheroes not exist before 1939? Why do the heroes of the eighteenth and nineteenth century lack the godlike powers of the superheroes, and why do the heroes only wear spaceman leotards when science fiction decides to put Flash Gordon and the Phantom in them?
Oh well, as this episode grinds to a halt, the show explains how science is planning to genetically modify embryos, and it suggests that this manipulation can give babies superpowers, such as athletic prowess or increased intelligence. William Henry asks if we are “hardwired or programmed” to do this because we “remember” aliens doing the same.
The show hits again its years-long theme that there is a strain of alien material in our DNA and that someday we’ll unlock to rapturously connect with our beloved alien ancestors, and the show ends with the claim that if we do unlock our DNA then Superman may be the prototype of the human of tomorrow, and I can’t say I have any confidence that this was an intentional reference to the Man of Tomorrow since the narrator buries the phrase while over-emphasizing the words alien ancestors.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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