Just in time to miss the holidays, Philippe Mora released Sixties Apocalypse: A Graphic Novel for the Kindle on December 27, 2012. Mora, a respected artist before he became a darling of the indie film scene, dances with what brung him on this one (no, not the infamous meat sculpture), providing groovy Pop Art to enhance his script. Each panel looks like a painting straight off the wall of a 1960s gallery. On that level alone Sixties Apocalypse is worth a look, but it’s also deeply interesting for how it unfolds. And Philippe is deeply interesting to talk to about… well… everything. So I asked him about the graphic novel. And everything.
Jeremy: You’re best-known today as a filmmaker but your roots run deep in the art world. Why a graphic novel? Was this a sort of getting back to your roots for you?
Philippe: I have always been a devotee of comic books of all kinds from Krazy Kat to Classics Illustrated. My earlier paintings were influenced by comics and featured in the Penguin Encyclopedia of Comics and the Beatles Illustrated Lyrics. I was an actual comic artist for a short while for OZ Magazine in London. My “fine art” exhibitions in London were part of London Pop because of the comic book influenced style. I felt and still do that comics were non elitist and a great democratic form of communication. Its kind of funny that the devotees now tried to upgrade comics’ social standing by calling them “graphic novels”.
Yes, comics are back to my roots, but I never lost interest. As a medium comics, in my opinion, are the closest to film with editing narrative, different angles, montage, time jumps, etc.
Jeremy: Is there significance to releasing this on December 27th, 2012?
Jeremy: It seems to me that the story begins with a man reflecting on his life and contribution to the popular culture as a filmmaker. Much of that filmmaking involved research in historical and U.S. government archives. From there we bubble out into the great question of your generation: Who is in charge here? Is the course of history changed by lone gunmen and coincidence or by conspiracy and coordination? Bubble out from that and we see that all of the apocalyptic political/conspiracy questions that worry us today have been haunting us since the sixties. I mean, the exact same questions! You could just as easily have been writing about 2012. Was that the point for you?
Philippe: That was not the overt point but it’s a damn good point. There is a French saying to the effect that the more things change; the more they stay the same. Conspiracy or lone gunman changing history? Either alternative is rather dismal and that was one of my blunt points. Of course, if you are religious that may be a third option: it’s all God’s Will. But why has God dealt us such a mind numbing hand?
Jeremy: By the way, which is a scarier proposition: that the world is run by a cabal of psychopaths or that lone psychopaths and terrorized imagination steer us?
Philippe: Both options are terrible propositions and one can see why nihilism and other negative mindsets take hold on some people. Collaterally one sees why hedonism also can take hold—as in, what else is there to do but make money and have fun, since history appears hopeless? Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die, has been around for a while as a philosophy.
Jeremy: Having had the rare opportunity to dive into government/military archives as extensively as you have–and having interviewed everyone from a notorious Nazi to U.S. military remote viewers, do you have an insight into who or what is running the show?
Philippe: I have no answers, which is why I keep looking. Some human elites may be running their little patch on the farm, but as a whole no one is running the show. They’re doing a laughably lousy job if they are trying. Alternatively, if we are some kind of bizarre cosmic experiment as a species, rats for some alien experiment, as some people believe, then these aliens must be total assholes. Stephen Hawking warned that aliens may not be friendly.
I do believe authorities worldwide use fear and rumor for their own agendas, like not denying the existence of UFOs to camouflage human created aircraft and weapons. By not denying, they encourage paranoia.
Jeremy: It seems to me that if the same exact fears exist today as in the sixties then there is an illusion of progress. Not only have we not figured out who killed JFK, MLK, and so forth, or what the real story is with alleged aliens, but it’s as if each generation stumbles upon these questions like they’ve never been asked before. There’s no new thinking on them, is there? And so 2012 looks like the sixties because fear is the thing.
Fear needs an object of attachment so that we can dissociate from it and blame the object, inspect the object, and so forth. Anything to avoid fear. If that makes sense to you and isn’t just a bunch of psychobabble, then does it matter who runs the world or if there is such a thing as chance? Are these not secondary questions until we completely understand the nature of fear?
Philippe: Fear is a control mechanism. Hitler and his Nazi warlord Goring said words to that effect when they explained that you cause social chaos, even terror in the streets, and then you come in as the savior. Hitler specifically outlined that as a road to power, and it worked.
Generally, there has been limited progress in many respects in various countries in human rights, civil rights and so on. Slow progress but forward leaning. Of course if you look at women’s rights worldwide you have to wonder what the Hell is going on? It is Hell on Earth for many.
The biggest thing in my lifetime in terms of fear was the Dr. Strangelove Paradigm, to coin a phrase, where nuclear holocaust existed as a Cold War option every moment. That is gone and is replaced by the terror of possible nuclear terrorism. A catastrophic scenario but not the end of the world as it was in the sixties. The movie Dr Strangelove is relevant here because if we can keep laughing we might make it somewhere!
I think we are the only animal that makes jokes and that may be profound.
Jeremy: Do you think it’s harder for us to find truth in a world dominated by shallow media and shiny objects that exist to promote consumerism and lethargy, or is it all in how you look? (Or is the search for truth an illusion too?)
Philippe: The shallow media as you describe it is pervasive and depressing, although even then some humor can help. I couldn’t count the amount of times I’ve seen ads for Viagra with morons looking at each other with Alfred E Neuman smiles, then being told if you “have an erection lasting more than four hours call your doctor.”
Jeremy: Looking back on one’s life, it’s tempting to see personal and societal story arcs. Is this our brains filling in Mystery with answers or do you see an invisible route you’ve been traveling in a larger map that is out of our hands even though we’re immersed in it?
Philippe: These are the big questions that have stimulated humankind’s journey since the beginning. Maybe the very point is asking the questions. Sounds kind of Zen, but if we didn’t have questions, would we be fully conscious or even alive?
Jeremy: Have you noticed a difference in how UFO material is handled as opposed to assassination material? (By both conspiracy theorists AND “officially.”)
Philippe: Its oversimplifying to compare these enigmas, but to answer directly, no real difference, with one crucial exception: in the case of JFK we have the Zapruder film which shows us the clear fact that he was shot. To date we have no equivalent that I know of, of a UFO or alien Zapruder film.
Jeremy: You’ve lived many lives in the short time you’ve been on the planet. Sex, drugs, rock-n-roll; family man. Art snob; A & B-moviemaker. You’ve made history by discovering lost Hitler footage and CIA UFO files. You’ve had a strange military encounter after making ‘Communion’ with Whitley Strieber about his presumably not-human “Visitor” abductions. Arguably, you had an abduction experience while at Strieber’s cabin. If not then an incredible dream/hallucination facsimile. You’ve accumulated a lot of open-ended questions over the years and put them down in this graphic novel. One assumes that if you had found answers in the corridors of power, in conversation with friends who claim rare knowledge, or through interviews with elite types that you’d have blurted them out by now.
Do you know anything you’re not telling us but are guiding us toward? Are you part of a conspiracy to enlighten or a lone artist?
Are you really stuck with the same questions as the rest of us schlubs who have lived only one life thus far?
Philippe: I wish I had more answers to enduring questions and I am not a faux guru so, no, I have no knowledge I’m holding back. People are desperately searching for answers and an unhealthy offshoot are cults of all types. These questions are like Escher prints: they keep on going with no ending in sight, but great to look at!
Jeremy: Given the last question–and assuming you have no answers but one heck of a journey–what’s important to you now and is it different than what was important to you in the sixties?
Philippe: I think what progress we have made as a species is best represented in the history of art in all its forms and the history of science. I still find it moving and fascinating to look at cave paintings. They are cinematic and early comics. I am back in the cave, and thousands of years from now humans may look at my drawings on the wall.
Jeremy: Oh, you know? I should end with an Oprah question: If you could talk to 1960′s Philippe Mora, what would you tell him not to do? Same question for your entire generation.
Philippe: Well, I’m proud of my generation. I think racism was and is one of the great curses of humanity. Without the sixties I doubt the U.S would have an African American president, and that is a huge step forward in the battle against racism.
Personally I was a very serious young man. So I’d say to me: Lighten up!
Thanks for the questions, Jeremy!