Category Archives: Grant Morrison

Comics are Magic 6: Jodorowsky, Gurdjieff, Morrison and The Flash#54

Hello you.

Welcome to the sixth edition of Comics are Magic (click link for the archives). This is just a short one because its been a while. It concerns the magical influence of classic Silver Age story The Flash Stakes His Life On You! from The Flash#54 by way of two modern magicians and comics creators.

The first, Alejandro Jodorowsky is probably best known for his films, the alchemical allegories El Topo, The Holy Mountain and Santa Sangre. For those unfamiliar with his work here’s the trailer for  his masterpiece The Holy Mountain. That’s subjective of course, and they are all stunning, mind-warping films, but The Holy Mountain is I think clearest in its alchemical intent.

Jodorowsky started out as in theatre, co-founding the Panic Movement in 1962 which drew on Antoin Artaud’s Theatre of  Cruelty and staged violent and surreal performance pieces. From wikipedia:

The movement’s violent theatrical events were designed to be shocking,[2] and to release destructive energies in search of peace and beauty. One four-hour performance known as Sacramental Melodrama was staged in May 1965 at the Paris Festival of Free Expression. The “happening” starred Jodorowsky dressed in motorcyclist leather and featured him slitting the throats of two geese, taping two snakes to his chest and having himself stripped and whipped. Other scenes included “naked women covered in honey, a crucified chicken, the staged murder of a rabbi, a giant vagina, the throwing of live turtles into the audience, and canned apricots.”

In his excellent memoir The Spiritual Journey of Alejandro Jodorowsky he describes how he moved to Mexico to undergo initiation with a number of female shamans. Like Alan Moore, Jodorowsky views art and magic as inseparable. He later combined theatre, magic and psychotherapy in his practice of psychomagic where the patient’s personality and family tree are studied to come up with symbolic performances to be acted out, based on the principle that the unconscious mind accepts symbolic acts as fact. Here is one example of many from his book on the subject (page 132):

A young Chantal, at four years old, found herself placed in a school directed by the sister of the mother of her mother…The great-aunt sadistically tyrannized the child. In working with me, Chantal discovered all the hate she held towards to this woman. She could not forgive her, and she had no way to avenge her because the torturer was no longer in this world. So I advised her to go to the grave of this woman and, once there, give free rein to this hate: that she kick, scream, piss, and defecate on the tomb, but provided that she dedicate herself to paying close attention to her subsequent reactions to her demonstrations of vengeance. She followed my advice, and after letting off some steam atop the sepulcher, she felt a deep desire to clean it up and cover it with flowers. And, little by little, she couldn’t help but surrender to the evidence that she, in fact, felt love for her great-aunt.

A true polymath, Jodorowsky has also developed his own reconstruction of the Tarot of Marseilles, which he summarises in the video below:

Jodorowsky has worked regularly in the comics medium. His earliest comics work included the strip Fabulas Panicas, which debuted in 1967 (and ran to 1973) in the Mexican newspaper El Heraldo de México. Below is one of these strips. There are many, many more over at fabulaspanicas.blogspot.co.uk, dedicated entirely to reproducing the strip and well worth your time. Even if  like me you don’t speak Spanish.

Fabulas panicas

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Sadomasochists from Beyond the Grave

Hello Humans.

Here to introduce this post is Pinhead from Hellraiser:

In a throwaway aside in his review of Brian Yuzna’s From Beyond (1986) in this month’s Sight and Sound the ever-incisive Kim Newman writes:

From Beyond is worth revisiting for its ambitious themes-it takes the torch from Videodrome and passes it to Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, prompting sociopsychological musings on why exactly cosmic horror in the 80s was always yoked to sadomasochistic dress-up.

Naturally I thought, “Somebody need to write about that! I’m going to do it right now!” Several thousand words later I never really pinpointed why the 80s were especially conducive to the conjunction of sadomasochism and cosmic horror, or even if that’s really the case upon closer inspection. However, I do think Kim Newman’s on the money in as much as there remains a good case to be made for establishing a connection between cosmic horror and S and M. Both, I want to argue, offer ‘limit experiences’ that mirror one another as in the alchemical rule that the microcosm (human body) is a mirror of the macrocosm (universe). The bondage practitioner and the protagonist in cosmic horror are both taken to extremes of experience that open up new forms of consciousness. The article concludes by arguing that such “limit experiences” need not always end in evisceration as they do in many horror films. There are also narratives in which the iconography of fetish clubs (if not the practice) is adopted as a form of liberation from threats to reality, as in The Matrix and Return of the Living Dead 3.

Before reaching that final destination though we must embark upon a strange journey that takes in H.P. Lovecraft, Michel Foucault, Hellraiser, Nietzsche, Alisteir Crowley, and the X-Men and more along the way. It is also a companion piece of sorts to my previous post Posthuman Ecstasy: Long Live the New Sex which also dealt with new forms of posthuman sexuality in horror films. Continue reading


Anarchy and Posthumanism Part 3: Anarchist Superhumans

In my thesis I have made a distinction between the types of posthuman body found in comic books and how these relate to various other versions of posthumanity in philosophy and transhumanist texts. Of particular interest in terms of posthumanism and anarchy is what I call the posthuman Cosmic Body (more detail can be found by clicking on the link). This final post on Anarchy and Posthumanism (part 1 is here and part 2 is here) will consider how anarchism has been presented within superhero comics and note how these representations usually chime with this vision of the ‘Cosmic Posthuman’. Continue reading


Comics are Magic 4-The Conscious Multiverse: Idea-space and entities

Asmodeus by Alan Moore

In part 3 we delved into the mechanics of comic book continuity and touched upon some of the philosophical implications of such fictional universes  as well as drawing attention to some analogous theories  from modern physics relating to the idea of the multiverse. Come on, you remember. It was fun wasn’t it? In this part I want to explore further the notion that fictions have some sort of autonomy. We begin first by considering Alan Moore’s concept of “idea-space”. In an interview with Arthur magazine Moore explained that the impetus for his concept of ‘idea-space’ stemmed from trying to understand the nature of consciousness and where our ideas come from:

the best model that I can come up with for consciousness is consciousness as a form of space…Most of us never come out of our living room. We’ve got our individual little private space in our head–just like we’ve got a house as a private physical space. But most of us never go outdoors. We stay within our own identity. However: people who are creative, or people who are questing spirits of some sort or other, have to go deeper. I mean, most people don’t really need new ideas as part of their daily round, depending upon what their job is or what kind of people they are. The same ideas that they had yesterday will probably do just as well today. If you’re a creator, or scientist, or any sort of creator, then you have to look deeper. You have to travel further, to find ideas that no one’s come across before. Rarer ideas.

Moore naturally wonders if such a space would be inhabited; would it contain its own unique ‘flora and fauna’? In Comics are Magic Part 2 it was seen that Moore makes no distinction between art and magic. Both involve accessing, exploring and navigating this ‘idea-space’. As such the demons , angels and other entities encountered by the artist-magician can be understood as living ideas. Or as Moore said in an interview  for Blather in 2000: “entities are a kind of compound idea, at least as far as I see them”.   Continue reading


Comics are Magic 3: The Conscious Multiverse

For the next two posts I will be considering how the ideas of Alan Moore and Grant Morrison can be used in conjunction with the concept of comic book continuity to reach some strange, exciting conclusions about the nature of the printed comic book universe and our own, more fictional, reality.  These are big, unwieldy concepts so it’s split into two posts. First of all it’s worth clarifying our terms. What do we mean by continuity?

Each single issue of Spider-man or Superman is but a small element in one of two gigantic narratives known as the Marvel and DC Universes. Ros Kaveney suggests that these two seventy year old continuities are, “the largest narrative constructions in human culture…and that learning to navigate them was a skill-set all of its own” (2008:25). Jason Todd Craft calls such constructions ‘large scale fiction networks’ and notes that these universe are ‘emergent structures’ (as does Kaveney) : “the initial parameters…-parallel and ongoing serial adventures, produced by a variety of writers and artists for hire-resulted, over time, in unpredicted behaviours, specifically intertextual connectivity and a slowly encroaching sense of narrative history” (2004:105). Each ‘universe’ must be understood as a, “retroactive story structure, which imposes a continuity upon all the episodic comic books published before as well as after the universe’s advent” (ibid: 105-106).As Richard Reynolds describes it, while narrative continuity may seem a familiar idea to anyone who has ever watched a soap opera, continuity as practiced by Marvel and DC, “is of an order of complexity beyond anything to which the television audience has become accustomed” (1992:3).

Continuity is a product of ‘crossover’. The first use of crossover took place two years after Superman debuted; All-Star Comics#3 introduced the Justice Society of America, demonstrating that superheroes with their own serials could exist together. Continue reading


Comics are Magic part 2: Using Superheroes for Divination and Manifestation

In Comics are Magic Part 1 we discussed some strange coincidences and comic book predictions. In this part I want to discuss the use of comics to deliberately manifest such coincidences and changes in reality. First of all it might help to consider the intuitive capabilities of comics creators, starting with Jack Kirby. Kirby is arguably the most influential comics artist of all time, especially in terms of superhero comics. Chris Knowles, author of the excellent Our Gods Wear Spandex, has written frequently about Kirby over at his blog Secret Sun. Knowles says,  “Kirby was a man who one co-worker described as being “hermetically sealed in his own imagination.” I’d counter that only by saying that I believe that Kirby instead was in deep communion with the Collective Unconscious. Kirby even claimed that his characters existed inside his head and he merely projected their stories onto paper.” Knowles suggests that

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Spawn 20 Years Later

Apparently there is a gigantic 984 page long Spawn Compendium Volume 1 out to celebrate Todd McFarlane’s wildly popular creation. I was there at the time of course and remember buying Spawn issue 1 (and W.I.L.D.Cats,#1 and Savage Dragon#1) but I gave up on it pretty quickly. It looked great (at the time?) but like McFarlane’s work on Spider-man (which I also bought, because I’m, you know, in my 30s) it seemed terribly written to me even then. Impenetrable almost.

Anyway, the point is that there’s an interesting little piece over at Comics Alliance called, Spawn 20 Years Later: Looking Back at the Quintessential ’90s, that talks about what seems a rather unexplored but interesting nexus point in the history of comics, issues 8-11 of Spawn, for which McFarlane handed over the writing to Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Dave Sim and Frank Miller respectively.

The Comics Alliance article goes into a touch more detail about these comics and the wierd blurring of the boundaries between independent or creator driven on the one hand and mainstream, corporate comics on the other. Take the founding of Image for example. A bunch of  ‘auteur’ creators-artists dammit!- feeling stiffed by their corporate paymasters  decide to form their own company, where they own the rights to their work and are free to express their own artistic sensibilities. A noble endeavour, no? But these creators don’t start creating introspective autobiographical work or other such arty-farty nonsense that the freedom of their new company would grant them. No. They create work almost exactly like the superhero work they were doing before. Only bloodier and with bigger tits.

Never the less, Image still stood for something and so Gaiman, Moore, Miller and Sim, four of the most prominent and important comics creators of the last three decades, were all willing to write Spawn.  The results were varied in terms of both narrative and production, e.g. Moore’s temporary return to superhero comics, the long-running legal battle between Gaiman and McFarlane around the ownership of characters. That last one might be one of the clearest examples of how every revolution gives birth to its own fascism as you’re likely to get.

Anyway, seems like a topic worth returning to in more detail at some point. Looking at the bookshelf I can see a copy of  the 1997 Titan books collection Spawn: Evolution, which has the Moore, Gaiman and Miller stories but not the Sim (nor, indeed, the Grant Morrison issues, which I’ve also never read).

So in lieu of any fully formed critical opinion as yet it is only possible to conclude with my thoughts upon first reading the comics produced when mighty comic auteurs Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Frank Miller (who collectively have given us Watchmen, The Sandman, Dark Knight Returns, Sin City, V for Vendetta and Violent Cases, to name just a few) deigned to write scripts for Todd McFarlane’s Spawn:  “you can’t polish a turd.”

Of course, I retain the right to take that back should further investigation and consideration or threats from rabid McFarlane fans change my mind.

And once again, the Comics Alliance article is here.



Keeping the Cosmic Trigger Happy Part 3: RAW and the comix underground

Page from John Thompson's Book of Raziel (1969)

Portrait of RAW from Cosmic Trigger Artist: John Thompson

As I wrote in part 2 (part 1 here) Robert Anton Wilson’s brand of ‘scientific-shamanism’ is linked to a vision of the posthuman I call the Cosmic Body, a postuman form not uncommon in superhero comics. One of the questions I was asked when I delivered my paper on this (available here) was how much the depictions of cosmic superheroes  in the 60s/70s  constituted a way of ‘piggy-backing’ on the subversive cachet of the comix underground, which of course prided itself on its open depictions of drug use, sex and violence in a way that the Comics Code would never allow for superhero comics.

Having briefly considered what seems to be a largely implicit influence of RAW on the work of Moore and Morrison, it occurred to me that Wilson’s cultural milieu might align him with the comix underground in some way. As I said in Part 2 underground comix are not my speciality but curiosity led me to investigate te idea a bit further. So what follows is a brief investigation into the topic by someone who is not an expert. Still, I think I’ve unearthed some interesting tit-bits and hope that if anyone has any further information they get in touch. Continue reading


Keeping the Cosmic Trigger Happy Part 2: Ontological Anarchy

So now then, after the last post became a general hurrah for Robert Anton Wilson (no bad thing necessarily) I’ve finally got round to writing about his links with comic books. Only that hasn’t been as simple as it seemed either. Fortunately it seems to have resulted in an interesting little bit of cultural archaeology.

Some context: I’ve written briefly about Wilson and his cohorts as ‘scientist-shamans’ and how that ties into a vision of the posthuman I call the Cosmic Body, and how we can also discern the Cosmic Body in superhero comics. One of the questions I was asked when I delivered my paper on this (available here) was how much the depictions of cosmic superheroes like Dr Strange and Adam Warlock in early seventies Marvel comics constituted a way of ‘piggy-backing’ on the subversive cachet of the comix underground, which of course prided itself on its open depictions of drug use, sex and violence in a way that the Comics Code would never allow for superhero comics.

Underground comix are not my specialty by any means. Other than the usual suspects like Crumb and Spiegelman and British variants like Viz, and a broad-strokes idea of the movement and its relationship with mainstream comics, its not a history that I’m wholly familiar with.

What does this have to do with Wilson? In thinking and reading and googling this post I was surprised to find very little interest in RAW”s work and comics. Moore and Morrison have certainly both name-dropped him (and Moore delivered a poetic eulogy for him at an event in 2007-video included at the end of this post), but I couldn’t turn up anything specific in terms of direct referencing. (For instance, I wonder if Alan Moore enjoyed the idea that ‘V’ was also the Roman numeral for 5, a number to which a great deal of significance is attached in RAW’s work and Discordianism, of which RAW was a pope of course. Continue reading


Keeping the Cosmic Trigger Happy: thoughts on Robert Anton Wilson

Last week was  raw week  over at  Boing Boing. .Marking the fifth anniversary of Robert Anton Wilson’s transition to a different pattern of energy and information and who’s 4-dimensional form existed in space time January 18, 1932 – January 11, 2007.

I’d originally intended to write a post about Wilson’s influence on comic books but instead I ended up writing this. Will hopefully get to that other one next week.  So this is just some thoughts on Wilson, whose work had a profound impact on my philosophical and psycho-spiritual development and who still sometimes (not sure if I should mention this so I will) appears to me as as a kind of gigantic and benign floating head whenever my more unusual states of consciousness seem like they might get too much. Which, by the way, is awesome and I don’t care if its not really him; everyone gets the Robert Anton Wilson they deserve. So, an intellectual influence then and, in some strange way that only writers who you love but have never met can be, a friend. Continue reading