Sunday, February 8, 2015

Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham's Nameless: Beneath the Panels #1

As I said in this week's edition of Thee Comic Column over on Joup, I've read Nameless #1 twice so far. Between reads I began digging around on the internet for some of the concepts Grant Morrison builds into the code that underlies the story begun in the book, and as such I've started to piece together some of what I think may be the initial ideas at work beneath the panels, so to speak.

Nameless #1 begins with a narrated series of atrocities taking place across the globe. The paneling on these first couple of pages is unique and, I'm betting, charged with some degree of subliminal meaning. After drawing them out and pondering them as distinct images by their own right I'm left with one observation and one theory.

The images, especially the first and third, bear strong resemblances to letters from the Hebrew alphabet, which is steeped in occult science and often used in the creation of 'spells'. However, despite the resemblance, after consulting a Hebrew dictionary I found myself unable to draw any direct comparisons. Stumped I thought about this some more and eventually came to a different conclusion about the shapes:

They are part of an elaborate sigil. If you are unfamiliar with sigil Magick - a concept Morrison has talked quite at length - go here and take the author's crash course.

Okay, moving out of the design aspect and into some of the direct references Morrison makes in Nameless #1, the first glaring one is during the aforementioned narrated atrocities on the very first page, we get another sigil-like image and four words:

The image is later defined by one of the characters as "the door to the anti-verse, the Gate of Az". If you google Gate of Az the search engine makes the assumption that you're abbreviating Arizona. However, if you do not search the phrase as you enter it, allowing instead the engine to use its intuitive functions you get three things, the aforementioned Arizona result, followed to more likely possibilities:

Gate of Azeroth
Gate of Hell, Azerbaijan

Here I began with the latter result, as it was something I was unfamiliar with. In a nutshell, there is a deposit of natural gas in the country of Turkmenistan known as the "Gate of Hell".

Once you reach the end of the issue you find there is definitely a parallel to be drawn in terms of what we find out this image represents in actual, physical terms to the story in Nameless. However, that's not it. Let's go back to the other search result and explore that a bit, shall we?

At first glance I misread Azeroth as Azathoth*. That is not the case; Azeroth is a setting in the World of Warcraft game. I don't think that has anything to do with what we're dealing with here. However, because Grant Morrison is as much a utilizer of pop culture in his Magick as he is occult code, this may be the point. It is not too much of a jump to consider that WoW's Azeroth derived its name from Azathoth, a character from H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu cycle. Morrison has utilized some of Lovecraft's lore before, and there is an entire area of Magickal practice that treats Lovecraft's mythos as something of an operating system for ritual. In his story The Dream-Quest of the Unknown Kadath, Lovecraft describes him as the following:

[O]utside the ordered universe [is] that amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the center of all infinity—the boundless daemon sultan Azathoth, whose name no lips dare speak aloud, and who gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time and space amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes

I have always drawn an indirect comparison between Azathoth and Choronzon, a demon that traces its origins back to Elizabethian magician/scholars John Dee and Edward Kelley. Choronzon's entry in Watkin's Dictionary of Magic is as follows, and when juxtaposed with the definition for Azathoth above fully illustrates the reasons for my theory:

In Enochian magic, the demon of chaos and guardian of the Abyss. Aleister Crowley described Choronzon as "the first and deadliest of all the powers of evil". This point notwithstanding, Crowley invoked Choronzon while experimenting with the so-called 30 Aethyrs in a magical ritual on the top of an Algerian mountain in December 1909.

There is a great visual recreation of Crowley's ritual with Victor Neuburg in Alan Moore and JH Williams, III's Promethea, specifically issue #20, where the characters are on a multiple issue long trek through the spheres of the Kabbalhistic Tree of Life and fall through Daath, the abyss. Here they encounter Choronzon and are torn to pieces. Bringing this back around to Nameless #1, the Abyss - or Daath - could be the "anti-verse" discussed in the final pages, where we learn the harbinger of this Gate of Az is an asteroid on a collision course with Earth and thus inevitably going to destroy it, or rip it to pieces, the same way Choronzon or Azathoth obliterate those who encounter them in their respective mythological contexts.

Okay, I've barely even scratched the surface of this first issue but this is proving to be a much bigger project than I originally thought it would be. I'll continue with more decoding of Nameless #1 in a few days, in the meantime here are a few links for further study of the ideas I've discussed thus far:

* Another possibility, although less likely, is Astaroth. A quick referral to The Goetia and you will find the following definition for Astaroth:

The twenty-ninth Spirit is Astaroth. He is a Mighty, Strong Duke, and appeareth in the Form of an hurtful Angel riding on an Infernal Beast like a Dragon, and carrying in his right hand a Viper. Thou must in no wise let him approach unto thee, lest he do thee damage by his Noisome Breath. Wherefore the Magician must hld the Magical Ring near his face, and that will defend him. He giveth true answers of things Past, Present and to Come, and can discover all Secrets. He will declare wittingly how the Spirits fell, if desired, and the reason of his own fall. He can make men wonderfully knowing in all Liberal Sciences. He ruleth 40 Legions of Spirits. His Seal is this, which wear thou as a Lamen before thee, or else he will not appear nor yet obey thee, etc.  

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