July 29th, 2014
A brief thought on Grant Morrison’s work that I might disown in the morning…
While hyping his upcoming Multiversity mini series for DC (at least half a decade in the making, and from the sound of it pages are still being done), Morrison has made reference to the Stan Lee method, in which the comic makes the reader an accomplice in the story.
Here’s the man himself, making some typically bold claims for his adoption of this technique in Multiversity #7, Ultra Comics:
I’ve used a lot of hypnotic induction. There’s an old trick that Stan Lee used to do — it was quite popular at Marvel — of the comic talking to you. I took that and this thing, and I think we’ve actually created the world’s first actual superhuman being, which you’ll see how it works when you read this comic. Then the world’s first super human being on this earth has to fight the most malignant entity. So the bad guys in Multiversity who are attacking the entire multiversal structure are also attacking the real world, and this comic is their only way through right now. So it becomes the reader versus the bad guy on the page. I think it’s actually quite scary, this thing. It scared me!
July 28th, 2014
With Grant Morrison’s Multiversity finally on the (candyfloss)horizon, he’s been doing some interviews in support of the book on The Comics Internet. You remember The Comics Internet, right? That place you used to go to discuss comics after you got sick of chopping up old issues of Wizard and randomly inserting snippets of inane commentary underneath pictures of classic (#classic) alt comics in TCJ, but before you resorted to gnomic twitter commentary and/or listening to a seemingly endless supply of podcasts while wanking/doing your housework/riding the bus?
The topic of the Prismatic Age of comics came up during one of these press adventures, with only a little bit of prompting from the interviewer from Comics Alliance:
Grant Morrison: Unlike Seven Soldiers… that was a lot more modular. This one is more of relay race, that was the structure we built because each universe is reading the comic books from the previous universe, and that’s how they learn about the threat, basically. It’s more like a chain. It doesn’t have the same intricate jigsaw pattern as Seven Soldiers. It’s quite linear, this one. I wanted to do something quite linear and simple and everyone could “get” this time. This one is for people who’ve never read DC before but want to get into this gigantic maelstrom of characters and versions of characters; the prismatic world of DC.
Comics Alliance: They call it the “prismatic age.”
As long time Mindless readers will already know, this term originated in a couple of posts by our own Botswana Beast. Good little virus that it is, the idea of The Prismatic Age has infected comics fans and academics alike, and if you’ve so far managed to avoid contagion, I’d recommend you do what all the cool kids were doing six years ago and expose yourself to the Bottie Beast!
A tasty wee taster, just to get you started:
The ideology of the Prismatic Age, what it insistently moves toward, is that all parts are active, all of the time. While not necessarily visible monthly, nor are they hidden or overwritten – this was the notion of Hypertime, never fully realised but approached in the much-loathed-for-rule-breaking Kingdom. Summary of all incarnations, a distillate. This is partly what I find so terribly aggravating about the PopMatters piece that set me on this path many moons ago, apart from its attempts to cloak in inscrutable terminology a daft enthusiasm for two largely consequenceless and really quite markedly shit event-books from last year, is the lack of understanding of either superheroes or, really, the postmodernism it touts. Postmodernism is largely about (oh-ho-ho, I am going to tell you what postmodernism is “largely about” on a comics blog,) textually, shifting loci on a subject, a lack of definitiveness in portrayals and readings – to read Civil War(!!) as somehow having achieved a permanent destabilisation of the superhero archetype because it wasn’t about a binary black & white bone of contention?! No: that ship had long since sailed, it was a pirate ship in a comic read by an African-American child beside a fire hydrant, and the sole difference was that it was big duopoly franchise comic events that were dealing, ham-fistedly of course, with the supposed issues: none of which were terribly worldly, one of which was sort of, if you squinted, slightly topical. Boring, kneejerk Dark Age scions, really – Civil War literally ordains the Keene Act, for Rao’s sake! The spirit of this age seems to me throughout to have been essentially one of recapitulation and of remixing, in this case 2006 remixed 1986 badly – but this is also how you end up with Batmite as a Jungian portent of impending demise.
Check back tomorrow from more Multiversity pre-amble, because apparently I quite like The Comics Internet, when I remember that it still exists!
July 24th, 2014
‘Six Degrees’ (music by BadBadNotGood, guest verse by Danny Brown):
I hope Ghostface keeps making music with live bands, because this collaboration with hip-hop/punk/jazz trio BadBadNotGood is like a signpost pointing to a better record yet to come, one where he’s allowed to follow his cracked muse down whatever back alleys it might take him, with a band fit to follow in hot pursuit.
Last year’s Twelve Reasons to Die album was lush as hell itself, and it had an unshakeable fatalistic logic with which to lead you there – when the album finishes and rolls straight into its instrumental mix, it feels like the natural conclusion to this story of ridiculous bloodshed, like a walk around the movie set except that it’s empty and you suspect someone’s had to bury a lot of bodies to get it that way.
Still, as glorious as Adrian Younge’s orchestration is, the overarching conceit – as a expanded in creaky, 90s style in the tie-in comic!- constrains Ghost’s talent as much as it showcases it. After all, this is a man whose best albums demonstrate that crack rap can sell any detail (Fishscale) and find a way to make any words work for its hustle (Supreme Clientele), and whose penchant for off-key singing can never quite obscure the ragged, soulful quality of his voice (as best displayed in the sudden mood shifts of The Pretty Toney Album). The catalogue of brutality Ghostface and his Wu-brethren provide on 12RTD isn’t without interest – lines like “Blow out your lungs/See you’ve been smoking for years” are crude and vivid and funny, and the fact that the gang war is prompted by the structural racism of the mob gives the story an edge it doesn’t quite make use of – but Mr GFK only really comes alive on the sweet-then-sour love songs in the middle of the album.
On ‘Centre of Attraction’ and ‘Enemies All Around Me’, Ghost’s voice cracks as internal conflict enters his world for the first time on this album – external conflict being something of a non-issue for a super-competent gang boss who can overcome death in order to take revenge on his enemies. These songs see Ghost’s character (Tony Starks, natch) wading through both his own deep reserves of sexism (“Bitches is sneaky, triflin’, and not to be trusted”) and the waves of suspicion that are coming towards him from his crew while trying to keep faith that his girl isn’t just setting him up for a fall. In typical Ghostface style, he is able to convince himself of this only by way of conjuring up a visual that’s as striking as it is unprompted: “That’s my lady, she would never backstab or double cross me/Standing butt naked in the storm, sipping the frosty.”
July 22nd, 2014
NO KEEP TALKING. WE CAN STAY AS LATE AS YOU LIKE. I’VE GOT PLENTY OF MARKING I CAN BE GETTING ON WITH…
[ITEM] Yeah no shit The Beast Must Die isn’t here again, there’s a clue to why.
[ITEM] I don’t think they really do the whole [ITEM] thing any more, or have done for ages. How often do you actually listen to this podcast? That’s not even a song lyric….
[ITEM] Yeah no shit he’s really not here, so it’s fill in time on this the mightily new edition of SILENCE! #108!!
[ITEM] We start with Gary in conversation with the fabularious Colin Hoult, talking about several things comic, in all senses of the word. Colin is fucking excellent as you will hear so be sure to check out his personal website here, and if you one of those louche Brighton comedy guinea pig sorts go to his upcoming gig here. Random SILENCE! guest stars needing tents ROCK, so if you want to hear more from Colin and his camping ilk, be sure to say so in the comments below.
[ITEM] bobsy shows up, things get less funny, Colin’s wife arrives, Colin goes. How does Colin’s wife and the whole professed ’going for a jog’ thing match up, do you think? Was it all an elaborate lie to avoid drinking Gary’s cut price lager? Is ‘jogging’ a new euphemism for ‘shagging’ that those kids on tmblerr are using? The mystery deepens…
[ITEM] Before he has to go our three boyaboys talk about the recent Transformers vs. Action Force comic, the Tom Scioli one, we’re not dicks, and Transformersy stuff
[ITEM] Then it’s on to more comics of the strictly unfunny and very serious young man indeed type, as Gary and bobsy variously mention and harf-arsedly review a veritable shit-tonne of the cunts, including but possibly forgetting and in no particular order because the note-taking was very bad, Stray Bullets: Killers, Cap’n Dinosaur, 2KAD prog 1890, Batman Eternal, The Wicked + the Divine, The Life After, Decadence 10, Your Days are Numbered, the collected Spandex, Copra, the collected Spacehawk, and possibly a couple of other things I’ve forgotten
[ITEM] It’s jolly hot though ISN’T IT THOUGH
[ITEM] I’ve quite a bad cough too, sorry if that breaks things up at all
[ITEM] That’s all really. Byeeeee! Enjoy SILENCE! #108
[ITEM] Bring back The Beast Must Die
This edition of SILENCE! is proudly sponsored by the greatest comics shop on the planet, DAVE’S COMICS of Brighton.
June 30th, 2014
TIP TOE..THROUGH THE MEANIES…
A long, long time ago in a fully painted, fully painted galaxy…
After leaving the polybagged planet Reviewniverse, a group of Man-children fly toward a distant speck. The speck gradually resolves into a bootyquaking, space Podcast-hub.
Civil war strikes the galaxy, which is ruled by Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 , a squat Wizard of Technology & Upgrades capable of robot tekno-buggery and even the ability to enjoy a nice firm stool.
Terrified, an imbecilic podcast host known as Gary Lactus flees the Empire, with her protector, The Beast Must Die .
They head for SILENCE! on the planet Sponsorshizzle. When they finally arrive, a fight breaks out. The Beast uses her fully painted graphic novel to defend Gary Lactus.
A long, long time ago in a fully painted, fully painted galaxy…
After leaving the polybagged planet Reviewniverse, a group of Man-children fly toward a distant speck. The speck gradually resolves into a bootyquaking, space Podcast-hub.
Civil war strikes the galaxy, which is ruled by Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 , a squat The Wizard of Technology & Upgrades capable of robot tekno-buggery and even the ability to enjoy a nice firm stool.
Terrified, an imbecilic The Quizzlertron known as Gary Lactus flees the Empire, with her protector, The Beast Must Die .
They head for SILENCE! on the planet Sponsorshizzle. When they finally arrive, a fight breaks out. uses her fully painted graphic novel to defend Gary Lactus.
and The Quizzlertron Gary Lactus decide it’s time to leave Sponsorshizzle and steal an Alan Moore’s beard to shoot their way out.
They encounter a tribe of Dear listeners. is attacked and the The Quizzlertron is captured by the Dear listeners and taken back to SILENCE!.
must fight to save The Quizzlertron Gary Lactus but when she accidentally unearths a bulked-up Beastman & Lactenberg prize for internet journalism, the entire future of the fully painted, polybagged galaxy is at stake.
and Gary Lactus decide it’s time to leave Sponsorshizzle and steal an Alan Moore’s beard to shoot their way out.
They encounter a tribe of Dear listeners. The Beast is attacked and the Gary is captured by the Dear listeners and taken back to SILENCE!.
The Beast must fight to save Gary Lactus but when she accidentally unearths a bulked-up Beastman & Lactenberg prize for internet journalism, the entire future of the fully painted, polybagged galaxy is at stake!
<ITEM> Sone preambulatric discussion of Julian Cope and his Dr Doom gautlets, and the usual self-promotion before the boys head off to
<ITEM> The Reviewniverse, wherein Brass Sun, Ordinary, 2000AD, Superman, John Romita Jr, and Robert Kirkman’s The Outcast are discussed.
<ITEM> Wonderful wonderful wonderful technology steps in to sod everything up, and the podcast comes clanking to a halt. Oh dear! Let’s just say this is short and sweet. Like Ronnie Corbett covered in honey and Sugar Puffs.
Now pull up your scanties and stop doing it on the ants, and we’ll have a nice listen to…SILENCE!
June 24th, 2014
I’D LIKE TO THANK MY MOTHER, FOR INVENTING ROCK N’ ROLL
(Extract from Gary’s Diary – a SILENCE! Romance by Aubrey Wilteringfust)
Gary Lactus is a celestial, gigantic and opinionated podcast host from space. His life is going nowhere until he meets The Beast Must Die, a male model-like, hirsute man with a passion for graphique novels.
Gary takes an instant disliking to The Beast and the prestige formatted and fully painted ways he learnt during his years in the internet.
However, when a Dear Listener tries to destroy Gary, The Beast springs to the rescue. Gary begins to notices that The Beast is actually rather half-witted at heart.
But, the pressures of The Beast’s job as a toilet attendant leave him blind to Gary’s affections and Gary takes up comics to try an distract himself.
Finally, when polybag-wrapped audio pan-handler, Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 , threatens to come between them, The Beast has to act fast. But will they ever find the SILENCE! love that they deserve?
<ITEM> Admin, admin, who wants admin?? Gary unleashes his and Roberty Boperty’s new superteam The Gents, featuring Poo-Lord, Slash, HotRod, JizzWizzard, Airblade / Blowhard and The Freshener. THEN the Beast discusses Strontium Dog: The Movie.
<ITEM> Additional Quizzlertron content from listener Tam, so the boys tackle their favourite comic book violence, featuring Zenith, Simon Bisley, Lobo and The Walking Dead
<ITEM> Finally, the duo slip slide into The Reviewniverse and take on Simon Hanselmann’s Life Zone, The Wicked & The Divine, MPH, Original Sin, Batman Eternal, Silver Surfer, Thor: God of Thunder and TMNT: Turtles In Time. Plus Gary looks into the wonders of Marvel AR, the Beast has a rant about Spoiler, and their is a discussion of comic book movies including Turtles, Dick Tracy, Mario Bros, The Shadow and The Phantom.
NO MORE ITEMS. So get back to work you slovenly apes.
June 17th, 2014
IT’S NOT FAR, NOT HARD TO REACH, WE CAN HITCH A RIDE TO ROCKAWAY BEACH
June 11th, 2014
There are various things that are crucial to understanding Dave Sim’s work, but which the essays on the phonebooks themselves won’t give me enough time to discuss. So after every two phonebooks we cover, I’m going to take time out to look at these subjects. The plan as of this writing is that there will be essays on Oscar Wilde, Sandman, Sim’s misogyny, Warner Brothers cartoons, the self-publishing field in the 80s and 90s, and the documentary hypothesis of the writing of the Old Testament.
June 10th, 2014
IT’S REALLY LAUGHABLE A HA HA HAHA HA
There’s an ingratiating new boy in SILENCE! and he has everybody talking. Stunningly hairy and devastatingly digital, all the boys want him. However, The Beast Must Die has a secret – he’s a disease-ridden vampire.
Gary Lactus is a smug, giant boy who enjoys comics. He becomes fascinated by The Beast Must Die who can stop graphic novels with his bare hands. He doesn’t understand why he’s so standoffish.
His best friend, a goonish unicorn called SILENCE!, helps Gary Lactus begin to piece together the puzzle. Together, they discover the ultimate weapon – the useless, informative podcast.
When bodies start turning up all over SILENCE!, Gary Lactus begins to fear the worst. The unicorn urges her to report The Beast Must Die to the police and he knows he should, so what’s stopping him?
He may resist The Beast Must Die’s bite, but can he resist his charms?
Will he be caught crying with the vampire?
Which is all a smoke screen to hide the fact that what you have basically a malnourished half-formed edition of SILENCE! this week due to the Beast’s utterly aggravating ongoing technical issues with his computer. Disembodied Natrraotrbot X-15735 could of course have a word with some of his more dubious digital connections and sort out the unlucky Beast, but really, where would be the fun in that?
You do get some content though, as he duo bravely answer some more listener questions and Gary tells us all about his dental work, but there’s no getting round the fact that we’ve failed you again dear listeners, despite your seemingly endless patience with us…go to the back of the class boys. Must. Do. Better.
June 5th, 2014
We all think we could make a difference.
In 2008, Gorton North was held by the Liberal Democrats with 42.8% of the vote. In May 2014, the same council seat had the Liberal Democrats coming third, with 13.2% of the vote. The Liberal Democrats ended with no council seats in the whole of Manchester, which is now a one-party state.
The reason I mention this is because in the second of those elections, a week and a half ago as of this writing, I was the Liberal Democrat candidate. It would be pointless trying to write from a position of detachment about High Society, the second Cerebus phonebook, which is almost entirely based around an election campaign, so I’m not even going to try.
High Society is where, by common consensus, Cerebus really gets good. It’s a political satire, combining elements of the Marx brothers, Looney Tunes cartoons, and comic book culture, and it lasted for twenty-five issues — a ridiculous length back when a three-issue storyline in a superhero comic would be considered an “epic”.
It’s also, as many people have pointed out, almost completely incoherent when it comes to the actual politicking involved. Sim at this point clearly knew little or nothing about politics, and it’s clear that he had several conflicting aims — he wanted to show the rise and fall of Cerebus in the political arena, which had been established as existing at the whim of Lord Julius, an absolute dictator, and yet he also wanted to satirise the electoral process. So we get Cerebus arriving as “the ranking diplomatic representative from Palnu” — an appointed position, but then Elrod is nominated by Lord Julius as the new ranking diplomatic representative. However, rather than this leading to Elrod just taking on the role, there is instead an election — an election voted for not by the people of Palnu, but by the people of Iest, the state to which he is to be the representative.
This makes no sense on any level — even after Sim’s revelation in a chat on the Cerebus Yahoo group that Lord Julius (the dictator and Groucho Marx figure) is intended to be a plant working for the Illusionists (a group of drug-mystic anarchists who are one of the minor factions who are fighting in the background throughout the first two thirds of Cerebus) and so the political system is meant to be as confusing as possible. And it gets worse when the first of the political conventions portrayed is shown as a comic convention, with Cerebus and Elrod signing autographs and doing sketches for fans.
[ETA Michael Peterson has pointed out on Twitter that I don't make it clear here that while the election starts as the election for ranking diplomatic representative, Cerebus ends up standing for Prime Minister]
What Sim appears to have done, in fact, is to read Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail (a classic account of the 1972 election campaign when George McGovern lost massively to Richard Nixon) and use that as the basis of his story, twisting it to fit the plot points he needed to hit in his grand narrative, and filling in the gaps with comic culture references and a kind of bargain-basement populist politician hatred, of the South Park/UKIP/Russell Brand variety.
And yet…and yet…
The feeling of the book will be utterly familiar to anyone who has taken any kind of active part in political campaigning. It feels like real politics — building up a coalition of diverse interests with nothing in common except that the candidate they support will get them some of what they want, desperately figuring out which interest group’s votes you can count on and which you can’t, negotiating policy positions…
In a situation like that it becomes very easy for the idealists to become obsessed with the machinery and lose sight of their ideals, but it also becomes easy for the egotists and machine politicians to get swept along with the enthusiasm for change. People have criticised the moment when Cerebus says “For a while there, Cerebus thought he could… make a difference…” as being unearned sentimentality — Cerebus only gets involved in the campaign at all for the same reasons he does anything, to get money, power, and an easy life, and he has no ideals at all, so for him to say he wanted to make a difference seems like the worst kind of mawkishness.
But in fact, it rings as true as anything in the book. For every idealist who loses sight of their principles as soon as they get a sniff of power, there’s a machine politician who, once they realise that the levers of power are theirs to pull, starts thinking “hang on, I could actually do something good here”. Everyone has a view of how the world should be, however incoherent, and when presented with the opportunity to reshape the world very few people will not have some ideas for improvement.
That makes High Society sound like it’s a serious political work, however, and it’s not. It is, in fact, as funny as Cerebus ever gets. While Sim is laying the groundwork for a much bigger, longer, story to come, he’s also working on a more sophisticated version of the joke that made up the very first issue of the comic.
Cerebus, at this stage, is all about genre clashes, and by this point Sim has got the clashing down to a fine art. Each of Sim’s characters belongs to one genre, is in a story of another genre, and quite often thinks they belong in a third genre. The prime example is Cerebus himself, a funny animal who thinks he’s a barbarian hero:
The Moon Roach (the character who was formerly the Batman parody The Cockroach and then Captain Cockroach has now become a multiple-personality parody of Moon Knight who drops enormous stone crescent moons on bankers while shouting “Unorthodox economic revenge!”) thinks he’s in a superhero story, and most of the supporting cast think they’re in a Regency novel.
Only Lord Julius, who remains somewhat in the background in this story, seems to have a clue what’s really going on — but then Groucho always did seem to be the only person in any of the Marx Brothers’ films who had any kind of genre awareness, at least if you don’t count his brothers, and while Bran Mak Muffin is here reconfigured as the Zeppo figure, a comic as writer-driven as Cerebus would never have had room for a character as visual as Harpo. And as for Chico — or “Duke Leonardi” — well…
Let’s just say that Duke Leonardi isn’t great at understanding things.
The result is that the narrative, while structured like a political campaign story in the same genre as Primary Colors or All The King’s Men, is driven entirely by characters working not just at cross-purposes, but towards purposes which none of the other characters can even comprehend.
As well as the All The King’s Men similarities (although Cerebus’ arc from ego-driven thug to principled leader is the opposite of that of Willie Stark), the obvious comparison is Being There, a film which had come out a little under two years before the High Society storyline started. Much like Chauncey Gardner, Cerebus is someone with so little in common with the political world that his plain-speaking stupidity is taken as great political wisdom (although unlike Gardner, Cerebus has a huge amount of cunning). This only works because everyone is talking past each other the entire time.
While Sim was, of course, to move away from this formula in later storylines, there is a hint of it in everything up to issue two hundred, in the games and counter-games, strategies and plots, that dominate Church and State and Mothers and Daughters and make up the background on which Cerebus’ life plays out. There’s a very thin line between politics and farce, as anyone who watches the news will attest, and in this genre clashing Sim has found the perfect engine to generate farcical political intrigue.
But part of the reason Sim couldn’t keep this kind of storytelling going indefinitely is that people — and aardvaarks — are changed by their environment, and realistically there was no way to keep Cerebus as a barbarian after two years of political intriguing in a setting whose culture is closer to the late eighteenth century than to Hyperborea. No matter how rough and uncultured Cerebus remained, there was no way he could go back to questing to defeat nameless demons and steal gold and jewels. Once he had a taste for politics, like many of us, Cerebus couldn’t turn back.
The story ends with Cerebus’ dreams of power crushed, his supporters dispersed or locked up, and his power-base gone, seemingly for good. Yet, as we shall see, he can’t stay out of politics now he’s been in it. Cerebus is down, but he’s not out.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the more idealistic of his supporters. It’s revealed at the end that the hilariously inaccurate history of Cerebus’ abortive political movement, excerpts from which have been peppered throughout the story, is being written by a political prisoner, who despite everything is keeping alive the dream, even though it was a dream that his leaders didn’t share.
More than a few of us know how he feels…