This was a chapter I left out of the book on the advice of my editor, Ian (@theangelremiel). Basically his advice was that this chapter was very well written but didn’t add anything to the story. Wise man. I mean, wow, it would’ve killed the momentum if I kept it where it was (somewhere around chapter 20). Anyway, it’s problematic in several ways — it contains a lengthy description of Alan Moore’s work on Marvelman (or Miracleman in the US) and the legal troubles that have surrounded that work. It’s told from the perspective of the Knowledgebase Architect character, who, like me, has an enormous affinity for the work of Moore. There’s also a quote in here from Miracleman #16 that I could not use in the story because, hey, nobody owns those rights, so there’s nobody to contact for clearing the quote (at least as I understand it… well, Marvel might own the rights now, I’m not sure). Also, the character’s admiration of Moore’s work was described in his earlier, introductory chapter (which featured the From Hell quotes cleared by Top Shelf). The point was to get to know the Architect, an ambiguous character whom we’re meant to think is the ultimate antagonist of the piece.
I’ve told you about Alan Moore’s comic book work, right? I have copies of Watchmen, V For Vendetta, and From Hell on my shelf. I’ve managed to track down a paperback copy of his “DC Universe” stories. Swamp Thing, though I haven’t read it yet. Alan Moore’s important to me because the first thing I was going to strike from the Knowledgebase – from human history – was an already rare series of stories he’d written about a character named Marvelman, or Miracleman in his American series (an old comics company called Marvel Comics – who ran Spiderman and Hulk and Iron Man – they didn’t like the use of the word “marvel” in connection with characters they didn’t own).
This was Moore, building upon what had gone before. While he built on what had gone before, he was deconstructing the notion of the Superman.
You see, Marvelman was himself built upon another hero who was built upon another hero. Marvelman was created because Captain Marvel’s company (not a Marvel Comics character, but known in the non-comics circles as “Shazam!” due to the magic word he used to access his powers), Fawcett Comics went out of business. There were publishers in the UK who wanted to keep selling comics, though they couldn’t sell Captain Marvel anymore. So a man named Mick Anglo was tasked with creating a replacement.
Captain Marvel was analogous to Superman (or so the courts said) which put the Captain out of business (until Superman’s company later bought the property). Anglo created a character named Marvelman for the UK readers, very similar to Captain Marvel, which involved a young reporter receiving atomic powers by reciting the word “Kimota!” (Atomik, backwards). Alan Moore revived the character some 20 years after he’d been retired. Only, Moore’s character was darker – a reflection of Moore’s sensibilities that would later be fleshed out in Watchmen and V. It was the superhero as the fascist superman who would enslave and dominate the world. Though, it seemed, much more, that this superman was somehow setting the world free — it wasn’t dominance, it was ascendancy into godhood. I liked that.
Not so much that absolute power would corrupt absolutely, but more that absolute power would detach someone who was human from their own humanity. That to gain powers above that of the normal human, someone’s mental and emotional capabilities would evolve above and beyond humanity – they’d become bored with people. Moore was trying to teach a valuable lesson.
As a matter of fact, it was as if, after I had been commissioned, after what happened to me and the others… as if Moore's pen was speaking directly to me. "Futurity invades our here-and-now, erecting beachheads in our language, in our architecture, ‘til at last we’re under occupation, and tomorrow’s coups depose the rule of history."
Miracleman was also about the duality of achieving perfection — two separate bodies sharing the same mind. The perfect Miracleman and the imperfect aged reporter who couldn’t think as well as his superhuman counterpart. The name “Marvelman” didn’t fit Moore’s character nearly as well as “Miracleman” did. Which applied to the character more? Marvels or miracles?
I’ve never been one much for religion. As long as I can remember, there’s been a gaping hole somewhere deep down in my core. I’ve always wondered if, had I a God, that hole would disappear. Perhaps I’d have something comforting to occupy my thoughts. Yet I’ve always been a cynic — someone who simply couldn’t bring himself to believe. And why should I?
I’ve been hired by believers. I’ve been surrounded by believers all my life. I’ve admired the ability of religion to occupy the foundation of civilization. Yet I see the gullibility of the faithful, sometimes the outright idiocy, and I can’t buy their arguments. Should I see the architecture of history — should I see it by design? Is there a choice? Can one choose to believe or does it simply happen? Does the gaping hole disappear?
I know what you’re asking. “How would you not see it? The way room leads to room… book to book… song to song?” Or maybe you’re wondering why I have that gaping hole. I couldn’t tell you. It’s just always been there, down at the center of me. No matter how good things get, or how horrible they can be, it’s still the same. The ennui. French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre called it La Nausée.
Maybe that’s why I pursued my line of work. I could leave them all behind… abandon the world. Take history with me, and shape it to how I see fit. I can polish away the rough edges. I can order the chaos. And I can give it direction.
That’s when we come to technology. Part of what has derailed humankind… inflated it out of control; no direction, just listlessly growing — becoming cancerous. From radio to television to smartphones to touchpads to androids. The masses just shift with each black swan, as Mr. Stockton might put it. I will point them in the right direction… the loaded gun of humanity.
And it all begins here, with this project.
Would that make me a god?
I should dismiss such lofty opinions of myself. I get like this when Shoes and I kick back and watch 2001: A Space Odyssey. Late at night, when I’m off work, when I should be recharging, I’m gazing at the Star Child who opens its eyes, looking down upon the Earth. Then he’s looking directly at me, with bulbous, alien blue eyes. Shoes is awakened by those infamous chords of Also Sprach Zarathustra. She looks back at me from her spot on the floor with her enormous puppy dog eyes, then slumps back down, her white fur luminescent in the darkness. She’s completely unaware, but still stifled by the music.
Yesterday someone tried to get into the administrative facility. I honestly thought about letting her succeed, but what good would that do? She’d only become self-aware. Nightmarish, panicked. Curiosity kills the cat.
She wrote a journal entry that was addressed directly to me. She’s playful. I’ve got something I want to say to her but I get the feeling that I should wait. Her name is Rita, she’s number 63. I find her… interesting. To say the least.
Something else Moore spoke of in his Miracleman series. The character’s origin involved a mad, former Nazi scientist who sought immortality. He abused alien technology in order to grow a superman that he could trade minds with. As always, with such lethal antagonists, the plan failed.
Tags: futurity, gods, curiosity, architecture