In High School I read comics, I wouldn’t say a lot but I started picking up all this stuff by Vertigo. I read most of Alan Moore’s stuff, no Swamp Thing, but I did read “V for Vendetta,” and wanted to become an anarchist after that. I also got into Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles and I will say this right up front, that book has probably messed with my head more than anything else. While I didn’t really get far on the anarchist thing, I may give it a go after reading stuff on anarchism that isn’t a comic book (No offense to Alan Moore, but V for Vendetta is much better then just simple anarchist propaganda), I did get something else. The idea to become a magician.
Both Alan Moore and Grant Morrison wrote stuff on magick and the occult, Alan Moore wrote Promethea and Grant Morrison wrote The Invisibles. They were pretty different approaches to the subject. Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles, is a soup of conspiracy theory, chaos magic and his own coolness wishes, while Alan Moore’s Promethea is a look through Western Occultism with Alan Moore’s theories and possibly a bit of wanking. Both of these impressed the shit out of me, and got me the idea that being an occultist would be really cool. Not a lot of people I know are occultists, and I could be that one guy who knows all the magic.
And in that I was pretty Grant Morrison, because Grant Morrison is very much into the hip. Grant Morrison is a hipster, and he has some preoccupations with being considered hip. Hence his whole rock star persona, and starting a comic convention in the Nevada desert, which is called MorrisonCon for fucks sake. To be honest, I wasn’t really bothered with Morrison’s ego at first, but what really got me on was the whole superhero thing. Sure, he wrote superhero stuff before, like Animal Man and Doom Patrol, but I liked him for stuff like The Invisibles, which I did not view as superheroes. You could make that argument, but that wasn’t how I saw it. I was a bit disappointed when I heard that it started from a thing called The Boy Commandos, which was essentially a child soldier thing done in the 1940s when it didn’t have unfortunate implications. He still had the whole vision experience in Kathmandu, but something about redoing the Boy Commandos as Burroughsian subversives doesn’t sit right with me. Of course, William S. Burroughs probably did the same thing, setting up a Boy Scout alternative for the angry young homosexual and then aiming them at the government sounds like the idea behind “The Wild Boys,” but I haven’t read that to make that specific call.
If Alan Moore has anything up on Grant Morrison, I think it’s that Alan Moore is a bit smarter. Grant Morrison is clever, or at least has the kind of clever that works well in the pseudo-fame he has in the comics world, but Alan Moore is intelligent, a bit wiser than Grant Morrison, and probably a bit more sure of himself. Alan Moore doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks of him, which is why he spends all his time in Northampton. The problem I have with Alan Moore is that he can sometimes disappear up his own ass. This can be seen in his latest League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which does concentrate a lot on the “how-many-sixties-fiction-refrences-can-we-fit-into-a-single-issue,” thing. This even extends to his magic, as some have accused Alan Moore of being distant from actual magic, preferring the whole “It’s all in your mind,” school. Despite this, Promethea had as much an effect on my developing wizard-brain as The Invisibles. More in that the heroine Sophie Bangs is a bit more relatable then Dane McGowan from The Invisibles, who alternates between little shit and buddha. Sophie is human, with human flaws and generally human goals, and we are given a much more straight-forward look into the magick of this world than in The Invisibles. At the very least, I had a better idea of where Moore was coming from. I don’t think it’s fair to say Promethea is basically Harry Potter, if only because Harry Potter never had a Sex Magick Ed class, but I think it is a pretty good piece of work and that Alan Moore shouldn’t be dismissed. Whether the points that were brought up are legitimate are something I’ll save for another post.
For most of my adult and adolescent life, I have had both of these guys hovering around in the back of my worldview and the sometimes serious, sometimes half-hearted idea “I should totally become a wizard.” These days, I’m a bit concerned as to why I should become a wizard? I’m not even sure how magic is supposed to work these days? Do I concentrate on the fulfillment of my True Will? Make deals with the loa? Both? I don’t know. Still, why become a wizard? Because it’s cool? I don’t think doing something as serious as becoming a magician really rests on being cool. And what does this have to do with being a writer anyways?
Harold Bloom talks about the anxiety of influence, and I think this is happening to me right now with Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. I’m not a comic book author, nor do I have any interest in writing about super heroes, but there is a general interest in the occult that I have picked up from both Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. At this point, I am getting the idea that I am going to need to learn to become my own magician, and more importantly my own kind of writer.
For Further Reading
Less is Moore, a rant about Alan Moore’s approach to magic from a practicing magician
Grant Morrison is Wrong About Alan Moore, an article on the hypothetical feud between Grant Morrison and Alan Moore