Bill Griffiths wearing 10-year-old prop-prayer wings + other elephants at the Xing art lab
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Monday, September 04, 2017
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 http://www.homebakedbooks.uk/myspace-opera2