Friday, October 07, 2005


A Serious House on Serious Earth

Marc Singer (the one who contributed to the first volume of Adventure, not the Beastmaster) has posted an interesting analysis of Grant Morrison and Dave McKean's Arkham Asylum on his blog, keying off of the recent release of the fifteen anniversary edition. I passed up the reissue as, like Marc, my copy of the original is still pretty damned pristine--I doubt I've looked at it in fourteen years--but I think I'm intrigued enough by the annotations Marc describes to pick up a copy for myself.

I remember liking Arkham Asylum when I read it in college, while recognizing that it was more than a little overwrought (but then, how much of the good stuff in those post-1986 years wasn't?). I didn't find it the morass of overblown symbolism and narrative confusion that many apparently did. For my money, that prize went to Morrison and Duncan Fegredo's Kid Eternity, which in three prestige format issues kind of followed the same pattern as the Matrix films would later--excitement after reading the first installment, and the feeling that we were seeing something really new and important; cautious optimism after reading the second, not sure if the creator's could pull it all together in the final act and make the story sensible; and disappointment in the final bit when, sadly, it became clear that they couldn't. At a signing once I asked Fegredo about some of the more perplexing elements of Kid Eternity and, with a rueful laugh, he said that only Grant knew for sure what the hell was going on in the story. For my part, I understood that Morrison was using the character of Kid Eternity to examine the notion of "chaos magic," as championed by folks like Peter Carroll, but even that "skeleton key" wasn't enough to help me decode just what was meant to be happening in the story.

In any event, I'm intrigued by Morrison's off-handed comment about how he conceives of the character of Batman now, as Neal Adams drew him, "the hairy-chested globetrotting love god of the '70s stories." I can't help but picture Bruce Wayne with generous sideburns, dressed in a white suit, his wide-collared black shirt open to expose a bat-shaped medallion against his hairy chest, glowering across a crowded Monacco disco at the pale-skinned, green-haired dude in the green and purple suit, wide-brimmed hat, and platform shoes who has just cruised into the place, a wicked smile on his face and a dangerous-looking woman on either arm.

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