Greetings from the Odinson,
Sometimes I wonder, if I were dropped off in the middle of the Arctic Circle and all I had were the clothes on my back and my wits, could I survive?
In the 19th century, Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection is the basis for the concept of survival of the fittest. This means the strongest and most adaptable species will always prevail in evolution and move forward to become the dominate species. It is this very belief that motivates the aptly named mutant tyrant Apocalypse and alien despot Mongul.
Survival is the seed from which many tales in the annals of pop culture grow. It’s the driving motif of The Walking Dead. How does the human race survive in a world without laws, society, any modern conveniences, and a world overrun by flesh-eating zombies? The Hero’s Journey, as proposed by Joseph Campbell, whose writings played a huge role in inspiring George Lucas’ creation of the Star Wars mythos, is defined by the challenges presented to the protagonist, challenges he must face and overcome, surviving his “journey” and coming out the other side a changed person for better or worse.
But, who are the greatest survivors of all?
The Odinson’s Top 5 Ultimate Survivors in Fiction
5 – Flash Gordon – No matter which version of the character we are talking about, whether he is a test pilot, tri-athlete, or quarterback for the New York Jets, Flash is just a normal human being taken from planet Earth and thrust into the over-the-top alien landscape that is the Kingdom of Mongo. Relying solely on his cunning, courage, and athletic prowess, Flash has survived everything this strange alien world can throw at him. He’s survived the savage Ape Men of Mor, the frozen wastes of the Ice Kingdom, the perils of the Lost Continent, the seductive Storm Queen of Valkir, and much more! But most importantly, Flash has matched wits, matched brawn, and repeatedly survived confrontations with one of the most diabolical super villains in the history of pop culture – Ming the Merciless.
4 – Indiana Jones – This archeologist scours the world in search of lost artifacts from antiquity. Along the way, armed with only his vast knowledge of history, a bullwhip, a revolver, and a right cross that hits like a mule kick, Dr. Jones has survived countless perils and challenges few others could including the Temple of Doom, the Ark of the Covenant, the Secret of the Sphinx, the Fate of Atlantis, and the Last Crusade. Though he may come out the other side with a few bumps and bruises, Dr. Jones will never be dissuaded from trying to rescue lost artifacts for the sake of preserving history.
3 – Connor MacLeod – What else can you say about a guy who has survived for nearly five centuries with immortals from the coastlines of France to the steppes of Russia trying to take his head and with it, his power? Connor has an almost supernatural wit and charm that puts those around him at ease and puts his enemies off balance. He has walked the earth for centuries accumulating knowledge and tactics. He is a master swordsman and hand-to-hand combatant with the speed and strength of an immortal. Since the dawn of man, a secret contest has been waged by these immortals. They dual until only a few of them remains. Those few that are left will travel to a far off land (America) and challenge each other for the ultimate prize, the ultimate power. In the end, there can be only one. And *SPOLIERS (for a 30 year old movie)* that one is Connor MacLeod. NOTE: Let me go on record by saying I do like some of the sequels and the TV series but as far as the Odinson is concerned, those all take place in an alternate timeline. The only story that matters is what happens in the first Highlander movie where we clearly see Connor win the prize.
2 – Conan – Between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis and the rise of the sons of Aryas, in the Hyborian Age, with nothing but his wits, his courage, and his mighty sword-arm, Conan faced down and survived the dangers of the Tower of the Elephant, the mighty Black Colossus, the haunting Hall of the Dead, the traps of the Scarlet Citadel, and countless other dangers. In a world of cutthroats, monsters, witches, and demon sorcerers, Conan has proven time and time again that he is the greatest survivor of the Hyborian Age. He has been many things. A barbarian. A thief. A pirate. A gladiator. A warrior. A conqueror. A king. And, if it were not for the name that tops this list, Conan of Cimmeria would be the ultimate survivor in the history of pop culture.
1 – The Hulk – Everyone from Ben Grimm to Wolverine, Iron Man to the Mighty Thor has taken a shot at bringing the Green Goliath down and yet he is still standing. The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Spider-Man, and even the Inhumans have all tried to bury the Jade Giant, and these are his friends, and they have all failed. The Marvel Universe boast some of the deadliest and strongest villains in fiction, and the Hulk has faced them all, from Doctor Doom to Juggernaut, Abomination to Thanos, yet he is still standing. Hulk has been banished to the Crossroads, a mystical realm with thousands of pathways that lead to a thousand different worlds with a thousand different challenges and perils to overcome and he survived them all. Hulk was shot into space where he crash-landed on a world that enslaved him and forced him to fight for his life in a gladiator arena against the deadliest monsters the cosmos could throw at him and he survived (see Planet Hulk). The Hulk has walked the crushing depths of the ocean floor, swam the molten core of the planet, and stood unprotected in the vacuum of outer space, and yet he survives. In the future, after a nuclear war has wiped out all the heroes and the remnants of mankind huddles in dystopian patches of what is left of society, the Hulk remains, alive and stronger than ever (see Future Imperfect). And, just in case you needed further proof that the Incredible Hulk is not just the strongest one there is but is in fact the ultimate survivor, in the pages of The End, in the distant future, after all life on planet Earth has long since faded away from existence, there are only two things left alive, cockroaches and the Hulk.
Survivor Hall of Fame: Odysseus. He not only survived the epic Trojan War, an immense campaign that saw the demise of many, many great heroes, but he also survived the perils and harrowing challenges set before him by the gods in The Odyssey.
Surviving fascinates us because like Boy George sang “…every day is like survival….” Anyone who has to commute to and from work on the highways and bi-ways in this nation’s major cities can relate to this notion. Police officers, firemen, soldiers in our military face this realization every single day. Survivors in fiction and pop culture fascinate us because of all the acts that can be performed in a fictional narrative, surviving is one of the most relatable.
Survival is a vital part of a human being’s essence. It is the reason why we have thrived as the dominate species on planet Earth for thousands of years. Even in our modern day society of convenience with indoor plumbing and central air, we are still fascinated by the concept of survival. Why else would TV shows like Survivor and Survivorman do so well in the ratings for the last decade-plus? There’s a reason why the slasher genre has thrived for the better part of four decades. It is thrilling for movie audiences to see which camp counselor or babysitter will avoid, outsmart, and ultimately survive the attacks of Boogey Men like Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and Freddy Kruger. It’s thrilling to ask ourselves What If…? Or, What would I do…? If I were on the Orca with Quint, Brody, and Hooper, could I survive a showdown with the shark from JAWS?
So, while I sit safe and sound in my home with central air, cable TV, and internet, I still sometimes ask the question – If I were dropped off in the middle of the Arctic Circle and all I had were the clothes on my back and my wits, could I survive?
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell