Interview with Kevin O’Neill here
Welcome to the second part of our annocommentations. The idea with these things isn’t to compete with the excellence of Jess Nevin’s annotations, but to supplement them. Jess doesn’t do much mulling over the meanings of his findings, and that’s what these posts are about. So if you ever wondered what Terner being from Performance says about the sort of sexual positions he likes, then you’re in the right place. Oh yeah, and the links aren’t just to dull old Wikipedia pages. Follow them.
Amy: Yes, Steptoe and Son, blah.
Andrew: While I don’t want to play spot-the-reference, I do like that we’ve got what looks like a Hitchcock cameo here.
Amy: What interests me far more is how far technology’s come in the last decade. Back in ’58 it seemed as though everything was pretty much a match on our own time stream, space port accepted, but here we have floating fire trucks and elevated monorails (the ‘Overground’ – check the mutated Underground sign and it’s lightning bolts/wings), and it’s just normal. The crowd are still wowed by Thunderbird 2 and whatever that other spaceship is [Zom: Thunderbird 1!], but that’s probably because it’s heroes to the rescue time – they’re travelling to and from a burning building – not, I suspect, because the technology’s anything out of the ordinary.
This is a world full of super scientists and superheroes and one that’s, by now, made contact many times over with extra terrestrials (judging by the ‘Treen School of English’ building a few pages before this, both Earth and Venus have reached an accord, possibly as a result of the Mekon’s death at the hands of the mighty Mr. Dare) who probably mastered anti-grav centuries before Cavor was even born. What’s strange is why the transformation from Morris Minors to Spectrum Saloons was so sudden and why it happened so late into the 20th Century. The answer seems gloomily obvious, at least in terms of the League’s UK: two world wars and Big Brother. Development has been arrested up until now, but with the Ingsoc years firmly swept under the carpet – you’d really never know they happened (talk about denial – how British!) – the floodgates to the future have been flung wide. No wonder so many rich hippy kids are in such a good mood. There really is a tremendous sense of promise here, ostensibly a gleaming tomorrow waiting just around the corner.
Andrew: For all that Baby Boomers fetishise “the Sixties” as some mythical time when everything was perfect – not realising that it’s their own generation who have pretty comprehensively fucked the world up for those of us who are following them, by pulling the ladder up after themselves – they did have the luck to be a giant demographic bubble of youth at precisely the point when this could almost sensibly seem true. The ‘long 1960s’ (from roughly the Suez crisis to the OPEC crisis) were built on cheap oil, and that meant everything from cheap plastic consumer items to cheap transport. The Western world was rich and (other than Vietnam) at peace, and that meant an explosion in possibilities, from a Social Democratic consensus that disappeared by 1979 to a British space programme (that was scrapped by Tony Benn in 1968 when he was told to choose between a space programme or Concorde). After the OPEC crisis all this changed. We can’t afford hopes and dreams any more. To do that the Boomers would have to make sacrifices.
Amy: Kosmo Gallion, for those who don’t know, was a bad guy in the Avengers episode Warlock. The central mystery in Warlock surrounds a rocket scientist involved in black magic who slips into a coma and then disappears, leading the Avengers to the door of the aforementioned future ‘death hole’ of Oliver Haddo, Kosmo Gallion. Kosmo is a Crowley analogue, and it is likely that the rocket scientist in question is an analogue of occultist and rocket scientist Jack Parsons, an associate of Mr. Great Beast, who tried, along with that wanker L. Ron Hubbard, to beget his own Moonchild.
Bobsy in the emails was also keen to point out that the initials K.G. could also translate as Kenneth Grant, a member of Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis, who, after Crowley’s death, went on to head the English branch of the order. Weirdly enough there’s another K.G. in the mix too, Karl Germer, Crowley’s successor, who was the OHO of the OTO until his own death in ’62. Kosmo Gallion is an aggregate entity it seems…..
The Avengers in ’62 was yet to be home to Emma Peel, but I dig the way the League’s labyrinthine subtext winds together again here. Another cool tidbit is that Warlock was also the first episode to introduce Cathy Gale, and, get this, when he goes to her for information she’s working in…. the British Museum! It seems the League weren’t the only MI5 operatives based there…..
To the British amongst you the inspiration for the bust on the shop counter should be obvious – Nemesis the Warlock. Nemesis, of course, is one of 2000AD’S most popular and enduring characters, scourge of xenophobes everywhere and the literal nemesis of sci-fi Hitler analogue Torquemada. Whilst many of Nemesis’s adventures take place in the far flung future, the latter ones bounce around the timestream willy nilly, meaning he’s as much a historical personage at this point as anyone else. I think perhaps his appearance here is particularly relevant in that this period probably represents the first wave of mass immigration from other planets and a corresponding rise in anti-alien sentiment (for an example of this look no further than Drummond’s comments in the Dossier where he talks about ‘little green bastards’), which feeds directly into Nemesis’ concerns, indeed the whole Nemesis narrative. This is the beginning of the shit storm that leads directly to Torquemada and Termight. Be Pure, be Vigilant. Behave.
We musn’t forget the magickal connection however. In that he’s a Warlock and a Lord of Kaos, Nemesis was always going to be a massive deal for the occultists of the League’s universe. Indeed, it’s probably fair to say that the League universe’s chaos magic stream in all likelihood began with him, not with Peter Carroll and his mates down the pub.
And now the comic begins to weave in its second central metatext, Nicholas Roeg’s gloomily kinetic death knell for sixties, Performance. For those who appreciate the broader context here, this first panel doesn’t serve simply as an establishing shot, but as an eerie reminder of future past – the ‘room for rent’ a vacant space waiting to be filled, Terner’s future, his transformation, his demon, his death, lurking there in the darkness, behind the windowpane.
But right now Turner’s busy.
If you can’t be arsed to follow the wiki-link above then here’s a brief synopsis of Performance: gangster on the run from his mates ends up at washed up ex rock star’s house, where he and said rockstar embark upon a weird game of role reversal before eventually swapping bodies with each other and getting themselves shot by the gangster’s old mates. It doesn’t take a genius to conclude that there are deeply homoerotic undertones (overrtones?) to the film, the gangster’s hard body softening in proximity with the rock star’s and vice versa. Forget the women in the film, Furbur and Lucy, Performance is a totally male space. One of the key lines in the film is where Furbur, who incidentally is the woman in this scene, refers to Terner as ‘a real man – a male/female man’, as though he, perhaps we all, contain both genders, but on one level what’s implied is that he has no need of an actual, physical woman in his life. All Terner needs to complete this eternal circle of man is Chas, a terrifying gang enforcer with his emphasis on the male as opposed to the female side of his masculinity.
So this is all a roundabout way of saying Terner probably likes butch guys and that there’s a good chance that he and Furbur, whose grunts and gasps could easily indicate pain not pleasure, are probably having anal sex here – or that, at the very least, this is what Terner, taking her from behind, would like to be doing.
The Infernal Eminences album has to be the Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request, Performance’s Purple Orchestra, and Turner Himself, a thinly veiled stand in for the Rolling Stones and Mick Jagger (even the female lead being played by Keith Richards’ then g/f Anita Pallenberg).
Andrew: She Comes In Scarlet, though, is another multiple reference – obviously to the Scarlet Woman of Crowley’s writings, but also to the song She’s A Rainbow from the Satantic Majesties Request album, which is about oral sex (“She shoots colours all around like a sunset going down”) as well as being a worshipful description of a woman in much the same way as many of Crowley’s hymns to Layla.
But that song shares the repeated line “She Comes In Colors” with the much better song of that name by the band Love. The chorus lines there – “My love she comes in colors/You can tell her from the clothes she wears” are supposed to refer to menstruation, so “She Comes In Scarlet” quite probably refers to Crowley’s sex-magickal practice of performing oral sex on a menstuating woman. (Possibly also a good solution to the problem of getting no satisfaction because you’ve been told “baby better come back later next week”…)
Amy: Good old Love. Just to add, Mr. Felton, Haddo’s new death hole, is Charle’s Felton, the satanist from Robert Irwin’s Satan Wants Me, another Hadd… You know the rest. I enjoy the fact that he had a black light lodge, though. Truly sixties.
Various people visited Crowley when he was in ill health towards the end, all of them with conflicting stories wrt how he died. Around this particular version of his death bed we have Gussie Fink-Nottle’s mother Lady Frieda Fink-Nottle (or Lady Frieda Harris, co-author of Crowley’s Thoth tarot deck), a young Kosmo Gallion, his fiance Julia (also poached from Warlock) and Haddo’s Scarlet Woman supreme Soror Iliel (probably Leah Hirsig).
One thing I picked up on my travels was exactly what Iliel might refer to, the ‘Ileum’:
A Scarlet Woman, the Whore of Samara, would have to take her name from somewhere as unpleasant and debased as… Well, he was a dirty old bugger was Haddo/Crowley. You had to get right to the heart of the bum to find heaven in Crowley’s philosophy, proper negridic stuff some of it. Not only that but his Moonchild was intended to be a being born not of causation, but of circumstance – vaginal sex being right out then. Only the, ahem, barren parts for Moonchild rituals. This is why Soror Cybele was a wash out. Cybele being the Phrygian Earth Mother and representing the fertile earth.
Sure, Crowley provides some detailed reasoning for her magickal name in Moonchild, but I like my interpretation best. Magickal correspondence and all that, eh?
Seems even with Iliel on side he’s still failing on the Moonchild front though.
I can’t be bothered to list all the films/books/etc from which all the characters Haddo’s been hail. It’s boring. Jess will’ve already done it.
It’s fitting that Haddo should enact his transference ritual on the story’s 23rd page. Non local connections….
Netherwood is where Crowley died. O’Neill’s art is as amazing as ever here. I love Netherwood’s grimacing face, as though Haddo’s transferred all his misery and suffering into its brickwork – the house doing all the writhing and screaming for him.
The thunderclap in this scene was recounted in our reality by at least one, alleged, onlooker. Probably bollocks though.
Oh, and BTW, I went to college in Hastings. It really is a grim old place.
Bobsy: The stuff about Haddo’s interest in espionage and hooking in rocket scientists, that Warlock seems to be about, ties to Crowley quite nicely…basically there’s a halfway-decent book written about Crowley that argues his biography makes a lot more sense if he was an MI5 agent. There are the well documtented associations with Ian Fleming, Dennis Wheatley et al. his MI5 file is still classified long after it normally otherwise would have been. Cambridge educated, well documented thrill-seeking streak, his weirdly inexplicable ‘pro-German’ propaganda during WW1 in the US. it’s a pretty suggestive and convincing if not conclusive theory (I can hear Zom screaming).
Basically, short story – it all makes sense in the LOEG context because it explains how Haddo’s victory would also be Moriarty’s victory, as we glimpse it in 2009. Haddo and the league used to work for the same boss.
Amy: Yeah, when I was ploughing through the Dossier the other day I couldn’t help but feel there was something else going on behind the scenes, something we haven’t touched on yet, but which concerns the UK intelligence agencies. The League might’ve been General Wharton’s ‘pet project’ simply because he was paranoid about insurgence, particularly supernatural insurgence of the kind the newly defected League represented, but, well…. I just think there might be something else to it, a broader scheme we can’t see yet.
Andrew: And an interesting bit from an Avengers site about the bloke who played Cosmo Gallion [sorry some of the names keep on blurring between the ones in the comic and the ones in the original source materials - it was bound to happen - Amy] :
“The small-minded, notoriously homophobic British tabloid press wasted no time in covering his murder from a seedy angle, their theories even involving the murders of a couple of other antique dealers, who may have been killed by the same hired assassin as the Vatican banker Roberto Calvi.”
I’m sure that can be used in connection with *some* of this…
Zom: Antique dealers…. Like Lovejoy.
Amy: Yeah, it sounds like someone wanted anyone connected to all this stuff bumped off. And it was a masonic group? I love how this weaves real life (?!?) events of the 1980s with the fictitious 1980s of 1969′s future. Was Moore aware of this stuff?
And here’s Turner.
And here’s Turner/Chas….
The ‘majestic’ line completely confirms the Their Satanic Majesties Request connection.
One thing I dig is the little League Britannia bust on Terner’s dressing table. It makes sense that some of their memorabilia would’ve found its way into the hands of rock stars with money to burn. It’s also another reminder of the way the League and their adventures have become just another commodity to be bought and sold. This is a ‘fallen’ age.
It’s probably also worth commenting on the mirrors dotted around Terner’s house. They feature predominantly in Performance too, and are central to many of the film’s scenes, used primarily to blur the boundaries between self and other. The questions of location and identity embedded in the mirror are the main concerns of Terner the text. They turn the house, which was always only a metaphor for Terner’s interior world, into a labyrinth – the mirrors portals into other reverse houses, reverse selves – 81 Powis square a house on the borderland.
Amy: They’re joking about it here, but immortality really is a very serious business.
In human terms crossing a century is the equivalent of swimming the Atlantic. While we may sometimes wonder aloud at where the time went or whatever, the fact is it’s a subjective age since I was kid, and I’m only 35. Quite frankly when I look at my mother and father I sometimes find myself wondering…. how did you get there? It must have taken so long. It must have been exhausting. No wonder their bodies are breaking down. Conditions in time are ferocious. These suits weren’t built to last.
There’s a quiet and devastating spectacle – something these books are full of – implicit in these characters’ passage through the small chunk of the space-time supersphere presented in these books. The century itself is the adventur/antagonisty here, hence the title, the closely clustered and deep fictive eras of Moore’s England ramping up the sense of chronological scale and a fantastic way into reimagining our own last hundred years as similarly huge. It occurs to me it was probably a conscious decision on Moore’s part to embark upon the Black Dossier before this story, not simply because it makes sense of stuff, but because of the way it provides the reader with a deep focus`perspective similar to the one shared by the books’ principles. Between the Almanac, the Dossier, Minions of the Moon and Century itself one really can devote a very significant proportion of one’s life to unpicking the trajectories of these characters and their world over these ten decades…. and that’s before we get onto the speculation and hypothesising about the narrative lacunas, the missing years, these texts encourage. If we’ve been reading closely, and many of us have, we should feel as ground down under the weight of all this time as the characters, basically. Or at the very least we should understand their pain a little better.
A few years ago I had a very shit-making presentation to do and my then girlfriend suggested I take one of her beta blockers to prevent pant-fill. What she was doing with beta blockers other than attempting to reinforce her doctor’s mental image of her as a doe eyed depressed person who needed to stay well away from work I have no idea, but rightly or wrongly – wrongly as it turned out – I was freaked out enough about the prospect of doing the presentation in front of my horrible boss to go along with her plan.
As I said, though, it was a bad plan.
I’d noticed Z acting pretty chilly over that last week, and not just the kind of chilly one arrives at after spending every day with someone who you’re to all intents and purposes thoroughly sick of, but weirdly distant and disconnected. She hadn’t been herself since she’d started to take the pills. The emotions, normal emotions, anger, pleasure – anything at all – just weren’t there. It was as though she were transforming into a Vulcan, or a fan-critic, or something. We’d had an uncharacteristically cool argument about it the day before, and it was later that night after I’d concluded that, yes, the pills had turned her soul off that I decided popping one for the presentation was a good idea. So, yeah, I got what I wanted: the next day I found myself standing in a room full of bosses and I was as heartless as any of them. As heartless as the sentence ‘I’m passionate about office appliances’. That heartless.
Only this made me extremely uncomfortable.
What they don’t tell you in the small print, probably because they’ve already taken up enough wasted space with heart health warnings and the rest of that bullshit, is how beta blockers make you feel. ‘Blocked’ is the word. It’s the equivalent of emotional constipation. You can feel the panic, anger, fear, etc. building in you, pushing for expression, for release, but the feeling noses the base line of awareness and then….. just flattens out. It’s hauntology with emotions, vast gulfs of shrieking absence where one’s normal reponses should be. It’s also the closest I can get to summing up Mina and Allan’s predicament by the time we arrive in 1969 ( it’s amazing how much Century encourages one to conflate space and time, actually – it just feels so natural in its context).
But in the case of Mina and Allan it’s not just a moment’s anxiety bearing down on them, but the full force of one hundred years of history. This isn’t something that can be expelled in a twitch, a cracking of the voice or even a shriek, but something that in its articulation sees bones crumble, brains break and bodies driven six feet into the ground. This is what seethes beneath our leads’ immaculate skins, thrashing against the prison walls of their inexhaustibly arrogant physicality. It’s like being suddenly transformed into an oak tree, only worse. Much, much worse in fact – oak trees are practically pillars of dust compared to the monstrous fleshy monoliths Mina and Allan have become. A century is a very long time indeed, but the team know they’ve much longer than that waiting for them, all around them. The terror of what the world might become, what YOU might become over that time must be overwhelming, a glimpse of one’s future self, even in the imagination, tantamount to french kissing a Great Old One.
Zom: Flick through the pages: this book is littered with relics, statues, and ruins. The calcified remnants of the past haunting the League’s present, and what better emblem of the League’s past than a Martian war machine? And what better way to fly in the face of that past than treat it like a toy?
The Martians killed hundreds of thousands if not millions of people with their death rays and red mist. They devastated London and would have murdered the entire population of the world if they weren’t stopped by the League, and Moreau’s virus. Treating one of those monstrous battlesuits like a piece of recreational equipment is the fictional world equivalent of playing hide and seek in the abandoned gas chambers of Auschwitz.
But time heals all or rather time makes us forget. Time levels. So that even an alien slaughtomaton can end up just another rusty amusement on a delapidated street. Like some abandoned slide on an inner city housing estate. The sign that reads “no ball games” might as well read “no fannying about on the Martian”, fannying about on the Martian being just another game, albeit one that’s sanctioned here. Live long enough, move far enough beyond an event and even atrocity can become just another playground, just ask Hollywood.
Seeing Mina swing I can’t help but feel a distorted echo of the League’s victory 70 years ago. The League are back to trample the Martians, but this time instead of unadulterated desperation they bring a desperate need to thwart ennui, and perhaps a tacit contempt for their own history. There’s something profoundly lonely and disorientating in that. The comic as a whole goes to great lengths to underline the atomised nature of the group, but for me this panel suggests a difficulty not just in identifying with each other, but in identifying with themselves, their own life experience.
Allan, in the foreground, lighting his fag as his two lovers play without him seems to give the lie to Mina’s assertion that “this’ll be fun” it doesn’t look fun at all. The cigarette: the enemy of physical activity, a signifier of the loner, signposts Allan’s isolation. The relative scale of Allan versus his friends sets them further apart. Like Allan, we too are denied access to any joy the tiny figures of Mina and Orlando might be experiencing, but on the strength of what we’ve read up to this point, the question has to be asked, does the fact that these small sketches are so necessarily uncommunicative also speak to the broader sense that these are characters who aren’t in touch with each other anymore? Is there any joy to be found? Certainly the way the group is divided here, and again far more consequentially later, serves to demonstrate that the old gang is fundamentally broken.
Remember when Mina and Allan were a team? Remember when we wanted them to fall in love?
More Stones’ references here with Jack Flash (of Jumping Jack Flash fame <—- like you didn’t know that), but what you may not know is that Jack Flash was a brit superhero of the 60s. The mention of his ‘waning popularity’ is probably a nod to the fact that by the sixties the British supe, like all British popular culture, was beginning to take a huge backseat to America’s. Jack’s small town adventures in all likelihood appearing increasingly quaint contrasted with those of his New York and Metropolitan cousins. British made comics began to fade from the shelves in the sixties, and, here, Jack Flash’s suicide embodies this gloomy trend.
Amy: It’s testimony to Moore’s skills as a writer that rather than overlooking the thing hiding in plain sight he foregrounds the questions many of us have been asking for ages – exactly when does one’s mode of speech change? When does one stop acting like a victorian? How self conscious is this transformation – turning them it into a major plot point.
Seriously, when did these two……
………………….become these two?
Where are the joins? Is it something you learn? Does it feel natural? I could go on forever. It seems the leaguers are still figuring it out too.
This is the sort of nastiness that looks harmless to an outsider, but really hurts on the inside. I imagine Orlando, ever the bitch, generally leads the charge when it comes to this sort of thing. I also imagine Mina, the most serious and thoughtful of the three, is often on the receiving end of hir shit. Of course we know that Orlando and Allan probably both share a fair amount of resentment towards her, favoured as she is by Prospero for league missions and as a result frequently absent from their lives, the weak, but perhaps also the most important, link in their little group – the bad mummy. Allan, a weaker ego than Orlando, comes off as a little toady here, egging the bully on.
There’s probably a sexual subtext here too. We know from 1910 that in their loneliness and boredom Allan and Orlando have developed a taste for S&M. Mina, here, is an unwitting and unwilling play mate. I think they’d plough ahead even if she did know the safe word.
Saying all that, the look on Orlando’s face in the panel above creases me up. I have a couple of hugely bitchy, hugely funny friends who Orlando is definitely channeling here. O’Neill’s ‘acting’ is a sight to behold. I think the guy really might be my favourite artist working in comics.
If anyone doubted the League was a queer space, they need only consider that at this moment Orlando is only part woman. I know I shouldn’t, but I like the coy cutting here, after all it’s in keeping with the times. Homosexual ‘acts’ were only legalised in ’67.
Like (Picadilly) polari itself, this panel is naughty code for Allan and Orlando’s coupling. It’s a happy accident, isn’t it, that the Picadilly Circus cruising ground is presided over by that most camp of the Erotes, Anteros, with his butterfly wings?
PAGES 28 & 29
Make no mistake, in many ways this is the most important scene in the book, and it’s importance has nothing to do with the conversation between Dakin and Carter. Throughout the books of the League, and in particular Century, tommorow is always shown to be immanent, its first incursions sneaky, springing up overnight like cement mushrooms across the skyline, and suddenly…. One minute it’s all sixties modernism, high rises and council buildings, and the next the view’s crowded out by millennium wheels. Mogul, the faceless megacorp, with it’s blank name invoking only success for success’ sake, a viral desire to reproduce, sums up Moore’s fears for our present, where everything, even dissent, has been brought and sold (seriously, take a look through the book. Mogul’s branding is all over the shop – maybe Mogul themselves are behind the posters for the demonstrations….)- our post-modern culture where everything is true so nothing is permissable.
This is where, Moore feels, our imaginations go to die, broken across the glass smooth, ultra hard walls of mono-culture, drowned in cement and steel, the co-option and development of our dreams…. There are bodies in the brickwork….
This isn’t Dakin’s fault, he’s just feeding the beast, a toiler on the vineyard.
Anyway, I’ve done my best to sum up Moore’s view.
Whatever you fall on all this, Moore makes his position abundantly clear, taking the gangster-on-a-building-site trope way beyond a mere genre convention designed to capture an atmosphere of grimness and cold, inhuman industry, and turning it into actual critique. I’m morbidly fascinated by 28′s first panel. The building seems to unfold out of the victorian streets like a flat packed, clockwork I(kea)dentikit monstrosity, perfectly expressing the machine capitalism of the modern era. A clean future, under a clean sky – a brand(ed) new day. This is good horror.
Andrew: And in the picture at the bottom here, like with so many of these little cutaway scenes, we see a lot of the themes of the main storyline expanded on. We have James Bond (Sean Connery version – and looking nothing like the Jimmy Bond of the Black Dossier) having a violent argument with Simon Templar. Templar, of course, being played by Roger Moore, who was Connery’s replacement in the James Bond series, so we have here two incarnations of the same character – possibly with the implication that Bond’s spirit passes to Templar, much as Haddo’s spirit is getting passed around?
Amy: Well, probably not literally, but fictions… they have interesting reproductive habits.
Andrew: Meanwhile in the background, we have Adam Adamant, a Victorian adventurer preserved and revived in the 1960s, at the same age as he had been at the turn of the century.As well as this obvious link to the League, there’s a more subtle link there in that Adamant was originally intended to be Sexton Blake, and the name was only changed when the BBC couldn’t get the rights to the character. Given Moorcock’s links to the character of Blake, that means that Adamant is almost certainly another avatar of the Eternal Champion.
And then in the foreground we have Parker, parted from his Lady Penelope and suddenly looking much older, degraded, and having to service others’ luxury cars rather than driving one himself…
Amy: Just to add, I absolutely stone cold guarantee you that Mogul is exactly the kind of business empire a budding little antichrist would love to get his hands on.
Amy: Radio Jolly Roger is a fictitious radio station from the Danger Man TV series (Patrick McGoohan being conspicuously absent from our gaggle of sixties action heroes on the previous page). You can download much of the music it ‘broadcast’ here.
But, whatever – queerer and queerer! Are we to presume that Allan was bottoming here? I know they’ve just woke up, but I can’t shake the feeling that the positioning is significant. Men famously can’t keep their eyes open after sex.
Shennanigans aside, another feature of this page has to be Mina’s outfit. It’s as though she’s making good on my previously expressed suspicion that Moore sees the superhero as a perfect, shrikwrapped codification of 1960′s pop culture.
Her get-up’s as close to a supersuit as anything can be – in fact she probably got it from the ‘Stars spares closet – and what’s so great is she looks anything other than out of place in my mental file marked ’60s’.
And now, for the Norton bit, I’ll pass the mic to Bobsy. This is hyperdetailed stuff, so we’ll demarcate the panels as well.
bobsy: Re-enter Norton, stage past. We’re back at King’s Cross. The symbolism in the place-name is apparently irresistible to a cabalistic deep topographer like Moore. Simultaneously encompassing the full spectrum of physical and immanent existence in one convenient space – King’s (Kether – crown) Cross (Malkuth – X marks the spot) is a location where not only can anything can happen, but where everything is already happening, and always will be, and has been. A permanent broken-window area, where the substance of the veil separating things from places from hours is thin enough for a sidereal traveller like Norton to step through.
Although this stack of page-wide horizontal tiers are a deliberate near-identical echo of the Norton scene in 1910, the reading rhythm is subtly different. Back then we were still riffling through the pages of a penny dreadful, or popular novel or songbook. But it’s 69 now, the century has somehow painfully dragged itself over the war-torn peak of mid-century, and we’re falling down the bad side of the bell curve. The medium, and the message, have changed. Norton moves through time now in the flick of a TV channel, or the clattering frame-on-frame loop at the end of a celluloid reel.
Norton appears to be taking a trip through the worst (fictional – it is clearer in this than the previous chapter that Norton’s perspective is of someone who lives in the massive multiplayer story we call ‘here’) moments in King’s Cross’ history.
His journey apparently starts in 1898, during the panicked height of the well-documented Martian invasion. Is this what he means in a couple of pages’ time by ‘enjoying the second volume’. The most affecting sections of Wells’ classic, despite the tripods and lasers ad cannons, are the descriptions of the refugee exodus from the first city of empire.
Alan Quatermain doesn’t get much to do in this book, a fact he will live to regret, but he is busy in the backgrounds. Busy being an addict, that is. But check out Orlando, checking out hirself in the shop window. Ze’s hooked on something much less easy to escape than mere intoxicants – as a certain character from The Wire, actually not alluded to in this issue, would say: ze’s addicted to hirself.
The background characters – not that there are many – in these pages are maddeningly half-familiar. We Mindless are babes of the seventies and early eighties, and these figures… maybe our mums watched these shitty sitcoms while we gestated, or maybe their images burnt themselves for a time on the surface of the cultural fabric we were born into, but one way or another they’re known to us without any direct gnosis. Pure cathode-ghosts, unremembered revenants stalking the periphery of our pre-childhood memories. Because of the slipperiness of these memories, tracking the identities of these faces as they loom half-recognised out of the panels is all but impossible. The understandable satisfaction of being able to name and shame them is nevertheless an inferior artistic-aesthetic experience to soaking up the images directly through your bones and reveling in the unique paramnesiac murk that this book is capable of evoking.
Norton’s stride is about fifty years long, taking him to the heart of that whole Big Brother kerfuffle. Cor blimey that was all a bit rubbish wasn’t it?
We’re back in the scene we saw Norton disappear to back in 1910, our view pivoted by a few moments and degrees. In case we missed it last time, we get a good look at the long suffering Mrs. Capp’s shiner.
‘Nice to see you tackling something more contemporary’ – Norton’s not really a character, he’s more like the ultimate, perfect reader – one who so identifies with the text dancing before his eyes that he is literally absorbed by it, entering into its rules and conditions, amphibious, as much there as he is here. He knows that the act of reading is a conversation with the author and with himself, as much as with the characters therein. His favourite book is of course London, and his favourite time is probably this one here, 1969, when the precepts and preoccupations that would so dominate British and Western culture for the remainder of the century were laid down. Apart from in the field of rock and roll, the shadow of the sixties is probably still cast strongest in the vaguely outsiderish, post-Beat Brit-lit environs, which looks back to this time, with its oft-recalled motifs of free love, drugs and verse, as something of a golden age. ‘Bad karma. Great stuff.’
‘Donald Cammell. “Can you see the photograph of Borges”‘ – Cammell is of course the credited co-director of Performance, one of the 1969‘s key texts, much the same way as The Island of Doctor Moreau was key to Volume 2 of the League. The ‘Borges’ line refers to back-of-the-book author photo of the Argentinian magic realist visible in a key scene from the film. Borges’ regular theme of fictions so vivid and finely detailed that they become indistinguishable from reality – ‘history’ being one of the most common names for this process – ties so directly into the undercurrents of both Performanceand 1969that it’s hardly worth mentioning.
Andrew: And his name, as well – Cammell. The camel has Thelemic significance, being represented by the Hebrew letter Gimel, which is the path between Kether (see above) and Tiphareth (which among other things represents dying and rising sun gods like Apollo, Baldur and Christ). Tiphareth is between Kether and Malkuth, and would be an equally good way of looking at King’s (all those gods) Cross (Christ being crucified, plus the rosy cross being the magical weapon associated with Tiphareth.
Also, Crowley once supposedly turned Victor Neuberg, the poet and Crowley’s sometime lover, into a camel.
And according to this message board thread it’s rumoured that when Cammell died – of a self-inflicted gunshot wound – he asked for a mirror to be brought to him so he could see himself dying, and then asked his wife if she could see Borges yet.
bobsy:‘The new Vita’ – the reference here is to Vita Sackville-West, Virginia Woolf’s lover and key inspiration for the hero/ine of her novel Orlando. Moore’ s version is so much bawdier and pulpier than Woolf’s that ‘new’ is putting it mildly.
The word ‘Vita’ has playful etymological and conceptual connections to both ‘Bion’ and ‘Vril’, terms that pop up in this chapter and The Black Dossier, the former in direct relation to Orlando hirself.
The poster in the background is for Maplins, the holiday camp location for the ‘beloved’ sitcom Hi-De-Hi. I may well be very alone here, but memories of this show’s (and the many like it) lingering death in the early-mid 1980s is the quickest and most reliable way to evoke the horrific, nauseating vertigo of history that is one of the key affects of this 1969. There is nothing more terrifying than remembering, or unforgetting, that the past, far from being a foreign country, is in fact terribly and identically different to the here-and-now.
‘Bloomsbury nights’ – Woolf is the most well-remembered of The Bloomsbury group literary circle, and ‘nights’ is probably a reference to how Vita and Virginia liked to spend them. Bloomsbury is also where the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is traditionally headquartered.
‘Emmanuel Litvinoff’s response to Eliot’s ‘Money in Furs” – there is an account of the response in question at Litvinoff’s wikipedia page. The man himself talks about the famous evening here:
He’s doing so quite obliquely, but just as he did back in 1650something, the in-story context here is Norton accusing Orlando, as a product related to, if not exactly coming directly from, the Pound-Eliot-Lewis school of literary Modernism, of being an anti-semite, probably in retaliation for all hir ‘he’s just mad’ stuff.
The panel widens as Norton gets into his stride, language condensing into near impenetrability as the weight of allusion approaches a new singularity of sense. Something about Iain Sinclair’s prose is irresistible to less talented parodists, but no-one does it as well as Moore does here.
‘David. Manny’s half-brother. Cammell’s dialogue consultant.’ – There’s a very interesting collection ofcontemporary voices here* discussing David Litvinoff’s precise contribution to the conception and production of Performance. Essentially, David’s conection to the Kray twins gave the bohemians and artists of the West London movie scene a line to the authentic gangland nastiness burning away in the city’s Eastern hemisphere.
(*Look out for the marvelously synchronicitous reference on that page to Derry & Tom’s roof garden, beloved tea spot of a certain Mr. C.)
Litvinoff is one of the few concrete real life examples of the process Moore is trying to describe in 1969. The archetypal London face, he was a living link between the various contemporary, queasily cohabiting underworlds of criminality (boyfriend, or at least sometime arm candy of Ronnie Kray), showbiz (thePerfomance film-making /art scene connections) and psychedelic occultism (probable sideline in good acid). He somehow survived getting heavily in debt to the Krays, but speculation remains that the eventual reason for his demise was the embarrassing secrets supposedly revealed in an expose he was writing based on his experiences and insider knowledge of these various nefarious milieus. ‘Litvinoff’s Book’, as this apocryphal tome is generally referred to, is something Moore has touched upon in a previous work:
There’s a tall tale of two cities, and its all in double-dutch
Some two-bit hustler double-crossed the heavenly twins
One with his lily-white boys (They’re too-too and he’s too soon; too much)
The other brother would have doubled up and quit for just two pins
But with deuces wild the Jack was aced, decked by the old one-two
When he threw snakes-eyes they were holding all the cards
Down Casenove Road, where first offenders find their second chances few
There’s Bobbies bicycling, two by two, towards New Scotland Yard.
So like two Hierophants dispensing double visions, double talk
The dopplegangsters, living by their binary code.
Lead Jack Spot, Rachmann and Lord Boothby in a two-step Lambeth Walk
Off to a Looking-Glass House (two up, two down) back in Vallance Road
But there’s two sides to every story and the door to every cell
Two wrongs to every right; two backs to every beast
And now they’ve looked at life from both sides it’s a sentence hard to spell:
Double your money in the City, but you’d better think twice down East
And the muscle is bunched in the Carpenter’s Arms
In their opposite corners sit Justice and Crime
But in matters of grievance or bodily harm
They’re like peas in a pod, or the sides of a dime.
For those who haven’t been through a morbid adolescent fascination with the Krays and their reign of terror over 60s London, the poem above, as well as being something of an awkward dry run for certain elements of this current scene, alludes to many of the facts and rumours that have arisen around the terrible twins since the collapse of their empire, speculating about the kind of territory Litvinoff’s tell-all might have been about.
‘Seriously, I’d advise against rummaging through occult celluloid. Dangerous footage. Unstable stock liable to flare up suddenly.’ – This line isn’t, unsurprisingly, a simple salutary warning about takingKenneth Anger films too seriously.
These sentences in particular achieve a density of meaning which is really rather lovely: ‘Dangerous footage. Unstable stock liable to flare up suddenly’ cautions against the dangers of undergoing the kind of psychic transformation that both Chas and his player James Fox experienced during and afterPerformance. Turner’s eventual fate in the film is little better than the one Moore gives him later on in this chapter. Almost a relief in fact.
However these entirely different lines: ‘Dangerous footage. Unstable stock liable to flare up suddenly’obviously brings us right back to King’s Cross railway station again, and its tragic historical connections to violent fiery conflagrations.
In response to Mina’s uncertain reference to the events of Rosemary’s Baby, Norton says ‘Oh Yes. Anton LaVey at the Dakota. “One more autograph Mr. Lennon?” Petit’s already covered it.’ The Dakota/Lavey/Lennon/etc. links were explained by our newest Mindless in the previous annocomments post. ‘Petit‘ is writer, filmmaker and Sinclair co-conspirator Christopher Petit, who uses the eerie sequence of coincidence and synchronicity surrounding Lennon’s assassination to form the murky atmospherics of his novel Back from the Dead.
O’Neil adopts a softer line and more realistic style for this bold close-up of Norton, catching Sinclair’s likeness as surely as Moore’s dialogue does the softly clipped rhythms and Valley tones of his speaking voice. Have a look on youtube to see for yourself how easily these words could fit into the real man’s mouth.
‘That’d be Jerry. Shares a stylist with Van Hoogstraten. Shock chic. Mills bomb through the conservatory window.’ – there’s no way you need to be told who Jerry is if you’ve read this far.
‘The Hoog*’ though, as he is referred to in the Manchester offices of Moore-chums Savoy Books, is local lad Nicholas, truly one of the most loathsome Englishmen in history (stiff competition). Quite the dandy in his sixties pomp, when he was oh so busy wringing millions out of legions of terrified poor people, huddled in the slums he owned (that’s what the hand-grenade-through-the-window ref is about – a slightly unethical way to collect rent from the destitute, you’ll agree) the Hoog did indeed dress a lot like the lovably omnicidal Jerry, all car coats or Nehru jackets, crew necks or cravats, pin stripe bootcut tonic slacks and winkle-pickers or Chelsea boots.
*(or Hogg as he is called by Starks in the sex club earlier?)
Hey check it out, see what happens if you take a section from diminutive, tough guy Bill Hodgson’s Carnacki Ghost Finder story ‘The Hog’ and add in a few extra ‘o’s:
‘In the Sigsand the thing is described something like this: “Ye Hoog which ye Almighty alone hath power upon. If in sleep or in ye hour of danger ye hear the voice of ye Hoog, cease ye to meddle. For ye Hoog doth be of ye outer Monstrous Ones, nor shall any human come nigh him nor continue meddling when ye hear his voice, for in ye earlier life upon the world did the Hoog have power, and shall again in ye end. And in that ye Hoog had once a power upon ye earth, so doth he crave sore to come again. And dreadful shall be ye harm to ye soul if ye continue to meddle, and to let ye beast come nigh. And I say unto all, if ye have brought this dire danger upon ye, have memory of ye cross, for of all sign hath ye Hoog a horror.”‘
The roll call of fictional Crowleyan stand ins, aside from the brute poetry of the litany, serves as a reminder of just how deep a shadow the Beast cast across the first half of the Century, proving such an irresistible subject to so many of his day’s respectable mainstream authors, and inevitably given the nature of their current project, to Moore and O’Neill, even without the endless spooky plot potential. Was any other individual so variously fictionalised, given such an array of alternative lives?
‘Since then, his successors… who knows?’ – As in his last appearance, Norton is doing his best not to mention Kenneth Grant, the real ‘KG’, a slightly less flamboyant character than his mentor, but a far more interesting writer.
The other big real-world successor to Crowley… (war obsessed, the crowned and conquering son of the father) …Well let’s just say it makes you think doesn’t it?
‘Cammell claimed to be a godson’ – Crowley was a family friend of Donald Camell’s, whose dad wrote an early biography of To Mega Therion.
‘Serial possession, perhaps, as with Milton to Blake to Ginsberg.’ – Nice easy bit of Eng Lit Crit again, identifying a similarity and continuity of animating spirit shared between the religious visionary poets, each of whom claimed inspiration, of the most direct kin, from each other. For the grown ups in the audience it makes clear the point that the line from Crowley – Grant – (? Moore? Sinclair? Biroco?) is a valid way of tracking a related mystico-poetic tradition through the history of English letters.
‘Certain fictions attract subterranean energies.’ - Chthonic influence, subconscious leakage and underground hangouts and the way they cross paths, threatening sometimes even to cohere into a pattern, a complex-function, an honest to god meaning, are of course one of the main themes not just of this chapter but the LOEG project as a whole.
‘Dakota dreams: Helter Skelter and Holden Caulfield.’ – Back into the knotty darkness of Tate-Lennon/Manson-Chapman. In yet another spookronicity, a bit of a hazard here it seems, if you do a UK Google for ‘Mark Chapman Helter Skelter’ you get this rather lovely and innocent image, taken not two hundred yards from where I sit typing.
The Chapman-Caulfield connection serves to remind us that these Aquarius-Horus energies are essentially a phenomenon of youthfulness and, in no small measure, naivety. Our heroes, for all their virtues, are a gross distortion of these qualities, despite Mina’s efforts to appear otherwise, and we can expect they will not be treated kindly by them.
‘Or this place. Magical let’s pretend preceding eerie realities.’ - We’re back to discussing the territorial energies of King’s Cross. The most suggestive source for these speculations is, as Norton says quite plainly, for once, the 7/7 tube and bus bombings. Siddique Khan and friends performed a very literal dummy run for their attack, but stranger by far, stranger beyond the point of credibility according to many, was the revelation that the security forces just so happened to be rehearsing an emergency-response simulation of a terror attack on the tube. I’d call that, this, an eerie reality.
‘Concussed bus driver shambles from here to Acton, King’s Cross fire memorial storage site.’ – Whether the bus driver in question, one George Psaradakis, did indeed make his bloodstained Westward journey across town on July 7th, is like so much of the admixture of fact and speculation surrounding the event, more at this stage an article of faith,or urban poetic license, than an established fact.
The curious fact of the 1987 King’s Cross fire memorial being moved to a holding centre in Acton has been mentioned in a couple of pieces by Sinclair, including here.
‘This is an acid flash-forward. Roeg’s precognitive cutting.’ - Nicholas Roeg – Cammell’s co-director onPerfomance – was a deliberate innovator of rapid, apparentlyrandom editing techniques in a conscious effort to emulate the Burroughs-Gysin cutup prose method as applied to film. Moore has been writing on such innovations ‘allowing subliminal hints of the future to leak through’ since at least the penultimate chapter of Watchmen.
‘Explosion a momentary light-show glitch at Joe Boyd’s UFO club’ – Honestly, if I ever hear another thing about how far-out those early Floyd gigs were…
‘Appointments in this decade. The Bubble runs Jack Mcvitie to Blonde Carol’s’ – Norton’s account of Kray antagonist Jack The Hat’s last night on earth is the subject of the ‘No More Yoga of the Night Club’ chapter of Sinclair and Dave McKean’s Slow Chocolate Autopsy.
‘Two boy’s dancing under coloured lights.’ – These mysterious young lads can probably be found strutting their stuff in Moore’s Litvinoff’s Book piece (see above.)
‘Potentially, this all leads back to Litvinoff’ - But which one? The answer has to be ‘both’. The key to understanding the perils of history that help in Mina’s later undoing is illustrated in the contrasts between the two half brothers. Emmanuel instinctively understood and responded to the necessity of recording in his writing and thereby giving a historical existence to the Jewish East End of his youth. Through his work he created a voice for an unknown and neglected section of London-Jewish-English-World history, fixing them in time with a singular honesty, humanity and eye for detail which made him an incredibly important cultural figure. He chronicled the days of his life and turned his world into art and history. He is memory as it manifests in language, told and transmitted from mouth to mind.
Just for interest’s sake, here’s Litvinoff (E.) discussing the East London Jewish community of his youth in a frustratingly brief clip from 90s underground movie The Cardinal and The Corpse (Co-Dir: I. Sinclair. Feat: A. Moore.)
In contrast, David was killed when he tried to commit his life to the written word. His native environments, the things he knew and saw, were those no less real aspects of existence that actively resist capture by symbolic structures – ganglands, gambling, boozing, cruising. He, his spectral reforgotten echo, is an example if the murk that exists where language and history do not go.
The world of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, as Mina and Allan are finding to their cost, is one that exists at the sharp point of existence, the centre of the egg timer, where time and history meet and nothingness emerges, for an evanescent moment, into being.
If you are lucky, this manifest moment is fleeting, and the dead weight of the past, the abyssal expectation of the future, vanish before you have a chance to realise their full scale. This small mercy of being is one that our heroes have denied themselves.
‘Sardonic phone chat with Pinter prototypes’ – well Pinter had to —– crop up somewhere, didn’t he? It’s the sixties man, it’s London. If it makes it easier, imagine the ——— pauses in the mouths of the actors as the social reflection of the process described ————– above.
‘Black as the road.’ – all roads are black, at night and in the rain. One has to suspect the meaning of this line will become more clear (as if) in the next chapter.
‘Black as Jack’s hat.’ – The unmourned Mr. McVitie aside, there is of course another hat, another Jack. Another famous London underworlder, who both Sinclair and Moore have form with. We thought we saw the last of him in 1910, but maybe we didn’t.
2009. The clues in this maddeningly suggestive panel – the square and compass symbol on the riot shields, hinting somehow at the success of both Moriarty’s and Hynkel’s plans, all these years later; the red-eyed Robocopper; the maybe-cheeky Dept. S on the shields, lovable deviant Jason King’s old outfit retooled as fascist enforcers… All these clues are saying the same thing, while all pointing in different directions. In a year or so, when we hit the future, running, it won’t be one we’ve read of before, but one formed fully from the crucible of the ultra high-density world of accumulated fictions that this book is creating before you’re eyes.
(I might not be right, but I’m certainly not Ron.)
Changing the program to Channel Future, exit Norton.
Amy: The Terner/Haddo dynamic is in many respects very similar to the Terner/Chas dynamic in the film, the only difference being that Haddo wants to completely subsume Terner and offers nothing to be subsumed in turn. Terner’s complicity in Haddo’s scheme, however, his willingness to surrender his identity to someone else’s, specifically another, more dominant male’s, match up with the film and its gay subtext nicely (not that all gay men are submissive, etc….). But whereas the Terner/Chas dynamic is reciprocal, the Terner/Haddo one very definitely is not.
One thing Zom pointed out in the emails is that, well, if the next moonchild goes awry, and it’s not Damian Thorne, then…..
Here’s a clue.
This works for so many reasons. To begin with, this antichrist is a Londoner, so that’s the next story arc set up then, but, more importantly, to have Del Boy sire the Son of Satan would really appeal to Moore’s sense of black humour and the sublime. It’s a really good idea, to take something as silly, as harmless and well loved as Only Fools and Horses and make it *actually horrible*. It’s the Stay Puffed Man all over again. You’d never expect the Antichrist to come from *that* direction, and that’s just it – we all know that if he really existed, that’s exactly the kind of direction he’d come from, a proper ambush. Rodney, you should have finished him when you had the chance.
I’ll leave you on that note. You think about it, unbeliever. You just think about it. And your sins.
Be seeing you.
(This one was cut short because of knackeredness and because, shut up, you got loads. Be patient.)