The Secret Origin of Red Jack?!

*This Comicon thread filled me in on a recent Amazon.com controversy involving author Anne Rice . In a nutshell, Rice decided to post a comment through the Amazon public review section for her book "Blood Canticle", blasting other posters for their negative appraisals of her work. I bring this up because Neil Gaiman has posted an interesting commentary on his blog, detailing his own personal responses to negative critical feedback, along with his summary of the Rice situation:

"I think Anne Rice going on Amazon and lambasting her critics was undoubtedly a very brave and satisfying thing for her to do, was every bit as sensible as kicking a tar baby, and, if ever I do something like that, please shoot me."

Good times.

*I finally got to purchase the first "Doom Patrol" trade, just in time for Vol. 2 to show up ust beyond the range of my immediate finances. "Doom Patrol" had always been too big for me to really get into in floppy form, and obviously there were no trades, so I'd simply never read most of it. I'm loving the thing, of course. While the early issues of Gaiman's "Sandman" felt awkward in their mandatory interactions with the rest of the DCU, Morrison provides a smoother fit, with the very purpose of the team's existance tied into exploring the stranger corners of DC, cleverly seperating the new team from too much interaction with the wider universe while giving the illusion of integration.

Morrison also provides a short list of his influences in the back of the book (the material was originally presented near the start of his run). But leaves out what I think is a key influence behind the character of Red Jack; Peter O'Toole's awesome performance as 'Jack', the 14th Earl of Gurney in the 1972 satirical classic "The Ruling Class", directed by Peter "Romeo is Bleeding" Medak, and one of my personal favorite films.

In the film, O'Toole plays an aristocrat who thinks he is, at alternate times, Jesus Christ and Jack the Ripper. He seeks to marry a lovely girl. He sings and dances. In Morrison's comic, Red Jack is an aristocratically dressed being that claims to be God and used to be Jack the Ripper. He abducts a lovely girl to marry. He sings and dances. He even bellows "For today is my wedding day!", a line extremely similar to one uttered by O'Toole at a key point in the film, as he's dressed in full Messiah robes, leisurely hanging on the Cross which he joyfully leaps off of into a freeze-frame. My brother and I were convinced that this freeze-frame would be what the Academy would use to end the O'Toole montage preceding his Honorary Oscar acceptance speech, but noooooo, they had to go with the old 'blowing out the match' routine from "Lawrence of Arabia". At least Meryl Streep mentioned "Caligula" during her presentation.

Anyway, I can see how the film would appeal to Morrison; it's loaded with dark humor and eccentric characters. It's also quite a sly satire, starting out as a snarky expose of upper-class perversion and hypocracy, but steaily transforming into a fine commentary on the many faces of Western Religion, and the dissonance between what a society expects of its people and what it often expects of its God. This is a truly dark comedy, with sympathetic characters killed or punished, and human ideals depicted as little more than variations of madness. But it's funny. And it actually sustains itself for two and a half hours!

There's also a famous episode of "Star Trek" involving a supernatural Jack the Ripper being, and that might have had some influence too, but Morrison seems much more in tune with the film, even toying around with the idea of God fueling Himself through suffering, a theme handled in a less direct manner in "The Ruling Class". It was a fun tidbit to discover while reading through the trade; I immediately heard O'Toole's voice as Red Jack in my head. Criterion has the dvd out now, and you should rent it.