Adam: My, isn’t that lava lamp… big.
In case you hadn’t noticed that’s Dr B Coote S.M.B.D: standing for sadism, masochism, bondage, domination one imagines, which sadly loses some of the flexibility of our real world formulation, BDSM. There you’ve got bondage, domination, sadism, masochism or bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadomasochism. More… er… therapeutic options.
Amy: BDSM is considered by some people to be quite an effective form of, well not exactly therapy, but a way of containing and processing painful experiences, particularly those of a sexual nature. Mina has already engaged in mild BDSM with Allan (the infamous “Bite me” scene), probably as a response to the ultimate Dom/Sub relationship she shared with Dracula, so we know she’s the perfect patient in some ways… Saying that, though, it’s hard to imagine anyone as drugged up as Mina conclusively consenting to anything.
Andrew: Notice the spy camera on the corner — a little incidental detail of how the world has changed since the last volume. We grow so used to these things, it’s sometimes hard to remember that in a lot of ways we’ve been in a dystopian future since at least the mid-90s.
And this might be another explanation for the increased presence of our reality in the league world — because not only does ‘reality TV’ blur that line, as do things like “I Love 1983” or Extras. I think Lawrence Miles’ comments on Doctor Who may be apropos here:
“…because even if power doesn’t always corrupt, then showbiz invariably does. I know I’m not alone in feeling that “The Sound of Drums” marks a very specific jumping of the shark, yet apart from the relative dullness of it, two things seem especially worrying. One is that although it continues the twenty-first-century Doctor Who obsession with stories set in something like “the real world”, the programme’s idea of what constitutes “the real world” is becoming increasingly slanted towards the point-of-view of people who work in television. In much the same way that Jennifer Saunders is no longer capable of doing anything other than making jokes about meeting minor celebrities at BBC TV centre, Doctor Who’s two default methods of establishing a contemporary British setting are (a) guest appearances by famous people playing themselves, and (b) set-pieces involving any event where TV cameras might be present (note that apart from the regulars and semi-regulars we already know, there are no modern-day characters in “The Sound of Drums” other than media figures and Saxon’s co-conspirators). ..
Once you realise this, Tennant’s appearance in Extras is rather unsettling, because you begin to see that the two programmes are converging on the same territory. “Real world” stories are supposed to draw in the viewers by giving the adventures-in-space-and-time concept some grounding in the world we recognise, but the Britain we see in “The Sound of Drums” just alienates us. Even if there are TV studios, press interviews and high-society get-togethers, there are very few actual people, so it’s no more familiar to us than Mangooska Six in the ninety-eighth century. Using actual BBC presenters and perfect mock-ups of News 24 bulletins (starting with “Rose”, but most notably in “Aliens of London”) was clever, yet we’ve now reached the point where modern-day Britain doesn’t seem to contain anything else, a version of the country in which TV is the only reality.”
I think this tendency pretty much defines much of the British TV of the last decade — people who become famous for doing one thing, then going on to appear on TV as themselves simply because they’re famous, and being thought to be intrinsically interesting as people because we know who they are.
But to get past my digression, as well as reality TV blurring the line between TV and reality, so do surveillance cameras – we’re all ‘on TV’ now, many times a day. (And that line is blurred even further with the “Britain’s most hilarious deadly car accidents” type programmes which use the CCTV footage.)
I’d like to think, based on little evidence, that Raj, the bloke serving at the corner shop Orlando visits, is Raj Patel, who worked at the shop where Peter in Fist Of Fun bought all his food. Partly because Fist Of Fun is one of the only On The Hour-alumni programmes not to get some kind of reference in this volume otherwise, and partly because Peter Baynham gets criminally unrecognised for how much of his writing was behind the success of more well-known people like Iannucci and Morris (although Baynham has managed to become the most successful of them all, working in Hollywood as the writer of a succession of big-budget bad comedy films).
But mostly because, again, Raj is another leakage between the real world and the world of fiction. Raj actually worked in the shop near Peter Baynham’s house, and made a bemused guest appearance as himself on the radio version of Fist Of Fun.
(There is also another Raj Patel, who grew up in a corner shop in London, who now has a group of cultists believing, despite his denials, that he is the Maitreya, a messianic figure.)
Illogical Volume: Or, to remake Andrew’s point in the language of Fist of Fun itself: Hey, look, it’s Raj Patel off the telly!
Andrew: Off of the telly, surely.
Illogical Volume: Quite right. Turns out I am a fucking idiot, just like Andrew Collin(g)s.
Adam: I suppose leaks are inevitable given that this volume is (almost) contemporary. It’s much easier to draw links between a text and the real world when it’s *your* real world and when the fictions are so familiar.
Amy: Yes, but interestingly, from the point of view of Moore’s argument, it does seem to represent a gradual earthing of culture. You know, Raj is what he is both in real life and our dreams. There’s no depth. No angle. A flat surface.
Adam: I have mixed feelings about pages 28 and 29. On the one hand you’ve got the sort of human intimacy that you almost never see in adventure comics outside the work of Moore and Morrison. Orlando’s concern and Mina’s pain are palpable, a pitch perfect combination of O’Neill’s superior acting chops and Moore’s superb direction. Is Mina looking out into the city from the backseat of the taxi or is she gazing inwards at a blank fog? The mixture of hope and anxiety on Orlando’s face reinforces our uncertainty. Then, as Orlando steers a blank Mina past the photograph of the Seven Stars, that old invisibility helmet takes on a sad allegorical aspect. The next panel, of Orlando watching over Mina in the shower, her hunched grey form, is a crescendo of abjection, that gives way elegantly to the softer panels to follow. I can almost smell the early morning air as Orlando heads out for a moment’s respite and a trip to the cornershop. I’ve been there. Haven’t we all.
(Amy: You forgot to mention Mina fast asleep with the Moon Over (Beneath?) Soho watching over her…. a lovely touch.)
Adam: (Yeah, that’s really nice too)
It’s the final panel of Mina tying her scarf where things get complicated. It’s precise stuff, typical Moore, a well executed and uplifting ending to a painful sequence, and a major payoff moment in and of itself, but it also feels too easy. On the next page Moore offers us an explanation when Mina complains “This bloody medication. I can’t think straight”, which I suppose will do as an excuse for her overnight recovery given that this story is, despite its quality, swimming in pulpy waters, but for me it sits awkwardly with Spooky Tawdry’s claim a page earlier that “Min is in bits now”, the character’s years of incarceration, and the extremely horrible psychic assault that got her locked away in the first place. Plumbing deeper, the fallout of immortality has been one of the major concerns of this volume, and Mina’s mental break has helped to add a lot of texture to the idea that living forever is frightening stuff. In failing to make Mina’s recovery period last longer than one night, Moore has created an unfortunate tension with the needs of the story and the genre (as much as LoEG can be said to have a genre) pulling in one direction and the needs of his themes and character pulling in another.
Amy: 1969 contained a bit of pre-rescue rationalisation, too. It’s too long to quote, but it basically reduces Mina’s condition to being drugged up. But the point is taken that her recovery is rather quick – even though 40 years is quite long enough to get over a bad trip (to the astral plane or otherwise – shit, it ALWAYS feels like you’ve been to the astral plane!), the mental scars incurred after having been placed on medication, shrinked and abandoned to state care for nearly half a century would take forever to heal.
Although this is a woman who’s faced down Dracula, Moriarty, the Cthulhu Mythos, Oliver Haddo and a martian invasion, so….
Another point I think needs to be made is that while Mina is walking and talking by the end of the sequence quoted, she’s still far from being herself. She’s tremendously lost looking, frail and subdued throughout most of the book. But, sure, I’d’ve ramped it up a whole lot more if I was Moore.
Andrew: I think though that Moore might be consciously trying to move away from woman-as-victim and characters defined by their bad experiences rather than their own choices. Though yes, he’s doing it in a rather ham-fisted way…
Amy: See, I don’t see it as hamfisted exactly. As Adam says it’s a moving sequence – all the beats are right and the rose is pitch perfect – but it’s…. slightly too fast. Just a bit off.
Adam: There’s a middle ground between characters being defined by their bad experiences and what happens here. I can’t help but feel that Moore’s letting himself down a bit, undermining his own good work.
Illogical Volume: Here we have yet another example of how far away from being a game of spot-the-reference Century 2009 is. These pages take place in a sparsely decorated room, and feature only two of our broken and battered League members. The world of popular culture might still make its way through those walls on occasion, but in these two pages as in so many other points in this volume, you get the feeling that you’re watching a couple of old, broken people trying to help each other to find some dignity and happiness after a couple of deeply horrible and lonely decades.
I used to laugh at that scene in The Life Aquatic where Steve Zissou apologises for not being at his best for the past decade, but the older I get (note: please tell me to shut up, I have only just turned 30) the less ridiculous that line seems to me.
Adam: The image above the bed is fun to unpack, an anarchy symbol with the circle replaced by a heart, which if you ask me is fair representation of Moore’s politics. The guy’s anarchist leanings are a matter of public record, and love, well, you only have to read Promethea – a comic that posits a fundamentally loving universe – to get a handle on the centrality of love in Moore’s worldview. On a slightly lighter note, the horizontal bar of the A looks a lot like underwear and the two diagonals a lot like wide open legs. All this, in red and gold, above the principal site of lovemaking (the bed).
It’s also fun to consider the symbol in the context of all the superhero pin-ups lining the walls of the basement. I don’t know who that chap is with the B on his chest but his pose brings to mind a rather adult variety of action sequence, as does the love letter to Orlando scrawled across the photograph from Tarzan. My point being, doesn’t that symbol look like the sort of thing that could adorn the chest of a lustier breed of superhero, the kind that Kevin O’Neill specializes in bringing to life? A hero who saves the world not with his fists but through the power of anarchy, love and a great deal of sex. Moore’s quite keen on sex.
Oh, and did I forget to mention how much it looks like a detourned Freemason’s compass and square?
Amy: I’m sure it is a superhero’s emblem, this being Mina’s bedroom and all. Can’t be bothered to pore over any DC Thompson sites in order to figure out whose though….
Illogical Volume: Who Dat Ninja? is one of the many Tracy Jordan movies that is referenced in Tina Fey’s snappy situation comedy about cracked comedy performers 30 Rock (file under: yet another example of the porousness of certain borders). Again, it seems that Moore and O’Neill have a fondness for modern comedy shows, particularly when those shows are telling them what they already suspect, i.e. that modern culture really is fucking stupid.
I’m going to presume that Who Dat Ninja? has been rereleased in 3D in the League universe, because I think the original release was a strictly two-dimensional affair…
Amy: This league is about as abject as it gets, what with Mina reduced to a card carrying member of that most scorned of all social groups, a hoodie, and Allan a homeless junkie. Again this scene is more powerful when understood in context because it’s a replay of the scene where Allan and Mina first met, but this time without the romantic whiff of a 19th century middle eastern opium den about it or the promise of adventure previously embodied by the character’s daring escape from evil swarthy types and subsequent rescue by Nemo and his Nautilus. Here there’s just grey London streets, an ill-defined threat, and an old adventurer having thrown in the towel once and for all.
Again, the fatalism of the immortals is something we’ve discussed before, but in their hopelessness Allan and Mina miss the obvious rebuttal to his argument. Sure, Quatermain may end up strung out and reliving this scene with Mina every hundred years or so, but he’ll undoubtedly have a blast saving the world in the meantime. His emphasis is, sadly, only on the downward part of his cycle.
Amy: One problem I had with Mina’s collage was the question of why (other than because it’s a device to tie the text and comic sections of the book together and because it’s an obvious metaphor for insanity) the character picked her lunar adventure as an escape hatch. Mina and Allan’s song, however, addresses this nicely. Mina is fixated on the Moon because of Allan’s promise to make her a gift of it. It’s a timeless symbol of their love, unchanging, undying, watching over the both of them wherever they are. The Moon after all doesn’t just symbolise madness, but dream, fantasy and romance. I love that there’s a simple, human – emotional – answer to this, on the surface of it meta-textual, conundrum.
Andrew: But at the same time, the simple, human, emotional answer is also a metatextual one. We’ve returned here to the world of the homeless, and so to the world of the Threepenny Opera. The Moon over Soho was a specific symbol of the love of Macheath (a vicious killer, who is equated with Jack The Ripper in Century: 1910) and Polly, the daughter of the king of the beggars. I can’t be sure, because it looks like Moore’s working from a different translation from the ones I have, but I think Moore is here pastiching the Instead-Of Song (Spotify link), where Polly’s parents sing mockingly about how ridiculous youthful love is and how quickly men’s promises disappear after sex. Here Allan and Mina are both the young lovers in body and the old, cynical couple in their minds.
It’s probably just a coincidence, as well, but Moon Over Soho is also the title if a psychogeographic novel by Ben Aaronovitch from last year which apparently covers similar ground to much of Moore’s work and especially Century and From Hell.
Illogical Volume: This is far less exciting than all of the emotional and meta-textual stuff Amy and Andrew are talking about, but nonetheless my eye is still drawn to the line-up of people in the last panel of this page with the “Will Mockney for food” sign. Jess Nevins and co have spotted David “Del Boy” Jason, Martin Clunes, Fay Jones and maybe Billy Piper in this line-up. I’m not too convinced that’s Billy Piper on the page there, but I reckon that I can see a couple of characters from the BBC’s grim London based soap opera Eastenders (as previously referenced way back in the first volume of The League) in there too.
Andrew: Clunes is there, but there’s no way any of them are Billie Piper, and I’d be very surprised if any of them were David Jason — the one holding the sign could, if you squint a lot, be said to resemble him slightly, but given how good O’Neill normally is at capturing likenesses, it’d be an unusual lapse of his talents for him to have anyone as famous as Jason in there and for him not to be instantly recognisable.
Illogical Volume: Hmmm, yeah, I’d agree with that – I started to see the guy at the front as David Jason after I read Nevins’ annotations, but I did have to sort of force my eyes to recognise him on the page, so maybe it’s not supposed to be him after all. Either way, I reckon that there’s an implicit critique in here of the enduring popularity of hard-done-by working class TV characters – in The League’s world they’re actual poor people who have to “Mockney” it up for spare change. I’d hazard a guess that they’re probably not quite so welcome in living rooms around the country here as they are in our world, you know?
Andrew: I’ve not read Jess’ stuff yet — feels like cheating.
Amy: Panel one features DCI Gene Hunt and police psychologist Alex Drake, stars of time travelling cop drama Ashes to Ashes, in hot pursuit of the clown (originally played by David Bowie) from the video to the song that inspired the series, and who throughout the first season served as one of its weirder antagonists
I don’t know if this scene ever took place in the show – I doubt it, the clown seems to have been a fairly sinister figure – but the ‘soft’ time of Ashes to Ashes resonates with the way writers like Rowling, Sinclair and Moore conceive of King’s Cross as a portal to other realms.
Andrew: The bloke in the background of panel two seems to be Captain Jack from post-2005 Doctor Who and Torchwood — another pansexual immortal working for a secret government department set up in Queen Victoria’s reign to protect the Empire from paranormal threats.
Panel three is dealing with the survivors either of the King’s Cross fire of 1987 or with the bombings of the seventh of July 2005 — from the police uniforms I’d guess the former.
In panel four, at the far right we have Parker from Thunderbirds and the William Hartnell and Matt Smith Doctors Who, while the bloke with the quiff on the left is Harry Robinson, the teddy boy from the film The Ladykillers, set around Kings Cross in the 1950s. (Graham Linehan recently adapted this film for the stage, in a production starring Peter Capaldi, who played Malcolm Tucker).
Adam: Like us Norton comes from a higher place, a place where you look down – literally – on fictions like comic books, hence the drop in air pressure and Mina’s ears popping. No wonder the page is heaving with omniscient Timelords, this is their kind of territory.
Amy: Also, take a look at those guys.
After all, they’re taking a look at us.
Can they see Norton as he descends?
“This, my dear Doctor, is a problem for someone else….”
Illogical Volume: Elsewhere on the page, we get more of that brilliant nested doll material about aging, in which grumpy old men Moore and O’Neill try to imagine the already impossibly old Mina Harker trying to imagine how it must feel be as old as Orlando:
“Y-you were right, we’ve lost him, haven’t we?
Lando, how do you cope with it all? I’m only a hundred and thirty-something. You’re over three thousand.
All the love and loss. All the chaos. How do you manage it?”
All of which puts my worries about entering the fourth decade of my march into oblivion into stark perspective, obviously. But seriously though, how do you cope with watching the world change and watching people slip by you over and over again? Allan spends most of 2009 giving in to the more self-destructive side of his own particular cycle and despite the glib comments about it being easier to cope if you’re shallow, Orlando’s introduction in this book made it clear that living on the surface is no solution either so who can blame Mina for her startled panic.
Like I said though, it’s a neat trick, this nested doll set-up that we’re presented with here. We know we can’t actually climb in at the bottom of this little babushka pile-up and feel what it’s like to be thousands of years old, but somehow the impossibility of this idea makes the difficulty inherent in coping with only one lifetime’s worth of change seem much more understandable. To me, anyway.
Andrew: Brutus at King’s Cross, naming the city…” “Troy Novantum” — before the Roman invasion of Britain, the Celtic tribe living roughly where London is now were called the Trinovantes. Geoffrey of Monmouth claimed (with no evidence) that they named London itself Trinovantum — from Troi Novantum or New Troy — and that Britain was founded by and named after Brutus, a grandson of Aeneas, who was in turn a survivor of the Trojan war. This has been established as fact in The Black Dossier.
Geoffrey of Monmouth, incidentally, was known to have made up most of his ‘history’ even in his own century. His history of the Kings of England is a pack of lies. He called himself Geoffrey Arthur, and we will be meeting a very similarly-named man with a similar inability to distinguish truth and lies in a short while. Resonances through history.
“in Aidan Dun’s Vale Royal that it finds its ground zero” — Vale Royal is a psychogeographic poem about King’s Cross by poet Aidan Dun. Coincidentally, my *own* ground zero is also Vale Royal — that being the name for the area of Cheshire where I was born. Or it was until Vale Royal was abolished in 2009.
Adam: Is that Harry and Ruth from BBC 24-a-like Spooks? My wife, a big fan, says yes.
Andrew: One thing that still puzzles me — we never did identify where those glowing-eyed policemen actually come from, did we? They’re all over the place here, but have no obvious fictional antecedent.
Amy: Well they kinda do – the League books. The first time we saw a policeman dressed in a like uniform was in volume one, outside Freemasonry Hall, and these guys are obviously the evolution of that type, but now they’re on every street corner.
Andrew: I meant an antecedent outside League itself, but take the point.
Either way, Platform 13 here is a reference to the 1994 children’s book The Secret Of Platform 13, about a non-existent platform at King’s Cross Station which leads to a magical world.
“Lear, Bladud, lud” — all fictional kings, invented by Geoffrey of Monmouth, and all of them legendary founders of cities — Leicester, Bath, and many cities, with London being supposedly named after Lud, who fortified it. All these kings have some connection with magic, especially Bladud, who raised his cities magically.
“Boadicea’s bunker” — King’s Cross is the supposed site of a battle between the Romans and the Iceni, the tribe led by Boudicca, and according to recent legend Boudicca is buried between platforms nine and ten (possibly at platform nine-and-three-quarters? (Amy: DEFINITELY!)) at King’s Cross station. Boudicca of course has two almost opposite symbolic functions — she is a symbol of the primacy of women over men, but also of the British Empire (her name meant Victory, and she became a popular symbol of the Empire in the 19th century, because the meaning of her name and that of Victoria was the same).
“Rimbaud’s backyard” — the poets Rimbaud and Verlaine lived round the back of St Pancras (King’s Cross and St Pancras being so close together they’re served by the same tube station).
“Archer’s Seraglio” — Jeffrey Archer, the lying perjuring scumbag and then-Chairman of the Conservative Party, met prostitute Monica Coghlan in the King’s Cross area. He later paid her £2000 to not tell anyone about it (reports differ as to whether this payment was made at King’s Cross station or Victoria station), and when the Daily Star reported on this, sued them for libel and destroyed several people’s lives in the process. Sixteen years later he was convicted of perjury in the libel trial and imprisoned, by which time Coghlan was already dead (as was the editor of the Daily Star, who lost his job after the libel trial, though I can bring myself to shed few tears for a tabloid editor).
Incidentally, Lord Archole (who retains his seat in the House of Lords, and his right to make laws affecting the rest of us) last year published the first in a series of books following the life of a single character from 1920 through 2020…
“Stand-in Victorian opium den for Johnny Depp” — Presumably a reference to the film which shares its title (and little else) with Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell.
“After-life virgins, Hashishin recruitment fictions” — Moore/Norton/Sinclair is here making a link between the Hashishin, a Muslim sect that used to be known as violent killers, and Al-Qaeda, as both groups supposedly recruit(ed) young men who don’t mind dying because of promises of beautiful women in the afterlife. Of course, both groups would hate being compared to each other — the Hashishins were a branch of Ismailianism, which is in turn a branch of Shia Islam, whereas Al-Qaeda are Salafists (and Salafism is a branch of Sunni Islam).
But the connection here is specifically with the “7/7 attacks” — the bombings of public transport, apparently by radical Muslims, on the seventh of July 2005. Specifically, the largest of the bombs was on a train going from King’s Cross to Russel Square — the site of the British Museum and the League’s old home.
In all this, then, Norton is linking sex and death, battles between men and women, whether it be Lear (brought low by his daughters) or Archer or Jack The Ripper or Boudicca, or modern terrorists simultaneously wanting to bring about a world where women are pure and virginal (and maybe “fragrant” like Mary Archer) and to have many sex-slaves themselves in the afterlife.
“And then there’s the cult of the magical child. Eight-year-old Wiccans on pilgrimages” — And this is the line where I slapped my forehead. Of course, we should have known since the beginning of Century. If there’s a magical child, and the story finished in the first decade of the twenty-first century, and King’s Cross is central to it all, there was really only one possibility, wasn’t there?
Amy: There was. It never occurred to me that Moore would dare go there!
Illogical Volume: From Norton’s speech in Century 1910: “ A quarter platform over, the Franchise Express, gathering steam…”
Amy: Yeah, obviously I wrote about the Potter stuff at length when we were annotating 1969, but….
Andrew: It does mean, however, that I will have less (though not nothing) to say about the next few pages, as my knowledge of Harry Potter comes from reading the first four books once, in a single day ten years ago, plus the rather wonderful fanfic Harry Potter And The Methods Of Rationality.
(Adam: The newspaper headline in the the seventh panel appears to read “Cosy holes homes scandal”. A possible reference to the rural poor being housed in hobbit holes?)
Andrew: Is it just me, or does the image of a steam train partially fused with the screaming bodies of the dead conjure up thoughts of Auschwitz? I have no idea what it could *mean* for it to do that, but I think it might mean something…
Amy: I think it’s just a really good shorthand for MINDWARPING HORROR.
Andrew: And as I was writing a bit of this further down (the Poppins bit) I realised that it’s also a dark echo of The Last Battle, the last Narnia book, where all the children except Susan die in a train crash and get to live with Aslan forever. The Last Battle is of course C.S. Lewis’ own look at the apocalypse.
Illogical Volume: I hadn’t made the association with The Last Battle before, but fuck me, that’s horrible. O’Neill being O’Neill, he really conveys the dripping, warped horror of bodies gone wrong here, that last great escape gone terribly, terribly wrong – no escape into Aslan’s sunny mane, just physical matter with all the life burned out of it, rotting forever.
Amy: Mythago Wood is the first book in Robert Holdstock’s much lauded Ryhope Wood series. The title, Mythago, refers to a race of mythogenic beings who inhabit Ryhope Wood, a liminal space which serves as a portal between the Real and Imaginary. Here Moore has Norton refer to multiple mythago woods, indicating that although Holdstock’s books are set in Herefordshire they describe a generic environment, one that shares many characteristics with the other ‘soft places’ we know to be dotted all over the League’s world (indeed, in all likelihood their universe).
As we’ve argued before, there’s a very simple and elegant structure underlying the league-verse. It’s Moore’s Ideaspace, our world’s dreamtime, and it arrives complete with zones of consensus which feel stable and solid and zones of magic where the rules are more ‘sloppily defined’ – more subjective, more archetypal, more mythic. These magical zones exist on the edges and between the cracks of the (in the League’s case literal) shared hallucination that is consensus reality, hence Platform 9 ¾. Science appears to be thriving in the towns and cities of the League’s earth – perhaps this is because, on the surface at least, it behaves itself and is easier to believe in/fit one’s head around/live with than magic. Rationalism shapes the world, but magic undoes it.
Andrew: I love the way Moore’s contempt for his source material here is oozing through. “I assume it runs on sloppily-defined magical principles” pretty much sums up the whole of Harry Potter for me (as I recall, it has been a decade since I read the few books I did read).
Amy: In his Ryhope Wood books Holdstock describes not just people but spaces composed of pure idea, which he calls Geistzones. Now obviously in the League everything is composed of idea, but there are places where, as we’ve discussed, the brickwork is softer and more malleable than elsewhere, one of which is Hogwarts. As the reader progresses through each of the Harry Potter books she becomes aware of a profound disconnect between the infantile mise-en-scene of the wizarding world and the increasingly adult threats to it. Here Moore runs with this, postulating that Hogwarts itself is a fantasy, ‘a storybook place’ designed, presumably, to safeguard children from the mindfucking reality of the magical world until they’re mature enough to confront it without stabilisers. Alternatively Hogwarts could be emblematic of a false consciousness currently infecting the whole of the magical community, a ‘good lie’ conjured by a conservative magical elite to keep wizards in check and prevent precisely the kind of threat facing the world in this volume (keep magic users doing silly tricks and they’ll never try to eat the sun, etc). But whatever’s really going on, Hogwarts is revealed as a brainwashing operation producing half formed adults who waffle on about quidditch, butterbeer and hufflepuffs even while they can crucify you with a wave of their magic wand.
Illogical Volume: You’re dead right to home in on the waffling aspect Amy, because there are times where the Harry Potter books seem to have been written with an eye to exemplifying everything that Michael Moorcock excoriated in his Epic Pooh essay (later revised and re-published as Wizardry and Wild Romance, A Study of Epic Fantasy). Here’s an excerpt from the start of the essay that seems to call J.K. Rowling into being with every syllable:
The sort of prose most often identified with “high” fantasy is the prose of the nursery-room. It is a lullaby; it is meant to soothe and console. It is mouth-music. It is frequently enjoyed not for its tensions but for its lack of tensions. It coddles; it makes friends with you; it tells you comforting lies.
One of the things that I found quite disconcerting about the Harry Potter series as it developed was the way this language – which is built into the Harry Potter “universe” from cocking quidditch on up — starts to jarr with the tone of the story Rowling wants to tell. When it gets to the point where Rowling has started to draw on the imagery of modern terrorism in order to darken up her story, it feels like there has been a fundamental break in the nature of the story in question, and Moore makes good on that in this horrible, grizzly sequence in a way Rowling never could.
SIDE NOTE: Moorcock finds that a “sort of consolatory orthodoxy as distasteful as any other self-serving misanthropic doctrine” tends to come built in with this sort of cutesy prose style, and while, say, Andrew Rilstone would probably be able to provide a more balanced account of Moorcock’s primary targets Lewis and Tolkein, Moore seems to be drawing on some similar associations in his use of Harry Potter in Century 2009.
Andrew: Yeah, I don’t really see Moore, as a pagan anarchist, having much or any time for Tolkien, Lewis and the like with their High Church Toryism.
I find it interesting that the decade chosen for the ‘reassuring imagery’ is the 1940s. Of course the Potter books are entirely made up of stuff taken from other, better books from the first half of the last century, but the 1940s was probably the decade when reassurance was most actually needed, and when the gap between fantasy and reality was at its widest.
Illogical Volume: Oh, and I’d forgotten about this but the aforementioned Andrew Rilstone also wrote a post about the more irritating aspects of Rowling’s prose style. This bit seems to me to be particularly pertinent to some of the critiques of Harry Potter’s world implicit in Century 2009 and our annotations of it:
“When you are reunited with old friends, your heart does not “seem to expand and glow”. I am not even sure what a glowy expandy heart would feel like. A writer might have described actual human emotions based on her actual human experience: “Harry felt as if he had just finished some intense physical exercise”. She might have shown us what Harry felt by showing us what he is doing: “He started to giggle uncontrollably at the weakest of jokes.” Or she might have just told us how he felt in plain language: “Harry was very pleased to see them all again.” Rowling simply mouths a boy-band lyric: a set of words which have no actual meaning behind them.”
That post also contains some good thoughts on how the later volumes of the series stray too far from everything that worked in the early ones, but I’m getting a little bit too far off topic now.
Amy: The tree on panel four of page 41 is Hogwart’s famous whomping willow. As Orlando makes clear (“I remember seeing things like this back in the Dark Ages after Camelot fell…”), there is a long tradition of killer trees in fantasy literature. Orlando’s words also indicate that the Imaginal was always the source of these supernatural beasties and, when the witch hunts kicked off in earnest in the late 1600s after Gloriana died and King Jacob took the throne, it was to here that they retreated. When we annotating 1969 I theorised that the whole muggle/wizard divide found its roots in Jacobs anti-faerie pogroms, and little details like this only serve to confirm me in this view.
One more thing. I imagine whomping willows were one of the more common magical creatures crowding out post-Camelot Britain. The shape of trees suggests movement, life, and in a world where the merest stray thought can reshape reality these things would thrive.
Adam: Killer tree octopus hybrids bring to mind the Dark Young of Shub Niggurath, otherworldly monstrosities created by games designer Sandy Peterson when he was fleshing out the Cthulhu Mythos for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game.
Amy: You may not remember this but the monsters and chimerae that infest the League’s earth were, according to Haddo’s manuscript in The Black Dossier, birthed by the offspring of Cthulhu and co.
Amy: One of the things that troubled me during the wait between ‘69 and ‘10 was the question of whether or not Moore would have the time to develop the Antichrist as a viable threat. I knew that in order for the character to *pop* he’d have to stop being something pursued and talked around, and instead get on with doing his job – doing something awful, a massacre for instance. This presented a problem because there were already so many obstacles facing the League at the end of Paint it Black that I wasn’t sure there’d be enough space. My concerns were doubled when I got over a third of the way through the new book and still….. nothing. And then I turned the page….. Long time Morrison fans will be familiar with the idea of a world under psychic assault, and in this respect, as is the case with so much of MorriMoore’s output, the threat of Let it Come Down bears striking similarities with Doom Patrol’s final arc, but I know Moore doesn’t read Morrison and who cares about retreading old ground when the drama is executed so effectively. So, yeah, of course I needn’t have worried, because, just like in Watchmen, the massacre had already happened. The End of the World was well underway, perhaps nearly complete, like a tumor that spreads all over a patient’s body before she’s even aware of it. And that’s what’s so chilling about the Hogwart’s sequence, the realisation that the bricks and mortar of the world are infected and only now are we seeing the x-ray.
Andrew: And of course this is a signature technique with the League — that they operate behind the scenes of what most people would consider the ‘real’ story, so in vol 2, for example, they are happening in parallel to the story of War Of The Worlds. So as the League characters themselves have become more and more the ‘story’ of the League, as they move from the background to the foreground, so the background story continues without them.
Amy: O’Neill’s pencils make absolutely no distinction between flesh, bone, steel, concrete and wood. And this blurring of the organic and artificial isn’t simply expressed by panel after panel of bodies fused with their environment to the point that you can’t tell the difference (although this alone would be bad enough), but by the way houses, trains and station platforms are treated not, as would be the usual way, as things collapsible, shatterable or combustible, but as dissolvable. Rottable. Pages 38-45 describe a space where person and thing have collided to nauseatingly abject effect. And credit has to go to Dimagmaliw’s fantastic colours, because he extends this sickness out into the countryside around the slaughter – even the normally green and verdant hills are jaundiced, with mangey patches of stubble where trees and hedgerows used to be..
Amy: Panel three depicts a desperate Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger begging for their lives while the school’s unseen assailant smears Draco Malfoy’s (?) face across the page, like a child grown bored with a failed painting. The queasy mixture of sacred and profane, the magical green fire and the boy’s blood, is particularly gruesome.
“Th-There have been massacres in schools?”
A whole bunch of fictional massacres actually, many of them (from We Need to Talk About Kevin, Elephant and Heart of America) occurring in 2003 and one (from a film called April Showers) in 2009 itself. In fact the fictional world of the League has seen a great deal more pupil on pupil violence than our own.
Illogical Volume: Turns out Kieron Gillen and Alan Moore shared a little corner of ideaspace here:
It’s not surprising, I guess, given both the popularity of the high school massacre story and the Harry Potter franchise. Still properly horrible to see here though – like I said, earlier, somehow Moore and O’Neill’s utter contempt for the fictional foundations of Hogwarts makes their demolition of it a lot more convincing than Rowling’s own.
Amy: Panel five, as if it needed saying what with all the ‘little shit’-ting, proves that the resolutely unrepentant Severus Snape (the books’ only truly great character) either has enormous cohones or that he’s so twisted up with bitterness he no longer gives a fuck.
McGonagall gets it in panel seven. We’ve talked a bit about the ways magic has been neutered by the newly deposed wizarding powers-that-be and I imagine that the wand, a stand in for the creative sexual energy magic uses as fuel, factors into this process. There’s a kind of frustrated, deferred sexuality to a universe where magic is confined almost exclusively to wands, wands that are constantly being whipped out of robes and used to zap people. Add to this the fact that the Potter books’ main focus is a teenager and… well, that we’ve got a panel like panel seven, where a wand’s being held – like a gun – to a soon to be ravaged school ma’am’s head, isn’t at all surprising.
Who said this comic was a rape-free zone.
Adam: Cowering behind McGonagall is Ginny Weasley, Harry’s principal love interest and the mother of his children.
Amy: We’ve been over the theory already and I don’t need to expound any further on Orlando and Mina’s musings about the overlap between fiction and reality.
And, sorry, but I can’t be bothered trying to figure out which of Hogwart’s portraits have succumbed to Harry Potter, harshest of art critics.
The caretaker, though, is Argus Filch (sans Mrs. Norris). The villainous plan he outlines (“A–All the exploits were arranged, to hide what we were preparing you for.”), where Potter’s adventures are transformed into a kind of initiation into antichristness, bears a striking similarity to the process Dane McGowan undergoes in The Invisibles, the difference being that McGowan doesn’t succumb and Potter does.
Andrew: It’s also very similar to the plot of Masks Of The Illuminati, probably the best novel by Robert Anton Wilson, a huge influence on both Morrison and Moore. In Masks, Sir John Babcock, a young man seeking after magical knowledge, is initiated into the Invisible College (the Rosicrucian one, as mentioned by Norton back on p38), and specifically into that branch of it known as the A.’.A.’., who he’s told are battling Aleister Crowley and the evil Satanists of the OTO.
After suffering a breakdown from terrors inflicted on him by the OTO, Babcock eventually realises that Crowley has been manipulating him all along, and that Crowley is the head of both the OTO and the A.’.A.’., and thus he is enlightened.
Masks Of The Illuminati is very similar to the League in a lot of ways, not least in merging historical figures (James Joyce, Einstein, Freud and Lenin all appear, as well as Crowley) with… I was going to say Lovecraftian fiction, but the references in Masks, because of its time period, are to pre-Lovecraft works in that style like The Great God Pan and The King In Yellow.
And Masks Of The Illuminati’s initiation of Babcock (and apparently the real-life initiation rituals of the A.’.A.’.) is explicitly based on (supposed) secret rituals of Freemasonry…
Amy: I read it a long time ago. You’re right, it’s clearly a big inspiration for both writers.
As we’ve noted, Century was intended to track the steady banalification of culture, and right at the heart of this is magic. Magic, in Moore’s view, represents art’s, and therefore culture’s, purest expression, where, like the first brushstroke on a blank canvas, on the city springing from the plain, something emerges from nothing. Magic is the interaction of consciousness with the world, the fundamental creative act, and it is always miraculous. But this miraculousness may be occluded. When, in 1910, we were first introduced to Britain’s magical scene it was at the height of its victorian pomp – there were magical gentlemens’ clubs where the devil himself prowled, there was Haddo and his O.T.O – but by the time we arrive in 2009 magic has retreated into the cracks between station terminals and been reduced to little more than a fairytale for grown ups who wish they were children (see my last entry). Sure, Harry Potter’s universe is ostensibly magical, there are wands galore, but there’s no numinosity to it anymore, no bite. Everything’s somehow spooky-tawdry. The problem, Moore believes, is that far from pointing the way to magic, Harry Potter points away from it. Potter’s an antichrist in that he substitutes the miraculous for the macguffin, sets himself up as a sorcerer supreme when his only real conjuring trick is to produce fandom. The overabundance of spells fired off computer game style on every page becomes an unhappy metaphor for our own world, a world so chock full of marvels that no-one even notices anymore (something the League’s author has be bemoaning since From Hell). Potter’s universe positions magic as a special effect interchangeable with any other special effect – makes it containable, concretizes, reduces spillage. It’s magic as spectacle, made for the cinema, to be consumed along with your popcorn. It won’t hurt you, haunt you, move you, delight you. It won’t change you. Harry Potter and his friends transform all sorts of stuff into all sorts of stuff, but they don’t transform the things that Moore thinks really counts: hearts and minds.
Cue raging Harry Potter fans.
Personally I have no problem at all with Moore’s summation of Harry Potter as an essentially conservative, possibly reactionary, fantasy. I’m not saying anyone who enjoys the books, or indeed feels passionately about them, is wrong or an idiot, but I am saying that as a way into magic they’re severely wanting, and that they do bugger all to illuminate the view from my front window.
So, yeah, if this is where the british dreamtime is now then we’re probably in trouble.
Only I’m pretty confident that it’s not. Not straightforwardly at any rate.
Anyway, it makes sense that Haddo, if he was anything like Crowley (perpetually hung up on christianity), would fail in his attempt to remake the world. His antichrist project was a reaction to an old order, in fact it was inspired by it, not a genuine attempt to usher in something new. I mean, by this point in fiction there really is nothing more banal than a fire and brimstone apocalypse is there? It’s so dull that, as we’ll see later on, Harry compares it to doing homework.
Will Stanton is the protagonist of proto-Potter fantasy, The Dark is Rising. Why a dossier with his name on the front (along with a mysterious A. Button) should contain information about Harry Potter I have no idea. Perhaps the two characters are being conflated. Will, after all, discovers he’s an ‘Old One’, something Harry appears to be turning into overleaf. Maybe Stanton was Haddo’s trial run, or at the very least a possible candidate. Perhaps the folder contains information on a whole raft of potential moonchildren and Haddo’s reflecting on his overall mission, wishing that he’d chosen someone else. How’s that for a fanwank?
Illogical Volume: That is an absolutely terrific fanwank, actually. I thank-wank you.
The “Harry Potter Backlash” angle is interesting, because perhaps we’ll generate some here, I’ve seen journalists mention it, but I’ve not seen much in the way of angry Potter fan reaction to the book. To be fair, I’ve not went looking for angry Harry Potter fans and I’m not going to (because honestly, fuck that), but the only snippy responses to Century 2009 I’ve encountered so far have been from gawping idiots who seem to think that Moore is writing Before Hogwarts or something.
Anyway, Amy’s interpretation of Moore’s critique of the magical world of Harry Potter echoes Andrew Rilstone’s critique of Rowling’s prose, as I’m sure you’ve already noticed. The riffs on the Harry Potter stories don’t go too deep here – they could be made or understood by anyone who has seen at least one of the movies or read one of the books, I think – but Moore still makes a good use of that curdled, cuddly atmosphere.
“If our magical landscapes, our art and fairytales and fictions… if that goes bad then maybe the material world follows suit.”
While it’s difficult to parse exactly what Moore’s cultural critique amounts to, banality isn’t the only problem Moore identifies. It’s telling that the guy who’s going to end the world, the personification of dark magic – fiction gone wrong – is a spotty, whiny, violent teenager. In short a juvenile approach to fiction is central to our ills as diagnosed by Moore.
Andrew: That’s not someone on haloperidol. I worked on a psych ward for two years, and pretty much everyone taking regular doses of haloperidol put on a great deal of weight. If he’d been on it for as long as those bottles indicate he’d be puffy and jowly, not gaunt with cheekbones.
This is the single most unrealistic thing in this comic.
The severed head of Oliver Haddo puts one in mind of the Knights Templar’s mysterious Baphomet. We’ll deal with this in more detail next time.
I like that the Beast’s mark is a lightning bolt. With its intimations of revelation and destruction it aligns Harry with that most tricky of tarot cards, The Tower (does anyone else feel that Uncle Al has more successfully mined Rowling’s own text than she was able to herself? Harry as a Voldemort+ in training is a much more exciting idea than the way things turn out in the books). I fancy that it’s a wound that won’t heal, in the same way that no matter how hard he magics them away, Harry can’t permanently prevent the eyes from erupting across his forehead. The eyes are completely disgusting and work on a few levels, standing in for everything from teenage acne to cancer. They are also very lovecraftian, a sign of a dawning super-consciousness (which bears a marked similarity to Haddo’s astral body in 1969 (again, a construct of pure awareness), right down to the wobbly speech). I suspect, although it’s inferred rather than directly stated in the text, that Harry’s greatest fear is that he’s not a person but a vessel, and that he experiences the multidimensional omni-being he attempts to keep sedated with magic and pills as an invading presence. Indeed, given that we know Lovecraft’s Old Ones are waiting in the wings, we can probably assume that he’s not far off the mark, and that Haddo is an unwitting servant of these dark forces.
Andrew: Not necessarily unwitting. Kenneth Grant, who was a protege of Crowley’s and one of the many heads of rival OTOs to spring up after Crowley’s death, outright worshipped the Great Old Ones of the Lovecraft mythos, and tried to merge Crowley’s ceremonial magick with Lovecraft’s stories, leading to… interesting… passages like the following:
“Thus, “Kutulu or Cutalu (Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Sumerianized) would mean ‘The Man of Kutu … the Man of the Underworld’, Satan or Shaitan, as he is known to the Yezidis (whom Crowley considered to be the remnants of the Sumerian Tradition)”. Note the reference to the Yezidis whose power-zone on the Tree of Life is assumed to Yesod, the Foundation or Seat. The number of Yesod is the number of ZAA, the name of the Aethyr containing the word Tutulu. The number 9 relates to the Moon of the Tarot….Whatever the interpretation of Tutulu, or Kutulu, there can be little doubt that Cthulhu surfaced in the Aeon of Zaa and was ‘heard’ by Crowley two decades before Lovecraft wrote (in 1926) The Call of Cthulhu which was not published until 1928. These considerations do not preclude the possibility of earlier published records of the name, but they do affirm the ‘objectivity’ of the concept and its independence of Lovecraft’s individual subjective range…..The serial number, 205, is the sum of the letters ОТО + KLU (Kutulu), which points directly at the terrestrial instrument of the Outer Ones, particularly of Cthulhu. It is also the number of the word OMPEHDA (AL.III.54) which has not yet been fully interpreted; and of ‘penis’, the mundane vehicle of the Force of Coph Nia glyphed in the Sigil of Aossic.”
(Note that bit about penises. That might become important later).
Moore definitely knows Grant’s work very well (see this essay by Moore on Grant). Grant (who died last year) was a huge figure in the Chaos Magick stream of occultism which is Moore’s primary occult interest. As well as being one of the editors of Crowley’s posthumous works, Grant rediscovered the works of Austin Osman Spare and brought him out of obscurity decades after his death. And it’s the version of Crowley that was filtered through Grant that was the primary inspiration for Crowley’s adoption as a hero by counterculture figures like Robert Anton Wilson and Timothy Leary.
So for someone with Moore’s influences, linking Crowley with the Great Old Ones is an absolutely natural connection to make.
Amy: Very cool stuff….
Anyway, Harry certainly isn’t the first antichrist to balk at his duties. In the second Omen film, Damien has his moment of teenage rebellion too.
Adam: Harry’s home away from Hogwart’s was always something of a dirty liminal space. At number 4 Privet Drive his sadistic uncle and aunt made him live underneath the stairs, for God’s sake. It doesn’t take much nudging to make those circumstances fit Haddo’s programme of demonic nurture.
I assume that’s Headwig’s decapitated body on the floor.
Amy: I imagine Harry bit his head off in a fit of antichristian pique. Very Ozzy Osbourne (I’m sure some people thought he was the Antichrist too).
Adam: Note how Harry’s dialogue emanates from off-panel rather than from his mouth. How to do psychosis in comic books in one easy lesson.
Andrew: I think you’re misreading that — we’re looking at Harry in the mirror from panel four on this page through to panel one on the next page, but the dialogue’s coming from Harry’s actual face. I had to read this section through a couple of times to be sure of that though (first time I thought it was possibly coming from Haddo’s head).
Adam: Ah, right. Still, the effect is the same and no doubt intentional
Amy: The Harry Potter books feature various locations squeezed into magical tesseracts in order to keep them hidden: Diagon Alley, Platform 9 ¾ and, the obvious antecedent for Number 13 Rune Place here, the House of Black. Moore and O’Neill run with this, though, and extrapolate the horrible, crumpled rupture we see in panel seven. You could unpack why this is so disturbing forever – gynaphobia perhaps, or maybe just the understandable concern that nobody should be able to fold reality up like the page of a comic (;))….. There’s also, and I don’t know whether this is intended or not, the possibility that Harry’s very presence is distorting reality. The weird geometry of his bedsit could be explained by the fact that, with a view to camouflaging himself, he’s literally bent the space around it…. but given that in so many of the panels the room frequently seems to dip towards him, as though he’s weighing it down, I think we can assume there’s something else going on. He shouldn’t be here. He’ll break everything.
Amy: Masthead Manor is the home of Firebrand Frobisher. Strange Hill is of course Grange Hill’s spooky counterpart. Groosham Grange is the title of a series of books about a school with a similarly supernatural bent. I can’t find anything on Turville Halt, but I’m betting it’s another school. It seems Platform 9 ¾ caters to a whole bunch of alt-education establishments, from the plebeian Strange Hill to the upmarket Hogwarts….
I find the way Orlando and Mina constantly help each other to get around very touching – these two lonely people, stranded people really, handling each other like precious keepsakes, relics. One of Century’s underlying themes has always been friendship, actually not just friendship but the value of kindness and companionship in the face of uncaring eternity, and these little moments sell it without beating the reader around the head.
Amy: Caliban and Ariel seem to express different aspects of Alan Moo..I mean Prospero’s moods. Caliban embodies their earthy aspect, in this case rage, and Ariel their airy double – here a kind of disdain.
One thing I didn’t mention about these Prospero scenes in my last post, is the way they nod to a million different adventure shows featuring a super team receiving a mission brief from their boss over a televisual intercom. The only difference here is that in the League’s case it’s achieved not by technology, but by magic.
Panel three: reality as an onion. Mina and Orlando look in on the higher dimensional blazing world…. Caliban, closer to the surface of the page, looks in on us.
Amy: In both 1969 and 2009 Prospero advises the League to locate rather than directly tackle the Antichrist. Why he can’t go looking for him himself is anyone’s guess, the lazy bugger. Perhaps because he can’t scry him from the Blazing World…..
Forget rape for a minute, Alan Moore is one of the few writers in comics who employs sex for purposes other than titillation. Imagine, an adventure comic using sex to express love! WTF?!?
Illogical Volume: Indeed. Much as I’d like to see someone sit down and talk to Moore about all the rape in his comics, he’s one of the few even remotely “mainstream” comic book writers I know who manages to convey the idea that sex can be something other than a special effect, and he deserves to get more credit for that.
Amy: Although we haven’t seen them much over the course of these books, the treens are now firmly established as the pakistanis of the League’s UK. The double cross can be seen scrawled across more than a couple of the book’s panels, and is probably a thinly coded nod from Moore in the direction of the rising tide of racism in the wake of economic recession.
I love how London is as much a character as anyone else in these books. Go, O’Neill!
Amy: There’s a couple of cruel ironies in this (failed) suicide scene. The first is that the ‘sporting goods’ shop was founded in 1910, the year Allan promised Mina ‘the Moon Over Soho’, the second is that one of the guns lining the shop wall appears to be an upgraded, sci-fi version of the elephant gun Allan uses against Bond in The Black Dossier, long since converted into cash for junk.
This is how low the great hunter has sunk. He can’t even afford to buy it back and opts to do himself in with the cruddy little handgun.
There’s all sorts of symbolism for the reader to unpack.
“How did culture fall apart in just a hundred years?”
“By becoming irrelevant, same as always.”
Whether you side with the Beardy One on this or not, it’s important here to be aware that this is not a new critique. Many social theorists understand modern day culture, both british and american, as having entered a decadent phase, where, because most of our everyday needs are met and because we have a surplus of everything, we have nothing to do but play. Culture becomes free-floating, disconnected, postmodern – it becomes irrelevant to survival, just an empty game.
We’re all dilettantes now.
And, yes, I’m aware of the irony here.
(Anyone up for a game of spot the reference?)
Adam: It’s not clear to me exactly what Moore is getting up to with the dialogue Amy quotes above. In what way did the Britain of 100 years ago have more purpose than our own, and if it did, is the kind of purpose it had better than no purpose at all? The 3rd Reich had a purpose, didn’t it? What would it look like for a culture to have no purpose? Is culture tied to purpose? I could ask these questions all day, and while I suspect I know how Moore would answer some of them, the text itself strikes me as rather woolly. That said, I do like Orlando’s response “By becoming irrelevant, same as always” because it accepts the fact that the dissolution of culture (which self-evidently has taken place on more than one occasion in our recent history) is an age-old threat and not just some special concern to be faced down by superheroes and therefore entirely unlikely to visit a world near you any time soon.
Amy: SSHHH! Something’s happening…..
We’d better just shut up about all that poncy shit because things have just got terrifying.
Adam: Moore is a past master when it comes to creepy breaches of the fourth wall, just think back to Hyde’s “I can see you” or the graffiti in Neonomicon. The League’s world is inherently thin in that it’s built from our fictions and populated by real world analogues, but more specifically Moore and his creative team have put a lot of work into highlighting its fragility in this chapter. From Prospero’s 3D incursions, Norton’s supra-fictional visitation and much else besides, we were primed for this moment: the panel crinkling like a page, the black hole like a tear or a fold. And in the darkness…
Amy: This sequence is bloody incredible.
The way that…thing just keeps on nattering inanely away as it rips Creation a new one….
The sense of Something From The Outside forcing its way in.
Something with the emotional maturity of Kevin the Teenager.
Here Harry stands in for a whole generation of, as Moore sees it, selfish, privileged little bastards, who collectively possess the power to end the world.
It’s a harsh critique.
The final panel, where the camera adopts Harry’s POV – where we adopt Harry’s POV – proves Moore’s well aware of the crumpled comic page reading. Harry’s like a reader (indeed, sadly, this being comics, he possibly stands in for a lot of readers) with the power to reach into the story and wreak havoc.
Metatextual stuff aside, there’s sadness here, because, if you can get past all the whining, every word Harry says is true. He didn’t want this, it was foisted upon him by Haddo. Number 13 Rune Place isn’t the Antichrist’s lair where he plots the Earth’s destruction, but his sanctuary – his hiding place. Harry’s been hiding from his destiny, trying to curl up in a tiny annex of reality where no one can find him.
And now he’s been found.
Come back in a few days for the third and final (?) installment.