Thursday, March 25, 2010

AstroGnostic: The Power to Procreate with the Gods

Having cut my teeth on 70s comics, I can say that nothing that shows up in pop culture these days surprises me. Any weird esoteric or occult topic you can think of was yours for a quarter (or so) at your local spinner rack. There was a great innocence to it all as well - innocence being the lack of self-consciousness that took over the comics medium once it was banished from the newsstands. In the 70s all of this weird stuff was fresh and new and was approached with "hey, cool" kind of mindset, not the "look at me, aren't I outrageous?" mindset the British scribes brought to the table.

If the Brits were navel-gazers and the Yanks were naifs, the French were simply nuts. The wizards of Metal Hurlant and Pilote (the biggest French-language sci-fi comic magazines of the time) brought a stunning level of craft that dazzled American comics fans, but also proffered a Gallic contempt for narrative clarity that bewildered them. By the fourth or fifth bong hit, however, narrative clarity was irrelevant and the eye candy took over.

Although English-language translations were available at better comics stores, most American readers got their Franco-fix in Heavy Metal, then published by National Lampoon.

In 2004, Enes "Enki" Bilal took the old Metal Hurlant aesthetic to the silver screen in a way that 1980's Heavy Metal (with its dreary soundtrack of warmed-over cock-rock) or the dire Heavy Metal 2000 failed spectacularly to do. At first viewing, Immortel Ad Vitam might seem like a compilation of video game cinematics (there is also an Immortel video game) but repeated viewings ease the clunkiness and reveal the occult-o-delic numinosity within.

The story itself (based on Bilal's early 80s graphic novel triptych collected as The Carnival of Immortals) seems to resonate more today than it did in 2004, and certainly more than 1980. A giant pyramid hovers over a futuristic Manhattan (Paris in the comics), carrying Horus, Anubis and Bast. Horus has broken some godly law or another and needs to immaculately conceive a child before being put in stasis for his infractions. The whole aerial pyramid routine should be setting off bells and whistles to regular Secret Sun readers.

Just like today, Manhattan itself is a corporate Potemkin village, only here it's controlled by a biotech firm called Eugenix. Central Park is a bizarre kind of Stargate in which EBEs shift back and forth between this planet/dimension and their own. A strange mutant named Jill (played by Linda Hardy) appears in one of Eugenix concentration camps and is rescued by a scientist (Charlotte Rampling), who has more than just a professional interest in the blue-haired freak.

Horus then rescues a Baudelaire-quoting rebel leader named Nikopol (Thomas Kretschmann) from his suspended animation prison and initiates him in an abandoned subway (shades of Captain Marvel).

In a spin on the old walk-in trope, Nikopol then is possessed by Horus and sent after Jill in order to sow the god's immortal seeds with Earth's latest version of humanity (version 3.1, maybe?).

Again, this is not a world-beater by any stretch of the imagination. But it has a rich pedigree (at least for those of us who saw Heavy Metal itself as an alien communiqué) and is ripe to bursting with Synchronistic and semio-symbolic resonators. Highly recommended for regular readers and those in orbit or near-orbit of the Synchroverse. Best of all, there's not a Sammy Hagar or Foghat floor-sweeping in sight; the excellent soundtrack is supplied by Goran Vejvoda and Sigur Ros.

Speaking of the Synchroverse, I know Alejandro Jodorowsky's film work is admired around these/those parts (Stygian Port's done a lot of work of The Holy Mountain), but Jodorowsky's also done a lot of comics work, particularly with Jean "Moebius" Giraud. If you're looking for a sci-fi epic on par with Dune or Lord of the Rings, I'd recommend their landmark series, The Incal. For those of us who love Moebius' art but his storytelling not so much, The Incal is a revelation. Equally revelatory is the pair's religious psychodrama Madwoman of the Sacred Heart, which I think Ronald B. Moore and other Caprica honchos might have given a glance or two...

Sync Log Update 3/25: The morning after this post went up, Les Humanoïdes Associés - publishers of Moebius, Jodorowsky, Bilal, et al - announces its return to US publishing.


  1. Just a heads up on a 17 sync. A financial "guru" in Canada accused of stealing millions of dollars killed himself at 17 Stonebury Place. And as I write this comment, I see this latest piece you have number 17 for this month so far...

  2. Hi Chris,

    Very cool, and sexy, movie! I was very surprised when I first saw it because it wasn't the typical "alien visitation" movie. This movie actually made sense!

    The "alien" had a purpose for visiting AND it wasn't for destruction. They almost seemed to want to slip in and out of the world without disturbing what was in place...they didn't come to fix evil or bring "paradise". They had an agenda, came and left. If aliens were to really come, that would be the way I'd like to see them do it.

    The movie even ended positively for the whole of the encounter. And even the "gods" apparently like to brag about their sexual prowess in this film! But the progeny? I didn't quite fathom the offspring!

    Thanks, Chris!

  3. Okay - a bunch of points about this post in no particular order.

    1. You mentioned Sammy Hagar. He has been quite open (or at least sorta open) with his personal experiences as an alien abductee.

    2. Moebius did the design of the giant "alien" (in quotes on purpose) craft that appears during the finale of THE ABYSE

    3. Floating pyramids over an urban environment? Don't get me started...

  4. The Egyptian Gods in Manhattan...

    Uh, didn't a statue of Anubis just sail down the Hudson River two days ago? [He was being shipped to a Museum for a new King Tut exhibit]

    On Fox 5, They emphasized on how Anubis passed the Statue of Liberty [hm, Isis encountered an old friend]


    I took your advice and purchased the novel “American Gods” on my Kindle. [Thank-you, technology. Now I can instantly impulse purchase books. While wearing my pajamas. At 2 am.]

    American Gods would've made a terrific postmodernist novel.

    Instead, it's just a disjointed urban fantasy. [And the sad thing is, you could tell Neil Gaiman tried his best to tackle postmodern themes]

    If only Douglas Coupland wrote “American Gods” [a prolific postmodernist author; i.e. the Neil Gaiman of postmodernism]

    ...technically, already did.

    Coupland's book, “Life After God” tackles modern American's worship of Plastic, envy of the superficial, post-Cold War fears of an unknown Armageddon, and our Pop-Culture spirituality. [Douglas Coupland is actually Canadian, so it even targets these subjects from the same outsider perspective as Neil Gaiman]

    I mean, the Gods of the past weren't distant entities to be feared. [Especially the Ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian Gods]

    They were the personifications of entirely human activities. Alternatively, they were the personifications of entirely natural processes [the seasons, heavenly bodies, etc.]

    The God of vegetation farmed; the God of the Ocean had a short temper [creating storms], the God of the Sun was consistent and reliable [In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Babylonian Sun God always answered Gilgamesh's prayers, and tried his best to help]

    Would Hermes be a high-speed internet cable? An antenna? A communication satellite?

    Would Apollo be a light-bulb?

    Would Zeus be a Power Grid? [Hence, powering the fellow Gods]

    If only Gaiman had made these connections. [Imagine Hermes, powerless in a tunnel with “No Service”; Apollo terribly fragile, Zeus defeated by a downed tree]

  5. Interesting - I went back and read the post on Ben 10 and Godland from Mar 2009.

    Like I mentioned on another thread, I recently watched Kubrick/Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey. In that, the astronaut who reached the alien evolving monolith is, of course, David Bowman. In Godland, the astronaut is Adam Archer. David is the descendant of the original Adam and an Archer is a Bowman.

    Of course, all these years, I'd missed the obvious connections to Homer's Odyssey. HAL is obviously representative of the cyclops Polyphemus not only visually through his representation by a single eye, but the computer also shares the giant's super-rational point of view and reliance on reason and belief in infallibility that proves to be its downfall.

    In the epic poem, Penelope's test for the suitors that beset her is the bow that Odysseus left behind. Whoever can string it and perform the same shot that her husband did could take his place. Of course, only Odysseus himself can be the "bowman" and he uses it to eliminate the suitors.

    The idea of war and murder as an evolutionary tool is echoed in the film of course as the protohumans at the beginning use their newfound knowledge to drive away their genetic competition.

    In that sense, Bowman's rebirth and return as the starchild is much more ominous for the now obsolete and technology dependent humans on Earth.

    Speaking of, it is interesting that twice in the film, birthday messages are delivered over video links (from Heywood Floyd to his daughter and to Frank Poole from his parents) and the film ends with David Bowman's "birthday" as a new form of human being who leaves the "womb" of technology - HAL's ship/Polyphemus' cave - to survive in space under his own innate power.

  6. anyone remember Serial Experiments Lain? This series is ripe with Caprican parallels, almost suspiciously. Great show, nonetheless.

    The entire series (13 episodes) is up on youtube.

    I've tried reading The Incal a few times. I'm not sure what it is that keeps me from really getting into it. perhaps another go is in order.

    for those of you who are unfamiliar with The Incal or Moebius, the 5th Element took a lot from, justifiably i guess, as Moebius worked on the film. (right?)

  7. While Anubis was sailing down the Hudson River on Tuesday morning, Tuesday evening's TV show Lost (which has some egyptian themes going on) tackled Richard Alpert's back story. We learn that he originates from the Canary Islands.
    Islas Canarias is derived from the latin Insula Canaria, meaning "island of the Dogs".

    From Wiki:
    "The original inhabitants of the island, guanches used to worship dogs, mummified them and treat dogs generally as holy animals. In the ancient times the island was well known about its people who worshipped dogs there, and when the Romans first visited the island, they gave it the name: 'canaari', which means in Latin: "the ones who worship dogs", or "the ones with dogs".
    The connection to dogs is retained in their depiction on the islands' coat-of-arms.

  8. Off topic, cool 5:17 BBC video on life of the 17 year cicada. (contains bug sex)

  9. Alcide Nikopol?

    I saw the movie in 1980, but I read the magazine series in 1976-77.

    Loved it when Horus lasered a piece of old subway rail onto Nikopol for a leg!

    Astro(Crypto?)God-sync; Star Child Skull guy Lloyd Pye says verdict in on Child's missing "dad", and it ain't 'human'.

    At least not in the hominid way. Just a couple of weeks after Mac Tonnies' posthumous "The Crypto-terrestrials" is released.

  10. Chris,

    "The Red Book" by sera beak includes a chapter suggesting the reader add deity-human lovemaking to their erotic fantasies. That kind of stuff is de rigeur to weirdoes like me but I thought it was pretty ballsy to put it in a book targeted at fans of "the secret" and Tolle.

  11. love this one chris, i never thought of horus as an asshole. hah..

  12. "love this one chris, i never thought of horus as an asshole."

    Have you seen HANCOCK?