“Stephanie’s First Date”: A Conversation with the Authors of ‘Seawater and Stars’


The collective editorial entity of Martian Migraine Press known as “The Face” (on Mars, natch!) sat down for a virtual chat with authors S R Jones and Justine G, the morally bankrupt creatures responsible for Seawater & Stars: The Last Novel of Gideon Stargrave, to talk about comics, Grant Morrison, metafictional conceits, and the titillating challenges inherent with mashing up two-stage expansion steam engines and Victorian smut…

The Face Hoo boy. The geekiness is just coming off the screen here in waves! Let’s get started. Favourite Morrison creation?

Jones Oh, The Invisibles. Hands down.

Justine I found The Invisibles to be, I don’t know, almost impenetrable. Sorry to say, I did not get it. Though I can see where he was going, but dimly? If that makes any sense. Much preferred The Filth. Loved The Filth, actually.

Jones The assassin chimp.

Justine Spartacus Hughes. Richard Nixon as the submarine captain, with his trusty Gill-men. Brilliant.

Jones Hold on. You found Invisibles inpenetrable but The Filth was OK for you?

Justine There was more penetration. And satire. That’s what this little girl is made of, mostly. So yes.

The Face Jones, are you one of those “The Invisibles changed my life!” types?

Jones Oh, not so much, that. Somewhere, Morrison said that the series was designed to identify or activate or otherwise agitate Invisibles that were already out there, and I guess that’s how I feel about it. Being introduced to the work (and I was definitely one of those “what, comics? I don’t read comics anymore” people when it happened) was, OK, not an eye-opener so much as a realization that, y’know, these people were out there. And that I was one of them.

The Face The Invisibles seven-volume hyper-sigil doing what it does!

Jones Something like that, I guess. It certainly re-wrote me to a degree. I recall thinking, somewhere in Volume 2, was it? That whole infiltration of the underground military installation. “Let’s do Dulce.” I recall thinking “Jesus, this Scots bastard is just giving this stuff away!” and I loved it. And this was back in, oh, ‘98?

Justine And here it is, December 2012! We’ve got, what, twelve days left?

The Face It’s Sunday 9 December, so yes. Twelve or thirteen, depending on where you like your Mayan end dates. How do you feel about that?

Jones In general, or specifically to The Invisibles?

The Face Let’s hear both.

Jones As far as The Invisibles go, I think Morrison was spot on in giving us a preview of the spirit of the 2012 culture, if not the details. I re-read The Invisibles now, and I know it was a success, because it just reads as, I don’t know… almost quaint, if that’s even possible. We’re all Invisible now.

In general… I don’t know. Back in the 90s, for me, it was all McKenna and Timewave Zero. The Mayans and all this hippie consciousness shift hoo-ha never even came up on the 2012 radar in any kind of significant way, for me. Fractal wave forms embedded in the I-Ching were where it was at, y’know? Novelty theory. And there certainly wasn’t any of the kind of standard apocalyptic end o’ the world Learning Channel boilerplate like you see these days…

Justine You kids get off his lawn!

Jones Oh hey now. I was into 2012 before 2012 was cool. But yeah, even saying that, it doesn’t look like it’s gonna pan out now, does it?

The Face There’s still time.

Justine Twelve days.

Jones Yeah. And you know, now that I think of it… I mean, the whole deal with the Timewave… the Bros. McKenna said it themselves in The Invisible Landscape, right? All the major changes, or at least a good percentage, a large percentage in fact, all the big changes in their theory, and they were talking about the kind of grand changes akin to, you know, fish deciding to go for a stroll on the beach, all of them were supposed to take place in what they called “the short epochs” at the end of the wave.

The Face Which are… ?

Jones Which are something like the last half dozen hours in the final cycle. Maybe not even that. The last hour and a half, the last fifteen minutes of which will be white-knuckle.

Justine Hee!

Jones So, like, there’s still a chance? I guess is what I’m saying. It may look like bunk at this point, with only twelve days to go, but, y’know, get back to me on the 21st. And if for some reason you can’t reach me, I guess I’ll see you in the Supercontext!

The Face Thanks for the lead-in there, sir! Because of course, the inspiration for this weird little experimental effort of yours is a throwaway line in a one-off Morrison story that saw print originally in a Vertigo Winter’s Edge special in 1998. And We’re All Policemen is, basically, eight pages of the fevered fantasies of King Mob as he emerges into the Supercontext at the end of History and–

Justine In twelve days.

The Face In twelve days, yes, and he does so in the character of Gideon Stargrave, psychedelic hyper-spy and pop mega-star. And of course the character of King Mob, as has been noted elsewhere exhaustively and explicitly mentioned by Morrison, is Morrison. Or Morrison’s fiction-suit for moving through The Invisibles.

Jones So blurry and meta in there! Morrison, King Mob, Stargrave: it’s all much of a muchness, as me old mother would have said.

Justine My old mother would have said “if you’re going to wear character armour, at least make it fashionable!”

Jones Agreed.

The Face So in the panels in question, we have Stargrave activating his magic-mirror-goop sex-droid and instructing it to… Justine?

Justine Oh what! You’re testing me now? Shit. It’s “enhance tits a percentage” or something like that. And then the blurb! The blurb is what stuck with me, or at least made me remember that it was there. Which is why I floated the idea, what? A couple of weeks back?

Jones Not long, anyways. This thing has been fast. But then, we are living in the Sun of 4-Motion, in which things speed up.

Justine Twelve days.

The Face OK! OK! But the blurb!

Justine Right.

The Face We’ll just read our copy, shall we? “I want the nerdiest guy in school transformed by a gifted surgeon’s knife into a beautiful, sexy girl and exhibited as a living erotic sculpture at Dionysian ceremonies of heathen bondage…”

Justine Ha! You bastard. Had it there all along.

The Face Next panel! Stargrave: “That kind of look.” Text box: “Thus runs the promo copy on Stargrave’s latest, most frustrating sex novel; the alluring and racy cover conceals a dry marine-engineering text with buzzwords like ‘crawlspace’ and ‘Stephanie’s first date’ sprinkled throughout to help maintain the erections of the surprisingly substantial audience for brainy-geek-to-hot-slut gender pretender stories.”

Jones Damn.

The Face There you go. So, couple of questions for you two: how’d it go? Did it, or does it, work? Justine, you’re our pornographer…

Jones Yeah, I just edited all the dry stuff. Going on record.

Justine As erotica? Not really. It’s weird. As an experiment, I’d say it’s a little successful. The text Jones found was some public domain thing from way back in the day, and after he cleaned it up there–

Jones 1921. The fifth edition I pulled was from 1921. Those Google scanned documents are bah-rutal! Lemme check the deets, hold on…

Justine Well, I was reading through it and thinking how best to go about making it work as something a person could have a little wank over, and the archaic language was so… anyway, I just naturally gravitated to Lazenby’s The Pearl. Like you do. And of course, there’s all the pistons and pumping and warm valves and so on. Certainly the larger bodies of text made it easier than the bits that are all formulas and definitions…

Jones Tompkins, Albert Edward. “Marine Engineering (A Text Book)”… oh, sorry. Engineer-Captain A. E. Tompkins, C.B.E., Royal Navy (Retired).

Justine Albert was just a barrel of laughs to work with.

Jones He was a little light on the narrative end of things.

The Face Did you bother to work around that with Seawater & Stars?

Jones Not really?

Justine No. We pretty much took Morrison at his word there. It’s the text, with buzzwords. There’s some story in it, but it’s fragmentary at best. I pulled a couple of lines from The Pearl and there’s small chunks… small?

Jones Small-ish. I wouldn’t say chunks.

Justine There’s a sentence or nine from my own Blackstone series, yes. But mostly it was just me reading through this goddamn thing and dropping dirty stuff in when it seemed appropriate. Which, again, with all the pumping and heating of expanding vapours going on, was surprisingly often!

The Face The question that burns at the heart of things here, lady and gentleman! Can you wank to this?

Jones What can’t you wank to, these days?

Justine Get off his lawn! Darn wanking kids! Wankers!

Jones No, but see, that’s the point of those panels in And We’re All Policemen. Right? That the breakdown of information has brought us to a place where there’s only garbage left in the system. Is narrative even necessary, when sex-entertainment is involved?

Justine As a purveyor of high-class paranormal erotica, I’m obliged to say yes, but as a warp-speed denizen of these hectic End Times, I’d say no. Have you seen the animated sex GIFs?

Jones Nope. What?

The Face Oh yeah!

Justine It’s like, there used to be a process, when the technology for viewing your porn was your Times Square theatre or VHS or Cinemax or whatever the hell they had. You were, for the most part, obligated to slog through a narrative. A shitty one, but still. And then of course the Internet blah blah blah. Faster, weirder. And now, Jesus, they take maybe three, four seconds of the best bit of a porno, and loop it into an animated GIF.

Jones Like those little irritating avatars in profiles?

The Face Naw man, the tech is way better now…

Justine Yup. It’s not, like, full screen HD or anything, but fill a screen with these things and it’s overwhelming. Tumblr is full to bursting with… anyway, that’s the point. It’s all boiling down to sound bites, clips, a barrage of trigger images and phonemes. The fetishization of everything… obviously, I’m for that.

The Face So why not pepper a marine-engineering text with smut? So, it works.

Jones It works. It’s weird. But it works. Mostly it’s funny.

Justine All the funny. I like Chapter One the most. And the Preface.

Jones Which is likely as far as anyone will care to get.

Justine But there are themes. There’s a Madam who shows up randomly, and of course, there’s Stephanie…

The Face From ‘Stephanie’s first date’?

Justine That, and there’s a sorority hazing that’s referenced.

Jones Some of the leading lights in late 19th Century marine-engineering get a little play, too. Sorry, boys!

Justine And by the end of the thing, which is only three chapters…

Jones The second of which is terms and definitions. Three chapters of this doorstop was already topping out at 9000 words, I mean, c’mon! No one needs or wants that much experiment.

Justine By the end I’d started throwing in a lot more stuff from Blackstone, so it gets weirder and I think the final lines have a certain eerie pathos? We’ll see, right?

The Face We hope people like it, frankly. Why the last novel of Gideon Stargrave? If faithfulness to the text was something you were going for, then why the last? It clearly states that the novel in question is merely the latest sex novel from Stargrave…

Justine Umm. Because twelve days?

Jones Twelve days. Also, I’m not sure I’m up for another experiment. Bringing this thing up from 2D comic-book-space was more of a chore than I expected.

Justine Slacker!

The Face Twelve days. I suppose, if your novelty thing holds, that we could be meeting up with all our fictionsuits on the other side of Christmas this year. In a perfect, Supercontextual world, would either of you “collaborate” with Gideon Stargrave again?

Justine Well, why not? I like his style.

Jones And if that doesn’t happen, I wouldn’t say no to working with Morrison. And before you say it, yes. Yes I’m a cheeky bastard.

The Face That’s how we like you both. Stay cheeky, fella and lady!

S R Jones is the author of the short story collections SOFT FROM ALL THE BLOOD and THE ECDYSIASTS, both from Martian Migraine Press. He’s written for the Lovecraft ezine and has had his anti-poetry published in Broken City Magazine. He is a spoken word performer, a massage therapist, a dad (horrors!), a Gnostic-Chaoist with Lovecraftian overtones, and is thoroughly, unrepentantly Invisible. You can follow him on the twitter @PimpMyShoggoth

Justine G is the author of the BLACKSTONE Erotica series and the erotic sci-fi novella ORGY IN THE VALLEY OF THE LUST LARVAE (due out in January 2013), both from Martian Migraine Press. She’d probably eat you alive, mantis-style, but man, it’d be worth it. You can follow here on the twitter @BLACKSTONErotic

Seawater and Stars, Grant Morrison Mashup, and LUST LARVAE!


A recent Google hang-out with our authors turned maudlin the other night. S R Jones, a longtime fan of Grant Morrison’s seminal series of… well, it’s hardly fair to call them “comic books”, even, is it? No. Anyway, the boy loves The Invisibles and the discussion turned to that love, and how quaint the series seems now during these final tilt-a-whirl descending days before the Eschaton blows all up ins on 12/21/2012. Which quaintness (Jones claims) speaks to the underlying archetypal truths of the work. Which is all fine and good, except where is my Ganzfeldt tank, Jones? Where are the rogue nano-swarms? Whither Barbelith, Mr Morrison? We’re all hankerin’ for a taste of ruptured cosmic placenta down here! Let’s get the party started!

At which point our author Justine G, ever the single/dirty-minded one, said “Has anyone ever made anything of that throwaway comment GM made in the Winter’s Edge one-off story, And We’re All Policemen? The bit about the sex novel that’s really just a science text with dirty catchphrases scattered throughout?”

Now, in case you’re fuzzy, MMP readers, she means this… But, more specifically, and as Jones was quick to point out, she means this

Yeah, that, said our Justine. That’s it. Has anyone written that thing?

We didn’t know, but I resolved then and there to find out. A quick tweet to the Morrison experts over at SEQUART revealed the shocking possibility that the answer to Justine’s question was no. We couldn’t believe it either, but Jones and Geoffrey (the troopers!) have taken that glowing incredulous ball and drop-kicked it like an adorable but unwanted mutant baby into some kind of End-of-Days zone. And that’s enough mixed sport-y/apocalyptic metaphors from us. Jesus.

Basically, using the very driest of public domain marine engineering text and their own writer-ly skills, our authors are entering into a virtual collaboration with the fictionsuit of Gideon Stargrave to make available that very novel! Just in time for the holidays, too. Tentatively titled SEAWATER & STARS or Stephanie’s First Date, the novel will be exactly as Morrison has described above: experimental, erotic, and yes, loaded with dull marine engineering… stuff. We’ve seen some early passages and folks, it kinda works, actually. Lots of pumps and pistons and valves. It’s Freudian in the best possible way. Merry Last Solstice Ever, MMP readers! Updates as they occur…

And as long as we’re graphics-happy with this heah Newscluster, let’s give y’all a fun preview of the cover for Justine G’s upcoming one-off erotic sci-fi short: ORGY IN THE VALLEY OF THE LUST LARVAE!

We are guessing that there will be larvae involved. Lustful larvae.

Happy Thanksgiving to our American readers! Thanks for reading MMP books, and remember, reviews are always welcome and gratefully fawned over.

Martian Migraine Press: the Best Kind of Headache

By 2012, there will be no more information! All we’ll have is garbage in the system!

Eroticizing the Outer: Totemic Invocations in Alan Moore’s ‘The Courtyard’ and ‘Neonomicon’ #1-4


How to slice into this appalling pie? is a question I had to ask myself going into this review of Alan Moore’s one-off story for Avatar Press, The Courtyard (2003), and his follow-up four issue mini-series Neonomicon (2010 & 2011). How big a piece to consume? How much of my sanity to let go?

As it turns out, not all that much actually, although it must be said that if you are a reader with a weak stomach, there are scenes in issues 2 and 4 of Neonomicon that you would be wise to avoid entirely. This is a series that takes the implied sexuality of Lovecraft’s fiction (the barely-hinted-at Freudian creatures, the prudish horror surrounding ‘unnameable couplings’ and ‘certain blasphemous rites’) and brings them front and center.

In just about every way (including a number of admittedly clever Fourth Wall breaks), Moore shoves the reader’s face into the subconscious truths of HPL’s fiction, which should be an entertaining experience but rarely rises above a kind of pedantic revisionist scholarship. Moore is known for not writing characters who are smarter than himself, and since readers who dig Moore are also no slouches in the intelligence department, we are almost never surprised by what happens to his creations. He sees it coming, and so do we. This makes it difficult for us to care about them; clearly their demiurgic creator does not and this apathy bleeds into our own perceptions of them. Just their bad luck to find themselves living in an Alan Moore book.

Anyway, we’re supposed to enjoy the ride: the punning word-play, the in-on-the-gag references, the stylized inter-textual choices, all of which are classic Moore. And perhaps we would (these are, after all, many of the reasons why HPL is still read and enjoyed) were the subject matter not so brutal.

This is a nasty piece of work, a heavy and unappetizing meal with very little levity. I dug in so you don’t have to…

Alan Moore's 'The Courtyard'First Slice: The Courtyard

The basic skeleton of this series is a cop procedural spliced with the Cthulhu Mythos; an ungainly hybrid at best. It begins with The Courtyard, in which special federal agent Aldo Sax employs ‘anomaly theory’ in tracking down a serial killer, or rather, the inspiration for a horrific series of killings carried out by three separate individuals, each of the men unknown to the other. Here’s Sax on his suspects and ‘anomaly theory’, which is his own invention…

So. There’s a noise album owned by a kid with a strong predilection for Mahler; a club ticket found on a bookworm who never goes out; a confirmed alcoholic with happy dust jammed up his ass … The next part is largely intuitive. Having selected your set of anomalous facts you will find new connections arising which, in my experience, often yield data more useful than that gained by orthodox means … it’s like taking the leftover pieces from various jigsaws and seeing what picture they make when you put them together … Of course, that’s not saying the picture will make any sense.

For the reader not familiar with Lovecraft, this is fine. Darkness prevails still and there are surprises ahead. But for the fan, well, it’s already making sense, as the one thing held in common between the three killers is the use of a ‘gibberish’ language: the kid likes to noodle around on his guitar while laying ‘godawful scat-singing over the top’; the bookworm writes short stories which used to be lucid but now show evidence of a ‘spelling disorder’; the wino speaks in drug-addled tongues. That, and the Lovecraftian in-jokes and puns that swarm thick on the page from this point on, clue us in to our final destination.

Sax investigates a Club Zothique, where a neo-hardcore punk band called The Ulthar Cats mangle their lyrics into base phonemes with primal tongue thrashings. A rave-era burnout informant lets Sax know that the band is ‘using Aklo’, which Sax concludes is a drug connected with the case. He seeks out the local source, an ageless and effeminate dandy called Johnny Carcosa. Johnny lisps; he wears a yellow chiffon veil over the lower half of his face; he sports an anachronistic pompadour and a frilled blouse: a real stand out in the crowd of punks and metalheads. Sax arranges to purchase ‘the Aklo’ from Johnny.

Of course, it’s not a drug. It’s a language, an Ur-syntax that rewrites the mind of the user, so that a trans-temporal perception of the reality of the Great Old Ones occurs. Three whispered statements from Carcosa into the abyss of Sax’s ear do the trick…

Events have a new continuity now. Disassociate clusters of data in pregnant, post-linear arrays … the wza-y’ei of this is, of course, that the future extrudes a curtailing force into the present … All events are time roses, the clenched fuck uncrumpling into a life as the species folds back to annelidan ancestors. There lies our dho-hna; a meaning bestowed by forms as yet unachieved but implicit.

Brilliant stuff, pure mind-melting ideas presented cleanly and powerfully, and the most enjoyable sequence of panels in the entire series, for my money. Look closely and you’ll see in each panel a representation of the previous panel, the framework of the comic folding through itself just as the Inhabitant of the frame undergoes his creepy transition from human to not-quite-human. Sax’s dark enlightenment comes with a price, naturally, and all the accumulated weirdness pays off in the final panels…

Time being a function of matter, this freeing of ultimate forms may be hastened by pertinent sculpture…

… with the medium being the human body, and Sax the latest practitioner of the murderous art form that lies coded within the Aklo language. Never has Lovecraft’s barbarous FHTAGN held actual horror for me, but here, used as the final punctuating statement, as a ‘fin’, it comes very close.

Alan Moore's "Neonomicon"Second Slice: Neonomicon #1 through #4

The Courtyard is strong, and interesting enough to bring me to Neonomicon when it began its run in 2010. Sadly, Moore, instead of extrapolating on the great ideas laid out in his original effort, phones it in with a wooden ‘gosh, this Lovecraft guy was nutty, maybe he was onto something’ story, complete with unnecessary explication about the connection between Lovecraft’s fiction and the events of the series (another example of Moore talking down to his characters and readers: “Yeah, we get it. We got it the first time. Thanks”), stilted Bochco-style cop dialogue, and stomach-turning portrayals of assault and rape.

We start with a full page panel, depicting a reddish fog vaguely studded by fuzzed-out globules of light, and a dark serpentine shape crossing the panel diagonally down in the right corner. It’s the end, and the beginning, we’re informed by an unidentified narrator…

He’s beneath the waters now, but soon, in only a few months, he will come forth. And until then he sleeps. And dreams.

Promising stuff! We open to find that Sax is now in a psychiatric prison after personally upping the death toll by two. He speaks Aklo almost exclusively. FBI agents Gordon Lamper and Merril Brears are on his case. He’s an archetypal ‘cool black cop’, she’s a leggy, nerdy blonde recovering from sex addiction: neither character goes anywhere you wouldn’t expect in the following narrative. Some of the territory explored in The Courtyard is covered again in #1, and a sequence of bizarre events bring the agents to encounters with the lead singer of the Ulthar Cats; Johnny Carcosa and his loathsome suicidal mother; and finally to an occult sex shop run by Dagon cultists in #2.

The agents, who we’ve been led to believe are professionals, make spectacularly bad choices while undercover in the sex shop, choices which serve Moore’s narrative purposes but not their own. We’re left saying things like ‘oh, come on!’ and ‘seriously?’. Granted, we have the same reactions with Lovecraft’s hapless professors and antiquarians, too, but these are Moore’s people, hard-boiled FBI agents: when they make some glaring error, it’s a note that rings false every time. Enough of this kind of unprofessional behaviour and before too long Lamper and Brears find themselves in far too deep. Moore doesn’t explicitly make that pun, but then again, he doesn’t have to. There’s a Deep One submerged in a pool in the basement: cue the ‘nameless couplings’ and ‘blasphemous rites’, or, in common parlance, the rape and murder.

Moore and artist Jacen Burrows spare nothing and no one in the following orgy sequence. Depending on where the scene crosses your personal comfort line, it’s a very graphic and repulsive six to ten pages of unpleasant looking people doing unpleasant, evil things to each other and to the agents, before introducing Agent Brears to their guest of honor.

Interestingly, we’re not shown the Deep One clearly until #3, instead viewing what we can of it through the severely blurred vision of Agent Brears, who isn’t wearing her contact lenses: see ‘spectacularly bad choices’, above. I feel this is an interesting visual choice, considering what the reader experiences in #2. For, unlike the cultists, who are dull and unattractive specimens at best, the Deep One, though monstrous, is amazing looking, even beautiful. Considering Lovecraft’s unequivocal description of that species as loathsome, batrachian, flabby, etc. it makes me wonder why Moore and Burrows would choose to portray one with the physique of an Olympic swimmer and the head of a lion fish. That’s a pretty fish-man right there.

Which shouldn’t make getting sexually assaulted by it any easier, but then Moore has gone out of his way to make the human couplings of #2 so thoroughly repugnant, banal and degrading that the initial rape of Agent Brears by the Deep One (which we never actually witness fully, as it happens between issues) cannot help but merit a favourable comparison. Following close on the heels of that event, the ‘relationship’ between Agent Brears and her amphibious assailant actually improves, with rudimentary communication, signs of something that could pass for tenderness, an uneasy solidarity against the Dagon cultists, and by the end of the issue, the Deep One helps her escape confinement! Or drags her to her watery death.

No, it’s the first thing. Her little blonde head pops up to the surface, far out to sea and away from the Dagon cultists, on the first page of #4. Thanks for saving me, hideous submarine abomination!

What is going on here?

In this final issue, Moore reveals his hand: it’s a Rosemary’s Baby scenario. Everything is wrapped up: there’s a gratuitous gun battle in the tunnels beneath the sex shop, the Deep One returns to dispatch his former captors before being killed by federal agents, while Brears explains (again!) how Lovecraft was almost right, but didn’t have all the details.

In a visit with Sax at the end of the issue (reminiscent of The Silence of the Lambs — Sax actually says “I mean, I’m the psycho, right? And you, you’re the Jody Foster role,” which is as post-modern as you can get) Merril Brears displays her mastery of Aklo and her new understanding of Time and how it relates to the Great Old Ones. Of course, the difference between her and Sax is that, despite knowing the murder-language, she hasn’t tried to “personally convert more people into tulips” as Lamper once said way back in #1. But then, she doesn’t have to. Because she’s pregnant by her Deep One rapist-cum-paramour… with (it’s implied) Cthulhu Himself. When Sax realizes this, he says that she’s a goddess, that no one deserves her presence. “No,” she answers…

No. Maybe not. But they deserve His presence. I mean, look at this species. We’re pretty much vermin. Never mind. He’ll sort all that out, once he arrives.

Bad news that we all saw coming, sure, but the real positive here is that Merril Brears is over her sex addiction!

I feel good. I feel good about myself, about all this. For the first time, y’know. For the first time I got no problems with my self esteem. The strange aeons start from between my thighs. And for everything else, all this other bullshit… it’s the end.

Well, you go girl. Good for you. And with that, we’re at the last panel, which is the first panel from #1. The dark serpentine shape in the lower right hand corner is now, obviously, an umbilical cord; the crimson miasma just the view from Baby C’s uterine throne room, a red R’lyeh.

Third Slice: Ram That Totem Right Through the Fourth Wall!

The mirrored first and final panels of Neonomicon and the few moments when characters, though ostensibly speaking to other characters, gaze directly out at the reader, are really the key, I think, to understanding what Moore was trying to say with the series, about Lovecraft, his mythos, and us.

Just one example: there’s a panel in #3 where Perlman, the lead agent on the case, deep in a morass of confusion and frustrated over his missing agents, casts his beady eyes out beyond the frame and into our space…

Who knows what any of this means? Is it Lovecraft fans who’ve graduated into psychopaths? Is that what his stuff does to people? Then there’s the Brit occultists … those guys think Lovecraft’s monsters and gods are real in some way…

Here Moore (yes, the Brit occultist) shows us what he thinks of Lovecraft fans, which is an interesting choice to make when trying to sell Lovecraftian fiction to that demographic. That panel is really where Moore lost me on this series, and in general.

Back to those mirrored panels, though: by giving the reader the abominable infant’s viewpoint, Moore is effectively asking us to identify with Cthulhu. The implication is that we, as a species, somehow contain this mad god-thing. This is a totemic feint, using the most humanoid of Lovecraft’s beasties to garner our sympathy. I believe he may be attempting a kind of pop-culture invocation through the comic, tempting the reader to eroticize the other like they never have before, calling the beautiful monsters of chaos home: the Deep Ones (given the much classier French title of ‘gargouille de la mer’ in the final issue) and Cthulhu, who’s going to fix this mess we’ve made, gosh darn it, if we only let him in. Basically, Moore is pulling a weird, almost evangelical, Robert Blake-style switcheroo on us, an “I am it and it is I” gag and it works, a little.

But as a satisfying ending to a series that began so well with The Courtyard? It works not at all.

Fourth Slice: Paper Dolls in the Urban Wasteland

A final word on the artwork. I haven’t seen much of Jacen Burrow’s other books, but from this sample alone I can’t say I’m a fan. He has a great eye for detail and his depressed city and streetscapes enjoy a realism rarely seen in comics (series colorist Juanmar’s dull earth tones throughout the series really help the mood), but the characters in Neonomicon are flat and not given to a lot of expression, unless placed in an extreme situation. Thankfully, that happens quite a bit, but even so, it would have been good to see it more.

His staging of scenes is also kind of stiff, but this may be less his fault and more something to be laid at Moore’s door; he is apparently notorious for locking down panels and positioning in his scripts long before such things get to the artist’s consideration.

Pass the Antacid Tablets…

What an uncomfortable meal. Neonomicon makes you glad Lovecraft didn’t go into all the details, actually. Make sure you’ve a strong stomach and some kind of palate cleanser ready to go for dessert before you dig into this shoggoth-meat pie. Definitely not for everyone.

(This review by our author S R Jones first appeared on the Lovecraft eZine on March 29 2012)

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