September 1st, 2008
Woah, new comics, new (importantly, much as I was surprised/appalled to find myself thoroughly enjoying Legion of Three Worlds last week. Oh, Geoff Johns, I’ve hated you for so very long and now… I don’t even know any more) Grant Morrison Final Crisis tie-in. It is the excite. I have no money.
(Which cover did you buy, Dimensioneers? Story cover is best, I find. Iconic pose cover is dull.)
Who else is possessed of the substance I call excite? David Uzumeri, for one I’d guess, given his annotatin’; two-steppin’ Tim Callahan and Chad Nevett, for three, judging by their conversation and PatrickMM, he also. Joe ‘Jog’ McCulloch is not but, then, Jog is a proper critic and grown-up and – much as I enjoyed the thoroughly plated serving Scott Kurtz deservedly received from comixxx critix – I am not. I can’t speak for bobsy Mindless or amy Mindless or any other of my cohorts in this regard, but man, I read (primarily superhero) comics still essentially as a fan. Particularly of Grant Morrison, without whom I’d probably have long since have deserted this sub/fusion/meta-genre ten years back and who, you may have noticed, you all come here to find out who the Black Glove is anyway (fuuck, there is an actual 1954 murder-mystery film of that title,) we tend to bang on about quite a bit. Just so’s we don’t have to write anymore caveats.
Anyway, “fan” is a bit of a troubled terminology in this context, that of the comics internet, probably primarily because of its usage in a five-word sequence (or variants thereof) that will for certain haunt Marvel EIC Joe Quesada unto death: “What about the fans, Joe?” I’d kind of like to reclaim the word from the serial complainants because I don’t have (want?) the gravitas to acclaim myself as a critic and I’d always thought – despite etymology! – that it connoted enthusiasm in some form and didn’t necessarily preclude criticism or objectivity. (‘So what you are saying here is, you are self-describing as a… fresh-faced devotee, male? Some kind of a fan… boy?’ Yes. Yes, I suppose I am. Depressingly, for this tiny crusade, “fan” remains allocated in the thesaurus under 504. Madman)
I like to think Jog’s suggestion that you could use the 3D Heroscape glasses (free with Superman: Confidential #1!) to look at the Zatanna image in Seven Soldiers #1 was in some way responsible for the genesis of this very comic. I’d not begin to debate him that, ah, yes, Superman Beyond! (3-D) is a splurge, a big muck of a comic that looks structurally less sound the farther from it, from the initial, frankly, orgiastic for me readthrough I get. It might be because it’s half a comic; split for whatever reason, art or script delays, to fleece a bit more money out the fans – what about the fans, Dan? What of them? So that’s, you know, dubious and somewhat noteworthy. It is, I imagine, a perfectly readable sidestory on its own without the rest of Final Crisis, on another hand.
And I’ll still buy and likely flip out over #2 because at this point I’m absurdly uncritical, immersed and excited about Final Crisis, have been since the poodle gave out the keys to the car, sending me into overdrive and most especially and explicitly because this issue appeared to – in running full circle with Morrison’s first DC work, Animal Man (particularly the entire closing trade, ‘Deus Ex Machina’,) applying a variety of uterine and hematal co-ordinates, and invoking Borges’ Book of Sand as perhaps part of a sequence of logic puzzles in an Emergence Theory stack – appeared to demarcate a bit of show insofar as the birthing of the sentient DC Universe, which I (possibly I alone) certainly have been waiting intently for. Without really knowing what it was I awaited – how would you know, really, if the DC Universe had become sentient? What would it look like, what would be different? How would a – rather, ‘this’, I don’t care about you – reader’s interaction with it change? Is this by far the most outrageous claim yet in a 20+ year battle of oneupmanship between Morrison and Alan Moore?
As a hook, and they have to hook you, the fan, somehow or other into continuing to purchase the tawdry tales of superblokes, it really is a doozy: it really will all amount to something, something incredible, this time. It always feels like you’re on the cusp of discovering something important…
And perhaps it is only: I Have Wasted My Life, on this nonsense. There’s definitely a – I’m not traditionally a DC person, but you can get involved in looking into the interrelated cosmologies, this massive soup of wildly contrasting and even disputational symbolism, much of it drawn from the wells of, well, much of human culture – I suppose there’s a kind of imposition of interconnectedness, of relation to your own life could be drawn somehow out of it. But it’s a deep and often dank chasm. What excuses I have for perhaps not appreciating the form of comics rather than these kind of things, superheroes, their endless millwheel, for trying to avoid the opprobrium of the cognoscenti, are growing ever more elaborate. So the map of it, is a way – the DC Universe(s) are perhaps the most pictorially documented and, I’d have to imagine, one of the largest areas claimed, colonised even, in fiction. It alters over time. Versions of Atlantis and America, the two uppermost mythological territories of our own time, are disputed. I think the upcoming MMORPG is sort of an interesting, if pretty much completely linear, model to draw from:
“The door to the DC Universe is open”, as the man says.
But then, on a more pat basis, you could say: “Why, the DC Universe exists in the mind of the readers, of the fans. Of course. Time-staggered.” Like that bit in Zatanna where she’s being read by thousands of different eyes, at different times, or when Animal Man, well, I’ll let him tell it:
Simple narrative tricks, really, but then I can draw an enormous amount of coincidence, significance, whatever out of Animal Man purely on a geographical basis. I was born in Botswana beside ‘Cry Freedom’ era South Africa, my grandparents run a farm in Tanzania (grandmother, rather. My grandad died last week) and my family on that side constitutes around 10% of registered white nationals of the country. Now and forever, I am the Bots’wana Beast, God help me. When I first started seeing my then girlfriend, now fiancé and mother of my child, I used to get a couple of trains through to Anniesland, in Glasgow. I’d hang about in the flat, get half-baked on some crap rocky hash, get the train into town, pick up back issues of Doom Patrol from Futureshock Comics. We’d occasionally go for a drink and/or a meal at Lock 27 by the canal, the only halfway decent boozer in the area, so it was a bit of a surprise to discover that this one pub was the one at which James Highwater – who’d later wear the Psycho Pirate‘s Medusa Mask, a loose-end that I don’t think anyone ever addressed afterward – lay slumped on a tabletop, to be awoken by The Author. The Medusa Mask, as an object, traditionally induces emotion of whatever desired type in its target – it’s interesting as a symbol here, primarily, because it looks like this:
pretty much the prime visual bit of iconography for drama – the masks of Thalia and Melpomene, Pierrot and Columbine, and it is – on full broadcast, in ‘Deus Ex Machina’ – what brings the recently compacted multiverse ghosting back, the major players being Ultraman and Overman… in Superman Beyond! the wisdom that Alexander Luthor Jr. imparted in the (terrible) Infinite Crisis, that Superman is the basis for all these Earths is made definitive: the Superman analogues are key to their worlds (e.g. Nazi Superman = Nazi Earth-10, Doc Fate = Pulp Age Earth-20.)
Various bloggers are describing Final Crisis as a ‘greatest hits’ compilation or set from Morrison and directly emphasising this issue’s particular relationship with the closing of Animal Man, Merryman as harlequin combinant – encompassing, more recently, Brendan McCarthy’s Lord of Limbo from his Solo issue and Azzarello/Chiang’s Doctor Thirteen – returns as cicerone of the trash-heap hinterland. A symbological masquerade, leading to Limbo’s library (I also work in libraries, though it isn’t going very well) and Jorge Luis Borges.
Borges does actually exist in the DC Universe, continuity guardians – he appears for one panel in the first Rick Veitch issue of Swamp Thing, accompanied only by Metron, a “writer going blind in his garret in Buenos Aires”. If only the Ultramarines had been founded over the site of the capital of South America’s second, rather than third, best footballing nation I could tie that in to the bleed wall picture of Clark Kent in the Infant Universe of Qwewq – derived from Italo Calvino‘s Cosmicomics, btw -perfect. But alas, no.
In any case, much as I like the Book of Sand (given the narrator by a Scotsman, somewhat notably,) The Library of Babel and The Garden of Forking Paths which is, of course, bestrode by the Endless Destiny and his chained book, it now occurs that they did suffer a lack of – as Chris Sims might put it – some brightly coloured superheroes, all-consuming Manichaean threat and the immersive futuretech we know as 3D glasses. That these stand to improve them. If these concepts could somehow be fused in a technicolour, multiplanar blast, an annihilation of opposites and then set as reagent to the Gwydion/Merlin (G/M for short) of living language, a little bald man in a jar, from Seven Soldiers: Zatanna… well. It’d certainly be complex, like the question “how can you be inside and out?”
Much of Morrison’s career – really since Animal Man #5, if not earlier – has, in one sense, been a treatise on the existence and nature of two-dimensional beings and our relationship with them. The stuff about ‘story’ here treads dangerously close to Gaiman territory, but is sufficiently cracked and semblant to Mister Nobody‘s origin to give it a bodyswerve. It’d be remiss not to mention Vibrational Match’s currently running series on The Filth, with special regard to #3 here, where David covers much of this territory in a far less slipshod and tan-gen-gential manner.
It’s hard, I find to live in the Western world and not have Batman in particular catch your eye daily nowadays, somewhere, on the telly, a billboard, in a newsagent in those Panini reprints or figurines, though; Grant is on record as believing in them as independent entities, which sounds mental (or Kaos Magik, if you prefer) but at this juncture I, proscriptively an avowed rationalist, son of a Maths teacher, am almost aboard that Yellow Submarine.