I’d have liked to see someone put the work of French writer/artist Philippe Druillet in front of Jack Kirby. I try to do it now, holding the pages in front of the robotic head of Jack Kirby, but it’s damp in Britain and there’s little viridian flecks of moss growing on his eyeballs. I think he would have seem himself in Druillet’s LONE SLOANE pages, if not necessarily in Druillet’s exegetic, excruciating LA NUIT.
In a 1979 interview, George Lucas explicitly cited Druillet — but not Kirby — as a visual influence on STAR WARS. Publicity images for the latter three films in that sequence (which I’ve never seen) look like photographic versions of character designs from Druillet’s SALAMMBO. But Darth Vader exudes the stench of Darkseid, and those huge spacegoing wedges could easily be Kirby’s. I like to think they would have found something to talk about. More than Kirby or Phil Dick would have found to talk about, even though — because? — they both clearly mythologised themselves a little bit in their later years. (Kirby, on the subject of his mother: “She was full of legends…she used to dramatise everything…”)
Druillet was already doing New Gods, five years before Kirby’s NEW GODS. And more, he was doing the postmodern, deconstructed version, Kirby with gravemoss grown over him and his towers and starships, designing STAR WARS ten years before Lucas had beaten out the first awful draft of the film (the one whose treatment begins “The is the story of Mace Windu, a revered Jedi-bendu of Ophuchi who was related to Usby C. J. Thape, a padawaan leader to the famed Jedi.”). Druillet’s work is the mystery ancestor to the mad French architect Francois Roche, who has designed buildings specifically intended to necrotise and rot. I met him recently – we were interviewed together for ICON magazine, an architecture journal – and stood stunned and fascinated as he described his “strategies of sickness” for this building he was projecting on a big screen, his “Thing That Necroses.” On completion of a building, Roche hires a writer to produce a piece of (science) fiction about it, in order to control the story and render it impermeable to critics. As if to say, the criticism is not the story, this is the story.
LONE SLOANE features a mysterious character called Kurt Kurtsteiner. Kurt Wargar and Kurt Steiner were two pseudonyms of the French science fiction writer Andre Ruellan. Ruellan once wrote a novel called LE 32 JUILLET (JULY 32nd) in which the protagonist finds himself within an extradimensional city that is in fact the innards of a vast animal, a suppurating organic city that is trying to digest him.
The head of Jack Kirby gnaws on the end of the Dominican cigar I’ve given him because I’m sick of wasting my expensive Romeo Y Julietas on the complaining bastard and tells me that he knows about architecture too. He designed vast architectural conceits for a theme park to be based on sf writer Roger Zelazny’s novel LORD OF LIGHT via an intended film adaptation by one Barry Geller. Kirby said the project would be “very valuable to humanity.” Neither film nor park were ever made. But Kirby’s design sheets were lifted by the CIA and used as part of an elaborate stunt to free six American citizens during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.
The head of Jack Kirby smirks. “I am a concept man,” he says to me (he said it to Barry Geller). “I can get to the nut of a story.” He knows everything connects through him. He sees the nut of the story.
Somewhere, Francois Roche is thinking about designing a theme park inside a vast artificial stomach that very slowly digests the buildings and the people. There will be Science, and Fiction. He is happy.
For weeks, I’ve been ranting at people about the work of Julianna Barwick, who uses infinite layers of vocal loops to produce sounds of alien ecstacy. She has an EP available solely through eMusic, called FLORINE, and frankly it’s worth joining that service just for a month to grab it. There’s something almost shamanic about it: it moves in and out of meaning, and you can imagine her entranced as she makes it, something from Outside speaking through her. I love the kind of music where you can’t quite tell what the artist has been listening to, where you don’t know where it’s coming from. You can, perhaps, arrange her next to the ecstatic shine (if not the blare) of recent Animal Collective, or connect her to choral and sacral traditions, but she doesn’t quite fit next to any of them. But I tell you: hearing “Sunlight, Heaven” for the first time was, for me, a bit like hearing “Svefn-G-Englar” for the first time.
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 I’m bound to run dry in six weeks. You can email me at email@example.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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