Universal Journey: Magic and Multiverse

My first commissioned work as an author went live today at http://universaljourney.org

The site explores the three Abrahamic faiths from an agnostic perspective: symbolism; history; stories; and legacies. I’ve authored sections on Saints David and George, but my star turn is an expanded piece on magic and the multiverse. It was an exciting opportunity to write about my own religious beliefs and I’m grateful I had the opportunity. (I’m not sure I did so since entering a design and content competition hosted a YA bible magazine competition in the 80s; I was listed as a runner-up) Universal Journey introduces me as, ‘ a polytheist christian.’ It’s a long time since I thought of myself as the latter, but part of being the former is that it’s all-inclusive, so why the heck not? Away you have a browse; oh but first…

Thanks everyone who’s voted Flesh Mob for Best Story over at http://orb-store.com/tense.htm and bought copies of Tense Situations into the bargain. Superb bees.

Corrie (as if by Grant Morrison)

Corrie (as if by Grant Morrison)
by Richard Barr, co-plotted by Andy Luke

The Superhero had never before in his existence felt such powerlessness hollow out his multidimensional soul. In Earth Year: 1992, via the Word Processor of series creator Hamish Dillinger, he was incarnated into the village of Glendarroch, in the soap opera Take the High Road. Here he was Nigel Jenkins, cockney wide boy and bringer of Capitalist Shopping Resort doom to the sleepy Scottish village.

Standing on a hill overlooking Glendarroch, as he did in that final episode, as the set props and backdrops suddenly took on a garish, artificial feel (something common in all final episodes of cancelled shows, he later reflected) he listened to the velvety intonations of the mysterious Mister Spinetti, Mall Entrepreneur and Serial Community Leveller, telling him to persuade those gentle country folk below to accept his plans for village annexing and Consumerist Terraforming.

Such a waste, he thought, such a workaday tragedy. Another daytime Soap Opera crescendo squandered. On his final return to the set of his (now) Balsawood home, he did wish that for once he could control the destiny of those hard-done-by characters he found himself inhabiting…

Between the veils The Superhero perceived a number of work men coming onto the set and lifting the props away. In this world, his world, the world of make believe and multi-recycled story narratives, the bits and pieces of his life as Nigel Jenkins disappeared into thin air, and then, finally, he did, too.

…And back into Fractal Time Hyper-Conscious Anthropologiverse he went. Travelling through a multi-laned, multi-coloured hi-way of hi-def, fibre optic pixilation, across landscapes of dusty literature and comic book tropes. But he always knew it was the dimension given to Soap Opera in which he belonged.

His essence, transmuted via the sweaty fingertips of veteran TV writer Gildare Hazzenbottom onto the very grimy screen of his Commodore PC monitor by way of a well-bashed keyboard, did then pour into one Ken Barlow the second, prodigal son of Coronation Street patriarch, Ken Barlow, who, he was none too surprised to find, was much put out at his impromptu arrival.

But that staple of Soap Opera interpersonal relating was the very least of his worries…for there was something happened on his arrival on the hollowed, cobbled Coronation Street, something that’d never happened before in the usually flawless processes involved in spawning a new Soap Opera character.

As usual a portal opened in a place much mentioned but never seen in-soap, in this case Bessie Street Post Office. Ken Barlow the second, as again was usual, stepped through the portal, hauling with him that year’s entire set of outfits in a big old suitcase. And this is where this particular character spawning cast aside normalcy…

…A shift occurred in the chest of Ken Barlow the second. He noticed this first. Suddenly his stomach was engorged, blooming like an aggressive tumour. From out of his arse spilt the liquid matter of Other Ken, played by Prince William (in an EarthPlane cameo appearance aimed at making the Royals relevant and down with it…)

“I am Prince William, your heir to…I mean, sorry…I am Other Ken. I am here to herald the Great Convergence. A resident of Coronation Street Roy Cropper has been using his idiot savant genius to mess with SoapPlane’s laws of Space/Time. The convergence of Soap Realities, an event not prophesised to happen for at least another millennia, is happening now due to that oddball’s meddling, and there is nothing you can do to stop it!”

With a stagey laugh, Other Ken disassembled his amorphous liquid essence and ran down a gutter. Ken Barlow the second had a lot to do.

All around Coronation Street, The Convergence was manifesting in the most fantastical ways, signs and portents which sent the children of Bessie Street Primary into a cannibalistic, lustful rage. Little Simon Barlow hopped on octogenarian Emily Bishop, causing SoapPlane’s first ever colostomy- (as opposed to gym-) –slip pregnancy. But none of the other characters seemed to take much notice – they were all much too concerned with their own Convergence visions.

Hard Man Owen, aged beau of Anna, began a steamy affair with Coronation Street veteran seductress Sally Webster. Then Sally, spotting her reflection in the windows of The Rover’s Return, began to have an affair with herself, resulting in her carrying on her back a near full-length mirror every episode. Sally and her mirror, housing within its frame her always-shocked expression, then did a declaration of their love bit in the Rovers during the Christmas special, where, by this point, Ken Barlow the second had found work as a barman.

Yet Ken Barlow the second wasn’t the only prodigal child to return to Coronation Street in the episodes (not days, see) before The Convergence. Norris Cole didn’t even recall having his son Norris Jr., who arrived with a great Cole family fortune, made from his exploitative dating website loversreturn.co.uk. Alf Roberts (of Summer Bay) crawled through a pregnant Emily Bishop’s washing machine (via Dot Cotton’s laundrette on Albert Square) claiming he’d help Mrs Bishop raise her colostomy-slip baby. Unfortunately Alf Roberts was still suffering his PTSD hallucinations from the ‘Nam and with a rifle he’d made using the 3D-printer at Dev’s shop, he went out onto t’street and did a Hungerford.

Elsewhere, Kevin the Mechanic, standing in aged Thundercat Rita’s kabin, was shocked and ashamed to discover that on the front page of the Weatherfield Gazette was a man named Michael Turner, who looked just the spit of him, that’d been accused of the most heinous and filthy crimes against his own daughter.

Up in the skies above Weatherfield, Other Ken flew around there naked as the day he was born, save for Edna Sharples dusty hairnet which he’d found while rifling through Deidre Barlow’s dildo drawer.

I’m bored, he thought. I know, I’ll speed up this Convergence thing and rip a big hole in the sky.

And as the sky tore, the noise accompanying it was the whining strings of the Coronation Street theme tune.

On the screens of EarthPlane television sets, a purple faced and flustered Julian Simmons announced that night’s televisual entertainment.

“…and so due to the shock conglomeration of the drama departments of the BBC, ITV, actually, every television station in the world, tonight at 7.30 we’ll have Coronation Street’s Days of Our Lives Dynasty Doctors. Tomorrow night, Eastenders of Home & Away Bring Back Their Sons & Daughters…

 

Back on Coronation Street every strata of soap opera trope and event spilt forth from the hole ripped in the firmament by Other Ken. The shark that ate Tom in Home & Away landed with a splat on Jason Grimshaw, killing the thick fuck instantly. From The Colby’s came the Flying Saucer that abducted Fallon, which hovered over the Kebab Shop menacingly. The Peruvian terrorists who had shot up the wedding party at the end of S01E12 (for this is how the calendars appear on SoapPlane) Dynasty rushed the Rover’s return shooting Peter, Carla and Ken Barlow. Ken Barlow the second, who’d forgotten for many episodes that he was also The Superhero, ran from behind the bar, slumped to his knees, and screamed the place down as he lay cradling the dying head of his father.

With great anger he rushed out onto Coronation Street shaking his fist at the sky.

“I will end you!” he screamed at Other Ken, flying about the sky with great abandon.

“Embrace it, Ken Barlow the second. The Convergence is well under way.”

Remembering that Other Ken had told him it was all Roy’s doing, bringing on the Great Convergence, he ran at Roy’s Rolls, shoulder first, right through the door.

Seated at a dark-wood table next to the counter, Roy was listening intently to George Noory on Coast 2 Coast FM, who at that moment was talking about Time Travel. All around the dim café snaked Roy’s train set with many model trains whizzing along it.

“Ken Barlow the second,” said Roy, his strange eyes squinting.

“What have you done, Roy?” screamed Ken Barlow the second. “You have sped up The Convergence.”

“I was only trying to reach my beloved Hayley, who is dead but is now a comet in space, using my train set as a stargate for a way into outer space. I want to be out there, with my Hayley, floating along, a particle in her tail.”

“But you’ve sped up The Convergence, you fool. What are we going to do?”

“Our only hope is Bob Jiggery.”

“Who’s he?”

“He runs a dance studio/pornographic film studio in the large attic that runs along the tops of the houses of Coronation Street. Also, he has a peculiar hobby reassembling bits of old characters. I think if we go to Mr Jiggery and ask him to assemble all the toughs who’ve left Coronation Street, like Big Jim McDonald, Jez the drug dealer, men like that, then we would have a specimen hard enough to kick the shit outta Other Ken.”

“Take me to him.”

Bob Jiggery was more than happy to help Ken Barlow the second assemble his Coronation Street hardman. In a matter of minutes he had the fists of Big Jim mixed with the brawn of Jez and the cunning of Mike Baldwin. Ken Barlow the second, lifting the hardman by the waist, flew skyward, toward Other Ken, who on seeing the cut of the hardman, cacked himself.

What ensued was not so much a fight as a pounding. Other Ken, played by Prince William on EarthPlane, was beat beautiful by the fists of Big Jim. He fell to the ground in a lump of blue blooded mush, as Ken Barlow the second closed the hole in the firmament, the noise accompanying the whining strings of the theme tune now in reverse, manifesting back-masked words extolling Satan, causing church-going God fearer Emily Bishop to fall to the cobbles and give birth to her colostomy-slip baby, which dim village idiot character Kirk named Schmichael, after his much loved dead dog.

And with the birth of this ugly baby from an elderly mother, things returned to normal on Coronation Street – affairs, incest, alcoholism, gun play, long losts…, arson, skulduggery…and all that other detritus of human juju, and all occurring along that short street in that Northern Industrial Town…

END

 

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.

Morrisonposter

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.”

RainbowBatman

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.

lightningstrike cover

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.

morrison-fluid-personalities

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.

Morrison Symposium: Part 1/2 – Mayhem

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.

Morrisonposter

 

Renaissance

Arno Bogaert’s opener, ‘From Superfolks to Supergods’ raced through US comics history: from the war-time golden-age of good Vs evil, Captain America Vs Hitler, in defense of the normal, to preserve society; to the silver age, were Lee’s The Thing indicated being a superhero isn’t always something some-one would want. The hyper-history reminded me to read Robert Meyer’s Super-Folks, and proposed a theory of interest.Arno suggested that DC’s characters were age-less, while Marvel’s characters did age, until sometime in the mid 1980s. This was the Watchmen era were superheroes became more realistic and pro-active, whichArno noted was “a slippery slope”.
All-Star-Superman-GN
I found that latter pro-Morrison conclusion contentious: certainly some aspects of early Animal Man stories would be in emotive discord with it.Arno interestingly suggested Morrison’s role at the end of the series was akin to an anthropologist and cited other views of authors in their work. Lee and Kirby’s comics’ appearances were among them: the Marvel offices in the pages of Fantastic Four as “constituting an embassy of deities”.Philip Bevin of Kingston University examined the portrait All-Star Superman and stories of Action Comics, as part of DC’s New 52. In these, Morrison creates a spectrum of Superman/men and the villains become different hyper-states of Superman with their own perspectives. In All-Star, Superman tries to get his enemies (and friends) to change their outlooks (to be more like him.) Action contains a more pro-active, socialist ‘blue collar rough and ready’ Superman. Not a re-boot, but rather a re-packaging of established authorial ideas, and as ‘Superman Beyond Binaries’ effectively suggested, seems to be a valuable case study in brand Morrison at DC Comics. Bogaert and Bevin created interesting primers, laying out many of the themes and areas key to the conference.
Fantastic-Four-10
Superworlds

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.

barbelith-alphabet

 

Morrison-Krypton

 

Symbolism

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.

 

Keynote

 

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.

morrison-fractals system of comics

Booze

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.