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Promethea (Alan Moore ABC Comics)

Promethea

(Sophie Bangs)

I am all inspiration, all desire -- I bring you fire


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

“I am Promethea, art’s fiercest spark.
I am all inspiration, all desire.
Imagination’s blaze in mankind’s dark.
I am Promethea, I bring you fire.”

Context

Promethea was a 1999-2005 comic book by Alan Moore and JH Williams III. Though it is set in a modern super-hero setting, the tale is primarily about mysticism. At its core is a Qabbalistic worldview, the power of fiction and ideals, and Hermetic knowledge.

Though it wasn’t as much of a blockbuster as some of Moore’s other work, it still had a significant impact. And of course it has the considerable advantage of being drawn by Williams.


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Background

  • Real Name: Sophie Bangs.
  • Other Aliases: Joey Estrada.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Patricia “Trish” Bangs (Mother), Juan Phillipe Estrada (Father, Deceased), John Henry Bangs (Distant Uncle, Deceased).
  • Group Affiliation: None.
  • Base Of Operations: New York; Immateria.
  • Height: Weight:
  • Eyes: Hair: Black


Promethean Cosmology

The Material World is only part of the spectrum of existence. It is the portion of the iceberg visible above the tide line of reality.

Beyond the substance of the Material World is imagination. It is a realm of dreams, fantasy, fiction and the unconscious mind called the Immateria. This is the land from which Promethea comes, and where the former avatars of Promethea keep watch over the Material World.

Immateria serves as the gateway between the Material World and the other 9 spheres (or Sephiroths) beyond. There are 22 pathways between the spheres, and, while they may be reached from the Material World by breaching the walls which separate them, the only consistent path between them and the Material World is through Immateria.


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The Sephiroths, part 1

The ninth sphere is Yesod (the Hebrew word for ’foundation’). It is the lunar realm, the land of the dead, where she shades of the departed reside. It’s draped in perpetual moonlight, giving a silvery sheen to the ghostly shades who are its main inhabitants.

The next plane is Hod (Hebrew for ’Splendour‘). It is the mercurial domain of intellect and science, of magic and of language and truth. This is the wellspring of communication.

Travelling through this sphere makes individuals smarter, leading their minds racing down avenues of thought they’ve never taken before, and taking joy from speaking in puns. This is the source of matter in the material world, language describing things and giving them a fixed form.

Sphere seven is Netzach (Hebrew for ’Victory‘). It is the venusian landscape of emotion and passion. An aquatic realm, where travellers are overwhelmed by memories and the emotions associated with them. Until they surrender to these feelings they keep falling deeper, but when they do surrender they’re overcome by a feeling of bliss.

Sphere six is Tiphereth (’Beauty‘). It is the Solar sphere, the point of balance for the other spheres. This is the realm of the soul and enlightenment, the highest human point in the Kabbalistic system, and the lowest point of God, where the two meet. Some see it as heaven.

To enter this realm the traveller must undergo a symbolic death, the death of their worldly attachments and emotions, for which they undergo a mock death, such as being cut apart by the grim reaper who guards the path here. The realm itself feels timeless, and everything here is suffused with a golden radiance. Travellers feel sorrow, and naked in their bare soul.

The Sephiroths, part 2

Sphere five is Geburah (’Strength‘), the Sephiroth of Universal Judgement. It is the first of the trans-human realms. This is a fiery realm, where everything is drenched in red and anger.

Visitors are overwhelmed by feeling of exhilaration and power, feeling strong enough to overcome anything. This feeling leads them to righteous anger, affecting their judgement, which can trap them in Qlippoth. The sphere exists to purge impurities, flaws and weaknesses.

Qlippoth is the adverse tree of life, spiritual anti-matter, or Hell. It chews on travellers emotions and then feeds it back to them. It’s populated by demons, who reflect a traveller’s approach to the realm. If approached with fear, hatred and revulsion they are fearsome, hateful and vile. But if approached humanely and with respect they will be human and respectable.

Sphere four is Chesed (’Mercy‘), the sphere of Universal Mercy. It is a paternal realm, which gives travellers a reassuring feeling of being loved and protected. Physically it’s cloudy and vaporous, like a land built in the clouds.

The Sephiroths, part 3

Between the fourth and third spheres is The Abyss, the invisible Sephiroth. It is also called Daath (’Knowledge‘), and used to be a Sephiroth, before a cataclysm occurred, separating God from the universe, leaving it an Abyss.

Travelling through this plane involves jumping off a precipice, falling what seems like an eternity, waking to find yourself in a wasteland, trekking across the wasteland, then waking to find yourself still falling, and continuing the cycle again.

The entire realm is bathed in a ultra-violet light. It is sparsely populated by glowing alien creatures. It is also inhabited by Choronzon, the demon of dispersal, which manifests as a lightning storm which rips travellers it finds to shreds, without killing them.

Sphere three is Binah (’Understanding‘). It is the highest female sphere, a place of holy, reverential, silence, where communication is directly via minds. This is the home of the Goddess, of whom Promethea is a manifestation, sent to deliver the understanding of this plane to Material World.

Sphere two is Chokmah (’Wisdom‘), the highest male sphere. This realm fills travellers with a feeling of Universal Love, and shrouds everything in a peaceful silvery radiance.

Sphere one is Kether (’The Crown’), the highest Sephiroth. Travellers here fuse with the pure white light of existence, becoming one with everything. Some souls dissolve into it and never come back, whereas others can travel back to a lower Sephiroth, or be reincarnated into the Material World.


Powers and Abilities

Promethea is channelled by an act of creation. She is summoned by an individual creating an artistic representation of Promethea. Promethea can be summoned into the artist themselves, or into someone from whom the artist draws their inspiration for their version of Promethea.

Sophie chose to summon Promethea via poetry, and while initially did this via slowly writing out her prose, she became proficient to speak her poetry straight.

Each incarnation of Promethea possesses slightly different abilities based on their temperament, all of which are based on their use of imagination. Most of them developed the ability to travel back and forth between Earth and Immateria. They are physically stronger and more resilient than normal humans, but they also developed the magical abilities in ways distinct to themselves.

Capabilities

Sophie, as Promethea, has frequently displayed the ability to fly, and to project gout of mystical flame. She regularly glows with an unearthly radiance. As a creation associated with gods of communication, Promethea is capable of conversing in any language, including computer languages. The latter allows her to use electronic communication devices remotely, and reprogram machines.

Sophie also wields a Caduceus. Its snakes are sentient repositories of occult information, which they use to advise Promethea.

As the Promethea assigned to oversee the End Of The World, Sophie possessed vast powers that touched everyone on the planet. However, these acted in a seemingly predetermined manner at a predetermined time. She did not seem to have direct conscious control over.

All of Promethea’s avatars live forever in Imateria, unless they choose to move on. As such they can be contacted by the current Promethea.


History

The original Promethea was a young girl in 411 AD Alexandria. Her father was a Hermetic scholar, a magician. When he knew a Christian mob was coming to kill him, he sent his daughter out into the desert, telling her that his gods would watch over her.

When she reaches the point of exhaustion, the girl is visited by the twin gods Thoth and Hermes. They take her to Immateria, a plane of the imagination, dreams and ideas, where she becomes an imaginary being, a living story.

Incarnations of Promethea

The first known occasions of Promethea incarnating in humans, both occurred around the same time. One was a young Arabic girl, who heard the Prophet’s teachings and renounced her pagans, and the other a young woman who gave herself over to Christ. They existed for ages, hearing rumours of a similar being, but never meeting, until eventually they came into conflict during the Crusades.

While embraced in conflict, they recognised each other as being parts of the same being, just as a mortal soldier put a spear through the both of them.

Anna (Promethea 1779-1780?)

The poet Charlton Sennet imagined the fairy handmaiden Promethea in the likeness of his housemaid, Anna, transforming her into Promethea. He began an affair with her, which his wife soon found out about, leaving him.

Anna, as Promethea, became pregnant, but the baby being conceived, in part, by an imaginary being, was itself only an idea, and evaporated at birth. The strain of the birth was too much for Anna, and she died.

Margaret Taylor Case (Promethea 1900-1920)

The writer of the comic strip Little Margie in Mystic Magicland, for the Hearst syndicate. Margaret originally wrote Promethea into her strip as a helpful spirit, and eventually became her, helping soldiers on the battlefields.

Grace Branagh (Promethea 1920-1939, 2000-2001)

Grace Branagh was the illustrator of covers for a pulp magazine. It featured stories about Promethea from a number of writers, all using the pseudonym Marto Neptura.

William Woolcott (Promethea 1939-1969)

William Woolcott was a comic artist who became Promethea after illustrating her adventures. He is the only man known to have assumed the role.

During his adventures as Promethea, he had a serious relationship with FBI agent Dennis Drucker. But Drucker found out Promethea was actually a man, an information provided by her enemy the Bight Queen. Dennis was unable to deal with it, and killed Bill.

Barbara Shelley (Promethea ?-1991)

Barbara’s husband, Stephen Shelley, was a comic book writer. He began projecting her characteristics onto the Promethea in his comics. After Stephen’s death, Barbara found it harder to continue as Promethea without his imagination, and eventually stopped.

Sophie Bangs (Promethea 1999-2004)

Sophie lived in New York with her mother, her father having disappeared before she was born. She attended college. While researching a paper on Prometheas, Sophie visited Barbara Shelley, to interview her about her late husband’s comic strip. Barbara sensed that Sophie was to be the new Promethea, and warned her to stop her research.

However, her presence had already been detected by others. Sophie was attacked after leaving Barbara’s, by a Smee, sent by the Temple. Barbara again transformed into Promethea, driving the Smee off temporarily, but getting wounded in the process.

She revealed that Sophie was to be her successor, and forced her to summon up Promethea. Sophie destroyed the Smee, and took Barbara to the hospital.

Still confused over the change she had undergone, Sophie went looking for her friend Stacia van der Veer, who was at a club. Aware that their Smee had failed, the Temple contacted gangster Benny Solomon, who summoned a couple of demons, Andras and Marchosais, sending them after the new Promethea.

They caught up with her at the club, where she managed to drive them off, but not before Stacia was dragged into the Immateria.

The last Promethea

Sophie went to Barbara in the hospital, who told her how to travel to Immateria. Sophie did so, and after some searching managed to find Stacia. She returned her to the “real” world.

She began to do more serious research into Promethea, and her previous hosts. She was then approached by Jack Faust, a former science-villain who had clashed with previous incarnations of Promethea. He offered to teach her about magic.

After visiting Barbara in hospital, Sophie, leaving her physical body asleep by Barbara’s bedside, travelled to Immateria. There she met the previous incarnations of Promethea, who continued her education. Margaret Case showed her around Immateria, explaining its nature to her. She also explained the nature of the Apocalypse that Promethea is destined to bring to the material world.

Grace Branaugh then took over Sophie’s tuition. Together they retook Hy-Brasil, Grace’s territory in Immateria, from a manifestation of Marto Neptura, the pseudonym used by writers of the stories she had illustrated. As an fictional being, he existed in the Immateria and called himself the Scarletine Sorceror.

Sophie deduced that the way to defeat him was to separate him into the component parts that the various writers had brought to the pseudonym, leaving him powerless.

Bill then educates her on the connection between the Material World and Immateria, and the way it relates to the other levels of reality.

Demons

When Sophie wakes up back in the Material World she finds herself in a bed in the hospital, where a number of events coincided. While Stacia and Sophie’s mother were visiting her:

  • Benny Solomon, accompanied by an army of demons, arrived at the hospital, having traced Promethea there.
  • The Five Swell Guys, New York’s resident science-heroes, were there, with one of their members having been hospitalised.
  • The Mayor, Sonny Baskerville, who suffered from a serious multiple personality disorder, was making a visit.
  • The Painted Doll, an enemy of the Five Swell Guys, arrived to kill the Mayor.

The overwhelming number of demons was too much for her to handle. Sophie responded by using the bodies of her mother, Stacia, and a nurse, to manifest the previous Prometheas, Bill, Grace and Margaret, to help her. Barbara also forced her failing body to manifest, and help them.

Together they managed to drive off the demons, who found refuge within the Mayor. Benny Solomon was killed when the Painted Doll blew himself up.

The strain of the battle was too much for Barbara, and she died. Her soul moved on briefly to the Immateria, where she decided to continue further, in search of her husband’s soul.

The Temple

Determined to deal with the Temple, Promethea raided Benny Solomon’s establishments. She eventually found a trace of their leader.

Barging into their mansion, she discovered the true state of the Temple, a Christian organisation devoted to destroying her. It was now reduced to three old people. They saw their grandchildren, who were celebrating a birthday party when Promethea arrived, as the future of their organisation.

Not wishing to spoil the party, she summoned up an array of imaginary beings to amaze the children. As she and her conjurings were leaving, and unknown to Promethea, one of them, the Pied Piper, warned the Temple that if they moved against Promethea again, he’d come calling.

Sophie then took up Jack Faust on his offer, and begins studying magic under his tutelage.

Deciding to follow Barbara and make sure her friend was okay, Sophie convinced Stacia to act as Promethea while she’s away. Stacia allowed Grace Branaugh to again take over her body, combining aspects of both of them to create a new Promethea. Sophie, as Promethea, travels beyond Immateria, into the higher spheres.

Into the higher spheres

Her first stop is the Houseboat on the River Styx, in Yesod. This was a gathering place for shades of the famous, both real and imaginary. It had first been imagined in a story by her distant uncle, John Henry Bangs, whose shade she also met.

She soon found Barbara, talking with the shade of her dead husband. Knowing that this wasn’t really her husband’s soul, Barbara decided to continue looking for him further up the tree of life. Sophie decided to accompany her.

Together they travelled through the Sephiroths meeting the souls and shades of famous people, real and imaginary. These included Charon, Baron Munchausen, Aleister Crowley, Doctor John Dee, Austin Spare, and the gods Hermes, Thoth, and Wotan.

While travelling through Chesed, Promethea meets her father’s soul, and leaves Sophie for a time to be with him. Sophie also meets her father, Juan Phillipe Estrada. She learns that he hadn’t abandoned her and her mother. He had been dealing drugs, but had decided to stop when Trish was pregnant.

His ’business partners’ were worried he might rat them out, so killed him.

They eventually catch up to Stephen Shelley’s soul in Kether, the highest Sephiroth. Barbara and Stephen decide to be reincarnated, and Sophie falls back to Earth.

Back to life, back to “reality”

While Sophie is away, Stacia and Grace form a more aggressive Promethea. She wipes out the Evil Eight, clashes with the Five Swell Guys, and assaults the Mayor to remove the demons which have taken control of him. She is soon regarded as a threat by the authorities.

The Feds then learn from the Temple that Promethea is destined to bring about the End of the World. As a consequence of the Temple speaking to the FBI, their grandchildren are taken by the Pied Piper.

When Sophie returns, prepared to recommence her duties, Stacia/Grace are resistant to being separated. They attack Sophie. After causing serious damage to the city, both Prometheas are taken to Immateria by the other Prometheas. A trial is arranged to determine which will remain Promethea. The trial eventually establishes Sophie as the true Promethea.

As soon as Stacia awakens in the Material World, she is shot by federal agents, who are after her for her actions as Promethea. Stacia is left in a coma. Sophie’s mother has a premonition about the danger, and manages to send her away before the FBI arrive.

Sophie eventually ends up in Millenium City, where she establishes a new life for herself, under the name Joey Estrada, with her boyfriend Carl.

This is the end

The FBI eventually tracks her down to Millenium City, three years later. They approach Tom Strong for help apprehending her. He reluctantly agrees, intending to make sure she is not mistreated. When he confronts her, she realises she has no option other than transforming into Promethea, which begins the End of the World.

As time becomes increasingly irregular, Promethea travels to New York. There she is reunited with her mother, and recovers Stacia, Jack Faust and Dennis Ducker from FBI custody. She then ushers in the End of the World. This is an enlightenment which spreads over the globe, although not everyone is capable of handling it. Her purpose complete, Promethea leaves Sophie.

Following the apocalypse, Sophie and Carl move in with her mother, and her father’s ghost. Meanwhile, Sophie and Stacia work on repairing their friendship.


Personality

When they first merged, Sophie’s insecurities led to Promethea being uncertain in her actions. Promethea’s personality also tended to flicker between the more introverted Sophie, and her own more confident manner. The two eventually grew together. Thus, towards the end of their relationship they were essentially one being with two bodies.

Sophie was the most creative Promethea in the use of her powers. For instance she was the first to consider the idea of summoning the other Prometheas back to the material world. She also was the first to establish a more lasting bond when she needed a replacement while she travelled.

Sophie is intensely loyal to her friends, going to great lengths to make sure they are safe. While initially prone to panic, she quickly became more level-headed in stressful situations.

As Promethea she prefers to find non-violent resolutions to situations if at all possible.


Quotes

“Yes, Promethea’s fiction. Nobody ever claimed otherwise. I never lied. I’m at least an honest fiction. A fiction that can enter your dreams, possess her creators, talk through them to you. I’m an idea. But I’m a real idea. I’m the idea of the human imagination, which, when you think about it, is the only thing we can really be certain isn’t imaginary.”


DC Universe History

Immateria is a part of Dream’s domain, and Promethea is one of Dream’s subjects. When he was imprisoned, Promethea became the protector of the lands of dream, and protected the outside world from the residents of Immateria that had escaped without Morpheus’ supervision.

She became more active in the ’real‘ world (possibly replacing Wonder Woman in some of her earlier Justice League of America appearances), until Morpheus’ return. When Daniel became Dream, he allowed Promethea out into the World again.


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Promethea (Sophie Bangs)

A 3704 Point Character

Dex: 07 Str: 12 Bod: 10 Motivation: Responsibility of Power
Int: 08 Wil: 09 Min: 10 Occupation: Science Heroine
Inf: 12 Aur: 13 Spi: 14 Resources {or Wealth}: 002
Init: 027 HP: 100

Powers:
Comprehend Languages: 15, Dimension Travel: 08, Flame Project (ML): 10, Flash: 00, Flight: 14, Interface: 12, Invulnerability: 15, Sorcery: 12

Bonuses and Limitations:
Dimension Travel only allows travel between Immateria and Earth.

Skills:
Occultist (Occult Knowledge)*: 12

Advantages:
Attractive.

Connections:
Jack Faust (High).

Drawbacks:
Alter Ego (Controllable), Mistrust.

Equipment:
CADUCEUS [EV 08, BODUY 10 INT 06 WIL 06 MIN 06 INF 06 AUR 06 SPI 12, Occultist (Occult Knowledge): 15, Invulnerability: 12].


Sophie Bangs

Dex: 03 Str: 02 Bod: 03 Motivation: Responsibility of Power
Int: 05 Wil: 05 Min: 05 Occupation: Student/Video Store Assistant
Inf: 05 Aur: 05 Spi: 05 Resources {or Wealth}: 002
Init: 011 HP: 015

Powers:
Dimensional Travel (Summoning): 08

Bonuses and Limitations:
Dimensional Travel (Summoning) only summons former Prometheas from Immateria (-2), and need an existing body which they can inhabit (-1).

Skills:
Artist (Writing, Poetry): 03, Occultist (Occult Knowledge): 06

Advantages:
Scholar (Promethea).

Connections:
Jack Faust (High).

Drawbacks:
None demonstrated.


Previous Stats

When she initially became Promethea, Sophie’s INT was 04, her WIL, MIN and SPI were 03, and her INF and AUR were 02. She had only 02 APs of Artist, didn’t have Occultist or her connection to Jack Faust, and only had an Expertise, rather than the Scholar, about Promethea.

She only had the Dimensional Travel power while she was serving as Promethea. At this time, Promethea only had the Occultist skill at 06 APs, and was 1 AP less in all Mental and Mystical attributes.

By the time she begins her journey to the higher spheres, to find Barbara, Promethea has 09 APs of Occultist. Sophie has 1 AP more in all her Mental and Mystical attributes, has 05 APs in Occultist, has her full Artist APs, has the Scholar rather than Expertise, and has her Connection to Jack.


Harbinger of the Apocalypse

Sophie’s role as Promethea is to usher in the End of the World. “The World” is not the planet, or the life on it, but the systems, politics, economies, etc. – the ideas of the World. Thus the End is actually a wave of simultaneous global enlightenment ending the generally accepted worldview.

When the time comes for the Apocalypse, Prometheas powers are increased to the level needed to affect the world.

In game terms the Promethea spirit, although not necessarily Sophie/Promethea, gets the equivalent of Sorcery: 35, and Power Reserve (Spirit): 25. These are plot device powers, and only allow Promethea to fulfil her function of global enlightenment.

By Gareth Lewis.

Source of Character: Promethea from America’s Best Comics.

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