When it comes to immortal warriors, does it really matter who came first? I guess there’s some dispute as to who is the original immortal hero, Connor MacLeod or Casca Longinus. They both came into social consciousness ’round about 1987 or thereabouts, one in film and one in print. The one who landed in celluloid is the more well-known (though personally I think that’s due more to the television series’ longevity), while the fellow only in black-and-white is still being written (though by another author).
Connor’s cousin Duncan assumes the lead in the Highlander TV series (and is also by far my favorite of the two MacLeods). The first Highlander movie is entertaining and quite a classic cult favorite; others in the franchise have…fared less well. Without the movie script though, there would have been no serialized show, so we have that to be thankful for. Both Connor and Duncan are immortal heroes destined to be forced to become ‘the only one’ or die in lieu of that fate. They don’t really do anything to achieve their immortality or to ultimately triumph other than avoid being identified and avoid dying by the hands of the other immortals. I enjoyed the premise, but honestly, thinking about it at all can cause one’s head to implode. I watched the entire series and all the movies over time; outside the first movie, the rest can be ignored. The series was fun, though again, not really able to deliver on the promises of pulp action.
Casca and creator Barry Sadler, on the other hand, are all about pulp action. I haven’t read the entire series; in fact, it’s been a few years since I’ve read any of the books, but almost the entire series is on my shelves and I intend to complete it. At least the originals by Sadler. Casca is still being written today by another authorized writer, though I have no experience with his writing or how his version of Casca stands up. Not the point of this. Rather, the point is to express that Sadler’s immortal is a soldier who fights battles. He fought before he gained immortality and he fights (and dies) over and over again in even more battles over the thousands of years since.
There’s a distinct difference between the Highlanders and the Roman: he isn’t sitting around waiting to be found out to then battle to survive. He isn’t hiding. He’s grabbing life by the balls and making something of it, often saving others in the process. So while I enjoyed the visual candy of the immortal Highlander world, I like the fun reads of Casca’s action adventures more and I believe they have more to offer. Just like his creator, Casca has lots of ups and downs in life, but its a bold life, and life lived loudly and proudly.
Gregory Widen doesn’t have the action figure pedigree of Barry Sadler, but he did create a fun universe with some memorable characters. And music! Both Highlander films and television featured songs by Queen, “Princes of the Universe” being quite appropriate. As for Casca, author Sadler not only fought in Vietnam, he’s rather famous for the Green Beret song he penned and sang.
Immortality does not always the hero make, just like heroics does not always lead to immortality. These two warriors at least make it interesting. Though they did not share their physical longevity with their associates Sean Connery and Barry Sadler, both men will live long in the memories of their fans. So in the end, will there truly be only one?
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