Michael Moorcock and 'Jerry Cornelius'
Gideon Stargrave, King Mob's possibly imaginary alter ego, is based firmly upon Michael Moorcock's '60s cult hero, Jerry Cornelius. But how do Moorcock's writings actually influence The Invisibles?
Jerry Conrelius was created in the '60s new wave SF magazine New Worlds that Moorcock was editing. After the initial popularity of 'The Final Programme', other writers got in on the act of elaborating their own versions of Jerry's story. Moorcock was always very generous with Jerry as far as I'm concerned and any legal wrangle he may have had with Grant (I don't know any details myself) was presumably over the fact that he felt Grant was ripping him off by making Stargrave a virtually carbon copy Corneilius, without actually stating it as such in the main body of the comic (I know he acknowledged it on the letters page).
In any event, a lot of Jerry's essential characteristics have filtered through to Morrison's revolutionaries in general and King Mob in particular. Cornelius was an androgynous, bisexual, well - dressed, gun toting, drug taking, fast car driving arsonist, rock star, nuclear physicist and assassin, who so evidently reflected the preoccupations of disaffected '60s youth that he seemed, within the confines of fiction, geared to become (and occassionally did become) the 'new messiah' for the Scientific Age. (In this respect, the initials J. C. are of considerable note). The Stargrave sequences in The Invisibles are full of subtle references to the original Cornelius tales -- these include the appearence of a Hindu scientist in the story, the inclusion of incest with a beautiful sister, long list of rock songs and items of clothing, 'chapter' headings in the manner of sensationalist newspaper headlines and, most obviously, Gideon's overall stylistic image. [I will explain all of these elements more explicitly in the annotations proper].
What deeper meanings underlie the worlds of both Stargrave and Cornelius, though ?? It might seem disconcerting to the Invisibles reader who has no experience of Moorcock that King Mob's pseudo-self enagages happily in wanton destruction of a variety of alternative worlds with no thought for coventional morality, while being prepared to kill himself in order to be later reincarnated. It could easily be suggested that these images are, as Sir Miles thinks, merely flights of fancy on King Mob's part, representing his ideals of ultimate revolution and sacrifice for the cause. In fact, all such elements of Stargrave's story are prefigured in Moorcock's books, and are linked with Jerry's character in the first place because of the peculiar makeup of Moorcock's 'fantasy' universe.
Why, then, do we find Jerry Cornelius consistently moving from alternative reality to alternative reality, helping to hasten the end of the world and ,consequnetly, his own death, in each ? The answer lies in Moorcock's exagerrated use of an individual literary conceit, for he has elected to declare that virtually all heroes who are encountered in his books (and there are over 70 of them, in a mass of different genres and styles) are merely aspects of a greater, archetypal Hero, who represents them all. Presumably Moorcock maintains this idea for his own amusement; certainly, stories with a connection to the 'Eternal Champion' far outnumber any other type within his writing career. Jerry Cornelius is merely one 'avatar' of this 'Champion' aspect amongst many in the Moorcock mythos (and rather an iconoclastic one at that). Moorcock's best known hero, Elric, is another. Who ,however, is the greatest Hero, who encapsulates each of them?
Moorcock leaves such questions deliberately unanswered, although there is some hint that it is, perhaps, a very ordinary guy named John Daker, who contains within himself the endless possibility of making such 'fantasy' heroics real. Here, one encounters an interesting analogy with Morrison's ideas in The Invisibles -- the concept that each of us may contain within ourselves the ability to change the world, if we only take the time to identify it. In Moorcock's terms, the battle that all heroes must fight is not between the forces of Good and Evil, but between those of Chaos and Order; the task of the hero is to ensure that neither side achieves total supremacy in any world, for too much Order would stifle creativity, while too much Chaos destroys all security. Instead, a balance achieved between the two is the ideal that the hero aspires to. Each of Moorcock's 'avatars' fights this contest - in Elric's stories, for example, there is a very literal conflict going on between the Gods of Order and the Gods of Chaos. Jerry's universe is far subtler - there are no Gods in the Twentieth Century parallel realms through which he travels, but the battle is still fought, with Jerry himself ('60s revolutionary to the core) being cast in the role of enchroaching Chaos.
Cornelius, in essence, is allowed by Moorcock to travel only to worlds where the rule of Order has become so stultifying that a vital injection of Chaos (even one as radical as destroying an entire planet) is needed to counterbalance it. Moorcock's theory that each 'Champion' fights an individual fight within a separate universe leads naturally to his concept that there are a mutiplicity of possible worlds. Amongst all his heroes, it is Jerry who can travel most freely and calmly between these realities, hopping from universe to universe without so much as a comment; forever taking part in the battle between Chaos and Order and sometimes changing gender or race, as he comes into contact with variations upon reality. Here, in short, is the prototype of the universe-jumping, suicide-driven, consummate revolutionary Stargrave and his eternal rebellions against authority.
The essential ambiguity with which Moorcock views Jerry's character may have equally rubbed off on Morrison, however. Far from being an ideal hero, Moorcock has noted many times that Jerry's personality is basically shallow, hedonistic and egotistical, that his schemes to overturn order are idealistic nonsense (the titles of the first two Cornelius books The Final Programme and A Cure for Cancer seem to reflect this basic unreal optimism -- there is no 'final programme' or 'cure for cancer' that can magically save the world, but rather than trusting in his own abilities, Jerry prefers to invest in imaginative dreams); Jerry's drive against society is reflected not so much in the creation of effective change within a world, but in the destroying of it. As time has worn, and '60s optimism has given way to the realism of later decades, Jerry has grown to seem more and more the ineffectual dreamer, rather than the vital reformer. The Cornelius books progresssively chronicle the decline until the reader discovers that for all his funky clothes, flashy cars and shiny guns, Jerry is merely 'play acting' at being a rebel -- it is up to others, more truly committed than he, to alter the makeup of the status quo. Such concepts may not be far from Grant's mind when he juxtaposes King Mob and Dane's respective approaches to revolution -- the King may be the coolest Invisible around, but he ain't gonna be the one who finally saves the universe.
Lee Ravitz [L.Ravitz@rhbnc.ac.uk]