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Phonogram… Stripp’d

August 1, 2011

Gestalt Mash have my (long overdue) column on Kieron Gillen and Jamis McKelvie’s Phonogram comics.

To date, this series only has two volumes — 2007’s Rue Britannia and 2010’s The Singles Club — but those two volumes contain enough ideas to keep a Marvel character running for a generation.  The Joel Silver-style 30 second pitch is that the comic is Gwyneth Jones’ Bold as Love (2001) meets Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere (2001) via Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971) and John Tynes and Greg Stolze’s roleplaying game Unknown Armies (2008).  Set in contemporary Britain, the comics tell stories about a group of mages who perform magic by engaging with pop music.  Some mages are critics, others produce fanzines and some simply love to dance.  What is fascinating about this particular comic is that Phonogram is that rarest of things, Fantasy series that does not look to the past for its sources of enchantment:

Think of the memories of Woodstock in the 60s, of the Kings Road in the late 70s and the acid house scene in the 80s. Think of the tales that people tell and of the sense of place that inhabit those stories. These were times when people knew where they were and they knew that what they were seeing was important. They knew that magic existed because they could see it spring fully formed on stage amidst the stenches of weed, sweat and overpriced cheap lager. Anyone who has been part of a musical scene will know what it is like to walk into a club and to know who everyone is and why they are there. To be a part of a scene is to know everyone’s side-projects and why absolutely nothing good can come from their decision to start fucking the bass-player. To be in the right place at the right time is to be cool and to be cool is magic. But then the bubble pops. The wave breaks. Maybe the lynchpin band fall out with each other or there’s a fire at the important venue. Maybe the wrong people start turning up to gigs and the atmosphere turned sour. All kinds of things can happen and when they do, you can feel it end. To be cool is to know what it’s like to live in a world filled with meaning and magic, but it is also to know what it’s like when the gods depart the stage and the magic drains from the world. To be cool is to know how it feels to be left standing in a sweaty club surrounded by stupid people who suddenly feel very tired, very old and very sad.

 

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