Grant Morrison And The Superhero Renaissance was an academic symposium held at Trinity College Dublin on 14-15 September 2012. The conference was organised by Dr. Greene (UCD) and Dr. Roddy (Trinity) In the first of a two part column, tutor and transcriber Andy Luke plucks a series of references from his rowdy notes. Turn back now if you only want to read the words,
“This stuff, it’s fookin easy!”
Powerpoints were loaded, the hosts welcomed us, and Dr. Greene decided he would forego the accent to read a surprise welcome from the big yin of zen who wished us a scholasticism interesting and entertaining through to sore sat butts, in keeping with the the best university conferences.
Ulster-man Dr. Keith Scott of de Montfort Uni inLeicesterwas an active talker through much of the event, and I was all the richer for it. His was the cleverly titled, ‘Let me slip into someone more comfortable: Fiction suits/Semantic shamanism and Meta-Linguistic Magic.’ The work primarily took in The Invisibles and Gnosticism. I didn’t understand much of what was said but learned. There was talk of McKenna, Philip K. Dick and Michel Bertiaux. Morrison’s works concern meta-, inter- and trans- and The Invisibles contains all three aplenty, “stretching potential in expressing philosophy, AND IT’S FUN!” It’s ludic, designed to be re-read over read. A Karl Rove quote on journalists and the nature of reality is similar to the villainous Sir Miles. The alphabet of Invisibles has sixty-four letters, and Keith ended by comparing it with the alphabet of Dr. Seuss.
Dr. Darragh Greene presented “The Jungian Stuff”, examining the solar Christ Clark/Kal-el God of humanity and divinity, and his death and resurrection in All-Star Superman. The ego (neo-consciousness) transcending being the point, cut short by death but the addition of that transcending death, beats, trumps it. Superheroes in an envelope (Flex Mentallo) Dan Jurgens’The Death of Superman also came up in comparison, as did Furman’s returning resurrections of Optimus Prime, the shameless Transformers fan that Darragh is.
Co-host Dr. Kate Roddy presented a piece on Morrison and Bathos entitled, ‘Screw Symbolism and Let’s Go Home’. Bathos was Alexander Pope’s attempt to shame the poetic bunglers of his day, often used by accident. When used consciously by a writer it can expand the limits of a genre and test reader expectations. Kate measured Animal Man and the Dadaist and absurdistDoom Patrol in relation to Morrison’s feelings towards post-Crisis editors, before looking at the less pervasive use of bathos in All-Star and Batman RIP, which Kate considered more up-lifting and conclusively, sublime. Therefore, Morrison, meaningfully challenges Pope.
The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Chris Murray from the Universityof Dundee. Chris pointed out that recursion is a central motif in Moz’s comics, allowing him to explore linguistics (Chomsky), and the recursive patterns of fractal geometry (Benoit Mandelbrot), which develops recursively natural structures, moving us between time and space to collapse and reform distance. This was related to Morrison’s playing up of his identity as part of the ‘acid house culture of comics creators (Peter Milligan, Brendan McCarthy etc, those appearing in Deadlineand Revolver particularly) Douglas Hofstadter’s “strange loops” disappear hierarchy into heterarchy – these overlaps, repetition, multiple and divergent relations were originally part of Warren McCullough’s 1945 studies in neurology and revolutionised cybernetics. Murray spoke then of a work by Groensteen called A System of Comics (1999) Groensteen talks about not just page recursivity, but one narrative-based. Panels braid or weave together, a metaphor for how the reading of comics works. Morrison manipulates space-time of the multi-frame (or hyper-frame), using immersive strategies, a recurring motif being that of a character looking at their own hand. Another was The Droste Effect of an image within an image within an image (mise en abyme) Recursion links the physical world (fractal geometry), with cognition and communication theory. Using Hofstader, Godel, Escher and Bach, we get an eternal golden braid, to enjoy logic and abstract maths. Murray concluded showing us some cool pictures of other fractals, such as the Fibonacci Spiral and Sierpinski Triangle.
The wine reception was held in the the upstairs Ideas Space, which Keith suggested might be more of aMoorething than Morrison. I suggested referring to it as Ideas Pace might be more appropriate.
(Sidenote: When I was in a crappy teenage band I wrote a song called ‘Ideaspace’, summarising the conceptual consciousness and it’s universality of access by all of us through synchronistical claiming. I later discovered that at the same time,Moorehit upon the same name and properties independently of me. I’m never sure if anyone believes me – perhaps they originated the name and properties independent of both of us?)
I couldn’t stay though, as my man arrived. Two nights in Dublin were spent with Gar Shanley, the funniest blogger in Ireland, and writer-producer behind Foxes, a short film which won a 2011 O’Emmy type award and is touring internationally. We left for a walk and talked about Morrison’s relationship to recurrence and to what extent he was guilty of plagiarism. I recounted what I’d learned about Morrison’s approach to Zenith, that of a DJ, mixing panels from other strips into a new narrative. But the real reason Gar didn’t like Moz? The DisinfoCon lectures,
“This stuff, it’s fookin easy. It’s easy like. Magic is easy, anyone can do it. It fookin works!”
“It works! It works!”
A restaurant meal: cheap, suave and secret. Then, Pub. Going away party for Elida Maiques, of Slow, and Irish comics anthology Romantic Mayhem, which Gar edited and published, and won a milky bar and rave reviews. Other Irish comics alumni were out: Archie ‘Layout King/Forger’ Templar, Phil ‘The Cap’ Barrett, Paddy ‘Listener’ Lynch, and Katie Chaos Blackwood. Katie demanded to find out what was on at the Van Morrison Symposium. Elida’s pizza ended up on my list of abstracts, making this a very real possibility. The night ended in another bar with Paddy and I trying to retcon Katie and Gar’s versions of historical learnings in a Crisis on Infinite Irelands.
Andy Luke only wrote this because Elida Maiques and Will Brooker told him to. “Lightning”, the second part of the report is much shorter, and appears later this week. Andy would like 1,000+ readers to check out his great comic, Optimus and Me. In return he’ll publish the beautiful colour sequel, The Moods of Prime on his website, for free. Like a meme machine.