Can we all just start by agreeing that it would be cool to bring our world closer to a comic book world? Sure, there would be crises that put the world on the brink of apocalypse, and as books like Marvels point out, there would be a lot of collateral damage from epic battles between super-powered beings. But there would also be living, mythological beings walking in our midst. We would be at a vantage to see evolution in action. Homo sapiens to Homo superior, the walking man to the man who to can fly, shoot beams from his eyes (to knock out the motes in his neighbors’, natch), regenerate body parts. We would face the existence of strange intelligences from across the universe. We could marvel at the wonders of science that make our lives not only easier, but more fun.
Grant Morrison is like the lone mad scientist in a 1930s pulp novel, working away to figure out how we can make a fictional reality our own using the same tools that we use when we create these fictional worlds. In the 1980s, he drew himself (the version with hair) into Animal Man, making comments willy-nilly about himself, the concept of writing comics, animal rights. It was all very ironic and metafictional and was a good response to the grittiness in vogue then. It also began the in-text exploration of magic and fiction as major themes.
What’s more interesting for our project, and our project is changing reality into a fiction, is how in the 1990s, Grant Morrison transformed himself into a superhero. Sort of. In his excellent study of superheroes and himself, Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us about Being Human, he describes going through a psychedelic, occult revolution that saw him conjuring John Lennon for an unreleased Beatles song, speaking to metallic blobs of the fourth dimension in Kathmandu, and writing The Invisibles.
The first thing you recognize in Invisibles is the bald dome of King Mob and how he looks exactly like one Mr. Grant Morrison. This guy works as a sort of a leader of a mystical anti-fascist (in the cosmic sense) cell of magicians, terrorists, punks, etc. Their goal: illumination. The work borrows heavily from The Illuminatus! Trilogy, A Clockwork Orange, the 1960s, 120 Days of Sodom, and chaos magick. It was the Matrix before we gave a damn. Morrison’s goal: to create himself (and culture) anew by publishing this comic and using it as a hypersigil.
Before we go forward, it will probably be helpful to explain what chaos magick is. It’s a Western system of magick that’s goal oriented and flexible in terms of mythology. You have the spells and rituals of all traditions, the only catch is that you believe in them. You shift your paradigm. On one day, you summon a loa to ride you. On the next, you say a rosary. On the third, you bring down the moon. It accepts anything so long as it is useful.
Most people oversimplify/conflate chaos magick with a particular type of sigil working: the magician draws a nonrepresentational symbol that she ascribes certain meaning, then charges it by associating that meaning with it, and then masturbates and looks at the symbol at the point of climax, and finally forgets the whole thing took place. The idea is that in moments of extremity, you have special access to either the subconscious mind or the astral realm (which is often the same thing in different traditions). The act of firing the sigil implants a nonverbal symbol into your subconscious where it can grow to become fully realized with your intention. It doesn’t have to involve masturbation, but that’s the cliché. What’s necessary is implanting a seed of fiction into your being, a fiction you believe in, a fiction wherein you succeed.
What Morrison did was create a sigil for himself in King Mob. Back in “reality,” he began dressing like his character, acting like him, to the point where he began experiencing the repercussions of King Mob’s battles (an infected face, a collapsed lung). Later, deciding that enough was enough, Morrison wrote King Mob as rich with money and sexual partners. Now, he lives on a road literally called Millionaire’s Row in Glasgow.
Whether his success can be attributable to a system of magick or not, there’s no doubt that many of us already do something like this kind of magic with literature already. Or at least, we did as children, looking up to idealistic heroes who could never cave in to the injustice of the world. For a lot of us, it shaped who we were. I idolized Jim Morrison in high school, grew my hair out, drank entirely too much. Within a few years, my love life was romantic in a depraved and tragic way, I was more or less intoxicated, and all my friends hated me. Yes, it was pretty awesome, but then I got new heroes. And my idea of “The Lizard King” was at least as much a fiction as Tony Stark.
Fiction has the power to work its magic on us. And I mean this in as literal a sense as possible. It can create something (our lives to change) out of nothing (the thoughts, intentions of a distant, unknowable writer). This is important, and it shapes not only our individual development, but the texture of our culture. It doesn’t always happen through idolization and sigils, but those are the most personally powerful. With certain texts, such as a long running comic book like The Invisibles or a television show like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we spend more time with the characters in those “realities” than we do with the people we call friends in our “fictions.”
And if reading and consuming and watching works of fiction can change us, how much more so does creating them change us? I’m sure there are some practical things fiction can do—personal growth, being a better human, whatever. But I’m ready to believe the Grant Morrison myth, if for no other reason than I would like to be able to transform myself into something whose skin turns to organic steel, something that sucks up solar energy to complete Herculean labors, something that communes with a deadly and creative cosmic force, something to bring down the fire.
x-posted at christopherlirette.com