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"Until the next issue, always remember that magic is green."
Foreword, The Hero Discovered #2
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An Urban Fantasy comic-book by Matt Wagner, taking influence from Arthurian Legend and The Monomyth.

Disaffected every-man, Kevin Matchstick is thrust into a world of superhuman abilities, mythological creatures and magic baseball-bats after being discovered by Mirth, The World Mage. The comic-book follows his character arc, as he grows to accept and understand his powers and role as a hero.

The first volume, The Hero Discovered, was released by Comico from 1984-1986. The Hero Defined was released almost a decade later by Image Comics, as Wagner needed to reclaim the rights after Comico went bankrupt. The final volume, The Hero Denied, was published in 2017-9.


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The Hero Discovered

  • Author Avatar: Wagner openly acknowledges that both Kevin Matchstick's character and appearance are modelled on himself.
  • Awesome Mc Cool Name: Kevin Matchstick.
  • Balance Between Good and Evil.
  • Batter Up!: Kevin spends the first two volumes using an enchanted baseball bat as Excalibur before discovering after its destruction that it was a Magic Feather.
  • Big Bad: the Umbra Sprite.
  • Depraved Dwarf: The Redcaps are an entire race of them - evil, tusked, naked dwarfs with pierced nipples.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Edsel's death.
  • Emerald Power: Used for manifestations of the World-Mage's power.
  • Fisher King: The Umbra Sprite's objective throughout the series is to find and kill the current incarnation of the Fisher King, which will bring in an age of darkness. Supposedly, previous times they succeeded brought on, respectively, World War I and the fall of Rome.
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  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Kevin Matchstick is a pretty atypical reluctant hero. Subverted in The Hero Defined, as he's grown to accept his responsibility, and seems to enjoy kicking supernatural ass.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each chapter in each of the three volumes is titled with a phrase from a specific Shakespeare play: Hamlet in The Hero Discovered.
  • Inside a Computer System: Mirth hides in an ATM machine at one point, when his physical form becomes unstable.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Sean. But then again, he's a ghost.
  • Twice-Told Tale: Mage is a (loose) retelling of Arthurian Legend, though it includes other mythological inspiration too.
  • Urban Fantasy.

The Hero Defined

  • All Myths Are True: The second volume introduces modern reincarnations of culture-heroes from many other mythologies.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: The Dragonslayer is a complete self-satisfied asshole.
  • Author Avatar: Wagner openly acknowledges that both Kevin Matchstick's character and appearance are modelled on himself.
  • Awesome Mc Cool Name: Kevin Matchstick.
  • Balance Between Good and Evil.
  • Batter Up!: Kevin spends the first two volumes using an enchanted baseball bat as Excalibur before discovering after its destruction that it was a Magic Feather.
  • Big Bad: Emil Grackleflint and returning Bigger Bad, the Umbra Sprite.
  • Black and Nerdy: Joe Phat.
  • Body Horror: The Hound of Ulster has his mythological original's tendency to undergo horrific body distortions when he hulks out.
  • Comic-Book Time: Averted, as the settings and fashions of the second and third volumes retain their respective eighties and nineties nature despite being published in later decades.
  • Divine Race Lift: Discussed when Kirby is bemused by Coyote, a Native American culture-hero, being African-American in this incarnation. Kevin says that it seems to be pretty random and points out that he isn't British and Kirby isn't Greek.
  • Foreshadowing: A throwaway line early in The Hero Defined implies that Joe Phat's status as Coyote is one of many classical heroes he's claimed. For instance, his speed, fear of giants, and ability to fix anything quickly suggests he might be Jack. Though laughed off at the time, this foreshadows that Kevin and Kirby are not only the Pendragon and the Olympian, but also Gilgamesh and Enkidu.
  • Headbutting Heroes: Happens an awful lot in The Hero Defined, as many of the culture-heroes, accurate to their mythological personalities, are driven by ego or other personal drives rather than any idealistic concept of "good".
  • Hero's Classic Car: Kevin drives a succession of classic Edsels in tribute to his former ally.
  • Higher Understanding Through Drugs: Isis sends Kevin, Joe and Kirby to the fairy realm with a magic joint.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each chapter in each of the three volumes is titled with a phrase from a specific Shakespeare play: Macbeth in The Hero Defined.
  • Inept Mage: Wally Ut.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Kirby has a tendency to throw himself into battle without concern for himself, his allies, or innocent bystanders.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Kevin suffers extreme guilt when he sends the Hornblower to stake out a cemetery just to get rid of him, only for him to be attacked and killed by Redcaps.
  • Punny Name: Coyote's mundane name in this era is Joe Phat, which leads him to nickname himself "Jumpin' Joe Phat", a pun on the minced oath "Jumpin' Jehosephat".
  • Shout Out:
    • The beginning of the first chapter proper of The Hero Defined has Kevin and Joe driving into Montreal and singing along to The Jam's "A Town Called Malice" on the car cassette player.
    • A self-Shout Out combined with a Visual Pun when the Bear-Wulf is seen wearing a Grendel T-shirt.
    • Kirby Hero is named in a very obvious tribute to Jack Kirby, who co-created the Marvel version of him.
    • Although she's much nicer and less morally ambiguous, Isis's hippie-esque character design with long straight hair, a long dress, and huge round glasses shows obvious similarities to Thessaly from The Sandman.note 
  • Super Speed: Coyote's most visible power in this story.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer...: Kevin tends to do this with Excalibur. Backfires dramatically in Volume 2 when this causes Excalibur to break, and Kirby is then almost killed.
  • Write Who You Know: Just as Kevin is King Arthur and an Author Avatar of Matt Wagner, most of the heroes in The Hero Denied are both avatars of mythological characters, and based on comic creators of Wagner's acquaintance. The more prominent of them worked with Wagner on Grendel.
    • Joe Phat is both Coyote and Joe Matt, creator of the autobiographical comic Peep Show and colorist on Grendel.
    • Kirby Hero, the Olympian, is Heracles and Bernie Mireault, creator of The Jam and sometime Grendel artist and colorist.
    • The three witches, Isis, Magda and Ishtar, are former Grendel editor Diana Schutz and her sisters Barbara (who married Matt Wagner in real life) and Trish (her ill-fated relationship with Joe Matt is depicted in Peep Show). Isis's husband Bart Gretch is former Dark Horse and DC editor, and Diana Schutz's former husband, Bob Schreck.
    • Kim Song is the Monkey King from the Chinese Journey to the West, but which comic creator he's based on I don't know.
    • Garth, the Hornblower, is Roland from The Song of Roland, and possibly Garth Ennis?
    • The Sun Twins are the Maya Hero Twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque. Which comic creators they are based on is uncertain.
    • The Dragonslayer is Siegfried from the Nibelungenlied, and Cerebus the Aardvark creator Dave Sim. His chauffeur Schnobble is Cerebus background artist Gerhard, via a reference to Will Eisner's "The Story of Gerhard Schnobble".
    • The Ulster Hound is both Cú Chulainn (from the Irish epic Táin Bó Cúailnge), and famed comics writer Alan Moore. His "warrior women" are the two women Moore had a polyamorous relationship with for a time.
    • The Bear-Wulf is Beowulf (his t-shirt symbol is the mask of Matt Wagner's Grendel, named after the moster from Beowulf. Comic creator unidentified.
    • John J. Strider the Xth, the Presbyter, is the legendary Christian king Prester John, and Grendel artist John K. Snyder III.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: For artistic rather than legal reasons, but most of the culture-heroes are named by allusions or lesser known names for them rather than their best-known names. For example, Kirby Hero is known as "the Olympian" instead of Heracles, the Dragonslayer could be any random dragon-killing hero until a throwaway line of dialogue reveals to people who know his story that he's Siegfried, and Kevin himself is only known as "the Pendragon" rather than King Arthur. Averted with Coyote and the Monkey King, who don't seem worried about having their best-known names used.

The Hero Denied

  • Comic-Book Time: Averted, as the settings and fashions of the second and third volumes retain their respective eighties and nineties nature despite being published in later decades.
  • Fisher King: The Umbra Sprite's objective throughout the series is to find and kill the current incarnation of the Fisher King, which will bring in an age of darkness. Supposedly, previous times they succeeded brought on, respectively, World War I and the fall of Rome.
  • Gender Bender: In The Hero Denied, the male Umbra Sprite and Grackleflints are reborn as the female Umbra Sprite and the Gracklethorns.
  • I Have Your Wife: The Umbra Sprite kidnaps Magda and Hugo in The Hero Denied.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Kevin Matchstick is a pretty atypical reluctant hero. Double-subverted in The Hero Denied, in which he's attempting to retire and raise a family (but The Call Knows Where You Live).
  • Shout Out:


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