Thursday, August 21, 2014

52 Thoughts Inspired by Grant Morrison's “The Multiversity” #1

Eight notes, containing fifty-two thoughts, on the occasion of my favorite anarchist DC Comics writer releasing the first issue of his latest multiple-universes epic.

Grant Morrison:

1. Comics writer Morrison likes to toy with his characters’ conceptions of reality and is a vegetarian on animal-welfare principles (thus he might have liked the TV show Wilfred, judging by Sonny Bunch's review).

2. Part of the reason this entry is long is that I was avoiding blogging, tweeting, and Facing for a week, and this is what happens when I save it up. It’s not just me, though: cyber-addiction is now trans-species (which might trouble Morrison): Emily Zanotti Skyles, fascinatingly, notes that her cat Fat George gets huffy and stomps around mad if she takes away the iPad on which she sometimes lets him watch birds.

3. But to return to the main topic: the first issue of the nine-issue, Morrison-written miniseries The Multiversity from DC Comics came out yesterday, featuring numerous familiar-yet-surreal characters amidst a multiversal war, including talking rabbit Capt. Carrot and an evil giant eyeball reminiscent of the villains Brother Eye and Mickey Eye (used by Morrison in past stories) and, probably-coincidentally, reminiscent as well of the Marvel Comics villain the Orb (who recently stole the secrets of that company’s multiverse in its biggest current miniseries).  

At the heart of the conflict set up in the first issue is the last living Monitor of the multiverse, Nix Uotan (which presumably translates roughly as Nothing-Father, as opposed to Odin the All-Father), who is torn between the assembled forces of good and evil. In the end, though, I suspect we the readers will become the real Monitors, in keeping with Morrison’s usual penchant for metafiction.

4. Morrison is a rather Michael-Moorcock-like anarchist: loving diverse worlds, characters, and aspects of personality because he finds in the resulting ironies pockets of freedom.

And given how rapidly media is accumulating layers of irony and self-referentiality these days, especially online, one has to wonder if there’s an irony-oriented equivalent of the tech-oriented Singularity on the horizon, a point past which no one will have the slightest idea whether anyone else is serious about anything.

5. Morrison is also fond of magic and so might like this video of a magician taunting a cop.

6. He would likely greatly appreciate the fact that a real-world Washington Post article about Ferguson (last I checked) inappropriately capitalizes “Watchmen.” Apparently, another anarchist comics writer, Alan Moore, has successfully blended his work in the popular mind with the Juvenal saying. Let none call comics juvenile.

7. Even Wired is writing about Multiversity, likening it to the multiple-worlds interpretation of quantum theory (h/t Jackie).

8. Here are six pages of the story you can read yourself (or at least try to comprehend, for those not steeped in weird comics already).

9. If nothing else, the miniseries will leave us with Morrison’s amusingly complex-and-nerdy new map of the Multiverse. There’s at least one Stan Lee-influenced Earth over on the dark side of the multiverse and the very Jack Kirby-influenced Earth 51 over on the light side, interestingly.

The most interesting innovation in Morrison’s very faithful map, though, may be placing all the pagan gods’ homes on neighboring mountain peaks in a place called Skyland and opposing it to an Underworld that also goes by the (Kryptonian) name the Phantom Zone, which like so many Morrison innovations makes a great deal of sense even from a very traditionalist perspective.

While we’re at it, I think they could make real historical sense of the term “Fourth World” for Kirby’s New Gods characters once and for all by declaring the local spirits of animist faiths the First World, the pagan pantheons the Second, the God of monotheism the Third, and treating Kirby’s Fourth World characters as the troubled, more tech-oriented neophyte gods born of the Industrial Era’s turn away from Christianity and similar faiths. But, hey, I don’t write these things (often).

Other Voices:

10. Despite their slight creative similarities, I don’t know what Morrison thinks of departed manic-trickster demigod Robin Williams...

11. ...but I suspect he’d appreciate the metafictional fact that
Williams is being turned into an ongoing character in the virtual reality that is World of Warcraft (and he might share my vague sense that there was something slightly immoral about that notorious raid on a funeral procession -- inspired by a real-world death -- that was once carried out in WoW by, uh, trolls).

12. Neither Morrison nor Williams, by the way, should be considered crazy in the way that, say, anti-Semite Michael Jackson seems to have been (not that Jacko was the world's only anti-Semite, as countless ugly actions in recent days have shown).

13. And Morrison stands firmly within a proud tradition even when writing his strangest comics tales, helped by writers of the past.

14. Speaking of time periods, I may wait until they inevitably collect Multiversity into a likely two-volume anthology a year hence before reading the whole thing, but I can start the enthusiasm now.

Many Roads to War/Burbank:

15. By mid-2015, it appears all ten of the following comics plotlines, not just The Multiversity, may lead to a two-month “Darkseid War,” with DC Comics’ move to Burbank smoothed by a forty-issue melee between different versions of their characters (and the end of DC’s “New 52” version of fictional reality perhaps? or at least of that increasingly-dated label? followed by something even more closely hewing to the increasingly lucrative movie/TV versions of their characters, perhaps?).

16. Robin has been partially resurrected with help from the Kirby-created evil world of Apokolips, home to the tyrant god Darkseid (in Batman and Robin).

17. Darkseid’s apparent daughter, the chaos goddess Kaiyo, toys with the Supermen of multiple Earths (in Batman/Superman).

18. The New Gods are at war with the Lantern Corps (in the multiple Green Lantern series).

19. Kirby’s Infinity Man and the Forever People purportedly face a big threat to the multiverse themselves (in their brand-new ongoing series, already the lowest-selling of all of DC’s core fifty-two titles, “despite” being written by the editor in charge of it all, Dan Didio, the guy who years ago thought it would be funny to make Superboy a building super -- get it?! -- and now apparently thinks it’s funny to make the villainous Dr. Scuba an apartment complex pool cleaner).

20. Darkseid is reconquering the homeworld of Doctor Fate and other mid-century-style heroes (in the pages of Earth 2).

21. That conflict was presaged by Apokoliptian incursions during the youth of Huntress and Power Girl (as soon to be seen in Worlds’ Finest).

22. The conflict may in turn spill over onto -- and piss off -- other Earths such as the main one in DC’s multiverse, Earth-0 (in Earth 2: Worlds' End).

23. And that leaves Earth-0 ripe for conquest by the mechanical Kirby villain Brother Eye fives years in the future (in the pages of New 52: Futures End).

24. None of which may affect Morrison’s plans one bit but is surely meant to resonate with them (even if only outside the pages of The Multiversity, in comics like Justice League, in which it’s hinted the Anti-Monitor will soon attack both Alexander Luthor Jr. and Darkseid).

Other Comics:

25. I hope none of that will turn into a trainwreck, but if for some perverse reason you’d like to see time travel and multiple realities handled very badly and rendered hopelessly confusing, check out Superboy #34, the final issue of that series.

26. The character Vibe’s solo series was supposed to be an important window on the multiverse, but that got canceled just as the character was poised to appear on TV in the upcoming Flash show -- leading to him being rather perfunctorily and perhaps angrily deep-sixed in an offhand line of dialogue by writer and DC co-publisher Geoff Johns (if you ask me, there’s an office politics story there somewhere).

27. Vibe was also meant to become a tie to Detroit by Michigan-raised Johns. Alas.

28. Detroit has suffered far greater losses than the cancelation of Vibe, though, as was made clear to me and other gathered writers at an August 12 presentation on the economic situation there, organized by Deroy Murdock and the Atlas Foundation. Detroit could undeniably use a superhero, or at least freer markets.

29. I’ll sketch only one connection between superheroes and real-world politics for the remainder of my fifty-two points in this blog entry, but remember you can always find plenty of that sort of thing over at

Worlds of Ambiguity:

30. In real quantum mechanics news, it sounds as though an amazing French discovery from 2011 (h/t Charles Blake) -- that something really can be a particle and a wave at the same time through the surprisingly classical means of being such a steady wave that it has a stable “droplet” at its head -- may end up being something of a buzzkill to some. The universe may adhere to common sense after all without having any multiple worlds or inherently fuzzy edges.

31. I would still advise seeing the documentary Particle Fever, though, which depicts the scientists who worked to bring CERN’s Large Hadron Collider online -- and ends on a knife-edge of uncertainty about whether new particle discoveries lend greater credence to the existence of a multiverse or a universe filled with dark matter.

32. Two of the producers, Gerry Ohrstrom and Thomas Campbell Jackson, are friends of mine and also libertarians, so leftists -- some of whom think the Koch Brothers like dinosaur exhibits just because dinosaurs are big and mean and could bite prey -- should start puzzling out why evil libertarians also like physics. I’m sure they’ll think of something nefarious, like us wanting to drop fission weapons on the poor or something.

The left has no more shame and not even a residual fondness for logic, it lately seems. Give them any random set of facts or events, even murders committed by government, and they will find a tortuous way to blame liberty advocates for the disaster instead of government. They seem to pride themselves on how bendy their logic is lately, especially if it produces click-bait headlines in the likes of Salon.

33. Whether in politics or physics, it seems we are often left poised between competing plausible theories. Skeptic though I am by methodology, I’m not even so sure I can dismiss ancient tales of giants anymore -- especially since some of them don’t seem to be all that ancient.

34. And as is embarrassingly obvious, I’ve taken a somewhat more agnostic attitude toward UFO claims in recent years than in my prior three decades (only a bit, but can you blame me for wondering how weird the world might be with many people in Houston claiming to see -- and apparently photographing -- a ring of hovering lights, and more mundane yet shocking things happening like still-living plankton making its way on wind currents all the way up to the International Space Station?).

This Skeptic article from a few years ago (lest I appear to have forgotten my usual loyalties) is really quite marvelously balanced in summing up the whole complicated UFO issue, I think, despite one or two missteps (scroll down to the big “UFO” headline).

35. And the chronic ambivalence most people feel about rival political theories can only be exacerbated by things like this Duck Enlightenment Twitter feed, which seem to both promote and parody a given philosophy -- in this case the “Dark Enlightenment” view adopted by some disgruntled ex-libertarians who’ve turned to retrograde things like monarchism and racism.

And in most moods I like the diversity of political philosophies in the world, so long as they are generally trending toward liberty: I was tempted years ago (even before widespread Net use speeded up the creation of niche ideologies) to write sci-fi in which the same underlying philosophy looked radically different on different worlds -- sometimes liberal, sometimes anarchist, sometimes conservative -- but was always pro-liberty in the end, if you catch my (Straussian?) drift.

Advances in Sci-Fi:

36. The sci-fi novel The Cassini Division, which I mentioned briefly before, has something of that ideologically-playful spirit, essentially pitting against each other three versions of humankind who believe in anarcho-communism, individualist anarchism, and anarcho-capitalism, with big consequences for their technology and psyches.

37. A less political -- but very quantum-mechanical -- sci-fi notion I’ve had is someday using the multiple-worlds interpretation (quickly before it goes out of fashion) to explain why certain cryptids and other phenomena supposedly drift into our world from time to time to be glimpsed only fleetingly: Perhaps there is a timeline in which ape-men still roam the Pacific Northwest, another with plesiosaurs in Scotland, another with your dead relatives in it, another with super-evolved saucer men, and so on. We’ll keep that on the back burner for now.

38. Speaking of mystical explanations, Marvel Studios reportedly doing no more origin stories on film is good news, I think, and bodes well for Doctor Strange in two years. Let’s move these narratives forward (as DC appears to be doing in Batman v Superman, since Batman will reportedly be depicted as a middle-aged hero returning to the fight).

39. In other big movie news, what appear to be real photos of Stormtrooper helmets from Star Wars VII have appeared online, but if we aren’t sure whether those are real...

40. ...this amazing real picture from back in the days of Return of the Jedi (h/t Justin Shubow) will have to do.

41. I’m pleased to hear both the so-far-announced new Star Wars Episode directors, J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson, are planning to emphasize “practical effects” instead of computer graphics. I recall my depression during the unengaging Gungan/Trade Federation droids battle of 1999 -- and people’s subsequent (partial) relief at the solid, physical X-wing cockpit that cropped up briefly in 2002 on the watery Cloners’ world.

Police Wars:

42. But remember, we don't need sci-fi to see stormtroopers anymore. We live under the Empire, pal, which means articles like this (h/t Cathal Floinn) just might lead to a blending of fight-the-power black militancy with conservative/libertarian fear of government, at least for a moment -- or perhaps for decades to come.

43. Yet blogger Amanda Marcotte somehow drew an anti-libertarian message from recent events in Ferguson, part of a big trend toward the left lying their asses off at the drop of a hat about libertarianism. We must threaten them -- not to mention threatening the execrable David Frum -- in a very profound way (with good reason, let us hope).

Can you imagine going through life stupid enough to believe that government -- which can’t handle relatively simple things like stopping looters -- can handle nuanced things like co-running your business, molding art and culture, or ending poverty?

44. But at least not all government employees are violent -- some are too fat for violence (h/t R. Brent Mattis).

45. Real-life heroes include that woman shown in a recent New York Post photo gripping the thief who attacked her until the cops could arrive -- yet the ever-more-psychotic leftists found a way to make her the villain, with the perverse Gawker running a piece saying we shouldn’t even believe in arresting teenage thieves anymore (what a mindboggling piece of shit of a human being Gawker writer Jordan Sargent must be).

Adding to our cultural pain, the thief’s mother, on cue, reportedly said, “[The robbed woman] has her hands all over him...Why is she touching him like that?...He’s a very good boy...He’s just been hanging out with the wrong crowd.”

Would that Gawker understood the point I heard made in a speech by Robert Bidinotto on one of my first trips to NYC, back in college: Let a violent thief go, and you aren’t doing any favors for his future victims, nor for the other kids in his neighborhood who learn that they can embark on lives of crime without consequences.

46. And that subculture of criminality, really, is one huge unspoken reason for over-militant places like Ferguson, the one reason the dominant culture in the U.S. still dares not address, and without which it can get no real handle on it all. Just watch Jason Riley -- who can speak the truth because he’s black -- try to make that point to white female liberal media stars.  In short, yes, you really can have a fight between barbarians and fascists, with both sides wrong (it‘s quite common, really).

47. Yet in The Multiversity, a black U.S. president is (literally) secretly Superman. So, sure, let’s all celebrate diversity -- pardon me, multiversity -- one more time, but let’s not pretend doing that is what makes everything OK, all right, Progressives? Ritually slaying the evil racism monster over and over again -- or blaming everything on poverty as Kareem Abdul-Jabar did in a column -- will eventually be seen as shallow responses.


48. But hey, lest I sound like I’m not engaged in outreach, now Facebook’s count awards me four non-existent friends, totally making up for the three real people who unfriended me around the time of my just-ended week off.

I will withdraw further in a few weeks and may emerge around the time the Multiversity trade paperback comes out in 2015, not that I expect the world to be saner then, but I could use some time to more quietly contemplate how best to sanely address an insane world. I will endeavor to emerge a better man if I lay low for a bit, I promise.

49. And I hope I emerge more syncretic and peacemaking (many people, obviously, struggle with their urge to fight -- but I swear I always secretly crave peace even in the midst of political arguments and should start saying so more openly, even in a world where motivated mishearing is the norm and the rewards for snark and conflict immense). Conflict-avoidance looks more appealing the more that articles like this become necessary (h/t Jesse Forgione and, once more, the lovely Jackie).

50. Calm, mellow conflict-resolution thinking could certainly be put to good use on the Russians, Palestinians, Syrians, ISISes, Iranians, ebolans, Mexicans, and Fergusonians, not to mention half the people online...

51. I for one somehow got placed on -- and booted from -- both an anarcho-capitalist transhumanist Facebook page (not so unlike something from The Cassini Division) and an unrelated UFO page during my week off from Facebook. Ever-churning drama.

52. If I emerge from a period offline with an uplifting vision of how to help people get along, let us hope it is as inspiring as the video I linked to on that AnCapTransHu page, Rick Springfield’s highly relevant “Human Touch,” which I notice is supposed to take place in the futuristic year 2016. (It has hints of rock, liberty, science, and fantasy -- ever the inescapable tetrad for me; I am a tetraditionalist, you might say.)

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