Blake and Mortimer: The Atlantis Mystery

In the Belgian classic comic series Blake and Mortimer there appeared in 1955 an adventure set in the mythical city Atlantis. It’s the seventh story in the series which started in 1950.

What I find noteworthy is that the city Atlantis here undergoes several metamorphosis: It was once a city (and state) on land. It then got submerged due to seismic events. The citizens however survived and formed a new community in a subterranean system of caves. In the story this “new” Atlantis gets flooded and destroyed once again and the citizens evacuate once more, this time into space.

Since the plot is quite complicated, I mostly quote here from the respective wikipedia entry.

Professor Philip Mortimer takes his vacation to São Miguel, an island of the Azores. In a cave in the extinct volcanoe Sete Cidades he finds a radioactive rock and cannot help making a rapprochement with the orichalcum mentioned by Plato, the mysterious metal of Atlantis.

The comic then tells the following version of the myth:

12,000 years ago, Atlantis ruled the world from an island in the middle of the Atlantic (an island of the Azores) . But the collision between Earth and a huge celestial body caused the immersion of the continental coasts and island. The few survivors of the Atlantean civilization then decided to build a new and secret Atlantis in the bowels of the Earth. Since then, the Atlanteans, much more evolved than the inhabitants of the surface thanks to the immense energy source that constitutes the orichalcum, watching the surface of the Earth thanks to what earthlings call flying saucers.

Blake and Mortimer climb down into a labyrinth of caves and eventually arrive in Poseidopolis, the capital of subterranean Atlantis. Here they get caught in a political uprising to overthrow the royal reign of the state. The uprising results in disaster: Atlantis is flooded a second time, when the flood gates that hold back the ocean are accidently opened. The monarchy then engages the evacuation that had been planned for a long time: the departure of the Atlanteans to another planet with an armada of spaceships. While the Atlanteans prepare to join other skies, the other ethnos of this subterranean world, the so called barbarians, are facing extinction in the rising waters. Blake and Mortimer are released and evacuated by a submarine. Back on land, on the shores of the caldera of Sete Cidades, they attend the majestic departure of Atlantean ships inot the sky.

The connection between the submarine and outerspace was not an uncommon one in the 1950s as Helen M. Rozwadowski explains in her essay on submarine utopias in the 20. Century. Both – the deep sea and outerspace – held promises of alternate existences for an otherwise doomed human civilization. This also becomes evident in the oeuvre of one of sci-fi’s most important authors, Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote three volumes of non fiction books about the Great Barrier Reef. See my post on Rozwadowski’s essay here.

Original vesion odf the comic book in french language here.

Atlantis by Donovan

Atlantis on a map from 1664

Map by German scientist Athanasius Kircher (1602 – 1680)

Germany; 17. Century; Christian; Map; City: Atlantis

Atlantis as a ship

In the final episode of the Sci Fi series “Stargate Atlantis” the city vessel Atlantis eventually lands in the San Francisco bay. Atlantis here is a city that can both fly in outerspace and float on water.

This is the city plan according to one Stargate Wiki:

USA; 21. Century; Christian; Film; City: Atlantis

Atlantis: The Hotel

Atlantis in Dubai

Atlantis on the Bahamas

Atlantis in Sanya, China

Dubai, Bahamas, China; 21. Century; Architecture; City: Atlantis

Horizontal versus Vertical View

In this scene from the movie “Aquaman” (2018) Atlantis sinks into the ocean. Unlike in all other disaster movies I know, the scene is pictured from a horizontal view line, not from a vertical one. The camera levels with the sea and thus we see both parts of the city: the buildings above water and the buildings below the water line.

This perspective is appropriate for Atlantis, as the city does not perish with it’s submersion but becomes what it is known for through history – and what carries the whole plot of the movie too – a fabled underwater empire.

But the camera position is also noteworthy, as it puts the viewer on the same treshold between the two elements and in a very uncomfortable place. We see the city sink while we ourselves are in the water up to our necks. The change from bird’s eye view – actually it is “plane eye” – to level view is crucial because it means leaving a superhuman and very powerful perspective up in the sky and taking on a more human but also much more involved position. In fact, it’s what a deluge would look like for most people, aas opposed to this:

from Geostorm (2017)

USA; 21. Century; Christian; movie; City: Atlantis