Every adaptation of a book leads to some creative license on the adaptors behalf and it isn’t very often that this creativity lends to and enhances the source beyond the original. American Gods is one show that breaks this trend. With the help of the novels original author, Neil Gaiman, the showrunners, Michael Green and Bryan Fuller, have incorporated in new characters and aspects that the 2001 novel didn’t include when it was first published.
‘A Murder of Gods’, an aptly titled episode, introduced viewers to the character of Vulcan (played by Corbin Bernsen). Vulcan is a character original to the television series of American Gods and a wonderful addition to the universe as a whole. In history, Vulcan is the Roman god of fire, particularly metalworking and volcanoes. In American Gods, he is the modern-day version of this ancient god, working to mass produce weapons and bullets.
Green explained in an interview that the addition of this character was all Neil Gaiman’s idea. He spoke of how Gaiman had told them of travelling through a town in Alabama when he saw a statue of Vulcan. The town had a factory in which accidents had led to several deaths and the company involved chose to pay out the families, rather than repair the factory, because it was cheaper. Gaiman incorporated this story into his character, Vulcan and in fact, the very first scene where viewers see Vulcan hinted at involves a man falling to his death from leaning on a faulty railing.
Gaiman’s original version of American Gods set out to be a product of modernity, depicting a world where the gods of old tried to coexist (or not) with newer, more modern gods of media and technology. Fuller and Green have reinforced this vision with their adaptation, attempting to make Vulcan culturally relevant to the twenty-first century. And they succeeded. In a world dominated by news of massacres, school shootings and gun violence, it would be remiss to not touch on the topic within a show so politically and culturally charged. Vulcan is their answer to this. In this modern version of the Roman god, he has moved to outsourcing his work to factories and no longer is he required to be the forger of weapons, people will do it for him. And in his name too. In a modern world where gun violence runs rampant, Vulcan is all-powerful. As he states, in ‘ A Murder of Gods’, each bullet fired is like a prayer for him. It fuels him. And what could be more an image of modern-day America than a god whose prayers are bullets.
The fact that Fuller and Green could make a character that was such a perfect fit really speaks to the talents of both Gaiman and the showrunners. With sixteen years between the release of the novel and the television adaptation there was plenty of room to enhance American Gods cultural significance and the character of Vulcan definitely embraces this change. Hopefully this isn’t the last original character that Gaiman creates for the television adaptation.
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