MULTIVERSAL // DECAYED

February 26th, 2018

Or “What’s A Bottie Beast?” – A Love Story

MIndless Decade: Ultimate Classic!

Illogical Volume here, writing a wee introduction to an ULTIMATE CLASSIC! post by another Mindless because…. well, almost two years down the line, I’m still stuck on the Botswana’s Beast‘s last post on Multiversity, still trying to get a feel for what it’s doing, how it works.

It has something to sell you, sure, but it also wants you to ask what you’re buying.

It’s a bit like the comics themselves that way…

Some of the questions raised by this post still haunt me, primarily:

  • Who the fuck is the Botwsana Beast, Duncan Falconer, the Dead Demon Rider?
  • What’s the shape of our relationship?
  • Why do I care?

These are transposed thoughts about my relationship with Multiversity‘s primary architect Grant Morrison, I think, though the process goes both ways – any increase in my familiarity with one seems to magnify my sense of intimacy with the other.

All of this is basically just me allowing myself to ask the standard English Lit question – “Who is this bastard and why is he lying to me?” – on a level that is disgracefully familiar. Having called him a bastard and accepted that he is probably lying to me at least some of the time – because hell, we’re all probably lying to ourselves at least some of the time – the challenge is to take this process to its unnatural conclusions…

Why do I care about Duncan?

Because he was on the Barbelith forum, where he was obviously Scottish, properly narky and endlessly left wing

Why should any of that matter?

Because it suggested that he was just like me, basically, but with better jokes.

Is that really all you wanted from the world, to go out and meet yourself in it?

No, and I won’t settle for the promise of self-knowledge either but hey – it might be a start!

If this seems like a fairly flimsy basis for letting someone into your mental space, making them a part of your consciousness and letting yourself worry about their happiness, ask yourself – who else have I made time for? Does writing some Animal Man comics provide better grounds for letting someone into your heart? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean we should write the whole thing off.

Nor does it mean that we should stop questioning what shapes we’re making ourselves into, how what we’re doing with our networks is allowing those networks to change us.

When I think of these comics, and the people that we’ve met through them, there are two words that keep coming to me, a worldview implicit within the mess of friends and fantasies I live in: “anguished materialism”, of the sort that might be understood by people who have tried to change the world using art and sigils alone and come up short. Because if we’re going to do this, if we’re going to trade in fictions that promise to rebuild the world around us, please let there be materialism in the mix. Please let there be an understanding of how bodies are exploited and turned again themselves, of how we’ll have to trade our best intentions for rent money once our spirits have been broken. Please let there be an awareness of the forces of production, but let there also be some anguish in there, let there be a determination that we can’t keep going on like this.

The sigil kids have had enough. They know that things don’t have to be this way, and that our times call for determination to fight and space to dream.

This is what I think about when I think of Duncan Falconer, the Botswana Beast, the Dead Demon Rider, without whom I would never have written for this website.

This is what his last post on Multiversity engineers, piece by piece, through its appeals to shared knowledge, to all of us… a machine built to contain the worst of the world in which it was created, but which is also designed to amplify the best of it, to give our hopes some form that might survive in the worlds yet to come.

Endtroducing

HOW TO PASS THROUGH A PORTAL

Here, the map is the territory.

This is about to get seriously earnest, adjust your sets… I’ve read Grant Morrison comics from the age of 7, on and off (I was too much of a wimp for 2000AD as a teen and Batman: Gothic shat me right up), starting with this one and pretty much consistently every one for the last near twenty years (I didn’t get Final Crisis: Secret Files, a decision which haunts me still, and haven’t been keeping up with 18 Days, which is just barely a Grant Morrison comic), since semi-rediscovering him through The Invisibles.

“Yeah. I guess the fighting never ends, does it? It never ends.”

Maid of Nails: You can’t put the Punisher in everything. He’s a specific person for specific contexts, and this is part of why I love the Garth Ennis run so, so, so much. Basically, he’s made for a Garth Ennis context.

Botswana Beast: It’s American crime. I can see how it works in 1980s comics, to an extent — well, in the Daredevil series on Netflix, he is contrasted with Daredevil, and they do take scenes from Ennis’ Punisher, like in issue #3 of Marvel Knights. They fairly directly transpose them.

MoN: It was SO COOL. I was just sad that Maginty wasn’t in it. I love that dude.

BB: Maginty is in Punisher: War Zone.

MoN: With the Urban Freeflow Crew, doing parkour all over the place for no reason. That’s not in the comic.

BB: Nope.

MoN: I was sad to see him go. I mean, he was a really messed-up guy who did messed-up stuff, but I enjoyed him a lot, in a sort of weird way.

BB: That’s the one thing we’ve not talked about, and it’s kind of an absurd thing. Frank Castle, as a notional superhero…

Botswana Beast: So the central arc of Punisher MAX, which I think really begins in Mother Russia and ends in Valley Forge, Valley Forge, is all based on this plan, post-9/11, causing terror in order to provoke more foreign interventionism. It’s something to do with the Soviets — well, the Russians, not the Soviets, because it’s not 1989 –

Maid of Nails: But it is framed very much as “the Soviets,” because, you know, General Zakharov from Man of Stone is old-school.

BB: He’s a great character, but he also does horrible things like throwing a baby off a cliff.

MoN: Yeah, he herds a bunch of people off of a cliff and this one woman who’s about to go over gives him her baby to try and save it. And he lifts up the baby like it’s The Lion King or something, and then he throws the baby over the cliff.

BB: That’s literally one of the most shocking things I’ve ever seen, certainly in a Marvel comic.

MoN: So it’s okay that the Punisher’s trying to kill him.

BB: I can’t actually remember the intricacies of this general’s plan, but it’s to provoke war. And of course these are not real soldiers like Frank Castle, like the other respectable Special Forces –

MoN: Or the SAS.

BB: Ennis has a fucking erection for Special Forces guys. In the story they’re just pen-pushing dirty motherfuckers that never saw a day’s combat in their lives. It’s just an ant farm; it’s a game to them, and they’re total shitlords. And they get killed as well.

MoN: That’s very satisfying, though, because they’re not cool like the SAS or Frank Castle.

BB: He doesn’t actually kill the SAS guys, does he?

MoN: No, because they’re too cool.

BB: Well, they’re not SAS guys in this story. They’re American Special Forces.

MoN: But Yorkie’s in there. He’s SAS. Anyway, Rawlins is the guy who’s going around stirring up shit on behalf of the American government, and he’s just the worst person in the entire world.

BB: He is a gigantic piece of shit.

MoN: If someone has completely no feeling for fellow human beings at all, then I can see how they might end up in something like human trafficking. But Rawlins — he has passions, at least, so it’s even worse. O’Brien, you know, the one who wants to bang the Punisher, is his ex-wife. There was some kind of attraction there. Then there’s the thing with Nicky Cavella, when Rawlins comes in to see him like, “Heyyyy, remember me?” and then goes down on him.

I really hate torture scenes, but when he got his, I was like, “YEAH! Fuck you, Rawlins! I hope they take your OTHER eye out!” This comic kind of makes you want horrible things to happen to people.

There’s a bit where he pays off a bunch of Middle Eastern guys to fly a plane into something and make a giant deal out of it –

BB: And the CIA do do things like that. He makes a fake jihadi cell, because that’s his job and there’s essentially profit in war. Frank Castle ultimately gets to the top of the fuckin’ tree and kills these bitches with the help of Good Soldiers, as opposed to the bad soldiers.

MoN: The bad soldiers, who are bureaucrats.

BB: Middle-class soldiers.

MoN: Rawlins is a really good contrast to the Punisher, though.

BB: A lot of characters are set up that way. Like the Russian general, Zakharov. They are all sort of counterpoints: men who have broken in different ways — well, broken to the civilized eye.

MoN: See, “civilized” — people like Rawlins are the ones who make civilization, and the implication is that it’s kind of always been like that. But Frank didn’t know that when he was in Vietnam, although he probably learned while he was there how bad it could get.

BB: I think there’s certainly an issue with his origin, that this bureaucracy isolates his encampment, which would be overrun but for –

MoN: His awesomeness?

BB: Essentially, although it does kind of delve into this slightly fantastical thing where he makes a deal with Death. Which is his totem, after all, with the skull.

MoN: How many of those shirts does he have, do you think? Is it like how cartoon characters have an entire closet filled with just the same outfit?

BB: 40 or 50, anyway. He’s got the T-shirt versions, he’s got the versions where you suspect there may be clubs held in the skull’s teeth.

MoN: That seems like it would make it really hard to bend over, because they’re right up against his stomach. They’d be in the way. It’s one of the few things that is slightly unrealistic about the Punisher.