Botswana Beast: Hello readers, in my ongoing efforts to to trick other people into writing entire or the majority of my pieces for Mindless Ones, I have enlisted another vict… expert, silver Hawaiian Kelly Kanayama, who you may be familiar with from the excellent Women Write About Comics and More than Four Colours, amongst other things; she is also presently writing a Ph.D. on Judge Dredd, Preacher and transatlanticism, which is a thing you can do nowadays, even if you are a lady. I was surprised too, but she is totally brilliant, and yes of course has a Mindless name, see; this is her head:-

Maid of Nails: The Multiversity is one of those series that burrows into your brain — like the cordyceps fungus, not uncoincidentally. Sometimes you need a friend and collaborator to help you exorcise it. (It was this or make my girlfriends listen to me going mad about Grant Morrison, and quite frankly they’ve suffered enough.)

 

Isn’t that what academia is for?

Ha ha. There’s no room for YOUR MOM jokes in academia, nor for unbridled written enthusiasm. Besides, if this were academia, I’d have to include shitloads of footnotes and wouldn’t be allowed to say the word “shitloads”, and no one wants that.

Instead I subjected ya boy Botswana Beast to numerous Internet communications in an attempt to figure out what the hell was going on in this comic and, more importantly, why it had been lodged so firmly in my mind for so long.

As is often the case with GMo, we thought this was going Nix Uotan-ward at first but it ended up mostly focusing on Pax Americana: the black hole within the black hole pulling all thoughts and analysis inexorably towards its centre, and the infinite recursion of Algorithm 8 leaving us no clear point at which to get off.

What follows is — I hesitate to say “the process”, because dwelling too much on the process by which critique occurs is the sign of a total wang. “The correspondence”? No, that sounds worse. Maybe just the parts of an extended analysis, in the sense of the parts that make up Allen Adam’s dog, nerves and organs and eyes laid bare; not quite a dog themselves, but at least showing a little of what makes the dog work.

BB: (we also deigned to suffer some latter interjections from yer man Illogical Volume)

Worlds on the balance of chance

0

recent photo of Pluto’s moon, Nix

BB: I’m just thinking of riffing on the 0-51 conceit, but like so ’0′ is the Earth Nix is on, the main DCU one; I think he will probably be the major topic of discussion, issues 1 & 2 under that… rubric, is that the word.

MoN: Re: the possible future use of Multiversity’s developments, is there awareness of potential squandering/futility the whole way through? GMo did get burned after New X-Men (hence Seaguy), and what with having to tie Batman Inc into the New 52…if I had to choose, I’d say this is what the Empty Hand is about. You can try and achieve closure – in the sense of reaching the end of the story arc, etc – but since it can all be undone, the hand remains empty, if that makes sense.

4

BB: so, but not sequentially, and I guess the worlds is probably gonna be the thing…? But I think Pax/4, also the fourth issue in the series – I’m just interested in numbers, numerology, all this, I obsess over primes and prime products sometimes mechanically and so it’s interesting to me how two score and a dozen numbers have correspondant Justice Leagues now or whatever… but anyway, four is a unique number in that it is both the product and sum of its component prime, 2, (this fact seems to be a major agitating factor behind Iron Man 1 actor Terrence Howard’s rebel mathematical system Terryology) and the whole thing is about bifurcations and shit… four is an uncanny and discomfiting number

THE DOOR HAS ONE SIDE AND OPENS BOTH WAYS – LET ME SHOW YOU

If your mum and dad fuck you up, you have to kill them, of course.

Multiversity Guidebook #1, by Grant Morrison, Marcus To, Paulo Siqueira and a cast of thousands

This is where I part ways with most of my fellow Mindless: they felt the old thrill while reading the Multiversity Guidebook, with its comic book creation myth and its parade of endless (if by “endless” you mean fifty two) alternative worlds, whereas I mostly just felt exhausted.

It’s a clever mix of marketing material, series bible and actual story, and obvious as it might have been the “dark secret” at the heart of the universe with the Chibi superheroes still reinforced the series’ running theme of how shit it is to be confronted with your own fundamental nature. You could even read the list of junked pitches, elseworlds, prestige comics and parallel worlds that form the centrepiece as a critique, if you were so inclined.  As Marc Singer noted in his clipped and clear-headed review of the comic, some of these entries are quietly scathing, and someone with the right (as in “correct”? -Ed) biases could certainly read this endless parade of Batmen and Wonder Women as a critique of capitalism’s frantic grasping (“Empty is thy hand”) and ability to reduce complexity to a series of easily recognisable products.

Is that really enough though? Not for me. The “Guidebook” section of this comic reminded me most of all of Gary R. R. Lactus’ Time of Crowns (with its endless list of medieval clans, “with their tits out”) and the end credits of 22 Jump Street, but it’s neither as succinct as the former nor as merciless as the latter – in the end, it’s just business as usual.

Click here for more on the Guidebook plus Multiversity: Mastermen and James Robinson’s Earth 2!

Enter the Multiversity

July 29th, 2014

A brief thought on Grant Morrison’s work that I might disown in the morning…

While hyping his upcoming Multiversity mini series for DC (at least half a decade in the making, and from the sound of it pages are still being done), Morrison has made reference to the Stan Lee method, in which the comic makes the reader an accomplice in the story.

Here’s the man himself, making some typically bold claims for his adoption of this technique in Multiversity #7, Ultra Comics:

I’ve used a lot of hypnotic induction. There’s an old trick that Stan Lee used to do — it was quite popular at Marvel — of the comic talking to you. I took that and this thing, and I think we’ve actually created the world’s first actual superhuman being, which you’ll see how it works when you read this comic. Then the world’s first super human being on this earth has to fight the most malignant entity. So the bad guys in Multiversity who are attacking the entire multiversal structure are also attacking the real world, and this comic is their only way through right now. So it becomes the reader versus the bad guy on the page. I think it’s actually quite scary, this thing. It scared me!

Read the rest of this entry »

The interesting thing about the free, original comic that Rian Hughes and Grant Morrison created for the BBC’s freedom2014 season is that the very qualities that make it such an effortless, immediately accessible read are also the ones that leave it feeling quite trite in the end.

They don’t hand out Comics Critic Oscars to anyone who still feels the need to point out that Hughes’ art is heavily and beautifully design based in 2014, but Morrison makes expert use of this aspect of Hughes craft throughout this strip, artfully reducing big ideas like freedom, meaning, what we’re all here for and why” down to a brief flurry of scenes and images in which the fate of a hooded figure inspires the general public to collectively realise their individual agency:

The Key, then, is not a story about freedom but an advert for the idea of freedom. The BBC quoted this line on their website, and sitting on its own it carried the vague air of approval, so to be clear: in saying this, I meant that it had about as much to do with actual freedom as the famous 1984 Apple advert.  All the craft on display here is put to the purpose of making sure one Key fits all readers, and while the counterargument would surely be that this smooth quality allows the reader to project their own meanings on top of this scenario I would argue that this immaculate surface would absorb all light that shines its way without giving much of anything back.

And what use is a dystopian fiction if it doesn’t disturb, reflect or challenge our present reality in any meaningful way?  The Key Morrison and Hughes have created here doesn’t refer to any actual map; if we recognise the symbols in it, then that’s only because they look like the mental shorthand we’ve created as a guide to other stories on the same theme.

To put it another way: the masterful evocation of The Key would be perfectly at home in an issue of Seaguy, but it would never be an issue of Seaguy.

I’m surely not alone in having bemoaned the fact that much of Grant Morrison’s best work requires a prior investment in comics to be fully engaged with.  With considerable help from Hughes, The Key builds out any such issues, but in doing so it also removes any of the struggle that makes so much of Morrison’s work worthwhile.

***

(This article was originally posted at the end of March, in a slightly different form, on my Tumblr.)

Note 4 – Empty Space: A Haunting

It’s important to read new M. John Harrison novels while on holiday. No other author is able to describe with such alarming clarity the necessity of escaping yourself.

Harrison’s latest novel Empty Space is the conclusion of a trilogy of science fiction novels that started with Light in 2002 and was continued in 2006′s Nova Swing.

Like both of its predecessors, Empty Space presents the reader with a future that dazzles with the romance of a thousand yesterdays: women who’ve chosen to be rebuilt with the “Mona” package, but who base their look on that of Marilyn Monroe; virtual fantasy lives that play out like an episode of Mad Men drained of all sex and drama (until, of course, that sex and drama forces its way on in there); covert action groups who, with their lattes and general sense of boyish intrigue, can’t help but remind you of the sort of spooks you’ve never quite managed to catch out of the corner of your eye; Harrison manages to make all of these fantasies gleam briefly in the pages of this book.

This is an exhausted vision of the future, but it’s still a vision of the future for all that, one that sees past the ever-present apocollapse and on to a possible reality that’s like right now stretched out some more. Whether that seems like a hopeful vision or a dystopian nightmare is very much up to you.

Make the future happen, after the jump!

*and Batwomen, obviously!

As anyone unlucky enough to follow me on twitter will know by now, I was at Dundee Comics Day yesterday with Botswanna Beast, Mister Attack, Ben Deep Space Transmissions and Ben Deep Space Transmissions’ mate (who was lovely, but whose name I never managed to remember for >>> 5 minutes because I am a cock) yesterday.

Comics journalist Laura Sneddon was working at the event too, so Team Mindless had a brief but enjoyable chat with her about The Singing Kettle, which… uh, probably isn’t something you know about outside of Scotland, I guess. I also apparently ignored at least one person I’m twitter friends with, so sorry Dan!

Anyway, Dundee Comics Day has been a fixture of the town’s Literary Festival since 2007, and this year’s event was focused on Grant Morrison and some of his collaborators.  What this meant was that me and the boyce were treated to a solid day’s worth of comics chat, in a setting that was designed to force Mister Attack and myself and especially the Bottie Beast flashbacks back to our time in higher education.

The conversation with Grant Morrison that kicked off the day was entertaining if short on revelation.  There wee a few routines in there that anyone who’s heard Morrison speak more than once in the past decade will probably have heard before (“more space combat!” etc), but the man’s still good company whether he’s discussing why Batman is the only character he keeps coming back to (“because he’s so sexy”) or making my teenage brain melt by mentioning that he’s met with the RZA re: the proposed movie adaptation of Happy!  Of course he would have gained extra points if he’d announced this by saying “Me and the RZA connect”, but so it goes.

During the Q&A part of the event, I asked whether Morrison was interested in writing something set closer to home – if not GRANT MORRISON: THE SCOTTISH CONNECTION, then maybe something close.   Morrison responded by saying that he’d like to write something set in Glasgow, which he reckons would be a good setting for a horror story.  He pointed to Bible John as being the work of his that comes closest to fulfilling this promise, but noted that he  probably won’t get around to doing something else set in his hometown until he’s in his dotage.  Morrison also added that he’d love to play a computer game set in Glasgow so he could drive a car through Princes Square, to which I can only say “I Want To Go To There!”

There was a definite break between Morrison’s panel and everything that followed, and the line between the two parts of the day was exposed when Morrison was asked a question abut the future of comics.  Morrison joked that he’s still hoping that the world is going end in December so there won’t have to be a future of comics, before describing how he reckons that the sort of comics that thrive on the variety of new platforms available to them will almost certainly have evolved to make use of the new dimensions available to them.  This idea was presented enthusiastically, but there was a subtext of melancholy that makes perfect sense when you think about how closely entwined Morrison’s personal iconography is with the physical properties of the comics form:

 

Click here to read more about the event that experts are calling Morrison Con for people who didn’t finish their computing degrees!

Or Flex Mentallo: A Moonrock Murder Mystery!!!!

Okay, as you [may or may not] know, Flex Mentallo is a very good comic by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, a four issue Dennis Potter style drama in which a young man who [may or may not] have taken an overdose of paracetamol looks back at this life through the lens of superhero comics.

As you [may or may not] know, Flex Mentallo hadn’t been reprinted until now because of various preposterous legal issues.

Now it’s finally been reprinted in a very handsome hardcover package, you [may or may not] be aware that it’s been the victim of a strange recolouring job, the sort of recolouring that transforms Flex Mentallo’s greatest foe The Mentallium Man from a Jolly Rancher nightmare…

…into the grayest daydream you never had:

Now, I’ll throw a couple of kind words in the direction new colourist Peter Doherty in a minute, but it has to be said that anyone who thinks that a character called the Mentallium Man, who is an exaggerated parody of an old-fashioned comic book villain, needs to look all clean and boring like that is just plain wrong.

Actually, thinking about it, I’d go so far as to say that anyone who prefers this new incarnation of the character needs blasted with all five types of Flex’s own Kryptonite-derivative “Mentallium” at once:

Sadly we never find out what the fifth type of Mentalium, “Lamb and Turkey”, does to The Hero of the Beach, but I think we can take a guess and that our guesses will all be equally delicious.

Tasty tasy dogshit, mmmm!

Superhero Horror #2

March 5th, 2012

Give me skeletons over zombies any time.

Zombies have no charge for me anymore. I mean, I get it. I understand completely why everyone obsesses over them, what they *mean*, but it took watching that sequence from Mean Streets again recently, where the drunk, bullet riddled barman continues to lurch towards his would be assassin even though he should’ve keeled over and died five minutes before, to make me feel horrified by the undead again. All the hallmarks of the zombie were there, the shambling flying dutchman of an un-person complete with lolling eyes and outstretched arms, persistance of movement and ‘mission’ inspite of massive structural damage…. But this time I needed a real body, something more literal, less of a symbol (and, now, not just a symbol for scary stuff we’d all rather not think about, but a portal to a whole genre of entertainment/fandoms/an industry, etc. – a tangled mess of associations, many of which I find boring/slash annoying), to make me re-experience the supernatural horror of undeath and thence the very real, physical body-horror it points to. It was an assbackwards way to get there, but it worked.

But we’re here to talk about skeletons, right?