Monday, April 16, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 17: In which Grant Morrison and I collaborate on a very special story...

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

This week I'm going to help out my good friend and highly-regarded comic-book writer, Grant Morrison, with a recent comic-book fart that he inadvertently released. I'm speaking, of course, about Batman #663, which consisted of pages and pages of prose, with occasional illustrations tossed in somewhat randomly.

It was an experiment and there are many who would argue that it was a failure. The prose was too dense, the metaphors and similes too cliche, and the whole thing was just kind of... dull. And crappy.

In Morrison's defense, however, I think the problem lies not with his prose, but with the illustrations provided by John Van Fleet. He simply wasn't up to the challenge of interpreting Morrison's vision.

And so it is that I, Paul Weissburg, shall now share excerpts from the aforementioned comic-book, but provided with all new illustrations which will, hopefully, better serve the story.



Rain goes clickety-clack-tack through the sticks and branches of bare, bony graveyards elms, the kind that stand as if ashamed, like strippers past their best--danced out to a standstill in the naked lights, all down to nothing but fretwork and scaffolding, jutting hips, nicotine-stained fingers, and summer gone south for the winter.

Welcome to Gotham City, a party ten miles long and six miles wide. From The Hill to Cathedral Square, from Amusement Mile to Blackgate Penitentiary, a 21st-century American Babylon has shouldered its way up from the mudflats and sauntered into the spotlight, eager to dazzle and seduce the world.

Gotham City, where the greasy electromagnetics of human need, hope, and fear radiate into a new January night so rank you can taste it like tinfoil on your fillings. Where crime swaps spit with high society and everything's for sale. Where grimy clouds snag and burst on the vicious needle points of world-famous Deco-Industrial superscrapers on Wall Street and Levi and spill out more, and more, and more of the burning, glamorous downpour Gothamites call rain and know so well.

Deep in the dense architectural reefs of midtown, primary reds and yellows and the hot purples of gigantic moving advertising hoardings are turning the rain to something that might as well be liquid stained glass, braiding it through the wound-tight sinews of the Aparo Bridge, scything across the docks and railway sidings, then crowding into the narrow floodlit canyons of 8th Avenue, Finger and Crescent, to rise the lowlifes and the high rollers off the bustling streets and back into the bars, the theaters, the crack houses, restaurants and clip joints, as if the sky itself, in some spontaneous creative frenzy, has chosen to empty an ocean of raw printer's ink on the gaudy, just and unjust citizens of Gotham alike.

He goes in, and they slam the door behind him, as quickly as they can, the way you would if you thought something might escape in the form of a cloud of evil gas if you didn't act fast to trap it.

Batman nods curtly, very still and silent, scanning for the pattern he knows is there. When he finds it, the corners of his mouth twitch upwards. The Joker always plays to his theme. Rebirth. Snake scales, red and black. Blood on the tuxedo. Red Hook and Black Brothers and the Red House. And red, and black. The big game is there in plain sight, as always. Life and death transformed into one more ugly, unfunny gag.

Like a grub growing all wrong in a tiled cocoon, like a caterpillar liquefying to filth in its own nightmares, or a fetus dissolving in sewage and sour milk, the Joker dreams. His is the mal ojo, the evil eye. He wills Death upon the world.

In less time than it takes for this second to become the next, Lou Perroni (37, a bodybuilder and collector of Ramones momorabilia, GSOH) is pedalling backward, making the noises cattle make at the slaughterhouse gate, clawing at his face where the adhesive spit burns black holes in his skin.

He's laughing red and balck and red and black till there's nothing left to laugh. Until, almost tenderly, he turns inside out through his mouth.

Sliding in the rubbery red chaos that was lately a drinking buddy, Cassius Collins (26, fond of violence, karaoke, conflicted) performs a spectacular, impromptu pratfall, then, astonished, watches the Joker rising from his wheelchair, the way a rabbit watches car headlights bearing down, unable to move a single, spotlit muscle.

"You're going nowhere," Batman says. It's the sort of all-purpose, semi-hypnotic phrase he often uses to draw fetish-compulsive criminals like the Joker into familiar patterns of interaction, to elecit familiar chains of response.

The eyes of the two men lock into place like dancers in a tango. It's as dangerous to look the Joker in the eye as it is to train a telescope on the sun, they say, but Batman has faced down this blue-hot blinding lunacy before.
"Clickety-clack-tack," replies the rain.

See what a difference the right artist makes?

And now for a very special treat... in keeping with the theme of this week (our homage to Grant Morrison, that is) I very proudly present...

WHAT IF... Grant Morrison wrote comic-book reviews?

Civil War: The Initiative
Written by Brian Michael Bendis and Warren Ellis
Art by Marc Silvestri

Fingers fumble nervously with the first page, like a teenager trying to unclasp his first bra, so anxious am I to inhale deeply of that comic-book scent--old paper and nostalgia and something else... some essential ingredient of lost childhoods that vanish like the opening credits to the Star Wars movie--but my olfactory senses are immediately assaulted by the techno-chemical bitter stabbing odor of slick Kraft-American-Cheese-textured paper and perfect inks, frightening in their clarity, vicious in their perfection.

Page One. Previously.

Summary scrolls past my eyes, recounting events long debated on the internet--Whose side are you on? I'm on the side of good old fashioned storytelling and once upon a time's and the heroes never surrendered to facism or sales boosting marketing campaigns--I'm on the losing side, Quesada.

We all are, this time.

Captain America is dead, like Bela Lugosi and Gene Siskel and Mark Twain. Like Carl Sagan, eyes fixed on the stars like some prehistoric prophet reading morse code in the solar flares too far away to see without a telescope.

Captain America is dead, and I turn the page, eyes glazed over like cheap pottery.

Opening shot of Iron Man, racing across the sky, the righteous fuhrer, the triumphant scab. Words scattered across the page like mosquitoes at a picnic on the Fourth of July. A single word balloon hides in the bottom right corner, seemingly from out of Tony Stark's eye, as he says, "Show me."

Next page features a bald man confronted with a smug Reed Richards but my eyes are pulled to the cross page where I'm notified that "Casino Royale is the most exciting Bond film in decades." A grim face and an undone tie, a gun in his hand, and a backdrop of some European stereotype utopia, Disney-fication of all our hopes and dreams. Captain America is dead and James Bond is a nancy-boy.

I turn the page.

I brace myself like a camel in the desert about to be whacked over the head by an angry Arab on an angry day as images of Alpha Flight's demise force their way through my consciousness, like angry computer viruses, assaulting my synapses, reprogramming me to purchase the upcoming Omega Flight limited series. Or is it? Omega Flight was originally solicited (like a call-girl with chapped lips and a strangely oozing scab) as an ongoing series, but then Quesada (head imperial sultan of Spider-Man's unmasking) changed his mind like a street light changes colors when you're only halfway across the road.

Captain America is dead and so is Alpha Flight. No one's left living but Sasquatch and a host of b-grade characters stuck posing in a c-list double-spread.

It's time for Warren Ellis' chapter.

Two pages stick together between my fingers like desperate lovers clasping hands as the Titanic seeks. I force them apart (wave goodbye, fretful lovers, wave goodbye) and read of villains who beat and maim heroes while worshipped by the general public, who are blind like three blind mice in a dark room. Penance was once Speedball (named-for-narcotic comic-relief) but now the New Warriors are dead and he inflicts pain upon himself like an angry priest with a barbed whip and a secret to hide.

Moonstone's breasts heave forward, swollen like alien eggs, waiting to hatch.

I turn the page.

Life is one great big Blue Plate Special and Civil War: The Initiative is no different; a series of advertisements interspersed with more advertisements, selling themselves, selling each other, selling the American dream for a price not worth the paying. Selling World War Hulk to the frightened masses.

War. What's it good for?

It's good for sales, of course. Just ask Quesada, laughing his way to the bank like a fat man laughing at a racist joke.

Spiderwoman snaps the Grey Gargoyle's head like the brittle cold shattering a dead man's face in a mirror of cracked reflections made rebellious by antibodies poured out, limp and flacid, from the blood that once spilled from his body, now dried like crusty brick-colored paint on the cold, wet pavement. The blood, that is. The blood is dried. Not the Grey Gargoyle's head, which has been THUMPed onto the pavement with a single "Agh!" to mark his fall.

Ms. Marvel appears, her tight, black leather costume clinging to her butt-cheeks like the skin of an apple. The two women argue, thick red pouting lips hinting at a kiss that will never come, keeping the fanboys hoping, like a gambler at a horse-track where every horse is a loser and midgets pass out cheap cigars like pig's intestines.

The back cover advertises the U.S. Army, and why not? This techno-colored glorification of war is all part of the plan, ennit? Recruiting pot-bellied teens with thick glasses and names like "Chad" and "Brett" and "Pete." The final words ring with false truth: Army strong. Captain America is dead and there's no one left to aim the spotlight on the hypocrisy of a nation gone overboard, gone mad with greed, gone fat and bloated like a fat and bloated mosquito that's sucked all the life out of third world nations and now needs to quick launch missles at Mars and faraway planets, like some madcap science fiction wet dream, so that it can find new lifeforms to feed off of.

All told, I give Civil War: The Initiative a 3 out of 5.


Well, that's all we've got time for today... I hope you enjoyed our special Grant Morrison homage column. Just for the record, I think Morrison's an awesome writer most of the time; he's written some of my all-time favorite comics (Sea Guy, Doom Patrol, Animal Man, All Star Superman, The Guardian, Klarion the Witch Boy, etc.) and blah blah blah.

But, man, the prose on Batman #663 stunk like a cloud of evil gas that you can't quite close the door on, y'know?

Anyway, until next week, I leave you with this heart-warming photograph of Saddam Hussein and a rabbit, back in the day.

Back then, who knew?

- Paul

1 comment:

M said...

Ok fanboy, get back to your disertation.

-Gleddy the Butt