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So a long time ago (the mid-1990s), the greatest writer in comics agreed to take over the writing duties for Image Comics' Supreme. He would radically reshape the character, the book, and due to forces beyond his control, a whole comic book universe. And it led to an award-winning run of comics, three additional titles (among several proposed) and ultimately led to the genesis of Moore's much better known America's Best Comics. And then it all went out of print and was forgotten by way too many.

Having gathered quite a bit of information about Moore's Supreme and Awesome runs, I decided to create a home for the forgotten Awesome. Over the course of a year, I put it all together here.

Each week I did a main "Weekly Reading" post that was a read-through of that issue. I followed that up with a couple of other posts about topics from that Weekly Reading or whatever else I came up with to talk about. You'll find the lost Youngbloods in the Youngblood section and the fan-edit of the last Supreme in After Awesome.

Below is the archive of posts broken up by book. Thanks for checking the site out!

Book 1: Supreme: The Story of the Year

Book 1: Judgment Day

Book 3: Supreme: The Return

Book 4: Youngblood

Book 5: Glory

Book 6: After Awesome

Book 7: 1963

Book 8: Night Raven

Book 9: A Small Killing

Friday, August 4, 2017

Magic, Glycon and Idea Space

So, you might have heard that Alan Moore is a magician (not the rabbit in a top hat kind). I wasn't really planning to get into this on a blog about the Awesome universe, but we've reached the point where it can't be avoided, so let's pull up our pants and dig in.

According to Moore, roundabout 1993, he was writing From Hell when he had an epiphany.
"The thing that turned me towards magic was a panel in From Hell where William Gull was saying something to the effect that the human mind is one place where all of the gods and monsters in human mythology are arguably real, in all of their grandeur and monstrosity. And after writing I thought, oh shit, that’s true. Now I am going to have to rearrange my entire life around this. There is no way to disprove it. I thought I was writing this great piece of Gothic villain dialogue. The gods and monsters inarguably exist and they are real. Because if they don’t exist how many people died because of them, or how many history changing things have been done in the name of these Gods that don’t exist? If they don’t exist why do they kill so many of us in their name?"
"It seems to me that much of science doesn’t like to even accept that there is anything going on inside our heads and wants to base it all upon hard proven laboratory things. But the mind is the only thing that we have any direct experience of. We don’t perceive the world directly. We perceive our perception. We put together these weird jigsaw puzzles made from the light on our retina, the sound waves in our eardrums, the texture of our fingers. And moment by moment we are kind of compositing this together on some big screen that is reality. That is what we see. If we have a flaw in any of our perceptual systems than that will become part of our reality. I suppose magic was an attempt to kind of see if I could take my relationship with reality any further into any different areas."
So, on his 40th birthday, while "pissed" at his pub, he declared himself a magician. But the best way to understand Moore's magic, or at least the best way I've been able to understand it, is through his god, Glycon. Glycon is a snake puppet.


Here Moore explains it (and I stole the quote below from the wonderful Periodic Fable):
"In my own experience – and this is where we get into the complete madness here – I have only met about four gods, a couple of other classes of entity as well. I’m quite prepared to admit this might have been a hallucination. On most of the instances, I was on hallucinogenic drugs. That’s the logical explanation – that it was a hallucinatory experience. I can only talk about my subjective experience, however, and the fact that having some experience of hallucinations over the last twenty-five years or so, I’d have to say that it seemed to me to be a different class of hallucination. It seemed to me to be outside of me. It seemed to be real. It is a terrifying experience, and a wonderful one, all at once. It is everything you’d imagine it to be. As a result of this, there is one particular entity I feel a particular affinity with. There is a late Roman snake god, called Glycon. He was an invention of the False Prophet Alexander. […]
"Anyway, the false prophet Alexander is a Moon and Serpent hero, a saint if you like. He was running what seemed to be a travelling Seleni medicine show. He would do a performance of the mysteries of the goddess Soi. The only reference to him is in the works of Lucian, who calls him a complete charlatan and fraud. At some point, Alexander the False Prophet said he was going to preside over the second coming of the god Aeschepylus [or Asclepius], the serpent god of medicine. He said this is going to happen at noon tomorrow in the marketplace. So everyone said, 'sounds good,' and they all went down there. After a little while, they said, 'Come on, False Prophet Alexander, where is the second coming of Aeschepylus?' At which point, the False Prophet Alexander bent down, reached into a puddle at his feet, pulled up an egg, split it with his thumbnail, and there was a tiny snake inside, and said, 'Behold the new Aeschepylus,' took it home with him, where over a week it apparently grew to a prodigious size until it was taller than a man and had the head and features of a man. It had long blonde hair, ears, eyelids, a nose. At this point, he started to exhibit it in his temple, providing religious meeting with this incarnate god. At which point, Lucian said, it was obvious, 'I could have done that.' […] He got the snake’s head under his arm, speaking tube over his shoulder, child’s play. And he’s probably right, that’s probably how he did it.
"If I’m going to adopt a god, I’d rather know starting out that it was a glove puppet. To me it’s a real god. There’s nothing that precludes a glove puppet from being a real god. […] But a god is the idea of a god. The idea of a god is a god. The idea of Glycon is Glycon. If I can enhance that idea with an anaconda and a speaking tube, fair enough. I am unlikely to start believing that this glove puppet created the universe. It’s a fiction. All gods are fiction. It’s just that I happen to think that fiction’s real. Or that it has its own reality that is just as valid as ours. I happen to believe that most of the important things in the material world start out as fiction. That everything around us was once fiction – before there was the table, there was the idea of a table, and the idea of a table before tables was fiction. This is the most important world, the world of fictional things. That’s the world where all this starts."

Moore's god is the god of ideas, or more importantly, the god of stories. Because stories are magic. People order their lives around stories and they believe their lives are stories. We see stories that have been structured by writers and editors and we call them the news and they shape how we see the world. We read stories and we call them history and they shape how we believe. The act of storytelling, creating belief out of words, that is magic to Moore:
"...it is my position that art, language, consciousness and magic are all aspects of the same phenomenon. With art and magic seen as almost wholly interchangeable, the realm of the imagination becomes crucial to both practices.
"The kabbalistic lunar realm of the imagination is called Yesod, this being a Hebrew word which means ‘Foundation’. This suggests that the imagination is the sole foundation upon which all our higher mental functions are dependent and, also, through which they are accessible. Magic, in our formulation, seems intimately involved with creativity and with creation, in whatever sense we mean those terms."
Put in other terms, he describes the magic on a Goodreads chat:
"I don’t know what happens to me when I write, because I’m not sure if we have adequate language to describe, even to ourselves, what it is to use language in a purposeful way. I know that my consciousness, if I am immersed in writing something demanding, is moved into a completely different state than the one which I inhabit during most of my waking life. Neither is it like dreaming, having much more focus and control. If I’m writing, as I often do, something which requires messing around with the structure or vocabulary of the English language, then I find myself entering some very unusual mental spaces indeed. Writing the Lucia Joyce chapter of Jerusalem, ‘Round the Bend’, I found myself in a kind of synaptic cascade-state that had a delirious, mind-expanding bliss to it. By contrast, writing the collapsed future-vernacular of Crossed +100, I found myself ending up slightly depressed just by the experience of having a limited language with a subsequently limited number of things that the characters could think, or feel, or conceive of. What I suspect is happening is that, as started earlier, our entire neurological reality can be seen as being made from words at its most immediate level. When you descend into this level of our reality, the code of our reality if you like, then whether consciously or not; whether deliberately or not, you are working magic. So, the answer to your question as to what happens to me when I write, is the most banal and useless answer you will ever get from an author: the magic happens. I hope that the fact that it’s me saying that and that I mean the above statement with absolute conviction, along with all of its potentially frightening implications, will be enough to make it sound a little less fatuous."

But what does that have to do with the Awesome universe!?! Bring it back to the superheroes, damn you!!!

Alright, alright. Well, if stories are magic, they have to exist somewhere. If I have an idea of Supreme and you have an idea of Supreme, and they're pretty much the same idea, where is that idea? Is it two separate ideas in each of our heads? Or it it in a single location? And if it's in a single, communal location, where is it?

And so Moore came up with the concept of Idea Space. The place where every thought and idea that mankind has coexists. He explained the concept in an interview with Eddie Campbell that appeared in Egomania #2 and in the wonderful A Disease of Language hardcover:
“Obviously there is more to our experience of a place than the bricks and mortar. Our reaction to various locations seemed to me to depend upon the richness of the web of association that we connected w/ these sites…. If you are a practicing magician or poet [then] you have a web of symbol systems w/ which to decode even chance appearances in this area...

“…this hypothetical “space,” which I have labeled Ideaspace…. Maybe our individual and private consciousness is, in Ideaspace terms, the equivalent of owning an individual private house… the space inside our homes is entirely ours, yet if we step through the front door we find ourselves in a street, in a world, that is mutually accessible to everyone…. This would explain dubious phenomena such as telepathy or knowledge-at-a-distance…. The actual ideas represent the equivalent of solid objects in terms of that space. An idea may be a pebble, a rock, a mountain or a whole continent in terms of its stature…. Distances could only be associational in Ideaspace. Lands End and John O’Groates, while famously far apart in the physical world, are usually mentioned in the same sentence and thus are right next to each other, associatively speaking…. Time, as a phenomenon, doesn’t apply in the same way to the realm of the mind as it does to the time-locked material realm. We can think as easily about events ten or twenty years ago as we can about something that happened this morning, or we can think about something that might happen tomorrow…. If this were so, then this would explain, at a stroke, such phenomena as ghosts, premonitions, apparent memories of previous lives… even… de-ja-vu.

“Ideaspace, where philosophies are land masses and religions are probably whole countries, might contain flora and fauna that are native to it, creatures of this conceptual world that are made from ideas in the same way that we creatures of the material world are made from matter. This could conceivably explain phantoms, angels, demons, gods, djinns, grey aliens, elves, pixies…”

To all of our benefits, Moore decided to make this the underpinning of the Awesome universe, as shown in Supreme #47 and even more in #48, so we get to picture it. It will also give us a way of understanding how the gods exist when we get to Judgment Day and Glory.

The fabric of the Awesome universe is made up of ideas. As we've seen in the pages of Supreme, his backstory is comic books. His history is made up of stories because they're made up stories. So of course his whole universe would be based upon the rule of Moore's concept of magic.

Again, imagination, ideas and stories are central to the work Moore is doing in the Awesome universe, and for the first time, we get a real sense of how important this work is to Moore. It's simple to write off these works because they're superheroes and aren't as important as his monuments, such as From Hell or even as obviously personal as Promethea, but they are a lot more personal and important to understanding Moore's worldview than many people think.

He built this universe based upon his own core concepts of magic and creativity. For the first time, we were given a view into what Moore believes is the fabric of human existence. The fact that it's a fun story only makes it even better magic.

2 comments:

  1. Searching around and looking for
    A. Moore quotes, and news, I found and re-read this blog heading. And it is posted from two years back - exactly 4th August as today's date!

    AjenoDel
    --
    SWB

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, this is one of those ones where I tried to explain the importance of Supreme in the broader works of Moore. Not sure how well i succeeded, but it makes sense to me.

      Delete