Just one thought really, and it’s an important one. The New 52 is a set of conceptual tools to survey and to engage with a revolutionary shift, not just in popculture, but in culture as a whole. And writer Grant Morrison and artist Travel Foreman illustrate this in the space of just six pages, next week in Action #13.
It’s Halloween on Krypton, except of course, no one on Krypton formulates it in that way. But it is the very day that the world door between the seen and the unseen worlds will be opened, the day Krypton enacted Phantom Zone exile.
20 years ago when Malcolm McDowell emerged from the Phantom Zone and onto the Big Screen, the punishment seemed like an intellectual exercise. Cut off from everyone and everything? Obviously there’s a huge downside. But what if it proved to be exactly the escape needed from Wall Street, The Musical that was playing across all the airwaves courtesy of Reaganomics? Five years on from Facebook and “cut off from everyone and everything” seems to have real and horrific consequences.
Morrison’s unique way of framing this issue (and by implication, his argument for the New 52) begins with Bill Gibson’s idea that we’re currently living through sufficient technological and cultural complexity that scifi might work better if set in the present. Gibson’s recent BlueAnt trilogy was contemporaneous with the years the books it released in; Pattern Recognition hit in 2002 as a kind of excision of the post 9/11, Spook Country dealt with the techno-paranoia coming out of the Second Iraq War, Zero History with the psychology of desirable goods that came out of the financial collapse.
We’re only just now catching up to the true horror of the Phantom Zone. But that’s not the story here. The story is this: speculative scifi (isn’t it all speculative though?, well speculative in this instance as future-oriented as opposed to set-in-the-present)… speculative scifi as a genre has now become deeply imbricated in hard scifi. What are the things we can build? Not just the things, but how can we leverage technological complexity to enact cultural objects, like Halloween being imprinted upon Krypton. Imprinted on Krypton, even before the idea of Halloween.
In the space of just six pages, Grant Morrison has ushered us into a new era, an era where technological complexity becomes a perpetual prehistory for cultural complexity. Imagine Perestroika, imagine that oldtimey movie The Peacemaker with George Clooney and Nicole Kidman. But rather than nuclear warheads being stolen from Russian military transports, we encounter undetonated ideas from science fiction’s own past, freed to roam the cultural countryside.
When Morrison dedicates this story to Ray Bradbury, it is more than simple a sign of respect for a past master and admiration for a formative influence. It is an abiding statement about a radical shift in the nature of our relationship to our fiction, and our past. And it is the kind of radical statement that can only be made with the New 52, where DC as a publisher simply jettisoned their 70-plus years of fictive history, and began anew with characters and settings that enthralled generations.
Please, enjoy our exclusive preview of Action #13, because wherever the Grand Experiment in Popculture takes us next, we know it is far from at an end.