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Grant Morrison loves the Flash. That’s a fact. In fact it’s a Flash Fact.

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It seems like an awfully long time since we found ourselves under the Ultimate Man’s protection. Think back. Waaaay back to the mid-90’s. The comics industry was beginning to drag itself out of a self-inflicted slump of pointless speculation and multiple foil variant covers. Chains and guns were beginning to lose their appeal and the world was rotating towards a newer, shinier vision of superheroes. Pop, rather than Metal was going to be the order of the day in the lead up to the Millenium it would seem. Superheroes were going to be fun again. No more torturing paedophiles or deacpitating rapists. At the forefront of this movement we have Waid’s hyper-fun Flash and Impulse comics; Busiek’s Astro City with it’s progressive nostalgic vision of meta-comics; Robinson’s Starman that sought to build an engrossing and believable mythos for his pet character, whilst never forgetting that being a superhero is first and foremost fucking skill. Moore was shaking off the dust of self-publishing and gearing up his ABC assault. Miller’s DK2 lurked on the horizon ready to introduce his bezerko psychedelic bigfoot parable on the world. And somewhere lurking at the sidelines was Morrison and Millar’s AZTEK.

More after the jump

As some of you might have already read, Mark Stewart – our own Amy Poodle and a member of the Diane podcast crew – died unexpectedly last month. There’s a crowdfunder running to support his partner and son, and I’d urge you to contribute if you’re able.

Most of the Mindless were able to attend Mark’s funeral last week. It was a raw day with howling weather to match the sense of rage this sort of loss can provoke, but the funeral ritual performed its dual function, showing us how much Mark there was out there in the world by prompting us to share memories, tributes, wild stories. The man’s thoughts were catchy like a cold, so it’s no surprise that variations on the phrase “he rewired my brain” were used so often on the day – looking at this site, everything from the naming conventions for contributors to the faces of The Amusing Brothers has Mark’s trace on it.

Mindless readers will know that Mark is the best writer about Grant Morrison comics to have ever put his thoughts out there, so we were moved to see an acknowledgement of Mark’s passing from Morrison in their newsletter:

A moment’s silence for Amy Poodle, AKA writer and critic Mark Stewart, who died last week. Mark was one of the first young readers to completely grasp the underlying metaphysics of The Invisibles, and his breathtakingly erudite and distinctive interpretations of mine and other stories were a highlight of the Barbelith Forum and the Mindless Ones blog back in the day. I loved reading his work, I always learned something, and I’m very saddened to hear the news that he’s passed away at such a young age.  

Our deepest condolences to Mark’s friends and family, and to his partner Clare, and his son Dale.

Flame on, brother!

As Morrison notes, Mark’s writing on the sadly vanished Barbelith forums pulled the pin on public understanding of The Invisibles, and his subsequent explorations of the series for The Comics Journal still freak my nut out to this day, to get bit Danny Dyer about it. The following passage from Bomb Light in Faraway Windows has been haunting me today as I considered how to write about such a multifaceted person from my perilously limited vantage point:

Because in fiction characters aren’t bound by their pasts, they’re not fixed in place, and if their creator wills it they can be a violent super-ninja freedom fighter, a successful, totally harmless horror writer and a dimension hopping agent of Chaos simultaneously, their “true” self located only in whatever overlapping sites of meanings the reader cobbles together from each cover story, forever hidden in the gaps.

Invisible.

Mark was talking about imaginary people there, of course, but I’m aware that tributes like this can risk turning people into easy fictions. The “real” Mark couldn’t be sketched out by any one account, least of all one that focuses on his writing like this post will, but together we can strain our eyes to see a more multifaceted impression of the man, just as his work allowed so many of us to trace things we might otherwise have missed when we looked at stories and the world. As our Botswana Beast put it in a recent email:

my sort of banner points is – as much as you might be into something, and I already thought All-Star Superman say was unbelievable, but to experience Mark enjoying something – the best comics already anyway – to experience that made it 10x better *at least* (in a fashion that sometimes made me feel my own mundane eyes were basically just adequate) – I think what characterises his criticism, or indeed what he defined in our little sphere of comics criticism, was to be almost entirely – except where Mark Millar was concerned – additive (there is stuff in his All-Star write up that’s so exciting and you can feel this Quitelyesque world bubbling up around you; incredibly immersive)

Even stuff I might be mildly leery of; Dan Slott, or the MCU, or Immortal Hulk say – basically if Mark liked it I would too because I knew someone was into it in a way – swirling, psychedelic, extrapolatory – that I could only vaguely imagine.

The description of Mark’s writing as being “additive” has been echoing around my head since I read it. There was real magic to the way he could tune you into something only his equipment had picked up, whether he did it with a quick bit of absurd language – “runce” on Barbelith, “Blackest NICE” and “bulk meat” here – or by taking the time to light a story up from a previously inconceivable angle. The Muppets never looked the same after I read Mark’s post on how Crazy Harry exists at

the point where the madness reaches such a fever pitch that the show turns itself inside out, kermit green giving way to grey, where wacky fun collapses into its abject… Where the stage lights finally go down on all that colour.

I’d never considered “The Darkness when everyone has left the theatre, and the thing waiting for you in it” or at least, I’d never acknowledged the fact that these thoughts might be troubling me. We’ll break through to brighter horizons in a minute, but Mark had a real gift for lighting up the subterranean world, as anyone who read his Batmannotations or listened to Diane must surely know. I doubt I’d remember Daredevil #9 by Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera if it wasn’t for Mark having wandered through that comic with a torch, talking about how the monsters lurking unseen in the dark caves of that story were an example of

Nostalgia veering into dread… From a certain angle the monsters look dumb and kind of friendly, but those ‘creepy cartoon eyes’ would make you sick if you were confronted with them anywhere outside the comic page.

Look again: was he wrong? do you want him to be?

Let’s double back a bit because this is not a moment for subtlety: like Botswana Beast above, and like Daredevil in that story, a lot of the time I was just registering the caves until Mark made the rest of it clear to me. There’s a real power in Mark’s ability to suggest the shape of dangers and worries we’ve not fully understood, but like a lot of people my intoxication with Mark’s work also had a lot to do with the way he could tune you into frequencies that seemed to come from a better reality.

Back when I was reading Mindless Ones dot com instead of contributing to it, Mark’s Candyfloss Horizons posts seemed to me to contain all of the possibility of this magazine and the culture around it in its most potent form. Part 1 set the scene, and let us know that the scene would shift every time we looked at it, but Part 2 was the real trip. These posts found a way through superfiction to a world of abundance, a world of fluid images and meanings and sexuality that has little to do with the value that Disney and Discovery, Inc see in these fictional realities. On brighter days, I think that some of this explosive plurality may yet survive the cinematic age.

If we’re talking about hope, well, the Beast already mentioned Mark’s write-up of All Star Superman in his comment, and I’m not joking when I say that I think about it every time I’ve been beaten into a rut and need to imagine a way out of it.

Here’s Amy Poodle, talking about the expansive possibilities of ASS:

Most of us, if we’re lucky, will experience a time in the future, perhaps an extended time, maybe a moment or two, when we’re really taken out of ourselves. When the grey scales fall off our eyes. It could be at our child’s birth, it could be falling in love, it could just smack us in the ennui one day when we’re walking down the street, and this is the atmosphere, the internal environment, that All Star Superman is trying to reflect and catalyse in us – the best days of our lives (as THE ADAMS sang), when, as I said above, everything’s soft (because the boundaries between things needn’t be so rigid anymore), fairytale (because everything seems primal, mythic and illuminated with significance), permeable (because we want to interrogate, explore and know more) and malleable (because we’re an integral part of the whole thing). With this in mind, have a look at the landscape of ASS again. It’s all those things: Bric-a-brac colour schemes that lap at the eye; balloon-skin thin line work; an illustrative style that summons up bedtime and “Nan, can I see the picture…?!?”, a gentle three dimensionality rotating softly within and around itself. If Morrison’s preceding works have aggressively shoved the reader towards the kind of…err… magickal awareness he wants to provoke, then All Star Superman is a far subtler beast. It doesn’t rely solely on didactic screeds, or narrative thrust, or belligerently zany page layouts to make its point – it’s all just loaded into every panel, the mise-en-scene, the general tone. Superman’s got there already, and all he wants us to do is catch up, because sometimes it’s lonely on that cloud. The book is truly a collaborative effort. I’ve made every effort to include the artists in this little eulogy as much as I’ve included Grant, because everyone working on it contributes to the fiery nimbus that surrounds the piece, either by accident or design. It doesn’t matter. The spell just worked.

Sometimes it comes steam engines. Sometimes it comes All Star Superman time.

Reading back through pages of Mark’s writing today has been rough going. I’ve cried a couple of times, gutted about the fact I won’t get to hear from Mark again, grateful that I ever got to hear from him at all. Everything in Mark’s work seems to point me away from where my head’s at today, whether it’s his thoughtful approach to the evidence of our passing in Ghost World, the giddy thrill of Zenith showing that comics can broadcast from the edge of their moment, or the depictions of a virtual overlay of neglected physical spaces in his Batman 666 scripts.

As I get older I find that both hard times and days of real joy and comfort make me want to draw my world close around myself, to treasure what I have and hide from what I can’t control. These impulses are understandable on an individual basis and maybe poisonous socially, allowing those of us who can afford to minimise our exposure to the world and its horrors to do so. The best of Mark’s work asks me to be less of a shitebag than all that. It’s full of portents of what’s wrong [in/out] there for sure, but it’s also always reaching past itself after the next possibility, carefully tuned into the ways the world might yet bend into a new shape upon contact.

Ask yourself, in the dark of the year, under your duvet, sat bright by the TV screen, submerged in a bath of comics, out in the world, navigating by stars or streetlight, wherever you are – can we do less?

 

Thanks for stopping by our table and beholding the wonder that is our faces.  If you’d like to look deeper into those faces in a stress-free environment, you can find out more about our exhibitors and their wares by clicking on the links below (Exhibitors 1-7 are shown from left to right above).

  • Exhibitor 1 – David Allison, who documents life before, during and after demolition in his LGH comics and contributes to Cut-Out Witch and KOMISK when he’s feeling less demolished himself
  • Exhibitor 2 – Fraser Geesin, big funny genius behind The Journey to the Surface of the Earth, wonderful autobiographical comic The Cleaner and gag strip The Amusing Brothers
  • Exhibitor 3 – Dan White, writer and artist of beloved kids comic Cindy and Biscuit and lush horror anthology Sticky Ribs
  • Exhibitor 4 – Paul Jon Milne, man of muscle mystery and creator of gnarly wonders like super-horror comic Grave Horticulture and scrambled sci-fi masterpiece Hard Ships
  • Exhibitor 5 – Gareth A. Hopkins, the man with the abstract face, whose comics will bewilder your eye even as they burrow their way into your soul
  • Exhibitor 6 – Hitsville UK, a tale of imaginary pop music and real dreams by John Riordan and Dan Cox
  • Exhibitor 7 – Andrew Hickey, author of books on Grant Morrison, The Beatles, Doctor Who and The Strange World of Gurney Slade and creator of A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs

EXHIBITOR 7 – ANDREW HICKEY

November 9th, 2020

Andrew Hickey aka Andre Whickey is a demon.  We say this with love but also out of a deep, almost spiritual sense of terror.  Many times we have conversed with Andre in these very halls, only to discover that he has somehow managed to write 10,000 words outlining a previously unconsidered connection between Charles Mingus and Jack Kirby in between fistfuls of sugared almond. 

Andrew Hickey is a demon, but when he wears his human face he looks a bit like this:

Don’t let our dire warnings or Mr Hickey’s tendency for self-deprecation put you off, though.  All of Andrew’s books are worthwhile, and you can find out what he has to say about them by scanning past his lovely face and reading on! 

I’m Andrew Hickey, and if you’ve visited our table at non-virtual Thought Bubble, I’m the one with the biggest beard, who sits there nearly all the time while the others go about doing stuff and talking to people and so on.

Unlike the others, I have not created any comics you can buy, though I am now on my tenth year in a row of saying “I really need to get my own comic made for this year’s Thought Bubble” and then remembering I can’t draw even a little bit. I do have other stuff you can buy, though — mostly books. I’ve written novels, short stories, and books on pop culture like music, TV, and comics. If you’re looking for my books about comics, they can be found, along with my other self-published books, right here — the ones you want are An Incomprehensible Condition and Welcome to the Multiverse, both of which are about Grant Morrison comics, and maybe Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!, which is about all sorts of other things as well as comics.

(Please note, the books about Morrison were written before their recent coming out as non-binary, and so use the wrong pronouns for them.)

While you’re there, you can also find my books on music, on Doctor Who, and other such things.

Another place you can find my writing is at Obverse Books, where you can find my first novel, Head of State, which is part of the Doctor Who spinoff series Faction Paradox, plus books I’ve written on the Doctor Who story “The Mind Robber” and the 1960 TV series The Strange World of Gurney Slade. I also contributed short stories to a few other books from Obverse.

But like every white man with a beard, I am legally obliged to have a podcast as well. Mine is called A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs, and does what it says — goes through five hundred songs, starting in 1938 and ending in 2000, to tell the story of rock and roll. So farI’m up to episode 103, and 1962. The podcast, unlike the books, is free, and people seem to like it.

I also used to make music myself, in a band called The National Pep. We’re hoping to make more music next year, but the old music can be found at thenationalpep.bandcamp.com/releases if you like that sort of thing

And finally, it’s been far too long since I’ve done any comic blogging, but I’ve written a lot of stuff for this very site over the years, and plan to start up again soon. You can find what I’ve written (including two big projects I started but left abandoned in 2018 when a few things went horribly wrong in my life, and which I plan to start up again one day) by clicking here.

Target 2012

May 12th, 2020

Paul Jon Milne – Guts Power #1-6

Dan Cox and John Riordan – Hitsville UK

The gospel was told, some souls it swallowed whole
Mentally they fold and they eventually sold
Their life and times, deadly like the virus design
But too minute to dilute the scientist mind

Wu-Tang Clan – ‘A Better Tomorrow‘ 

Spacing (notice that this word speaks the articulation of space and time, the becoming-space of time and the becoming-time of space) is always the unperceived, the non-present, and the non-conscious. As such, if one can still use that expression in a non-phenomenological way; for here we pass the very limits of phenomenology.

Jacques Derrida – Of Grammatology

Two comic book series, both started before the world ended in December 2012, both completed some time after the apocalypse.  So far so standard. What makes them both remarkable is how prescient they are about all the ways the world has continued to end and about how we might continue to live regardless.

To be brief: they reek not just of knowledge but of foresight.

The sixth and final issue of Paul Jon Milne’s Guts Power spends most of its time getting ready to go out for the party.  When I last reviewed this series, only the first four issues had been published but the mood of the comic was well established, its grimly eroticised kitchen sink misery distinguished from all the other neurotic indie comics out there by virtue of Milne’s seeping imagination:

I’m stuck on Milne’s style, on the use of that old fashioned alt-comix grossness not as a mode for outrageous straight white guy funtimes, but as a way to genuinely queer the Sex-Men experience.

With its tentative dance floor adventures, “Pepto-bawbag particles” and alluringly grotesque cast, Guts Power manages the rare trick of making one man’s whims, stray thoughts and fancies seem like a genuine delight, probably because the combination feels fresh and true; would that the same could be said of all such ventures.

By the time issue #6 starts, death and romance have already happened and everyone is gearing up for some sort of revolution.  You can practically feel the wee white dots form around you in the air, feel yourself being drawn back into the radiant possibility of a blank page, right up until the moment your cat farts and you’re left sitting on your couch alone with your own misery.

Having sprinted through enough dodgy deals, guilty secrets, Beatific visions and nazi incursions to fill 23 issues of a normal comic, Hitsville UK crosses the finish line of its seventh issues with a sense of perspective that’s bound to baffle all traditional metrics.  Last time I checked in on the comic, I found myself racing to keep up with its evolution, with the way that it had left my initial concept of the series as a referential but not reverential pop fun somewhere way off in the distance:

What I will say is that the issues of Hitsville that have been published since then have had an increased sense of urgency to them.  The boys may not have set out to create a fantasy of communal resilience in an age that seems increasingly under threat by undead attitudes, shambling zombie racism, and the endless monetization of your every passing daydream, but fuck me if they didn’t do it anyway!

The conclusion of Hitsville UK gives you some sense as to who’s pulling (or should that be playing?) the strings and some idea as to why.  We still don’t know why the world ended in 2012, or why it persists in this form, why even blogs have somehow been allowed to continue, but all of this prompts a question: why did the children of The Invisibles decide to persist in their endeavours, knowing that the end would come before anyone could finish their stories?

BEATS ME FOLKS! BETTER CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT!

In the beginning there was the word. Prior to that there was the introduction. Since the dawn of time immemorial began throughout history, the introduction has introduced readers to stories that have introduced us to the power of stories. What dark truths lie in the stories we tell our children? Powerful, dark truths that’s what. Hadn’t thought about that had you? You’re welcome.

Neil Gaiman
East Grinstead
April 1988

It is my pleasure and honour to introduce this podcast by my good friend The Beast Must Die. When I was introduced to The Beast Must Die as a schoolboy, little did I know that 30 years later I would be introducing his Magnum opus. This podcast will introduce the lister to The Beast’s unique relationship to introductions, covering curated TV broadcasts of films such as Alex Cox‘s introductions to Movie Drome and what introductions meant to him as a youngster reading graphic novels for the first time. He goes on to cover Alan Moore‘s introduction to The Dark Knight Returns, Pat Mills‘ introduction to the Titan edition of Nemesis Book 7 by Mills himself and John Hicklenton, Zenith Book 2 introduced by Grant Morrison, Frank Miller‘s introduction to Batman Year One, Morrison’s introduction to Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo’s Enigma and Milligan’s introduction to Morrison’s Invisibles.
Oh yes, and Neil Gaiman‘s dominance in the world of introductions. So, without further ado, I invite you to “hey listen” to the master scholar of all that comes before everything.

Gary Lactus
North Portslade
April 2020

@frasergeesin
@thebeastmustdie

[email protected]

You can support us using Patreon if you like.

This edition of SILENCE! is proudly sponsored by the greatest comics shop on the planet, DAVE’S COMICS of Brighton. It’s also sponsored the greatest comics shop on the planet GOSH! Comics of London.

 

Outside/In

January 11th, 2019

The Green Lantern #1-3, written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Liam Sharp, coloured by Steve Oliff

LaGuardia #1-2, written by Nnedi Okorafor, drawn by Tana Ford, coloured by James Devlin

“The outside is not “empirically” exterior; it is transcendentally exterior, i.e. it is not just a matter of something being distant in space and time, but of something which is beyond our ordinary experience and conception of space and time” – Mark Fisher, The Weird and the Eerie

“It sickened me when I heard the expression for the first time, barely understanding it, the expression crime of hospitality [delitd’hospitalitej]. In fact, I am not sure that I heard it, because I wonder how anyone could ever have pronounced it…” – Jacques Derrida, On Hospitality

The three novellas that make up Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti series have a distinct weirdness to them, one that’s partially generated by the flurry of casual references to alien technology and partially down to the narrative structure of the series, which gives it the feel of a story constantly in motion. This is most literally true in the first volume, which promises an adventure at a space university starring a girl from a culture that has previously had no truck with it and instead takes place mostly on the harrowed journey there, but the pattern repeats itself in new forms throughout the trilogy.

In Binti’s world(s), new adventures, homecomings and trips to meet forgotten family members are all guaranteed to be fleeting, frustrated events. In fact, at some points it feels as though Binti barely has time to recognise a new destination before it’s shifted, recontextualised as yet another point of navigation on a journey that is implicitly endless, beyond Binti, beyond any of our stories.

There is much to learn and love out there, but also a history of violence and oppression that stretches further than we can see…

Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt #1

Written by Scott Snyder, Grant Morrison, James Tynion IV and Joshua Williamson, drawn by Howard Porter, Jorge Jimenez and Doug Mahnke with Jamie Mendoza

This is a story about a creature – no let’s call it what it is, or at least what it might once of conceived of itself as, a god – trapped in its own creation.

From The Invisibles volume two #4, by Grant Morrison and Phil Jimenenz 

Echoes of its own previous compositions haunt the piece like half-forgotten memories of childhood. How else could the story go? The fallen demiurge may no longer be in charge of the story but it’s still a part of it, still conscious, still able to discern its own hand in proceedings.

From Dark Knights: Metal #6, by Scott Snyder, Jonathan Glapion and Greg Capullo

It’s not just the question of who’s in control of the dreaming that’s confusing here though…