As the movie industry spirals ever-further into creative redundancy, TV shows such as The West Wing, The Sopranos and Rescue Me have delivered world-class ensemble acting and increasingly complex plotting – so complex that one author recently suggested that modern TV is making us smarter – to an ever-more demanding audience. But in recent months, one show is going even further: touching on primal fears about political manipulation, the nature of good and evil and, perhaps most interestingly, quietly introducing sigil magic to an unsuspecting audience. Meet the ‘Heroes’.
On one level Heroes is a simple show – a slow-burn, character-driven drama tracking the evolution of a group of nascent superheroes, each gifted (or cursed) with an extraordinary ability. One can fly. One can walk through walls. One can regenerate. One can read minds. One can travel through space and time. And so on.
The show charts their discovery of their powers, the various shadowy factions jostling for supremacy in the background and the inexorable journey towards a collective who can ‘save the world’. So far, so X-men. With a bit of Lost thrown in for good measure. All in all, it’s an enjoyable, if ultimately silly romp through a hackneyed genre – re-born for the post 9/11 generation.
However, what sets Heroes apart from other mainstream American television is the refreshingly dark streak that runs through the show. There’s the artist who can paint the future – but only when he’s high on crack. There’s the serial-killer, Sylar, a ‘Hero’ who absorbs other powers by sawing off people’s skullcaps and eating their brains. There’s the cheerleader who can’t die – who wakes up on an autopsy table with her innards exposed. Episode after episode the show, visually and narratively, pushes the boundaries of its genre.
Take for example, the plotline which involves a group of elder ‘Heroes’ orchestrating a catastrophic explosion in the middle of New York in order to usher in a New World Order, or even the unseen ‘company’ who may be experimenting on cross-breeding genetically superior humans in an effort (we assume) to create a race of super-human children.
+Meet. Mr. Morrison+
But, perhaps Heroes’ most radical move is, through the story of the artist who can paint the future (whilst, shock! horror! high on drugs), to introduce an unsuspecting audience to the idea of ‘sigil magic’. And this, if you’ll forgive me, is where I get out of the way for a minute and hand you over to a much smarter man than me. Press play on the video below. When you’re done watching, skip down and start reading again.
+Hiros and Guides+
So, what does all of this have to do with Heroes? Hiro Nakamura, the time-travelling samurai, is guided along his hero’s journey, not by a Obi-Wan character as you might expect, but rather by a comic-book which he acquired during a brief trip to the future. The comic book was, of course, written by Issac Mendez – the same artist who paints the future. At one point Issac explains that he placed his visions of the future into comics ‘because no-one takes comics seriously’.
Issac’s comics could be an example of sigil magic at work, where in an attempt to ‘fight the future’, he attempts to ‘write the future’, much in the same way that Grant Morrison maintained his creation of the series ‘The Invisibles’ created his own future for him – including an incident where he claims he ended up in hospital with collapsed lungs, because his fictional comic-book self suffered the same fate.
+Wilson and Leary+
It’s worth noting that none of these ideas would have been possible without the work of Robert Anton Wilson, Timothy Leary or Austin Osman Spare. Three men who the American mainstream went to considerable lengths to ignore – the same mainstream media which now routinely borrows their ideas, spirits and wit to make mega-cash gathering franchises.
So then. Drug-induced nonsense? Re-discovered technology? Quantum mechanics gone tits-up? Nerd-paranoia masquerading as a morality play? Cynical appropriation of ‘counter-culture’ to make some filthy lucre? Whatever it is, Heroes still remains one of the most interesting television shows written in years. Here’s hoping they don’t jump the shark…
Video extract from the Disinformation TV show DVD
Heroes (NBC website)
Daev on Sex Magick (and Grant Morrison)
Reading this makes me want to hurl myself from something tall and stationary…
It’s a shame that I read comics, read Wilson and Leary, and yes, Mr. Morrison has been the catalyst for many a sigil….and that I have yet to know about the underlying “occult” nature of ‘Heroes’.
I shy away from television, watching a few things, mostly 15 minute brain killers from Adult Swim (a dose of surrealism) and science/nature programming. The geek in me just can’t seem to accept that television has anything substantial to offer! American Idol and Big Brother have made me go blind to any idea that a major network may have. Credibility is hard to come by with skeptical creatures…
I will watch this, though. We’ll see…
don’t get me wrong tammy – american tv has barrel loads of shite to offer too. personally, i think the much-lauded Lost sucks donkey-balls. just to pick one prominent example…
however, there are some excellent shows – occasionally. check out deadwood, rescue me, the west wing (first 4 series), and band of brothers. you’ll notice that a lot of these are HBO shows.
Heroes has been my new favourite show for ages yho can keep up to date with the series as they are broadcast i the states, its near the end as well so I would recomend watchin the first 8-10 episodes in a batch cos its not as good as the last 10 ( seems they got ‘syndicated’ at that point and a huge cash injection is fairly obvious.
briliant storylines, intriguing characters – Hiro, Sylar, peter some annoying ones too like Nikki. but all in all it is reasonably intiligent telly,
Tis no Fraser tho
Err, anyone pick up on the disinformation logo in the video? I don’t really see a strong link between the video and the series. Good series though, thoroughly enjoying it.
Thank you for turning us on to Heroes. Without your suggestion we would have never checked it out. While the end of the season left a bit to be desired, it was a good show whith some nice magick undertones.
aye, massively disappointing ending. i honestly think they just ran out of money.
i`ve noticed recently that people seem to be getting smarter….
less walking out into traffic or drinking drain cleaner instead of starbucks.
t.v. did this you say?
and i thought that t.v. turned one`s brain a sort of custardy consistancy without the the yellow colour or the mild pleasant sweet vanilla taste….
i don`t even have a fucking telly.
have i been wrong all these years?
“As the movie industry spirals ever-further into creative redundancy, TV shows such as The West Wing, The Sopranos and Rescue Me have delivered world-class ensemble acting and increasingly complex plotting”
From your comment, your frame of reference seems to be, eh, the USA. Yeah, okay, American studio movies have been shit for the past 25 years. And, in comparison with their very low standards, a small proportion of US TV (1%?) is very well written, and thankfully aimed at those in the nation who haven’t yet been lobotomised- even if the shows are ruined by the ads that occur every 8 seconds.
If you’d broaden your f*ckin’ horizons and watch some Latin American cinema, some Korean, Japanese or Hong Kong cinema, you’ll see that there’s a lot of brilliant cinema out there that shits all over the shows you mention.
In comparison to current world cinema- and I’m not talking about three disabled lesbians sitting around scratching their arses with knitting needles for 90 minutes, I’m talking City of God, Amores Perros, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Festen, Sex and Lucia, Funny Games- in comparison to movies like these, US TV shows, even the best ones, are pretty tame- especially visually- and work within a narrow and repetitive moral framework.
Nevertheless, I might give Heroes a try. A hero who takes crack in order to see the future? A villain who eats brains? Sounds really, eh, dark and edgy. Right up there with Highlander, and Flashdance.
Grant Morrison? Great stuff, that video, raw meat for the balcony, but who, in the trade, actually likes, or trusts, him?
Heroes? No amount of money, or great acting, could hide the lack of Soul.
If, there’s ‘sigil magick’ involved in the series, who, or what, is it really supposed to serve? Morrison’s quite clear about ‘sigil magick’, it’s intended to remake the World in its wielder’s image.
And, the bottom line would be, the amount of filthy luker, invested by NBC, in the series, probably explains the huge amounts of hype, please love this new little puppy dog, with its fetching big eyes and enticing disembowleable self repairing, Barbie doll style, cheerleader (you can knock her down, she’ll get up again). But, deep down, it only reflects the very palest shadow of the likes of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’, ‘The Watchmen’, or Joss Whedon’s ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, ‘Angel’ or ‘Firefly’.
The best HBO series is The Wire…give it a look start to to finish
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