8 Things About Jerusalem, Part 2

This is about Mansoul, the second book of Alan Moore’s Jerusalem. If you missed part 1, you can read it here. There might be spoilers for Book 1, but I won’t spoil Book 3.

  1. Unlike Part 1, this section has a single linear narrative, albeit with multiple voices. Little Mick Warren, choking on a cough sweet, finds himself in However, it’s not linear from our perspective of time; the characters jump around from era to era of Northampton’s history. This includes interactions with many of the characters from Part 1, sometimes during the chapters from Part 1.
  2. This section really needs an editor. It’s rather repetitive in places, with several whole sections repeated in their entirety. Not only that, but there are a bunch of chapters which don’t seem to serve any narrative purpose at all. Like going to see Oliver Cromwell for like 50 pages. I was flicking forward to see how long I had to go on several occasions, and that’s a shame because when the book is good, it’s great, but there are definitely bits that are hard work.
  3. It is very literary, in the sense that it reads like a book, a fantasy story, maybe for kids. And just as Mansoul is a bigger, brighter, more mythical version of the Boroughs, this is a bigger, brighter and more mythical version of a children’s book. In fact, it later emerges that it is, in fact, a book, albeit one being written by one of the characters in it. Because all time exists at the same time, the events unfolding are already recorded in a book written by one of the characters which is well-known to the other denizens of Mansoul. This theme will recur later, but I can reveal no more for risk of spoilers.
  4. I was right about there being a present-day plot emerging in the early chapters, revolving around Marla, the young meth addict and prostitute who appeared in chapter 2. Her story left off on a cliffhanger, and she reappears here in quite horrifying fashion.
  5. I’m pretty sure that the bird-man from the ‘In the Drownings’ chapter of Voice of the Fire makes a cameo appearance here. Which means Jerusalem is a crossover. And if we consider that Showpieces takes place in a mythical Northampton, mostly in Jimmy’s End, mentioned here in Jerusalem… are we looking at the emergence of a Mooreverse? Or more accurately, a Moorehampton?
  6. The Dead Dead Gang, our central characters for this section, are an archetype. The Bow Street Irregulars spring immediately to mind, or Oliver Twist’s gang or the orphans from Annie…. At the same time, though, another striking parallel is with Little Nemo in Slumberland. In fact, this would be Moore’s third time riffing on it, after Promethea’s ‘Little Margie’ sections, and Big Nemo from last year’s Electrocomics project. This is particularly clear in the An Asmodeus Flight chapter, and Moore’s own illustration on the cover. And in fact, Windsor McCay makes an appearance later on.
  7. At the same time, there are hints of further connections between the Dead Dead Gang and the cast of Book 1 – John’s secret about Alma’s uncle Jack’s death; Bill’s relationship with Alma and Warry; the nature of the relationship between rabbit-garlanded Phyllis Painter and young Bill, who we suppose to be her little brother.
  8. For all they supposedly don’t get on, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison sure do have some similar ideas. The magic thing, for one. The motif of seeing time from outside happens often (Superman Beyond, Promethea), and that from that angle human lives look like worms thing that comes up multiple times here was part of the climax of Morrison’s The Invisibles. More than that, though, the motif of being uncertain which is reality and which is the dream, and discovering that one is unwittingly at the centre of world-shattering events, was the set-up for Moore’s recent Joe the Barbarian series, one of his better recent miniseries.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments.

Part Three, Vernall’s Inquest, coming soon. And boy, is there a lot to talk about…

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Muktuk: Hard-Boiled Shaman

Do you like comics? Do you like comics about shamen? Especially when they’re meticulously researched, and narrated as though they were written by Raymond Chandler?

What’s that you say? That’s the sort of cultural bricolagé guaranteed to get you all aflutter?

Then Muktuk: Hard-Boiled Shaman by Terry LaBan is the web-comic for you. Produced as a Masters thesis (now why didn’t I think of that!), do not let the frisson between the cartoony drawing style, noir narration and accurate portrayal of Siberian shamanic practices. Recently completed, the full thing will be online for a little while longer, until Terry finds a publisher. I doubt he’ll have to wait too long. Please do have a read.

Here’s the first page for your delectation:

Now It Begins

2-3-74

Look what just arrived…

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The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick – 944 pages of drug-induced metaphysical psychosis.

I’m still reading Ubik, which PKD felt was important to his interpretation of what happened to him in February and March of 1974, so I haven’t started it yet. But from the introduction, the structure looks intriguing – the editors have included every letter and note from the immediate aftermath, then become more selective when PKD’s explorations become more voluminous, tangential and repetitive.

What happened to PKD? I’ll pass you over to Robert Crumb…

Continue reading

Kripal reviews Morrison

Jeffery Kripal, whose Authors of the Impossible I have just reviewed for the Journal of Religious History, has just published a review of Grant Morrison‘s Supergods, who I am going to see on Saturday at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Kripal’s work has intersected with mine in regards to gnosticism, UFOs and alternative spirituality generally, though I take issue with his methodology, and now it seems he’s into comics as well. All that has to happen is for Grant Morrison to review a book of mine, and we’ve come full circle.

I give you a taste below; follow link for full review at Religion Dispatches:

Authors and artists, it turns out, routinely undergo profound, life-changing mystical experiences and then encode these events in their fantasy and fiction. Consider the work of Grant Morrison, a Scottish punk rocker and bad boy turned mega-popular comic writer whose mind-bending writing has influenced such blockbuster films as The Matrix and X2: X-Men United. Morrison’s work is suffused with fierce countercultural sensibilities and a dramatic contact experience he underwent in Kathmandu, Nepal, in 1994. Morrison had played with the paranormal notion of “being written” since his early work in books like Animal Man, but the Kathmandu event clearly turbo-boosted this idea into orbit, as is evident in his metaphysical manifesto, The Invisibles. Fans, eager for another major statement, now have it in the recently released Supergods.

Reviews and Research

The Discordian chapter for the Brill Handbook of Religions and Cultural Production went in ahead of deadline, as I intended. As I’m still waiting to start the (paid) job of assembling a book for someone else (not sure what such a position is called – research assistant? Editorial assistant? Cut-and-paster?), I’m trying to squeeze in a couple of small things first. One is a book review for the International Journal of New Religions, on Graven Images, a volume of essays on religious themes and imagery in comic books. 1000 words, but a first step in a sideline that I’m very interested in pursuing.

First, though, I’m finishing up an outline of my PhD thesis for my supervisor, which will basically form the outline of the research for the next three years. The title is Metaphysical Conspiracism: Extra-terrestrials and the demythologisation of traditional religious symbols in the post-Cold War West, and the abstract currently goes like this:

Narratives concerning purportedly extra-terrestrial phenomena have inspired dramatically different interpretations, from angelic “space brothers” heralding a coming New Age, to demonic lizards who abduct sleeping humans and mutilate cattle. From the 1940s to the 1980s, ETs typically warned of coming nuclear cataclysm, but following the end of the Cold War, they began increasingly to bring messages of personal spiritual transformation in line with “New Age” discourses. In a secular and detraditionalised West, religious symbols have increasingly become detached from their traditional institutional moorings, and available for appropriation in contexts hitherto considered purely secular. Through detailed case-studies, I examine how these later ET narratives frequently took the form of a de-mythologisation of traditional religious symbols and narratives, a re-framing which makes religious ideas more viable in a scientific-materialist context. ETs become manifestations of angels and/or demons, and the earth literally becomes a battlefield between benevolent and evil forces. This, I argue, is typical of a broader metaphysical conspiracism, in which religious symbols and narratives have been absorbed into political conspiracy theories to produce a quasi-religious weltanschauung. Such a religious formation demonstrate what Simmel suggests: “Enlightenment does not destroy religiosity, merely rob it of its clothes.”

 

Much of my thinking time, however, has been absorbed with trying to find a way for a writing trip to Gladstone’s Library at St. Deiniol’s, the UK’s only residential library. I don’t think it can be done for less than a hundred and twenty pounds for one night,  but I will find a way, somehow, someday.

Metaphysical Conspiracism: Extra-terrestrials and the demythologisation of traditional religious symbols in post-Cold War culture
Ph.D research outline

David G Robertson
University of Edinburgh 

Abstract

Narratives concerning purportedly extra-terrestrial phenomena have inspired dramatically different interpretations, from angelic “space brothers” heralding a coming New Age, to demonic lizards who abduct sleeping humans and mutilate cattle. From the 1940s to the 1980s, ETs typically warned of coming nuclear cataclysm, but following the end of the Cold War, they began increasingly to bring messages of personal spiritual transformation in line with “New Age” discourses. In a secular and detraditionalised West, religious symbols have increasingly become detached from their traditional institutional moorings, and available for appropriation in contexts hitherto considered purely secular. Through detailed case-studies, I examine how these later ET narratives frequently took the form of a de-mythologisation of traditional religious symbols and narratives, a re-framing which makes religious ideas more viable in a scientific-materialist context. ETs become manifestations of angels and/or demons, and the earth literally becomes a battlefield between benevolent and evil forces. This, I argue, is typical of a broader metaphysical conspiracism, in which religious symbols and narratives have been absorbed into political conspiracy theories to produce a quasi-religious weltanschauung. Such a religious formation demonstrate what Simmel suggests: “Enlightenment does not destroy religiosity, merely rob it of its clothes.”

Another positive Under the Rainbow review

Under the Rainbow: Mercy has received another positive review, this one from Grovel. They described it as “a wonderful commentary on racism and the police wrapped in a story of superstition”, and praised its quality, along with Dan White’s Last Summer and Dave Thomson’s Feeding Spiders (I heartily agree with his opinion of those two stories, and would recommend New British Comics #2 for those stories alone).

If anyone wants to read Under the Rainbow: Mercy in its entirety, it’s available here. And if you’re an artist who wants to draw another episode, I have scripts, please get in touch.

More prosaically, I received another rejection for the Terrortubbies, although quite a positive one.

A Period of Treading Water

Nothing has happened of late on this here blog, and there is a simple reason for that. Nothing concrete has happened in my literary or academic lives.

On the literary side, I was concentrating on finishing the second part of Under the Rainbow, but when the deadline came, my collaborator Frank admitted that he’d let us down. I was disappointed, but not angry, and Karol, editor of New British Comics, to whom the story had been promised, reacted similarly. It is a feature of the collaborative process that one side is more committed than the other, and it is a feature of the artistic process that sometimes life just gets in the way, particularly when no money is involved. Nevertheless, I want to that story continued, and I would prefer to continue it with Frank. In the meantime, I wrote a six-page, wordless comic about a selkie, but too late to make the deadline for the comic. Frustrating.

The selkie story needs a title. And The Men in Red remains without a home.

In academia, things have been even more dramatic. Upon returning to campus during the first week of term, I made a few enquiries as to when I might expect a result. It transpired that the internal examiner hd yet to receive the paper. The office insisted that they had sent it out. two days later, both examiners received the paper. Coincidence? All concerned seem to think not. Most problematic is the fact that the office lied, when it seems fairly certain that they were in error. So it will be a number of weeks yet before I receive my mark, matriculate and begin my Ph.D. All of which would be unproblematic but for the fact that the baby is due in december, and that I have already started.

But these first few weeks have already been fruitful. I have been asked to contribute book reviews, and (potentially at this point) a chapter to an edited volume: in other words, there is the suggestion that I may have an academic career. The fallout from my M.Sc. thesis has yet to settle.