Tomorrow Stories 11 – Splash Brannigan
Below are annotations for Tomorrow Stories, No. 11 “Splash City Rocker” (6 pages, October 2001)
Writer: Alan Moore (AM), Artist: Hilary Barta (HB)
>return to Splash Brannigan annotations index
Note: some of this stuff is obvious, some very very obvious… but you never know who’s reading this and what their exposure is to any given reference. Apologies for stuff that’s too obvious to you. Sometimes there’s an obvious reference, then a deeper pun or connection that Alan Moore is making – yes it’s Ayn Rand ink… but why is Moore associating Splash Brannigan with Ayn Rand? If there’s stuff I missed or got wrong, let me know in comments, or email linton.joe [at] gmail.com
General notes: This is AM’s parody of the music industry, including aging singers and musicians doing movies.
- The “sex puddles” refers to British punk band the Sex Pistols. Safety pins were part of the punk rock look.
- Miss Screensaver (I think the first time we’ve seen her out of her familiar skirt/blouse combo) looks like Nancy Spungen of Sid and Nancy.
- “Our tale blah blah one fine blah blah Coffeeburg blah blah blah blah” feels to me like AM’s parody of overly routine exposition and transitions. It reminds me of the unnecessary “meanwhile” panel transitions AM used in 1963.
- “I just got back from the front cover!” (where the he is assaulted with a pitchfork) is very clever self conscious comic bookery humor from AM.
- Above Splash’s head is Kaput Comics Sarcastic Thug.
- Pinned up near Miss Screensaver’s head is Kaput Comics Ferdy the Fantom Foetus, who appears in TS No. 6 and No. 7.
- “Kaput is watching you” and “Don’t think. Ink!” are slogans that, along with her frantic work pace, reinforce Screensaver’s status as an exploited comic book creator, see TS No. 6 for an intro to Daisy Screensaver.
- Screensaver is shocked that Splash is going to get ink on the pages she has just worked so hard on.
- Comics have gone “bosoms-up” is a play on the phrase bottoms-up, which isn’t quite right either. Bosoms-up refers to all the stereotyped male fantasty big-bosomed women that inhabit comics.
- Splash thinks that the music industry is in better shape than the comics industry, but, just as Kaput Comics editor keeps trying to commit suicide due to bad sales, so does the head of Finito Records for the same reasons.
- “The Vanilla Drops” and “The Ivory Keys” are very white (caucasian) sounding names for music groups. This references Elvis Presley and many other white performers who achieved huge success with musical styles that imitate African-American music.
- Contract “all in eternal perpetuity forever and ever” makes fun of the way the music industry exploits creatives, similar to the comic industry.
- “Payola” is the illegal practice where music industry people pay radio stations to popularize specific recording artists.
- The chauffeur is a Bill Elder character named “Bumble” who appeared in early Mad comics. Basically, he’s a kind of muscle assistant to short criminal masterminds, so this kind of emphasizes Finito’s criminal nature. See some additional explanation in my notes on Bumble’s earlier Splash Brannigan appearances in TS No. 8, page 6, panels 1 and 4.
- “So anyway” is another gratuitous transition – see page 1, panel 2 above.
- “Gangsta Wraps” clothing store is a play on ‘gangsta rap’ describing a musical style. The proprietor is sobbing because Splash has stained so many of his suits for sale.
- “Prozaq” is prozac, an anti-depressant drug.
- “Splash Daddy” is now the name of a recording artist. At the time this was published, I think it was a play on other rapper names: Trick Daddy, Cat Daddy, Puff Daddy, etc.
- “Thus shortly” is another gratuitous transition – see page 1, panel 2 above.
- This panel references a popular 80s-90s music video that I’ve seen, but I couldn’t find Googling just now. Help, readers!?!
- “K9” is canine, refers to a dog, hence it’s a dog tag, so maybe the music video is recording artist whose name includes Dogg – Snoop Dogg?
- Spike Jonze is a film maker, director of Her and Being John Malkovich.
- Spike Jones was a, yes, 1950s novelty band leader, watch/listen to this.
- “Smack my bitch Daisy up with a rolled newspaper” is play on the original meaning of the word “bitch” as a female dog. Splash is kind of trying say that calling Daisy “my bitch” is rationalizingly like calling her “my dog” perhaps in the sense of a dog being man’s best friend.
- The painting in the background likes like brown-hued version of Pablo Picasso’s blue-hued painting The Old Guitarist.
- There’s a bunch of sexual innuendo here. The second Screensaver is bending over, so from Splash’s perspective he has a view of her butt. The third Screensaver is eating a phallic hot dog.
- The sexual innuendo continues, with a scantily-clad Screensaver apparently giving oral sex.
- “Fried brains mad cow co.” refers to mad cow disease.
- “Pathetic, whiny, accusing album about my girlfriend leaving me” brings to my mind the plot of Dan Clowes‘ comics story Three Blue Teardrops from Lloyd Llewellyn No. 2. I expect that there is some real-life or legend break-up album/s that inspired both Clowes and AM. Readers?
- “Thus…” is yet another gratuitous transition – see page 1, panel 2 above.
- The lyrics here are a mash-up of mega-hits of my youth: “Every breath you take” by the Police, “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins, and “I can see clearly now” by Johnny Nash. The irony in this is that that intro sounds sentimental and sympathetic, but then it’s meanly misogynistic following “… just what treacherous whores all women are.” Exploitative, sexist editor Kaput finds this misogyny insightful.
- “And…” is a gratuitous transition (only 5 more to go in this story, maybe I should have listed them all in one place) – see page 1, panel 2 above.
- Splash is a parody of late years Elvis Presley – overweight, playing to Las Vegas audiences.
- “Techno-Artists dyin’ to collaborate” here and in the next panel – refers to stuff like Prodigy’s song Smack My Bitch Up (listen/watch) which samples its refrain from Kool Keith of Ultramagnetic MCs.
- “So…” is gratuitous – see – see page 1, panel 2 above.
- I like AM’s humor here – Splash needs a big piece of paper to sing three words over and over. All of the audience are looking at the techno-artist, none at Splash.
- “X-taci [pronounce as ‘ecstasy’] krank, e” are names for drugs used at rave concerts.
- “Trainer” bucket sounds like the bucket that a boxing trainer uses. Such insightful annotations you must be thinking now.
- “Subsquently…” gratuitous – see page 1, panel 2 above.
- The director’s name “Armand Dedin-deWateur” includes the phrase “dead in the water,” (perhaps it’s even “our man dead in the water”) which basically means finished, dead and buried, over, kaput. Note that each of the family of big-nosed industry leaders names mean the same thing: Kaput (comics), Finito (records) and Dedin-deWateur (films.)
- “Alors” is French for “then” – perhaps another gratuitous transition?
- “Cette lousy business! Je Donnait it six semains” is grammatically poor French for “This lousy business! I give it six monthses.” It’s the same thing that Tony Finito says about the music industry back on page 2, panel 3.
- “Vous etes no acteur” is French for “you’re no actor.”
- French translations: “Vairy” = very with a French accent? “Notre” = our. “Les” = the (plural.) “Nous” = we.
- The film title is a mishmash of the following films, starring the corresponding musicians:
A Hard Day’s Night – the Beatles
Blue Hawaii – Elvis Presley
Spice World – Spice Girls
The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle – The Sex Pistols
Desperately Seeking Susan – Madonna
Help! – the Beatles
- “Stage 8 1/2” refers to the Fellini film 8 1/2.
- “Inexorably…” – just see page 1, panel 2 above.
- I don’t know what movie is at all like this synopsis – maybe Elvis Presley’s Loving You, which apparently has a diner? Readers?
- “My dog Daisy” is again playing on the meaning of bitch as a female dog, cue “Daisy’s my bitch.”
- “Regardez cette reviews” = look at these reviews.
- “Slick chick flick clicks” sounds like a measure of female interest in the movie.
- “Varies” is a take off on the film industry magazine Variety.
- “Hence…” – see page 1, panel 2 above.
- “Blair Witch but cheaper” refers to the movie The Blair Witch Project, a very cheaply made independent horror movie that was very successful.
- “Into the black” – not sure what “Into the [fill in the blank]” movie this would refers to… but it does describe
- “Write what you know. The studio will change it anyway.” Write what you know is a quote from Mark Twain. The studio will change it sounds like AM critiquing what studios have done with his works that have been made into movies.
- Dedin-deWateur is packing for film-industry capital Los Angeles, hence his I [heart] L.A. shirt. He’s also packing a Magic 8-Ball fortune-telling toy.
- Harvey Keitel is an actor who appeared in a lot of independent movies at that time.
- “Oui! Take mon advice and allez while the allezing est bon!” is more or less Franglish for “Yes! Take my advice and go while the going is good!”
- “The Blair Pitch Project” is, of course, the The Blair Witch Project again.
- “Writer’s strike” refers to a number of high-profile Hollywood writers’ strikes, which stifled film production.
- Dedin-deWateur’s packing includes an Oscar statuette and a golf club.
- “Greed, Director’s Cut, #1 of 42” refers to the 1924 Erich von Stroheim silent film Greed, which according to Wikipedia was 8 hours long before studios trimmed it to 2 1/2 hours. I think that this is AM critiquing his own treatment at the hands of the film industry. At the time of this story, he had had soul-killing experiences with their adaptations of From Hell and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which left very very little of AM’s artistry intact. AM is commiserating with von Stroheim’s treatment at the hands of Hollywood. (Note: We may be in for another Greedesque saga with AM’s, as of 2014 in final stages, million-word novel Jerusalem. See this Guardian article, which quotes AM: “Any editor worth their salt would tell me to cut two-thirds of this book, but that’s not going to happen.”)
- The painting on the back wall is pretty clearly meant to be a cubist painting by Pablo Picasso. Given that it’s black and white I think it’s supposed to be a portrait cropped out-of-context from the painting Guernica, though I couldn’t find a face it corresponded directly to. Assuming this is a small portrait cropped from a very large work, it’s analogous to the film Greed, and the treatment of AM by the film industry.
- Tout le monde sont getting into a more reliable business and vite! = All the world is getting into a more reliable business and quick!
- “Safest business dans le [in the] world” says Dedin-deWateur. He’s going to make a mini-series based on Kaput Comics’ Sarcastic Thug superhero. Initially I had interpreted this as the auteur direction going into television… which didn’t seem to make sense because it’s kind of all Hollywood – tv and films. Then I think it’s another AM critique of how the comic book industry is a pumpkin patch for Hollywood to plunder. The highbrow auteur director is going into lowbrow comic-book screen adaptations.
- “Thence tragically…” is the last of the gratuitous transitions which started on page 1 panel 2.
- “Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit” is a quote from Oscar Wilde.
- Kaput is attempting to commit suicide (by both hanging and electrocution) due to the comic book industry’s troubled finances. Similar to how Finito was trying to commit suicide on page 2, panel 2, due to the music industry’s troubled finances.