Saturday, September 01, 2018

seventh space opera tale 20 years on...

My life has been written.
   Different scripts were submitted to the Divine Producer before I was born.

A return to white stock card for this September 1998 cover and only two pages of explanatory prose at beginning and end of author-illustrator Michael John Weller's picture story 'Island of Dreams'. Mike Weller's alterity is reduced mostly to two cartoon selves for this "tale from wellerverse". Two visual artists with a difference of extremes. One with conspiracy theory paranoia. The other with illusions of transcendental grandeur.

The issue opens with a full page comic strip entitled "Mike Weller's Recurrent Dream Between 1949-50". A divine yet buxom angel arrives in a small child's sleep to take him from his English Raymond Briggs-esque suburb, to sail through the stars on a Wing into the upper nebula, the Empyrean Rose outside Earth's solar system. There in the Celestial City, on a mysterious island, astral Mike is introduced by the angel to seven figures speaking in nullimaginatively shaded cartoon bubbles. Drawn in black and white, illustrator Michael John Weller's silent comic art is only broken by one question the small Mike-child, detached from its sleeping self, anxiously asks: YOU WILL BRING ME BACK?

This one-page comic strip based on a pre-school infant's recurrent dream that acted as inspiration for Mike Weller's Space Opera read through artist and writer characters Graham Cratchett and Eduard Mogilowski's "Cosmic Tales" of made-up legend. Weller's comic strip 'Island of Dreams' was first printed in Oxford Caption's 1997 comic book anthology Superstate Funnies. In the mid-2000s the artwork was greatly enlarged as an exhibition print-on-demand image for sale by the art group.

In one of Mike Weller's alternative fictions included in issue #7—alter-ego cartoonist creation Captain Stelling, commander of spaceship "Island of Dreams" (docked in white horse country), invites Mike aboard to escape 1998's Realists. Cap takes Mike through memories of his early life; returning lost selves from 50ies childhood to 60ies youth, read as a comic book drawn from pop's political youth culture of 70ies anarchy and 80ies MTV. And a close up of all-saints-spiced-up girl-powered late 90ies. Here three contemporary versions of Mike Weller appear together as caricatures in a strip-cartoon. The writer, the artist-illustrator, and author-librettist of his own Space Opera.

A 1972 end-picture by 'Stelling', drawn as fictional creation for equally fictional Eddie Mogul's Record Fun mag, shows a 1950s eggman John Lennon cartoon egging a Blue Meanie on to "kill the Beatles". In this story, 'All You Need is Love' turns into a murderous anthem of hate by New Dreamers starting with Lennon's own assassination as "Just John". New Dreaming "Jihardi Beatles" nurtured and fed from a 1960ies counter-culture gone horribly wrong.

In despair Mike fears he's lost the plot. EVERYBODY LIKES ABBA says Cap as DJ Stelling plays Abba on his spaceship dock. Weller's cartoon changes into serious social realist sketching of telepathic dialogue between Mike and doppleganger Bromley writer-in-residence MJ set in an alternative 1995. Abba's song 'Nina, Pretty Ballerina' is imagined on Space Opera's soundtrack in cartoon-style WOOHAH WOOHAH WOOHAH for the back cover.

Weller is transformed into Edward Mogil story teller.

A hand drawn poetry cartoon closes the tale: JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF MYSELF

As twenty-first cenury title, 'Island of Dreams ' also appears as inspiration for Felix Dennis's poems inspired by Mustique; and Dan Boothby's homage to an inspiration powered by Gavin Maxwell's mysterious Brigadoonish otterworld island in the Scottish Highlands.

For Mike Weller, Dusty's brother Tom Springfield (Dionyius O'Brien)'s beautiful song 'Island of Dreams' is the theme for issue 7 of Space Opera. A Springfields 1961 track imagined as soundtracked aria.

September 1998's island of dreams turning into a hundred million island(s) of dreams 20 years later.  

note: this post is also testing @HomeBaked's digital blog

Friday, June 01, 2018

sixth space opera tale 20 years on...

Fear and Loving in South London—author MJ writes about his Mike Weller character in this June 1998 pamphlet

In Weller's miserable, charmless life, old colleague Nick Muir is ghost writing Weller's fate for the Earth Corporation. An unhappy, paranoid life is planned by Realists for no-hoper Weller [...] But help is on its way in the shape of Weller's own creation from days gone by—Captain Stelling: plus Zoe Zephyr as Visionary Muse, and Jack Echo, as head of the Island of Dreams.

'Ghost Writers in the Sky' was the only Space Opera ‘tale from wellerverse’ pamphlet cover to be printed on cream card because Bob Cobbing’s New River Project ran out of white card stock.

SO #6 opens on page 132 of what appears to be an anonymous graphic novel entitled ‘Space Opera’, seemingly published within pagination of the Space Opera comic series. It depicts Mike Weller's Angel-Woman of Powers drawn visiting Earth as in earlier tales, art pen drawn in the process of writing on the pages of an odd spiral-bound book. A volume of indecipherable lettering floating in panels of abstract lines. Could this be 'Codex Sporious' or even 'Codex Sporangiolum' in the making? The entire page appears in to be incomplete. Somehow caught in the middle.

The tale is almost soundtracked to Halfway to Paradise hallucinated as 'Prefab' pop star Billy Fury singing a Space Opera beat generation ballad as an aria. 'Ghost Writers in the Sky's first comic-book page is followed by more pages of Mike Weller’s fictional autobiography continued from earlier Space Opera instalments typed on a borrowed electronic typewriter. Next is tale-within-tale ‘Sexton-Doyen of Detectives’ originally drawn by MJ’s graphic novelist character Nick Muir depicted by illustrator Mike Weller here as a crudely abridged hand-lettered cartoon story. Things are cracking up and so is Mike Weller.

Weller asserts it is he who has ghost written, not only the tale, but character Nick Muir, blaming Earth Corporation “mind-pickers” for invading his mind and hi-jacking visionary inspiration delivered by spirited "mind-planters" on forgotten unseen pages— one of which is illustrated in strike-thru hand-lettering and graphics. In Mike Weller’s extreme take on poplit, Sexton Blake and Tinker are gender transitioned as nonbinaries She-Bob and Shadow Micheal. Two imagined childhood friends of Weller returning to help him write and draw comics by enabling the creation of comic-book heroine Zoe Zephyr and Earth Corporation supervillain Ergot Subslime for made-up Edward Mogil's publications done as a Nick Muir parody in a crazed attempt to prove Mike Weller is the author of Muir and not his writer-in-residence MJ.

'The Tale of Ergot Subslime' is a second Space Opera tale-within-tale hand-lettered and drawn by Mike Weller's paranoid sci-fi alterity written as a psychotic episode. Believing MJ has deliberately authored fictional gaphic novelist and new age auteur Nick Muir to write and draw Weller as failed employee at Mogul Studios in 1969. Back when Weller was Muir's lettering artist and junior.

Mike Weller gets his own back by going further than 'Sexton-Doyen of Detectives'' satire. He re-writes and re-draws Muir's famous Agent 69 comics featuring Zoe Zephyr in a mad cartoon story where Zoe battles Ergot Subslime. Hallucinatory black and white picures suggest the illustrator is taking a fictional hallucinogen of his own chemical makeup for this tale—agamo.

Following this a written text by author Michael John Weller describing Mike Weller's fragmented history as poet and commercial artist. The story of an individual dividing into three conflicted selves as near future battleground for, and between, Earth Corporation (controllers of New Reality): murderous New Dreamers ('jihadi beatles'), visionary Old Dreamers (new fab four—Wills, Kate, Harry, Meghan). Weller's text here is author-illustrated.

A closing comic strip illustrates Mike Weller's psychotic breakdown when his old underground comic artist alter-ego Captain Stelling springs to hallucinatory life from the page as superhero cartoon Goliath, only to taunt his creator for squandering a destiny even more notable than his old cartooning colleague Nick Muir. Stelling accuses his cartoonist-creator of turning into a leftwing loony. A committee-led, welfare fed, unpaid underclass tenant at Sinkmoor Penge—cloning into yet another Mike Weller cartoon character. An unemployed so-called "activist" living on state-paid social security. A hideously new caricature of an existing cartoon caricature. A spoilt baby boomer at worst—a human Earth Corporation production destined for voluntary local community work. A human being expressing international solidarity with the wretched of social reality earthtime at best.

These Mike Weller characters have been driven insane by assorted quadrophrenic "mind pickers" and "mind planters" possessing and inspiring him through shaded or obscured black pen drawn ink lines. A psychotic reaction (Count Five's punk aria imagined on Space Opera's soundtrack) to this dark world driven by comic fantasy's Duke of Hell located on an extremely paranoid island of near-future filmic nightmares.

At the end of 'Ghost Writers in the Sky' Mike Weller, responding to his earlier alter ego, cartoonist Stelling, and his later alter ego, author MJ, scribbles and illustrates breakthrough: entry into a more charmed and happy existence ruled by comic fantasy's Agent 69 through psychic ghost-wrting MJ's character Nick Muir as graphic novelist in an off-white card-covered space opera sci-fi comic fanzine entitled "Ghost Writers in the Sky".

note: a shorter version of this post is testing@HomeBaked's digital blog 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

fifth "safe space" opera tale 20 years on...

First of two "tales from wellerverse" with Cliff in title.

'Cliff Sings' is a graphic novel supposedly written and drawn by MJ's graphic novelist character Nick Muir and published in parallel typeset pagination within Space Opera.

At this stage of the tale paranoid Earth Corporation conspiracy theorist, sci-fi comic-book fanatic Mike Weller alterity, is cartooned into a sub-character by writer-in-residence MJ using the author’s made-up graphic novelist Muir. To add insult to injury “Cliff Sings” is designed as an extended comic strip by Muir satirising his sub-character for the first half of SO #5.

The second half is an unpaginated comic strip 'Comics Off Course!' written and drawn by Mike Weller's comic artist alterity, illustrating his own graphic novel aspirations, in an effort to match the comics of MJ's Muir. Joining four other amateur cartoonists (character Weller's own new Cosmic Crusaders characters Elaine Clark, Rebecca Schwaffer, Peter Piggott, Hussain Elmaz ) at a London Art College evening class taught by Weller's older Pop Lab publications' invention, Glenford Gates.

The fabulous four's superhero identities are revealed in a dream through the class's own drawings of their favourite comic book characters. Mike chooses Cliff to draw in his dream, provoked by Peter Piggott's joking comment that character Mike Weller looks like the veteran pop singer.

A "theme for a dream" that dominates later "tales from wellerverse" beyond SO #5 into the 21st century. A time when Cliff Richard is italicised forever after accusations of sexual abuse; when hashtags symbolise the emergent call-out culture; and old-fashioned numerical and typographical insert space signage is suppressed on waking by #MeToo, #Time(no apostrophe)sUp, #FuckOffFrankenstein—

 The new millenium's Cosmic Crusaders are drawn by letterer and illustrator Weller.

The last pages of SO #5 are made up of illustrator Mike Weller's strip-cartoon storytelling and a typed continuation of his autobiography continued from 'The Battle for Heaven Part 1'.

note: this post is also testing @HomeBaked's digital blog

Saturday, December 02, 2017

fourth space opera tale 20 years on...

One by one, demons and monsters from depths of Hell's City of Dis emerge from the underworld of the other.

Opening with hand-drawn lettering, December 1997's "tale from wellerverse" completes 'The Battle for Heaven' (see SO #3 post).

Although continuing for another two years as 'comic book series' with two more seasonal editions, Weller was more engaged with poetry and poetics than comic books and it was beginning to show. Unlike character MJ's creation "Nick Muir", his "Mike Weller" character wasn't a graphic novelist.

Number 4 is mostly dark, dense, electronically-fonted prose punctuated by vivid black and white illustration with introduction of Weller's fantastical "nullimaginative techniques" obscuring and erasing both word-processed and hand-lettered text. Number four rolled nicely off New River Project's photo-copier with Bob Cobbing commenting "the machine likes it".

In 2012 a "nullimaginative" drawing from number 4 was sampled by Mike for Michael Weller's 'Ida Lupino comix'. Both sides of the zine were re-printed from Mike Weller's Space Opera—for English PEN's Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot with introduction by poet George Szirtes.

A Space Opera fragment alchemized into poetic gold.

Pixellated into almost total illegibility—getting an unreadable piece into a PEN poetry anthology seemed as if one minor battle had been won., sort of.

Like Mogilowski's xmas edition in the Thirties, 'The Battle' ends on festive note—

Professor Fergus McQuigly was eating his xmas dinner in the restaurant of Croydon Airport, fork hoisting a sage and onion stuffing ball into his mouth, crumbs dropping into his beard.

Hark, the herald angels sing

note: this post is also testing @HomeBaked's digital blog

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

re/active living return with ghosts in corridor

Bill Griffiths wearing 10-year-old prop-prayer wings + other elephants at the Xing art lab

Monday, September 04, 2017

third space opera tale 20 years on...

"In the Otherworld, eternal war rages between God and Satan. Edward Mogil always began his Cosmic Crusaders stories in this fashion in 1930's and 1940's Cosmic Tales."

So opens September 1997's "tales from wellerverse" pamphlet -- Space Opera's repeated refrain from issue one. A comic ready-printed for a nation-state gripped in a strange mix of republicanism and religiosity at death of much loved princess-goddess Diana.

Written and drawn by Mike Weller, his made-up illustrated adventure tale (supposedly from 1934) is accredited to Jewish pulp writer Edward Mogil and fictional co-creator Graham "Gatch" Cratchett—gentile Catholic futurist artist-turned-cartoonist/illustrator. Characters invented by Weller for his tale using Mogil's superheroes—four Addingcombe-based superhero Cosmic Crusader characters battling it out with the Duke of Hell's Nazi mind controllers.

To build his fiction-within-fiction framework character Weller continues to draw himself in Chinese boxes, using hand-lettered explanations of how to read his "comix". Mogil's story, the first part of 'The Battle for Heaven' is retold on keys of Weller's borrowed electronic typewriter copied word-for-word without illustration. Prose is prefaced by a comic-strip the trade journal Comics International didn't like featuring 1913 Adolf Hitler tracked by "the Satanic Whisperer". A comic depicting the Devil seeking Hitler's soul for possession.

In the noughties Hitler had become an overworked television subject recycled as YouTube memes. But twenty years ago featuring Hitler as a character in British small press comics fiction was considered sick but not in a good way. This was before antisemitism, conspiracy theories, chav culture and fake news gripped mainstream media (see SO #2 post). Space Opera #3 ws dropped from Comics International's small press reviews column where the title's first two issues won praise. Much needed sales and momentum were lost and the present writer considered whether comics as an artform was where Space Opera should be. Sure, sex and radical left-liberal politics could be accommodated into adult branded graphic novels in the 90s. But comic-book dissenters may have got a point arguing that illustrated cartoons were essentially a juvenile conception not to be too complex or taken too seriously.

As a metafictional response to this conundrum Weller decided to make his omnipresent Bromley writer-in-residence character MJ adopt a conservative literary attitude towards comics as one of Space Opera's four character-storytellers. This would add both dramatic self-conflict and a level of purposeful complexity (see SO #1 post) to the mix. As a matter of interest inspiration for Number 3's  "The Satanic Whisperer" cartoon-strip derived from old Hackney-based L. Miller US horror reprints sold by newsagents in the 60s and 70s; from Lenny Bruce's early comedy routines and from Mel Brooks' script for The Producers.

Comics and graphic novels may not have been the best form for Space Opera after all. Bob Cobbing printed Weller's Space Opera booklets in the 90s at New River Project. Cobbing printed little press poetry. He didn't print comics unless they were part of his own vispo explorations. His own criterion for little press poetry was unrelated to US and UK small press promotion. Cobbing's concern was getting poetry and poetics out to the widest public possible.

For the second part of 'The Battle for Heaven' Mike Weller needed to move his Space Opera to a different place/space.

note: a shorter version of this post is testing @HomeBaked's digital blog



Wednesday, June 07, 2017

second space opera tale 20 years on...

By June 1997 Michael Weller became totally pissed off with politics, management committees, general meetings, mass demonstrations and local left-wing activism in Tory London borough of Bromley.

Here's the story. It's a June 1997 "tale from wellerverse". Mike is broke and feeling unWeller.  He'd wasted an entire decade as a militant socialist fighting emergent neoliberalism. In the tale Mike Weller felt he was ending the century a deadbeat loser, his vision artfully impaired by the Earth Corporation. Clinicians at "Maydie" (local 20c folk term for old Croydon hospital) sketched the backs of character Weller's badass eyes copied from their digital scans. "We are the street artists now--not you eye fuck!" the mind-pickers pathed. Weller thought "surely I must be in some fiction where God creates Weller as an artist got rotten by Satanic possession of his mojo".  For in novelist MJ's tetralogy character Mike Weller is rewarded by The Devil—not that old clichéd Robert Johnson soul-at-the-crossroads-deal illustrated. This deal was lose colour field vision—win black-and-white-inner vampire vision.

Theme for a comic space opera? Weller immersed himself  writing and drawing. Planned since 1986 from notes and sketches in Weller's 'folders-full-of-Mick', this was going to be a comic-book series to finish the twentieth century off good and ill.

1997 in general was proving itself a year of escape from eighteen years Tory rule. Mass escapist counterculture ruled the roost. Characterized by emergence pop heroes Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mulder, Scully etc, along with comic books turned into slick graphic novels and popcorn-munching Marvel and DC comic superhero movies animated musical background Mel C's and B's, Brand New Heavies, All Saints 'n' hip hop cold rock a party in b-girl stance-fu-gee-la-la-land Britpop one-time. As old and fake as Weller's "Earth Corporation Millennium Glory Glory Temple".

Myth, magic, fantasy fun and conspiracy mêlée. Mike Weller's Space Opera 'zines were completed 1999. 'The Truth Is Out There' became the X-Files' strapline. The real twentieth century ended September 11 2001. From then on conspiracy and fake news became new populist counterculture. Conspiracy theory as counterfeit reality. Weller documented that story 2001-2010 as prose Slow Fiction. June 1997's "Vampire Empire" fitted a late 90's milieu—familiarised as a cartoon glove fashioned by old commercial artist character Sid Muddleton's illustrated line model feigned as Mike Weller's first professional comic book inking job 1965.

In the late 90s Tory Bromley got literary with its own Scribblers rebel band of local writers. Socially-oriented Beckenham scribblers found art, comedy, music, reading and publishing spaces with Lottery-funded Studio at 28 Beckenham Road. Weller got social. But number twenty-eight Beckenham Road was exactly the same location Weller began secondary Technical school in 1957. Coincidentally the Scribblers reading room was the classroom forty years before when Beckenham Technical School's subaltern head of English christened Michael Weller "Sam" to his class of thirty boys. Michael John Weller was transformed into Dickens' character Sam Weller ready-written 19th century. No sweat. His 20th century space opera needed to find a way out of time-and-space bound fixed identities. Turn fiction into tales-within-tales. Graphic entertainment.

3World x 4 dimensions = 12 space opera tales. Beckenham characters drawn from Weller's life since 1957 made fictional against backbeat pre-EEC English working class pop stars 1958-1962. Please Don't Tease  audiences Continental, Nordic, Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, South Africa (early '60s) and the Commonwealth nations. Tinny 45rpms with colourful record labels -- soundtrack to atomic threats, strontium-90, cold war crises, crumbling domestic Toryism and asbestos-ridden prefabricated housing.

The Prefabs returned in 1997 for a space opera. Weller put four once-famous Brit pop stars into an imagined pre-globalized beat group: its young one trad dad film actors playing made-up Eduard Mogilowski superheroes Cosmic Crusaders in parallel earth 1966 comic. Illustrated by fictional Mike Weller. Comic-book plotted as a millennial end times conflict between a globalized Jesus Christ of Marian catholics, Protestant evangelicals and an evil, invisible, possessive Duke of Hell sampled as Satan from Milton's poetic universe.

note: a shorter version of this post is testing @HomeBaked's digital blog