This post was a long time coming. The moment that “One More Time” teaser came out in 2012, it was just a matter of when the swan song would begin playing in my head. I wasn’t entirely sure how I’d play it, but now that Phonogram will play silent forever, I think it’s time I put this out. This is more of a last serenade, just a friendly tune of an attempt in showing my appreciation for the work Gillen/McKelvie and others have done. So, time to put the needle on the vinyl, get this LP going.
Now What You’ve Done, Beetlebum, Get Nothing Done
Months before I started reading Phonogram I had medical issues that destroyed my writing habits. Before that I had a good amount of comic scripts and short story scraps that I were worth exploring, but my brain was annihilated by strong brain medication and underlying fear. It was the beginning of what would become a rather terrible time, and I wanted the words in my head out of them and onto paper to serve as a catharsis, but try as I might, the words coming out of me were shit. I look back at it now and I realized I could have been stronger, but I’m still glad I was weaker, or else I probably wouldn’t come back to this familiar path.
You Won’t Find It By Yourself, You’re Gonna Need Some Help
Comics, my everlasting redeemer, brought me back. It wasn’t Phonogram immediately, however. Another writer who in the past works as a totemic symbol got me going – Warren Ellis. I finally read Planetary, which I had not read before, and the fact it was heavily referential served well for the road ahead. There was something about the fact that the resident hacker, who went by the name of The Drummer, could produce links to the occult. It’s an odd stretch to connect his breed of abilities to phonomancy, but comics and sympathetic magic can work that way.
Magic By Any Other Definition Of The Word
Yes, about sympathetic magic. Simply put, it is magic performed when its effect resembles its cause – “like produces like.” Music is my shamanic totem, voodoo doll, and haunted weapon that connects to the arcane. When there’s a song that plays, one that fills my ears and endorphins drown my brain, things get metaphysical. I feel like I can read the face of everyone in the club’s crowd, or harness male aggression into audio witchcraft. The moments I’m alone in my room and the music is set to ignorant levels, I feel like I’m in true sonic santero mode and sing like Freddie goddamned Mercury. And then, I find that there was a book toying with that very concept? It’s like someone was telling me from the ether, whispering “Here Garay, is the grimoire you have been asking for all your life.” How could I refuse that mystic offer?
We Are Now For Your Inspiration, Soundtrack To The Times
I’ll admit this immediately – before I immersed into Rue Britannia my knowledge of Britpop was very rudimentary. It went only as far as a documentary I stumbled on the TV years ago, “Live Forever – The Rise And Fall of Britpop.”
It was still not enough. From the get-go the shameless, arrogant David Kohl at first did not serve as an easy teacher of the musical lore of 90s British music. But that didn’t stop me from reading. It was the way Kieron Gillen described Kohl’s obsession to Britpop, and Jamie McKelvie’s depictions of phonomancy that made the story come alive. The expressions on the way McKelvie drew faces – Kohl’s shit-eating grins, the faces of Britannia, etc. – as Gillen waxed poetic on magic/music were ace. It read like parts of conversations I’ve had before, or wish I had. Phonogram was simultaneously impenetrable and accessible, an indie rock band telling you it’s better than you but holding your hand with simple hooks that stick to your ribs.
Rue Britannia was important to me because it validated an attempt at writing, at least in some form. I may not have known a goddamn thing about Kenickie, or Kula Shaker, or a shit-ton of other things in that first arc, but it was in a world where I could feel my obsession for music, or recalling an old scene, and capturing the other-worldliness of it. And if that can be done, if you can make the occult from the mundane, then anything is possible.
[Yes, I’m doing a glossary, I’m putting references in this post, why wouldn’t I? Deal with it.]
Story Of A Charmed Man – Modified play on “story of a charmless man,” from the song “A Charmless Man” by Blur. Yes, I was gonna make a Britpop reference out of the motherfuckin’ gate.
“One More Time” – Opening song of Daft Punk’s Discovery album. I shouldn’t have to put this here, they play this song at weddings now.
“Now what you done, Beetlebum…” – First song from Blur’s self-titled album. My favorite song by the band. I believe it’s about heroin.
“You won’t find it in yourself…” – Part of the chorus to “Come On Let’s Go” by Broadcast. They were a really good neo-psychedelia band. It’s a shame the lead singer died.
Warren Ellis – Writer of comics and novels. Most known for Transmetropolitan, The Authority, Crooked Little Vein, and others. His work can been seen in movies like Red and inspired parts of Iron Man 3.
Planetary – Seminal Warren Ellis comic, a story of archaeologists of the weird. Each issue is a great send-up to pop culture references.
Magic by any other definition of the word – David Kohl says this in Phonogram: Rue Britannia #1. Right after he uses his powers to get into a club.
Santero – Name for practitioner of Santeria, the predominant Latin American form of witchcraft.
Freddie Mercury – Lead singer of Queen. If you don’t know who that is to begin with…well, you need Jesus, or the Devil, or Stephen Hawking to save you, kid.
We are now for your inspiration… – Part of lyrics to“Nightlife” by Kenickie. I kinda fucks with this song, although not with the band.
Britpop – Mid-90s British rock/pop. Really British mid-90s rock/pop. Influenced by the history of guitar music from their beloved kingdom. Bands include Oasis, Blur, Elastica, Pulp, etc.
Kenickie – British pop punk band. “Iggy Pop’s atom bomb and Dusty Springfield’s Hiroshima’s eye shadow”, as David Kohl says in Rue Britannia.
Kula Shaker – Late Britpop band. I’m pretty sure the only thing they made of consequence stateside was their cover of “Hush”. In agreement with Gillen, they’re kinda basura.
I had been to smaller conventions before – The Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition in 2011 and PAX East this year, but New York Comic-Con was the first time I almost felt overwhelmed going through crowds of cosplayers, garden-variety geeks, and bewildered parents of tween Homestruck fans (which I honestly don’t get, or maybe I really am old). I didn’t really take in the full con at first due to working on Thursday and my Friday was severely cut from an immense pain in my feet from a beforehand walking from the New York Public Library down to Union Square in a “team-building” exercise for work.
I did manage to get a primary target out of the way on Friday despite the pain. I wanted to get my copies of Pax Romana and The Nightly News signed by Jonathan Hickman, the writer/artist of the books. For those that don’t know, both are indie graphic novels in which the former’s premise answered the question of what history would be like if the Middle Ages had never happened, and the latter involves terrorists against the media. Hickman’s current run on Fantastic Four was pretty good as well, seeing as you know, actually got me to read FF comics for the first time without tossing them back into a bin somewhere.
When it was my time to speak to him, I told Hickman as he signed my books that his run on Fantastic Four was the first time I had ever cared about them.
“Me too!” he responded.
I had my friend Phil take a photo of me with Hickman.
Oh, one more Friday photo of note is that of writer/artist and Kabuki creator David Mack.
Saturday was the true slog, however. I had convinced to take my mother, sister, and brother-in-law around the convention to their first huge convention. I had no internet/phone service from the moment I got within yards of the Jacob Javits Center, and after finding all of them more than an hour later, I lost them in the first fifteen to twenty minutes of walking around with them. I knew it would be pointless to find them in the crowd, so I walked around until more of my friends showed up. From there on out I walked around, taking photos of cosplayers. Here are some of the greatest hits from the entire con:
The above photo is a good segue for an interesting part of my con experience. I am fascinated with the steampunk scene. I used to own these great goggles but I lost them in the move back to Jersey. I saw this old man from Michigan selling them at a reasonable price (as if there is a reasonable price for gear of that sort) which included magnifier glasses. Phil said something that proved to be correct: ladies love cool goggles:
To be a complete attention whore about my new gear, I kept them on my head. even when I left the con to get food. I had a female tourist sitting outside a restaurant ask about them, and I had a group of women staring at me the entire time I was at a nearby dive bar. I wasn’t in the mood to start a conversation, however. The real test of the theory though? Her:
She politely complimented me on my goggles after I took this photo. That pretty much validated the purchase.
My final (and probably most important) target of the convention happened on the final day. I wanted to meet Phonogram and current Journey Into Mystery writer Kieron Gillen. To put it simply, Gillen is one of my new heroes. Gamer writer (he founded Rock Paper Shotgun), music geek on a level I’ve never been to (seriously, read the original and see just how much Britpop you really know), and apparently pretty solid at conventional comics seeing as the line in the 3:00-4:00 time frame comprised entirely of his fans, mostly young teenage girls obsessed with his Journey Into Mystery run. I normally like to chat with people in line, but seeing as I along with my associate Rob were probably a good ten years older than the people behind and in front of us, we both kept quiet.
I had brought two things for him to sign: one was a trade of his short run on the quickly cancelled SWORD from Marvel, and his sequel to the original Phonogram, The Singles Club. When it was my time to speak, I had put the SWORD trade on top. I slid them over to him and said:
“I bought the first one to keep the Marvel thing going but..”
I then slid it over to show the Phonogram trade. He smiled and did that British thing where they tip the side of their nose. I went off and told him that Phonogram was my Velvet Underground (to understand that, there’s this old anecdote that the first VU album did not do well financially, but it helped inspire and start many bands) in that he helped validate some of my old ideas of the connection between music and magic. I also told him he stole my idea of using TV On The Radio’s “Wolf Like Me” as a story title and premise. He told me that the same thing had happened to him, only that it was Alan Moore of Watchmen and V for Vendetta fame that took it.
“I took that as compliment,” he said. After that, he asked me if I’m still writing, which is very much the case. He signed my copy with the words “WRITE!!!” and “Music=Magic”, which is the tag of the entire Phonogram series. Rob took this photo of me with Gillen:
Afterwards, I walked around and bought more random stuff in the name of consumerism and went home. Overall, I had a blast. Can’t wait for next years.