Are you sitting comfortably? Is everybody in? The ceremony is about to begin.
The remains of PAGE 53
You can see from the film that not only is Terner in a similar get up to his real life counterpart, but that Orlando and Charlie Watts share the same tailor too.
Here’s a song some of you might know…. And that’s just it: like Sympathy For The Devil itself (indeed, the titular Devil himself) Terner’s song never speaks its name, so it may as well be called Sympathy For The Devil too (2). Moore probably intends it that way, the song being just another of the Devil’s disguises, changing shape with whatever reality it finds himself in this time, fictional, real or otherwise, but the beat remaining the same. It occurs to me, actually, that Satan is a League character par excellence, in that one dare not speak his name directly for fear of drawing his attention and so he must be referred to via hints and clues…..
JESUS CHRIST! STOP DOING THAT!
Amy: Yes, it’s Aleister Crowley again.
The Stone’s alleged satanism was always a fiction, so of course in the League it’s true. Terner really does consort with fell spirits (Laraine) and is on friendly terms with a certain Devil, a Great Beast, whose name, as we have seen, is always slippery. What some of you may not be aware of, though, is that the V sign’s popularity in WWI, and thence the 60s, is often attributed to our dear old Uncle Al.
Crowley claimed to have passed the sign on to friends at Auntie Beeb and naval intelligence in an attempt to combat the dark talismanic power of the swastika. Although this is contested, as so many of Crowley’s claims are, it seems fitting that a song intended to inaugurate a ritual overseen by Crowley’s fictional counterpart Oliver Haddo should be met with a hail of V signs – particularly when you consider that some occultists, Crowley probably included, view the gesture as representative of the age of Rah Hoor Khuit, governed by the thelemic dictat to ‘Do what thou wilt’.
They might not know it, but the crowd are unconsciously strengthening the transference ritual…..
We’re all so familiar with Moore’s trick where he matches dialogue and image that we can easily forget how clever he is at it. In the context of a song this kind of graphical/textual ‘rhyming’ seems entirely appropriate, however, and I feel encouraged to take a closer look. Here the serpent is twofold, finding a visual correlate in the ‘coiled’ bong pipe and in Haddo himself, the metaphorical, and soon to be literal, power beneath Terner’s throne/skin. It’s nifty how in the panel preceding this Terner is elevated above the crowd on a stage, but here we’ve cut to the dark, subterranean atmosphere of 81 Powis Square.
Amy: There are a two texts that fed directly into Jagger’s song, Baudelaire’s Les Litanies de Satan and Bulgakov’s excellent The Master and Margarita. Les Litanies is often cited as the song’s main inspiration, in that it is, quite literally, sympathetic, an ode to Satan as byronic hero, but much of the song’s content clearly draws from Bulgakov’s novel where the Devil and his chums pay a visit to Stalin’s Russia. This section is a case in point. In the original it refers to the events of the Russian revolution, where the old order with its age old superstitions is torn down, supposedly heralding a bright new era of classless rationalism (albeit one propped up on the bodies of countless men, women and children) and here, in its place, Moore opts for revolutionary France, the core themes remaining the same. Mass murder is irrational and awful no matter how many graphs you use to justify it. You haven’t killed the Devil, magic, etc. just because you decide these things no longer exist….
The funny thing is, in the world of the League the Master and Margarita really happened, so we know this is a true story Terner’s telling. The ‘Devil’s’ sense of black irony in the book certainly resonates with…..
What was Haddo doing in the 1930s? He was Poelzig in the 30s, wasn’t he, and living in Hungary? Just a short hop and a skip from Russia….
The edgy half-smile on Quatermain’s face suggests that this really is the way he likes to dance. This ties into another of Sympathy’s themes, that the Devil whose name you can only guess at might be humanity’s death urge (I’m specifically thinking of the line ‘Who killed the Kennedy’s?’, quickly answered by Jagger, who may for a moment have dropped his devilish persona, with the reply ‘It was YOU and ME!‘). The song’s supposedly primitivist (Jagger’s words, not mine) rhythm section speaking to some primal core composed of murder, dancing and fucking. This definitely resonates with Orlando, an immortal whose ‘humanity’ often feels like a paper-thin mask crinkling and shuddering under the terrible twin gravities of Thanos and Eros, his self consumed and pared back over the centuries to little more than a nub of world weary bitching.
Mina’s look of abject terror is so bloody terrifying in and of itself it borders on being funny.
And in the fourth panel the Devil is conclusively linked to Haddo. He’s the ‘owner’ of Terner’s soul.
Andrew: Let’s have a look at those lyrics, shall we?
“Well howdy there, please pull up a chair, and don’t leave me sittin’ here alone Mark me well, cuz I’m old as hell,”
The Stones were by far the most conservative of the major 60s rock bands, and far more amenable than most to things like hanging out with royalty. Street Fightin’ Man, for example, was a far more conservative song than it sounded, with its lyrics about how “Where I live the game to play is compromise solution” and how “in sleepy London town there’s just no place for a street fighting man” – what a difference forty-three years makes.
Jagger was even interviewed in the late 60s by William Rees-Mogg, who approvingly described him as “a right-wing libertarian – straight John Stuart Mill” (I’d question any description of Mill as right-wing, but this *is* Mystic Mogg we’re talking about…)
This conservatism was shown in their adherence to older musical forms, and complete rejection of the progressivism of the other bands of the time (with the exception of the embarassing Their Satanic Majesties Request). Brian Jones’ firing from the band shortly before his death, in fact, was the end of any pretence at doing anything other than regurgitate the music of decades before.There was always an element of minstrelsy in the appropriation of black American music by the Stones, with their adoption of pseudo-American accents, and Sympathy For The Devil, with Jagger taking on this persona while black people are relegated to standing in the background, pounding on ‘tribal’ drums, seems almost to have been born out of the same love/hate relationship with black culture that drew Eric Clapton to praise Enoch Powell a few years later. It’s a song that is, fundamentally, about preserving the status quo.
But one way the Stones did seem to fit with their contemporaries was in their agreement that youth was important, and that age should give way to youth, so it’s only fitting that the Purple Orchestra’s parallel song here should focus on Satan’s age.
In fact, one of the recurring themes of this song is that corruption comes with age, and especially with someone trying to appear young when they are, in fact, very old. (Something with which the 68-year-old Sir Michael Jagger may well disagree). In fact, the most interesting thing about this song – and the original song – in this context is how closely it parallels the life of Orlando, who witnessed many of these events and was a warrior participant in most of them.
Does this say something about who Orlando really is, and hir possible connections with Haddo? I suspect not, but the parallels are certainly suggestive.
“I’m the serpent coiled beneath the throne”
Well, obviously there’s the connection here between the Devil supposedly being the serpent in the Garden of Eden, and the idea of powers behind the throne, but what’s interesting here is the word ‘coiled’.
Moore is explicitly linking the pent-up revolutionary urges that were about to be unleashed with the kundalini. In various Hindu texts, Kundalini is described as an ‘energy’ or ‘force’ represented by a serpent coiled at the base of the spine (or about where you’d sit – not quite ‘beneath the throne’ but close) (variously at the sacral bone or the prostate gland) that is related to the libido or desire. This is a tightly-wound force that is, when unleashed, hugely, devastatingly, powerful. Kenneth Grant (in Aleister Crowley And The Hidden God) claims that Crowley’s workings were all designed to unleash the Kundalini power.
And of course, the unleashing of a devastating wave of previously pent-up libidinal power does rather describe the public image of what happened in the 60s, doesn’t it?
“I had a spree in gay Paree back when Robespierre was in town, And I subdued my hilarity when the heads came rolling down”
Here again we see any revolutionary activity being portrayed as bad. The French Revolution, for all its portrayal in British culture as a bloodbath, was seen very differently at the time. People forget that the French Revolution was the inspiration for Wordsworth’s much-quoted “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven!”
If to be young was very heaven, maybe to be old was hell…
But here we see the Devil as an agent of change, and in Moore’s current conception, pretty much all change is change for the worse (it was definitely a change for the worse for those who lost their heads).
“Won’t you please me? Won’t you take a chance? Though it ain’t easy, it’s the way I like to dance. I can recall watching Babel fall an’ I witnessed the decline o’ Rome”
We don’t know if Orlando was at Babel, but ze was certainly in Rome during its decline.
“Saw Samson shorn in no time at all, loaned Delilah my shears an’ comb”
An interesting choice for the song, one might think – though appropriate choice of a fairly misogynist myth for the Purple Orchestra if they’re like the Stones in that respect – as Samson was just one man.
But then there’s the totemic power that hair had in the late 60s – long hair meant that you were with the young and not the old, to the extent that you’d get songs like Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Almost Cut My Hair, about how Crosby had felt like getting a haircut but decided against it because it would look like giving into fear of repression. Long hair is both a symbol of youth and a symbol of potency.
So, when we later see Alan and Orlando as weary, impoverished addicts in the punk club, they both have brutally-short haircuts. Cutting their hair has removed their potency.
“And every cause and every fight, whether wrong or right filled me with delight”
An interesting line, suggesting that this Devil is in fact completely morally neutral, and is in favour of chaos for its own sake, rather than any deeper evil.
“So where a tyrant learns humanity or a victim learns to victimize”
This appears to me to be an absolutely fascinating line. One can see exactly why a victim learning to victimise would be of interest to the Devil, and how the repeated cycles of abuse could be something that the Devil would wish to see. But a tyrant learning humanity? It seems to me that Moore’s saying something there, but I’m not sure what, unless it’s to do with the moral neutrality mentioned above.
“There you’ll find me, I’m Mephistopheles, in my most up-to-date disguise”
As Moore undoubtedly knows, Mephistopheles is one of the Devil’s most up-to-date disguises. The character of Mephistopheles was originally a demon, created in the German Faust legend, not Satan himself, and only later became a term for the Devil. Of the widely-known names for the devil (Satan, Shaitan, Lucifer, Beelzebub etc) Mephistopheles is by far the most recently coined.
But Terner himself is intended to be the most up-to-date disguise for the soul of Haddo, and the whole of Century:1969 seems to be about people taking on new forms but still being the same person underneath, about growth on the surface but stagnation of the mind. All the League characters have become Dorian Gray, in effect, but Haddo’s the only one who’s taking on entirely new physical bodies rather than just preserving the one he has.
Amy: It also occurs to me that ‘I’ll make you dance’ sounds like the utterance of an evil puppet-master, the fleshy puppet in this case being Terner, with Haddo pulling the strings.
Another thing that makes Sympathy For The Devil so apropos here is the way its syncopated, swirling rhythms combined with Jagger’s whooping lend it a ritualistic, incantative atmosphere. The song *is* a spell, and in 1969 is really and truly a spell, or part of a spell, summoning the daemon.
Hmmm, I was wrong about Basil’s death, this confirms that the whole thing was meticulously planned. The book in the first panel is an address book containing a list of potential candidates for possession, so it’s unsurprising that Terner’s name follows on from Stig O’Hara’s of the Rutles, who, in 1969, shared the world’s biggest band slot with the Purps – in fact being Beatles analogues they were likely to be even bigger, really. I wonder why they weren’t chosen? Stig being George Harrison means he was the most mystically inclined of the pre-fab four, but I expect Terner won out over the wishy washy TMer due to his love of black magic. From what we’ve seen so far the guy was practically begging to be possessed.
This being 1969 the Kelly Affair have only just been rechristened the Carrie Nations and are probably embarking on their first whirlwind tour to rave reviews. By next year they’ll be huge, the first proper stadium filling all girl rock and roll band. Haddo and Julia have their eyes on all the right movers, that’s for sure. Saying that, though, the Nations have a spectacularly unpleasant date with destiny ahead of them, which sees their manager go on a murderous rampage, leaving one of them dead and the rest of the band in very bad shape. Not in any kind of shape to start a magickal revolution, that’s for sure.
The book marked 1969 could be either an astrological almanac, a magickal diary or a comprehensive account of Haddo’s plans for that year – possibly all three. But the stars just ain’t right yet.
O’Neill, it seems, has never taken a trip in his life, but you’d never know it – the quicksilver sheen Mina sees everywhere, like the first signs of coming up, the traces and the echo, is another classic psychedelic effect (and as for those cardboard cut-out eyes…. I’ve seen those things on every trip I’ve ever had). But, unlike many of the concert goers’, Mina’s first TAD experience has breached the tipping point and plunged headlong into cosmic horror. She’s not wrong about the atmosphere, however. The atmosphere around Tom Riddle probably *is* objectively evil. She’s definitely picking up on something. Afterall Tom, here, with his transformation into a forked tongued snakeman, is actually manifesting his true nature as not only a graduate of House Slytherin, but as a brother to snakes, a Parselmouth. Another devilish candidate then. As the song lyrics explain, ‘I’m Mephistopheles in my most up to date disguise’ – the old serpent is here, his human disguise sloughed at last.
And the crowd, the crowd are transforming from hippies to riot police……
I know I may be reading too much into this (me? Never!), but this feels to me like the first intimation of a grim future. The undirected hatred of punk, the rise of the far right, the three day week, ex flower children voting in a, quite possibly, literal Iron Lady in 1980…. Poll tax riots, May Day riots, Qurac, Afghanistan…… all of it spinning out into the deadly cultural malaise of the present, whose discontents are firebombing the streets of London as I write this.
Even before the riots, it was always there, for me, in this panel.
It’s possible, isn’t it, that Haddo, that red eyed devil, really does own/eat souls? Just check out all the blinking eyes inside his, err, mouth. I say ‘err mouth’ because it’s not really a mouth at all though, is it? I’m reminded of the Pretas (the Tibetan Hungry Ghosts), with their mouths the size of pinpricks, not fully alive or dead, desperate to incarnate and taste the pleasures and pains of living once more. It appears they have a correlate in the Judaeo Christian traditions too, the children of the demonic Grigori, who, again, with no mouths to eat but an insatiable lust, roam the earth searching for weak willed men and women whose bodies they can possess. While Haddo may justify his serial possession as a holy mission to bring about a new aeon, it’s possible that on one level at least he’s simply terrified of death, and with every new body claimed he becomes more addicted to mortal incarnation, more ‘hungry’, and more corrupt.
Reminds me of someone else, whose name I shall not speak.
All that aside, it’s also possible that the eyes denote nothing more than an astral body composed of pure thought, pure awareness. I don’t know, though, Haddo looks pretty degenerate now, hideous, hunched and shrunken. He’s not the frightening but strangely imperious and holy guy we met in 1910 that’s for sure.
PAGES 56 & 57
Amy: Terrifying. It’s not a good idea to please the Devil, it means something’s going extremely wrong in your life. Terner’s spelling it out for Mina: ‘You ain’t got a chance.’
Zom: The Beast Must Die recently described Moore as, at heart, a great horror writer, and I’m inclined to agree. A celebratory gathering of flower children on a sun kissed Summer day is not supposed to be the scene of raw terror, but of course the hippy dream has its own popular nightmares, the day-glo horror of the bad trip right at their heart.
Anyone who has experienced the downside of hallucinogenics (me) will no doubt feel that Moore, O’Neill and Dimagmaliw have done a great job here (I do, yes), utilising simple devices to capture Mina’s trip, and wrapping them in a largely understated, but deeply unpleasant sequence: the repetition of speech matching the echo effect commonly experienced on LSD, turning every utterance into a potential schizophrenic nightmare; the liquid traces left by movement mimicking a staple of acid’s visual trickery, that risks catastrophically undermining one’s sense of permanence and solidity; the relentless colour, even infecting language, encapsulating the synaesthetic qualities of the drug, and the feeling that the world is frighteningly plastic and over rich with meaning and sensation, smothering. Those wide dilated eyes that can’t help but take everything in, no matter how awful.
Terner’s enormous, space-warping form seeking out Mina is precisely the sort of thing one expects to encounter on acid. What’s enjoyable here is how perfectly Terner’s distorted cartoon aspect plays off O’Neill’s cartoony style: the natural form of the comic book, cartoons, queered and made ominous by its association with one woman’s bad trip, which in turn contributes towards the feeling that all the rainbow denizen’s of Mina’s psychedelic experience are potentially threatening. A luminous horde.
Amy: There’s something incredibly horrible about the way Tom makes inane gig conversation with Mina (‘Mina? You did say your name was Mina, didn’t you? Isn’t Tim Peason a great guitarist?’) while her world falls apart. And over in the next panel his breezy dimissal of her existential terror (‘Of course not, you’re just having a bad trip.’) seems just as callous. Saying that, though, it’s not always a great idea to make a fuss over a bad tripper. They need earthing not to be empathised with, which only confirms their fears. The stuff about the talisman’s clearly intended to be helpful too. I don’t know…. he’s not exactly offering her a cuddle or anything, is he, or to take her somewhere she’ll feel safe? This is good, Moore’s playing with reader expectations. If at this point we know who Riddle is, and even if we don’t, we’ll be concerned about where this is going to go. Is he a friend or foe? Is she safe with him? Perhaps he isn’t all bad yet….
But then, over the page, she’s spasming and collapsing and he’s…. He’s telling her to ‘breath deep’ and all the rest of it, like he cares…. But why isn’t he getting help? What’s with the calm look on his face, the eyes scanning the crowd to see if anyone’s paying attention…? Subtle and creepy.
And if we just expand that a bit….
This is Terner the rock god at the height of his powers, before his abrupt fall from grace a few pages over. It’s clever the way Moore has the trees, the Sun, even the stars gathered around the stage to listen. He has the rapt attention of the universe itself, now hushed, hanging on his every word. This is why Haddo wants him, the power to command creation itself.
Now I can’t find the reference, however I’m sure I recognise those happy anthropomorphised trees from some wobbly old cartoon. It doesn’t matter, though, they’re clearly a reference to that other trip staple, animism, where everything – trees, cars, mars bars – are infused with life.
Right now Mina’s peaking.
The poem starts, Rowley’s ode to the death of Ossian, Mina following the long dead poet out of the panel border and onto the astral plane.
This is where she learns the secrets, so prized by the poem’s author, that only the dead know.
But you might not have caught this.
There’s another intelligence *outside* – watching her, watching everything.
PAGES 58 & 59
You really should click and enlarge this panel. How often do you get to see double page spreads like this all perfect and shit?
Amy: While LSD gives the impression of transporting its user to an alternate reality but does nothing of the kind, its fictional counterpart, TAD, makes good on this promise, the worlds it transports its users to as real as anything in our own/their own. We’ve seen the effects of taduki before, way back in Allan and the Sundered Veil, but it’s likely the drug as it appeared there was in its pure, undiluted form, unfit for recreational (that bloody word!) usage at concerts and happenings and suchlike. In the short story taduki had the ability to wrench its user out of their body and into a realm beyond form and time. This probably accounts for the commonly held view in the 1800s when the story was set that taduki allowed access to previous lives, but it seems in reality the possibilities latent within it are far more complex, in that it’s a key to the entirety of the astral plane itself. We’ve traversed this spirit world with Moore in great detail already in the pages of Promethea and it seems that, here, Mina and Haddo are holding their conversation in Yesod, the realm of foundation, the imagination, the sephirothic sphere residing just above Malkuth, the material world.
This neat schematic is lightly muddled, however, by the fact that it seems the League’s world is intended by Moore to represent the Yesodic territories of our own. This weird metaphysical problem can be explained away in two ways, neither mutually exclusive. The first is that because the Kaballah is a hologram conforming to the hermetic maxim of as above so below each sphere contains the Tree in its entirety. The second explanation is that Mina and Haddo are simply exploring the furthest environs of their home reality. I talked before in the 1910 annocomms about how the League’s world, probably their universe, is riddled with doorways to worlds more improbable than their own, suggesting that their world, the world of the imagination, while possessed of seemingly solid topographies formed by consensus, is actually a fluid environment, tattered around the edges, that gets crazier and more unlikely the harder and deeper one stares at it. Afterall, Mina and the rest, no matter how extraordinary, still occassion genuine shock and surprise when confronted with things they themselves consider absurd and otherworldly. Here, though, in the Immateria, out in the hinterlands of imagination, these things are commonplace, hence the ludicrous and illformed Howard the Duck/Mickey Mouse composite, the rag doll Gemima, spectral ice lollies and other assorted and equally ridiculous characters floating there at the back of the mind, dead and alive, struggling to find form.
This realm of pure dream unfettered by the laws that even in our wildest fantasies and fictions we impose upon it ebbs and flows according to the expectations, desires and fears of the dreamer, in this case Mina and the reader, aND so of course we also happen across the spectre of Griffin prowling the space ‘behind’ this new predator, Haddo, and the guardian spirit, Hyde, located in exactly the same spot but on the opposite page watching over our golden, bewildered protagonist.
A few more musings on the protagonist and antagonist’s astral forms…..
Now I reckon Mina’s starry molten gold body is probably taken from some poster, record cover or flyer, but I can’t for the life of me find it. If it is and you know where its taken from do let us know. I really hope I’m right. It would be so cool. Thinking about it, her ‘look’ isn’t a world away from the Whore of Babylon’s on the Strength card of the Thoth/Set deck. Provisionally, though, I’m opting for her being a riff on the female figure representing the imagination on the Universe card. I’ve never looked into it, but couldn’t they be the same entity in different stages of manifestation? Regardless, in contrast to Haddo Mina’s spirit looks in the bloom of full health, possibly because she’s drunk of the waters of life, but maybe just because she’s an excellent, spiritually advanced human being. The stars dotted about her are intriguing because, apart from her hair, they seem to be covering her special bits, and tellingly that includes her neck. We all know Mina’s got a masochistic kink to her, all that neck biting stuff, and it makes sense that her scar, the most profane, secret and precious place on her entire body, should here, as in her sex with Allan, be sublimated, transfigured into something holy – a necklace of lights.
And so, Haddo, Griffin at his right shoulder and (Sid) the serpent at his feet. One thing we didn’t get a proper glimpse of on the previous page but has to be coomented upon here is his dick…. Frankly I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. It’s both ludicrous and utterly horrible in equal measure. Moore probably intends both effects, but I think there’s a frown in there somewhere, the master magus imploring us all to grow up, challenging us to take a monster cock outside of Urotsukidoji Legend of the Overfiend seriously. And why shouldn’t a monster have a monster cock? They’re things we all have a very weird relationship with afterall. Probably one of the few things still able to disturb, still considered monstrous. In actual fact if we take the cock seriously it yields a whole bunch of stuff (a hur. hur.).
First of all, it’s the Haddo spirit’s primary sense organ.
Just look at it spluttering with surprise at Mina’s arrival in the astral. That eye on the last page? Eye of the cock. The other eyes are dead compared to this one. It’s where Haddo’s awareness now resides, inside his magickal will, his desire to cast, transform and incarnate. And it’s an older awareness than the mere human, that why the tentacles and suckers. Seriously, Haddo’s turning into one big dick - a giant magic wand. As with Mina’s ‘necklace’, Moore loves to combine the profane and the sacred. His is a very earthy magic.
Another thing to consider is that, here, in Yesod, where thoughts are things, and everything’s symbolic and metaphorical, the whole page, quite rightly, can be ‘read’ like a tarot card. I mentioned the positioning of the Griffin, Hyde and Sid above, didn’t I? Well what about the fact that Mina’s half of the space is presided over by a heart and Haddo’s by a skull? Or, and nobody’s considered this, that in true Dadaist the-horseman of the apocalypse-is-actually-a-rocking horse style the Zoom lollies are in fact Martians? This is how these terrible events are remembered in 1969, armageddon stuffed into bright packets and sold back to the world as icy treats. Maybe in this time displaced locale this is how the invasion always looked, its future and past collided together.
PAGES 60 & 61 (this first paragraph sub-titled ‘Why Mina Has to Guess His Name’)
Amy: There’s an interesting relationship between the poem read by Terner and the astral plane. As I alluded to above, the Ode Upon the Death of Ossian refers to the travels of the poet through the realm of the dead, the realm we currently find ourselves in, and like the song before it its meanings are at once literal and metatextual - it resounds not simply in the ears of the concert goer’s, but across the events of the next few pages, it’s meanings sometimes hijacked and transfigured, but present nevertheless. What I’m arguing here is that the poem actually helps sculpt/is these events – afterall both are ‘happening’ in the imagination, an imagination forced to hold the two in awareness at once, so naturally they become intertwined and interelated. I mean, this is obvious really. We already know the poem is a spell allowing Haddo access to Terner’s body, just as Rowley expects to be possessed by Ossian. And why does it allow this access? Because that’s how the story goes. That’s how it works in the metamorphic territories.
But, as I said before, all art, especially poetry, is open to a multitude of interpretations, many of them more radical than Haddo and Terner could’ve predicted.
(Just as an aside, that’s definitely Ron Nasty the John Lennon analogue in that T Rex pink swan-boat. It could be that the Yellow Submarine’s adventures were fictions in both realities, but Moore’s mention of malignant blue trolls residing in a magic land under Norway or whatever in the Almanac would seem to confirm that the opposite is the case and that Yellow Submarine Sandwich was based on real events. If it was and the Rutles really did take a trip to Pepperland and conquer the Blue Meanies then it’s no wonder their music was weirder than the straightforward driving rock and R&B of their purple competitors. Terner’s deal he makes with Haddo, the traditional faustian exchange of soul for talent and fame that the musician makes with the devil, is, aptly, a bluesman’s narrative, whereas the Rutles foray into the 1960s update of Neverland represents something else altogether. Come to think of it there’s something very heavy and creepy, LSD probably, bubbling under Yellow Submarine. I like the way this is echoed here, Moore recognising that while these imaginal territories may be colourful and to some extent ‘childish’, they’re also treacherous.)
But moving on from that: just as Mina has her astral body violated in the world above, so her physical form is molested in the world below. Zom wants to have a few words about this, the billionth case of sexual violation in an Alan Moore comic. Take it away Zom.
Zom: I don’t want to spend 1000 words defending another sex crime in another Alan Moore comic. I’ve stated elsewhere that I think most, maybe all, instances of sexual assault in Moore’s comics can at the very least be cogently argued for, if not always entirely satisfactorily. The problem comes with the sheer volume of them: Violate enough fictional women and you start to look like you like it.
I suggested in our annocomments for 1910 that perhaps Moore is of the opinion that sexual violence is deeply embedded within any culture of violence or habitually violent psychology fullstop. I have no statistics, but rape (as in rape and pillage) has always been part of war, and I suspect that rape features in the history of a great many violent people. There’s also the brute fact that rape is massively under reported. Perhaps as a culture we edit sexual assault out of violence because on some level we want to maintain the fantasy that violence can be noble, as in Just War, and entertaining, as in just about every popular entertainment you could mention.
Until Moore’s interviewed by someone with balls enough to ask him what’s up we’ll never know what the man actually thinks, but regardless I’m not completely against the idea of a writer of violent fictions (and Moore, like most popular and unpopular writers, is most certainly that) splicing sexual violence back into the picture, as long as it’s done so responsibly. Which I suppose takes us full circle, and back to precisely what it is that Moore’s doing here, rather than generalities about his body of work.
It’s interesting to me how Mina’s encounter with Haddo is largely grounded in real world events: a terrifying ethereal confrontation paralleled by a bad trip, violence to her spirit paralleled by acid induced terror during the peak phase, violence to her body (by a massive cock man) paralleled by sexual assault. This fits with Moore’s insistence that real world magic is bound by physical laws, that when it physically manifests it must do so as part of a normal chain of cause and effect, not to mention the magickal maxim, as above so below.
Also of interest is the equation of the erect penis with magical will – not Moore’s idea but one he cleaves to – meaning that magical assault and sexual assault are to some extent one and the same in Moore’s schema, and therefore more likely to show up, hand in hand, when an evil magician makes his appearance.
None of which is intended to argue that Moore should only consider authentic magickal practice when choosing to equate sexual assault with a magickal broadside, just that he may have been prodded in that direction by his actual belief system. Again, quite possibly specious speculation, but worth mulling over. Maybe.
And it is just possible that Moore did have other things on his mind. As Kevin O’Neill was at pains to point out in our last interview with him, free love was largely the preserve of men. Things might have been improving for women in the Sixties and early Seventies thanks to the pill and feminism and those ever present favourable economic conditions, but misogyny was rife amongst the hippies. Read just about rock biography or pop memoir from the period and you’ll see what I mean.
I’m prepared to bet that free love masked a great many acts of non-consensual sexual violence, and in a comic where Crowley’s “the Law is love” (“Love under will” to complete Crowley’s metaphysical assertion, and we all know what will is don’t we, readers?) is co-opted by nasty old Oliver Haddo, it’s extremely tempting to read 1969 as an effort to highlight the problems with the whole free love idea, especially when a rape takes place out in the open in the middle of an enormous hippy gathering.
Amy: Personally I think that the rape happens in broad daylight makes it more than ju-u-ust about possible that Moore was using this scene to illustrate a serious problem with the 60s. Still, though, as you say – volume.
Okay. I was thinking about what Fletcher had to say about the recent trend of placing children’s characters into sexual situations and how I don’t really care about it in this case. Voldemort is hard to position as uncomplicatedly childish. Sure, he was designed with children in mind, but the themes and content of the Harry Potter books became progressively more adult as the reader worked through them. There were probably two reasons for this, to begin with the books map Harry and his readership’s movement from child to young adult, and, secondly, that while the story was originally pitched and written for ten or eleven year olds, it became clear very quickly that parents were reading these books too. Let’s be clear about this, there’s a lot of stuff in the books, and not just subtext, text, that’s very adult and very horrible, but most of it concerns violence, and maybe this goes some way to pointing out the massive double standards we have with regards to sex and violence in our culture. Oh no, you can show a child being tortured by writing magickal ‘lines’ that carve themselves into their flesh and the physical devastation that results, but you can’t show Voldemort groping an unconscious woman. There may be some solid arguments as to why this should be so, however I don’t think its necessarily, unproblematically, self evidently the case. Any anyway, anyone old enough to read the League is old enough to have unearthed sexual and violent subtext, and fully comprehended the implications of same when they emerged as just plain text (no matter what degree of self censorship Rowling applied), when they read the Potter books. For these people, myself included, this Voldemort makes sense and isn’t particularly offensive or doing anything especially out of character. That’s to say I don’t think Moore was just going for cheap shock value here, or if he was it’s because he’s highly suspicious of the idea that we should so comprehensively neuter our culture’s superheroes and villains.
Obviously this isn’t to justify the high sex crime count in Moore’s comics or discount people’s concerns about this more generally (or about Dr. Light, or fridging the girlfriend).
PAGE 62 & 63
Amy: The more I look at him the more unpleasant I find O’Neill’s Haddo. There’s so much revolting coolness spread across this sequence. There’s the scream of eyes erupting from Haddo’s mouth when his latest ‘vessel’ is destroyed, the way his face collapses into a crumpled shopping bag overflowing with corneal, ahem, fruit a couple of panels over, the gurgling soap bubble eyeballs evaporating in the rafters of the stage when Mina graps his rapidly detumescing magickal cockwill (‘No! I won’t let you unleash an antichrist on the Love Generation!’) and the driving hunger implied by the sudden rigidity of his features, the hard line of eyes forming his mouth, the parallel line above it of nose socket and, err, actual eyes, in the last panel of page 63, the way it centres and focuses his decomposing astral body… – it’s all excellent.
The crowd’s mounting boredom, frustration and anger is probably wish fulfilment on Moore’s part – you get the feeling he thinks Jagger is a pretentious prick – but it’s also a sideways glance at one of the concert’s statistically unlikely but not improbable potential outcomes. Brian Jones’s fanbase were fairly vocal in their disgust at the Stone’s ostracisation of their founding member in the run up to his death, indeed many directly blamed them for what happened, and so, really, it wouldn’t have been that strange for the concertgoers to have turned against Jagger, ummm, mid-ode. Instead of the concert being hagiographised it could’ve gone completely the other way – aaah, the capriciousness of crowds/fandom….. The band were treading a very thin line at the time, no other rock band at the height of their powers had been forced to contend with the all the drugs busts and death they had, and with the slightest butterly nudge wingflap of fate they might’ve fucked it up altogether. Performance, released the year after the concert, could’ve just as easily ended up a documentary, Jagger shored up in his mansion, driven to a life of seclusion by an enraged fanbase and a corresponding drying up of creative juices.
I’m never sure if someone’s eligibility to be a vessel for Haddo depends on objective factors or simply whether or not Haddo thinks the person in question is powerful enough. I’ve decided it’s no use trying to decide between the two, that they’re probably the same thing anyway. It’s certainly true that, had he ‘survived’ his part of the transference ritual, Terner would’ve been at the peak of his powers, the classic rock narrative of living fast and dying young combined with a triumphant overcoming of same ensuring the Purps, and Terner/Haddo, a place in the hallowed halls of Rock and Roll history before concert’s end. But that’s beside the point, Terner fucked up and now Haddo’s flailing around for the nearest body with even the slightest whiff of destiny about it. Either that or a hole where a soul should be. (We’ll get onto that.)
The Stones? Well……
PAGES 64 & 65
Amy: I’ll tell you another thing nobody’s commented on.
AND WHO ARE YOU ON THE DRESSING TABLE?
AND WHO IS THIS?
….ZE DIDN’T SEE YOU SLIPPING THE……
…..INTO YOUR POCKET!
Yes, it began right here folks.
Haddo doesn’t make much of it when he tells Mina he’s cursed her and her League; it’s just an aside, a slap on the wrist for getting underfoot. But that doesn’t mean it’s not going to sting. In the wake of his words it’s not at all difficult to read the events above in curse-laden terms. And as Zom says, there have to be real world channels through which the curse can travel – in this case the remains of Terner’s opium scattered about the table. The two lynchpins of the League are now pretty much taken care of.
Crowley was known for his curses – famously, although falsely, accused of cursing Hastings – so this behaviour is hardly out of character.
Before we move on, I have to spare just a moment to quickly celebrate…..
…and especially this guy.
Amy: Dracula is a fascinating aspect of the League myth, his relationship with it spectral, hauntological. Of all the League’s vast array of smudged-out guest stars, Dracula is the one whose high degree of absence renders him the most present. Dracula, a demon, is the darkness created by the gaping hole of his omission. And this hole, existing nowhere in time, nowhere *in* the world, but outside it, yawns wide forever, a noiseless scream unsilenced by adventure, sexual depravity, drugs, love or immortality. And he can always come flooding back in, out of the deepest, gloomiest recesses of memory, a torrent of black wings riding a hot whaft of iron. Like he does here in fact. Mina, and we, the readers, know he can’t be put down forever. Ask yourself: are you sure this is just a hallucination?
Much has been said about how Mina’s ambivalent relationship with empire’s monsters owes something to her time spent in the Carpathians, but few have given much thought to how Quartermain factors into the equation. But look at Dracula’s face, read the extract of the almanac dealing with her and Allan’s travels across Eastern Europe, specifically Transylvania (again unamed, absent), and their visit to the (unillustrated) deceased Count’s castle (abandoned), and you quickly realise why Mina was so keen to jump into bed with a geriatric adventurer – Dracula was, beneath the all the glamours, a very, very old man. Mina saw Dracula in Allan. Or at least saw the sexy death urge she found so attractive as an impressionable young woman. Or maybe she was trying to heal the wound by replacing the anti-dad with his opposite…..
Now she and old Vlad share a lot in common. He would’ve kissed her and made her immortal, but she killed him and found her immortality anyway. Does she feel guilty? Does she fear she will end up like him, ancient, driven by lust and blood – un-dead? There are reasons running far deeper than fear at the possibility of a horror movie-style ressurection why she still finds this man’s image so terrifying, reasons which over the last century have become much more personal. Now she understands him.
A truth Mina absolutely can’t process. And so: she breaks.
It makes sense that Dracula is the level boss here – a perfect villain for a very long Century, an immortal’s fears personified.
Amy: The ‘daemon’ in question is a layered thing. Broadly speaking it fits into the category of guardian spirits described as Eudaemons by, if wiki’s anything to go by, the Hellenistic Greeks. Here, specifically, it could refer to the creative muse who just ten minutes or so before had the entire universe eating out of Terner’s hand (if only his bloody poem hadn’t wanked on so long – well done Jagger for keeping the time down on your tribute! There but for the grace of God went you….) or Haddo. Whatever, Terner obviously feels he’s only half a person, in fact he’s probably felt it for a long time, the fans filled that gap for a bit, but now…. Now he’ll have to wait for the knock on the door. Chas is out there somewhere, shaking down bookies or something, and he’s coming.
Amy: While I think the commentator over at Jess Nevin’s site is overreaching when he describes this final sequence with Mina as a reference to Harold Pinter’s the Birthday Party, I kinda want it to be true, and it got me thinking. When discussing the play/film, in fact whenever people bring up anything Pinter wrote, people often highlight a historical thematic throughline that starts with Kafka, but I think we might want to go forward in time too and consider the play in the light of the Prisoner, a TV show I’m convinced wouldn’t exist without it. It’s all there, the menacing disjunctures in the dialogue, the madness hiding inside the everyday, the power struggles, the shifting identities, the shadowy, unnamed organisation controlling things with its nonsensical demands…. I’m sure this isn’t an original thought, that what I’m saying is incredibly obvious to a lot of you, but I like what these similarities have to say about the relationship between the play and tv show in the world of the League. Because, looked at one way, it’s likely that the ‘organisation’ referred to in the Birthday Party is the same spy ring that run the Village in the Prisoner. This world of spys where nothing is completely true except for power, where more is always meant than what is said, where motivation is often unfathomable and your friends and enemies are interchangable…. it’s got to be the same place. A bit of research dug up the fact that in 1961 Robert Shaw, who plays Stanley in 1968′s film, appeared in an episode of Danger Man, the series many believe the Prisoner directly followed on from. The episode in question, Bury the Dead’, features Shaw as Tony Costello, a rogue gun running Nato agent, murdered as a result of his shadowy activities. Interestingly Costello is a good friend of future No. 6 and star of Danger Man, John Drake (Patrick McGoohan), and all this, fan-ficked up with a bit of League stuff, generates an interesting timeline. So Costello starts gunrunning for real and winds up faking his own death and going on the lamb from the secret NATO organisation both he and Drake work for. Hunted, he washes up at the old boarding house in Worthing where he’s eventually discovered by his old employers and carted off, in all likelihood to the Village, to be neutralised and ‘rehabilitated’.
So back to the comic. I absolutely understand why the annotator mentioned above read Pinter into this panel, even if I think the links aren’t conclusive – there’s plenty of him in this little sequence, and the Prisoner for that matter. Afterall, the League are as much runaway spies as ‘Stanley’ was, and wouldn’t it be too perfect if these apparently benevolent medics really were a pair of Goldbergs and McCanns, come to whisk her away to the candy coloured retirement home in Wales. It’s possible. It’s possible that the Sanatorium Mina lands in is government run…..
We’ll find out next time.
Zom: I love this fan-fic aspect of the League. It’s quite unique in the way that it sets up and encourages other stories. I don’t think it’s overstating the case to say that the comic almost demands that the reader indulge in more than a bit of fan-fic creation. Which brings us neatly on to:
Amy: That Tom is actually Haddo does strange things to the Potter story. The implication here must be that he brings about the whole shitstorm that forms the basis for the books’ core plot, otherwise what the point? I think maybe Haddo becomes more corrupted with every body he claims, with more of each victim’s soul rubbing off on him, their instinctive likes and dislikes, their habits. And what happens if he forcibly occupies a body shared by another mind equally strong in the black arts? I think Voldemort was always fractured long before he divided his soul up among his horcruxes. Next time we see Haddo, if he doesn’t perish along with Tom at the hands of Harry Potter, he’ll be a broken man. That’s what I reckon anyway. It feels right.
This is the one he doesn’t get out of unscathed.
But all of that’s waiting forty years in the future, and right now Tom Riddle is slipping through the brickwork between platforms 3 and 4…..
So there’s a probably a lot of debate about the exact location, but as far as I can see most sources point to the Scottish Highlands, and that definitely works for me. This is where the wizarding community retreated to when it got too hot down in England, miles away from all the dunking and burning. Safe. Hidden.
But is that the only reason Hogwarts was chosen?
One thing we know about the North is that it’s a wilder, creepier place than the Britain, the London, where so much of the League’s adventures are set. The sites documented in the New Traveller’s Almanac get progressively stranger and more untamed as its contributors head ‘up’ the British Isles, until at last we come to pirate islands and, beyond, the churning sea, behind which lies the Blazing World. It is unlikely that Hogwarts could reside so close to this phantasmal archipelago without its wizards being aware of its existence – I mean, if they were what kind of wizards would they be? Perhaps Hogwarts’ founders not only felt safer way up there at Britain’s tip, but also that it made sense for their school of wizardry to sit on the doorstep of the entrance to the kingdom of magic itself, only a quick broomstick’s ride away. Haddo/Voldemort may well have wanted his power base at Hogwarts because, after conquering the wizards, he intended to head not south, but north.
PAGE 70 THE FARKIN’ REST OF IT
Amy: That the panels soften, then harden again so abruptly makes sense in the run up to this epilgogue. This is the 70s, there’s no future and no way out, all potential reduced to a black hole pin prick. We have to feel confined by the panels, claustrophobic – it’s too tense, too angry and all of it too close, history closing in. All roads lead to the cloven hoofed child, Damian Trotter, the end of all things.
Judging by hir look there’s a possibility that Orlando is being conflated with Pamela Rooke, or her fictional alter ego Amyl Nitrate in the movie Jubilee. This is all a bit loose, but in the film Nitrate is described as an anti-historian and I think this fits with Lando very nicely. Here’s a transcipt from Nitrate’s history class.
‘Our School motto is ‘Make your desires reality’. I myself prefer the song ‘Don’t dream it, be it.’ In those days desires weren’t allowed to become reality, so fantasy was substituted for them – films, books, and pictures. They called it art. But when your desires become reality, you don’t need fantasy any longer. Or art.’
Orlando’s perspective on history would differ radically from the popular conception. Ze’d see it as a far simpler place where all cultural achievement was relative, ultimately as fragile as bone china and the expression of brute mammalian desire, Ze’d also in all likelihood balk at the idea of progress. In this sense, then, her views and those of Nitrate, indeed those of Jubilee’s entire cast, would probably align fairly neatly. I found the stuff about desire becoming reality particularly resonant here. By 1977 I can’t imagine there’s a single desire Orlando hasn’t transformed into brutal, beautiful, sickening, wonderful/etc reality, and of course this is a question Moore’s keen to explore, the question Orlando addresses in the almanac in Volume 2: what will we become, what will we do given enough time? Orlando, depending on the century, might well view law and order as bullshit too, and art, just side effects of the monstrous engines of sex and death powering history. Whatever, assuming we are in the punk rock world of Jubilee, England’s going through an interesting time – actually as opposed to metaphorically lawless. There’s also the fact that, again assuming this is Jubilee’s reality, queen Gloriana, like Elizabeth in the film, has recently paid a visit to this grey and rotting London, transported here via Dee’s/Prospero’s magic (actually, to be specific it’s Ariel’s magic, who in the film is serving Dee – is this where Dee/Prospero first acquired him?). Maybe the terrible direction the country’s now headed in was known to Glory when she convened the first incarnation of the League…..
Our mental image – and come to think of it probably the in-text depiction – of Orlando carries something of Tilda Swinton’s androgynous, Jarman infused punk rock charge, so the marrying of this character to this scene was always going to make sense. Down in the Basement is Orlando’s spiritual home, capturing hir fiery queer temperament perfectly. S/he’d be drawn in by the politics, the attitude, the sense of history as a hopeless battleground, the party while the world burns. But even if this wasn’t the case, with hir home in a London club all that ‘recital’ stuff would’ve eventually dropped off anyway.
One final aside, Jubilee actually has a cast member called ‘The Great Orlando’, but the character he plays is probably a pop at Malcolm McLaren and nothing like the eternal ambiguity we know of old.
As for Allan, well he’s turned into John Constantine hasn’t he, only with more smack? I like the idea that Moore’s trying to covertly reclaim his characters from DC… Better shut up about that now, though, just in case Geoff Johns’ lawyers get involved. Anyway, being a junkie forever – grim. Having to say no every single day for all eternity. He’ll sort himself out though.
And he’ll fuck up again.
From a God’s eye view he’s a weekend user. A recreational user.
And, yeah, I know he’s Billy Idol too.
Well, maybe Sting. Blow Waves, anyone?
(Also, check out what Bobsy and O’Neill have to say about Allan’s habit unearthing the character’s true age over in our interview.)
And so Suki Tawdry, Century’s very own Greek chorus, returns to these pages. Here Suki probably stands in for Siouxsie Sue, and her band, the Banshees (Incidentally, pop singers, especially during the glammed up, theatrical seventies, do rather test the boundaries of the league’s remit somewhat. Is their stage persona a legitimate fiction? On the surface of it a character like Ziggy Stardust would appear to have his feet planted firmly in both worlds. I guess Moore probably feels that anyone who’s approached mythic status in our reality should at least have an analogue in the League’s). While Suki’s song completely fails as a literal commentary on 1969′s action, it does serve as an interesting coda to it in that it subtley reframes the relationship between the principle characters, and probably their Blazing World based task masters, as exploitative and abusive – an entirely unhealthy business arrangement/relationship everyone’s better off without. Clearly Suki’s referring to her own experiences in the brothel in the first installment of this volume, but by positioning her song at the end of the book the reader can’t help but draw thematic comparisons between it and the action it fullstops. This is is grown up time, though. Moore doesn’t spoonfeed this stuff.
Amy: One thing I really like about this scene is the fucking terrifying ugliness. It’s easy to forget because wooah punks cool!, but punk was a terrifying bloody scene. As a child I remember being deeply freaked out by the willful and wanton aggression and alienness of punk and its predecessor, new wave. The nihilism, the hate and anger, the weirdness – it’s easy to dismiss all these things as teenagers being teenagers now, but nothing before or since has embraced these things quite as much as the kids of the late seventies. This scene really carries that. It really does shock. Everything’s so violent and bleak. The way Suki spits into the mic, a continuation of the rage of the used and the discarded first articulated by Janni at the end of part one – a scream that won’t die, occupying the same position in the story as the Nautilus’s destruction of East London. A scream that resounds across a Century. One that no amount of hippy bullshit can silence.
Zom: I think that’s an extremely important point. Suki’s screaming punk rage drags the horror of 1910 – Janni’s terrible formative moments, Jack’s red handiwork, the cataclysm as the docks (all three of which we’re clearly originally intended to echo and reinforce each other) – into the 70s present. Far from forgotten, far from being merely plot elements, the events of 1910 are the apocalyptic context in which Century is playing out, a kind of extra-fictional heavy weather.
Amy: People talk about the theme of this book being culture gets shitter, but that seems massively reductionist and to ignore even bigger concerns right there on the page. What Moore, like Freud, seems to be saying is that culture, humanity, is driven by two fundamental earthly desires, sex and death (the monstrous deeds made so much of in 1910). Where he differs from Freud is that he adds a third axis, the self, the soul – imagination. Don’t worry, Moore’s a big hippy really, in the end it’ll save us all.
But it certainly doesn’t feel like it at the moment.
The final panel is interesting. Again, I assume there’s already somwunz on the internobz screaming ‘FOUL! SAME ENDING AS VOL 2!’, and to that I say: DUH! Yeah, right down to the leaf red pamphlets on the ground! It’s practically a match on panel, but without the romantic art nouveau stylings and a lot more stubble and grit. So what does this tell us? Two things. First of all that, hey, you thought that was bad? No, that was an interlude – this is a Continued…? Mina said goodbye with a kiss, but this time she’s nowhere to be seen and Orlando departs with a final ‘Fuck Off’. And, secondly, yeah, you’re right, this has happened before, right down to Mina disappearing in Hyde/Serpentine Park. The League got together, the League disbanded, the League got together, the League disbanded….. Like the on and off trees in the background of a cartoon. This is what history looks like from forever: the same events playing out again and again in different iterations.
Moore makes damn sure he gets one last crack at the major theme before the whole thing wraps.
NOW FUCK OFF THE LOTTA YA! I’LL DO THE TEXT SECTION IF I CAN BE BALLICKSED, ALROIGHT, CAAAAHHHHHNT?
Thanks for joining us for these. It’s been a lot of work, and I’ve spent more time at a fictional concert than I reckon I have at any gig, club or festival I’ve attended IRL, but it’s been a lot of fun too. I know our stuff is looser and more fanwanky than some people might like, but that’s the way we do things round here. I hope you enjoyed these annocommentations and be sure to join us next time for 2009 and round three.
BIG THANKS TO: Jess Nevins, our readership, all the people whose websites I pillaged for info, the directors, cast and crew of every lovely film I watched and, finally, Big Alan Moore and Mr. Kevin O’Neill. Cheers.