Enniskillen Comics Fest

I’ve told less than ten people this month, and now I can reveal I’ll be interviewing Alan Grant, the Guest of Honour at the first Enniskillen Comics Festival. Phew! Alan, is of course, a massive influence on comics, having co-written most classic Judge Dredd stories, thirty years, about ten years on the US Batman comics. He’s the author of some of my favourites: The Bogie Man; the House of Daemon, Manix and Doomlord for Eagle. He’s written Lobo and L.E.G.I.O.N. and JLA for DC, but it’s 2000AD for which he’s best known, on Strontium Dog, Ace Trucking, Robo Hunter and Judge Anderson.

Massive, massive honour. I expected to be the last person to be called on, never having been with the Class of ’77 hardcore 2000AD fans. The organisers, gods bless their mad, mad minds, think I’m a unique choice. Well, you could say that. I’m giving this my best and hope to do Alan and yourselves proud.

Closer to my comfort zone is the self-publishing panel I’ve been asked to host. I’ve been on ten of these and hosted a few. This time I’m putting together something with a lot of pizzazz and I’d really like attendees to put their heads through the door. I’m pleased to announce those joining me are Una Gallagher (Two Lives, Faust, Something in the Tae), Austin Flanagan (The Revenants), Jenika Ioffreda (Vampire Freestyle, Midnight Tea), Danny McLaughlin (Zombies Hi, Andrew’s Comic, Revolve Comics.) and…oh, I couldn’t possibly say. We’ll be talking about more than the boring copy-shop slog, we’ll be talking character and story, ghouls and tea. Please come by.

The Enniskillen Comics Fest is the first such event in the town. It’s a free event with an all-ages focus and a wise choice by the Arts Council funding body. It’s on May 6th-7th, at the McArthur Hall, Wesley Street, and Enniskillen Library on Halls Lane, just five minutes walk. Just look at who they’ve got:

All that linkage! No biggie, I had all the info to hand for posting to their Twitter account, which you can search for. My friends at The Comic City podcast are doing a feature on the Fest in the next few days so keep an eye out for that, or visit the #EknComicFest Facebook page for more details.

Friday

Map

Saturday

So, a new Belfast artist collective…

Based out of an un-used but functional building on the Holywood Road, there are eight of us; a crew of writers, photographers, painters, poets, puppeteers and a musician. The core group have circled around one another for a year or two, pulling up chairs at the same open mics or at Dominique’s Bohemian Tales Café Club; so all should go according to plan, of some kind.

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29 Holywood Road, BT4 is a two-storey building that’s been vacant since 1998, the same time I began my practice it happens. The rental bill-board advertised a rent free period which is agreeable as the building is roomy, central and in good condition, once cloths and paint started licking it. This month we removed glass, rubble, wood from a large attic workshop, danced as the first sparks of electricity brought heat, kettle and computer to life, run spray and hot cloth over kitchen and bathroom and had one of those boring General Meetings: after a morning of sultana and cherry debauchery I may have wound up as secretary/admin/website guy. The first draft of this was typed at my own desk in the office I share with Dominique.
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I put up a Soundcloud interview with Dominique Hoffman a few months ago. Bohemian Tales is the story of an every-man living in the upheaval of Prague, 1967-68. The book has aspects of Euro literary café culture. In a marriage of social-creative event and book promotion, Dom’s monthly Bo Tales Café Club seeks to evoke the spirit of that. ABC is her baby, and the collective are the baby’s family.

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She and muso/writer Jim McClean have been arranging plasticine models, frames and toy trains around the place.

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On February 7tht we have our first public event, the Café Club. I’m sure we’re not ready yet, but it’s beginning to look the part.

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We’re getting there.

Belfast Art – Almost 40 Pictures

Crikey. Here’s the 170th post (out of 185 maybe-score)

01 Gift

This is from the Arts and Disability Forum on Royal Avenue, because beginning the late night art trail at 3pm means I can check into galleries like this that shut early.

02 Gift

Splodged together slacker two-shots of candles, jewelery, chocolate; the members show ‘Gift’, with items priced between £3 and £300.

03 Gift

Lucid, spooky and in flow pencil line pieces, with YOMmiest chocolate underneath.

04 Gift

If I’m not mistaken Leo Devlin arranged the show (he does most of the gallery arrangements I think), has done well.

05 Gift

Gallery opp. Central Library opens Tuesday to Friday from 10-4pm, and there’s a seasonal celebration on Thursday 19 December from 5-7pm.

06 Gift

I hear you can buy these cards from https://andy-luke.com/shop (UK) or Zazzle.co.uk (US)

 07 Gift

Amazing. Next, off Royal Avenue by Ann Summers, The Red Barn Photographic Gallery.

 08 Before our time

The Red Barn is clinging by finger-tips financially these few months, it will need a bolster to stay open.

09 Before our time

These photos were taken by an unknown photographer between 1870-1920 and only recently time and technology are compatible to access them like this.

10-before-our-time

There’s a frank honesty to them which made this one of my galleries of the night.

11 Before our time

But then: Space Craft, and those snowflakes made from wooden intersections are awesome.

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13 A Christm… Trilogy

Zoom in. Jenna Magennis’s baubles are filled full of Kandorian (miniature bottle resident) delights.

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DUCKS, ducks, Quack Quack, Quack Wuack!

15 A Christm… Trilogy

SpaceCraft: it’s the one up that escalator!

16 Catalyst

Catalyst Arts now and Fiona Larkin’s Backstory featuring collaborations from seven other writers and artists and a Ruckenfigur – this seen-from-the-back scarved woman.

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We’re invited to read into this: to create stories of hypernarrative upon our interaction, “the observer to become active collaborators who construct new meaning”.
Sorry Lass, I thought it was shit, atypical of privelege. You want collab-story, there’s a few writer’s groups around the city. Get details. Future nourishment, loftier plateaus smile.

Moving onto :

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19 Boycottin…ke Bombs

‘Boycotting Cake Bombs’, concrete, string, wire, Barry Mulholland.

20 Barry Mulholland

Photographed from different angles.

 21 Barry Mulholland

A greatest show all round actually.

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And that IS over seven foot high. “Reject Indecision Construct your Own Good Fortune”, double wall corrugated cardboard by Rachael Campbell-Palmer.

 23 Caravan

Teensy wood Birdhouse Caravan by Catherine Roberts, and there’s something about the colours of this that moved into my head like rejoining something there long ago.

24 Surrealism at Platform 13

More psychonaut colours. A very high standard all round.

 24a With David Mahons Electric Organ

David Mahon’s Electric Organ piece was looking a bit lifeless so I got inside it.

Upstairs in Belfast Belfast Exposed I bumped into a few friends for ‘Aftermath’, Laurence McKeown and Anthony Haughey’s photographs of Northern Irish residents who fled for the border upon the outbreak of the Troubles and their own stories. The opening was a bit too crammed to get an assessment of the work but there was a beautiful speech by the outgoing gallery director about the lost mindset of our politicians and the job upon artists to educate them.

Downstairs, the continuing exhibition focussing on the lost Yugoslavia.

24c Belfast Exposed

Black Lamb and Grey Falcon is the name of a travelogue written pre-WW2 and followed by the photographer just before immense changes re-wrote the landscape.

 25 Yu The Lost Country

The exhibition is called ‘The Lost Country’ and I’ve not described it justly here. It’s eminently worth seeing.

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Christ, here comes Winter Christmas Andy.

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Re-cast him as that goggle eyed organ player from earlier and look at the warm rug and trails of fairy lights, ribboned gifts, snow grounded and hanging and candy canes.

28 Christmas PS2

Christmas grows through the walls as kodaks at PS2.

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One of my favourite themes of late, re-booting Christmas – make it more palatable, relevant and meaningful.

 30 Book Tree

PS2 have that atmosphere in a bottle with animations and decorations in motion, Christmas as creativity.

And a book tree. Feck. Yeah.

31 Graffiti

Graffiti in Joy’s Entry.

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An absurdist game of chess at The Black Box, I’m there for Real Sketchys.

Cold, I draw this instead, inspired by a Lee Kennedy, Terry Wiley conversation last week.

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PJ Holden and Aimee Downey at the final formal Belfast Comics Pub Meet, for the time being.

36 lazer lizard

Someone mentions lizards briefly: it’s enough to set me off.

And there it is. Happy birthday me.

39 Happy 40

A 1986 FA Magazine (with some great commentary), BlexBolex’s graphic novella Abecederia and a big X card from John Robbins.

40 Robbins Big X

Blogging new art daily has been great for my creative muscle. I’m keen to keep going! I’ve learned a lot about other people coming to this point and my expectations of the world around me. Life is falling short, so aiming high I’m always going to do better than not aiming.

I probably deserve a gallery showing after all this. Catalyst, are you paying attention?

Caption Art Notebooks

Back in 2008, I was curating an exhibition in the Oxford Jam Factory showcasing some of the artists that take part in the yearly comics festival, the ‘Caption Collective’ as we were somehow dubbed. Jeremy Day (nee Dennis) helped me with the running, Daniel Merlin Goodbrey designed us a rather awesome flyer.

About that time I was using Oxford Brookes University print shop for getting my comics reproduced. Mark always managed to deliver exactly what I wanted: a simple A5 booklet with good alignment, stapling and a reasonable price.  Knock off paper and card would be bound together to produce A5 notebooks which sat at the desk for customers, either for free or for a donation to the charity box. I swooped a few ot these and several made their way to Caption.

The first drawing is by Jeremy, the last is signed. I’m not sure who the rest are by. Tell me and I’ll update this. Put in a decent bid and I’ll send you the notebook and send the money to Caption Alternative Comics Art Festival.

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EVENT REVIEW: Morrison’s Superhero Renaissance, Academic Conference 2/2: Lightning

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. Darragh Greene (UCD) and Dr. Kate Roddy (Trinity) In the second of a two part column, the Andy Lukes of different timelines commune to call forth their notes and  memories of the experience. You can read the first part of the report here.

Katie Chaos’s Joker-like rampage across Dublin betides woeful hangovers upon those who accompanied her trail. It was 4am when we got in. I went to sleep resigned to missing the early presentations, and remembered Gar Shanley told me foxes congregated outside the room were I slept and cried like babies. Gar lives almost entirely on boiled eggs, and so restored me to health, fit to return to the Long Room Hub for the second day of the conference.

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GOOD AND EVIL

 

Muireann O’ Sullivan’s ‘God is Dead: Long Live Superman!’ discussed the sociology of fan culture. It looked at the relationships between gods, man and superheroes to find an inverse relationship between the first two and latter two. The talk apparently looked at Morrisonian characters in terms of faith, (“these heroes are creations in man’s image, rather than humanity being created in God’s), and belief, and why the superhero genre is so magnetic while rejecting conventional religion.

O’ Sullivan’s peer at Trinity, Nicholas Galante looked at the author’s use of Christian religious symbolism in ‘Our Father, Who Art in Gotham.’ It seems to have been largely a study of Arkham Asylum, looking at character shifts relating to each situation within the chaotic, illogical environment that the book examines.

Dr. Will Brooker (Kingston University London) was good enough to forward me his paper, ‘The Return of the Repressed: Grant Morrison’s Batman RIP’ . It describes a particularly stimulating work of collection (52 worlds), and integration: Morrison sews together the differing tones, including 1950s and 1960s stories Batman might like to forget. Tales of The Dark Knight encountering pink tentacled monsters, UFO aliens, The Joker with his helicopter which looks just like him, Bat-Mite, and others, in a manner which would probably have turned Frederic Werthram onto cannabis. Brooker informs that sometimes these came as dreams or hallucinations or X-Files adventures, but have been re-pushed by Morrison to sit alongside the inter-weave of the works by Miller, Moore, Grant and O’Neil, and create a new conservatism. Just as with the ‘Spectrum of Supermen’ discussed by Will’s student Philip Bevin on Day 1, Morrison treats Batman to a “Prismatic Age”, as suggested by Duncan Falconer. This was a great paper, so I’m going to take the opportunity to quote from it some.

“Morrison returns Batman and Joker not to a single earlier era, but to something more complex: a matrix, a network, a conversation between past and present…… Rather than containing him, neutralising, deadening and dampening his meanings, as the title Batman Rest in Peace initially suggests, Morrison digs up the character’s past and encourages a sense of unrest, of activity, diversity, carnival and liberating uncertainty. The story’s central protagonist is still a Dark Knight and grim vigilante, but we – and Batman – are never allowed to forget the rest, the repressed: the rest of the Batmen, shattered, scattered and surrounding him, in every rainbow shade of the spectrum, like ghosts from alternate earths and other histories, like fragments of a magic mirror, in a halo of mosaic pieces.”

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HUMANITY AND SUPERHUMANITY

Two more papers on All-Star Superman: Jennifer Harwood Smith looked at the narrative were solar poisoning saw the man-hero make farewells to his loved ones, intertwining the senses of the personal and the epic.  The Trinity speaker also spoke of Superman and history and how this informed relationships as death approaches.

Shaun Treat from the University of North Texas explored the supermythos ret-con in myth and commodity, as “a quasimystical medium for expanding consciousness, altering perceived reality and exploring themes central to the human condition.” Morrison’s Utopian MystiFiction in the “holy alien trinity of Kal-El, Clark Kent and Superman.” This was a gripping piece, and I think it addressed my problems with Arno Bogaert’s notion on Day 1 that realistic, pro-active superheroes are on “a slippery slope.”

“the holy alien trinity of Kal-El, Clark Kent and Superman operates as a global Lacanian fantasy wherein the power of the story ennobling humanity to being/becoming/be stronger than we think ourselves to be also demands we accept and channel our inner-Ubermensch. Because Superman is a fictional meditation upon the Nietzschean and Fascistic potentialities of the Ubermensch fantasy, a desirous circuit that is inspired by rather than inspiring the ambivalences of the human condition for what Henry Jenkins finds is a multiplicity of ‘becoming’. Morrison invents a fantasy that inverts and mystically re-shapes our conditions for ‘reality’ as a ritual enactment of invented fictions. In short, within this Utopian Mystifiction of Morrison, readers are invited to become participant co-authors with a SuperGod who is dreaming the promise and perils of all humanity…and ourselves.”

INTERLUDE: LUNCH

There was a great camaraderie amongst the twenty odd attendees, and a sharing of tales and tips. I perched myself on the sidelines though, having broken the rule of Con gatherings: Don’t drink heavily on the night of Day 1. Darrin O’Toole mentioned a local group of comic creators were having a launch party: the Lightning Strike people, and I’d promised to look in, so the two of us took to the streets.

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After twenty minutes of maze-work we hit upon the art space/shop type venue, marked out by beautiful girlfriends, Victorian adventurers (hello, Ciaran Marcantonio), and storm-troopers. Large comics arts pages graced the walls by a fellow who might
give the super-improved Stephen Downey a run for his money, and I discussed a project I was pitching, and our mutual plans on distribution and profile-building. A quick goodbye inside, yelling at Ger Hankey, “You and Me For IDW” before returning to the conference. Ger talks about his contribution, Hybrid, and the launch, in interview with Ciaran Flanagan on the great 2dcast earlier this week. Ger’s art featured heavily in the promo material, re-interpreting the Lightning Strike character collection for publicity. Although I adore his 1980s-ish Transformers stuff, his approach of mostly drawing with ten year olds in aim doesn’t appeal to me. Lightning Strike looks to be an incredibly diverse anthology with painted Vertigo Hellblazer stylings of intrigue, steampunk people riding dinosaurs, and monkeys, just because. So yes, toss aside your scepticism and pick up a copy.

MASCULINE IDENTITIES

And so I managed to miss most of the second leg of Day 2 as well. I was really looking forward to hearing from Tim Pilcher, an ex-editor for DC Comics when they were operating in Londonduring the 90s. A friend of Grant, we’d swapped our own Morrison stories, and some of these may have been recounted in his talk on the author’s use of playing multiple personalities when in front of the media lens. ‘Transvestitism, Transgenderism and Transformative Personalities in the Life and Work of Grant Morrison’ also looked at ‘liquid personality’ and a malleable sense of self across his characters, manipulated by internal or external forces, including Morrison for use on himself, as noted above.

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Dr. David Coughlan from the University of Limerick gave us From Shame Into Glory. The subject was the hyper-masculine; armoured against the feminine, yet read as expressing shame and inadequacy. Coughlan spoke of “the idea of diffusing the hard body” present in Animal Man andFlex Mentallo, and the life defined by shame, guilt, fear and hatred in the character of Ned Slade in The Filth. Slade’s secret identity is that of a paedophile, but he is a super-cleansing hero dedicated to his cat. The Filth, according to Coughlan, examines the superhero’s part in redeeming man from shame “through the interactions of perversion and policing.”

META

Charles Stephens from Texas A & M University presented Morrison Meta-Continuity Within the DC Universe: Creativity as the Ultimate Superpower. Touching upon many of the themes of the conference so far, he also brought in more view to Seven Soldiers and Final Crisis, and the subject of continuity. Charles looked at the subject of Grant’s metafiction avatars, and the movement by other authors and contemporaries to do likewise. My memories of this are hazy – this may be when we discussed John Byrne’s run on She-Hulk (around the same time as Animal Man #26), but my notes tell only that I should read the book on Jerry Siegel, ‘Men of Tomorrow’and Susan Blackmore’s The Meme Machine, which picks up where Dawkins left off on The Selfish Gene.

Clare Pitkethly (New Zealand?) presented Alienated in the pages of a Comic, on the subjection of his characters to comic book textuality. Inhabited by alien discourse are his characters, while Morrison in his comic assumes the role of language himself (through means of his proxies and signifiers) The characters and their environments take on “self-reflexivity” qualities recurring.  acquiring “a distance from the illusory worlds around them”, yet become aware of this. Language speaks the speaker (written from somewhere else), and characters are spoken by the author.

The final talk was by Roy Cook of the Universityof Minnesota. Royis the author of The Art of Comics which we should  for in paperback shortly, and a contributor to Pencil, Panel, Page a comics theory blog. His talk sounded frivolous, but in fact was fun and infectiously brain-occupying. The Writer and The Writer guided us through The Death of The Author in Suicide Squad #58. Written by John Ostrander, the Squad was joined on three or four pages by Grant Morrison, as visualised in Animal Man #26, with the power of prophecy, events unfolding on his word processor. Until blown up. Cook’s theory is that Old School Ostrander is having some fun poking at the young hipster writers with their kooky ideas and fancy literary foppery. But, he remarks, here’s where it gets interesting. “This issue forces us to re-conceptualise the relationships between the author as creator and the author as meta-fictional construct within his own creation, at least when this creation is a massively fictional universe like the DC continuity.” Rob then goes on to lay out five universes:

1. Wily E. Coyote, Road Runner cartoons

2. Crafty, Wily E’s Animal Man avatar and Chas Truog, who precedes Morrison and appears by paintbrush.

3. Grant as The Writer, along with his house, nearby parks and paths (visualised through Truog’s interpretation of course), appearing in Animal Man #25-26.

4. The Writer’s appearance in Suicide Squad. Technically,John Ostrander’s avatars for Grant and Chas, filtered his own perspective.

5. Our world, were everybody above and everything mentioned exists.

The-Writer

Closing

Dr. Chris Murray summed up the conference was  “a rich view of Morrison’s oeuvre and his techniques.”

Someone suggested Moore was a guru, but yet an old school teacher standing at the front and instructing, while Morrison was an escatonic new ‘we’ll all be friends’ teacher.

There was chatter about the rise of writers along Morrisonian lines.

Speculation we would yet see a diverged Superman, and coalesced Batman.

Consensus: to learn about continuity, go to Morrison.

Two things we didn’t talk about at all: the Kathmandu experience, and Quitely and Morrison’s conversation with the stranger who dressed and looked exactly like Superman.

Two things we did talk about: The Black Zoid saga, and what Grant might have thought of all this – that he’d be interested, surprised, but mostly amused.

It was a fantastic few days of thinking, learning and cooking academic esteem.  I’m really glad it happened.

I got back to Gar’s place and we had a good old bitch, while eating more healthy boiled eggs. We watched his award-winning Foxes, which was fantastic and very creepy, and I enjoyed my first views of Cloverfield, and The Mist.

Thanks to Darragh, Kate, Gar and everyone who worked so hard for such a unique weekend. I hope Dublin has another comics barcamp or conference in 2013.

Andy Luke would like 1,000 readers to check out his great comic, Optimus and Me, so he can justify  publishing the beautiful colour sequel, The Moods of Prime, on his website for free. He’s currently working on strips for Courageous Mayhem, including ‘Underwater Billiards: A True Story’, due out in Winter 2013.

South Park – 200 And Won!

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.

“We promised we’d not let any harm come to Mohammad”

– Stan

south park happy 200 and won

Critics hit on the notion early South Park had a quality of nonsense lost to the later infiltration of celebrity appearances and “messages”. I concede I’m a minority proudly of the view that early episodes were not very good. Furthermore, they were without direction. The motif of offending everyone looks stronger when not so crass, when plush Kenny dolls are not inserted into every artifice and orifice. The attack on celebrities by South Park celebrates powers of parody, and questions a society that, however uneven-handed, elected them. The Simpsons comes under less fire for it’s pandering employment of idiots, ad-men and war criminals. South Park is an act of communication: so why do Western brats whine about “messages”?

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Parker and Stone approach the milestone 200th gracefully, celebrating incarnations of the show along the spectrum. Beautifully self-referential, the newly offended Tom Cruise does what any melodramatic villian does. He assembles together other offended celebrities to launch a class action lawsuit against the town. Desperate to avoid destruction, they manage to cut a deal with Cruise: he has always wanted to meet the prophet Muhammad.

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From there to the Super Best Friends, a Justice League of Deities where Stan might enlist Muhammad’s help. Except that some Muslims have forbidden it, already parodied in the Park as a threat issued to the mediocre Family Guy staff. 

Other implications included a threat on Danish cartoonist Go’morgen Danmark and an auction house turning down Danmark’s efforts to help the victims of the Haitian earthquake. 

That, and stealing teddy bears and teachers from children.

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(Hushed tones) “Oh, is that okay?”

(muffled) “I dunno”

Between the airing of ‘200’ and ‘201’, Parker and Stone received death threats from Muslim extremist predictables. The decision spurred Comedy Central to censor ‘201’, bleeping out every pronunciation of Mohammad and (presumably by implication), the customary final speech which included not a mention of Mohammad.

Growing up in Northern Ireland where people were murdered one another over for religion, I saw the hypnosis for enslavement to cover for trades of arms, property and drugs. For most of the people on this planet, we’re pissed off with Abu Talhah al Amrikee, Westboro Baptist Church and Tom Cruise. Worse, we’re embarassed. Then, it’s all a bit too tiresome really.

The censorship strips back the layer of visibility: the episode has little to do with Mohammad, or even the image of a representation of Mohammad. It’s about what can and can’t be shown in a clips episode. It doesn’t affect the creation of a piece of art which is most parts epic Hollywood blockbuster like Longer, Bigger and Uncut or Imaginationland. A homage to great superhero cartoons and comics and theatrical drama. It’s about making people laugh and engaging them with surprise and thorough Story. Less than three minutes into the Muslim censor-fest of ‘201’, this is made abundantly clear.

The message is obviously about the power and bleeping. This was a bleeping great episode all the same.

Parker and Stone anticipate many moves ahead with subtle kind gestures. Careful, entertaining and attuned. Some things hardly need to be communicated, but I’m going to go there anyway: It ain’t The Wire, but it remains one of the smartest shows on American television.

Spoilers are censored. If you’re religious, maybe you can forgive me?

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South Park Online is currently not streaming ‘201’ presumably until the heat blows over. Or Mecha-Streisand calms down and forgets about the torrents.