Warren Ellis initially refers the title Do Anything to a quote from Harvey Pekar: “You can do anything with words and pictures.” (5) But he returns to the phrase in other quotes like a recurring motif in the fugue of his stream-of-consciousness history of comics art, writing, and publishing. He cops to aspiring to play the Lester Bangs of comics here, and he overshoots his mark with the sort of mystical cyberpunk surrealism that one might expect from such an accomplished 21st-century comics writer.
By framing this set of blogrants (subsequently edited for print publication) as a reported dialogue with a stolen Hanson Robotics ‘droid head retrofitted from the persona of PKD to Jack Kirby, Ellis places himself in the magical line of Roger Bacon, Jacques de Molay, Aleister Crowley, and Michael Valentine Smith. He also–if the catena just described didn’t make it sufficiently clear–makes himself an Extremely Unreliable Narrator. I wish most everything in this book were true, but I’m better at knowing for sure which things are consensually false than being certain which didn’t spring from Ellis’s finely twisted imagination.
Although the back cover claims that the “Do Anything” column continues at Bleeding Cool, I failed to find it there as of September 4, 2011.
This graphic novel is the first I’ve read with an annotated bibliography. It’s a fictionalized history of a single trick of stage magic, how it was devised, and its passage through three generations of performers. Although some supporting characters are purely fictional, the three magicians and the stage technician who serves as narrator are all actual historical figures.
The technical explanations that make up much of the book are not boring, nor do they seem too digressive. The ending, factual as it evidently is, has a small and quizzical taste of tragedy to it.