Back in college, we wrote a novel based on the songs from Young Loud and Snotty, the 1977 debut album by the Dead Boys. Good Lord, it was awful. But don’t judge us too harshly. We were young and wayward, and there was something about that particular album that inspired us to write a punk rock libretto.
Undoubtedly, author Thom Brannan feels the same way about Sad Wings of Destiny, the second and highly influential album by Judas Priest. Not only did he pinch the album’s title for his novel, but he let the lyrical content guide his muse. And who are we to judge between the merits of punk rock and the new wave of British heavy metal? Frankly, Brannan’s novel is a whole lot better than the piece of shit we produced. (And for those of you who may mock anyone who finds inspiration in a Judas Priest album, all we can say is this: at least the author didn’t seek counsel in the music of Stryper or Insane Clown Posse.)
Most of the superheroes and villains in Brannan’s latest novel are tainted by heaven and science. And when you think about it, the music of Judas Priest, especially in the early days, features the same kind of uneasy alliance. Simply listen to a few of the songs from Sad Wings of Destiny (notably “Genocide,” “The Ripper,” and “Tyrant”) and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what is going on here.
Everything revolves around the friendship between Archon, a holy warrior guided by the Archangel Uriel, and Spring-Heeled Jack, a self-made hero infused with advanced nanotechnology. Each man is driven by his own unique circumstances. One is a defender of the faith and the other is screaming for vengeance. (We could go on and on with the Priest puns. But we’ll stop here.)
The story contains a ridiculous Despicable Me-like plot to steal the moon. Don’t get us wrong, we adore ridiculous plot points. But for us, the most interesting thing about the novel is Spring-Heeled Jack’s surprising powerplay. He develops technology to “depower” supervillains and he enlists the U.S. government to help him do so.
But what happens when all the supervillains are gone? The answer is simple. The government steps in and uses the same depowering technology to wipe out all the “extraneous” superheroes. Says Galax, one of the deposed heroes: “And now, let us usher in a new era, one without the need for intervention of ultra-humans. An era where the responsibilities of law and order fall on the shoulders of the brave men and women in civic service.”
No disrespect, of course. But isn’t the government acting a little rash? Archon thinks so. He survives the superhero genocide (along with his pal Spring-Heeled Jack), but he’s not happy about the turn of events. “An entire society has turned its back on its saviors,” he says in a moment of reflection. “I’m talking about a civilization of sheep, giving up freedoms to snuggle more securely in their blanket of ignorance.” Holy flash pots! If that doesn’t sound like lyrical grist for an upcoming Judas Priest album, we don’t know what does.
[Sad Wings of Destiny / By Thom Brannan / First Printing: April 2014 / ISBN: 9781618682550]