24 Panels – If Einstein’s Right

Cover of 24 Panels – art by Tula Lotay

Annotations for “If Einstein’s Right” – four pages in the Image Comics anthology 24 Panels, released 21 November 2018

Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Melinda Gebbie
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

The 24 Panels anthology is raising funds to benefit survivors of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire. The “24” refers to the number of stories in the Grenfell Tower building; it also references a similar earlier prose anthology titled 24 Stories.

According to an August 2018 preview at Bleeding Cool: (quoting this piece at The Guardian)

Kieron Gillen, curator of the comic calls it [Moore and Gebbie’s piece] “one of the most politically charged pieces in the book” and that “obviously having a contribution from Alan and Melinda is a huge deal. It’s essentially an illustrated poem which is about trying to offer comfort to those who need it, and a controlled and precise anger at the establishment.”

On December 17, 2018, this Moore interview video was posted by 24 Panels:

Page 1

panel 1

  • “A shadow that our minds cast… spacetime’s changeless 4D glass – where every moment’s an eternal song” is a theme – sometimes called Eternalism – that Moore has explored extensively in his novel Jerusalem. Moore also explores the changeless space-time theme in Watchmen‘s Dr. Manhattan, From HellProvidence, and probably elsewhere. Moore has explained it in interviews, including in his Mustard interview in Alan Moore Conversations (P187), 2005 and 2009:
    “Einstein and [Stephen] Hawking seem to agree that this is a four-dimensional universe, with the fourth spatial dimension being what we perceive as time. So it’s not that the fourth dimension is time. It’s more like time is the shadow of the fourth dimension, and it’s only our perception that’s moving through it. […] C. Howard Hinton, one of the Victorian mathematicians who first proposed a mathematical fourth dimension said you’d have to suppose that it’s only our awareness that we’re moving through time. That nothing is actually changing. The universe is a four-dimensional solid, like a great big egg, with the Big Bang at one end, the Big Crunch at the other end, and every moment that has ever or will ever exists suspended, forever, in between…”
  • The character portrayed is, of course, physicist Albert Einstein.
  • Showing Einstein three times is a comics trope – sometimes called a multiple exposure panel. Use of this here it alludes to Moore’s concept of time where every moment exists simultaneously.
  • Each page text features six 4-line ABBA rhymes, called a quatrain with an enclosed rhyme. This makes for 24 lines on each page, corresponding to the number of stories in the Grenfell Tower. Four pages perhaps corresponds to the four faces of the square-footprint tower. The rhyme being enclosed is perhaps analogous to the fire victims enclosed in the burning building.

panel 2

  • The film format is visually reminiscent of Moore and Kevin O’Neil’s Cinema Purgatorio, including this cover for issue #1. Thematically, it again refers to the unchanging arc of time playing out in Eternalism – see panel1 above. Moore used a 78 rpm vinyl record as a somewhat similar analogy in Providence #11.

panel 3

  • Notting Hill” is the West London district where the Grenfell Tower is located.
  • Who is this couple? What is the August 1965 event? (That was two years before the Tower was designed.) In what cellar club? Suggest?? (A search yields this book result – mentioning ’60s shebeens operated by West Indians.)

panel 4

  • These may be the five Grenfell fire victims of the El Wahabi family pictured in 2010, as stated in the caption. Left to right may be: Faouzia El Wahabi holding Mehdi El Wahabi, Faouzia’s husband Abdulaziz El Wahabi, and their children Yasin El Wahabi and Nur Huda El Wahabi. At the time of their 2017 death their ages were 42, 8, 52, 20, and 15 respectively. (Nitpick note:  This family is the best match found among the fire victims. The ages depicted here correspond to the family, but the two older children do not appear to be correct: Yasin [male] and Nur Huda [female] would have been 13 and 8 respectively, hence an older brother holding a younger sister might be more accurate.)

panel 5

  • Pictured is conservative politician Boris Johnson who was Mayor of London from 2008 to 2016. He is posed as if in a police photograph of a criminal/suspect. (The photographic moment reinforces the unchanging space-time theme – see panel 1 above.)
  • The “Bullingdon Club” is an exclusive Oxford University club; Johnson was a member.
  • He “swears that he’ll leave fire services alone” refers to Johnson’s 2010 statements, described by Politics.co.uk as: Boris repeatedly denied he had any plans to cut fire engines or fire stations, telling the London Assembly in 2010 that there were “no plans” to remove engines.
  • “Three years later, cuts them to the bone” refers to Johnson’s 2013 cuts to fire-fighting budgets, resulting in worsening response times.
  • Get stuffed” is British slang meaning ‘fuck off’ (a strongly worded ‘go away.’) Johnson famously told a critic to “get stuffed” (video) in a 2013 debate over Johnson’s cuts to fire-fighting budgets.
  • Ten [fire] stations are closed” by Johnson in 2014.
  • “Twenty-seven [fire] engines” were cut by Johnson in 2013-2015.
  • Is there any significance of the “208217” number? Perhaps Grenfell victim apartment numbers? Suggest??

Page 2

panel 1

  • This is again Einstein.

Khadija Saye – photo via Wikipedia

panel 2

  • This depicts Grenfell fire victim Khadija Saye, an artist and photographer.
  • “Biennale bliss” refers to Saye’s art is being exhibited at the Venice Biennale.
  • “Her mum” Mary Mendy was also killed in the fire.

panel 3

  • Highbury Ground” was the stadium of the football (soccer) team Arsenal from 1913 until 2006.
  • It is not clear whom this panel references. Per the BBC, there are several older male victims (hence the grandkids) some of whom have links to soccer… but none specifically to Arsenal (though perhaps the reference is another team’s victory over Arsenal?):
    – 57-year-old Gary Maunders was described as a devoted Manchester United fan.
    – 56-year-old Denis Murphy played youth and amateur soccer up through his 30s and was a Chelsea fan.
    – 65-year-old Anthony Disson is described as a grandfather.
  • (Nitpick: “Grandkids’” might be “grandkid‘s“)

panel 4

  • This may be 5-year-old Grenfell fire victim Isaac Paulos.

panel 5

Page 3

panel 1

  • These are Einstein again.

Grenfell Tower victims Gloria Trevisan and her fiance Marco Gottardi. Photo via Architect’s Journal

panel 2

  • This is Grenfell Tower fire victim Gloria Trevisan who, according to The Guardian, completed her master’s degree in architecture at the University of Venice in 2016, and had come to London to find work.
  • “The golden section” is another term for the golden ratio, or golden mean – a proportion long held to be aesthetically pleasing in architecture, design, and nature. (The diagram being drawn does seem to correspond to any common golden ratio diagram common online.)

panel 3

  • These appear to be Grenfell fire victims (left to right):
    – Husna Begum – per BBC “due to get married in July 2017”
    – Begum’s mother Rabeya Begum
    – Begum’s father Kamru Miah

panel 4

  • This panel depicts Grenfell fire victim Firdaws Hashim. According to the BBC, the 12-year-old Hashim was a “talented public speaker” who “had been awarded a debating prize by Bill Gates three months before she died.”

panel 5

  • This panel depicts conservative politician Theresa May, Britain’s current Prime Minister.
  • “Grieving crowd is not allowed too near / when she visits the scene” describes how May visited Grenfell Tower the day after the fire, but did not speak with survivors or residents.
  • “Them calling her a coward and murderer” describes the crowd’s reaction when May returned to the Grenfell Tower site the second day after the fire.
  • “That awful court” is not clear to this blogger – perhaps just in the presence of Grenfell Tower survivors? Suggest??
  • “This vicar’s daughter” literally refers to May’s father serving as a vicar. It appears to be some kind of British trope (and a song) – perhaps preacher’s kid stereotype as angelic or rebellious.
  • “Hostile environment” is from a 2012 anti-immigrant quote from May: “The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration.” Grenfell supporters have reiterated this phrase in criticizing May for not extending victims’ relatives visas, stating: “The Grenfell community, already traumatised by catastrophic events, must not be subjected to any element of the ‘hostile environment’ policy,”

Page 4

panel 1

  • Much of the text – from “every instant… made part of the eternal’s vast mosaic” to “time’s stupendous glass” – again describes Moore’s Eternalism – see P1,p1 above.
  • “Float unborn” apparently refers to fire victim Logan Gomes, according to The Guardian, “stillborn in hospital in the hours after the fire.” Gomes was due in August, about two months after the fire. Victim Berkti Haftom was ten weeks pregnant.

Grenfell Tower fire victim Raymond Bernard

  • These 24 depictions (repeating the 24 theme – the number of stories in the Grenfell Tower) appear to be specific Grenfell Tower Fire victims: (largely based on likenesses from the BBCThe Guardian, Independent, and Metro)
    Top row:
    1- Alexandra Atala (?)
    2- Six-month-old Leena Belkadi (?)
    3- Belkadi’s mother Farah Hamdan (?)
    4 – Ali Yawar Jafari – see photo
    5 – Khadija Khaloufi – see photo
    6 – Hamid Kani (?)
    7 – Raymond Bernard – photo above
    8 – Fathia Elsanosi – see photo
    9 – (Mohammed Hanif??)
    10 – Victoria King – see photo
    Second row:
    11 – 12-year-old Biruk Haftom – see photo
    12 – Berkti Haftom – Biruk’s mother – see photo
    13 – Yasin El-Wahabi (?)
    14 – Sakineh Afrasiabi (?)
    15 – Marjorie Vital – see photo
    Third row:
    16 – Eight-year-old Medhi El-Wahabi (??)
    17 – Yasin El-Wahabi or Abdulaziz El-Wahabi (?) – Medhi’s father or brother
    18 – 11-year-old Fatima Choucair – see photo
    19 – Nadia Choucair – mother of Fatima – see photo
    20 – Ernie Vital – see photo
    – Bottom row:
    21 – Deborah Lamprell – see photo
    22 – 2-year-old Jeremiah Deen – photo below
    23 – Zainab Deen – mother of Jeremiah – photo below
    24 – Jessica Urbano Ramirez, age 12 – see photo

Grenfell Tower fire victims Zainab and Jeremiah Deen

  • “If Einstein’s right” repeats the first words of the comic, ending on the opening note. Moore does this sort of beginning-ending frame device in various places, including Neonomicon.
  • Leah and Amber” are Alan Moore’s daughters.

>See more Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie comics annotations

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