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So. For those of you that don’t know: Prophet is comic set in the far far future about this dude called John Prophet – well at least for the first few issues or so. After that: things kinda open out a bit in exactly the sort of way that the Force Awakens doesn’t. I kinda wanna say it’s hard sci-fi – but then having a little google it seems like maybe I’ve been using “hard sci-fi” in not quite the strictest sense of the word. I dunno.
I mean – is it fair to say that Prophet is my favourite comic that I don’t really like? That basically it’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of – everything that I could possibly want a comic to be and everything I could possibly want a comic to do (and more!), constantly constantly pushing out and beyond in all sorts of crazy and delicious and (oh man) oh-so-exciting ways: but that also it always leaves me wanting more….
It’s like every time I read it I feel like Neil Armstong who – having stepped out from the Apollo Lunar Module – is standing there on the Moon (!!!) with his hands by his sides surveying this crazy alien landscape for the first time in human history and going : “Actually. You know what? Fuck this. I want to go to Mars.”
If I had to put my finger on the one thing then (sorry guys) – I think it’s the artwork.
Like: one of the cool things about Prophet is that – as it follows around different characters in different issues – it gets different artists to do their stories. So character A has artist A, character B has artist B etc. (Kinda like how in Alien Ridley Scott got Moebius to design the spacesuits and Giger to design the Alien innit?). Well, I guess it would be kinda cool apart from the fact that – sadly – not all artists are created equal. And at least for me: the problem starts to come with the different approaches to detail.
On the one hand you have Simon Roy who does stuff like this:
And Farel Dalrymple (cool name!) who does stuff like this:
To which I say – Yes.
Man – this is exactly what I want from my science-fiction comic book action. Lots of bits and things and intricacies so that I’m holding up the page right up next to my nose hoping that I can fall in and lick the foul looking liquids from the inside. Eye-numbing detail. Full immersion. Information overload.
This is the good stuff. This is what’s needed.
And then well – on the other hand you’ve got Giannis Milonogiannis (another cool name) who does stuff which is more like this:
Which feels way more sparse and empty and detail-less. Which is not what I be wanting. I mean I’m sure there’s lots of people out there who dig his style: but for me it’s like reading the storyboards for something instead of experiencing the actual thing. Which man – it’s like wanting to eat a meal – but instead all you’ve got are the pictures on the menu. Which you know: is kinda frustrating. I want to put my face closer to the page – but there’s a gulf that means that I can never get the full level detail that I want…
Put it this way: I know all art is just lines on a page but with Giannis Milonogiannis I really feel like that’s all that I’m looking at – just lines on a page (oh. Look: that one’s straight. And – oh – that one’s a circle).
It feels like for every panel he draws he’s only got a very small amount of time to do it, so yeah – gotta go quick! Gotta get it all done now!
Of course just to complicate things a little there’s also Brandon Graham whose artwork is also on the sparse side but yet somehow manages to make things feel really full and fleshed out.
I dunno. Maybe it’s just the colouring?
Anyway: that’s not what I wanted to say.
The thing I wanted to say is about new creatures and the Johns.
So this is a spoiler if you haven’t read the first few issues (or seeing how I always wait for my library [SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY] to get the trade – first volume) but one of the cool things about Prophet is how basically there’s only one character – John Prophet. And all of the other characters (mostly) are all just different iterations of John Prophet in different times and places. And as things move further along the different versions increase: so you get Johns who are bred to live in space, sex Johns bred for pleasure, multi-armed Johns etc and etc (I don’t actually have the book in front of me so I’m writing this down from memory). The thing that I find very cool about this is that it’s the perfect metaphor for the future of our entertainment – contained within one possible escape.
Because yeah – like I briefly touched upon talking about the Force Awakens and Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man – where are the new stories, the new vistas, the new worlds? And why do our entertainment complexes seem happy with just revisiting over and over and over again the same templates?
Well yeah: capitalism obviously. Because hey it’s common sense / business sense / whatever: give the people what they want. (George Lucas on The Force Awakens: “I think the fans are going to love it… It’s very much the kind of movie they’ve been looking for”= sickest burn in history).
Only the thing that’s sick about this is: us. The consumer block (or whatever less dreadful term you want to give us) can’t stop eating it. But it’s all recycled. And we’ve seen it before. It’s The Human Centipede Diet. And yeah: I don’t think that shit is healthy. I think I’ve said this a few times in a few different places (hashtag irony) but just to say it once more – the things you put into your brain are just as important (if not more so) than the things you put elsewhere in your body. And man – the fact at the moment the biggest cultural phenomena is something that first started nearly 40 years ago is not cool. I don’t begrudge the baby boomers having their own little myth (well – maybe I begrudge them a little) but shouldn’t we have one of our own?
But then – that’s part of what makes Prophet feel so right. You know – like the click of a door on an expensive car. I mean the picture it paints is that in the future mankind will just be one man repeated a billion times over: which (unfortunately) sums up our cultural mindset / rut in a nutshell. A nutshell with spaceships and monsters.
The first time you saw it the Mos Eisley Cantina was all mindblown.gif – all those aliens! All those (implied) worlds! A whole unexplored galaxy! And in the Force Awakens they do the same thing again, but repeating a joke from all the way back of 1977 today – it kinda feels stale. Rehashed. Recycled. With Prophet – you walk into a bar: and everyone is the same person.
I mean – it might not be the future you wanted. But it feels pretty spot on.
Another good example maybe (?): Grant Morrison and Multiversity. Has that been discussed enough on Mindless HQ yet?. I mean oh my god: the Multiversity Guidebook with the 52 Earths. My face reading that was all Malcolm McDowell Clockwork Orange horror and it’s basically a perfect encapsulation of why I hate superhero comics and mostly can’t bear to read them (thanks Grant). When it comes to reading something I basically want it to stop at the end of the page. I want a book (or a film or whatever entertainment #content you have to offer) to start at the start and end at the end and I want to be able to hold the whole thing in my hand. I mean – all of this “To Be Continued” / “See Previous Issue” / “Gotta Catch Them All” etc is not something that comes from artists – it’s something that comes from the market and from (oh boy) capitalism and it’s all just a trick to get us all to buy more stuff. In the same way smoking is frowned upon now – I hope that within my lifetime people start to realise how harmful stories that never end are: and how this ever delayed satisfaction is a spiritual carcinogenic. Pax Americana was cool because even though it hinted at lots of wider parts it felt complete you know? While a literal list of different Earths? It’s just like being in a studio hearing pitches to things: and that’s not entertainment.
Of course apart from that – what’s even scarier about the Multiversity Guidebook is that it’s (with one or two exceptions) – it’s all just copies of the same goddamn Batman and Superman template. Which seems like a form of hell. Diversity is the spice of life. Even more: diversity is life. And new stories and new ideas is what makes cool. And – yeah – repetition is deadening and – yeah – repetition is deadening and – yeah – repetition is deadening and – yeah – repetition is deadening and – yeah – repetition is deadening and – yeah – repetition is deadening and – yeah – repetition is deadening.
Only well – a world where all we have our more copies of the same superhero / the same templates / the same the same is basically the world we live in.
(And this is the point where I’ll resist making a world of profit pun – because we’re all better than that – right?).
But hey – is there some kind of upside I can leave you with?
Well: my knee-jerk response would be to say – you know: fuck Star Wars. It had its day. Let’s get together and crowd-source a Prophet film trilogy or something. But that doesn’t really seem like that much of a solution you know? I mean – we don’t need better franchises because that seems like it’s part of the problem… It’s more about supporting original ideas and learning to be happy when a thing is just a thing. We don’t need expanded universes. We need less. Let’s be happy that Prophet is just a comic: because (mostly) that’s what it’s really good at. And who knows? Maybe if we’re lucky – some people will appear who are as good at making films as the Prophet team are at making comics.
But until then – just try and make sure that you put good things into your head.
Because that’s important.