Do Anything 005 by Warren Ellis

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005

This is a section about things people have said.

There’s a quote I like from the Japanese film director Takashi Miike, and it goes like this:

“We have to change the negative things into positive. In today’s Japanese film industry we always say we don’t have enough budget, that people don’t go to see the films. But we can think of it in a positive way, meaning that if audiences don’t go to the cinema we can make any movie we want. After all, no matter what kind of movie you make it’s never a hit, so we can make a really bold, daring movie. There are many talented actors and crew, but many Japanese movies aren’t interesting. Many films are made with the image of what a Japanese film should be like. Some films venture outside those expectations a little bit, but I feel we should break them.”

Jack Kirby doing 2001: quite the strangest match with the chill intellect of Stanley Kubrick.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, Jack Kirby style, began as a straight adaptation and became a continuation. It’s a very unusual Jack Kirby book in that it has a formal two-part structure to its every issue. The first half of each issue (of the early part of the run) was set in the distant past, and the second half in the distant future, both stories tied together by thematic tissue and the Monolith. Each issue a little mini-iteration of the film.

I might have liked to see Kirby meet 2001’s writer, Arthur C Clarke (whose email address I had for years and never quite worked up the courage to use). The kid from old New York who invented Ego The Living Planet and the (according to Michael Moorcock) gay theoretical engineer from Somerset whose nickname from youth was “Ego.”

Perhaps Jack would tell Arthur that he invented Ego, and they would laugh together over orange juice, just as Arthur did with William Burroughs when Mike Moorcock introduced them. (That, too, is a conversation I would have liked to have been a bug on the wall for.) (William Burroughs has already started planning his graphic novel AH POOK IS HERE, which is going to feature huge images by illustrator Malcolm McNeill that look like Kirby doing William Blake. Mike Moorcock has already done comics, and will do more, some with Walter Simonson, whose largest recent work has been a new iteration of Jack Kirby’s New Gods. In 1997 I am trying not to nod off from jet-lag in a darkened room at the San Diego Comic-Con, and Michael Moorcock is sitting next to me, and I haven’t quite worked up the courage to say more than hello to him yet, and there’s a slide show on and someone’s droning away much like I am right now, and I’m passing out and then there’s a pointy elbow in my ribs and Garth Ennis, sitting on the other side of me, hissing “if I have to be awake for this then fucking so do you!”)

I fiddle with wires inside the robot head of Jack Kirby on my desk until it spits out the words “I invented Ego.” It looks at me with unbridled hatred.

In his later years — and one detects the presence of zealous friends in the shadows of his conversations — Jack came to state he “scripted” all his Marvel work.

He didn’t. Not at the start.

Aha. Can you hear that? It’s the Villain’s soundtrack. That awful whistling sound. A sound that comes from before recorded time itself. It is the sound, gentle reader, of Stan Lee’s ocarina.

Stan Lee, in conversation with Roy Thomas: “Writing comics — you know how it feels, but maybe you don’t feel that way — writing at the typewriter, hour after hour, got kind of boring. I would do whatever I could do to jazz things up. I liked to feel that there was excitement in the air at the office. If I could sing out loud or play my ocarina — I was the worst player in the world, but at least it made a lot of noise.”

It is the Funeral March, played on an ocarina. (If Garth Ennis was writing this, then it’d be the bit of music they played when Darth Vader first showed up in STAR WARS, since Garth’s head is actually nothing but a mix of American movies, WW2 comics and Cormac McCarthy novels, and he’s actually used the line “Lord Vader has arrived” in a comic. I suddenly want to know what kind of music Philippe Druillet likes. Not just rock opera, surely?) Stan Lee, for a generation of commenters on the American comics form, was The Bad Guy.

(He wrote a book about Marvel villans called BRING ON THE BAD GUYS.)

Stan The Man was the Bad Guy for having become The Man, having become Management and crushing the little guys, like Jack Kirby (echo of Eisner: “a very little fellow”).

But listen: above the ocarina howls, you can hear Stan talking some more to Roy Thomas: “I was… frustrated because I wanted to do comic books that were — even though this seems like a contradiction in terms — I wanted to do a more realistic fantasy (and they) wouldn’t let me… My wife Joan said to me, “You know, Stan, if they asked you to do a new book… why don’t you do ‘em the way that you feel you’d like to do a book? If you want to quit anyway, the worst that could happen is that he’ll fire you…” I figured, hey, maybe she’s right… and do them the way I had always wanted to do a comic book.”

Do anything.

ANYTHING

I have found this fantastic, cacophanous noise from the Ukraine called DakhaBrakha. They describe their sound as “ethno-chaos.” It’s basically Ukrainian folk, but the instrumentation is eclectic, the voices verge on choral in places and it really does stamp and spin with energy. I dunno how long the link is good for, but, in addition to their MySpace page and the other stuff findable on the Google, they have an entire album available for free download. http://dax.com.ua/en/dahabraha/na_dobranich is the link (as of early June 2009).

COLOPHON

I can be sent things via Avatar Press at Avatar Press, 515 N. Century Blvd., Rantoul, IL 61866, USA, but I cannot promise a response or a review. Although, let’s be honest, it’s fairly likely, as eventually the ANYTHING section will need to be about comics. You can email me warrenellis@gmail.com, but I warn you, it’s a dump address, not my regular email address, so it can take me a few days to check it.

DO ANYTHING IS © WARREN ELLIS 2009, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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