May 10th, 2015
May 9th, 2015
May 8th, 2015
Synchronicity is a thing that appears to affect Grant Morrison comics more than most, isn’t it? Final Crisis coming with the economic crisis is just the most obvious. There are weird parallels all over the place.
For example, here, Earth-20 and Earth-40 are coming into collision, over and over again, in a cycle. The two universes collide, then rebound from each other.
This comic was published in September 2014.
In October 2014, a new interpretation of quantum physics was published by Michael J. W. Hall, Dirk-André Deckert, and Howard M. Wiseman, in Physical Review X. In this interpretation, the “many interacting worlds” interpretation, there is no waveform collapse, as there is in the Copenhagen interpretation, and nor are there any splitting universes, as in the normal many worlds interpretation. Instead there is a large but finite number of universes, all separate and existing in a gigantic hyperspace, and there are forces acting on those universes to pull them together and to push them apart. Quantum “weirdness” happens, in this interpretation, when two universes bump into each other.
No, I don’t believe it either — the standard many worlds interpretation makes more sense — but isn’t it neat that this would come out just then? Almost like the idea was just…in the air, ready to be plucked out, as it were.
But, of course, we’ve already seen that ideas aren’t in the air. It doesn’t steam-engine when it’s steam-engine time unless James Watt is around. And Multiversity: Society of Super-Heroes is, among other things, about creation. But it’s about how creation is also destruction. The very first thing created — “First time I ever took a thought and smacked it so hard into the clay of the real world, it left an unforgettable, indelible, impression” — was a weapon. By bringing ideas into the real world, they become tainted, defiled. We end up with a world in which pulp heroes are living out an obscene parody of Western imperialism in the middle east, torturing and killing, all while appropriating Eastern cultures in a rather clueless way.
Worlds collide. And when they collide, unpleasant things happen.
Of course, Society of Super-Heroes is also a meditation on the pulp genre which the superhero grew out of, and that genre had a very particular attitude to foreigners, and to the unknown. To quote from the rules of pulp storytelling laid out by Lester Dent, who wrote the first 159 Doc Savage novels (but wasn’t Savage’s “creator”; the character was “created” by the head of Street & Smith publications and a staff editor — Dent merely wrote the actual novels, and of course had to do so under a secret identity):
Here’s a nifty much used in faking local color. For a story laid in Egypt, say, author finds a book titled “Conversational Egyptian Easily Learned,” or something like that. He wants a character to ask in Egyptian, “What’s the matter?” He looks in the book and finds, “El khabar, eyh?” To keep the reader from getting dizzy, it’s perhaps wise to make it clear in some fashion, just what that means. Occasionally the text will tell this, or someone can repeat it in English. But it’s a doubtful move to stop and tell the reader in so many words the English translation.
The writer learns they have palm trees in Egypt. He looks in the book, finds the Egyptian for palm trees, and uses that. This kids editors and readers into thinking he knows something about Egypt.
To the pulp writer, there are strong men who are strong, and there are foreigners who are devious and scheming. You don’t need to actually know about the foreigners, and doing so just confuses matters. Pick up a couple of words from the language and you’re fine. You don’t even need to know that the Egyptian language hasn’t been spoken in Egypt for centuries, that it evolved into Coptic which is now rarely spoken outside the Coptic church, and that mostly people in Egypt speak Arabic. So long as you’ve got an unusual murder method, and a menace hanging over your hero like a cloud, you’re fine. Your hero is going over there to civilise them, and so they need to learn from him, not the other way round.
To this genre, the world outside is an invading force that needs to be fought off, even as the hero is usually an “explorer” going to places he’s not been invited, killing people who live there, and stealing their stuff. The whole genre is about projection, about taking one’s own faults and assigning them to an imagined opposite, much like someone reading the first paragraph of the Wikipedia page on Egyptian and then accusing a pulp writer of shoddy research.
Pulp has simple solutions, and refuses to acknowledge complex problems. There’s a reason it’s the favoured genre of fascists — the solution to everything is a strong white man being manly.
Pulp is a Manichean genre, in the pejorative rather than the actual sense. It’s a world in which there are goodies and baddies, and the goodies beat the baddies, and this is right and proper. It admits of no nuance past simple duality. Labour or Tory? Puppy or SJW? Gay or straight? DC or Major comics? Which side are you on?
It’s not a genre suited to multiplicity, to the prismatic age we find ourselves in, and it’s not surprising that the simple pulp solution of stabbing the bad guy leads to disaster here.
Pulp is a genre of simple solutions, and simple solutions lead to totalitarianism. In a world where nuance is shouted down by partisans of two neoconservative parties pushing the same policies but with opposite slogans, pulp is a genre that should be left in the past.
[Over a ten-day period I will be posting my long piece on Multiversity. Those who want it in one piece can buy the whole thing as an epub from Smashwords right now for $1, on Kindle (US) and (UK), and my Patreons get it for free]
May 7th, 2015
It starts with money, of course. A demand, in fact, for rent.
May 6th, 2015
This is happening now. As I type.
The first draft is always the most immediate, isn’t it? That’s why serialised comics are a more interesting form than the graphic novel. You can’t go back and fix things. You can retcon, of course — like the politician’s denial, “what I meant to say when I said I wouldn’t raise taxes is that I wouldn’t raise taxes unless I need to” — but you can’t go back and edit what you’ve already written. (I just wrote “edit the past” and then changed it. You can still do that when you’re writing a first draft). You have to keep pushing forward. Embrace the mistakes. Embrace the errors.
So this is a real-time look at Multiversity. This is the take on it I am writing today, Monday 4th May 2015, 10:53 AM as I type this. From this perspective, here and now, Multiversity is the latest part of a story Grant Morrison, one of the most interesting writers to work in the comics medium, has been working on for decades. It’s fair to say that in many ways he’s been telling the same story over and over — a story of idealism turned to dirt, and of a multiverse that hints at a secret conspiracy behind reality, and of the dirty, bedraggled, idealism reasserting itself. Of betrayal and redemption. Of the difference between the physical and the spiritual. And of the multiplicity of viewpoints.
In Morrison’s work there’s often a struggle between two giant warring factions which are revealed to be aspects of the same thing, while real change comes from those opposed to both viewpoints. The significance of this, in election week, is left to the reader.
But the story has been told in a variety of different ways, and this version of the story is the one that Grant Morrison started in 1988 with Animal Man, and told in the 1990s with JLA, and in the 2000s with Seven Soldiers of Victory, JLA: Classified, 52, All-Star Superman, and Final Crisis. In many ways it’s a leftover from those years — it’s a story that was conceived as a follow-up to Final Crisis, and was originally meant to come out in 2010. It’s a profligate, luxurious, expansive story, of a kind that no-one, not even Morrison, is telling any longer in DC comics. After the economic crash in 2008 we’ve had a kind of austerity of the mind in DC’s work, with the “New 52” comics line that started in 2011 being fifty-two flavours of the same grim, gritty, dull, dim-witted hopelessness.
Multiversity has its darkness, of course, as all Morrison’s work does, but there’s hope in there still. It’s a very 2008 kind of comic, from before hope was revealed to be a bad joke.
But maybe that’s what we need right now. To be told it’ll all be all right. That things can get better.
As I write this, we’re in the middle of an election campaign in the UK. The Conservative Party are campaigning on a platform of austerity, cutting benefits, demonising immigrants, and increased authoritarianism. The Labour Party are, in order to provide people with a real choice, campaigning on a platform of austerity, cutting benefits, demonising immigrants, and increased authoritarianism. My own party, the Liberal Democrats, has had a campaign that has mostly ignored the pretty sensible policies its members have voted for in favour of messaging saying “you know how you can’t get a cigarette paper between those other two parties? We want to be that cigarette paper!”. Everyone wants change, but no-one believes it’s possible. The world has been taken over by the anti-life equation, and we need a way out.
As you may have guessed by now, this is not one of those books that annotates everything, saying “the Batman of Earth-793 first appeared in Batman #793, from 1954, in the story Batman’s Bat-Trousers!”. There’ll be some of that, but this is more a response to Multiversity, a reaction to it, and a guide through the thoughts behind it, rather than a catalogue. Those of you who’ve read my earlier books dealing with Morrison’s work, An Incomprehensible Condition and Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!, know what I’m doing here. The rest of you can either jump off now or come along for the ride.
Do I have your complete attention yet?
Whose voice is this speaking in your head, anyway?
[Over a ten-day period I will be posting my long piece on Multiversity. Those who want it in one piece can buy the whole thing as an epub from Smashwords right now for $1, it will be available for Kindle from tomorrow (the link will be in tomorrow's piece), and my Patreons get it for free]
May 5th, 2015
OHHHHH! THE WIDE MISSOURRI!
<ITEM> Roll up, roll up, roll up your trouserlegs and get your baps out for Baphomet for Lo! and Yea Verily! is tonight the long awaited moment of The Beast Must Die’s initiation into The Grayt Lodge (Scorch Rite) of Freely Accepted special-time Masonry!
<ITEM> This means in effect much of Silence!’s easy banter, welcome charm and aural chemistry from its well practiced hosts is Alas! gone for the evening and Gary’s cosmic couch aka The Spaceship is filled by just bobsy instead.
<ITEM> Undaunted, in fact lubricated by some of England’s Cheapest, Most Ingredienty Pilsner the intrepid pair do a bit of (r)admin where they talk about a very good comic shop and a very funny comedy show what you can see this month
<ITEM> and then they enter the Reviewniverse where among the burping, digressions and ill informed pomposterousness they review Secret Wars 0 – Freebie Edition, Bitch Planet 4, Johnny Viable And Other Terse Stories 1, Pisces 1, SFX Vertigo Pop something, Secret Avengers 15, Fantastic Fourskin #645, Daredevil 15, Pastaways 2, Batman 40, Convergence 4, New Avengers Ultron Thing 1, War Stories 8, and Reads 1 & 2 (which are the best two winners of most by very)
<ITEM>Even homos perfectuses need a break from their angelic geometry lessons, so at a certain point La Bete Doit Mourir pops in and souls out for a quick look at Comic Event Multiversity ish 2. Let us know what you thought of said floppyback in the comments below! Yoink!
April 30th, 2015
In Shoot, Mad Men’s ninth episode, Jim Hobart tried to coerce Don into leaving SCDP by reviving and then threatening to take away his wife’s modelling career. By that time, Betty, a mother of two, hadn’t done any modelling for over half a decade, but when Jim dangled the possibility of a test shoot in front of her, and for Coca Cola no less, she jumped at the opportunity to carve out some space in what was becoming an increasingly claustrophobic marriage. Don let everything slide right up until the point Jim mailed him the proofs, with the unspoken message: Join us or we’ll wipe that smile from your wife’s face. Two minutes later he was in Roger’s office renegotiating his salary, and Betty was back to being a housewife.
But why? Despite Don’s admonishment to Jim – “I can’t exactly say that was a big league move” – it’s not his would be employer’s lack of character that decides the day, but the physical evidence that Betty’s career is a nascent reality. As long as it’s just a conversation around a dinner table Don can ignore the modelling, but when he’s holding the proof in his own hands, his wife beaming up at him out of the frame, well.. that’s another story altogether. It’s the irony that does it in the end, the way the photos, which depict a faux family picnic, perfect parents, perfect kids, reveal the lie which powers Don’s actual marriage. Because the only real thing about this scene is Betty’s smile, a smile which speaks of how wonderful it is to be doing something for herself, away from the life the images supposedly celebrate – and Don can’t stand it. This subtext is laid bare in seasons five and six, when Don reacts badly to Megan’s return to acting, but, watching it again, Shoot gives us all the subtle clues we need to know what he’s really thinking. Anyway, whether it’s Betty being used as a bargaining chip or selling her smile to the highest bidder, what irks Don the most is to see her transformed into a commodity, and, even worse, that she welcomes this degradation. It’s easy to parse this as simple sexism, and on one level it is, but there’s something deeper going on too.
Don’s career, his whole life, has been defined by his irrepressibility. Even before Mad Men begins he’s reinvented himself, and after that it’s endless – he ruthlessly cuts off all family ties, he won’t sign a contract, he’d rather start a new company than work for McCann, he won’t settle for one woman, he forces a company merger when he grows bored, even the thought processes behind his ad campaigns resist market research…. There’s no point listing it all. The point is that when this man says his life “only moves in one direction: forward”, he means it. Don won’t be caged. Until – finally – he is.
Which brings us to the present day, McCann and Coca Cola. Sadly there is an irony at the heart of Don’s life too, and it’s that the very genius which for so many years fooled him, and us, into thinking he could game capitalism in the end makes him its most perfect servant. He thought he was always out ahead, but every step brought him one step closer to the corporate hell he left in the dust at the end of season three. For a success machine like Don Draper being absorbed into McCann was always inevitable, and the escape hatch he conjured the first time this threatened to happen, SCDP, was little more than a final proving ground. Frankly as valuable as he is, he’s the super-brand’s advertising industry equivalent. His costuming in Time and Life’s final scene, black and red, as good as confirms this. Don, the game’s best player, bought and sold at last.
He’s won, but in the end what does advertising heaven look like?
A perfect, empty life.
Midway through her photoshoot, Peggy asks McCann’s art director how it is that the coke bottles she’s holding are already open. His answer, the title of this piece, resonates with Jim Hobart’s command for SC&P’s management to stop struggling and surrender –
“We don’t want life to look difficult now, do we?”
That’s just it though, the story of Mad Men, of SC&P, of the 60s themselves, is defined by difficulty, by struggle. Life is defined by struggle. What Jim’s offering is the other thing. Will Don Draper take it?
I’ll leave you with his final words to Roger after recommitting to Sterling Cooper at the end of Shoot.
“If I leave this place one day, it will not be for more advertising.”
“What else is there?”
“I don’t know, life being lived? I’d like to stop talking about it and get back to it.”
“I’ve worked with a lot of men like you and if you had to choose a place to die it would be in the middle of a pitch.”
“I’ve done that. I want to do something else.”
In Time and Life Don really did die in the middle of a pitch, a pitch for the future of his company. He died and was replaced by a product.
I give him one episode. Maybe two.
*Ronnie Gittridge, Shoot
April 27th, 2015
April 27th, 2015
NOW YOU’RE GOING WITH SOME KID, LOOKS LIKE SOME BAD COMEDIAN
Totes need to nail this blurb ASAP. Time’s running out on this ‘kay, and I’ve got Japan up my ass. I know we can’t afford Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 for this, and to be honest I’m not interested in dealing with that prima donna A$$HOLE anyway. Let it go shake it’s little nano-tush for those big shot podcasters across the pond. That bitch be cray-cray anyway, and at least we don’t have to try and sort that goddamn rider y’know? Fukkin’ unbelivable, amiright???
Anyhoo, you need to get your best people on this pronto. I want the biggest guns you can get without spending mucho dollarinies, ‘kay? We need something very NOW, very SEXY, very VERY, y’know? We need the blurb equivalent of a Skrillex beat, soundtracking someone base-jumping into a pile of I-watches, kay?
I’ll be off radar, got a big golf game with Stan The Man, and Jay-Z, looking at some VERY big plans for this podcast. Keep it under your wigs guys, but we seriously need to jettison those two tired fuckkin hams The Beast Must Die and Gary Lactus…those two hacks make me wanna puke my ring, but the contracts they have are like a fukkin vice on my balls – that’s some cast-iron LA Law shit there. An’ I’m not talkin fukkin Benny, amiright?? Let’s just say that IF something bad was to happen to them, then we might just have a couple of replacements waiting in the wings. But that’s a great big IF right there.
Oh yeah, and stay off the blow, you fukkin beak-hounds – I want’s this blurb YESTER-fukkin-DAY, none of yer fukkin three day parties. I find out you guys been partyin at Didio’s mansion and I’m gonna be on the first flight out there to ram my fist up your asses. Buddy Bagelbinder’s gonna be keepin’ a close fukkin eye on your a$$es.
Welcome young listener pups, to the welcoming teat of another SILENCE! Turn that other podcast off, and put this podcast into your face-hole right now.
<ITEM> Gladmin, Psponsorshit and the SILENCE! News? Can it really be? Talk runs to Dark Knight III: Master Race, Frank The Tank, and the usual irrelevant frippery.
<ITEM> The Reviewniverse opens its gap-toothed maw and sucks in the boys like a couple of salty bon-bons. Talk turns to Empire: Uprising, L.E.G.I.O.N, Kaptara, Covergence: Swamp Thing, Convergence: Flash, Convergence: Batman& The Outsiders and Convergence: Shmonvergence. Also Crossed 100, Black Hood and something else most likely.
<ITEM> The Beast’s Bargain Basement opens it’s creaky door and the boys peer into the gloom to discuss Who’s Who in the DCU and Eddy Current.
<ITEM> SILENCE! Movies: there’s some spoiler-free talk of Avengers 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Hobbit 3 and Robocop. BONUS CONTENT JOY!
(Orchestral music swells, fade to black…)
The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the endless skies
A lot of ink has being spent trying to puzzle out whose face Roberta Flack’s song refers to. Everyone is right. Here’s something else to think about.
It’s Don’s beautiful face, and the singer is Dick.
A lot of times the relationship between Don and Dick is described in oppositional terms. When will Dick take over? Don’s keeping Dick down!, etc. I know, I’ve been guilty of that stuff myself. Often it’s the most useful way to talk about their relationship. Don, after all, has been drowning his alter ego’s voice out for years. Now that Don’s on his last legs however, I think maybe it’s time to reflect on just what Don has meant to Dick.
Don was Dick’s way out of poverty, his route to New York and into advertising. Don gave Dick the confidence to approach women who under any other circumstances would have dismissed him as little more than a tramp. Don made Dick, for a short time, the master of everything. He was pure possibility, and he gave Dick the universe. Just like in the song.
Their relationship may be on the outs right now, but Dick was in love with Don for a very long time.
It’s okay to mourn.
*Freddie Rumsen, Time Zones