Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

I Hear You’re A Racist Now, Batman?

Posted in Uncategorized by Andrew Hickey on November 24, 2014

Over at my Patreon, the first of the essays proper on the Batman films and TV shows, this one discussing the 1943 serial. This can only be read by those of you who are kind enough to be giving me money, but will be posted for free on Mindless Ones in four weeks’ time.

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Let Me Ride On The Wall Of Death One More Time… (Batman Inc 4 and a bit of 3)

Posted in Uncategorized by Andrew Hickey on April 6, 2011

Not another Morrison hero motivated by a dead Kat…
I’m very sorry

Morrison is definitely doing something interesting with the Kathy Kane backstory here. She made a film called “Ariadne’s sewing machine” – this is absolutely *FULL* of resonance for this story. Look at the ending – “the flies are in the web! The monster squats in its maze of death!” – well, Ariadne represents *both* the web *and* the way out. The Ariadne of Greek Myth gave Theseus the thread he used to find his way out of the labyrinth designed by Daedalus, but because she gave him a ball of thread, she’s also associated with spiders spinning a web (I’ve even found a claim that Ariadne in Celtic myth span the world into existence. This claim appears to be repeated on several different sites across the net in the same words, with no attribution to any reputable source). Freedom *and* entrapment.

(And spiders belong to the same genus class (I do know the difference, honest!) as scorpions, don’t they? I wonder what Scorpiana has to say about this…)

We first see Kathy as a widow, dressed in black…her maiden name is Webb.

Of course, in the myth, Theseus deserts Ariadne, and she dies (either killed by her husband, or by hanging herself, depending on the version of the myth), but then her original husband goes to Hades and brings her back. Kathy Kane wrote a book, too, Inana Unbound.

Leaving that Unbound for a moment (but what an interesting word *that* is), let’s look at Inana. She, too, descended into the underworld (having first had to strip off all her clothing and tools of power, ending up naked) and returned from the dead.

What I didn’t know, until I double-checked her details in Wikipedia (having only a vague knowledge of Sumerian myth) was:

According to one story, Inanna tricked the god of culture, Enki, who was worshipped in the city of Eridu, into giving her the Mes. The Mes were documents/tablets which were blueprints to civilization. They represented everything from truth to weaving to prostitution, granting power over, or possibly existence to, all the aspects of civilization (both positive and negative)

Not only that, but two other associations that go along with the name Ariadne – one that is obvious to me, and one that is probably obvious to most people reading the story if they stop to think.

Christopher Nolan, the director of the recent Batman films, released Inception last year, in which the protagonist is haunted by the memory of his dead love, who may not really be dead. Guess the name of the architect who creates the unreal worlds through which our protagonist goes?

And I don’t know if Morrison ever read much Agatha Christie, but did you know she had a ‘fiction suit’ too? Guess what her name was? And of course there’s a fictional writer in here too (in fact a real fictional writer, even though this is a fiction). An Argentinian one.

And Argentina is where Nazi war criminals go when they’ve faked their own death, isn’t it?

Kathy Kane of course being biologically the daughter of a Nazi war criminal, but sharing her name (and I presume her family) with Kate Kane, who is Jewish.

Kate Kane’s gay of course, while Kathy Kane is straight. Except she uses ‘circus slang’ according to Dick. And we know what Dick’s circus slang is, don’t we?

But it is circus slang for Dick, because after all, he’s a carnie. And so’s Kate. She owns a carnival. Just like the one the Joker seems to hide out in a lot. And its initials are KKK. And she has a liking for ‘dance[s] with the devil’.

And another of her films is called Mirrorrim. In a story about a weapon called Oroboro.

“I don’t know what they gave us. I don’t know what it is… but I feel like I’m split in two” – Kathy Kane, while she and Batman are in an imaginary world.

Kathy is freedom
Kathy is entrapment
Kathy is a fiancee
Kathy is a (black) widow
Kathy is Bat(wo)man
Kathy is the Joker
Kathy is a Nazi
Kathy is Jewish
Kathy is dead…

There’s more to this, of course – why all the blindness (blind orphans, people shot with braille patterns, Borges) and does that have anything to do with the cyclopean single eyes we’re seeing everywhere (of course it does, but what?)

You can waste your time on the other rides, but this is the nearest to being alive.

Escapology And Eschatology 1 (of 7) : The Omega Point (Return Of Bruce Wayne: What Really Happened)

Posted in Uncategorized by Andrew Hickey on December 5, 2010

This post is, in a way, about the last issue of Return Of Bruce Wayne. However, my fantastic filing system (which involves putting comics in random piles around the living room until my wife makes me tidy them up, when I put them into one big pile) has somehow failed me, and I can’t actually find the comic in question.

However, I’m running a fever, I’m mildly hallucinatory, and the comic I remember reading was probably better than the one Grant Morrison wrote and Lee Garbett drew anyway. Fuck the text! Where my interpretation disagrees, the text is wrong!

So, let’s talk about physics. There’s a slight plot hole in the story, one which can be fixed if we look at something that probably inspired Grant Morrison anyway. I make no claim that my interpretation is the one Morrison intended – but it *should* be.

Thanks to comicsalliance for the scan

WHAT ARE THE ARCHIVISTS DOING?!

Oh, I know what they say they’re doing, all right. They say they’re dumping all the information of the universe into a black hole, for safe keeping. There are two problems with this.

The first problem is on the meta-level. Throughout Morrison’s DC Mega-story, which he’s been telling for six years now, at least (if you only count this installment, and not his pre-Marvel works) black holes have been symbols of oppression, depression, and crushing futility. Now, all of a sudden, this one represents hope? That works, in the same way that this story is an ‘everything gets turned upside down’ one, but WHY?

The second problem is only for those who read books on physics for fun, and that is – BLACK HOLES DON’T WORK LIKE THAT. You can’t throw information into a black hole and have it be lost from the outside universe. Stephen Hawking once thought you could, but in 2005 he finally got around to accepting what everyone else had been saying for years, that they don’t work that way. To quote from this discussion between Smolin and Susskind:

Anyone who has read the recent New York Times article by Dennis Overbye knows that the ultimate fate of information falling into a black hole was the subject of an long debate involving Stephen Hawking, myself, the famous Dutch physicist Gerard ‘t Hooft and many other well known physicists. Hawking believed that information does disappear behind the horizon, perhaps into a baby universe. This would be consistent with Smolin’s idea that offspring universes, inside the black hole, remember at least some of the details of the mother universe. My own view and ‘t Hooft’s was that nothing can be lost from the outside world—not a single bit. Curiously the cosmological debate about Cosmological Natural Selection revolves around the same issues that came to the attention of the press a week or two ago. The occasion for the press coverage was Hawking’s recantation. He has reversed his position.

Over the last decade, since Smolin put forward his clever idea, the black hole controversy has largely been resolved. The consensus is that black holes do not lose any information…[citations snipped]

The implication of these papers is that no information about the parent can survive the infinitely violent singularity at the center of a black hole. If such a thing as a baby universe makes any sense at all, the baby will have no special resemblance to the mother. Given that, the idea of an evolutionary history that led, by natural selection, to our universe, makes no sense.

This wouldn’t matter so much were this not all once again down to the Second Law Of Thermodynamics, and Morrison’s old frienemy Entropy. We can’t really do away with this without punching a huge hole in Morrison’s themes.

(This also puts a bit of a dent in the cosmology of the Faction Paradox series… but I’ll get to that…)

So what’s actually going on? Let’s find out what *reeeeely* happened…

The clue is in the name of the Omega Sanction, which both Bruce Wayne and Mister Miracle suffered. What is Darkseid’s plan with this? What does it have to do with black holes? Why does it involve a trip to the end of the universe?

The answer comes from a physicist called Frank Tipler. Now, Prof. Tipler is now known for some… odd… views. ( He argues that you can tell Barack Obama is evil because the luminiferous aether exists and the film Starship Troopers has a gory bit, for example). I’ve called him the Dave Sim of astrophysics before now, and with good reason. But, much like Sim, Tipler was a genuinely good worker in his field, doing his postdoc work with John Wheeler and Abraham Taub, not exactly lightweights.

Tipler, though, came up with one idea, his big idea, *RIGHT* at the point where he went off the rails. He thinks he’s proved, scientifically, that God exists and we’re all going to heaven.

In his book, The Physics Of Immortality, he shows that given the right conditions, it is possible for life to survive to the very end of the universe. In doing this, it will collapse the entire universe into a single point, which will be able to run an infinite amount of computation in a finite amount of time. This would allow it to emulate, in perfect detail, every intelligent life-form that has ever existed, and place those lifeforms into simulated environments that they would find perfectly enjoyable, where they could live for an infinite length of time. Tipler points out that this single-point universe computer would be omnipresent (because only one point would exist), omnipotent (because everything that existed would be in its programming) and omniscient (because it would contain all the information in the universe and be able to perform an infinite number of calculations).

He goes on to make a number of other claims, including that any universe where this *didn’t* happen would not exist, and his claims get steadily more outlandish (and go steadily towards attempting to justify a particularly American kind of right-wing fundamentalist Christianity) as time goes on. However, strange as it may seem, the basic Omega Point idea holds up. It’s a proper scientific theory – it makes predictions which can be falsified, and it’s based on taking current science at its word – and while it may well be wrong (I think it is), it’s not *OBVIOUSLY* wrong, in the way that arguments from design or whatever (or Tipler’s later work) are. A number of fairly respectable people like David Deutsch or Marcus Chown think there’s something to it.

Tipler calls this single-point-computer-universe-god-thing… The Omega Point.

It comes at the end of the universe – in fact at the end of the multiverse (Tipler argues that every one of what Morrison would refer to as hypertimelines converges there).
It has all of the information in the uni/multiverse entered within it
It’s the last hope for sentient life to live forever.
It’s the very last spacetime event in the uni/multiverse
It would be the point at which the entire uni/multiverse becomes sentient (and those who know Morrison’s work know how much that resonates with it).
And it looks like… the singularity of a black hole, stripped of its event horizon.

And that brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Wayne Manor and environs. If Vanishing Point is the Omega Point at the last few nanoseconds before it *becomes* the Omega Point, what does Darkseid want with it?

Well, for a start, we know that Darkseid only started his latest planning at almost the precise time the multiverse came back into existence – and the Omega Point requires the multiverse interpretation of quantum physics to be true (this would, of course, mean I was wrong two years ago when I said that the DCU runs on the implicate order interpretation, but I’ve never been totally married to that anyway). We also know that in Final Crisis Darkseid managed to take over a big chunk of the world by use of an anti-life computer virus.

And what does Darkseid want, more than anything? Well, as I put it a couple of years back:

To quote from Rock Of Ages – “I will remake the entire universe in the image of my soul, Desaad… and when at last I turn to look upon the eternal desolation I have wrought… I will see Darkseid, as in a mirror… and know what fear is.”

Darkseid has looked at the Second Law of Thermodynamics and thought “fuck that”. Or, more likely, “Bother not Darkseid with your ‘entropy’ and your ‘universal laws’ Obeisance to laws, made by man or nature, is the morality of the slave. The morality of Darkseid is conquest. Darkseid is all.”

Because Darkseid has taken that childish realisation and decided it doesn’t apply to him. He’s going to be everything. Because this, ultimately, is what an attempt to deny entropy means. It is entropy that prevents any tyranny from being absolute – Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety (one of the fundamental scientific discoveries of the twentieth century, but never as regarded as many others) states that control requires as many options open to the controller as there are degrees of freedom in the thing being controlled, so complete control is impossible. This is because entropy always increases – freedom and death are, ultimately the same thing. You can’t have one without the other.

So Darkseid takes this to its logical conclusion. Remaking the entire universe into himself – getting control over every last quark and meson in it – is the only way he can beat entropy, so that’s what he sets out to do. In this way he’s far more direct than the cheap photocopy Thanos – Thanos *sublimates* his desire – he wants to have sex with Death. Darkseid just wants to destroy death, along with the universe itself, and exist alone, changeless and eternal.

Darkseid wants not just to control the entire universe, but to be the entire universe. And he happens to have in his possession a computer virus that appears to transmit itself instantly, to be architecture-independent (working equally well on human brains and all types of computer invented) and that turns things into avatars of himself.

And Vanishing Point – The Omega Point – is a point where all of creation – the entire whang-dang-doo multeyeverse – exists at a single point, as a computer. If Darkseid can somehow get his virus into that computer, if he can rewrite its operating system with his own mind, then he can become the multiverse.

(I must reread JLA: Classified 1-3 with this in mind, because they’re about the infection of a universe – our universe – with evil from the outside by, if I remember rightly, a virus of some description.)

The Omega Sanction is Darkseid’s way of becoming God, and becoming the culmination and completion of all universal history. And Batman saves the day, by being Batman.

Next: It’s All In Plato…

Batman! Batman! Batman! BATMAN! Nanananananananananana! BAT-MAN!

Posted in Uncategorized by Andrew Hickey on November 17, 2010

So last week I read Batman and Robin issues 15 and 16 and The Return Of Bruce Wayne 5 and 6 all within one week. I’ve only just stopped giggling – nobody should get that excited in that short a space of time. The trades will need to come with health warnings, and maybe some sort of eye protection.

The problem is, I’ve tried writing this about five tmes since then, and hit a block. There’s simply too much in these comics to talk about in one blog post, so I’m going to have to write several. This is just the first. Most of the rest will come at the back end of next week – I’ve taken three days off work next week, and I’m going to use them to read Batman comics – but you can expect at least one more between now and then.

You see, this is not just the climax of a story that’s been going on for sixteen issues of Batman and Robin and six of The Return Of Bruce Wayne, this is the culmination (or *a* culmination) of a story that includes JLA Classified: 1-3, all the Seven Soldiers minis, 52, Morrison’s run on Batman, Final Crisis and the Final Crisis one-shots Morrison wrote. That’s something like a hundred and fifty comics, and the story’s not finished yet.

That’s half the length of Cerebus. It’s half again the length of Lee & Kirby’s Fantastic Four run. It’s two Sandmans. But this has gone unnoticed because for the last six years Morrison has been telling his big story across many different titles, rather than a single one. But it’s still one continuous narrative. And it’s made all the stronger by the fact that unlike the creators of those other works, Morrison is having to work with – and against – other creators. Sometimes this has helped (as in the case of his 52 collaborators, who created something genuinely special). Other times (as in The Death Of The New Gods and Countdown) it’s been like five year olds with crayons ‘helping’ Michaelangelo with the Sistine Chapel. (I’ve not yet read the Time Masters mini – I’ll be interested to see on which side of the divide this falls).

Now, it’s impossible to say that a work of this length is ‘about’ just one thing, and in fact this is ‘about’ a whole complex of ideas – it’s about entropy, and information, about freedom, about unifying opposites on a higher level, about multiple viewpoints and multiple realities, about memory, and time.

One big, big theme in all this work is the idea of getting over one’s parents – whether it be Thomas Wayne, or Bruce Wayne as father for his various Robins, or Darkseid as an evil father figure. It came as no surprise to me that Morrison’s own father died in 2004, around the time Morrison started work on this gigantic story (and All-Star Superman, whose most touching issue is the one where Superman’s own father died.)

And this explains why Batman is so cosmically important in these stories – by RoBW 6 the entire universe is revealed to be in some way ‘about’ Batman. Morrison’s been writing, all along, about transcending, about becoming… about breaking through to another level of existence – whether (as in the case of JLA:Classified, 52 and Final Crisis:Superman Beyond 3D) an actual new universe or (as in most of the Batman work, Zatanna and Mister Miracle) a new, more mature, way of looking at the universe – a new mental plane. And of all the DC superheroes, Batman is the one who is most clearly about transcendence. With Batman, there’s a before and an after – his parents dead, and his parents alive. Two states of being. And Batman pushes himself to become more than he was.

Superman, by contrast, was always good, always powerful. He doesn’t have to transcend because he was born transcendent. And most of the other superheroes don’t really change as a result of their powers – Hal Jordan, Barry Allen and so on have had changes in their lives, but those changes are bolted on, not integral to their character. Batrman, *BY HIS VERY EXISTENCE*, is about growing up, about saying “OK, your parents are dead, you’re on your own now, you have to look after yourself” and turning that into a positive, using it to become better.

And that’s the thing that Morrison’s mega-DC-narrative has been telling us for six years – take a sad song and make it better. There are as many perspectives on any event as you can imagine (or at least fifty-two of them) and who you are is defined not by the events you experience but by how you choose to experience them. This is, of course, new-agey twaddle, but it’s also got a kernel of truth to it.

It *is* only a kernel, though, and real life doesn’t necessarily work like that. My wife’s younger brother died, suddenly, around the time Morrison started work on this gigantic story, and she didn’t become a masked vigilante and fight crime – she entered a depressive phase from which she’s still not fully recovered. And that is an appropriate and proper reaction – any newage ‘wisdom’ that says that that could be a positive learning experience is just *wrong* – it’s a terrible thing. That which doesn’t kill you can hurt a *lot*.

But we do all grow up, and we do have to cope, and where we *can* turn those bad things to the good, we should. And this is what Morrison’s recent work has all been about. You only have to look at the use of Black Holes in the mega-story. Early on they’re a trap – the Life Trap, crushing depression, the ultimate destroyer. Nobody can escape from a Black Hole, and Mister Miracle’s whole story is about how he manages to do that anyway.

But look at Return Of Bruce Wayne 6. A black hole is no longer something to escape from – it’s somewhere to escape *to*. An escape hatch for the universe. The universe, in pure information form – the universe as story – is being placed into storage in a black hole at the end of time, so even the end of the universe is only a beginning.

I *must* write about Frank Tipler’s Omega Point stuff here at some point, mustn’t I?

Christ, there’s so *MUCH* to say about just that one issue, Return of Bruce Wayne 6. It’s almost fractal in its complexity, every word containing significance as part of the larger story.

But it all comes down to depression, in the end. And to “Can man confront evil’s challenge? Turn it upside down and end it?”

Bruce Wayne is fighting a “death-idea that never stops”. It can only be defeated by destroying his nervous system. He’s fighting depression all right, and coming out the other side. And that can be a powerful message – it can give hope. I just hope Morrison isn’t also sending the message that those who fight depression and lose are somehow lesser, because not everyone is Batman, and not everyone *can* defeat anti-life.

But as someone who’s had his fair share of depressive episodes, I can say that depression is at least as evil a supervillain as the Joker or the Riddler, and I’m glad to see Batman beat the shit out of it.

More (much more) soon…

Furious

Posted in comics, politics by Andrew Hickey on July 15, 2010

Too furious to blog about what I was going to, anyway. Two things have made me annoyed – one that matters, in the grand scheme of things, and one that doesn’t.

The one that matters is that the coalition government has voted that detention without charge for 28 days will be extended for another six months, while the policy is ‘reviewed’. They say they’ll get rid of it, just not yet. What kind of ‘review’ it takes to say “We’ll *NOT* lock people up for a month without charge or trial” I don’t know. And some Lib Dems voted for this! (Others, like Adrian Sanders, thankfully didn’t.)

I haven’t been able to find a list of who did and didn’t vote for this. And the reason for this is simple – nobody seems to care. It doesn’t seem ‘important’. The Lib Dem Blogs aggregator has more posts about Robbie rejoining Take That than about our MPs voting for a fundamentally illiberal law. There’s no mention of it on the BBC, or the Guardian or Independent websites. It’s got past without anyone really bothering, because it’s just an existing law being renewed, not a new infringement of what few liberties we have left.

The argument for renewal for now *almost* makes sense – if we’re having a Repeal/Freedom Bill in six months which will cover all civil liberties issues, and if the law isn’t getting used at the moment (and apparently it isn’t) then easier to let it carry on til then than to come up with something to replace it.

But I *WILL* be keeping an eye on this, and if it’s renewed for even an extra day after that I will no longer consider the junior coalition party to be the party I joined. There is *NOTHING* Liberal about locking people up without charge for a month.

And a warning to Labour trolls – your evil cloacal discharge of a party not only brought in this anal smearage disguised as legislation, this utter barbarism, but they wanted to extend it to ninety days, so you don’t get to have an opinion on this one.

The other thing about which I am annoyed is that Grant Morrison is not writing Batman & Robin after October. There are internet rumours that they’re creating another Batman title for him, but there’s an official announcement of a *fourth* Batman ‘in-continuity’ monthly which Morrison won’t be writing, so I doubt it.

(ETA Please note, I’m not doing a ‘tearing up my membership card’ thing here. But this is a *BIG* red line, and if continued will require *serious* action. Anyone fancy writing an emergency motion for conference or something? I’ve little motion experience so wouldn’t be able to do much, but would gladly help if someone wants to do this…)

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