REPRINT: Do Anything 025 by Warren Ellis on David Bowie, From 2009

I thought this might be worth a reprint. Do Anything #25 by Warren Ellis, as written for Bleeding Cool, published on December 22nd, 2009.



Engineer Tony Visconti has set up three microphones in front of David Bowie, with volume-triggered gates on them. It was a huge room in Berlin, previously used to record symphonies during World War 2.

(Private Jack Kirby: "I was handed a chocolate bar and an M-1 rifle and told to go kill Hitler.")

One mic was in front of Bowie, one was fifteen feet away, and one was fifty feet away. Bowie begins singing softly. And yet the world is getting faster. Punk is in full run now, its "do anything" ethos (fake at the root, true in the world) infecting everything. Fashion is coming back to life. Comics are leaking into other media at an increased rate.

Bowie raises the volume of his voice, as he goes into the third verse, and the second microphone switches on. He is louder, closer, and yet further away, all at the same time. At the same time, Joost Swarte is defining the Clear Line and Atom Style: back in time, right here and pointing to the future, all at once.

The unearthly feedback howl of Fripp-through-Eno is racing through everything. It should have been (and yet is not unlike) the sound of the "time-tunnel"/"howlaround" effect from the classic DOCTOR WHO opening: which is, itself, visual feedback, birthed from making two TV cameras point into each other. (The first episode of DOCTOR WHO is entitled "An Unearthly Child.") At this moment, Philip K Dick's book A SCANNER DARKLY is being published. He is also, at this moment in which David Bowie raises his voice, giving a speech in Metz, France (a town twinned with Kansas City, Missouri, where Matt Fraction was living when he began writing X-MEN) entitled "If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others," in which he says:

"I submit to you that… the creation or selection of such so-called 'alternate presents,' is continually taking place. The very fact that we can conceptually deal with this notion — that is, entertain it as an idea — is a first step in discerning such processes themselves."

This is how it sounds:

The third microphone kicks in. David Bowie's voice is filling the room, in all places at once, an audio superposition. Stray waveforms are passing through the windows from which Bowie watched illicit lovers kiss by the wall and wrote them into the song, crossing the four hundred miles from Berlin to Paris and embedding themselves in the matter of the stage he stands on as he talks about the nature of eternity itself. The reverberations are felt in Paris, where Jean-Pierre Dionnet is grinning and publishing METAL HURLANT, and Francois Roche is on the street outside, seventeen years old and thinking that he'd like to design buildings for a living and that this one in front of him is pretty nice but would be much more interesting as a vast rotting concrete stomach filled with robot antibodies, and Grant Morrison's sitting outside the coffee shop down the road, a year older than Roche and a year away from getting published for the first time, head full of Jack Kirby comics, and Skylab swoops overhead, its Raymond Loewy-designed interior empty and abandoned but by God they did it, and David Bowie is singing, at the top of his lungs, "we can be Heroes."

Which only means, quite simply, that we can do anything.


026 will be the afterword to this short serialised book. After which I shall take a short break to commence DO ANYTHING 2. The collected version, entitled DO ANYTHING: Jack Kirby Ripped My Flesh will be available in spring 2010.


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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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