We’ll begin with overstatement–just so you know it’s me:
Grant Morrison’s entire career has been a sustained meditation upon the problem of free will.
In the boggiest regions of the oeuvre (i.e. The Filth), the very notion of a “self” is boiled down into a kind of broth salted by otherness. These narratives strain out those chunks of essentialism that have choked so many thinkers (leaving many a bouillabasketcaisse in their wake), culminating in a briny kiss on the lips that you have the gall to call your own.
In some ways, Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye adopts a similar course, leading the reader on a merry chase through a whole bunch of “comfort zones” that are half sanctuary and half sham. The sets are rearranged with such speed (and just enough convenient sloppiness) that none of them ever quite seems “normal”–but these are habitable worlds, just like ours (I’m talking about Canada here–obviously, it’s quite conceivable that your world isn’t bearable at all).
Viewed through this interpretive lens, the Seaguy saga reads like an amusing game of solitaire in which the author rambles through the deck, reorganizing the cards he’s placed on the table until good ol’ Seaguy turns up in a suit that fits neatly onto Queen She-Beard.
Make no mistake about it–that is one thing that’s going on in this piece.
However, there’s much more (or, more accurately, much less) to this story than that. It’s almost a regression to naive existentialism. Almost. Somehow, Morrison has found a way to tell a classic liberation story without crashing into the ontological wall that invariably rises up to knock all sense out of these tales. And, as usual, he achieves the impossible by burrowing into the hoary conventions of the genre.
His weapons of choice on this adventure?
1. the costume
2. the binary code that powers all superhero tales: “team-up” or fight
The first trope blossoms into something quite wonderful when the book’s protagonist (in the guise of the bull-dresser “El Macho”) sheds his clothing in issue two, ending the confrontation with his raging adversary. The scene delivers all of the delirious charm of “Selfhood–dramatically regained,” without tying the tin can of Monolithic Identity to the moment. It’s an old saw that the clothes make the man, but Morrison and Cameron Stewart prove that a lack of clothes can unmake (and disarm) a world (without, of course, freeing anyone from the need to step into another–equally spurious, but perhaps more congenial–environment and identity). Nakedness, in Seaguy, isn’t revelatory, or REAL–but it can hold up a mirror to an equally contingent Empire (the episteme has no clothes).
The second runs through the entire piece from the beginning of volume one–and of course Morrison is always on the side of a team-up, whenever one is possible. The book is an endless parade of decisions about friends and foes (Carl Schmitt calls this the only real political decision)–made, revised and re-made (with Death the only really consistent enemy)–all leading up to the climactic (and very Dickensian–as Morrison often is) call (which is not made by the supposed protagonist, but by She-Beard… kind of makes you wonder if we’ve been following the wrong story all along, doesn’t it? In any event, by letting go of her sword, she proves herself every bit the equal of the man who dropped his pants in the arena… and if this is really a story about killing machismo, she obviously had the most work to do).
Great stuff, all around.
More soon. Comics. Movies. Poetry. Fiction. Music. Whatever.
Count on it.