Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Michael Moorcock vs. Grant Morrison

jerry-cornelius.gif king-mob.jpg arkwright.jpg

So my favorite comics writer, Grant Morrison (whose comic book miniseries Final Crisis sees its first issue released tomorrow and reviewed as my Book Selection of the Month on Thursday), is quoted in one article summing up what he likes about current media by asking “Have you seen the site American Dwarf?”

Intrigued and hoping for something mind-realigning, I looked for it in vain — then doublechecked his comments by looking at another transcript of the same group interview. Turns out he actually said “Have you seen the South American dwarf?” — and was apparently referring to that goddam “gnome” who made the tabloids a few months ago, a prank-playing, mask-wearing dwarf who terrified some Latin American locals by running in and out of the shadows, which is apparently all it takes to make international headlines these days.

Sigh. No American Dwarf site (as of this writing). I don’t believe in nothin’ no more. Fabricators everywhere you turn.


What I was really hoping for, I suppose, was a site full of articles on weird cultural phenomena resembling the trippy things in Morrison’s comics, like the L.A. Times piece about Roky Erickson and the Thirteenth Floor Elevators from which this passage comes:

“Easter Everywhere” [their final album] was the last gasp. Though the band performed sporadically throughout 1968, Erickson was frequently absent, increasingly unhinged at the prospect of going onstage. A year later, it had fully blown apart. Sutherland was hooked on smack, Hall was dealing drugs and Erickson, whose grip on reality had slipped, was persuaded by a public defender to plead insanity to avoid hard time for possession of a small amount of pot. He was charged with offending “the peace and dignity of the state,” diagnosed as schizophrenic by the court and spent nearly four years in a maximum-security asylum. As Drummond puts it: “[T]he vision of utopia that many tried to achieve by ‘turning on’ led to a massive toxic overload by the end of the decade.” By the end of the 1970s, Sutherland was dead and Erickson had legally declared himself a Martian.

I’m no crazed, logic-bashing Situationist, obviously, but there is something to be said for reminding people real life can be as odd as sci-fi.


One real-life situation odd enough to seem like, if not sci-fi, at least an exercise in metafiction, is the animosity between Grant Morrison and one of his biggest (and quite openly acknowledged) influences, fellow British writer Michael Moorcock. Now, Moorcock, much like Situationist leader Guy Debord, has encouraged a certain “open source” approach to his work, applauding people who do homages that seem almost to take place within Moorcock’s fictional multiverse, like Bryan Talbot (who wrote my favorite comic book miniseries of all time, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright). And like Guy Debord’s widow, who recently hypocritically sued people for making a Debord-based boardgame, Michael Moorcock is apparently upset that Morrison so heavily lifted elements of the Moorcock character Jerry Cornelius (who, meta-meta-ironically, is supposed to have many incarnations across the multiverse, all part of the composite being called the Eternal Champion). Two issues of Morrison’s Invisibles comic book depicted an amoral, 60s-mod adventurer resembling Cornelius but named Gideon Stargrave.

Well, since these British sci-fi types seem to thrive on grouchy confrontation instead of friendship, I humbly suggest (if Grant Morrison or someone close to him, perhaps at DC Comics, is listening) that instead of trying to patch things up with Moorcock, Morrison use the opportunity provided by the Final Crisis storyline — which touches upon three multiversal versions of the Legion of Super-Heroes (manipulated by the Time Trapper) — to drive Moorcock into a state of absolute rage by depicting Gideon Stargrave fighting a battle against 1970s Legion villain Pulsar Stargrave, a bizarre character (possibly a green-skinned man from Colu related to Brainiac 5, the character I plan to be for Halloween, but also possibly an android or living star masquerading as a relative of Brainaic 5) who looks like a cross between a disco dancer and something vaguely influenced (without sparking rage) by Moorcock book covers back when they were still cutting-edge.

Pulsar Stargrave is as bald as Morrison, so throw some Morrisonian dialogue in his mouth about him being metafictionally aware that his character’s been revised from man to machine over the years (the opposite of Maxwell Lord’s story, for those in the know — though now his transition from man to machine to man to dead is apparently all in continuity, thanks to problem-solver Geoff Johns). Then let Gideon Stargrave rage in Moorcockian fasion about wanting to wreck amoral havoc on his enemies and imitators, possibly implying in the process that Moorcock’s multiverse is but a subset of DC’s. Instant nerd inside-joke classic, and with both writers left-anarchists, probably no one hires a lawyer and sues. But then, that’s probably what the people who made the Guy De-boardgame thought.


On a vaguely related note, I was pleased to see that in a chapter of Morrison’s DC One Million storyline (this one written by James Robinson), an overdue dialectical synthesis of Moorcock, Morrison, Bowie, Adam Warlock (a Marvel character influenced by Moorcock), and DC Comics’ multiverse was implicitly achieved when the Starman of the 853rd-century DC Universe turned out to have a gem on his high, teutonic forehead that made him look quite Warlock-like. Watch out for his bursts of raw synergy!

In similarly fusionist fashion, the one time I met Bryan Talbot, he told me he considered making his most famous character, the openly Moorcock-influenced Luther Arkwright, look exactly like Bowie but settled for having Bowie be mentioned briefly in the story as an off-panel assassination victim during the mounting violence and chaos in the story. I am available for the Arkwright role if anyone’s planning a local-theatre stage version, by the way. And here’s hoping that the fact that actor David Tennant of Doctor Who (and Harry Potter and Casanova and Quatermass) fame once played the character on radio increases the odds of it getting made into a movie one day — with all those alternate-universe Prussian flying machines and the like, it would be spectacular — as would the Amazonian body of another open-source character who appears in the Arkwright stories: Russian comic book heroine Octobriana, created by actual anarchist underground comics writers back in the Soviet days, a wonderful fusion of character, artistic process, and political symbol.

But speaking of political fusion (instead of just fused comic book universes), if Thursday’s Book Selection (Final Crisis) seems too fluffy for you, come back a mere week from today when my Book Selection for June will be Charles Taylor’s effort to square the circle of all modern philosophical contradictions, his opus Sources of the Self. And if you can see why efforts to reconcile communitarianism and post-Romantic individualism are analogous in my brain to efforts to explain the modern Flash’s brief presence on Earth-2, you understand me very well — and would probably get along with Morrison and Moorcock to boot.

(And the day after my Taylor review, don’t forget to watch our circle-squaring efforts at Lolita Bar, June 4 at 8pm, to determine if libertarians and others should vote for Bob Barr.)


Jacob T. Levy said...

I *must* have pictures of Todd as Brainiac-5– the perfect costume idea.

Todd Seavey said...

Will do. You’ll notice my April 29 and April 30 blog entries’ pics are sort of a preview, if you look at them together really fast and squint.

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