Thursday, January 25, 2018

R.I.P. Mark E. Smith

by BK Munn

Mark E. Smith 1957-2018.

Marvel Team-Up #41-44, by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema (Marvel Comics, 1976). 

In this 4-issue series of stories, the sorcerous super-villain Dark Rider uses Cotton Mather to transport Spider-Man and the Scarlet WItch to the Salem Witch Trials in 1692 in order to lure Dr. Doom and siphon his mystic powers. The story is referenced in The Fall song, "Various Times," the B-Side to the band's second single, "It's the New Thing" (1978). Fall singer and chief song-writer Mark E. Smith was a comic book reader and made many comics references in his art, including nods to Jack Kirby, Brian Talbot, Viz Comics, and, most famously, to the work of Jack Cole in his song "How I Wrote Elastic Man." Smith was something of a prole-art visionary, obsessed with time-travel, the Holocaust, rockabilly, Arthur Machen, H.P. Lovecraft, 60s Motown, Philip K. Dick, Rasputin, the Witch Trials, and other arcane aspects of U.S. and UK pop culture and history. 

Mark E. Smith died today at age 60. 

The relevant lyrics from "Various Times" are as follows (the lyric also references a novel by science fiction writer Ursula K. LeGuin, whose death is also being widely mourned today). The song examines racism and ideological extremism during three different points in human history (The Salem Wich Trials, World War II Germany, and modern-day Britain) and ponders how seemingly normal people could become complicit in mass hysteria and horrible historical atrocities.

Black windows
And smokey holes
My head is full of lead
And the beer is so weak
Since they got rid of time around here

Dr. Doom
Fresh from Salem
And the witch trials
The Lathe of Heaven
Time mistaken
Three places at once
Human [race]
Don't think, ask him
Ask him
Ask him