Wednesday, June 25, 2008

More on Terence McKenna; Warren Ellis



From Iron Man Extremis, by Writer Warren Ellis and Artist Adi Gradinov. Comic books aren't just about explosions and wacky powers. Notice the calculated, cinematic flow from panel to panel.

Funny. While I was thinking over Sam Parker's review, I found another, wholly coincidental, mention of Terence McKenna in the Iron Man Extremis graphic novel. If you've seen the movie starring Robert Downey Jr., this is one of the books that provided primary inspiration for the film.

Above: this is a scene that forms the "moral center" of the story. Tony Stark and his scientist colleague, Maya, visit one of their mentors, a sagely hippie researcher named Sal. It's rather quiet; they discuss the ethics of technology, military funding, and the problem of "using one's talents" for something genuinely good. Despite the science fiction content, Warren Ellis writes some rather believable dialog.

Their conversation is visually juxtaposed with scenes of violence. Maya has developed a sort of biological weapon called "Extremis." It's a virus that basically gives you superhuman strength and reflexes. The young man in gray-green - a member of an American right-wing militia - uses the virus to kill dozens of military guards and innocent civilians. The scene is an excellent example of pastiche or what Frederic Jameson calls "blank parody." It's an appropriation of a scene from The Matrix, but without the heroics. Guns are useless.

So, while the group in one scene discusses the consequences of their research, the other scene shows us in terrible detail. The mention of psychedelic drugs and Terence McKenna is given by, interestingly, the comic's "voice of experience." Sal explains:
Drugs are technologies, Tony. In places where humanity first arose, there were psychedelic mushrooms. It’s a medical fact that those mushrooms improve visual acuity. That would make early humans better hunters.
That Iron Man suit you built, Tony – It has sensors, zoom lenses and the like? … Same thing. Whatever moron you stuff into that suit can see better. Same with early humans who had mushrooms in their diet.
Of course, I would never encourage the use of illegal substances. Remember: Just Say No!

But the discussion is meaningful to me, since by citing anthropology and history, it makes optimistic speculations about the future. I can dig that. Plus, it was terribly interesting to see something like McKenna pop up locally in Sam's pictures and then to experience it in a completely different context the same week.

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Iron Man Extremis (June 2007). ISBN# 0785122583.

Images above copyright 2007 Marvel Characters, Inc. If you're interested, Iron Man Extremis is available at Oxford Comics on Piedmont and Book Nook in Decatur. I also have a copy. You can borrow whatever you want. Adi Gradinov's illustrations are excellent, and Warren Ellis is still one of my favorite writers - inside or outside of comics.


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3 comments:

Jim said...

Thanks for the images.

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davy zealot said...

Thank you very much. Being a fan of everything that has to do with psychedelics i really had fun reading this. :)