Tuesday, October 12, 2004


…and what else? Oh yeah: Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart’s SeaGuy three-part mini-series has just reached its heartbreaking conclusion.

It’s funny and charming and bittersweet: a satire on…no, a fable that serves as a grim warning to those who attempt to break free of their Social Conditioning. I can almost hear Our Faceless Enemy ask: “B-but why… why would anyone want to do that…?” Burroughs always said that if you want to truly oppress someone, don’t put them in concentration camps, just give them what they think they want: Satellite TV, sport, pornography, shopping malls, jeeps

A few will resist their programming, or else their surroundings may induce some vague, unnameable horror as Reality occasionally leaks through. Those that can’t be dampened down with Prozac will be humoured: we’ll let them keep their marginal/specialist hobbies: Punk Rock, Techno, Paganism, Bodily modification, Psychic TV…

It doesn’t matter, because, in the end, everything will be commodified.

Morrison specialises in constantly re-writing this one particular story. Most of his recent comic-work comes at these same themes from different (camera-)angles, constantly re/shooting, re/casting, re/thinking, rehearsing The Rebellion that we have all secretly contemplated and which is, in all likelihood, doomed to failure unless we get it 100% right the first time. There’s absolutely no margin for error here.

Morrison’s latest attempt at The Story is extremely disciplined and focused; the three-issue format suits him; it has the effect of tightening his writing. Of course, Morrison's surreal logic results in the usual crazy japes, but he never once takes his eye off the ball or sacrifices The Story to either excess or effect. He, of all people, knows what’s really at stake here.

There’s loads of great stuff in SeaGuy (either intentional or unconscious) that’ll have the pundits discussing and debating into the wee small hours. The defeat of Anti-Dad, I guess, is a reference to the Fall of Western Religion and its replacement by The Celebristocracy, surely? Not sure why he fell on Australia, though. See, there’s tons of this stuff just waiting to be picked over. But don’t hold your breath for a Trade Collection; if Time-Warner ever figure out what this is really about…(or maybe they're just humouring us...)

This time, though, Grant has invested The Story with a strong mock-emotional core: he plays his readers like a master, pressing all the right buttons and pulling all the right strings to get the desired result. Initially, in the first issue, I wasn’t sure he was going to pull this off; I thought the tone of the comic might be too knowing; too deliberately insincere, but I’m pleased to report he’s proven me wrong. In fact, SeaGuy's one of the most emotionally engaging comics I’ve read in a long time, despite the fact that I knew I was being conned by an expert fraudster.

Chubby da Choona? Da fug…?

Was it “Sensation”, the BritArt exhibition that suspended the sagging body of a dead horse from the ceiling in a harness? When you saw that horse, you knew you were being played by the artist, but you couldn’t help yourself…you couldn’t not respond as your cortex was literally flooded by a tsunami of emotional connotations provoked by the image. You'd think of: Weariness, Old Age, Abandonment, The Death of a Pet, Parents Overburdened by Responsibility, Loss of Love and Life and Joy; the End of All Things. The imagery creates a cascade effect that the viewer is unable to stop, despite being fully conscious of how his emotions are being manipulated. It’s the Art World’s equivalent of the Death of Bambi’s Mother, and we just can’t help ourselves.

And SeaGuy also does this, but on a far subtler level.