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
Tag Archives: Superheroes
I’ve written about the links between superhero comics, magic and religion frequently on this blog. So these pictures of stained glass windows featuring superheroes hold a strange resonance. As well as being just plain brilliant. These obsessively detailed and beautiful images from the artist Marissa Garner have evidently been beamed in from some glorious future where superheroes have truly taken on the status of religious icons. Imagine sitting in your pew as the sun shines through these. Worth getting up on a Sunday for I think. Though presumably these particular services would take place on a Wednesday. Continue reading
Hello humans. One of the benefits of going to comics studies conferences is that you get to see, hear and meet lots of interesting people, both scholars and artists, and sometimes both at once.
One such human is the artist previously known as Sina Evil . I’ll let Sina’s Flickr bio do the work:
I am over 21 years of age. I am a queer cartoonist and graphic artist. In the early 1990s I self-published various queer comix zines including the seminal queer teen zine Concerned Muthers and the highly acclaimed, intensely personal autobiographical mini-comic BoyCrazyBoy, and contributed to queer zines such as Boy Trouble, Holy Titclamps and Hormone Frenzy. My strips have appeared in The Book of Boy Trouble and The Book of Boy Trouble Vol. 2, both edited by Robert Kirby and David Kelly and published by Green Candy Press. I am also currently working on my PhD, a history of queer alternative cartoonists.
You can check out Sina’s art over at Flickr and his blog boycrazyboy. Lots of good stuff there but most interesting for me are his superhero pictures in the collection Man-Gods of the Homoverse . These illustrations have a curious primal force to them. They also make explicit what was already implicit in superhero comics. Not as subtext exactly, but as potential. That all those muscles rippling beneath skin-tight spandex were always, on some level, about sex. As Scott Bukatman noted, “superhero bodies have always been naked bodies”. As such they have always been troubling for some commentators. Continue reading
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.
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
I’m very happy with this one. But then, of all the types of posthuman body discussed in my thesis the Cosmic Body is the one closest to my heart and the vision of posthumanity that is most capable of ensuring the greatest happiness for all. Posthuman bodies require posthuman minds!
Valuable context is available in the first paper, “Producing and Consuming the Posthuman Body in Superhero Narratives” (click the tile to read that), which lays out my idea that the discourse of the posthuman is a matter of bodies -discourse being not just representations (talk, language), but also material practices. So for example, ‘genetic engineering’ is not just a matter of science-fiction but also a real-world techno-scientific practice. Not to mix my academic work with parlance of hip-hop but this shit is real, baby.
This posthuman discourse consists of three overlapping discursive domains-speculative Trans/humanism (also including ‘real-world’ tecno-science); critical-philsophical Post/Humanism (in which include people like Foucault, Haraway) and of course Superhumanism (the realm of science fiction, but also comic books). Superhero comics offer a delicuos smorgasboard of posthuman bodies. Considering these bodies lets us also consider how they are found in the other two discursive realms.
Without going into too much detail (you can read the paper for yourselves after all), this paper takes a rhizomatic journey through the Cosmic Body, following the hidden underground root systems that link superheroes with the psychedelic counterculture of the sixties with Transhumanism’s forebear the Human Potential Movement with eastern mysticism with Nietzsche’s critique of Humanism with shamanism with Western occultism and the scientist-shaman with Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol with One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest with, well, you get the idea.
(The paper isn’t written in this style I should add. I’m a professional, I just blog as an excitable child with a precocious interest in esoteric ideas and countercultural philosophies)
At any rate, this paper is a point where it feels my academic, philosophical, personal and creative interest came together as one. A point where, as I say in the paper, critical theory and cultural criticism can become productive and transformative practices rather than simply nihilistic and deconstructive (not that that doesn’t have its own appeal).
Make your own minds up, of course ( and anyway, in a couple of months I might think it’s rubbish) but I would love to hear any comments, criticisms and suggestions. Anyway, once again, because I wrote more there than I meant too, here is “The Silver Age Superhero as Psychedelic Shaman“.
Hello you. And welcome to what will be the first in a series of posts discussing the various strange and hidden ways the world of comics and magic are connected. I’ve dealt with some of these issues in my paper The Silver Age Superhero as Psychedelic Shaman (find that here) but these posts will be a bit more relaxed in style and content.
Less theory, more wierdy.
So lets begin with Comics are Magic Part 1: The Myth of Superman.
Its become pretty commonplace to refer to superheroes as a modern mythology, or contemporary manifestations of mythic patterns. And while this is interesting on a purely intellectual level it also has interesting occult implications. Continue reading
As promised/threatened I have finally written up my presentation “Producing and Consuming the Posthuman Body in Superhero Narratives”, a paper I gave at the 2011 British Sociological Asscoiation Annual Conference and in a longer form as a departmental presentation earlier that year. It gives an overview of some of the main concepts I’m working with in my thesis and serves as a pretty thorough introduction to it.
I’ve posted it on NthMind here:
but there is also a version with the illustrations used in the presentation that can be downloaded and printed of here.
Look forward to any comments, thoughts, ideas, etc.
Searching for any excuse, as always, not to do any proper work, I found myself toying with windows movie maker. here is the result. The song is one I did with my brother, the mysterious musical savant Craig Jeffery. That’s him singing and playing, the talented swine. I only wrote the words, lacking as I do any musical aptitude. Although one day I do still plan to learn the theremin.
The enigmatic musical savant Craig Jeffery will no doubt fly into an artistic rage that such an unformed, unpolished version of his work has made it out of the paddock of his fevered, creative mind and into the memeosphere and no doubt my amatuerish attempts at crafting a music video merely add insult to injury. But screw him. I like it and the musical savant Craig Jeffery is too afraid of the internet to prevent me posting it. he once told me of computers, “they make such terrible, beautiful music, like the sound of sentient planets devouring one another”. he then wet himself and cried into his bowl of apple sauce.
If there is anyone out there however who wants to do a proper video for it once we have a more polished version of the song “in the can” (yeah, that’s right, i said it) please get in touch.
Anyway, here it is. A song about superheroes and the heavy burden of being superpowered. or something.