photo manipulation by nacrowe
i was most definitely not raised on COMICS. as a young child i read CALVIN & HOBBES but that was about it. in fact, its only been in the past few years since returning stateside that ive really dived in headfirst into the weirder world of the genre and all roads seemed to point at SCOTTISH writer GRANT MORRISON. specifically his more personal work in THE INVISIBLES, ANIMAL MAN and DOOM PATROL series.
GRANT MORRISON: TALKING WITH GODS (RESPECT FILMS, 2010) is essentially a documentary made up of several sit-down interviews with the writer discussing his upbringing and influences. essentially he was raised as a child of the cold war with palpable fears of nuclear annihilation that COMICS helped him escape from, specifically those with super powers that had the capacity to neutralize such massive threats. his father was an political agitator who was very much against SCOTLAND's role in NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION and its harboring of the TRIDENT MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM. so that sense of existential dread and loss of agency was part of his nascent sense of identity. fast forward to attending a GLASWEGIAN all-boys school for his teen years and his sense of isolation only furthered his relationship with reading and creating his own narratives in regular school published COMIC STRIPS.
what interested me about his life's narrative is after he became established with the BATMAN vehicle ARKHAN ASYLUM, which allowed him the economic freedom to eventually pursue his THE INVISIBLES series. in essence, once he was financially independent he decided to travel and experience as much as possible. those excursions abroad allowed him to experience various modes of existence in terms of chemical, spiritual and gender manipulations that were beyond what his SCOTTISH identity would allow back home. it is that exploration that he threw into his work. as someone who spent the better part of a decade living abroad on five continents, i understand completely the sense of not being able to escape yourself and the sense of being connected to many, but essentially alone. i get understand that intimately and that sentiment very much resonated with me. i find it interesting that upon meeting his partner he now resides and works comfortably back in SCOTLAND. that sense of leaving only to return but with a new appreciation.
what i found less interesting was all the talk of magical thinking from MORRISON himself as well as those of his numerous peers that are interviewed in the film. MORRISON is not the first or the last person to sprinkle in autobiographical nuggets into his elaborate fictional worlds. maybe the everything ALEISTER CROWLEY and MAGIK related is a BRITISH obsession that doesnt translate to an AMERICAN audience. it just came off like tedious nonsense, like running into "ghost hunters" from STATEN ISLAND. you just nod and keep walking, preferably fast.
i thoroughly recommend this documentary to anyone interested in TRANSGRESSIVE and thought-provoking art or literature. MORRISON is most definitely worth the effort of further investigation, especially THE INVISIBLES which is a personal favorite of mine. no wonder THE MATRIX ripped it off.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
i am sad to admit that my introduction, like many AMERICANS, to the world of legendary underground BRITISH comic imprint 2000 AD, was that dreadful SYLVESTER STALLONE JUDGE DREDD (HOLLYWOOD, 1995) film. needless to say i didnt pursue the comic at the time. i dont think i was alone in that.
a few years ago when i rediscovered comics, and by that i mean mostly ALTERNATIVE COMICS, i finally came around to learning about the long-running BRITISH magazine which led me to the excellent recent documentary FUTURE SHOCK! THE STORY OF 2000AD (DEVIANT, 2014). this film definitely felt like a labor of love, with notable participating interviewees including past artists like CARLOS EZQUERRA, BRIAN BOLLAND, DAVE GIBBONS, GARY ERSKINE, HENRY FLINT, LEE GARBETT and STEVE YOEWELL, writers such as JOHN WAGNER, ALAN GRANT, NEIL GAIMAN, IAN EDGINTON and GRANT MORRISON, EMMA BEEBY and editors including PAT MILLS, DAVID BISHOP and ANDY DIGGLE. and that is the truncated list of interviewees. it really is quite overwhelming.
what i found most interesting were the roots of the magazine, which grew out of a milieu of genre specific cartoon magazines written for young boys. founding editor PAT MILLS found his original ACTION comic censored for its violence so he ingeniously reimagined and rebranded such as a SCIENCE FICTION magazine, and importantly kept the violence, and thus 2000 AD was born. its pretty funny that such worked, given that it was somehow palatable and morally passable for the censors to see MUTANTS and ROBOTS being mangled, trampled, dismembered, tortured, drowned, and blown to bits. so long as it wasnt humans.
i also found it interesting the convergence between the magazine and the BRITISH PUNK ROCK movement of the late 1970s, with the JUDGE DREDD character both a reaction and a commentary on such at the time. in essence he was the ultimate authoritarian figure crushing the perceived opposition, of which the PUNKS were an implicit target. it was ultra-violent and tone perfect for an era and generation questioning authority figures and the relationship between the governed and the government.
and in essence that sense of questioning boundary lines in society and culture is what makes the magazine still relevant, and arguably very BRITISH. that subtext is also what differentiates it from its AMERICAN brethren and readership, who often expect clearly righteous figures and dont appreciate moral ambiguity. an interesting point made is how the 2000 AD model has over time found its way into AMERICAN popular culture with former fans writing, directing and acting in films more aligned with the later's outlook rather than the former. even musicians such as GEOFF BARROW of PORTISHEAD and SCOTT IAN of ANTHRAX are interviewed about how this active questioning of the status quo was what he got out of their fandom as kids. thats pretty cool that their readership included a legion of active, and not passive, creatives.
so yeah, this was definitely a worthwhile film and will serve as the basis for my further investigation into the world of comics, even those i'd hitherto not considered, like JUDGE DREDD. pretty cool. most definitely worth investigating if you are interested in the intersection of ART, WRITING and even MUSIC in modern BRITISH culture.