I caught the train to Chester yesterday to get something I’ve wanted ever since I ran away to Liverpool on my 15th birthday. I suppose for perfect symmetry I should have gone to Liverpool to get it, but my research revealed the most suitable tattooist in the region to be down the road in Chester, so to Chester I went, and the award winning Golden Dragon Tattoo studio, where a talented young droog called Craig finally inked Evan Dorkin’s angry dairy products on my right arm, AKA my cartoon arm.
Hugely influential things happen over very short spaces of time when you’re young, compared to your later years. More events of lifelong import happened in the 7 months I was in Redditch between 16 and 17 than happened in seven of my London years. And the few days I spent as a just-turned-15 runaway in Liverpool were even more intensely concentrated.
One thing that came out of that little nuke of emotional intensity that would reverberate for the rest of my years had to do with comics. I acquired a little pile of comic books in the town centre, some stolen, some bought with cash I’d been given for sitting at the side of the road with “homeless” written comic-bookishly on some cardboard next to my teenage personage. One generous and emotional lady have me a handful of paper money, blinking back tears and muttering about the horrors of the modern world. I spent the rest of the afternoon sipping on milkshake in MacDonalds’ reading Tank Girl and A Tale Of One Bad Rat, and the evening in the back of a pub listening to the jukebox and reading Evan Dorkin’s Milk & Cheese. “Dairy products gone bad,” Milk & Cheese were rageful and hilarious little alcoholic cartoon characters who railed against societal idiocy, raining righteous ultraviolence down on the heads of fools. I related to their disgust at world, I shared their rage. In later years they reminded me of that, when I fell into new age traps of cheek-turning and othersuch passive, submissive, bubble-dwelling, world-ignoring selfish faux-spirituality. They were Lydon’s “Anger Is An Energy” screed personified.
I finished the comics and doodled them on the back of some napkins (which, it transpires, was how Dorkin created them in the first place). When the pub closed I wandered the streets looking for somewhere to sleep and, eventually, after some adventures and incidents, I found an abandoned building, whose rotting old stairs I climbed to a room with no roof carpeted with pornography and drug paraphernalia and broken glass. I lay on my back looking at the lights blinking through the orange stained clouds, thinking of my life in all directions, as the songs I’d heard and the comics I’d read sunk into the tapestry of my consciousness. I knew whatever happened, it was going to be OK. I knew who I was what I stood for. I knew what I wanted from my life.
I decided that when I could afford it I’d have panels from all the comics tattooed on my arm. I imagined a whole sleeve adorned with bits of my favourite comics, telling the story of my life and my dreams.
To this day, my favourite thing to do in a new town is buy a comic, find a bar, and sit my ass down with a drink and and read. It feels holy. It centres me, it reboots me. It reminds me where I came from and where I’m going. Just thinking about it gives me a hair tingling sort of hiraeth, as the Welsh say.
The fuck? I was banging my Best of Jay Elec playlist just yesterday thinking, sheeet, shame he gave up rap for a Rothschild or whatever the fuck happened, weird how all he ever released since he signed with Jay-Z was a fuckin’ soda advert. Now this. And this. Pow.
I woke up a few hours later still drunk, immobile beneath the weight of a Galactean and only just emerging hangover. Vegas sunshine poured over me quite torrentially, like twin Niagras from two of the room’s four walls. I felt pinned to the bed by unseeable forces, like in that dream I once had at my mother’s house that I’m not entirely sure was actually a dream, where I awoke next to my brother completely paralysed, as long, rubberflesh fingers clawed at my face and prised open my mouth and I screamed, silently.
My eyeballs stinging in the hotel air, eyelids fleeing jaw and scalp-ward, dragged down by a foul and magical combination of gravity and dehydration, I mused that perhaps I needn’t have flung myself so hard into the arena of Party last night. A slideshow of barely connected flashback spat past my vision, like those He-Man binoculars you used to get in The Past (my Twitterpeople tell me they were called VIEW MASTERS). Eventually I fell out of bed and dragged myself into the shower room, like that girl coming out the telly in Ring, and lay beneath the beatific godlike mercy of The Water until the VIEW MASTER inside my head stopped flicking through slides, and I could utter some words to myself.
“Fuck,” I said.
I felt panicky. I knew that I was doing a panel with Grant Morrison on the subject of, well, many heady subjects of great interest to me and presumably those who’d paid $1000 each to attend MorrsionCon at the end of the day. I wondered how I’d get there.
I forced myself into some fly clothing and staggered off down the hallway, fell into a lift, and was washed out ashore in the Kubrikian Kirby kaleidoscope casino carpet corridors of The Hard Rock Hotel. I wandered, as if in a dream through a parade of bikini clad, bossomy young females, slot machine grannies and inky-fleshed football players, signed autographs for a cluster of comics kids hanging outside the tattoo parlour, air-fived the excellent Day One movie panel host and 2011 Penthouse Pet of the Year Runner Up and Saints Row The Third star Ryan Keely and nearly tripped over Tiggeresque Chronicle scribe Max Landis, who was lost and looking for The Morrisons. I failed to be of any use to him and aimed myself at the Mexican restaurant, where I heaved myself up onto a stool and attempted to force down a bucket of water and eat tacos for an hour, until my hangover arrived properly and violently in the manner of a Cylon Baseship Plus Fleet, and there was nothing else to do but launch myself back down the swirling corridors, back up the lift, down the hall and into bed. The whole thing was like slow motion giant sized pinball machine, with I the Pinball. I Skyped my pregant wife from my bed and summoned all my remaining energies.
An hour or so later myself and my remaining energies were at one of the many little bars that peppered the MorrsionCon convention area, trying to work out what had happened last night with the help of a revolving cast of helpful humans including J.H. Williams III and Kristan Morrison and Gerard Way and Jason Aaron and James Sime, all of whom seemed in much better shape than I. Mr Sime was particularly amused and considered the whole thing BALANCE and payback for when he took me out on the razz in San Francisco earlier this year and we crashed in his comic shop and he woke up with “the worst hangover in a decade.”
I wasn’t functioning as well as I’d like. I’d been forlornly gripping the same banana for about an hour, unable to deal with its overripe, sloppy end, until Grant Morrison’s agent advised I break the end off and eat the rest. That, I mused, is why they you the big bucks. A very tall young man who I’d been chatting with the previous day approached me with a screwdriver. “Please have this,” he said, with a concerned expression. “No thank you very much, I am on water,” I said, firmly. “Oh,” he said, forlornly, “Well I don’t know what to do with it now.”
“OK,” I said, and took the screwdriver. He looked relieved, and scurried off to watch whatever panel was occurring. I drunk my screwdriver and felt much better, thank you. “Science,” I thought. Soon I was being scooshed into a room at the side of the convention area, where serious men with vast video cameras were recording interviews with people for a forthcoming documentary about the proceedings. Naturally when asked how I’d gotten into Grant Morrison I completely forgot that it was in fact his early run on Spawn that had first grabbed my attention, instead remembering Arkham Asylum, which I stole from WH Smiths not long after, and I spoke about The Invisibles a lot and completely forgot that it was Doom Patrol that had most affected me. I did mention that I’d been reading bootlegged torrent CBR files of The Invisibles on my Nexus 7 tablet on the plane, and had burst into tears, awash with a mighty and all encompassing hiraeth when I got to page 7 of A Solder’s Tale, as if a button had been pushed. Just like every time I’ve read it, in different years, on different continents – on trains, planes, in bars… on different surfaces – paper, laptop screen, tablet… Science, I explained, science and magic and art and science and magic, all the same thing.
I’m not sure that I completely explained the magical gravitas of the situation either. I mean, there’s been a great big GRANT MORRSION /FRANK QUITELY Batman & Robin poster hung above my desk for years now. Now here I was in Vegas going on magic carpet rides with them. Science. Art. Magic.
I ran into Jenn Ocide outside the interview room, who is a lovely person and very appreciative of the music I supplied for her glass munching staplegun performance last night, and we went and watched the JH williams III talk – J.H. WILLIAMS III’S SUBLIMINAL WORLD – which was enlightening and inspirational. Dude’s work looked glorious up on the projector, with him humbly and excitably explaining the fascinating process behind its alchemical creation. I thought I felt like poor people in the middle ages must have felt like when they went to church and looked up at those stained glass windows. Sipping on another screwdriver, giddy with art and hangover and the potential significance of it all, I proceded to trip the fuck out.
The earthy, gritty realism of Frank Quietly’s BUMHEIDS sketches (funny cos it’s true), revealed during he and Grant’s FRANK QUITELY’S UNSEEN WORLD OF WONDERS talk, bought me back into the moment. I was sat on the floor near the front of the stage and I wasn’t sure how I’d got there, so I scurried off to get another magical screwdriver an sat down at the back behind Lady Quitely, who radiates Dope Happy Human vibes which are super useful when one has an entirely unprepared closing panel to sit on in half an hour.
Grant and I had fully neglected to discuss what was about to occur. Indeed, all I knew was what it said on the programme:
5:00 pm: THE INVISIBLES AND THE PRE-APOCALYPSE
As the Mayan’s Long Calendar comes to an end on December 22, 2012, will the acceleration of invention, technology, and environmental disruptions bring about a long foretold ancient apocalypse and is humanity ready for the transformations that awaits us? Exploring The I-Ching, McKenna’s Timewave Zero Theory, Native American mythology, The Sekhmet Hypothesis and 2012 predictive technologies like Clif High and George Ure’s Web Bot Project, Grant breaks it all down and explores, demystifies and examines what it all means. Has his vision for this next stage of existence changed since he penned THE INVISIBLES? What advice can he offer for fellow prognostinauts in apocalyptic times?
Featuring: Grant Morrison, Akira The Don
Suddenly the BUMHEIDS were gone, and I heard my name and the resulting applause (science), and I was hurtling stageward in the manner of a bowling ball, smashing into Grant and Frank like pins, kissing the latter on the head high fiving the former (art). And then the hangover evaporated (magic), along with any worry I’d had about what we were going to discuss and whether I was well informed enough on the topics, leaving me, Akira The Don, appreciator of the work of pop magician and universe creator Grant Morrison, and Grant Morrison, appreciator of the work of pop musician and reality creator Akira The Don, talking about shit we’re interesting in with a room full of like minded humans.
Grant started the thing off by talking about my ZION 2012 mixtape, which he says he’s had on loop since it came out. That’s the sort of thing that will put you at ease, sitting around with one of your biggest inspirations talking about one of your own records. From there we proceeded to discuss most of what was outlined on the programme and a whole lot more. It was easy and fun. Relatively early on in the proceedings we opened the floor to questions from the audience, a big long timeworm of a que formed behind the audience mike, and like Jack Kirby used to say, the questions were terrific. It was easy and fun and enlightening and heartening and everything I’d hoped and more.
I look forward to seeing the video of it. Comic Book Resources have posted a pretty thorough recap of the talk over here. A week later, it’s all pretty hazy by this point. I clearly remember one nervous young human, worried that his life wasn’t something worth writing about, that to do so would just be foisting yet more unnecessary crap on humanity. A crime. I said that to not give us his take on existence would be the crime. We need that. That’s all we have. That’s why we all came here. Shout our Harvey Pekar.
“How can we bring about the new age?” pleased another human. “How can we change conciousness?”
“We’re doing it right now!” cried someone in the crowd, to cheers of agreement. It was true. We were.
Eventually, the audeincemiketimeworm grew shorter. Every question was answered. And it was over. We were joined onstage by Grant’s wife Kristan and those heroic organisers, the creators of this very beautiful moment in time, James Sime, Kirsten Baldrock and Ron Richards. The room on their feet, roaring and smashing their palms together. We took a bow.
“Don’t forget!” cried Grant, “All time is simultaneous, so this moment lasts forever!”
“Bill and Ted were right,” I said. “Be excellent to each other.”
Afterwards I signed a great many books and spoke with a great many beautiful humans, and Grant sat down in the corner of the convention hall and signed every single thing that came his way until the place was empty.
Pressure off, responsibility fulfilled, that night we celebrated. It was a joyous time. I saw a man bite the cap off a beer bottle, chew it up, swallow it down, they bring it back up again, as if it was the easiest, most normal thing in the world. Charlotte had suggested I take a small pile of CDs, and I gave them to the first people that asked for them, a random sweet bearded human, a beautifully tattooed amazonian painter, The Quitelys, Gerard Way and the barman who’d poured me my first Vegas 2012 drink way back in the long long ago of Thursday night.
Grant gave me a hashcake. I haven’t had a hashcake since I was wee. We were eating $50 steaks and talking about Jilted John and making records and I felt like a great light was pushing out from the inside of me, throbbing outward from a fiery liquid core. Eventually I couldn’t talk properly anymore, so I bid everyone a very fond farewell, and floated off down those Kubrikian Kirby kaleidoscope carpet casino corridors, up the great glass elevator, along the Michael Jackson hallway to my suite, where I lay on that big-ass bed repeating over and over, “lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky, happy, happy, happy, happy,” until I fell asleep.
I didn’t sleep a wink on the journey home, which lasted a full human day. I pondered the flood of hiraeth that Invisibles comic had triggered on the way out, that sudden awareness of everything I’d ever felt, that flood of empathy, of a vast cosmic love for my Wife and my Unborn Child and Mum and my Dad and my Brothers and my Family and my Friends. Every song I ever heard, every book I ever read, every person I ever met, and every person I never.
Magic is real. Dreams come true. Life’s what you make it. Every precious moment exists for always, and it always did.
“Planting their seeds of fear in/Genetic engineering/interfering with the crops/and now the bees are disappearing”
It would appear that, after an absence of seven years, dead prez are finally releasing their long awaited Information Age LP this month. And here’s the first single – a spoon full of sugar, with which to help The Medicine GET DOWN…