Geek The Beatles: John Lennon Assassination Simulations (Abridged)

It wasn’t easy writing this piece, because the reality of John Lennon’s assassination is a heavier load than hyperreality of his simulations.

After all, hyperreality’s job is to suck the bleeding life out of reality. Which is why simulations of John Lennon’s assassinations are proliferating across media, from films to comics to tabloid TV and the dark beyond of conspiracy theory. The truth buried beneath Mark David Chapman’s intertextual madness and murder is that one of history’s most revolutionary artists was erased from truth and history. And we’ve have been trying to rewrite both since his media-fueled death, with more ever more spiraling cultural texts stripped of context.

So yeah, I had to write John Lennon’s Assassination Simulations if I’m truly going to Geek The Beatles, this time for Wired. As much as we hate it, and perhaps because we do, Mark David Chapman will always be a part of John Lennon. His lethal cultural and religious experiment, built in paranoia upon the hyperreal heroics of Holden Caulfield, Dorothy Gale and even Lennon himself — who as he and we never stopped to remind ourselves, was either a profane apostate or in fact Jesus Christ himself — has prevailed. His “nobodiness,” as Chapman whines in this dark chapter of Geek The Beatles, has indeed collided head-on with Lennon’s “somebodiness” — and we’re all the worse for it.

Well, it could get worse. Chapman was scheduled for a parole hearing this week, which is the time window I hooked the article upon. But thankfully, New York came to its senses and postponed Chapman’s parole hearing until September. Given that John Lennon’s Assassination Simulations went live at Wired on August 9, I’m happy to argue that I did my part to postpone his possible freedom, whether I truly did so or not. Instant karma is going to get somebody, as Lennon sang. And I’m all about the fucking karma.

So let’s preview how the multimedia killer Mark David Chapman ruined reality for everyone, and hope his parole hearing is postponed until Lennon comes back to personally campaign for his release. Here is the version I wrote for Wired, shortened for the short attention span of the new normal. I’ll post the full article later here on Morphizm, as part of the Geek The Beatles page in the menu above. Read it and weep.

Geek The Beatles: John Lennon’s Assassination Simulations
[Scott Thill,]
Mark David Chapman disrupted culture and history when he killed John Lennon 30 years ago this December. The disturbed assassin’s actions have reverberated in pop culture ever since.

From recent films like The Killing of John Lennon and comics like Superman to the dark beyond of music, tabloid TV and conspiracy theory, Chapman’s avatars have flourished while his dumpy mortal coil rots away in New York’s Attica Correctional Facility.

Chapman makes his seventh appearance before a parole board Monday and may walk out a free man. Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono opposes Chapman’s parole, and anti-Chapman Facebook groups have joined the chorus. (You can send your own message to the parole board.)

Chapman considered himself an iteration of The Catcher in the Rye’s phony-killer Holden Caulfield. He was a walking text with a murderous mind, overwhelmed by media and mounting voices. Four decades on, his assassination of Lennon has been set free from reality into a hyper-reality swimming in alternative context and confusion.

As part of our series Geek The Beatles, which tracks the continuing influence of one of the most important and technologically innovative bands ever, revisits the timeless relationship between Lennon and Chapman, which has gone viral in movies, TV, comics and music. Turn off your mind and float downstream into the heart of darkness.

Working-Class Comics Superhero

From J. Michael Stracyznski’s new Superman story arc (above) to Rock & Roll Comics’ The Beatles Experience, Lennon and Chapman live on in a bizarre comics kinship.

Stracyznski’s new charge of “re-invigorating Superman,” starting with issue No. 700, strips the timeless superhero of villains to battle. Instead, he walks the streets of America to reconnect with humanity. Rather than kicking ass on Lex Luthor, he helps people start their car or catch a clue. In Superman issue No. 701 (at top and above), released in July, the Man of Steel talks down an would-be jumper by invoking the paradox of Lennon’s death and Chapman’s continuing life.

Truth is trickier in The Beatles Experience, published in the ’90s but reissued in graphic novel form in 2009. Densely packed with sociopolitical context and musical history at the beginning of each chapter, The Beatles Experience packs loads of information into its 200-plus pages. It all starts in deep space with Lennon, a 2001: A Space Odyssey-like Star Child who takes physical form on Earth to teach the world about creation, peace and love like a space-faring Christ.

It’s not a new idea, of course. Seething anger over Lennon’s controversial statement that The Beatles were “more popular than Jesus” was one reason Chapman later painted Lennon as a phony who deserved extermination. In The Beatles Experience, the assassination comes not strictly through the schizophrenic mind of Chapman, but through the devilish conspiracy of Nixon, Hoover and — wait for it! — George H.W. Bush. One panel of The Beatles Experience features a disgraced Nixon pestering Bush to make good on the government’s promise to eradicate Lennon — as both sport nefarious devil horns to drive home the drama.

Written by the late Todd Loren and illustrated by Mike Sagara and Stuart Immonen (Legion of Super Heroes, Ultimate X-Men), The Beatles Experience careens between sci-fi, non-fiction and dark conspiracy, setting the reader adrift in an enlightening but nevertheless confusing hagiography of Lennon and his super sidekick The Beatles.

The Lennon rabbit hole goes much deeper in Mack White’s indie comic Dead Silence in the Brain, which posits that Chapman was not living vicariously through his favored fictional avatars like Holden Caulfield or Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz but instead was a true-life iteration of The Manchurian Candidate. And in Enki Bilal surreal, futuristic Memories (below), the elderly surviving Beatles unknowingly chat with the freed assassin Chapman about their collective loss.